Saturday, June 13, 2009

Stephin Merritt: Better than Happy People

Stephin Merritt: small, roundish individual. Writes and sings primarily for The Magnetic Fields. Employs ukulele and deep, rumbly voice. Crotchety. Covers ears when forced to endure applause. Gay, but only in the sense that he has sex with men. Pauses for long periods of time while speaking, thus confusing and alienating interviewers. Hates touring and beach vacations.

If you have neither seen nor heard Stephin Merritt, I would recommend watching the following video (particularly the first two minutes), during which he cruelly finds himself on a chipper morning talk show. I imagine a similar interaction would occur were Proust trapped in a glass box with Kathy Lee.

Now, I am not one to applaud a tortured artist for his depression. I don't find people more enchanting when they stop taking serotonin re-uptake inhibitors and start stabbing at their thighs with butter knives. However, Stephin Merritt isn't tortured. He is simply grumpy and filled with disdain. He reminds me fondly of curmudgeony old men, silently glaring at children.

I adore him because he so clearly doesn't fit with any reasonable stereotypes, because he creates intelligent lyrics with delightful melodies, and because though I desperately want to meet him, I imagine he would immediately find our conversation dull and wander off into a dark corner to write love songs about flesh-eating bacteria.

A few of my favorite Magnetic Fields songs:

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A love song

My assertion is this: snuggies are not novelty items. They're not simply electric-blue sheets of poor quality polyester, slowly lifting the hairs on your arms with static and shame. The snuggie does not deserve your mockery, should not be characterized as simply the blanket for people who find blankets too complicated.

The snuggie is revolutionary. The snuggie is better than pants.


I am sheathed in glory. Note my legs - unencumbered. My arms - elegantly draped. Am I frail? Girthy? Pretending to be Jesus? Impossible to tell. Imagine what a snuggie-based school uniform would do for the various body issues of teen girls with the vomiting and the myspace and the whatnots. Imagine how it could bridge the divide between nations - when arms are no longer cold, perhaps hearts could follow. Imagine a world of floating blue lint.

I will give you the positives:
1. Has the ease and "one size fits all" mentality of a muumuu, yet encourages you to lead an active lifestyle of playing backgammon on the floor.

2. It's a blanket with sleeves. Sleeeeeeeves!
3. If you're cold in the feet, you can shove whatever extremities you'd like into the sleeves and still have the capacity to read magazines while clutching at bewildered and illiterate children.

The negatives:
1. It's true. Your ass is fully exposed. However, I feel this is a small sacrifice in my brave new world where man and couch are one.
2. The lint and the static, they are plentiful. They also strike most cruelly against that which the snuggie should love as a brother: microfiber.

And yet, the score is 3 to 2. The snuggie, conclusively, is better than pants.

Monday, April 27, 2009

A Good Thing:

I am incapable of stealing music. This isn't due to any moral rigor on my part, nor some weird deficiency in the tensile strength of my finger bones, making them give way all jelly-like when typing "Pirate Bay." I simply can never find what I'm looking for, nor am I skilled enough in the ways of the Interwebs to avoid whatever traps rabid music labels set forth to snare 75 year-old women illegally downloading Chamillionaire or 15 year-olds hellbent on learning the ways of life and love through Fergie.

The result of this sad state of affairs is an addiction to streaming music that results, generally, in a plethora of free songs. Or at the very least heavily discounted songs. The iTunes vs Amazon DRM/Variable Pricing/who-can-find-the-newest-way-to-screw-you-war means little to me. They scramble for my dollars for naught. I've got Lala. is better than Last.Fm. is also better than is better than a lot of things - olives, small ferns, medium-attractive sweaters.

I will tell you why:

1. Lala allows you to listen to any song in its vast library once for free, giving you the opportunity to hear an artist's entire oeuvre before committing to any exchange of funds.
2. Upon signing up, you get 50 free songs that you can save online and listen to endlessly from Lala free of charge.
3. Their site is a pleasant teal, reminding me of blue-raspberry AirHeads and hygienic toilet bowls.
4. Once you run through your 50 free songs, web albums are all of 80 cents. 80 cents! Admittedly you can only listen to them online, but I'm rarely more than three feet away from an internet connection, so this bothers me not. Full albums are also available for standard download - usually at about 7 bucks a pop.
5. The site works well, almost never stabbing me in the eye with the cruel spear of buffering.

The competition: rarely lets you listen to the exact song you want to hear, instead shuffling you into that song's "channel" where similar music you have no say in wafts through, sometimes pleasantly, often just a touch off-pitch. Pausing is impossible. Attempt to pause and you lose the song you were listening to, and will most likely crash the site.

Pandora suffers a similar problem. While it pioneered the space of exposing listeners to new artists they'll probably like, it again falls behind when I want to hear a favorite song or a whole album. Additionally, there's no way to backtrack through a channel. (Please note, what follows is a helpful anecdote that makes me appear folksy and approachable). It's like the farmer who takes his cow up to the bedroom for a night of platonic cuddles, but cannot drive it back down when his vengeful wife appears, threatening steak sandwiches. Cows, like Pandora, can walk up stairs, but not back down. (That should have been read, by the way, with a slightly Southern accent. If you failed to read it thusly, please backtrack and do so now).

And thus, the winner: Lala. Better than Better than medium-attractive sweaters. Better than cows.

A Word of Introduction

With the coming Swine Flu apocalypse, now seems a good time to make judgments. To stake a claim for what is right in the world, and what is deeply, incontrovertibly bread-and-butter-pickle wrong. What Jesus would do, and what Jesus would only do on Mescaline.

The opinions that will appear on this blog (hopefully posted with relative frequency), are admittedly mine alone. Rest assured, however, that they are correct. Exhaustive research and sleepless nights will lie behind every word, driving it to the path of righteousness. Snacks will be consumed often, but only in the service of the truth, and usually in the form Gummy Bears.

So. Let's get started.