Monday, September 25, 2006

What a wonderful world...

Weapons prohibited sign


Seen in a public school in Seattle.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Screaming Masterpiece

On Sunday, I went to see 'Screaming Masterpiece', a documentary on the music of Iceland.

A staple of beautiful tunes mainly from Sigur Ros on my favorite radio stations made me very curious to know what made these Scandinavian nations click when it came to such ethereal music. I've read features about Reykjavik and how much of an amazing music scene the country has, and this seemed like a good chance to figure out what it's all about.

The soundtrack features Iceland biggies Bjork and Sigur Ros as well as more obscure artists like Mum, Mugison and Slowblow. The documentary wasn't very helpful in pointing out why their music is as good as it is, but one statement early on in the film made sense (I paraphrase) :

In a country of 300,000 people, an album selling even 200 copies may be considered successful. Since there isn't much money in this success, bands go out and do their own thing. Since the musicians don't have to kowtow to commercial interests, the music tends to be purer in intent which arguably translates to better quality.

As for the rest, a lot of stock shots of Iceland's majestic beauty are interspersed with the most eclectic samples of music and artists that can come out of a country 103,000 square metres in area with 300,000 people. Maybe, as some other interviewee says, the weather helps (which may explain the music scene in Seattle or Portland being as vibrant and creative as it is).

Also, technically Iceland isn't Scandinavia since they have a culture and history that is completely different from the Scandinavian nations.

A mostly entertaining 88 minutes on Sunday night was capped by a guy making a pass at one of two desi guys (yes, I and a friend) walking down a lonely road in Capitol Hill. I'm not sure either of us was very flattered ( even if it was a girl I didn't find attractive at all, I'd feel differently), but the whole incident was funny enough to laugh about. Maybe we should post a Stranger or Craigslist 'missed connection' ad to inform the guy that neither of us swings the other way and that he'd be better off looking elsewhere.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Dharam Sankats and supping with Lucifer

Formula1 took the most fun twist I've seen it take in the past few years. Michael Schumacher ensured that Formula1 was never dull, and the past few years have been intense - racing-wise or otherwise. As he hangs up his helmet and racing gloves, Kimi Raikkonen moves into the hot seat at Ferrari.

With Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya leaving, Kimi's a personal favorite among the drivers left in Formula1. Ice Man to Michael's Maverick*, the blue-eyed Finn has always impressed me for his coolness and the impressive results he nursed out of a pathetic McLaren (pathetic in terms of reliability, that is). I've rarely seen him make the kind of mistakes that took out the mercurial Montoya (another favorite, if only for the fact that I see a bit of my earlier devil-may-care attitude in him). Moving to Ferrari is a good move, especially since he doesn't have to contend with playing second fiddle to Schumacher, something that probably drove Barrichelo to tears.

The problem is with the fans. McLaren has its set of rabid fans (less than Ferrari surely, but lots), and at least a few of them are fans because they are the anti-Ferrari. Raikkonen is the anti-Schumi, the prodigy who made it to F1 on sheer talent and wins only on that basis. People supporting Raikkonen and McLaren found a happy union of their loyalties.

What now? For techies, it's almost like Linus Torvalds working on Windows for Microsoft. They'd want to support Torvalds, but that would mean supporting Microsoft. Conflicted? Hell, yes.

Raikkonen's supping with the Devil Incarnate of F1, and I'm happy. My loyalties are towards driver skills, and I want Raikkonen to get a good car.

Schumacher and Raikkonen on the same Ferrari team would've been a darn fine sight to see, but two star drivers on a team do not a great team necessarily make ( case in point: McLaren early this season) and a strong team may elevate drivers and the team to really good levels (Williams-BMW with Schumacher Jr. and Montoya from the 2002-03 season). I only hope Raikkonen's luck turns, and he doesn't drag Ferrari down with his blighted fortune.

*Kimi's nickname is Ice Man, but Maverick's from Top Gun.

Monday, September 18, 2006

...Under Protest (Pine, Pike), take a right here!

Shailu writes of an interesting way to remember the streets in Downtown Seattle. "Jesus Christ Made Seattle Under Protest" indeed.

Speaking of Gods, after reading Neil Gaiman's American Gods a few months back, Terry Pratchett's Small Gods is a good change of pace. Laugh-out-loud funny, thought-provoking and yet mostly silly, it's all in good fun. Somewhat like the Blandings series of P G Wodehouse books I read way back. I lean towards Blandings over Jeeves personally - it's a matter of personal taste, and there's something special about a prize pig being named "Empress of Blandings."

I think I'll name my pet dog Lemuel Gengulphus.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Random Music Musings IV - it's called what?!

There hasn't been a lack of ideas to post about, but fleshing ideas to thoughts and then to words has been tough. Music, an obsession at most times, is always easy to write about, so I am taking the easy way out right now :-)

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I chanced upon a documentary on the history of metal music on VH1. Pah. While it did a good job of introducing the genre to noobs, (I am slightly better than a newbie and some of the information on there was new to me), the pandering to the LCD was annoying. A section on rap-rock went through with a detailed intro about Anthrax's collaboration with Public Enemy, a few quotes from Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit and passing references to Korn and Linkin Park. What, no Rage Against the Machine? You've got to be kidding me.

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Goo Goo Dolls are touring in support of their new album. I liked them as the playful and dreamy pop-punk trio they originally were. Songs like "Slide", Dizzy", "Here is Gone" and "Big Machine" have always made for great listening. I love their cover of "Give a Little Bit" , and of course, their big hit "Iris" is something else. Somehow their mellowing down hasn't gone well with me. Johnny Rzeznik's voice is still great, but the new single on radio lacks that punch which made me like them in the first place.

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Bumbershoot was missed for the second year in succession as more interesting things were done outside the city. Ironic - the only long weekend* of the past two summers that I've been reasonably open ( the Independence Day weekend), there's nothing on in Seattle. Memorial Day has Northwest Folklife, and Labor Day has Bumbershoot, and I've been out of town all four times in the past two years. Such is life.It is what happens while you're busy making other plans.

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As seen on TV! There's an advertisement for a compilation of alternative/pop/rock hits that's making the VH1 rounds right now - the collection consists of those odd favorites - songs that really caught your imagination when they were on radio/TV, but only fans probably bought the albums these were featured in. Classic examples include "Counting Blue Cars" by Dishwalla, "Lightning crashes" by Live and "Everything you want" by Vertical Horizon. The selection caught my eye immediately, as these were classic one-off songs - I'd not buy the album but the song itself interested me.

The compilation itself is called "Buzz Ballads". WTF? You put together a half-decent collection of songs, and then you call it something like that. It's the kind of name you'd not go near with a ten-foot barge pole. Since I know the song selection, I may still buy it, but naming a collection of songs "Buzz Ballads" is setting yourself up for failure.

Previously: I, II and III

Edit: Justified the formatting.

*This is partly because July 4th was a Monday last year and a Tuesday this year - making for long weekends. Next year it'll be a Wednesday, which means only the fireworks and nothing else.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Kaisa ajab yeh safar hai...


The promise of the open road. Fulfilled.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

For those songs that get stuck in the head.

Playlist - August 2006.

Alternating between moody introspection to all-out head-banging, with a dance-hall/lounge diversion along the way.

Zinda - Strings. Fine songwriting.

Everything you Want - Vertical Horizon. Damn the lyrics, the intro hook won't get out of my head.

Renegades of Funk - Rage Against the Machine. Tom Morello, we bow to thee.

Vicarious - Tool. Listen to believe in the power of music to move you.

Dizzy - Goo Goo Dolls.  "monochrome delirious"I like the metaphor.

Woh Lamhe - Jal. There's a riff in the middle that's Dave Gilmour/Pink Floyd's "Coming Back to Life" all over again. The Jal album version is better than the movie version IMO.

Falling(Quantic Mix) - Nitin Sawhney. This is a remix, one of two on "All Mixed Up".

Dancing at Sunset - Karsh Kale. Delicious mix of carnatic violin and electronica.

Saeglopur - Sigur Ros. What is it with the Scandinavians and fab ambient/electronic/ethereal music?