Saturday, June 28, 2008


Junot Diaz on Grand Theft Auto

Junot Diaz writes about the new Grant Theft Auto video game:
GTA IV's wild acclaim is something that's been in the air, something I've been thinking about as I play the game, shooting digital cops, creating traffic jams, and robbing ATM users... (Let) me be clear: I love GTA IV and I have no doubt that it is art, but an equal to "The Sopranos" or "The Godfather"? Narrative art of that caliber is distinguished by its ability to re-organize our preconceptions, to shift us into a world that's always been there but that we've been afraid to acknowledge, and I'm not convinced that GTA IV pulls off that miracle.
Diaz goes on at length about the video game, arguing IV isn't the revolution many critics suggest it is; IV is on the same level of previous Grand Theft Auto games, he says.

A good review of the video game; surprised to find it in the Wall Street Journal.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Star Homepage

This Day in the World of Dead Journalism

Now! I'm! INFORMED!!!!


Getting Old?

The Schizophrenic Leafs

A report from the Globe suggests the Leafs, who rightly got rid of Darcy Tucker, Kyle Wellwood and possibly Andrew Raycroft, may replace those players with two guys from the late 90s Leafs: Curtis Joseph and Gary Roberts.

I'm not sure how bringing back these two yester-stars will help the club this upcoming season. The Leafs need to rebuild, and by leaving Tucker, Wellwood and Raycroft off their roster, it suggests the team is moving in that direction. Bringing back two old men to provide leadership seems misguided (or more like the same old) as both Joseph and Roberts would be better served in a veteran's role on a club in Cup contention. The Leafs, if they are rebuilding (have to constantly add the preposition), will not need a Roberts or a Joseph.

The Star had a different report that quoted Cliff Fletcher suggesting the Leafs won't go the senior tour route:

"We're not going to be in the bidding for older players, anybody 31, 32, that age bracket," said Fletcher. "We're more interested in free agents, 27, 28, 29, who legitimately – if we have a team that can compete three years from now – will still be a big part of it."

Yeah, this'll work.


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Turnin' Turnin'

A Rivers Collaboration with Fans

I enjoyed that, and not just for the EPL footage...

This post at the All Songs Considered Blog has given me a reason to give the new album another listen. I was disappointed at first, but maybe it's not so bad.


Verve Single

"Love is Noise" - Studio Version

The Verve have put their first single from their new album on their MySpace.

This is the third time I've heard it; it has got better.


Friday, June 20, 2008

Leafs Playbook

The Jays Turn Desperate

The awful Toronto Blue Jays have decided to do what the awful Toronto Maple Leafs did and hired someone from their past to be a fill-in for the present.

Welcome back, Cito!

I'm sure this will work.


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

McBush Talks

Four More Years of Eloquent Speech?



Concert Post

My Morning Jacket @ Kool Haus, June 16: 'This feeling is wonderful! Don't you ever turn it off!'

This'll be a short one.

Last night's show met my expectations for what I heard a MMJ show would be like...

The band's two-hour-fifteen-minute set included everything I wanted to hear them play live...

Not much to say a day later than I'm dead tired and deaf.

If you get the chance, see My Morning Jacket live.


Monday, June 16, 2008

Opposite Opinion

How Do I Agree with a Negative Review and Still Like the Album?

Pitchfork has published its review of Coldplay's new album, and unsurprisingly, the reviewer, Ryan Dombal, doesn't like it much.

The weird thing is that while I agree with some of what Dombal says, I still like Viva la Vida. Perhaps I'm just a Coldplay mark no matter what bad things I hear even if I agree? Perhaps why I can agree with Dombal is that while he spends most of his review tearing down Chris Martin, his lyrics, and the point of the band, Dombal concludes:

Because while they ape their forebears without mercy, there's no mistaking a Coldplay song from a U2 or Radiohead song. The new album expands their individuality in tiny, effective ways while maintaining their world-beating gifts. The record's violent, revolution-themed artwork is misleading. Viva is more like a bloodless coup-- shrewd and inconspicuous in its progressive impulses.

It's not the kindest appreciation of the album, but it does, after all, show the album can be appreciated.

Oh, and who gives a fuck about Pitchfork anyways?


Monday Links

Off the Weekend Reading


Saturday, June 14, 2008

Shyamalan's Latest

Is The Happening Really That Bad?

The easy thing to do after seeing M. Night Shyamalan's new film, The Happening, is to agree with the majority of paid reviewers and call the film a disaster. (And I'm not against doing the easy thing [see my last dozen or so posts that are little more than links].)

But after seeing Shyamalan's film last night, and agreeing with my friend after we saw it that it was an awful movie, I re-evaluated my opinion. The Happening is a rather smart movie for what it could be. And what it could be is a post-modern movie joke.

Mark Wahlberg's performance is, at first glance, terribly poor. He delivers dialogue in an unbelievable I'm-reading-off-cue-cards way. But Wahlberg is consistent in his badness - he never deviates. This consistency suggests Wahlberg was aware of the awfulness of his performance and played it up.

Many of Shyamalan's critics have suggested his career is over, and this supposed fact has come from the director's own actions. So I did have pleasure in watching his new film where many of its characters commit suicide. If you have committed career suicide, why not write, produce and direct a movie about mass suicides? Why not make the film impossible to take seriously? Why not, in its glorious ridiculousness, force the audience to laugh at what they are seeing?

Doing those things, if that was Shyamalan's intention from the start, is a joke I can appreciate it; perhaps laugh at a second time. If not, then Shyamalan has given his audience another movie that will make it question why it continues to give him another chance.


Friday, June 13, 2008

Chris Martin

The Album Is Great and Martin Turns Extra-Sensitive

After listening to Viva La Vida more than a dozen times (the album goes by quickly), I'm certain it's Coldplay's best. Where their other albums tended to lag in the final third before strong finishes, the new album continues to move and didn't make me consider hitting the skip button. The band has cut the one or two 5-plus minute tracks that when I heard them randomly, out of order, I couldn't identify their titles.

So the band accomplished their goal to create a landmark album. And now comes the histrionics.

Specifically: Chris Martin abandoned a radio interview after the interviewer asked a couple questions that rattled him. I always thought Martin as a good guy, and one instance of I'm-a-super-sensitive-musical-genius won't sour my opinion of him. But I hope he doesn't make this a routine. If he did, I'd have to ask: Is this guy a douche bag like so many others?


Vote Republican

A Difference Between Canadian and American Politics

Even when Canadians seem most divided by the politicians they support, I don't think the animosity would reach the levels seen in the video below. Then again, even if you don't like Stephen Harper and his Conservative party, you can't say with complete certainty they are a group of criminals like many of the men and women in President Bush's cabinet.


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

More Jacket

Evil Urges Is Out

Though you could hear their album last week on their MySpace page (not to mention other places it leaked), My Morning Jacket's Evil Urges was released today to good and bad reviews - not that either matter because the album is the best of the year whether critics agree or not.

The A.V. Club has a review (the album got a B) and an interview with lead singer Jim James.

And there's this video I got from them, too:


Monday, June 09, 2008

Canadian + MySpace =

Viva La Vida, Of Course

If you're in Canada (or most anywhere with the exception of a few choice countries), you can listen to Coldplay's new album free their MySpace.

I've done so once: Not sold on the album yet.


Friday, June 06, 2008

Music Thoughts

Weezer, Portishead, My Morning Jacket

Portishead's new disc, Third, is probably their best, but it took 10 years between it and the band's second album. Their fourth? The band says they plan to start much sooner. Will they? Um, your guess.

I've listened to My Morning Jacket's new album at least four times since it appeared on their MySpace page. Right now it's the best album of the year, followed by Sam Robert's new disc.

What's not so good, and to my disappointment, is Weezer's new Weezer a k a The Red Album. The first four songs on the album are its best, and then the album turns into a one-dimensional, derivative mess. The lyrics for "Thought I knew" are embarrassingly amateurish; "Everybody Get Dangerous" features the lyric "Boo yah," and the bonus tracks on the deluxe version make the disc weaker. I'm happy the band created four songs I like, but the overall album is a forgettable effort.


Thursday, June 05, 2008

Stanley Cup

I Guess I Was Wrong

I thought that going into the final Pittsburgh would play well, and win the Cup much sooner than anyone forecast. But from Game 1 to the last game last night, Detroit was the better team (as clich├ęd as that sounds).

There are number of good stories in the Red Wings' Cup win, and I'm sure they're not hard to find (I'm too lazy to round 'em up). Pittsburgh looks like a future champion, and that's the story that will be peddled to soothe the sting of their loss. But nothing is a sure thing - ask Detroit how many times in the past few seasons they seemed destined to win the Cup - and the Penguins will have to do more to get back to the finals.

It was a good season even if the Leafs were horrible. Now comes the off-season that is really the on-season for boardroom decisions and actions.


Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Evil Urges

My Morning Jacket's New Album

Listen on their MySpace.


Colbert's Address

Stephen Colbert's Inspirational Words to the Class of 2008

On the weekend, Stephen Colbert spoke to the Princeton Class of 2008:

"Gandhi said, 'you must be the change you want to see in the world,' " Stephen Colbert told an audience of thousands at the Class Day ceremony this afternoon. "But may I also point out he drank his own urine, so let's not go overboard on his advice."

Though the Class of 2008 "can change the world," Colbert said, he pleaded with its members to "please don't do that."

"Some of us like it the way it is," he explained. "Personally, things are going great for me right now."

"The job of savior looks like a really hard one," he said. "I mean, Jesus only took the job to please his dad — and he reminded us that if you wanted to be like him, you had to take up the cross and follow him."

"To me, that thing looks kind of heavy. Wouldn't it be easier for you to take up your remote control and follow me?" he added.

Colbert did finally acknowledge the seniors' potential for achievement, calling the Class of 2008 "a virus that will soon be unleashed upon the world with an unstoppable drive and infectious enthusiasm."

"And you will reproduce — I'm fairly certain you know how to do that by now," he added.

Colbert also advised the graduating class not to worry "about making a difference … with your lives," explaining that "one of the things that stays the same is that you are going to change things, and there's nothing my generation can do about that.

For example, "Aaron Burr certainly changed the way we think about the office of vice president," he said. "After that it was completely acceptable for [the vice president] to shoot someone in the face."

Read the rest.


Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Game 5

Triple Overtime Win: That's Good, Right?

The temptation to say Pittsburgh has the momentum in the Stanley Cup final is quite strong right now. The Penguins beat Detroit 4-3 in triple overtime earlier this morning, and now the series moves back to Pittsburgh for Game 6.

But it's a temptation to claim momentum for Pittsburgh for a reason: The Pens have yet to play better than the Red Wings in either of their two wins this series. Pittsburgh has played well enough to win, which is different than dominating Detroit. And their Game 5 win needs to be put in perspective: The Penguins blew a 2-0 lead and tied the game with less than 35 seconds left. They then won the game on a powerplay in overtime. That's not a convincing win. That's a lot of luck.

I can't see Pittsburgh winning this series without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin playing better. What the Pens have going for them for Game 6 is the home crowd and the fact that Detroit, 35 seconds away from the Stanley Cup, could not clinch the series. What the Red Wings have going for them is the fact they have outplayed or kept up with their opponents even in losing. Momentum is fiction in sports. The only thing that matters is the score on the board at the moment.


More BEA

How to Get Back Readers?

Laura Miller reports on Book Expo America's theme of depression about the state of reading in America. I'm not sure how applicable this is to Canadians, but there's I'd be pretending if I said this country supports its homegrown authors. So much of CanLit is yawn-inducing shit, but some must be worth reading. The Canadian press, however, doesn't do enough to lift Canadian writers above their non-Canadian peers. Sure, when the Giller is announced or a Canadian is long- or short-listed for the Booker, we hear about them, but that's not enough.

Miller isolates one segment of the U.S. publishing world who weren't considering a prescription for an anti-depressant:

In general, "juvenile" publishers and authors did seem more upbeat. Sherman Alexie, who has written several adult titles and last year won the National Book Award for his first Y.A. (young adult) novel, "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian," is a case in point. "No one in Y.A. is talking about that," he said when asked about the dire forecasts on the future of reading. "They're talking about how the genre is booming. Maybe writers for adults can learn something there: write more like the Y.A. writers." What did Y.A. fiction offer? Stronger stories and less ornate prose? That and more, Alexie concurred. "The audience doesn't tolerate bullshit," he added.

And perhaps that's it: Writing good novels. That's what Alexie is saying, which isn't a new idea. Write well. Simple idea, much harder to execute.


Monday, June 02, 2008

More Links

Who Said There's No Art in a Link Dump?

OK, you can say it when I do it: "There's no art in your link dumps, Michael." But that won't stop me from offering another post such as my last one.
  • Up on B& is an appreciation for J.G. Ballard, an author whose name I keep on hearing lately. Ballard has been diagnosed with a terminal form of prostate cancer.
  • Ben Ratliff reviews the new Journey and Weezer albums. He says one is good, the other so-so, which one is which, however, may surprise you.
  • Wyatt Mason writes about Joseph O'Neill's nearly universally-approved novel, Netherland. Mason also points to an old O'Neill Granta piece, which is worth a read.
  • I'm going way back with this link, but here's a description of the new Neal Stephenson novel, Anathem. I haven't Stephenson before but I do have a copy of his Cryptonomicon.
  • Check the index of the summer fiction issue of the New Yorker: Philip Gourevitch, James Surowiecki, Elizabeth Colbert, Vladimir Nabokov, Tobias Woolf, and George Saunders, among others. Too bad some of these names can be read only in the print version.
  • Jose Mourinho is back coaching in football, or will be this upcoming season in Serie A for Inter Milan. Inter has had success in Italy's domestic league that past few seasons, but on the international stage, the club has been a disappointment. With Mourinho taking over, international success may occur.
  • Also Man City sacks Sven-Goran Eriksson.
  • Horrendous quality, but this cellphone trailer reveals a plot element from The Dark Knight.
  • And Granta reports from BookExpo America.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Sunday Distractions