Archive for May, 2013

Other Ten Percent 5/13/13

May 13 2013 Published by under Daily Posts

Well that’ll teach me on the new OTP format. I’ve been waiting for inspiration to strike and it’s now 10:47 on Sunday night and I’m drunk and I frankly don’t have a better idea of what I’m going to talk about than I did on Friday. So here’s the best I can do: let’s talk Daft Punk because right now we’re in a place where they’re emblematic of something that interests me intensely about music. At the moment we’ve got a radio edit of one song and really terrible rips of some small portion of two more but we’ve got a complete track by track review of the album from about 18 different sources.

On some level that’s actually as old school as the album itself, it used to be that you could actually have an album that existed for an elite few WITHOUT having it leak to everybody else and that’s now something you can only do when you have the absurd combination of clout and money that Daft Punk currently possess, but that’s not what makes their current position interesting to me.

What’s interesting to me is how bizarre it seems to try and impose your own narrative on top of that. Sure other people have had albums that got reviewed before they got leaked but nobody’s so thoroughly defined the story of what that album will be before anybody’s heard significant portion of it. Daft Punk is bringing Disco back. You can accept that or get out of the way but it’s going to happen. It’s going to happen because they have the mindshare and the narrative around the album is so on lock that it almost doesn’t matter what the album actually sounds like.

Just look at the reaction to Get Lucky. In any other year the race for the year’s summer jam would be a reliable traffic earner for anybody that judges music. Who gets to be the OFFICIAL summer jam is such a ridiculous question that I came up with 10 different options myself and I don’t have an editorial group I’m navigating. This year though, the articles are still happening but there’s no suspense. NY Mag published their version and even though the headline was “what will be the summer jam of 2013” the content of the article was “it’s Get Lucy. Here are some other songs though.”

For a while now I’ve wanted to do a review site for music but I’ve been describing it wrong. When I’ve said I want a music site that doesn’t pretend to be an impartial judge that’s objectively evaluating music people have rightly asked if I’m saying I want to be Lester Bangs but what I’m actually suggesting is the exact opposite. Instead of somebody who admits their biases up front and who just runs with them as hard as they can, I want a music review site that is actually grappling with the biases more than the music itself. I want to care about the story around the music that has informed everybody’s review MORE than I want to care about the album. In fact, I kind of want to only review albums nobody’s heard.

I touched upon this a little when I was talking about Kitty and Grimes on Wednesday but it isn’t limited to them by any means. Instead, it seems to be a vital part of the calculus of every band and we’re just pretending it doesn’t exist because it’s “all about the music, dude.” The fact that it hasn’t been all about the music since…ever doesn’t seem to bother anybody. Instead, it seems to make them all the more obsessed with the prospect of being the one reviewer that’s able to shake off the illusions of whatever story the band is telling about itself so that they can tell you what’s REALLY going on.

I’m not ready to say that review of an album is impossible but I am ready to say I’m not particularly interested in that review even if you could make it. Nobody listens to an album without some sense of the story around it. Nobody’s sitting down to listen to Random Access Memories with no conception of what Daft Punk is trying to do here, they’ve made damn sure of that.

Of course, none of this is limited to music. If that medium is unique in any way it’s that music reviewers have somehow managed to keep their belief in creativity ex-nihilo, but I’m not entirely sure that argument is even valid. All art criticism has an odd tendency to pretend like all we’re judging is the piece of art in front of us when anybody with any sense knows that isn’t true.

If any through-line to the new version of Other Ten Percent ever appears that’ll make me stick with this instead of freaking out that I’ve run out of things to say and reverting to the old format it’ll be that not enough people care about what a thing wants to be. I’m not trying to excuse crap art’s failure to execute on their ideas (and I do worry that in my haste to edit things down to the most pertinent links I sometimes gloss over that there’s a LOT of crap out there) but most everybody’s stopped judging things as a failure to create what it wants because they’re satisfied to attack it as a failure to be what they want.

Oh, right, the Daft Punk album. I mean on some level they’ve set themselves up to fail here. You can’t announce that you’re a wake up call to electronic music and actually BE a wake up call to electronic music. You can’t say you’re the wake-up call for anything and have that work. The best you can hope for is that everybody doing the thing you hate ignores you because you smacked them around too completely for them to try and directly respond to you (Sup, Cabin in the Woods).

On another level though it’s almost impossible for them to fail. It’s Daft Punk and they’ve clearly laid out the criteria on which you can judge them. They’re making a disco throwback record and they hired fucking Nile Rodgers for the gig. Good luck questioning those credentials.

…Yeah here’s what I’ve got to come up with to make these OTP entries work: I need a better moral than the fact that I’ve read 10,000 words on a topic and have no idea what I think about it.

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Other Ten Percent 5/10/13

May 10 2013 Published by under Daily Posts

So Time has published another insufferable “millennials are all narcissistic little shits and if we call them that on the cover maybe they’ll bother to actually buy a paper magazine to tell us how wrong we are” issue. I haven’t actually read the articles since Time’s trapped them behind a paywall but from what I can tell the article is split into two parts: a baby boomer explaining how all kids these days are lazy, narcissistic assholes that lack the industry to do any real work and then a glowing article about how one day we WILL have that industry and we’ll fix the world with our amazing new types of work (it’s amazing how we’re both lazy and multi-talented polymaths that can do five jobs at once. Guess that’s just the paradoxical skillset you get living in mom’s basement) along with our naturally sunny dispositions.

Once again though my real rage isn’t at the baby boomers who seem to be utterly convinced they’ve ruined their kids by telling them they can succeed in the world so often the little idiots actually believed it. Those arguments always sound like a parent explaining everything they did wrong in raising their kids for so long it becomes clear they aren’t apologizing so much as looking for someone to give them absolution and I end up feeling nothing except vague pity. Instead it’s the Gen X douchebags commenting on Time’s article that actually enrage me.

So far the most insufferable is an article at Wonkette where a bunch of 30 somethings lecture millennials endlessly about how entitled we are before kindly offering to join in with us on a friendly round of “uselessly yell at the man.” Like everything at Wonkette it’s so over the top I can’t be sure which comments they’re actually taking seriously and I can’t even be that mad at those. Don’t worry though, I’m sure some 34 year old white dude who runs a gadget blog or has his own youtube channel will be along shortly to pick up the slack.

See, at some point every blogger in their mid thirties figured out that the two sides of this argument are the Baby Boomers yelling that kids today are too lazy to fix the economy and all the 20 somethings screaming at their parents for fucking up the entire economy in the first place. And, since Gen X isn’t a part of either group, they quickly hit upon the brilliant idea that it’s BOTH groups fault because then they get to shit on twice the amount of people while still not taking any blame themselves.

But here’s a provocative thesis: Everything that’s wrong right now is Gen X’s fault and they need to get off their entitled faux-anti-establishment asses and do something about it.

Sure, it’s absolutely true that the Baby Boomer generation went off the reservation and utterly trashed the economy at the start of the millennium, but it’s not like they were the only people alive at the time. See the little fact Gen X keeps trying to ignore is that the global economy crashed on the baby boomer’s watch but you guys were supposed to be watching the baby boomers! They kept their WWII vet parents from completely wrecking the global economy when they all went insane in the late 60s but when it was your turn to mind the store you were all way too busy telling mom she just didn’t understand grunge to bother to fucking vote and now look what happened! Your complete disengagement with society as a form of protest didn’t do jack shit but let old assholes run the show. That might be slightly less infuriating if it seemed like any of you noticed. Instead you all wander around like you’re God’s gift to counter-culture because the Clinton years produced some good bands none of you were in and which don’t exist anymore anyway.

Meanwhile, in start-up culture, the only place you guys did manage to engage with the rest of the world, you broke everything so hard you turned breaking everything into a cardinal virtue. Now you’ve got the nerve to turn around and yell at us for not disrupting as hard as you did? The only things left to disrupt are your startups, which you seem to prefer we keep our hands off of, (good luck with that by the way) and the global financial system, which, it may shock you to learn, turns out to be slightly harder to disrupt than Capitol Records.

Listen, I get it, I’ve got to hustle if I’m going to make any money and you did too. This isn’t the first generation that’s had to work in four different industries simultaneously to do anything worth doing. But, you might look up from your desk every once in a while to notice that your 4 part time gigs in 2003 have somehow transitioned into an actual ass job and there don’t seem to be all that many of those to go around these day. Constantly shifting industries isn’t a transitional state anymore it IS the career path. Why the fuck do you think we all don’t respect our boss? They’re going to be our boss for like 18 months if we’re lucky and it’s even odds if we’re going to get fired before the whole company goes down in flames pretty much no matter what happens.

I’m sure that anybody in their thirties is going to say that this portrayal of their generation is unfair and congratulations, that’s probably accurate but also pretty much the whole point. The truth is that the economic clusterfuck we’re currently embroiled in is a combination of at least three different generations being totally unable to communicate with each other and the very idea of a generational grouping based on identical behavior is sort of ridiculous since the monoculture broke down (for instance I scored a 77% on this “how millennial are you” Pew Research quiz and somebody in their forties who I’ve worked with scored 92% sooooooo maybe not entirely accurate). I bring up the Gen X thing because somehow, 20 years after they utterly failed to rebel in any way that actually hindered him they still seem utterly convinced that they’re a singular generation removed from the rest of society and given how totally screwed we seem to be right now we could use all the help we can get.

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Other Ten Percent 5/9/13

May 09 2013 Published by under Daily Posts

So I’ve never been the hugest fan of The Great Gatsby as a book, but when I first read Kathryn Schulz’s long article on how the book is secretly awful I thought it was pretty stupid. I mean the critical consensus on something can certainly be wrong but you usually want to try and engage with that consensus and counter that narrative directly. Schulz’s article seemed to just be a list of complaints about a book that wasn’t her stylistic cup of tea and that didn’t seem like it would actually get anybody to agree that Gatsby wasn’t a very good novel.

Apparently I was wrong though because I’ve been spending the day reading articles by people that apparently despise the book. It’s just kinda hard to notice their problems with Fitzgerald’s original because it usually comes right after they praise it as the greatest American novel and start complaining that Baz Luhrmann ruined it. So far I’ve read reviews that savage the movie and the actors in it for making Daisy a passive character with little or no personal identity and reviews that hate that Gatsby seems to be nothing more than a charlatan who’s obsessed with remaking his past and fails. Obviously a novel whose title character was simply a status-obsessed liar could never command the respect Gatsby does. I swear to God I’m half expecting somebody to lambast Lehrmann’s clunky reliance on visuals to tell his story as best exemplified by this stupid fucking green light he keeps harping on.

I should probably make it clear right now that I haven’t seen the new Gatsby so I’m not trying to make an argument that the largely negative reviews its been getting are actually wrong about the quality of the film. My problem is that I’ve probably read 10,000 words of negative reviews on this movie by now and I have no clue what makes this movie awful. Because by and large the negative reviews fall into two camps: rants about how Lurhmann’s ruined a classic novel by people who’ve seemingly never read the damn thing far enough to understand the basic character dynamics (hint: if you think that The Great Gatsby is a tale of star crossed lovers whose tragic love can never be…stop talking) and people who keep saying things that are actually awesome that they think will get me to hate the movie.

That latter category is best exemplified by the Time Out New York review that has this gem: “The anachronistic pop-music cues, digitally augmented tracking shots and disco-globe–glittery production design don’t re-create the headiness of early-20th-century New York so much as invent a billowy fantasy otherworld in the gauzy vein of Twilight.” Replace the word Twilight with basically any other movie that creates a Fantasy Otherworld and that sounds like my ideal Gatsby movie.

Neither type of review however actually tells me what the movie is besides “not the novel.” Is it the kind of Lehrmann film that uses its visual excess to support the story or does all the glitter gets in the way? Oh sure people will argue its the second in their review but their evidence seems less based in the film’s cinematography and more based in its failure to line up with their reading of the novel which, as we’ve established, can get pretty fucking suspect depending on the reviewer.

The reviews seem absolutely obsessed with establishing their literary bona fides but in a weird way what I want for a review of the movie is somebody that knows absolutely nothing about the book (the prospect that such a person might be in the audience this weekend and that they might like the movie seems like absolute proof that taste is dead to most critics) because my interest is less if Luhrmann adapted Gatsby correctly to the screen and more if Lurmann adapted his own visual style competently to the source material.

I’m not convinced the movie ISN’T a disaster. In fact, given Lurhmann’s track record I was pretty on the fence about seeing the film. Now that I’ve read a dozen negative reviews of the thing though I feel a strange sense of obligation to see it because the reasoning for why its awful is so strange. It shouldn’t be a hard sell to tell me that Luhrmann directing Gatsby is a disaster but the mystery of what the hell the film is actually like has been haunting me all day and apparently describing the film they just saw is no longer the job of film critics. Instead they’re all far too busy describing a book we all ready in our 9th grade English class…badly.

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Other Ten Percent 5/8/13

May 08 2013 Published by under Daily Posts

Yeah okay, not feeling today’s links that much at 4 in the afternoon and I’ve still got the tab open to do the other thing I was thinking of doing yesterday which, coincidentally, kinda plays into why I haven’t been feeling it that much in OTP lately in general. Don’t worry, this isn’t me declaring that I’m shutting down. It’s the other thing where I ramble endlessly about a specific topic and almost make an interesting point without ever actually having the thing coalesce into an actual honest to God essay. That’s right guys, buckle the fuck up because it’s time for 1500 words on meta-textuality, boringly repetitive online narratives and the rapper Kitty Pride who is apparently just going by Kitty now according to a new interview on Stereogum and Wikipedia.

Coming on the heels of Iron Man 3 that interview actually crystalized something that’s been creeping up on me for the last couple of months about the way I’ve been enjoying pretty much every form of entertainment. Lately I find myself liking the meta-text more than the text of basically everything I enjoy. That’s always been true to some degree but traditionally it’s just been things where I liked it on both levels but found the meta-text made me sound smarter. Lately I’ve just been tossing away the actual text when I find it boring though and just engaging with the parts around it that I actually care to engage with because honestly the text is all starting to seem pretty interchangeable.

Iron Man 3 is the perfect example. As an actual movie Iron Man 3 has enough structural problems that I really can’t recommend it to anybody I know. As a movie about Iron Man 3 though it’s one of the most interesting movies in years. Tony Stark has long conversations with an empty Iron Man suit and argues with people about what value he actually possesses outside of empty spectacle. At one point a small child literally asks him “when are we going to talk about The Avengers?” and Tony Stark literally has a panic attack in response. I’ve never seen a movie that’s so obsessed with its own precarious status as a summer blockbuster that can’t possibly be the biggest summer blockbuster. So it’s really disappointing when it turns around and tries anyway.

Which is why I find Kitty deeply interesting as a media personality that writes in Vice and does interviews with Stereogum even as I haven’t really bothered to listen to anything she’s done since “Okay Cupid.” Cupid was such a bizarre cultural artifact when it came out that I was just totally unable to parse the multiple levels of battling irony and twee sincerity long enough to figure out what the hell was going on. I’ve read interviews with her though because I was trying to figure out if she actually meant the bit or not and the more people turned against her and let her know she was ruining rap by being a small white girl who wasn’t a very good rapper the more interesting I found her.

I mean, the position of being famous and not very good is actually shockingly common in the modern musical landscape, the pressure to find new artists to hype means that you’re constantly plucking people out of obscurity who have performed publicly like a dozen times and when you’ve only done something a dozen time you’re pretty much guaranteed to be awful at it when 500 people are staring at you and ranking you against every other human being who’s done that thing. What made Kitty interesting was how she handled the narrative of not being a very good rapper.

Usually, when somebody gets to the “emperor has no clothes” stage of their hype cycle they decide to double down because what the hell else are you going to do? When somebody says you suck you go “No I’m awesome!” and hope you’ve got enough fans that don’t notice and stick around that you’ve still got a career. In that interview up there though Kitty does the EXACT OPPOSITE THING, she confesses that she sucks but says Danny Brown thinks she has potential and lets everybody know that she’s trying to get better and you’re free to watch that process.

I think what makes me vaguely obsessed with that interview is that the pitch seems to be working for her. She’s making some friends in music scene high places (in addition to Danny Brown she’s got GRIMES working on her new album???) and touring and getting more press than a lot of rappers that seems pretty sympathetic to her. Which, it shouldn’t be working right? I kinda feel like every time I try to engage with the meta-narrative and ask everybody to ignore the content I find myself surrounded by people who suddenly fell asleep.

I tend not to share stuff like this with you guys because I feel like for anybody that ISN’T looking at so much media that small variations in the formula end up being more interested than execution it’s all incredibly boring. Who wants to watch a random rapper who isn’t all that great get better? Who wants to watch a movie that’s okay but not that great have a nervous breakdown about the possibility that it’s okay but not that great?

Pretty much nobody.

Except, I do. In fact I kind of want to watch that stuff more than I’d like to watch the actual content being delivered to me these days. And I’m hoping maybe I’ve bombarded you guys with enough stuff that I can make you feel the same way by osmosis or something? There’s only so many meditations on the aesthetics of drone photography a guy can look at before they’re just photos taken by a fucking flying robot and if that’s true you can imagine how quickly the funny web videos nitpicking the artistic integrity of action blockbusters, the indie bands trying to bring “____” back and the shows about anti-heroes and daddy issues start to blend together these days. It’s not that any of those things suck (The stupid nitpicking videos about summer blockbusters I’m getting real sick of though) it’s that I’m starting to feel like we’ve all graduated from the 101 class here, right?

We’re in a very different position on the web than we were when I started this thing. RSS is pretty much dying with Google Reader because ambiently collecting all the updates you care about has gone from a specialized task for the web elite to the way basically everybody engages with the web and, in general, people prefer to get those updates tailored to them by social connection rather than news outlet. As a result the service I used to provide here of letting you know about 10 things you might not have known about before OTP seems to be more double checking you’re following the right people on Twitter.

I guess what I’m asking is, does anybody feel like they really need me to tell them what’s interesting that they might have missed anymore? Because honestly I’m not really finding that task that interesting the more I’ve automated it the more it’s become obvious that a robot can and does do this better than I do. When people tell me they’re behind on OTP I tell them they’re not missing much. Instead, I want to talk about the stuff I’m absolutely certain that nobody finds interesting but me and try to explain why the hell I give a crap about it.

So this is both a textual and meta-textual appeal that says this can work. It can work because there’s a teenage girl rapper that’s trying to get people to engage with her journey more than her content and that seems to be working and it can work because I just did it and at least two of you are still awake. Let’s see if I can do it again.

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Other Ten Percent 5/7/13

May 07 2013 Published by under Daily Posts

I was going to do a big longform thing today and the tab I wanted to discuss is still open but I just didn’t have the energy to do a 1500 word treatise on some random ass thing and it was also an extension of the Iron Man 3 things I said yesterday so maybe a small break first was in order anyway. WHO KNOWS? Point is at any time if I dn’t have enough links you can expect me to start ranting about a thing. That’s basically the story of knowing me though. Continue Reading »

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Other Ten Percent 5/6/13

May 06 2013 Published by under Daily Posts

So we went to go see Iron Man 3 and…it was okay. I’d just barely say go see it in theaters rather than waiting for Netflix. I think I liked it better as an elaborate meta-textual commentary on the franchise than as an actual summer movie. I mean Tony Stark’s main conflict in the film is that he has constant panic attacks post-Avengers about the sheer scale of what he experienced in Avengers and his fear that he’ll never be able to keep up with that kind of scale again. The movie’s need to still, you know, be a summer blockbuster kinda screws up that commentary in the last act but Robert Downey Jr. still says hilariously mean things to a small child so how much can I really complain?

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Other Ten Percent 5/3/13

May 03 2013 Published by under Daily Posts

Man after a largely productive week today was like pulling teeth. I kinda just looked at my notebook for hours and wrote down nothing. Even trying to get Other Ten Percent together took forever. I’m not really in love with half the things on here and I started gathering them 7 hours ago.

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Other Ten Percent 5/2/13

May 02 2013 Published by under Daily Posts

I have been so productive the rest of this week I am genuinely unsure what to do with my time today besides play some video games. I wish that was bragging but it’s more like I genuinely feel weird about it. I’m not even sure what video games to play so I’ll probably just end up trying to not suck at Binding of Isaac a bit more. Continue Reading »

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Other Ten Percent 5/1/13

May 01 2013 Published by under Daily Posts

If I were a braver man this whole post would be a link to the project I’ve been working on for most of April but it’s 4:30 in the afternoon and I don’t QUITE feel like it’s in a place where I can say with confidence that it’ll be done by midnight. Especially since I’ve got TV club to run this evening. Oh well, that just means that it’ll be in great condition to launch on either Friday or Monday depending on whenever I feel like there’s not enough content in my RSS reader or there’s polished enough content to show you on the project.

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