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Debate questions from today's New York Times op-ed page, annotated.
WHAT TO ASK JOHN KERRY (note the Times puts the conservative questions first)Better questions, please?
WILLIAM KRISTOL: If you now consider the war in Iraq to have been a mistake, how could you, as president, "ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake"? (Translation: Kristol wants men to die.)
RUTH WEDGWOOD: How could we have guarded against Saddam Hussein's reckless nuclear intentions? (Assumes Saddam was a threat, recently disproven.)
VICTOR DAVIS HANSON: What precise plans do you have to induce positive changes in attitude in Iran, Lebanon and Syria? (Assumes we're the "world's cop.")
WHAT TO ASK GEORGE BUSH
MADELEINE K. ALBRIGHT: Since our direction in Iraq is obviously wrong, don't we at least need to change drivers? (Editorial masquerading as a question.)
RICHARD A. CLARKE: Under what circumstances would you authorize military action, including an invasion, to achieve regime change in Iran? (Assumes we're the world's cop.)
ARTHUR M. SCHLESINGER Jr.: What is the relation between your Christianity and that preached by the pope and by mainstream Protestants who oppose preventive war? (Philosophical question no one in the public expects a politician to answer.)
I came across Wooster Collective: A Celebration of Street Art during my reBlogging stint, and continue to be amazed by the work on the site. A visual feast, inherently post-studio, and an insult to God-given property rights. Here's Isaac "A-Number One" Hayes on a fence in Germany:
And a couple of architecture-on-architecture renderings from Paris that are merveilleux:
More on the train wreck that is Moog, the film. Wendy Carlos must be interview-shy. Switched-on Bach is mentioned in the movie but not her, by name. She deserves more credit (A Clockwork Orange? "Country Lane"? Tron soundtrack? C'mon!). Too much footage makes Moog's instrument look ridiculous. There's an admittedly over the top and laugh out loud funny Schaefer Beer commercial with some knucklehead doing a real ice-arena show stopper on a giant, early, multi-module Moog, climaxing with him quaffing a brew and the tag line "Schaefer: the beer to have when you're having more than one." Keith Emerson still has his two-ton Moog, and you get to see him playing it during a recent "Moog tribute night" at the BB King Theater. But it just sounds like the "Aquatarkus Variations"--nothing particularly new there. Vintage footage of Gershon Kingsley's First Moog Quartet looks as silly as that group was. Rick Wakeman makes the point, during his long-winded, bloke-down-the-pub spiel, that before the Moog, rock keyboardists weren't sexy, but were seen as behind the scenes accompanists for guitar players. But because the Moog was so loud and flashy, suddenly they could hold their own on the stage. Some of the background transition sequence music is nice. It's interesting to watch Moogs being assembled and to hear the inventor talk about them--he's quite the spiritualist, and says he intuitively knows what sounds the circuits will make. He emphasizes the importance of playing live before an audience, and seems to distrust "music made alone to be listened to by people alone," which may be why Spooky's analytical discourse on the sampler leaves him cold. A couple of other notable points: the electronic composer Vladimir Ussachevsky gave much input on the design of the mini-Moog, we learn: specifically, putting the sound generating dials (oscillators) in one rectangular group and the sound-shaping dials (envelope, filter) in another. Herb Deutsch recalls that Ussachevsky recommended not adding a keyboard, because he felt that would encourage playing the instrument in a traditional way, as opposed to discovering new sounds it was capable of, an observation that turned out to be prescient, since most people just used the Moog as a spacy organ.
John Zoller, A Happy Farm Boy in Ohio, 2001, 60 x 72 inches, acrylic and oil enamel on canvas. From the series United States: Color and Learn.
The film Moog is, I'm sorry to report, not so good. Theremin or even Modulations it's definitely not. Synthesizer inventor Robert Moog is himself a charming and highly intelligent interview subject, but the film unfortunately consists of him being flown around the globe for on-location tete-a-tetes with Musical Bores of the World. DJ Spooky holds forth with his usual spiel about sampling until it dawns on him that Moog is only feigning attention; he abruptly switches tracks and compliments him for all the analog hiphop beats his work indirectly influenced. Rick Wakeman and Bernie Worrell go on, like bad drunks at a party, about how a synthesizer is like a woman who must be coaxed, made to scream, yadda yadda. The live music depicted in the film is uniformly pretentious and blah: Stereolab, Keith Emerson, Luke Vibert and Jean-Jacques Perrey all manage not to shine. The highest spots involve not the keyboard instrument but the Theremin, which Moog got his start building. Solos by Pamelia Kurstin and Moog himself are beautiful and otherworldly--music from thin air, only two controls (pitch and volume), no moving parts, it's the soul of economy and still inherently futuristic. How did we ever lose track of the concept?
Your so-called liberal media at work: from a New York Times review of the recent flop The Alamo on DVD:
From Touchstone, the studio that brought you "Pearl Harbor" with a happy ending, here is a bafflingly upbeat version of the battle of the Alamo, the second most famous defeat in American history. Directed by John Lee Hancock ("The Rookie") from a script by himself, Leslie Bohem ("Taken") and Stephen Gaghan ("Traffic"), the film imposes a not-so-subtle 9/11 framework on the action, with the Mexican general Santa Ana (Emilio Echevarrķa) strutting around in peacock military garb like Saddam Hussein.Saddam, Osama bin Laden, whatever. But wait, there's more Bush propaganda:
The 200 brave men of the Alamo go down with all due spectacle, but then the film tacks on a 30-minute coda in which Houston leads a victorious invasion spurred by the famous words "Remember the Alamo" - presented as 1836's anticipation of President Bush's ground zero speech, "The people who knocked down these buildings will hear all of us soon."I guess we know who the reviewer, Dave Kehr, is voting for.
Music-and-video outfit x-eleven burned brightly in the Dallas rave scene from 1992-1995, with frequent radio play on Jeff K's Edge Club program, inclusion in the Tales From the Edge CD series ("Texas Techno" installment), and appearances at major rave events. Their fast, scintillating techno tracks never quite gelled into a CD's worth of material, at least for perfectionist Gary Wicker, who wrote and performed the music. Strong nods to prog-rock and the industrial canon distinguish it from more purist or jazzy Detroit-style techno; Wicker mentions 808 State as an inspiration but I'd say Orbital if I had to compare it to anything. Wicker's amphetamine-fueled contrapuntal keyboards are in many ways the opposite of acid-house minimalism; one could envision a caped Rick Wakeman playing some of these baroque riffs, accompanied with grooving dance-floor bass and slightly incongruous party-hearty samples of kids saying "C'mon!" and "Let's do it!" The music doesn't quite fit into the Simon Reynolds standard techno timeline: it's an intriguing side-stream to what was happening further north and across the pond.
In '96 Wicker sold all his equipment and never looked back at his musical career, at least until last year, when he put the entire x-eleven catalog online, with assiduously detailed commentary, in what he calls "a sort of paean to the spirit of failure." The site has literary as well as musical interest, with Wicker narrating his own short career in the reflective tones of a sociological case study--a bemused audio-linguistic meditation on artistic aspirations and the messy realities of a being a group navigating the world of public performance and recording. (Personally I think he is seduced to this day by the capitalist paradigm that confuses business failure with creative failure--the latter this is definitely not.) With the reckless generosity of a recovering musician (who says he's still working, but not in this style), Wicker invites you to "download [all the x-eleven tracks as] .mp3 files, load them into your iPods, burn them onto CDs, do with them as you will." While you're listening you can read his fact-crammed commentary, a veritable how-to of basement keyboard and drum techniques. See, for example, this blurb for the 1992 track "Through the Ether":
This track opens with a filter-sweeped OB-8 sixteenth-note figure and a basic four-on-the-floor beat. Shortly thereafter, the members of Yes are digitally tricked into playing a portion of their biggest hit backwards, then forwards, then backwards again by a crafty ASR10M. Not content to humble just one great prog-rock act, the ASR10M then corners Robert Fripp's guitar, lassoes it and forces it to play a strangely happy melody that would be right at home amongst the talking mushrooms in an episode of "H.R. Pufnstuf." A bouncy CZ10M mallet part (inspired by Absolut's "X Ray My Love") soon takes over lead duty as most of the rhythm track drops away, leaving only a TR909 bass drum whose dotted-sixteenth triplet pattern indicates that it's caught a case of the giggles. A jazz drum loop soon joins in the fun, followed a few bars later by the rest of the drums and a stereo-phased ESQ-1 white noise bit. A tight snare drum roll announces the return of Fripp's regal-sounding looped guitar, and a confused Matrix 6R, still playing the theme from "Past Passion," wanders in from the next room. The mallet part eventually returns, accompanied by ascending arpeggios from the Matrix 6R and some stereo delay trickery, and we're soon back in Sid & Marty Krofft territory. The six-note "Past Passion" theme makes another final appearance before the track draws to a close.
Other standout tracks on the site include "Burn it Up" and "Past Passion," but they're all worth a listen. It's the apotheosis of geeky keyboard tech--geeky but cool, at least in my biased opinion as a fan who until recently had only a few nuggets but just found the mother lode.Update, December 2014: The X-Eleven links above are dead but the group has a page on bandcamp.