Archive for November, 2009

25
Nov
09

Music Monday #29: Sainthood by Tegan and Sara

I don’t seem to be able to write a review for Tegan & Sara‘s Sainthood. What could I possibly say about it? I could say that I was bothered by it even before I received it because I ended up paying a lot of money for it (in the limited edition with three books). I could also say that I got annoyed by everyone talking about the songs before I had ever heard them, that I got even more frustrated when people told me that they were bummed out because they couldn’t talk about the album with me before I had it. And I could say that I was disappointed by it when I first heard it.

But then, I could also say that it is a so-called grower, that I liked it better with each listen, that I’m impressed in particular with Sara’s musical evolution, with her lyrics, with her voice on Alligator. That my favorite tracks are Alligator, Night Watch, Don’t Rush and Northshore, and that I think The Ocean would sound better if it were a lot slower, and that Someday sounds like an MGMT song.

Tegan and Sara's Sainthood CD, Plus the three books On, In, At

The On, In, At bookset and the Sainthood CD. Everyone should own them!

But I’d rather tell you that I’m not very upset anymore about having spent all that money, because the three books of the limited edition are very good and very well done, with textile covers (made in China) and many big photographs and interesting texts, a mostly cool design by ee storey and others. Of all the overpriced articles I’ve bought in my life, this might easily be the best.

I do want to question their marketing strategy, however. They gave people who ordered Sainthood through iTunes two bonus songs, Wrists and Light Up, and an additional one, It Was Midnight, if they pre-ordered. I suppose rewarding pre-ordering in general is not a bad idea. This way, I imagine, the album sells particularly well in the release week. Plus, you’re rewarding those that actually know or care that you have a new album out. However, this also seems to suggest they had rather you bought the album digitally than to get a real, physical copy of it (which might explain why the CD booklet is a little boring compared with that of The Con). I don’t have an iTunes account or any Apple gadgets for that matter, and since the only other way to get these songs seems to be an illegal download, I’m not particularly pleased.

Rachael Cantu's Far and Wide CD

Far and Wide by Rachael Cantu. Devil's Thunder alone is already worth it.

So in that regard, I hope for their next album, they’ll take their friend Rachael Cantu as an example, who just yesterday started selling her new CD Far and Wide (that Tegan Quin contributed vocals to, by the way, and which has overachiever Ted Gowans doing “keyboards, guitar, mandolin, synth, rhodes, slide gtr” [source]). You can download it, or buy it as a physical copy – but buying a physical copy also gives you the digital download for free – even in FLAC format! Plus, you can buy it without using Pay Pal, which is also really great. (This doesn’t currently work if you live outside the U.S., but she assured me they’re working on fixing that.) You can get that CD at Bandcamp.

All in all I can say that Sainthood, however controversial it may be among many of their fans, is another step forward for Tegan & Sara, and it’s well worth getting. And don’t forget to get yourself the song Sheets, either!

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19
Nov
09

BBC Book List Meme

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

The "biggest achievement" book 2009. 736 pages.

This year, my personal goal was to read 24 books. I’m happy to report that I have already exceeded this goal, and it’s only November. I’m indeed a little proud of myself. I have already read 27 books so far, probably 28 by this evening. You can, of course, see the books I’ve read here.

Dry by Augusten Burroughs

Possibly the best book I read this year.

The Eden Express by Mark Vonnegut was the first book I started this year, back on January 7, 2009. Topics covered in this year’s books were schizophrenia (The Eden Express), Asperger’s (Look Me In The Eye), skateboarding (Board Free), a polar expedition (Der eisige Schlaf), music in general (Songbook), a haunted house (House of Leaves), war (Armageddon in Retrospect), the hotel business (Hotel), photography (At Work), Germans (Xenophobe’s Guide to the Germans), Australia (Frühstück mit Kängurus), German guilt (Anleitung zum Unschuldigsein), and twelve of the books I read were biographical or autobiographical. I read a single crime novel, one (bad) sci-fi book and one children’s book.

Also, I’ve just come across the BBC Book List Meme (via The Lonely Librarian), and so here are my results. Enjoy.

—–snip—
BBC Book List

Apparently the BBC reckons most people will have only read 6 of the 100 books here.

Instructions:
1) Look at the list and make those you have read bold.
2) Star (*) the ones you LOVE.
3) Italicize those you plan on reading

1. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling (I read two of those.)
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee *
6 The Bible (Still working on that one :))
7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare (MacBeth, 12th Night)
15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger *
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch – George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
34 Emma – Jane Austen
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Berniere
39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne
41 Animal Farm – George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding
50 Atonement – Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel
52 Dune – Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
72 Dracula – Bram Stoker *
73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses – James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal – Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession – AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web – EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
94 Watership Down – Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

—–snip—–

16 out of 100. That’s not too good, but I guess above average. Then again, it’s a list from the BBC, so I suppose they’re not really required reading but only England’s best-loved novels. Which would explain why Bridget Jones is on there.

16
Nov
09

Music Monday: Sheets by Tegan & Sara

On this Music Monday I’m bringing you a new song by Tegan & Sara. It’s a track that didn’t make it onto their new album Sainthood, and it appeared one fine day on an Australian clothing website. I know – pretty weird!

 

[Tegan and Sara making music together]

Tegan (left) and Sara making music together.

The song is called Sheets and it’s lovely. It’s obviously sung by Sara Quin, but Under The Radar magazine suggests the twins actually wrote it together, which is quite unusual. I find the song is catchier than anything on Sainthood. I wonder why it didn’t make it onto the album, but I suppose it’s not dance-y or electronic enough and maybe they felt it didn’t fit with the mood of the album. But that’s a wild guess.

 

You can get the free download of Sheets at http://sportsgirl.com.au/freebies/. Just look for the image of Tegan and Sara and find where it says Free Download. [Update: I’m afraid they meanwhile want you to sign up before they let you download the song. Crooks!]

Of course, it’s also on YouTube by now.

[Tegan and Sara](Alternative Link)

Sheets by Tegan and Sara

Remove us from the scene of the crime
I can’t help myself, details fill my mind
They roll their eyes
Pull our elbows
I forget our love was so hopeful
I promise I won’t linger long
I promise I won’t push my face
Up against your clothes
Or the stupid sheets

I deserve a stay
A second thought
I put your head on straight
I’m a tourniquet
You want the marrying type
A commitment
I can’t help myself
It it’s a fit, it’ll fit

I promise I won’t linger long
I promise I won’t push my face
Up against your clothes
Or the stupid sheets

It’s a heart attack that you feel
It’s a heart attack that you feel
It’s a heart attack that you feel
It’s a heart attack that you feel
It’s a heart attack that you feel
It’s a heart attack that you feel

I promise I won’t linger long
I promise I won’t push my face
Up against your clothes
I won’t linger long
I won’t push my face up against your clothes
Or your stupid sheets

Just give me the key
I watch your things
Like I watch your face
It’s a heart attack that you feel
It’s a crying shame not to spend the night
You look your age, but you don’t act the type
You don’t act the type
You don’t act the type

It’s a heart attack that you feel
It’s a heart attack that you feel
It’s a heart attack that you feel
It’s a heart attack that you feel

14
Nov
09

Sainthood (by Tegan & Sara) – Backstory

Maybe it hasn’t escaped your attention that I’m quite fond of Tegan & Sara, so it should come as no surprise that I pre-ordered their most recent album, Sainthood, on the first day that pre-order was possible in September. I mainly pre-ordered it through Maple Music because they sold a special Limited Edition that comes with three books. They also sold a Deluxe Limited Edition that came with an ink blot, hand-made and signed by the artists, but I’m happy to say I’m past the age where I’d spend that extra money. As a marketing strategy, it’s certainly a fun idea, though.

Tegan and Sara

Tegan (left) and Sara, looking for my first Sainthood order. Tegan is obviously a lot more involved in the search. Sara wants to go home.

Well, after that, my Sainthood experience didn’t start off that well. I decided not to listen to the album on their MySpace page and no t to watch the video to their first single, Hell, either, because I think there’s something special about waiting for the actual album and listening to it in one go from beginning to end. So I waited. And I waited. But when the album was finally released on October 27th, my order didn’t arrive. My friend’s order arrived within two days, but mine just didn’t show. Eventually, I contacted Maple Music and they were kind enough to send out another bundle. That was on a Friday, and the parcel promptly arrived the following Monday.

However, I got charged more than 20 EUR in taxes for it, plus an additional 10 EUR that Purolator wanted for taking the parcel to customs in the first place, which still strikes me as an unfair rip-off. But what can you do. So now I have the CD & 3 books and ended up paying 104,- EUR for them, which means about 155 USD or 162 CAD. Now I’m almost as poor as a church mouse, but at least I have some good music and reading material. For an exhaustive review of both, watch this space. (You know you want to.)

By the way, what are YOU waiting for? Sainthood currently sells for $9,99 at Amazon.com! BARGAIN!

13
Nov
09

Linkage: Sprite Stitch

I just came across http://www.spritestitch.com – A video game inspired craft weblog. I’m not very good with arts and crafts myself, but some of this stuff makes me want to take up stitching:

[Sam and Max Cross Stitch]

Or baking:
[Portal inspired cake

Or to pursue knitting more seriously:
[Half Life Scarf]

Go, check out the site at http://www.spritestitch.com!

12
Nov
09

November 1998: Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie

I generally feel younger than I am, but sometimes it hits me that I’ve been around for almost three decades already and I feel bad for all the things I didn’t achieve yet, even though mostly I’m not sure what things in particular they are. Maybe you can relate.

At any rate, one of the things that just made me realize that I’m not getting any younger is finding out that the wonderful Alanis Morissette album Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie was released 11 (!) years ago, in November 1998. I remember when I first got it, I was a bit suspicious about it, after having become so acquainted with the songs on Jagged Little Pill (I agree with this reviewer on how good that album was). Nevertheless, Junkie grew on me pretty quickly. My favorite songs on it are the very plugged-in ones (like So Pure and Would Not Come), and most of all I like those that also have a haunting quality to them and narrative lyrics (The Couch and I Was Hoping). The lyrics on the album are deep and Alanis doesn’t usually bother to make them rhyme, which I find rather refreshing.

The Couch and I Was Hoping belong together in my personal interpretation of the album, and I believe the first-person narrator in The Couch and the second-person character in I Was Hoping are very similar, if not the same person. For some reason, I imagine The Couch to be fictitious and I Was Hoping to be taken from Alanis Morissette’s life, but I have no other basis for this assumption than my rampant imagination.

Also in my imagination, the guy she meets up with is older than her. He’s in a troubled marriage (or claims to be) and she likes him, even though it’s also obvious that they are very different people with vastly different beliefs. So she was hoping that they’d be good for each other, maybe get together, but now she realizes it’s pretty hopeless.

The part I remember and like most of the song is this:

“It’s a cycle, really. You think I’m withdrawing and guilt tripping you, I think you’re insensitive and I don’t feel heard. And I said, ‘Do you believe we are fundamentally judgmental? Fundamentally evil?’ And you said ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘I don’t believe in revenge, in right or wrong, good or bad.’ You said: ‘Well, what about that man that I saw handcuffed in the emergency room, bleeding after beating his kid, and she threw a shoe at his head. I think what he did was wrong and I would’ve had a hard time feeling compassion for him.’ I had to watch my tone for fear of having you feel judged.”

Personally, I also believe we are fundamentally judgemental, but I don’t think we’re fundamentally evil. I don’t believe in revenge either, although I sometimes fantasize about it on the spur of the moment. Interesting in this particular song, however, is not only the subject matter, but also that their positions clash the way they do.

Well, I still love the album and the song 11 years after it was released, and so I will let this little article stand as a tribute to one of my favorite albums, and also as a tribute to my advancing age.

11
Nov
09

Pixar’s Up does NOT get two thumbs up

Up by Pixar

Fly around the world with a lot of beautiful balloons.

Last weekend I finally got the chance to watch Up in 3D in a cinema near me.

Up, as you may know, is another Pixar movie. I like Pixar ever since I’ve seen Finding Nemo, which is my favorite animated movie of all times. I’ve also really liked Monsters, Inc. and WALL-E, as well as their short films For The Birds, Geri’s Game and Presto, but was disappointed with The Incredibles and Ratatouille.

Still, I’d watch almost anything in 3D because I like the 3D format a lot. I’ve seen Monsters vs Aliens and Ice Age 3 in 3D, and I even watched the really bad movie Beowulf for its 3D effects.

Now, Up is different in that it doesn’t appear to have been made with the 3D effect in mind. At least the 3D effect is subtle most of the time, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I personally think that the 3D format might save the movie industry, as it’s a good reason to go to your local 3D cinema instead of watching the movie at home without that particular special effect. I’d be excited to see more normal movies (dramas, thrillers) in 3D, but maybe that’s just me.

Up tells the story of an old widowed man who is supposed to give up his house and move into an old people’s home. Instead of doing that, he ties a bunch of balloons to his house and flies away with it, accidentally taking a young boy scout with him who therefore joins his adventures.

Judging from the trailers for this movie, you’d think the old man was a grumpy fella with a strangely endearing crankiness about him. He’s much nicer in the actual movie, however, for better or for worse, and while at first the ailments of old age are cause for a number of laughs, Pixar doesn’t really follow through with the theme much. While the senior citizen needs a walker in day-to-day life and a stairlift to move around his house, he later does all sorts of stunts and running around and hard physical labor.

Also disappointing in this movie are the talking dogs. I feel it requires too much suspension of disbelief, even considering this is an animated movie for children. Yes, we had talking fish in Finding Nemo, but they only ever talked to one another, not to humans. And while the talking dogs are explained (“Our smart owner made us a dog collar that enables us to speak”), I couldn’t help but find all of it very silly. I think Pixar did an extraordinary job before in making a quiet robot likeable (WALL-E), in making a mute rabbit likeable (Presto) – heck, they can even made a lamp likeable (Luxo Jr. and their animated logo)! So why resort to talking dogs? I won’t even elaborate on the part where they pilot fighter planes.

The best part of the movie was the backstory that explored the old man’s life, of how he met his wife, married her and grew old with her. Personally, I found that to be the most touching part of the film. I wish the talking dogs hadn’t spoiled the rest of it.