Saturday, December 20, 2008

Best Albums of 2008

There was a wealth of inspiring music this year, but it can't all make it onto the list. I'm sure they're endlessly disappointed at not making it on Country Caravan's annual wrap-up, so I wanted to assure The Walkmen, Love is All, The Gutter Twins, Of Montreal, Frightened Rabbit, Health, Women, Deerhoof, Destroyer, Marnie Stern, Crystal Castles, Portishead and Vivian Girls that it's nothing personal. I should also mention that Bob Dylan's fabulous Tell-Tale Signs: The Bootleg Series, Volume 8, is not a new album of all unreleased material, so I felt it should be ineligible. It's 30 incredible Dylan songs, however, so you should really check it out.

Another disclaimer: I got a bit confused with my numbering, so I ended up writing blurbs for 26 albums this year, not 25. I couldn't bear to remove any album from the list, so I give you

The Top 26 Albums of 2008

26) Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks - Real Emotional Trash
A grower, Malkmus' fourth album since the Pavement break-up sees him embracing classic rock while still adhering to the frenetic song structure he's so well known for. Some of the instrumental bits can drag, but the sound here is solid and contains some real standout tracks. "We Can't Help You" is the album's catchiest song, recalling the upbeat melodies of Terror Twilight's "Spit on a Stranger" or Face The Truth's "Post-Paint Boy." Below is the video for "Gardenia."


25) Calexico - Carried To Dust
The prolific Calexico returns with Carried To Dust, a moody and subtle collection of gothic alt-country songs. I used to listen to Feast Of Wire over and over when trying to write a dark, western screenplay (I never wrote it). While Carried To Dust isn't as exciting as Feast Of Wire, it captures the Calexico sound and is probably a great starting-off point for the uninitiated. The first two tracks are the best. Below, the video for "Two Silver Trees"


24) Okkervil River - The Stand-Ins
The Stand-Ins is the thematic sequel to last year's The Stage Names. Will Sheff sings these pop songs as if beaten and chained, with such spare bleakness that you're wondering why his writing is so pleasant-sounding. There are eight songs in between three "Stand-Ins" interludes, but the songs are immediate and chilling. "Pop Lie" is the album's tightest rock song and probably its most memorable. The first single is "Lost Coastlines"


23) Cut Copy - In Ghost Colours
I don't even want to talk about the rest of the album. "Feel The Love" is one of the most addictive songs of the year.


22) Deerhunter - Microcastle/Weird Era Cont.
Deerhunter follow up Cryptograms with a more structured and superior album. Microcastle has that ambient, mythical sound the hip kids can't get enough of today, but the melodies and vocals are what elevate Deerhunter. The second disc, Weird Era Cont., is nearly as good as Microcastle and well worth repeated listens. Here's the video for "Agorophobia".


21) Hercules and Love Affair - Hercules and Love Affair
It would still be a great listen even if the album were just the work of DJ Andy Butler, but having Antony and the Johnsons' Antony Hegarty sing on a big chunk of it doesn't hurt one bit. The video for second single "Blind" displays the best of Antony's involvement while keeping the electronic dance beats front and center.


20) Blitzen Trapper - Furr
There's certainly no "Country Caravan" on the latest Blitzen Trapper album, but Furr builds on Wild Mountain Nation in the best way, offering a handful of Basement Tapes-era-Dylan and a pastiche of other Americana songs. Furr is certainly more accessible than the frenzied Wild Mountain Nation and has some great crowd-pleasers that should sway even the most stringent of mainstream music advocates at your next cocktail party. Here they are performing opening track "Sleepytime in the Western World" at a St. Louis record store.


19) The Ruby Suns - Sea Lion
African-influenced folk pop and it's not Animal Collective! A bright bunch of songs that kind of make you want to dance around on the beach. I bought Sea Lion around the same time as Fleet Foxes, which kind of overshadowed them for a time. The Ruby Suns make great music in their own right and can really brighten your mood. Below, the video for "Oh, Mojave" that I also saw saw in a commercial a few days ago. Can't remember which one.


18) Sigur Ros - Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust
The album's title means "With Buzzing in Our Ears We Play Endlessly" and the onomonapoeiac "buzzing" accurately reflects Sigur Ros' continuing venture into more condensed songwriting and away from the ambient sound euphoria that introduced them stateside with Ágætis byrjun. "Við Spilum Endalaust" is another contender for pop song of the year. In the chorus, Jonsi Birgisson sings in the intentionally gibberish-sounding "Hopelandic," but it always sounds to me like he's saying "Is this here, or is it all gone?" and since the "Hopelandic" aesthetic is to interpret the sounds to your liking, I'm sticking with it.


17) Bonnie "Prince" Billy - Lie Down In The Light
With Lie Down In The Light, Will Oldham has released probably his most acclaimed album since I See A Darkness. While I prefer Ease Down The Road myself, Lie Down provides Oldham a great chance to create more sexually suggestive lyrics with "love" as a pretense. He's one of the greatest living songwriters and I could easily listen to this album over and over and find new surprises in the lyrics each time. Here's 'ol Beardie's video for "Easy Does It".


16) Brian Wilson - That Lucky Old Sun
Brian Wilson's love letter to southern California really sounds like an album written by a 24-year-old from another time in a fantasy Happy Days-esque world. The songs are catchy, full of life, and you can really picture yourself driving up Pacific Coast Highway listening to it. Now that he finally got Smile off his chest, Wilson is focusing on the bright and sunny pop he's embraced so well over his 40+ year career. His voice remains one of the cleanest and most untouched products of the 1960s.


15) Kanye West - 808s and Heartbreak
It really is hard to feel bad for Kanye West. I know he has problems like all the rest of us, but he's the biggest rapper in the world and he didn't even come from the projects. He's had two straight masterpieces, which (sort-of) earned him the right to knock off a quick, vocally-manipulated batch of R&B tunes. Luckily for us, they're enthusiastic, moody and fun, and you can still dance to it. Most one-off rap artist pet projects will be in the dollar bin within a week (Hello Re-Up Gang), but Kanye offers a fresh approach to experimental hip-hop. Here's an intense performance of "Love Lockdown" on David Letterman (it gets better after the first minute).


14) High Places - High Places
Spankin' new Brooklyn-duo High Places learn from Animal Collective as well. Mary Pearson's light and airy vocals are backed up by tribal percussion on one of the year's most interesting and provocative debuts. Though Pearson's vocals headline most printed commentaries on High Places, it's Rob Barber's instrumental verve that gives this band its texture. I've previously featured a segment from Pitchfork Live's coverage on Country Caravan, but here's another taste.


13) Beck - Modern Guilt
Like all new Beck albums, you need to forget about what's come before and appreciate what you're given. It's never going to be Odelay again, but high expectations always seem to make new Beck albums underwhelming to the majority of music critics. Modern Guilt, however, has so much to appreciate that multiple listens are very rewarding to the loyal listener. I had the privilege of seeing Beck perform at a very small show at El Cid in Silverlake, and it was one of the best shows I've ever seen. I also predict that many tracks on Modern Guilt will be heard in commercials for years to come. Here's "Gamma Ray" behind some footage of 2008's Coronado Speed Festival.


12) Beach House - Devotion
Beach House is another musical duo with a female lead singer. Devotion is their breakthrough album, a collection of beautiful, heartwarming songs that I swear would have broken through on traditional radio had it had consistent playtime. "Heart of Chambers" is the album's centerpiece. I imagine everyone sings along when they play it in concert.


11) Black Mountain - In The Future
One of the biggest snubs from Best of 2008 lists this year is Black Mountain's sophomore album In The Future. Deftly blending a psychedelic stoner sensibility with modern alternative, Black Mountain turn in one of 2008's most engaging and intense rock albums. The music video for "Angels" on YouTube is one of the better user-edited videos I've seen, with footage taken directly from Wim Wenders' Wings of Desire. I've played this song at least once a week all year.


10) Fuck Buttons - Street Horrrsing
Fuck Buttons are actually quite clean, their music uncharacteristically approachable, despite the lack of lyrics and the occasional warped wail. A British electronic-drone duo, Fuck Buttons debut LP Street Horrrsing opens with the nearly 10-minute "Sweet Love for Planet Earth," a track whose subdued first minutes build to a melodic cacophony that sets the tone for the next 45. A startling debut and one of this year's indie-electro darlings.


9) Wolf Parade - At Mount Zoomer
Spencer Krug and Dan Boeckner are two of today's most inventive pop songwriters, and on their second album as Wolf Parade, the duo take another step forward from the crowd-pleasing immediacy of Apologies to the Queen Mary, and produce an album that rewards multiple listens, as there's just too much to hear at once. Dan Boeckner's opening track "Soldier's Grin" is the most memorable at first, but the textures behind "California Dreamers" and "Kissing the Beehive" really show themselves the third or fourth time around. Wolf Parade also gave me the second best show I saw all year, with 90 minutes of rock that even had the eye-rolling hipsters dancing in place. "Kissing the Beehive" is one of several songs this year to mention me by name, though, amazing, they may be referring to Jonathan Carroll, who wrote a book of the same name. Here is the lyric: "Jonathan, Jonathan, waterfalls are running thin you know. Here's a holy grail for you to hold." The 11-minute song, with vocals by both Krug and Boeckner, if you've got the time:


8) Department of Eagles - In Ear Park
I feel a bit sheepish putting Department of Eagles so high on the list, since it's the slightly less popular project of Grizzly Bear's Daniel Rossen, and I'm probably the only list-maker who hasn't heard anything from the latter band's acclaimed canon. I can say, however, that In Ear Park is an immensely fulfilling album, with a couple of stand-out tracks that make you want to figure out how the hell to put a song on repeat on an iPod. I couldn't just choose one song, so I grabbed three from Seeqpod.


7) TV on the Radio - Dear Science
This was the TV on the Radio album I had been waiting for. Though I loved Return to Cookie Mountain, it seemed a bit labored, without the energy I knew this band was capable of. Dear Science puts the fun back in Fundamentally Liberal Free Jazz Post-Punk. Rolling Stone's album of the year is filled with infectious dance pop and pounding African beats. Tunde Adebimpe is having quite a year. He's the lead singer of TV on the Radio and starred as Rachel's fiance in the Jonathan Demme film Rachel Getting Married. Listen to some of it on Seeqpod.


6) M83 - Saturdays=Youth
This is the album I would have wanted if I were a teenager in 1986. Too bad for all those people, but M83 hadn't yet produced this masterpiece. This entire album could be the soundtrack for a John Hughes movie, and unlike those songs, I'm not sure I could really get tired of hearing "Kim & Jessie" or "We Own The Sky." Saturdays=Youth was previously featured on Country Caravan, but here's the video once again for "Kim & Jessie."


5) Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes and Sun Giant EP
I've put Fleet Foxes' self-titled debut and Sun Giant EP together, because if you listen to all the songs on shuffle you likely won't know which came from where. This is okay, since Fleet Foxes' 15 recorded songs are all a dreamy bit of folky Americana, and took this year by storm, earning Pitchfork's Best Album of 2008 honors. That distinction brings with it quite a bit of success in the indie realm, as Arcade Fire, Interpol and Panda Bear know so well. It also brings with it the inevitable backlash attached to anything that was once hip that became lame by how hip it is. I still think it's cool. I can promise you that I still will once you start liking it as well. "Ragged Wood" uses my name in a non-me-centric way as well. Download a full Fleet Foxes concert from NPR or watch them perform "English House" from the Sun Giant EP on Conan O'Brien.


4) Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend
Vampire Weekend is the brainchild of Ezra Koenig, who formerly wrote comedy songs and appeared in the goofy rap group L'Homme Run. Vampire Weekend's debut album reflects this childlike whimsy. The album is so enjoyable that after a few listens you'll stop thinking about it as a guilty pleasure. Your friends may not be convinced that it should be taken seriously, but don't let that get you down. Chances are they're not taking themselves so seriously either. The video for "Oxford Comma" is a playful parody of Wes Anderson-style filmmaking.


3) No Age - Nouns
This is where the decision-making got hard. How could No Age's explosive, furiously noisy Nouns fall to #3? The best rock album of the year, No Age blows through about 30 minutes of guitar driven intensity that it's probably dangerous to drive to. As dynamic as last year's Weirdo Rippers, the Los Angeles-based group is classified as experimental noise rock, but it builds upon traditional structures and gets to the point quickly. Absurdly rich, Nouns paints the modern sonic landscape with a gut-punch, bang-the-drum approach. They get a bit messy in the video for "Eraser."


2) Sun Kil Moon - April
April was likely a disappointment to everyone who picked it up expecting Ghosts of the Great Highway. That album had the alt-country crowd on its knees with inviting melodies and a Tex-Mex, slightly Latin acoustic-guitar flare. April is much less immediate, but is arguably more gratifying than its predecessor. The 70-minute album has some of the best songs of Mark Kozelek's career. The slow ballads "Lost Verses" and "The Light" sound like warm spring evenings, and would be almost comforting if it weren't for the overwhelming loneliness contained in their lyrics. Will Oldham guests on the seductive "Like The River".


1) Lil Wayne - Tha Carter III
I tried to enjoy another album more in 2008, but what can I say? As Weezy says on opening track "3 Peat," "Me! You watch me!" We certainly do. Lil Wayne is bold on this album. It is all undeniably and unabashedly "him." On Tha Carter III, Wayne discusses the usual suspects in modern hip-hop: Cocaine, lascivious women, money, rapping, and why he is the best at it. There's a certain ceremonial didacticism on Tha Carter III, where Weezy is the omniscient professional and you are the lowly pupil. Take "Dr. Carter," where a nurse reads off a list of vocal ailments to the doctor, who prescribes, through verse, everything you need to get that swagger back. But, as you know, noone on the corner got swagger like he do. Even "Let The Beat Build," the album's most memorable non-single, is in itself a lesson. The repeated line: "Now, that's how you let the beat build, bitch." Yes, he says bitch often. And nigger. Just deal with it. His outspoken misogyny is shocking, even by modern rap standards. I'm not a woman, but if I was, I still think I'd have a hard time resisting Tha Carter III's tractor beam. It is the best album I heard all year, and I urge you to listen to it below.


Or, if you just want a quick video, watch "Mrs. Officer."


Thanks for reading! (or, for most of you, thanks for scrolling to the bottom). See you in 2009!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Ongoing Vertical Discrimination

My friends--

I'm writing today to bring up a great injustice that even in the 21st century still pervades our daily lives and brings shame to our diverse nation. Hateful acts are still being perpetuated on a significant portion of our population. They're not going away and their cause is a just one.

To stand in solidarity with these oppressed people, I have a major announcement to make here on Country Caravan.

I, Jonathan Harris, am short.

The discriminatory history against those of us with limited height is shameful and wrong. Though you may not immediately recognize the restrictions placed upon us, let me tell you a brief story that exemplifies our plight.

A few weeks ago I thought I could make some extra income by donating a resource of which I have no shortage. Sperm banks pay up to $100 a donation and allow you to give up to three times a week (there are donation limits due to some strict campaign finance reforms). You can imagine my disappointment when I came upon the following restrictions from the California Cryobank:


You're reading that correctly. Not only must you be young, straight, a legal American, intelligent or a macho asshole, but you must be at least 5'9". California Cryobank, I thought you were better than this. Also, that sentence isn't even grammatically correct. "Must be at least 5'9" or taller" is repetitive. It could be "Must be at least 5'9" or "Must be 5'9" or taller" but using both "at least" and "or taller" is highly unnecessary. You don't need to rub it in.

But, it's not all the Cryobank's fault. The lonely and childless women who attend this facility have also made a stand. Where are the cries for short man sperm? You are complicit in this injustice by continually seeking offspring that will be taller than the average man. Do you think you can effectively weed us out of society? I assure you, we are not going away. We will not be stranded like Napoleon on this metaphorical Elba indefinitely into the future. Our sperm is just as good as the tall folk.

In fact, the more intelligent among us are likely to have even better sperm than your standard paramedic or firefighter.

Here is scientific proof from the UK Institute of Psychiatry, suggesting that men with more intelligence have higher quality, more mobile sperm:

The study, which appears in the journal Intelligence, appears to support the idea that genes underlying intelligence may have other biological effects too.

Therefore, if tiny mutations impair intelligence, they might also harm other characteristics, such as sperm quality.

Average sized and tall folk of the world, be aware: We're here, down here, get used to it. My diminutive brothers and I will no longer stand for the hate and discrimination thrust upon us. At 5'6"....ok, dammit....5'5 1/2", I have just as much right to have my sperm surgically implanted into a foreign uterus.

We have progressed much as a nation, but there is more work still to be done. Help us reach the cookie jar. Join with us.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A Lesson

Son, take a seat and let me tell you a story about me and my father when I was about your age. It was summer, just like it is now, and my friends and I would wait all year for the free, warm days where we could frolic by the drying creek bed and tell each other ghost stories late into the night. Those were truly the days: the air was clean, the only thing cold were the wars, and that was the summer that Penny Dingleheimer kissed me behind the five-and-dime.

One day, my friends approached me on the hilly meadow that bordered the Narrows. They ushered me behind a thicket of shrubs, and showed me what they had in a brown paper bag. My friend Scotty had swiped a pack of cigarettes from his uncle's bedside drawer. There were four left in the pack and he wanted each of us to smoke one at the same time. We had no matches so we scampered into the forest and used our scout training to light a small flame using the sticks and dry leaves from an old, wide Poplar tree. I had my first puff, and as the black smoke reached my lungs, every organ in my body pushed forth to reject the bitter taste. I hacked up phlegm that my sinuses had stored deep inside my head from months prior. It was an awful, guttural feeling, but I didn't learn my lesson. I kept inhaling until the smoke no longer burned my throat. Even though the taste was rank, I liked the way I felt holding it and the way my friends looked at me there in the weeds.

We sat there until we felt the smell had dissipated and then we each made our separate ways home. I stopped by Mr. Gregory's store on the way home, as I often did to buy a chocolate milk and a comic book. You wouldn't remember that place, son. It's a goddamn Sur la Table now. Anyway, Mr. Gregory was helping an old woman bag up her groceries at the front of the store, and didn't notice me as I slunk to the side of the counter and grabbed a sealed pack of unfiltered Chesterfields. They fit easily in the back pocket of my shorts and my heart raced as I approached the counter.

"Chocolate Milk, young man?" Mr. Gregory was amicable as ever as he reached into the ice-chest. I nodded my head and dropped a dime onto the counter. "No Spider-Man, today?" He grinned at me as older folks will often do to young persons your age. I kept my head down and grabbed the carton and rushed out. I didn't look back, though I doubt Mr. Gregory had anything but an expression of satisfaction on his face.

I didn't have a plan at that point of where to put the cigarettes, or if I even would have opened the pack. Perhaps I would have chucked them over the fence into the Buchanan's yard. Maybe I would have buried them in the backyard so future civilizations could have discovered them. It doesn't matter now and it didn't then. As soon as I came home and run up the stairs I heard my father's bellowing voice.

"What's that you got in your pocket, there?"

I was caught and couldn't keep the deception going. I just stood there and allowed my father to approach me. He had his hand on my shoulder and he whispered in my ear.

"Take it on out, boy."

I did and held it in my hand behind my back. I still couldn't look at him. He took the pack out of my hand and swiveled me around by my shoulder. I kept my head down.

"Come with me."

We went into the backyard and he sat me down on the old tree stump that had been there since before I was born. I made sure me eyes came nowhere near his face as he unwrapped the pack and revealed all twenty cigarettes.

"You're going to smoke every last one of these," he said.

And I did. We sat there until it had been dark for several hours. My mother would look out at us from the kitchen window every so often, but kept her distance. She knew what he was doing and was not about to object. I smoked until I could hardly breathe without feeling the tar fumes whirl around my head. The bile kept coming up in my throat, but I suppressed it. I wasn't about to let my father beat me. It was no use, though. I was defeated. To this day, I can't smell cigarette smoke, even for a moment, without thinking about that evening when my father taught me one of the most important lessons of my life. You only have one body, and you'd better not get it on your bad side.

Which brings me to you, son. You can imagine my surprise when I come into your room and find you with a smooth kilo of pure South American cocaine. That's intent to distribute, son. What in God's holy name are you thinking?

Well, I'm not going to let your body get the better of you. I'm going to sit here and you're going to snort every last ounce of that sweet nose candy. How do you like that?

Alright, let's get started. No use delaying it. Cut that up finely, now. No, no, you're going to do it all yourself. Here, you can use my Mastercard. Chop it up now and make those lines full. No skimping.

There, how does that feel? Like you thought, huh? You like them goofballs, don't you? Well, the fun's over. Go ahead, do another line.

Goddammit, boy, this is for your own good. Head down, nostrils open. There you go.

How about three in a row this time? You can do it off the toilet seat if you want to feel like a real rock star. You won't be feeling much like rockin' and rollin' in a few hours, let me assure you.

Son, really, dancing on your bed isn't going to solve this problem. Put your pants back on. Keep going.

There you go. Don't worry, that's just a nosebleed, happens all the time when you're hooked on blow. Long way to go still. Don't lay down, that's not going to help one bit. Come on, boy.

Son? Get on up, now. This isn't the woods, you can't play dead.

Son?

.......

Christ.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Paula Goodspeed, former Idol Contestant, found dead

A very sad story this morning out of Los Angeles. Paula Goodspeed was an American Idol contestant who was turned down after her initial audition. She was apparently a huge fan of Paula Abdul and was found this morning dead in her car outside of Abdul's home. The police are saying it is a drug overdose.

The focal point of this story for the media is Goodspeed's obsession with Abdul. Her car had several laniards and stickers depicting the pop singer, and her license plate said "ABL LV" (which I suppose means Abdul Love?)

She even dressed like Abdul to her initial American Idol audition. Here's the video below, though it's far more morbid now, considering the segment was meant to mock and poke fun at her. Though I enjoy watching the early, horrible auditions on Idol, it's important to note how starkly some people consider the nature of celebrity, and how a hobby can quickly turn to obsession.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

And Now For Something Completely Different

Today Now! presents the wonderful, heartwarming story of a real fat ass who successfully avoids the ridicule of his slimmer peers by keeping a white T-shirt on while swimming. Take a look.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

What To Do About Proposition Hate

Like many of my peers on Tuesday night, I was both exhilarated at the progress our nation has made and disturbed at how far we still have to go. The election of Barack Obama to the presidency is a remarkable mandate for change and progress in this country, and marks a significant cultural shift away from the greedy aristocracy we've lived in this past decade.

However, let's not forget that people are selfish beings, and that Obama's victory can at least partially be attributed to the overwhelmingly negative situation in which Americans have found themselves. People voted for him not because they necessarily believe in progressive ideals, universal health care, increased dialogue among nations or tougher regulations on big business. Many voted for him simply because they are desperate, poor and distrusting of a system that has pounded them into the ground. Barack Obama has a much steeper hill to climb than many of us realize, and with the illegal and unethical ban of universal marriage in California, those of us hopeful for the future must first face the truth about our present.

California is seen as one of America's most liberal states, and yet over five million people decided that two human beings who love each other should not enjoy the same freedoms as everyone else because they are of the same gender. Despite the lack of any logical argument to the contrary, despite the illegality of imposing such a hindrance on our fellow citizens' civil rights, despite the lies and the bigotry from the "Yes on 8" campaign, nearly five and a half million Californians supported this measure. Just using arithmetic, this number must include at least one million Barack Obama voters. Everyone --- our work is far from over.

There are protests going on right now in the streets around my home. This is progress, but this is not enough. They will ignore you and wait until you've subsided and then it will be business as usual. We cannot stop letting them know what an injustice this is. Here are my suggestions:

1) Take the protests to the people who voted against you. West Hollywood is great, but, you know, you're kind of preaching to the choir. Why not stop by Tulare County? Two hours north of Los Angeles where 75.4% of the electorate voted for Proposition 8. What about Shasta County, up north? 69.9%. Madera County: 73.4%. Kings County: 73.7%. These are people who don't live near Los Angeles or San Francisco. They don't see you every day and know you are living, breathing humans who love just as strongly as they do. Bring the protest from Melrose to Main Street. Force these people to explain to you face to face why they are discriminating against you.

2) Write to everyone you know. If you're gay, chances are you have some straight friends. No, not just the girl you went to see The Devil Wears Prada with who hangs out with you because there's no chance of sexual tension. I'm talking about your co-workers, the people you see every day, your family, your close friends. Everyone. Chances are they're upset about the passage of Prop 8 but they're still just going about their daily lives. Let them know how it really feels to have your rights restricted. Ask them what it would feel like to know that society shuns their relationship and their families. I hate to break it to you my homosexual brothers and sisters, but we outnumber you. And we, like The Force, are a powerful ally.

3) Get a famous in-the-closet celebrity to come out. There have to be at least two or three out there, right? Not Ellen, not Rosie, names that would really blow your mind. I'm talking about Tom, Will, Kevin and Orlando. Let's hit these people right where it hurts. In their blockbuster summer movies.

This is far from over. I'm convinced that this measure will not make it near our state constitution. You almost have to laugh when people vote against the freedoms of human beings, but stand up in overwhelming numbers so that chickens can turn around without bumping each other. This is Los Angeles! Ever been to Hollywood on a Saturday night? You try turning around without hitting somebody in the ass!

*Source: Los Angeles Times (click the drop-down bar and scroll to Proposition 8 for a list of counties and how they voted.)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Results 2008

Mahalo has astounding coverage of the 2008 Presidential Election. Below is (believe it or not) just a taste of what we have to offer tonight:

Keep refreshing our comprehensive Presidential Polls page to see if the returns match the predictions. They were off four years ago, but today's could accurately predict the winner of tonight's election. I also love all the maps the major news sites compile to track states. See them update on real time with our Election Results page.

As we've seen the last eight years, just one state can decide an election. Here are some of our pages for individual battleground states:
Ohio Election Results
Pennsylvania Election Results
Florida Exit Polls
Florida Election Results
Indiana Election Results
Indiana Exit Polls

Can you believe Indiana is in play? Happy Election Day! If you haven't voted yet, do it!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Neil Young at the Forum - Canceled

I bought my dad tickets to see Neil Young tomorrow night at The Forum in Inglewood. I got an e-mail out of the blue from Ticketmaster tonight that said the show had been canceled. It didn't give any reasons.

After digging around the Internet for awhile, all I was able to find was this Craigslist post which talks about it. Apparently, the church that owns the Forum refuses to negotiate to with Union leader who represents the workers. Thus, the workers are on strike, and Neil will not cross the picket line. The show is going to be rescheduled. That might not be fully accurate, but it's the best I was able to find out. Now, I have to get my dad another birthday gift. Perhaps he'll be content with this video of Neil playing "After the Gold Rush."


Saturday, October 25, 2008

Ciroc Obama

The man is a genius. Every time I think Diddy is going to take a rest, he one-ups himself. I've never seen anything quite like the campaign that Ciroc Obama is running in 2008. A blog a day keeps McCain away. Please make your day and watch:

Thursday, October 23, 2008

My Joanna Doppelganger

We all know the agony I've been in that my beloved Joanna Newsom has been dating that (smog)gy cad Bill Callahan. Her angelic voice should be whispering sweet nothings in my ears, not his, and her fingers that she spins so lovingly on the harp should be making webs in my tangled locks, but anyway.

There's a talented young lady named Abby who plays piano, accompanied by her rat Teapot and she plays "The Book of Right-On" by Joanna Newsom. You hear that, Jo? She's younger than you, too! Watch my heart beats begin to reverberate in a different direction. Don't wait up for me. She's super pro-Obama, too. Making you sweat yet, Newsom? More like Old-som!



UPDATE: Apparently, my doe-eyed seraph is no longer dating Bill Callahan, but has found sawdust and diamonds in that SNL jokester, Andy Samberg. (reference) I'm not sure what to make of this. I mean, it's a step in the right direction. He is Jewish, and we are both white guys who attempt to rap for cheap laughs.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

No, I am certainly not Anne Hathaway's mystery man...

Alright, you can all stop asking me. I've read all about it in People magazine. Yes, Anne Hathaway has a new mystery man. But, who on Earth could it be?

Don't look my way...I have ab-so-lute-ly no idea. Not like she leaves any tasty little clues dropping around. What's this quote? "This guy I know in L.A. is kind of doing it for me right now." Guy in L.A.? Well, that doesn't narrow it down at all. I mean there are 2 million of us strapping young gentlemen in Los Angeles. True, true, not all of them are as well-respected, authoritative, sexual and mysterious as yours truly, but you don't really think it's me, do you?

That article is rubbish anyway. Don't even bother reading it. Okay, maybe a bit more: "I happened to meet a sexy guy the other day. When I think of sexy, I think of him." Oh, Anne, you're a beast. I mean, well...that doesn't mean anything! Just because the mere thought of this person inspires the image of sexiness doesn't mean it's me!

One more quote, if that'll satisfy you vultures: "You know when sometimes you don't know someone very well – you'll probably never see them again – but you just meet them and you're like 'WOW, you really have it going on'?"

.....

I can't keep this farce up anymore. Can I help it if my animal magnetism draws in Hollywood starlets like a Bvlgari store on Christmas Eve? Is it so wrong if the sight of me in slim-fitting Adidas workout sweats sends world-famous beauties into semi-orgasmic frenzies. Don't you dare judge me! Anne Hathaway and I have a love like the sweet summer rain!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Scrub his little ducky tummy

I used to have this song memorized. Probably the least educational Sesame Street bit of all time. Makes me cry with 4-year-old nostalgia. Bo-bo-bo-dee-o.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

It had to happen sooner or later...

I decided to finally put up the brief "comedy" show I did many months ago. It was filmed and I just avoided making it public, but after nearly a year I'm feeling comfortable enough letting everyone see my humility.

Watch for the brief appearance by famed Bollywood star Rupak Ginn. It's also fun to listen to comments from the crowd, such as "He's getting better," and "Just roll with it." Ahh...my first hecklers.

Anyway, here it is. Be gentle:

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Indirect Social Mobility in this Nonsense Economy

I read an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal yesterday about legal disputes concerning Starbucks leases. Since Starbucks expanded so rapidly and exponentially, the sudden drop in demand for frappuccinos has caused them to default on some of their leases, inciting a few lawsuits.

This is really classic supply-demand stuff that freaks people out and causes the stock market to have hyperbolic effects on our daily lives when it really should just make us shrug. For some reason, the last ten years has seen a great demand for $4 coffee beverages. This is not really "demand," however, but perceived demand. People see a product everywhere the way a child sees a new toy and think they absolutely must have it. But, nobody actually needs a frappuccino. That's why, when we discuss supply and demand, we're not really discussing supply and need. That's where the problem really comes in. When the supply of oil goes down and the need we have in Western society for the stuff remains constant, we're in some deep water. However, if the supply of mocha powder suddenly diminished, we'd see a few 14-year-olds say "aw shucks" or they could text "superlame" or whatever to their friends, but I think they'd get along just fine.

This takes me to my "How to Save Starbucks" argument. There are three kinds of need, the way I see it.
1) Actual Need - These are things that human beings actually, totally, 100% need to survive. Water, basic food sources, and in our bustling cities, oil.
2) Fake Need - These are the things like frappuccinos that I was discussing earlier. Every day when I get to work I decide that I need coffee to function. I don't actually need it, I just really like having coffee every morning because it makes me feel better, helps me concentrate and do good work (I almost certainly would not be writing right now without it), and gives me something to do with my hands besides type. I'm very fidgity, I must bring some warm liquid to my lips every 35 seconds or so.
3) Physically non-essential but mentally necessary needs (Snazzy name pending) - These are things not terribly unlike coffee that people don't actually need to survive, but for which there will always always be demand no matter how poor we are or how bad the economy gets. These are things for which business actually gets better when our lives suck. I have boiled this down to a simple rule, namely, the rule of BHDP: Booze, Hookers, Drugs and Pornography.

I cannot think of any society, no matter how destitute, unfortunate or downtrodden, not to absolutely require these four things in varying degrees of importance. Now, I know what you're thinking. "Jonathan," (you're thinking this) "how dare you argue that human life is so base to only require the most degenerative aspects of our society!" Or, you may be thinking, "Jonathan, your list is too long. Since alcohol is a drug and pornography is just another form of prostitution, you could have theoretically shortened your list to DW, or Drugs and Whores. I don't completely disagree, but I think it's important to make the distinction among the wildly varying requirements of society. I include drugs after booze as alcohol is undoubtedly the most prominent drug in Western society and is a solid, legal industry independent of the drug trade. I realize that alcohol was illegal for a decade in the early part of this century, and I think it's ironic that we learned the lesson of that mistake but didn't learn the lesson from this 30-year-deep drug war. We just replaced Al Capone with Avon Barksdale.



Anyway, here's what I do if I'm Starbucks. Include two shots of bourbon in every frappuccino (you're already charging four dollars for the damn thing!) and pay your employees an extra two dollars an hour to work topless. It doesn't matter if they look like models or not, this is 2008, and people in this economy will take what they can get. Also, the guys have to do it, too, so there's no claiming that it's a sexist move. The pay will get so good, you'll have those jerks who work at Abercrombie & Fitch coming over for a job. I guarantee a double in sales by, oh, next week?

I'm not saying I've come up with some sort of brilliant Keynesian strategy here, I'm just using common sense. People are depressed, they can't buy an Xbox or go to the movies on Friday night anymore, but hell if they're going to be deprived of their booze and boobs! (That's a much better name, the B&B School of Economics, patent pending).

Okay, where's my Nobel?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Mahalo 2.0 is here!

More than 24 hours after the push, I'm finally able to blog about the exciting new features on Mahalo.com. We've been working on this for months (and when I say "we" I mean the people who actually built the thing...I'm just an editor) and the results are pretty clear.



Our top section features the news stories of the day in all major categories, updated all day, every day.

The real innovation here is the liveblog on the right side. We have people working (almost) 24 hours a day to find the latest in gossip, politics, money and videos, and post it immediately on the liveblog.

After just one day of doing this, we've already had a great response from the press and the blogosphere. Users love to follow the latest stories and click through the tabs to the news that interests them.

We hope to have even more great developments on Mahalo in the coming weeks and months. Thanks for checking it out and stay tuned for more!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Deerhoof - Offend Maggie

I went to Best Buy last night to pick up Tell-Tale Signs, the 8th entry in Bob Dylan's bootleg series (I was successful) and the new Deerhoof album, Offend Maggie (I was unsuccessful). Though Best Buy isn't the best place to get the new hipster rock album, they've been getting better in recent years in terms of selection.

I was surprised when I got to the store that the clerk said that they'd only received four copies and they must have sold out. I'm convinced they were just in the storage room on a cart somewhere and hadn't yet been shelved because, let's be honest, how many people are going to the Best Buy on Sawtelle to buy the new Deerhoof album the day it comes out. Maybe one other nerd and myself, that's it. But, I could be wrong. Maybe they have a larger following than I thought. Here's the title track off their new album. Sounds great.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Obama vs. McCain: Health Care

Listening to NPR on the way home from work, it seems the most striking difference between Barack Obama and John McCain in tonight's debate came on the issue of health care. Barack Obama said it was a right and John McCain said it was an individual responsibility.

This is a major ideological rift between myself and many Americans. Individual responsibility is important to Americans more than in any other nation. It supercedes class structure, which is a prevalent aspect of society in nearly every other Western culture, especially in Britain. The British don't believe in social mobility nearly as much as Americans. They are taught as children that, while hard work can get you a long way, you're unlikely to rise that much in the system despite your best efforts. If you're born into a working class family, you're like to remain working class throughout your life, unless your name is, perhaps, John Lennon. Americans, conversely, are convinced that if they work hard enough and have a scrappy bit of ingenuity, that they can be up there on Forbes billionaire list in a few years.

I don't want to knock the American entrepreneurial spirit. After all, it's what helped make us the richest nation in the world in the early 20th century. Without it, I would likely not be working at my current place of employment. This idea has, however, carried with it the belief that the hardest working among us are more entitled to certain benefits than the uninspired masses.

We have, as a nation, decided that certain living necessities are a right for all citizens. Here's a short list: Public schools, police and fire departments, libraries, funds for our elderly. These are things that we all pay for through our taxes and that we would likely revolt if someone tried to take away. Imagine having your house ablaze and the fire department shows up and asks you to fill out paperwork and give a down payment before they to work on saving your house. Any candidate who proposed such nonsense would be out of the raise by the end of the sentence.

The ability to see a doctor when ill is not, however, one of those rights that we as a nation feel the need to provide. We commonly, with only minor irritation, sit in emergency rooms and fill out forms, stress over our co-payments, and fight lengthy battles with our insurance company to make sure we are covered. These issues are not a problem in almost any other Western nation. Hospitals and doctors are just another thing they all decided, as morally conscious people, that they would provide regardless of the cost.

Hearing McCain say tonight that health care is a responsibility and not a right, and hearing so many American voters concur with that sentiment makes me think we really have our priorities mixed up. If a candidate in Britain, France, Canada, Sweden, Norway, etc. said "Maybe we shouldn't give health care to every single citizen" they would be out. No debate, no town hall meeting, Out!

This is one of the most important issues we face as a nation to restore our moral dignity. I can think of no logical argument against it. The only issue I see is: are we going to care for our citizens or aren't we?

Those against universal health care always say the same thing: "You can't choose your own doctor. Health care in Canada isn't like Michael Moore says. It's not perfect!"

Our public schools in America are far from perfect. I haven't heard anyone suggest we should abolish them and force all children to attend private school. Oh, your parents can't afford private school? Guess they should have tried harder then, huh.

If you think about one's health the same way one does about education and safety from fires (and of course, one's health is much more important day-to-day than these things), your only conclusion should be that we are going to unequivocally give the care we give to the richest among us to everyone.

Americans feel strongly about this issue. Disagree with me? Many do. Please leave a comment and we can have a friendly discussion in which you hopefully don't call me any names.

If you missed it, here's the full debate, courtesy of the Washington Post:

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Appaloosa Review

Let's put this right out there. Appaloosa is one of the most inept, miscalculated, incompetent films I've seen a long, long time. This is a western bereft of any depth, character, intelligent dialogue, suspense or drama. It involves a simplistic premise and builds upon it to where the filmmakers must have assumed it would derive some meaning. How unfortunate.

Here we have some talented actors who must have read a very different script than the one presented on screen. It involves two lawmen, Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch, arriving to the town of Appaloosa to protect it from a group of bandits run by Randall Bragg. Oh good, you might think, a Seven Samurai-style premise, performed by three solid actors (Ed Harris, Viggo Mortensen and Jeremy Irons). Appaloosa unfortunately gives them nothing interesting to do and relies on substandard, often laughable cliches. Ed Harris seems like a wise enough guy, but he has really missed the mark on this one. He fails to recognize that stoicism does not a poignant character make. The first thing they teach you in screenwriting class is that characters in films have outward conflicts and inward conflicts. The outward conflicts are the actions presented on screen (Marshall wants to kill bandit, boy is in love with girl he can't have) and the inward conflicts are the emotional, psychological issues one must deal with in the process (Marshall tries to remain noble despite the duty he has to murder). Appaloosa gives its characters only the basest motives and makes no attempt to give insight into who these people are or why they want to do what they do.


I know, this image almost makes it look interesting.

Conflicts in this film are resolved so easily one wonders why they were included in the story to begin with. Here's an example (Spoiler Warning):

The "lovely" widow Allison French comes into town and is immediately smitten with Marshall Cole. Nobody can really say why, although Cole immediately drops his charmless demeanor and giggles like a schoolgirl around French. They fall in love and decide to build a house in town, about 12 hours after meeting. When Hitch goes to visit the house, Allison starts to kiss him uncomfortably. Alright, one thinks, now we have a love triangle that will present some real troublesome issues for these characters. Nope. Hitch pushes Allison away, says "we're both with Cole" and that's essentially the end of that conflict. No anger from Cole to Hitch, no insecurity as to the widow French's ambitions. That's pretty much it. Appaloosa is full of conflicts that go absolutely nowhere.

Let's move on to the dialogue. It's laughable. At times I actually thought it was a joke. In one scene Cole tells Hitch that the reason he's not as good a gunfighter as him is that he has feelings. "Feelings get you killed," he says. End of scene. Thanks, but that doesn't do it for me. Try not hitting me over the head with it. Or, if you do plan on hitting me over the head, do something with it for god's sake. Don't just end the scene and meander into the next inane love scene.

The action. There isn't any. A couple of gun shots that you wish were aimed at Allison French's head. The female lead is really thankless, even for Zellweger. All you have to do is watch a few scenes with Alma Garret from Deadwood to realize that women actually have more to do in the old west than play Campdown Races on the piano and scream after their man while running through endless sandstorms.

How in the world did Appaloosa get 75% on Rotten Tomatoes? See the movie and then read some of these reviews. You'll think you've watched a different film. Everyone's lost their minds. I'm sorry, but Viggo, Ed, Jeremy: I love you guys, but this is the worst film I've seen all year.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Bill O'Reilly on Drug Use

This is an absolute classic clip of Bill O'Reilly losing it on a guest who wrote a book about drug use. The author, Jacob Sullum, argues that drugs should be legal because it's not inherently wrong to want to alter one's perception of the world for enjoyment. It's only wrong when it affects others, as in drunk driving. Pretty simple thesis - most reasonable people agree with that.

O'Reilly totally flips out on this guy, saying he's a "libertinist" who encourages the worst parts of our society. Watch all the way to the end to where Sullum says "so you don't drink alcohol or coffee or smoke cigarettes?" and O'Reilly calls him a pinhead. Absolutely classic.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Country Ca-review: Obama v. McCain Pt. 1

Though I maintain a very liberal sensibility, and could be considered by some right-wingers to be borderline socialist, I don't often write about politics on the blog. The closest I get is the occasional Bill O'Reilly humiliation video, which is much more for the sake of comedy than political commentary. However, since we have 40 or so days left until we choose another president, and September 2008 seems eerily similar to September 2004, I wanted to touch on it just a bit before going back to my usual discourse (Diddy and making fun of Jews and the elderly).

I remember the first Bush-Kerry debate very well. I was living around Wilshire and Bundy and it was my birthday. My girlfriend at the time and I were going to go out to dinner, but we waited until the debate was over so we could hear the two go at it. I remember we thought that John Kerry, though a bit of a dud, was so knowledgeable and earnest that he would wipe the floor with a sweaty and primate-like Bush. We were, essentially, right. This was the debate in Coral Gables, Florida, where Bush made his hilarious "well, actually, he forgot Poland" statement. It was the moment when I realized that 1) YouTube had a purpose, and was going to be huge and 2) Thank God this is on coast-to-coast, finally we'll get that doober out of office.

I figured the following day would be filled with broadcasters declaring a landslide for Kerry, a man who had reasoned his way past the blubbering, inane policies of the past four years. Instead, all I heard was "global test." Apparently, Kerry had said that national leaders should have to sit down and take a test before going and talking to world leaders! What an ignorant fool! How dare he say that the U.S. needs any sort of permission to be a leader in the world.

Of course, that's not what he said at all. Here's the direct quote:

No president, through all of American history, has ever ceded, and nor would I, the right to preempt in any way necessary to protect the United States of America.

But if and when you do it, Jim, you have to do it in a way that passes the test, that passes the global test where your countrymen, your people understand fully why you're doing what you're doing and you can prove to the world that you did it for legitimate reasons.


Yes, folks, that's all he was saying. Don't go to war unless you're doing it for a good reason, a reason that you can demonstrate not just to other nations, but to your own citizens. Sigh...and we all know what happened a month later.

So, I was interested to hear what Obama and McCain would talk about. Firstly, I'd like to say that it's at least refreshing to hear two people talk intelligently and respectfully about the issues. Not that there wasn't lying, but at least the issues brought up were (for the most part) legitimate, and there's not of this "he's flip-flopping" nonsense.

I listened to the full debate, watched some news commentary afterwards, and finally went to the FactCheck.org Debate Analysis today to read about everything they said that was in any way misleading, or a flat-out lie. Both candidates misled; McCain flat-out lied several times.

FactCheck.org is a great site. Ironically, the nation was primarily introduced to it via Dick Cheney, who referred to it as FactCheck.com during the 2004 Vice Presidential debate (the one where he claimed never to have met John Edwards before).

They've gone through and detailed every false or slightly misleading claim either of the candidates made. They're a non-partisan site, so it's just the facts. It doesn't take a wizard, though, to see that McCain made more (and certainly more shameless) false claims than did Obama. As a good denizen of honest discourse, I'll describe Obama's misleading claims first:

*McCain claimed that Obama voted to raise taxes on people making $42,000 a year. Though Obama denied it, he did give this vote, though it applies only to single people, and that current tax increase is nowhere to be seen in his current tax plan.
*Obama said Iraq's surplus is $79 billion; it's actually $60 billion. Yeah, I know, he was $19 billion off, but $60 billion is a shitload of money. If Iraq was a person it would be the richest person in the world, and we're still pumping money into it as if it's a slot machine.
*Obama said that McCain's health plan would raise taxes on employers, though it won't. It'll raise taxes on employees (!), which to me seems worse, as I'm an one of them.
*Obama says 95% of people will receive a tax cut under his plan. That's actually 95% of families, not people.

Okay, I'm going to leave these alone and move onto the McCain stuff, but I really must rebut this last point. Republicans have won countless elections by claiming that the Democrats will raise taxes. I suppose that's true....if your name is Shaq. Unless you make over $250,000 in a year, your taxes will actually go down. That's the truth. Look it up. Anywhere! I'll make it easy for you. Here are the tax proposals for both candidates, side by side.

That was fun. Now for all the stuff McCain lied about:
*McCain claimed that Henry Kissinger does not support high-level talks with Iran without pre-condition. He totally does. He said so on CNN. Scroll about 2/3rds of the way down the page or do an apple-f for "condition" and go to where Kissinger is speaking.
*McCain said earmarks have tripled in the last five years. They've actually decreased. Massive lie.
*Quote from McCain last night: "We are sending $700 billion a year overseas to countries that don't like us very much." The total number we send overseas is $536 billion, and about 1/3rd goes to Canada, Mexico and the United Kingdom. So, McCain is about $300 billion-plus off on this one. Much bigger than Obama's $19 billion confusion.
*McCain said he voted against sending marines to Lebanon in 1983 when he had just entered Congress. The vote to send marines to Lebanon took place two months before McCain was elected to Congress. Though he did oppose it, he never voted against it.
*Here's a big one. Not a lie, just really stupid: McCain said that Obama was "naive" and "didn't understand" the situation because he told both Russian and Georgia to cool it, instead of bitching out Russia all over television. It's stupid because McCain is just trying to characterize himself as this super-knowledgeable statesman who's been all over the world, and Obama's just a kid. There are many different approaches to take to dealing with foreign, potentially hostile nations, and I don't think anyone knows specifically what the right one is. To call it naive is just silly. Obama said essentially the same thing that the Bush Administration did! Aghhh...I'm actually taking the Bush Administration's side!
As a side note, isn't it rational to tell both sides to calm down, regardless of who the aggressor is? Does McCain not believe in the "I don't care who started it" approach to parenting? If McCain was a referee during the Pistons-Pacers brawl a few years ago, would he have said it's ok for Ben Wallace to go after Ron Artest because Artest hit him with a hard foul? No! The refs had to put a stop to ALL the violence. It's a perfectly applicable analogy, trust me.
*This one is kind of funny: McCain's been going around joking about how we're spending too much, and he cites $3 million dollars that went to a study looking at the DNA of bears. First of all, let me just point out that McCain was 17 when DNA was first modeled! Secondly, whether or not this study has any merit, John McCain failed to point out that he voted in favor of it.

Gah - so enraging. I'm angry just thinking about it. If you didn't get a chance to watch it, here's the full video below. Also, be sure to check out the University of Mississippi debate Mahalo page, with further articles and analysis.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Retirement Used to Mean Something

Back in the old country, when someone would say they were going to retire, they would usually have been at the same job for six decades and they'd be thrown a big to-do, after which the whole village would expect them to go back to their place of residence, knit for awhile and then die quietly.

My, oh my, how things change. I'm referring to the latest music news that 50 Cent's new album will be released on December 9, one week before Kanye's latest. Wasn't it just last year that 50 vowed to quit music if Kanye's Graduation sold more copies in its first week? Well, guess what Curtis...that's a wager you lost. At least Jay-Z had the chutzpah to wait a few years before dropping Kingdom Come.

My theory is that rappers just want to be athletes and are trying to mirror the duration of their careers. Listen up: Athletes have to retire around age 38. It's because their bodies are getting old and they can't keep up anymore and they've been beaten to a pulp so much that their frail, useless legs wouldn't last much longer on the field. There's no reason for a rapper to retire. The only thing that should force you into early retirement is a drive-by shooting.

It's strange. We have plenty of old rockers but very few old rappers. LL Cool J does Pepsi commercials, Diddy releases brilliant YouTube videos, and god only knows what the guys from Audio Two are doing. Still -- I think it's time for an old-school hip-hop resurgence, don't you?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Mahalo Sports Pages

Mahalo's sports team is really taking things up a notch. I thought I'd use a post to highlight some of the exciting things we're working on right now. To start with, our lovely remote guide Angie has been dutifully updating each week's College Football Scores as the games are played. It includes easy to read charts and are quite helpful.

ESPN's Monday Night Football has very exciting games in the pipeline this year, including match-ups between Denver and New England, and the Jets and Chargers this weekend. This past Monday's game between the Eagles and Cowboys was an instant classic (even though Philadelphia lost).

Mahalo also has some very detailed and impressive Sports How-To pages. Here is a great page for how to play tennis. Improve your technique and learn how to be a stronger player in this sport.

If you like what you see, head on over to our Sports category and subscribe to our RSS feeds.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Why "Make Good Content" Isn't All It Takes

SEO blogs usually give really great advice, the most prominent tip being to create great content. The idea is if you create only great content, you'll get tons of external links, thus increasing your position in Google. This does, essentially, work. However, the idea of "great content" is a little misleading. I would say "catchy content" or "oddball content" is more like it. For example, I could write an amazing blog post about deer populations in California, but if relatively few people are looking for it or it isn't engaging enough it is unlikely to get very many internal links, thus hampering my ability to be ranked for the search term "Deer Population in California." (As a test, I'll see where I land for this result in a few days).

As a counter to that example, should I write a fairly meaningless and unhelpful post that says "Top 10 Lindsay Lohan Side Boob Photos" I might get tons of links, even if the photos of massive ads between them and pop-ups all over the place and I'm using the photos without permission. That's why "good content" is such an amorphous term. Does "good" mean "helpful" to readers? If the reader wants Lindsay Side-Boob, then I suppose that is good. If "good" means "clean and ethical" then it isn't, and yet I'm still getting external links.

My advice would be to Make Great Content and Make People Want To Read It. Much easier said than done. People read what they want and ignore what they don't, no matter how useful it is.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

DeSean Jackson, Please Don't Ever Do That Again

I know it's only his second game in the NFL and all, but this is something you just have to know right from the beginning. Pretty much the first time you ever play football, your coach has to say "By the way, it's critical that you actually hang on to the ball until you're in the end zone. That's where the points are scored!"

Here's the video:

Monday, September 8, 2008

Hole in the Wall

God Bless the Fox Network for Hole in the Wall.

Make the shape? You get points. Get knocked in the pool? You get no points. That's it.

Entertainment? You've just been one-upped.

Friday, August 29, 2008

VPILF Sarah Palin?

I don't mean to digress from the usual high class topics of Country Caravan, but a new buzz term is spreading like wildfire and I'd like to discuss the political implications. Apparently, our potential vice president, Sarah Palin, is quite the VPILF.

...think about it a second.

...there you go.

This seems like the natural progression of political and social discussion. For the last ten years we talked about how Bush was an attractive candidate because you'd like to sit down and have a beer with him. Now we're discussing how Sarah Palin whom, despite having little experience and possibly using her position in office for her own personal gain, may indeed have a place in the masturbatory fantasies of a large swath of the electorate.

Is this all we're looking for in a vice president these days? I mean, sure she's a MILF, a GILF, a VPILF, and my favorite, PLEILF (Pro Life Evangelical I'd Like to F***).

Due to this turn of events, I'd like to suggest that Barack Obama drop Joe Biden from his ticket and replace him with September 2008 Playmate of the Month Valerie Mason.

Best Fictional Cops on Mahalo

It's been awhile since Mahalo.com has released a top-notch best-of list, but here's one of our better ones. A fun list of the Best Fictional Cops in television and movies. They don't just have to be beat cops (though some of them are). The list also includes detectives, troopers and police commissioners.

A few notable missing characters off the top of my head:
-Happy Jack from Gangs of New York
-William Costigan and Colin Sullivan from The Departed. One's a cop pretending to be a crook and one's a crook pretending to be a cop.
-The Sheriff of Nottingham (he's a villain, but he is a sheriff, is he not?)
-Margie Gunderson (I mean, c'mon!)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Brad Pitt - W Magazine Photographer

It's always interesting when actors dabble in other arts. Keanu Reeves has his band, Lindsay Lohan has lesbianism, and now Brad Pitt can add Glamour Photographer to his resume. For the November 2008 issue, Angelina Jolie and their six children will be appearing on the cover of W photographed by Brad Pitt.

The Pitt-Jolie clan apparently has an estate in France, and what better place to shoot the photos? One wonders how much the new photographer will be paid for his services.

For the record, I've always liked Brad Pitt. His performances in Twelve Monkeys and Jesse James are particularly engaging.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

If Everyone in the World were like me

Now, I'm not saying all of these would be good things. In fact, some of them quite obviously are negative. Here's a picture of what the world would be like if everyone in it were like me...

*Everyone would get where they're going efficiently. There would be none of this 45 miles per hour on the freeway bullshit, no more of this sitting at a green light and easing onto the gas over a period of 12 seconds. I'm always amazed in the city I live in, the city of angels, how often I have to honk at someone who's just sitting completely still at a green light. It's at least 2 times per 8-mile drive. Not joking. I'll be at a light, it'll turn green, I count to three maybe (you know, give the idiot a chance to let the synapses in his brain start clicking) and then I honk. Also, what's with this not turning left when you have tons of room? I'll be behind some schmuck, trying to turn left, he's got at least 10 seconds before the next car comes into the intersection, but nope, can't go. Too risky. Jackasses like this make everyone late.

*Speaking of which, nobody would ever be late for anything. Not only that, you'd always be early. Sometimes, uncomfortably early. I'm always so nervous about being late that I typically leave a good 30 minutes before I probably need to. The result is getting where I'm going at least 20-30 minutes early. When I was going on job interviews, I would always want to make sure I was there on time, so sometimes I'd leave so early that I'd arrive maybe 45 minutes before the appointment. My strategy then would be to sit in my hot car, let the sweat slowly soak into my clothes, completely eliminating any semblance of professionalism my appearance may have revealed. But, you know how you hate waiting around for someone who's always late? That'll never happen again. Also, I always call when I say I'm going to. How often does someone say "let me give you a call back in 10 minutes" and then you wait around for hours because you actually believed them! If everyone was me, that would never happen. If I say I'm going to call in 10 minutes, I will. Most likely seven minutes, actually.

*Nobody would ever complain about anything at a restaurant, no matter how egregious. You could find a nail in your sandwich, but you wouldn't say anything to the waiter. He's probably too busy to deal with this. Plus, it's not even his fault, you'd think.

*You would never move tables after you'd been seated. This is one of those men vs. women things, but honestly, why do women always need to sit in booths. It seems that every time I go somewhere with a woman (it happens!) and we're about to be seated at a table, it's less than five seconds before I hear "Oh, let's go find a booth." Must you feel like you're in your living room at all times? What's the difference?

*The following things would not exist: Napalm, Agent Orange, Rape, Nickelback, Domestic Violence, Twitter, Laws against Gay Marriage, the Death Penalty, Organized Religion, Disorganized Religion, Bill O'Reilly.

*The following really good things would also not exist:
----Music. I love music and listen to it for probably 40% of my waking life, but I have no capacity whatsoever to create it. So, that's too bad. It's gone.
----Digital Technology. No idea how it works. Wouldn't even know where to begin.
----Space flight. Are you kidding? How am I going to figure out how to send somebody into space? Plus, who's going to go? Not me unless you can fill an entire wing of the ship with Xanax, which also, incidentally, does not exist.

*Everyone would be really in to football and hockey, but it would be considerably duller to watch, as everyone on the field/ice would play like me. A football field would be about a quarter of the size. So would the ball and all the players.

*No more urinals without separations between them. What is this nonsense?

*Here's a good one: Rampant apologies! I apologize for nearly everything, often things that don't involve me in any way. Sometimes, however, I'm not apologizing for anything I specifically did and people think I am. For example, here's a conversation I frequently engage in:
-Person: I have a headache.
-Jonathan: Oh, I'm sorry.
-Person: It's not your fault.
-Jonathan: I know, but I'm just sorry you have a headache.
-Person: Well, you don't need to say you're sorry.
-Jonathan: Fine. Jesus, sorry.
-Person: Stop apologizing!
-Jonathan: It's just an expression.
-Person: I think we should see other people.

That's about all I can think of right now. I may make this a continuing series. It's very cathartic.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Beck at El Cid

I'm just working in the middle of the afternoon yesterday, as usual, when a friend of mine peeks over her desk and says "Jonathan, do you want to go see Beck tonight?" Apparently, he's playing a secret show at El Cid. I say "Yeah, sure, that'd be awesome," assuming the secret would leak and the place would be swarming with people by the time I'd get there.

My friend Jeff and I got to the show about an hour ahead of time and the place was deserted. We went inside (our names were actually on "The List"), ate some tapas and had a few beers and were right up front when the show started. Jeff's theory is that hipsters are "too cool for school" and thus don't go to the front of the stage. Up until the minute he took the stage, I thought it was a joke and I'd be seeing Hall & Oates up there.

At any rate, Beck came out with his long hair and black hat and they started rocking. He played nearly all of Modern Guilt, with about two tracks each from previous albums, going back to Odelay (nothing pre-1995 I'm afraid). They opened with E-Pro, went into Modern Guilt, did Gamma Ray and Nausea. The first 90s tunes were Mixed Business which went into Nicotine and Gravy. Awesome!

He played a cover of Bob Dylan's Leopard Skin Pill Box Hat which blew my mind a little. The only tracks from Odelay were Minus (rockin!) and Devil's Haircut, which closed the encore. Here's the full setlist from Paper Tiger.

His band was tight. He said they hadn't played in six weeks and thanked us for watching them "practice." Pretty much the best practice I've ever seen. The drummer went nuts and I asked the female lead guitarist to marry me. She's thinking about it.

Here's a photo I got on my iPhone. It doesn't do it justice, as anyone who has taken pictures on an iPhone will inevitably know.



Totally blown.