Big Other

What’s happening in this image?

The leftmost light bulb is exploding.

Why would it do that?

Perhaps it wanted to? It’s the suicidal counterpart to Gravity’s Rainbow‘s Byron?


Well then it simply overheated?

No. Please note that it hasn’t blinked out.

True, true.

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A D & Jeremy Talk about Movies: Source Code, Moon, and Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives

[You click this link, you go back to the first installment, which found me and Jeremy unable to get service at an Applebee’s, following a screening of Duncan Jones’s Source Code. Increasingly hungry, increasingly desperate, we debated the nutritional value of our napkins and tablecloths, before Jeremy remembered that Applebee’s coats all such textiles in an indigestible plastic (to prevent sullen teenagers from rending or defiling them). Our gazes fell upon the Awesome Blossoms sizzling on our various neighbors’ tables.]

A D: Let’s keep talking about movies; it’ll distract us.

Jeremy: Capital! I liked Source Code better than Thor, I’d say (though not so much as Ang Lee or Bill Bixby’s Hulks). Because Source Code is a nice little movie. Though not as nice or little as Moon, Duncan Jones’s debut.

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What Were You Doing in 1979? (part 1)

Paul Simon was making One Trick Pony.

Art Garfunkel was starring in Nicolas Roeg’s Bad Timing.

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Style as Imitation

Leonardo #1, page 17 (1987) (detail; First Publishing reprint). Art by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird.


My father, who once trained as a baker, taught me when I was a kid how to bake an apple pie. I don’t know where he got the original recipe from; I highly doubt that he invented it. Certainly he didn’t invent the idea of baking pies. And he didn’t invent the idea of baking an apple pie.

He was very clear about certain instructions:

  • always use Granny Smith apples;
  • always use ice-cold water;
  • touch the dough as little as possible.

Since then, I’ve baked several apple pies, and over time I’ve modified the recipe slightly, but it’s essentially the same (and I never violate his prime instructions).

When I make a new apple pie, I’m not doing anything new.

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Looking at Movements, part 5: New Wave (US)

Debbie Harry of Blondie

Part 1: The Post-Punk Revival
Part 2: Post-Punk
Part 3: No Wave
Part 4: New Wave (UK)
Part 5: New Wave (US)

In this installment, I’ll be looking at the late 70s American side of New Wave. Whereas British New Wave (The Stranglers, The Jam, The Boomtown Rats, e.g.) strikes me as emerging from punk, or at least leaning fairly closely to punk, US New Wave seems a pretty different animal. It has some clear punk tendencies:

  • looking backward nostalgically to “simpler” 50s and early 60s rock;
  • fast tempos, with aggressive basslines and drumming;
  • a minimalist tendency toward building songs around short, repeated melodic phrases;
  • shouted/declaimed/half-sung lyrics;
  • political overtones;

…but at the same time it’s also very different, being:

  • much more theatrical (and often more overtly bizarre and weird);
  • much poppier;
  • more willing to draw on “opposing” musical trends, such as glam, prog rock, and (later on) dance styles, such as world music and disco.

That all said, both US and UK New Wave share some similarities:

  • art/experimental overtones, resulting in complex songs often built around punk back beats;
  • an all-around angularity;
  • the heavy use of synthesizers;
  • an overall geekiness, with singers often exaggerating their faces while performing.

Not every band shares all of these characteristics, of course, but we’ll see plenty of them below…

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Side by Side: An Examination of a Different Type of Cover

The “cover” song is a widespread phenomenon in the world of music, and one that not too many people are unfamiliar with. Covers are a tricky game, but they are almost always done in homage to the band that originally wrote the song, which makes listening to them even more fascinating for me. If I love a song chances are that I’m not going to like even the best of cover songs as much as I do the original (see any Beatles cover), but just as often I will hear a cover of a song I’ve never heard before and it will open up a new artist to my attention (like REM did with Lou Reed for me when I was a freshman in high school).

Side by Side will place cover songs next to their original. Not for analysis, but for consumption, comparison, and the general well-being of your brain.

In celebration of the fact that I’m seeing the Pixies, one of my all-time favorite bands, tomorrow, I thought for the first installment I’d use them as my first subject. And because of the rare fact that there are two covers of Pixies songs that I love every bit as much as the originals, this one will be a super-sized edition.

Here’s “Cactus” as performed by the Pixies and then by David Bowie:

And here’s the Pixies doing “Mr. Grieves” followed by the TV On The Radio cover: