Monday, June 30

Pitchfork's Tens

Today I got curious to see which albums Pitchfork had given a 10.0 in their history. Of course Wikipedia has a list, duh. (Don't miss the Talk page, where the usual gang of asthmatics endlessly debate whether it belongs there or not.)

So anyway, I thought I'd go through the albums here and say a word or two about them.

...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead – Source Tags & Codes
Oof, and right off the bat, too. I suppose it'll seem duplicitous to claim, now that this band has self-destructed (and not in an amusing Brian Jonestown Massacre way, just in a favorite uncle masturbating way), that I was just never really that into this album. "Relative Ways" is on my um er ah Workout Mix, but I've always preferred the stylistically similar Aerogramme.

Pitchfork is to be commended for standing by the review. Former Pitchfork writer (and noted scumbag) Nick Sylvester mentioned the friction between what the band was and what it became in his review of the decidedly worse World's Apart: "Did Source Tags & Codes deserve a 10.0? That's not for me to say, but Matt LeMay rightfully counted it as one of indie rock's truly epic albums."

12 Rods – gay? (EP)
Huh? It's worth pointing out that this 10.0 dates back to 1996, perhaps before the idea of a 10.0 as a incredibly rare event became an established tradition.

Bonnie 'Prince' Billy – I See a Darkness
Now I'm in the incredibly weird position of arguing AGAINST an album I dearly love.

It's not that Will Oldham hasn't created 10.0s before. Hell, by my count he has THREE: Days In The Wake, Viva Last Blues, and Lost Blues and Other Songs. All of these are about as perfect as an album can get. Oldham's work as Palace casts just about one of the longest shadows in music, no matter how hard he tries to live down his legacy with his stand-up comedy, acting career, increasingly irrelevant side-projects, and the truly criminal Bonnie 'Prince' Billy Sings Greatest Palace Music. (A 0.0 if ever there was one.)

But I don't know, I just don't feel like any of the Bonnie 'Prince' Billy stuff--as good and even great as it frequently is--truly deserves a 10.0. It's like giving one of Stephen Malkmus' solo albums a 10.0, you know?

Again, that's not to say this album doesn't earn accolades. I'd give it a solid 8.5 or even a 9.0. Few albums contain three songs in a row as solid as "I See a Darkness," "Another Day Full of Dread," and "Death to Everyone."

Bob Dylan – The Bootleg Series Vol. 4: Bob Dylan Live 1966, The "Royal Albert Hall" Concert
I'm big enough to admit that I haven't heard this--though I absolutely love Vol. 5, The Rolling Thunder Revue--but just from a historical perspective this album, which documents Dylan going electric and includes the famous "Judas" / "Play it fucking loud" exchange, deserves a 10.0.

The Flaming Lips – The Soft Bulletin
Yeah, in 1997 I probably would have given it a 10.0, too. Though the last time I gave this a listen, maybe a couple of years ago, I found myself skipping about half the tracks.

Robert Pollard – Relaxation of the Asshole
Wikipedia: "In the review, this album theoretically received both a 10.0 and 0.0 rating. The rating humorously appeared as (1)0.0" Uh, CLEARLY this doesn't count as a 10.0, you fucking nerds.

Radiohead – Kid A
Radiohead – OK Computer
I can't really comment here. As I've explained in the past, I'm just missing the gene that allows me to appreciate Radiohead. I don't think they suck, I just genuinely don't hear what other people hear when they listen to them. I've tried again and again to listen to both of these, and I just can't find the point of reference that fans of the music hear. And I even admit that I'm WRONG: enough people whose opinions I trust mightily love this band, I just can't get into them for whatever reason. It makes me feel old.

Amon Tobin – Bricolage
Really? Okay. I like Tobin, but I've never heard this. Actually, this 10.0 makes me at least want to check it out. I'll look for it next time I, uh, go to the CD store!

Walt Mink – El Producto
Another 10.0 from 1996, which I'm thinking explains this more than anything. Or, who knows, maybe a Walt Mink album really DOES deserve one of only eleven 10.0s ever awarded.

Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
Ah, shit, I wish I still had my emails from 2002 so I could just copy and paste my thoughts on this album and why I think it's just a little bit overrated, and the beginning of when I lost interest in Wilco. (I prefer Summerteeth.) Frankly, six years later, the whole argument feels a little dated and beside the point, especially in the context of A Ghost Is Born and the Dad Rock they're doing these days.

Besides, my squabbling aside, YHF is a masterpiece, and "Jesus, Etc" appears on the very short list of my favorite songs ever.


And then there are previously released albums that were 10.0 upon re-release. This is a much safer list, of course, because the reviewers have the benefit of history.

Boards of Canada – Music has the Right to Children
Okay, sure. (Though of 90s electronica with curiously mangled titles about children, I prefer Underworld's Second Toughest In Infants.)
Glenn Branca – The Ascension
What? Uh, no. Try again. It's cool to namedrop Branca or leave his albums out for visitors to see, but come on: You really listen to this shit? And like it so much you can't imagine a single thing you would possibly change about it? Give me a break.

The Clash – The Essential Clash
The Clash – London Calling
London Calling, fer sure, and the first album, too. But seriously: a greatest hits? I don't care if it is The Clash, the fact that it's a compilation should dock it at least a tenth of a point.

John Coltrane – The Olatunji Concert: The Last Live Recording
Ha! Nice one, college boy. An obscure live album by a doomed major jazz musician, comprised of only two experimental half-hour songs...this is a Stuff White People Like entry, not a 10.0. Now A Love Supreme or My Favorite Things...

Elvis Costello & The Attractions – This Year's Model
Sure, though this is my least favorite of the big three Costello albums. I'd give the 10.0 to My Aim Is True and Armed Forces (and possibly even Imperial Bedrooms) first.

Miles Davis – Kind of Blue
Miles Davis – Sketches of Spain
Yeah, now these are some deserving jazz albums. Hell, I'd even listen to arguments for Bitch's Brew or On The Corner getting the 10.0. I wouldn't AGREE with them, but I'd listen to them.

DJ Shadow – Endtroducing
This was the first 10.0 I ever heard of, and I can't imagine a more solid case of an album deserving it. Poor Shadow, whatever happened to you?

The Fall – This Nation's Saving Grace
I really don't know enough about The Fall to say one way or the other.

Iggy & The Stooges – Raw Power
Joy Division – Closer
Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures
KISS – Alive!
The Velvet Underground – Loaded
The Velvet Underground & Nico - The Velvet Underground & Nico
I have no problem with any of these.

Neutral Milk Hotel – In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
This is the dictionary definition of a 10.0.

Pavement – Slanted and Enchanted
Pavement – Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain
The Replacements – Let It Be
Bruce Springsteen – Born to Run
Put these four albums in a blender and Johnny's musical aesthetic is the result. There's no way I'd argue with these. (And I'd add Wowee Zowee, Tracks, and Tim to the list)

Pink Floyd – Animals
Whatever, dudes.

James Brown – Live at the Apollo
Otis Redding – Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul
I can see the case for the 10.0, though for Redding, I prefer Live In Europe.

Sonic Youth – Daydream Nation
Yeah, this is definitely a 10.0, even though personally I don't have much use for the album after "Teen Age Riot" ends. I guess that makes me a poseur. Still, I admire this a lot more than I like it.

Television – Marquee Moon
I guess just based on the weight of history this deserves a 10.0, but I'm sorry, this album bores the everliving shit out of me. I've given it so many chances, and every time it finishes I can't remember a single thing I just heard.

The Who – Odds and Sods
Ah, come on, a rarities and b-sides collection? Sorry, no.

Wire – Pink Flag
Wire – Chairs Missing
It's weird, I'm cool with either of these getting a 10.0, but oddly not with both of them getting it.

XTC – English Settlement
Um...okay? I don't know.

Various Artists – No Thanks!: The 70s Punk Rebellion
I'm ruling out box sets for the same reason I don't think greatest hits belong here. (Having said that, this is an awesome collection, and is a 10.0 in my book.)

Love - Forever Changes
Guided By Voices - Bee Thousand
John Lennon - Imagine
In all three of these, the reviewer explicitly called the original a ten, but docked points for the bonus material/personal pique. I agree with the first two as solid 10.0s. Imagine I'm not so sure of, though it's easily at least a 9.


And, since I know you're curious, here's the list of 0.0 reviews:

Bachman-Turner OverdriveRemastered Hits: The Best of...
The Flaming Lips Zaireeka
John FruscianteSmile from the Streets You Hold
Jet Shine On
Francisco López Untitled #104
Travis Morrison Travistan
KISSMusic From "The Elder"
KISS/Peter CrissPeter Criss
Liz PhairLiz Phair
Sonic YouthNYC Ghosts & Flowers
Various ArtistsThis Is Next

Sunday, June 29

Switch Hitters

Only seven authors have ever have reached No. 1 on both the fiction and non-fiction New York Times Bestseller lists. They are:
  • Ernest Hemingway
  • John Steinbeck
  • William Styron
  • Irving Wallace
  • Dr. Seuss
  • Mitch Albom
  • Jimmy Buffett

Harlan Erskine

I love Harlan Erskine's stark "portraits" of convenience stores.
(Don't miss the detail link on each image to get a close-up.)

Thursday, June 26

Words I Recently Had To Look Up

expatiate: 1. to speak or write at length or in considerable detail. 2. to move about freely; to wander.

gravid: in an advanced stage of pregnancy.

quiescent: being at rest; quiet; still; inactive or motionless

Wednesday, June 25

Affluenza: June 25

Fill In The Cat:


These aren't quite logs, you idiots, but they're still pretty ugly:

Still, nice of Jamie over at Design Milk to do my job for me!

Sigh, now if only Contemporist would find an entry for An Open Flame Is The New Bowl Of Rocks...


Wait, whaaaaaaaaat?

Azzedine Alaia's flat lace sandal:


The Genuinely Funny NotCot Caption Of The Week:

"Control a real submarine over the internet!"


Orange Beautiful's gorgeous line of typographic notecards:


I'm not crazy about this Fred Flare reusable shopping bag:

But for some reason the "1st / Last" graphic is really intriguing. Here's a question I never thought I'd ask: is Fred Flare quoting the Sermon On The Mount?

Matthew 20:16 So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.

(Later, after the Sermon, Jesus was disappointed to discover that the frozen daiquiris he'd brought for everyone had melted: "Many are thawed," the Messiah lamented, "but few are frozen.")


OH MY GOD. Not too many things render me speechless, but this "ice cream koozie" has done the job.

That's so American, we should cast a giant one in bronze and put it on the Washington mall.

(thanks, Molly!)


Speaking of ice cream, though, I approve of this Cuisipro Ice Cream Scoop

It's more of a post hole digger than a scoop, which seems to be a good solution.


The title of their homepage proclaims: THE SLANKET, THE BEST BLANKET EVER

I like a company that believes in its product. I totally want one of these, by the way. So does your mother. (That sounds like a dirty joke, but it's not. I'm sure your mom would love to get one of these.


A preview of Gucci's ridiculous "limited edition" 8-8-2008 line:


I know this seems like a tiny thing, but if you've ever used hex keys, then you know how gobsmacked I am at the genius who decided to color-code a set:


We've talked about how distasteful and tacky most luxury watches are. And sure, this one is excessive beyond all measure: 400 large! But unlike most of the insanely expensive watches that make the rounds every few months--goddamn, is it a beautiful watch.


I can't believe no one thought of a Blue Screen Of Death t-shirt before:

Heh. Good job on matching the exact shade, too.


Single-serving caulk? That's such a good idea I can't believe GE came up with it:

Now let's get to work on smaller and cheaper packets of spices, 'kay?


Round-Toe Flats with Detachable Strap:


Affluenza, definition of: a personalized cattle brand--from Williams-Sonoma!--for your grill:

Bill Henson's remarkable photos of people at the opera.
(There are many more here, but be warned that elsewhere on that site--though not on that specific page--are Henson's nude photos of an apparently pubescent girl.)


I particularly love this series.

Tuesday, June 24

You Suck At Photoshop

Maybe I'm the last person in America to have not seen these hilarious Photoshop tutorials--I found out about them in Time magazine, fer Christ's sake--but if you haven't seen them I highly recommend watching them. If you just read this and thought Well, I'm not into Photoshop, so I think I'll pass please watch at least the first one anyway. Though somewhat educational, the point of the videos isn't really about teaching you Photoshop.

The comedy walks a pretty fine line--and at least once or twice crosses it--but the concept and most of the execution is so strong I'll forgive a few lapses into hackery. The series even reaches a perfect denouement and becomes, in the last seconds, unexpectedly poignant.

Monday, June 23

Typewriter Ribbon Tin Collection

Dig this hi-res photo gallery of typewriter ribbon tins. It took me forever to choose just one to put up with this post. I just couldn't decide which one I liked the most.

Sunday, June 22

Wired For Books

This is a short post, but it should keep you busy for months:

Wired For Books has an absolutely staggering collection of mp3s, featuring interviews with pretty much every major contemporary author you can think of.

Thursday, June 19

A Baby Ruthless Top Tip

I'm mostly posting this so I'll remember it in the future, but I thought you guys might be interested in it, too.

You know how sometimes you want to just post a song, but you don't want to upload it and you don't want to put up a distracting video? But unfortunately, the music industry has yet to come up with a sensible way to let you link to a song?

Here's what you can do: if you can find the song on YouTube, copy the Embed code from the video's page. When you paste the code on your site, change the height to 25.

For example, here's my absolute favorite song in the entire world right now, M83's "Kim & Jessie":

Believe me, you're going to be hearing A LOT MORE on this blog about M83. If you want to get a headstart, watch their mindblowingly great video for "Graveyard Girl." I mean actually watch it. It's totally captivating.

Rolling Thunder Special

Typical Reaction to the Revelation That I Do Not Own a Cell Phone, By Year

Don't click,'s Defective Yeti.

Oh hey, speaking of Ben, you guys have to read his awesome chronicle of all the great things his 3-year-old has said. If I started quoting my favorites I'll be here all day, but: "His last name is Truck Banjos. I watched a TV about that."

And still speaking of Ben, last year he sent me this amazing Power Rangers short film by Tetsuya Nakashima
that I'm only just now able to talk about, it's so perfect. Those of you who know about my history with the Power Rangers just closed this window in a panic, and I'll spare those of you who don't know about it. Just watch this:

Ah man, that was so good, and so close to what I've always wanted, I'm a little depressed. Leave me alone, I'm going to a buffet.

Denis Darzacq

Wednesday, June 18


This time I'm serious. I just spent a month and a half getting the runaround from a faithful reader who claimed they would read all of Shakespeare's plays with me if only we could start in a few days. A few days passed, and then they needed a week.

Friends, I fell for this for a month and a half.

So, for real this time, this is the thread where I'll be posting notes as I read Othello. Here's the permanent address of this post:

As before, you can either bookmark it or subscribe to the post's RSS feed. If you'd like to read along and join the discussion, you'll find the reading schedule I'll be following in the first comment of this thread, as well as links to the text. We start Friday.

Affluenza: June 18

Kazuharu Sakura's cool leather (!) keyboard:

I believe the blank keyboard here is an affectation, but a lot of hacker-types get blank keyboards on purpose, to help learn the keyboard by heart so their eyes can never leave the screen, or to really learn their dubious DVORAK layout. Or because it looks hella l33t.

Anyway, people are starting to take keyboard design seriously, and I think this Das Keyboard is pretty tempting:

Who needs mechanical key switches when you can just make a macro that plays a "click" .wav every time you hit a key? (j/k)


Holy crap, you guys, check out Emil Kozak's Barok'n'roll wallpaper:

You HAVE TO click to see the larger image. Give it time to load, it's totally worth it.


Cute and cartoony Branch Shelf:

It's from West Elm, and it's almost a log, and I like it? This is gonna be a weird week, I guess. Oh, and congrats to West Elm for not putting a rock on the shelf. Seriously, good job.


I like this Issey Miyake watch okay, aside from GRR! the giant logo:

I'm sorta only linking this, though, so I can link to this Pet Shop Boys song that rhymes that designer's name with "tacky." In your face, 70-year-old Japanese fashion dude!

More music videos should just be crap the band taped off foreign television. I hear the new My Chemical Romance spot is all Eastern European game shows, and I can't wait...


Oh sweet, a new toaster concept:

You write a message on the top of the toaster and it burns it on the toast and there you go.


I don't usually link to Contemporist posts, because anyone interested in Affluenza should be reading it daily already. But I couldn't miss the chance to link to this incredible gallery of Singapore design firm CRISP:


Oyule, a clever lamp set:

Six-fiddy, though...nice try, you guys.


Jean-Michel Cazabat Mamai Perforated Flat in Gold:


VVhat the hell is this?

I guess F.T.B.I.T.T.T.D. was already taken...


Fuck the bullshit, it's time for a link dump:


On Sunday, the New York Times had a great article about "green fatigue," the exhaustion a lot of consumers are feeling after being confronted endlessly with allegedly eco-friendly products:


Bulbcaps are neat silicone shuttlecocks that go over bare light bulbs in lieu of lampshades:


Check out these great Interior Europe wallpapers, and the cool new Design Milk banner:


The [Editor's Note: Boo! Bad spelling and grammar] NotCot Caption Of The Week:

"Amazing untonned of Niko Bellic by Pixeloo - [Editor's Note: Yay! GTA IV]"

(Ah man, and I was gonna lay off NotCot this week because of whatever mysterious trauma has claimed Tastespotting. Look, I know that "untooned" isn't exactly in the OED, but come on: you got "Niko Bellic" right, for Christ's sake. Also, I think you really mean "untooning")


This Honeycomb Table Lamp is a steal at fiddy bucks:


Here's one for the long-time readers: remember that piggy bank that was cast from a real dead piglet? Well, don't worry guys, turns out he's in a better place now:


Hey, they're gonna start selling Topshop clothes from the UK at Barney's now. Here are the first imports:

Affluenza: Web Exclusive

Molly sends us this log/couch, spotted in the lobby of a hotel in Monteagle, Tennessee:

It's a log you idiots!

If it's any consolation, this was presumably the work of rustic woodworkers and not a high-fashion designertard trying to pass off a tree stump as a sidetable that "explores the tension between nature and artifice" or some such shit.

Thanks, Molly!

Tuesday, June 17

A Day's Wait, by Ernest Hemingway

He came into the room to shut the windows while we were still in bed and I saw he looked ill. He was shivering, his face was white, and he walked slowly as though it ached to move.

'What's the matter, Schatz?'

'I've got a headache.'

'You better go back to bed.'

'No, I'm all right.'

'You go to bed. I'll see you when I'm dressed.'

But when I came downstairs he was dressed, sitting by the fire, looking a very sick and miserable boy of nine years. When I put my hand on his forehead I knew he had a fever.

'You go up to bed,' I said, 'you're sick.'

'I'm all right,' he said.

When the doctor came he took the boy's temperature.

'What is it?' I asked him.

'One hundred and two.'

Downstairs, the doctor left three different medicines in different colored capsules with instructions for giving them. One was to bring down the fever, another a purgative, the third to overcome an acid condition. The germs of influenza can only exist in an acid condition, he explained. He seemed to know all about influenza and said there was nothing to worry about if the fever did not go above one hundred and four degrees. This was a light epidemic of flu and there was no danger if you avoided pneumonia.

Back in the room I wrote the boy's temperature down and made a note of the time to give the various capsules.

'Do you want me to read to you?'

'All right. If you want to,' said the boy. His face was very white and there were dark areas under his eyes. He lay still in bed and seemed very detached from what was going on.

I read aloud from Howard Pyle's Book of Pirates; but I could see he was not following what I was reading.

'How do you feel, Schatz?' I asked him.

'Just the same, so far,' he said.

I sat at the foot of the bed and read to myself while I waited for it to be time to give another capsule. It would have been natural for him to go to sleep, but when I looked up he was looking at the foot of the bed, looking very strangely.

'Why don't you try to go to sleep? I'll wake you up for the medicine.'

'I'd rather stay awake.'

After a while he said to me, 'You don't have to stay here with me, Papa, if it bothers you.'

'It doesn't bother me.'

'No, I mean you don't have to stay if it's going to bother you.'

I thought perhaps he was a little light-headed and after giving him the prescribed capsule at eleven o'clock I went out for a while.

It was a bright, cold day, the ground covered with a sleet that had frozen so that it seemed as if all the bare trees, the bushes, the cut brush and all the grass and the bare ground had been varnished with ice. I took the young Irish setter for a little walk up the road and along a frozen creek, but it was difficult to stand or walk on the glassy surface and the red dog slipped and slithered and fell twice, hard, once dropping my gun and having it slide over the ice.

We flushed a covey of quail under a high clay bank with overhanging brush and killed two as they went out of sight over the top of the bank. Some of the covey lit the trees, but most of them scattered into brush piles and it was necessary to jump on the ice-coated mounds of brush several times before they would flush. Coming out while you were poised unsteadily on the icy, springy brush they made difficult shooting and killed two, missed five, and started back pleased to have found a covey close to the house and happy there were so many left to find on another day.

At the house they said the boy had refused to let anyone come into the room.

'You can't come in,' he said. 'You mustn't get what I have.'

I went up to him and found him in exactly the position I had left him, white-faced, but with the tops of his cheeks flushed by the fever, staring still, as he had stared, at the foot of the bed.

I took his temperature.

'What is it?'

'Something like a hundred,' I said. It was one hundred and two and four tenth.

'It was a hundred and two,' he said.

'Who said so?'

'The doctor.'

'Your temperature is all right,' I said. It's nothing to worry about.'

'I don't worry,' he said, 'but I can't keep from thinking.'

'Don't think,' I said. 'Just take it easy.'

'I'm taking it easy,' he said and looked straight ahead. He was evidently holding tight onto himself about something.

'Take this with water.'

'Do you think it will do any good?'

'Of course it will.'

I sat down and opened the Pirate book and commenced to read, but I could see he was not following, so I stopped.

'About what time do you think I'm going to die?' he asked.


'About how long will it be before I die?'

'You aren't going to die. What's the matter with you?'

Oh, yes, I am. I heard him say a hundred and two.'

'People don't die with a fever of one hundred and two. That's a silly way to talk.'

'I know they do. At school in France the boys told me you can't live with forty-four degrees. I've got a hundred and two.'

He had been waiting to die all day, ever since nine o'clock in the morning.

'You poor Schatz,' I said. 'Poor old Schatz. It's like miles and kilometers. You aren't going to die. That's a different thermometer. On that thermometer thirty-seven is normal. On this kind it's ninety-eight.'

'Are you sure?'

'Absolutely,' I said. 'It's like miles and kilometers. You know, like how many kilometers we make when we do seventy in the car?'

'Oh,' he said.

But his gaze at the foot of his bed relaxed slowly. The hold over himself relaxed too, finally, and the next day it was very slack and he cried very easily at little things that were of no importance.

The Happening

Rather than write a conventional review explaining why you should or shouldn't see The Happening (trust me, you shouldn't), I'm offering an alternative: A dozen and a half of the most mind-bendingly ridiculous elements of the film, which will enable you to marvel at its anti-genius without sacrificing (and I don't use that term lightly) 90 minutes of your life.

Christopher Orr, senior editor of The New Republic, reviews M. Night Shyamalan's latest turd, The Happening.

Monday, June 16

Iman Maleki

The incredible photorealistic oil paintings of Iman Maleki.
A few of these look like something you'd buy at the mall,
but a lot of them will knock you on your ass. See especially
Omens Of Hafez.

But low is the way...

About six months ago, Zach sent me this clip of Billy Preston performing "That's The Way God Planned It" from the Concert For Bangladesh, and I stupidly didn't watch it and let it get buried in my inbox. I can't believe I could have had this song in my life a full six months early.

As Zach pointed out in his original email, the best part is totally when Billy gets so excited he has to get up and dance for no reason but the sheer joy of it. If you would like to dance as well, here's James Brown (in a seriously suhweetass outfit) teaching you a few moves:

Sunday, June 15

Water, Light, Fog

The underwater photography of Zena Holloway.
(Listen up photographers, this is how you do a website:
nice big pictures, no watermarks, no disabling our right-clicks,
and no motherfucking Flash.)

Saturday, June 14

Call And Response

Call And Response, a video round of old commercial jingles that become increasingly menacing and hypnotic. (Towards the end of the My Buddy segment, I totally expected to hear Mike Watt start saying "Thurston! I think it's ten thirty, we're calling from Providence, Rhode Island...")

The "action still-lifes" of German photographer Martin Klimas.

Kiss Your Little Girlfriends Golden Lunchroom Face Raise Your Middle Finger High Special Afterschool Embrace, by Ivan Witenstein. If this doesn't win the Turner, I'm taking a crowbar to the Tate Modern...

The Honeysuckle Bower

The Honeysuckle Bower (ca. 1609) is a self-portrait of the artist Peter Paul Rubens and his first wife, Isabella Brant.

The painting is a full-length double portrait of the couple seated in a bower of honeysuckle. They are surrounded by love and marriage symbolism: the honeysuckle and garden are both traditional symbols of love, and the holding of right hands represents union through marriage.
(Massive hi-res version here.)

Alexey Titarenko

Alexey Titarenko's long-exposure photos turn portraits of pedestrian traffic into gorgeous and disquieting images of ghostly black smoke.

Toe Jam

Here's a fun Saturday idea: go watch Keith Schofield's cute and clever video for The BPA's "Toe Jam." (Note: The video is SFW, but in a decidedly NSFW way. Just watch it, you'll understand.)

You back? When I first saw the video it was embedded on a page without any information and my mental first draft of this post was "I don't know who the The BPA are, but if you've ever wondered what a David Byrne / Dizzee Rascal match-up would sound like, they're the band for you..." Then I did a little research and discovered that it actually WAS David Byrne and Dizzee.

The BPA is actually The Brighton Port Authority, the terribly-named new Fatboy Slim project. I like "Toe Jam" a lot, but the only other track I've heard from BPA is a pretty okay cover of The Monochrome Set's "He's Frank," featuring Iggy Pop. BPA seems to be Fatboy Slim's attempt to replicate Teddybears STHLM schtick, but if it garners results as good as "Toe Jam" then I have no complaints.

You can get an mp3 of both tracks (plus the Monochrome Set original) over at Soulblending. Note that the version of "Toe Jam" he's hosting doesn't include Dizzee Rascal, so if that's a concern...uh, I don't know. Buy the album?

[The photo up there has nothing to do with this, it's just an awesome pic of a street legal bumper car. More in this collection.]

Thursday, June 12

Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?

When Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader? first premiered a couple years ago, the general opinion seemed to be that it was just the latest example of our culture’s steepening decline, as though quizzing adults about grade school science was one step above televised bear baiting.

I’ve never really understood this response: even if the average adult can’t answer basic questions about geography, that’s not the show’s fault. Jay Leno is guilty of a lot of things, but those idiots on his Jaywalking segments aren’t his responsibility. (The fact that he stole the bit wholesale from Howard Stern, on the other hand…)

An aside: Yeah, I realize my logic opens up room for all sorts of over-the-top analogies—“If people are wilding on meth, it’s not World’s Craziest Tweakers fault!” and so on—but come on, this isn’t Metafilter…let’s keep the debate team wankery to a minimum.

Anyway, I have to wonder if the people bemoaning the existence of the show have ever really watched it, because I've found that, far from being an Idiocracy deleted scene, it’s actually quite difficult, certainly the straight-up hardest prime time game show around. (Seriously, if I answer two out of every five questions correctly I'm happy.)

The questions are very straightforward, and you either know the answer or you don’t. Unlike on Jeopardy, you can’t make an educated guess based on an excessively wordy question. And you have to actually know the answer: the questions aren’t multiple choice.

The questions are grade school subjects, of course, and for a trivia show, there’s remarkably little trivia being asked about. And that’s probably the worst part of how hard the show is…every single question is something you know you need to know about. In a way, it’s really remarkable that a straight-up general knowledge quiz has snuck unto American television. What is this, BBC Radio?

Here are a few recent questions off the top of my head:
  1. In what century was Shakespeare born?
  2. Only two elements are liquid at room temperature. One is bromide; what is the other?
  3. Who was the first pilot to break the sound barrier?
  4. Budapest is the capital of which European country?
  5. How many members are there in the U.S. House Of Representatives?
(Answers in the comments.)

Question three up there was the recent million dollar question, and that reminds me of another aspect of the show I really like: you choose the order in which you answer the questions. That is, instead of starting at $100 and moving upwards a la Millionaire, you can pick whichever question you want. You have to answer them all, of course, but you can do it in any order. (Except for the big one, of course, which is always last.)

I remember, during the height of Millionaire, seeing Regis on Good Morning America defending the first few super-easy questions, because they’re for the kids who watch the show with their parents, to make them feel better about knowing a few of the answers. Not to get too cheesy, but this is an aspect of Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader? that I really like. But with this show, not only can the kids watch along with their parents...they can presumably clown them, too.

I guess one reason people dismiss the show—aside from Jeff Foxworthy’s participation, of course; my revisionist defense of so-called blue collar comedy and Foxworthy specifically will have to wait for another day—is from the misconception that the adults are playing against the kids. That’s actually not true…the kids aren't really competing with the contestants so much as they're available to help them. It's a little hard to explain, but they're kinda potential lifelines the contestants can poll.

(Actually, the use of the kids on the show is a little pointless and could probably be retooled. A great way to do this would be to make their "earnings" more dependent on their performance. As it is, they all get a $25,000 savings bond at the end of the season, across the board.)

One actually sorta touching aspect of the show is how excited for the contestants the kids get, especially as they get closer to winning a million dollars. I don't know when we as a species acquire our schadenfreude, but it seems to be post-fifth-grade…


Moving on...apparently there are a ton of international versions of the game--just what Mark Burnett needs, more money--and Wikipedia, of course, has an exhaustive list of every single one. Here, though, is a very abbreviated list of my favorites:

¿Sabés más que un chico de 5to grado?


Slimmer Dan Een Kind Van 10?

Това го знае всяко хлапе!

Você é Mais Esperto Que um Aluno da Quinta Série?

¿Sabes más que un niño de primaria?

Czech Republic
Jsi chytřejší než páťák?

Er Du Klogere End En 10-Årig?

Êtes vous plus fort qu’un élève de 10 ans?

Das weiß doch jedes Kind!

Είσαι πιο έξυπνος από ένα δεκάχρονο

Bade Hue To Kya Hua?
(Can you imagine how tough this version must be...? Who could possibly be smarter than an Indian fifth grader?)

Okosabb vagy, mint egy 5.-es?

Ertu skarpari en skólakrakki?

Ben je slimmer dan een kind?

But…the absolute best is the English version of the Canadian edition, hilariously titled Are You Smarter Than A Canadian 5th Grader?

(Post continues in the comments.)

Wednesday, June 11

Affluenza: June 11

"Seasoned Douglas fir coated with natural silver"...forty-two large!

I sorta feel like this is such a perfect storm of everything Affluenza is
against--conspicuous consumption, selling logs--that I should sorta end this feature right here. How could anything possibly be stupider than this? Well, stick around...I'm sure we'll find out.

The really amazing thing is how this has even disgusted the normal design bloggers:


Speaking of the design bloggers: TMI, Allie! Geez!

Thank You For Sharing. It Means So Much To Me.


Nite Bedside Table:


Cool anatomical models:

Wholly Mammoth for the win!


Space Invader crop circle:



The Mangled NotCot Caption Of The Week:

"So hot that not need to thaw food, only adding the Ketchup is great!"


Those of you who've been to a theater with me in the last six months know that I won't shut up about how hot Anne Hathaway's coat is in the Get Smart poster:

Well, this isn't it--the belt and cuffs are wrong, and fug--but it's close enough that I can shut up about it. Phillip Lim, natch:

Color: coconut!


This awesome owl-shaped Japanese transistor radio (with dials for eyes!) could have been yours for only $77:


Famous sufferers of affluenza include Brad Pitt:

Out Of My Head

I didn't write about this on here, but I was really into Britney's last album. I didn't talk about it because you have to walk such a tightrope when you write about stuff like this: on one hand you don't want to seem like the sort of person who walks around spouting "shocking" opinions about supposedly underrated cultural artifacts, and on the other hand, you don't want to seem like the sort of person who's just really into Britney, you know?

However, if you think about it, how could the new Britney album not be fantastic? It's not like she had anything to do with it. The album was a gathering of the best songwriters and producers in the world, people who get paid to make perfect pop music and are very very good at it. All Britney did was sing on it. Actually, not even that: she supplied the vocal data for the album.

So that brings us to Ashlee Simpson's new single "Out Of My Head." Up until now, there have only been a couple things about Ashlee Simpson that I've been interested in, but "Out Of My Head" is a nearly-perfect slice of retropop. You'd be a fool to miss it, and a fool to think Ms. Simpson was behind any of it.

I guess if this were a real blog I'd post the song here for you to download, but come on: you know where to get the new Ashlee Simpson single, geez. But I do want you to watch the engagingly nutso video, which extends the vintage mid-80s sound to a hilariously visual degree:

Holy shit, a talking sculpture head? In the desert? During a dream sequence? This looks like a video for a Jane Wieland solo album. I've written before about how the genius video for Adam Green's "Emily" perfectly captures early MTV, circa 1981, but "Out Of My Head" just nails 1987.

Tuesday, June 10


I was looking at Boing Boing Gadgets when I found this neat fan-art of Pac-Man as an Edo samurai confronting four ghosts and HOLY CRAP ZACH LOOK WHO IT'S BY!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, June 8

Desiree Dolron

The amazing photography of Desiree Dolron. (Note that the Exaltation section, though not exactly NSFW, does include some pretty extreme imagery.)


Incredible song and video created using only sounds found in the Disney film Alice In Wonderland, created by a 19-year-old Australian:

Click here for a direct link to an mp3 of the song.


I've been trying to find a place to post this for a month now, so I'm just going to stick it here:

Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott is an anagram of A novel by a Scottish writer.


A gallery of Romany portraits by Andrew Miksys, currently being displayed at the Nelson Hancock Gallery in Brooklyn. (Of course that old phony Andrei Codrescu has to get his paws all over it.)