Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sound Drama

Radio drama is a fantastic, nearly dead (I say nearly because it still lives on the BBC and CBC) and beautiful medium. You can still find many collections of the old shows lying around at public libraries and on websites like Archive.org. Thanks to the internet, I discovered CBS Radio Workshop, an experimental radio show developed in the late 1950s, just as the medium was fading in the United States. The internet has provided great information on that program, including this piece written in Time Magazine right as the show was coming to air:

It took three radio sound men, a control-room engineer and five hours of hard work to create the sound that was heard for less than 30 seconds on the air. The sound consisted of a ticking metronome, tom-tom beats, bubbling water, air hose, cow moo, boing! (two types), oscillator, dripping water (two types) and three kinds of wine glasses clicking against each other. Judiciously blended and recorded on tape, the effect was still not quite right. Then the tape was played backward with a little echo added. That did it. The sound depicted the manufacturing of babies in the radio version of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World.

Huxley's 25-year-old satire of a scientific civilization was dramatized last week, in the first of a two-part series, on the opening show of the CBS Radio Workshop (Fri. 8:30 p.m.), a revival of radio's famed experimental Columbia Workshop. From 1936 to 1947 (the year before television became a national pastime), the Workshop reigned as the top dramatic prestige program on the air. From the beginning its principle was that production, not the play, is the thing. Through an ingenious use of sound it sought to catch the mind's eye with the ear. The Workshop's, first director, the late Irving Reis, was a onetime control-room engineer, who sweated over electrical filters, oscillators and echo chambers to produce the sound of fog, the footsteps of gods, the dissonance of bells driving someone mad, the witches in Macbeth, the feel of going under ether. A sound made listeners see doors open and close. When someone in the play was stabbed, listeners were made to feel it as a sound-effects man hovered over a mike and knifed a watermelon.

While Workshop directors recognized that radio drama had to be sound drama, it counted words as an important type of sound to stir the imagination. The program counted among its writers Stephen Vincent Benet, Archibald MacLeish, William Saroyan, Dorothy Parker and Norman Corwin, who created an effective impressionistic style of radio writing.

The Workshop has been dusted off and brought back after nine years on the trash heap, says CBS Radio's Vice President Howard G. Barnes, because "drama stands up on radio," and CBS stations have been crying for more of it. Barnes, who put the Workshop back in working order, says that the connection between the old and new shows is that both are "experimental radio theater. We're going to try to go further into the world of ideas. We'll never get a sponsor anyway, so we might as well try anything. We hope to be the fourth dimension of radio programming, up on Cloud Nine in an intellectual and entertaining way." Brave New World, with its ingenious sound effects, its "pneumatic" girls and production-line god ("Thank Ford someone has come! Thank Ford!"), is a good beginning.


I'm personally very impressed that Time had someone transcribe that ancient article and put it on to the Time website. Perhaps there is an audience for this sort of thing.

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Saturday, December 5, 2009

Van She - Don't Fear the Reaper (FINAL VERSION)



The story behind this song is a little embarrassing and a little strange. Apparently, Blue Oyster Cult had a big song called "Don't Fear the Reaper" back in the 1970s. I had never heard of the song until the Van She cover was posted at Too Many Sebastians. Shortly after hearing the Van She version, I heard the BOC original version playing loudly at Comic Relief in Berkeley, California. Weird. Even weirder is this story:

A while back we posted a radio rip of the new Van She track '(Don't Fear) The Reaper' it's a cover of a Blue Oyster Cult track, we didn't know this, a reader pointed that out to us, that very same day we heard the original in the movie 'Halloween'. Spooky?


I included Van She's "Don't Fear the Reaper" on the first Deschamps mix, but that was a radio rip from the Australian Triple J radio show. The final version is now available:

Van She - Don't Fear the Reaper

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Miami Horror - Sometimes (Gloves Remix)

Miami Horror's electro hit "Sometimes" is likely one of the best works of the genre in years. Perfectly echoing a carefree summer vibe, it also melds with serious lyrics and sports a music video which is a strange combination of teenage romance and science fiction. Electro act Gloves has done a remix of "Sometimes" that manages to be just as good as the original. Download it free at Too Many Sebastians.

And if you haven't seen it, here is the awesome video for "Sometimes:"



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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Moby - One Time We Lived

This is so good! Don't be misled though. This song isn't actually from Wait for Me. It's from the Wait for Me Deluxe Edition. Yes, Moby is hustling us. This song beats out most of Wait for Me, in my honest opinion. Moby's singing voice is getting really good and beginning to resemble David Bowie's. That's not too surprising, since they toured together back in 2002 (at one of the best shows I've ever seen) and are apparently good friends.



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Friday, November 27, 2009

Vintage Video: Christmas Is Coming

Beautiful early animation from 1951, provided by the BFI National Archive. Be sure to subscribe to their YouTube channel.



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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Introducing the Justice Society of America

From this week's episode of Smallville comes a sneak peek of the television premiere of the Justice Society of America:



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Friday, November 13, 2009

Deschamps Mix #1: Housse de Racket, Van She, Miami Horror, The Fascination Movement, White Lies



The first Deschamps Mix is done. Mixing the podcast turned out really well. If all goes well, I hope to have one of these up once a week, either on Friday or Saturday.

Here's the link:

Deschamps Mix #1


Here's the track list:

Van She - Don't Fear the Reaper
Housse de Racket - Synthetiseur
Miami Horror - Sometimes
Carl Sagan – ‘A Glorious Dawn’ ft. Stephen Hawking (Cosmos Remixed)
The Fascination Movement - Radio
The Fascination Movement - Bringing Down the Walls
Housse de Racket - Le Rendez-vous
White Lies - Nothing to Give - M83 Remix

Since this is the first go at it, any feedback (of the constructive variety, of course) will be appreciated.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Tough Alliance's New Video: A New Chance

The soundscape of the Tough Alliance, when I first heard it, reminded me of the video game Crash Bandicoot. It looks like the electro group realized how cartoonish they were and decided to celebrate it.



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Sunday, November 8, 2009

I Am Finn Remixed By Van She



More Van She at your fingertips! Aussiepop is taking over Deschamps. Christian Rice of Handsome Clothing Co. was nice enough to provide me a remix by Van She of I Am Finn's "I Love You."

I Am Finn - I Love You (Van She Remix)


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You Still Shouldn't Fear the Reaper

This blog often exercises in reverence for the past, with odes to songs and videos made decades before this writer's birth. This time, the standard is reversed. The Australian electro band Van She has released a beautiful cover of Blue Oyster Cult's "Don't Fear the Reaper," which I cannot stop playing on repeat. The song is ripped off of the radio, with the sound of a DJ at the beginning. I'll post a link to the finalized version whenever I get a hold of it.

Van She - (Don't Fear) the Reaper (Radio Rip)


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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Young Tiger - Murder in the Market

For a couple years I've had an MP3 of "Africa Dream" by George "Young Tiger" Browne. Browne was a pioneer of calypso music, helping to make it popular in the United Kingdom and the West during the 1950s. After finally getting around to Googling his name, I found this song by him on YouTube. It's a tongue in cheek murder ballad about a wife beating her husband with a frying pan.



Notable: I have started blogging regularly at ParcLive, the blog of Parcbench.com. Please check it out and leave your thoughts there.

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

"River Folk - Songs of the Organ"

I'm usually not a fan of musical films, but this is expertly done. Before you watch, read the description from BFI Films: "Legendary musician Reginald Foort bashes out some crowdpleasers on the Compton organ at the Ambassador Cinema in Hounslow. In this edition, all the tunes are river-related: after two songs set around the Thames, courtesy of Harry Compton and the Eton College Choral Society, we travel to Eastern Europe - or at least, an unconvincing set designed to look like Eastern Europe, where ersatz Russian peasants treat us to a rousing chorus of Ya Vass Lublu."



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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Remembering the 442nd


I was undeservedly privileged back in 2006 to meet a man who fought in the 442nd Infantry Regiment during World War II. The man I met, whose name escapes me now, literally fought fascists in Italy while his family was being held by the United States government in internment camps. The 442nd was an all Asian-American regiment which fought in the European theater of the War in battles in Italy, France and Germany. This video, which shows the awarding of the Distinguished Service Cross to the family of Sgt. Masuda of the 442nd was a great and totally unexpected find. I hope you enjoy it.



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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

More on Tyrone Love


There's an aspect of Tyrone Love's murder that has been in the back of my mind for days:

According to an eyewitness, Love was walking alone in the 2600 block of East Cherry Street just before 2 a.m. when a man pulled up in a car, jumped out, ran toward Love and shot him several times.

Some acquaintances suggested that Love’s death might be connected with an ongoing investigation into the fatal, gang-related shooting at Vito’s Madison Grill in November. Police would not confirm whether Love was linked to it.

But one law enforcement source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, described a small circle of men who promote parties, attend clubs and may know gang members — at least peripherally.


It seems like it was Tyrone's involvement with music promotion that got him shot.

The one thing that struck me when I talked with Tyrone was how nice and decent he was. I'm not saying that just because he's gone now and it's the polite thing to say. He really was a nice guy. The Central District and Capitol Hill isn't a hotbed for nice people so you tend to notice whenever decency rears its head.

I remember once talking to him about family, and I told him that one of my family members had moved south and had the same significant other for several years. Tyrone asked me if she was happy. That may not seem like much, but in retrospect it was really sweet. It wasn't something a gangbanger would ask. Tyrone was not a gangbanger, and that's what makes his death all the more tragic.

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Northwest Concert Promoter Murdered


Out of high school, I worked briefly for a hip-hop magazine put out by the music promotion company Seaspot.com. One of the concert promoters I knew there was murdered recently:

In a neighborhood that had seemingly grown immune to news of violence and death, the fatal shooting of a popular, young music promoter earlier this week apparently has galvanized the community.

The death of Tyrone Love, 26, who was by all accounts one of the good guys, has sparked a rally, two vigils, a benefit concert set for Monday night, and renewed discussion among community leaders about how to reduce violence among youths.

A co-founder of a local music-promotion company named Vibrant Entertainment 206, Love worked during the day at the YMCA where he ran programs for at-risk youth.


This came as a surprise to me not just because I knew him but also because the community had become rather gentrified over the years, with nightclubs and malt liquor stores being replaced by Safeways, Trader Joe's and Starbucks. I'd hoped we'd been through the worst of it already.

I want to add that the murder of Tyrone was not necessarily caused by hip-hop. Reports show that the motive is unclear. Since rappers and others in the hip-hop community have been caught up in gang violence for decades, it'd be easy to say than this nice guy fell victim to the music that he (and I) helped promote. However, the hood is the hood and violence happens for no reason sometimes (like the Capitol Hill rave massacre that happened three years ago).

Whatever the motive, it's still depressing. I remember talking to Tyrone about soul music at Seattle Central Community College and him telling me about working at the YMCA. I hope that the children he helped will be inspired to do the same kind of work.

Rest in peace.

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Thursday, March 5, 2009

Speaking With Ardnt

Below is an excerpt of a recently published interview I conducted with Ardnt Peltner, a German born journalist and the host of the popular San Francisco based radio show/podcast Radio Goethe:

How did you end up in the Bay Area?
I moved over here after finishing my training as a radio journalist in Germany. I knew the Bay Area from a previous stay. Before getting into radio I studied social work and did an internship in San Francisco.
So, i jumped onto the chance to become a freelance correspondent in the summer of '96. Just wanted to stay three years....that plan didn't turn out.

What motivated you to start Radio Goethe?
I love music and I have been collecting records all my life. When I came to SF I realized, that there are almost no German bands played on the radio. So I went to KUSF and offered them the show idea to produce a program just focusing on German music. They liked the idea, since they played bands like Kraftwerk, Faust or the Einstuerzenden Neubauten. In the beginning I just hosted in German, later I switched, while realizing that my audience is mostly American.


You can read the entire thing at Mstation.org.

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Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Boys from the Dwarf Return





Time for a geek out! Here are the Red Dwarf crew reunited. It's nice to see that they're all wearing their classic clothes and not the Series VIII prison regs. They all look older of course, which is to be expected after a decade, but the one who looks most different is Chris Barrie, who plays Rimmer. His hair is shorter and grayer and he looks skinnier. Since he plays a hologram, and holograms are just light representations of dead humans, the writers may want to explain this.

As for the content, this could go badly or well. The last series was better than most British comedies but pailed in comparison with previous Red Dwarf. There is precedent of reunions being as good or even better than the original. Doug Naylor, creator of Red Dwarf, would be wise to follow the first Star Trek movies, which were made a decade after the original series and blew it out of the water.

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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

"Reflections on Obama"

I have an article on the Barack Obama inauguration over at Mstation.org:

The inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States is an event that the world watched, from the villages of Kenya to the bars of San Francisco. As such my lone views on the matter, as a 22-year-old American of no particular exception, aren’t the sort of item that will be overtaking headlines anywhere.

Nevertheless, I think I have what I think is a unique view on the matter. I had an upbringing in which race was stamped on my mind with more force than I believe it is most white people. I spent the first few years of my education at an overwhelmingly white elementary school, in which diversity was more a factor of what church one attended than what your pigmentation was. Due to a combination of residential changes and institutional policies on the part of the Seattle School District, I wound up at a school with a substantially large black population.

It was a daily occurrence at that middle school to hear race come up in some form. I’d be called white boy or some student would insist that the reason he was being pulled out of class or getting a bad grade was because of racism. Due to the stress and what I assume to be exhaustion from being called a racist every day, one of my math teachers actually quit in the middle of the semester. It was a few weeks before a permanent replacement came in.

I don’t think I would have gotten heavily into hip-hop and devoured books like The Autobiography of Malcolm X if it hadn’t been for that abrupt incursion into black culture. However much I may have hated and resented going there at the time, it helped me understand black culture in a way that most other Caucasians probably don’t.

That’s partly why I was moved by the Obama victory and inauguration speeches. When I saw Barack Obama speaking humbly, it was nice to see a validation of what I had always believed: Race is a meaningless physical characteristic, there merely as a result of our evolutionary adaptation to various climates and nothing more. Perhaps the children of the kids I knew who constantly accused teachers of being racist will use less scapegoats in their lives, realizing that it is in fact possible for a black man to succeed to the highest role in American society.

The candidacy of John McCain, on the other hand, was profoundly depressing. Despite his ad hominem attacks on Ron Paul, who I supported, during the Republican presidential debates, I was inclined in his direction due to years of admiration. His Hail Mary Pass of a vice presidential candidate, combined with a flirtation with the hardcore Religious Right and the employment of idiotic gimmicks like “Joe the Plumber,” made me feel sad that a great man could be reduced to a self-parody by politics.

There are quite a few overly inflated hopes of Barack Obama. Though he is trying now to deflate them by saying he will make difficult choices in the face of a disastrous economic situation, his campaign blew up those high expectations to an outrageous degree. One can think of Tony Blair, who came to be PM with high expectations but left with contempt, and see that things do not often turn out as we hope or expect.

The symbolic progress of Barack Obama’s inauguration would make up for those disappointments, however. Not only did he surpass the race barrier, he shattered the stereotypes that Americans are a bunch of unicultural neandrathals. Only one hundred years ago, Irish immigrants were axing the “O” from their last name in order to assimilate in America. In the twenty first century, in a period wherein Americans had supposedly become a bunch of xenophobic Islamophobes, the United States elected a man named Barack Hussein Obama.

Not bad.


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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Red Dwarf Gets Obamiconned

In honor of Barack Obama's inauguration as the 44th President of the United States of America and the upcoming Red Dwarf reunion special, I used the Obamicon service to create four Red Dwarf themed Obama posters. Let me know what you think.









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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Hooray for Vintage Advertising

Provided B/W of the always entertaining but hardly illuminating Christopher Hitchens Watch:



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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Clear Evil? Sometimes. Clear Good? Not so much.

Writer Bill Willingham has gotten comic book fans riled and uncharacteristically political with his calls for an end to the "Age of Superhero Decadence:"

Folks, we’re smack dab in the midst of the Age of Superhero Decadence. Old fashioned ideals of courage and patriotism, backed by a deep virtue and unshakable code, seem to be… well, old fashioned.

Full disclosure time. I’m at least partially to blame for this steady chipping away of the goodness of our comic book heroes. In my very first comic series Elementals, first published close to thirty years ago, I was eager to update old superhero tropes, making my characters more real, edgier, darker — less heroic and a good deal more vulgar than the (then) current standard. Elementals was one of the first of what was later dubbed the ‘grim and gritty’ movement in comic books. And to complicate my confession, I’m still proud of much of that early work. At least my crass and corrupted Elemental heroes still fought, albeit imperfectly, for the clear good, against the clear evil.

Mr. Willingham,

I believe there is such a thing as pure evil. I've seen it. There are people in this world who do not have good intentions and that simply want to tear the world down. I thought The Dark Knight portrayed this aspect of the Joker well. However, while I do believe in evil I do not believe in pure, infallible good. The good make mistakes. The good make bad alliances. The good do the wrong thing.

Up until the 1970s, when Avengers storylines showed Henry Pym beating his wife in a fit of madness and Tony Stark succumbing to alcoholism, this aspect of heroism was extremely downplayed. A trip through early Superman comic books is a trip through the journeys of a colossally one-dimensional character.

This, of course, is a balancing act. Deadpool, the Punisher and some stories featuring Wolverine get very excessive at times in romping through extreme violence. Since comic books are read by children, they should cast images of morality. However, please don't fall into the world of one-dimensional characters. The greatest American icons, from Humphrey Bogart's love betrayed and apathetic Rick in Casablanca to Harrison Ford's money-obsessed scoundrel turned freedom fighter Han Solo in Star Wars, have been men of conflicted emotions who eventually wind up doing the right thing. Stan Lee was revolutionary in creating characters like Peter Parker (who failed to save his uncle from murder due to his own selfishness), Ben Grimm, Wolverine and Daredevil, who were all deeply flawed characters. That's what men are really like and that's what they'd still be like even with superpowers. Men are not really like Superman.

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Sunday, January 4, 2009

An Original Bush Bashing

I tend to avoid Bush-bashing because I find it to be the most incredibly tired and cliched aspect in modern America. I prefer to sift through and find the aspects of his administration that have been successes (as rare as those are.)

Columnist Ron Hart, however, does something original in his criticism of Bush, coming from a humorous libertarian perspective. Starting off with a much needed bashing of NPR:

As giddy with anticipation as a schoolgirl, NPR reports that a record 5 million people will attend Barack Obama's inauguration this month. Ever the inquisitive columnist, I have examined these claims, determined that NPR might be right on this one, and got a nice tote bag from them for my efforts. Worry not about the impact on the economy. Even with 4 or 5 million Obama supporters in Washington for the inaugural festivities, only 28 of them will be missing work.

NPR, as we all know, is National Public Radio, which will be in an enviable position once the Democrats in Congress silence the free market of ideas that is talk radio. NPR is the monotone talking points of the left, subsidized with our tax dollars and pressurized pledge drives that seem to take place 365 days a year. If you are wondering what Congress would like your news and information stream to be like in the future, look no further than Castro's state-owned paper that talks about him in every issue, or Oprah's "O" magazine, dedicated to her and to her struggles with her weight.


Hart's assessment of Bush makes you say "ouch" out loud:

Now all that is left for him is to pardon a few folks and try to burnish his legacy. To date he has pardoned fewer felons than his predecessors. My guess is that even criminals don't want a pardon from W because they don't want to be too closely associated with him.


If you thought that was harsh, take this one:

The White House has been called on to answer for the Iraq War, which has been called the worst foreign policy blunder in history. That seems to me to be unfair and premature. Bush still has two more weeks in office.


Ouch squared. Thank goodness I never voted for Dubya. (I voted for Kerry in 2004.)

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Saturday, January 3, 2009

Comics Will Rot Your Brains!!



A couple years ago, I set up a booth at a flea market in order to get rid of a huge number of comic books. I wasn't giving up the medium or anything like that but was instead trying to clear house of a good deal of comics that I'd acquired during a comic shop's going out of business sale in the mid-90s. The comics were mostly published by the now-defunct Malibu Comics and were published during the 1990s, easily one of the lowest points in comic book publishing history. I just wanted them off my hands.

I was struck by a hostility from older people at what I was selling. I kept hearing, "You know, these things will rot your brains" being said by grown men in a serious tone of voice. At the time I thought they were just "old," but in retrospect most of these nervous pervises were Baby Boomers. They were kids during the Red Scare, which was also a time when comic books were tackled by demagogic lawmakers and imposed with a rating system called the Comics Code Authority. (While mainstream publishers like Marvel Comics have abandoned the Comics Code, it can still be found on the covers of Archie Comics.)

In a recent Reason magazine article, writer Brian Doherty reviewed the book The Ten Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How it Changed America by David Hajdu. Doherty writes that Hajdu argues that the comic book genre was subjected to a witch hunt by lawmakers, churches and academics comparable to the ones that took on Elvis Presley and communists. Hajdu's argument makes sense in explaining why so many Baby Boomers were getting freaked out about the comic books I was selling at that flea market. The book describes kids that beat up other kids who were caught with comic books. Were some of those bullies at that flea market?

Doherty notes that this may not seem relevant to the average reader but it should. Similar assaults have been made on music and video games and will likely continue towards new entertainment mediums in the future. Recall Tipper Gore, the wife of former presidential candidate Al Gore, and her Parents Music Resource Center or Hillary Clinton's efforts to legislate against violent video games.

Comic book companies are still being assaulted by moralist authoritarians in this country, and organizations like the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund have been set up to aid poor comic book creators that are defending themselves in court against bullying censors. While there are a few pretty racy comic books out there (both in regards to sexual and violent content), comic book publishers do a pretty good job of making it evident on the cover. Marvel has many "All Ages" lines that are tame and fine for little kids. In contrast to that, they have also set up a line called "MAX" that is clearly aimed at teenage and older readers. Comics that don't fall into those lines but have mature or older content are usually labeled as such. Like any medium, be it video games or movies, what ends up in the hands of kids falls down to the individual parent or guardian who is buying it or the retailer who is selling it, and not the publisher, who has little control over where their comics end up.

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