Monday, May 31, 2010

My advice to everyone

One of top harsh lessons of reality is... being nice doesn't always work.

Yes, it helps- a lot- but there are those who find being nice foolish and even offensive, responding with contempt, mockery, and even aggression. Lucky for me I didn't learn this the hard way.

But my point is this: you can be the friendliest, most polite and courteous person alive, and while this will get you far, you will hit a brick wall if the person you're being nice dislikes you for any number of reasons. It isn't always justified, but let's face it- people tend to care more about finding people who agree with them and don't offend them than whether or not you're a nice guy.

Here's an example... say you're opening a door for a lady, and you smile and say "Good morning!" Sounds fail-safe, right? Now, let's say you wear a sleeveless shirt, and expose your many colorful and vibrant tattoos for all to see. What if the lady who you treat kindly really, really hates tattoos? She'll probably sneer at you.

Hyperbole, yes, but a lot of people are stubborn, whether they have a right to be or not. One thing I realized is that it's real easy to preach to the choir, but nigh impossible to preach to people who aren't in the choir.
If you wanna spread your message more, you're best off preaching to people who are thinking of joining the choir.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Twangshifters

I think Shaun Toman is officially one of my favorite guitarists now.

He plays stuff that I've only been able to hear in my head for a couple years now...

Magnatone vibrato

After acquainting myself with the sound of the Magnatone amps' "true vibrato" (which is awesome, by the way), I couldn't help but feel like I had heard it before. Like, in power pop or alternative music. My suspicion is that the musicians had either bought one- because, you know, lesser known vintage tube amps = rock cred- or that it was sitting around in the studio and they decided to play with it. There are two bands I can name that I'm pretty certain use it in their recordings: Letters to Cleo and Puffy AmiYumi. It's that distinctly wobbly sound that I'm thinking of...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Absolut Oxymoron

Vodka, now with a├žai, blueberry and pomegranate! It's got all three of the trendy antioxidant fruits! Wowsers! It must be healthy!


The viola d'amore's country cousin.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Greasy, fried flesh

I find it funny that Chik-fil-A has cows practically begging you to eat chicken instead of them, while Rally's has chickens who not only want you to eat them, but eat each other and make this a requirement to join their sick, cannibalistic society.

They're total opposites, wouldn't you say?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

More random thoughts about music

I think Led Zeppelin is the pioneer of folk metal. Just listen to "The Battle of Evermore" and you'll see what I mean.

Also, is it just me, or does every reggae song by a English white guy sound more structurally interesting than the real deal? I mean, yes, Bob Marley is a pioneer, and I give him all the credit in the world and my appreciation, but stuff like Elton John's "Jamaica Jerk-Off", Led Zeppelin's "D'yer Mak'er", Paul McCartney's "C Moon", and Neil Innes' "Take Away" keeps my interest longer.

Amp distortion vs. pedal distortion

It's been my observation that, unless it's a ginormous stack of Marshalls (or a vintage Supro), a tube amp's distortion can't get much heavier than late '60s hard rock- and that doesn't include people like Hendrix, Zeppelin, and Black Sabbath. I might be wrong, but it seems to me that if you wanna get punk/metal distortion without blowing your ears off, you gotta get an amp with some sort of built-in distortion or a distortion pedal.

Speaking of incapability of metal, has anyone else noticed that the video for Taranchula's "Moving Very Slowly" has a Danelectro guitar in it? I'm pretty sure lipstick tube pickups- traditional ones, anyway- aren't hot enough for death metal.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

John K

While I don't dislike John K as a person, as an artist he just turns me off, to tell you the truth. What he does is really just what underground comics did twenty years before Ren and Stimpy, and probably better...

See, my real problem with his art is that he can somehow make the music video for Weird Al's "Close But No Cigar" more violent and disturbing than "Weasel Stomping Day".

I've seen his blog and his comments on Looney Tunes, Preston Blair, and classic cartoons of many eras and mediums, and I must say that he has incredibly good taste when it comes to cartoons. He knows exactly how and why they work and what makes them good, different, and entertaining. I actually agree with the things he says! But from what I've observed, he doesn't apply these methods and philosophies to his own work- it's like the creative side of his brain refuses to listen to the logical side of his brain- what comes out of his pencil doesn't seem to reflect his knowledge and appreciation. He could draw well if he wanted to, but instead he just does everything squishy and distorted and lacking in basic construction.

Instead, in my opinion, he just rips off Bob Clampett and makes what he did as ugly and gross as possible, and makes the gags as disgusting and perverse as possible. Throw in some Basil Wolverton (never one of my favorites), Harvey Kurtzman and Robert Crumb, and you've basically got John K.

Here's the thing: while Clampett did some really insane, weird, and totally whacked-out drawings and gags, none of them fell into the category of gross-out humor. Clampett didn't refer to all the bodily functions and twist once innocent aspects of pop culture into something dark and sick- satire teases culture, it doesn't twist it to its own desires. Clampett just threw out rules of logic and Disney-style refinement and appeal.
And before you say anything, my opinion has nothing to do with a "safe and sanitized upbringing" or anything like that... Even as a small child I found Ren and Stimpy gross and barely watchable, simply because it was... well, gross. I only watched it when nothing else was on. Unlike other children, I didn't find any humor in poop and huge zits and farts- I just found it gross. It makes me wonder if most children try to soften the grossness of bodily functions by laughing at it...

(It's my theory that gross-out humor stems from nervous laughter in reaction to discomfort caused by a fart or a Garbage Pail Kids card, which is then falsely interpreted as genuine laughter. Over time, it becomes a conditioned response.)

I don't think John K's work is very original, either. I go by the philosophy of "there's nothing new under the sun", so it bugs me when they treat him like a pioneer or something, when, like I said, it's just a combination of childish potty humor and Clampett-ish animation. It gets worse when so many other artists copy him down to the last detail, which I doubt is what he ever wanted.
(I admit, though, that I liked his parodies of 1950s advertising and his use of vintage stock music.)

I prefer to go back to the original and actually try to capture some of its essence- I think it's a bad idea to only refer to the art and music of the past five or ten years (to use hyperbole), or even less than that.

Because of this, I find his criticisms of Tiny Toon Adventures to be rather ironic. According to Wikipedia (I wish they would include links to their citations in this case), he dislikes it mainly because the characters are directly based on Looney Tunes characters. Okay, so maybe they're essentially younger versions of them (no one ever said Tiny Toons was a masterpiece), but I personally find them distinguishable enough to not confuse them... it's not like they're the same thing as Baby Looney Tunes. But just because his characters are less specific- Ren is the angry straight man with a Peter Lorre voice, and Stimpy is your typical childish idiot with a Larry Fine voice- doesn't mean he's any less derivative.
He also has a problem with the fact that so many episodes were parodies of popular films. What, and Looney Tunes didn't do that? Parody is one of the staples of Looney Tunes humor. And can John K claim that he never parodied anything? I don't think so...

Myself, I never color myself as a pioneer when it comes to art- more of a "revivalist" than anything. I use art from the past as a springboard for my own ideas. I honestly think that artists should be more honest about themselves and admit that they take inspiration from other people...

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Animated masterpieces

The Thief and the Cobbler is like the Yngwie Malsteem of animation. Extremely impressive, masterful, and technical, but a little lightweight on the emotion and storytelling.

Fantasia, on the other hand, is like Jimi Hendrix. Extremely experimental and colorful.

Pinocchio, I would say, is like Brian May, full of passion and emotion and grandeur.

The Lion King is B.B. King- soulful and emotional, yet fundamentally simple.

The Secret of NIMH is Robert Johnson- raw and bleeding, yet masterful.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is Brian Setzer. Madcap and old-school!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Early Beatles chord structures

One thing I'm beginning to notice about songs by the Beatles from approximately 1962 to 1965- the moptop era, more or less- is that they use the iii chord far more often than any other music writers I know.

For those of you who have a basic knowledge of music theory, you may remember that the iii chord is the least used diatonic chord in major keys. For those who don't know, the iii chord is the second chord in these examples, the first chord representing the root or key of a song: E to G#m, A to C#m, D to F#m, etc.

So perhaps this is one of the reasons why their tunes from this period sound so unusual compared to all other forms of pop music. Being rather unfamiliar with how chords other than the I, IV, V, and iv chords worked under normal circumstances (not to say that I didn't try to go beyond them...) until recently, even I never really thought of using the iii chord.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Non-Questionable Advertising: Tito's Tacos

This may not be the most expensive, clever or original commercial, but darnit, if it isn't successful!

Catchy jingle, charming elderly large-mustachioed Tito... it all makes you wanna go down to Tito's and get a taco. AND WE DON'T EVEN LIKE TACOS.