Jack Kerouac, as Sal Paradise once said: "I like too many things and get all confused and hung-up running from one falling star to another till i drop. This is the night, what it does to you. I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion." And I think that's a rather apt description of my blog over the years, and perhaps the most perfect description of me in general that I've ever read. So that's what this blog is, a collection of the falling stars that are beckoning me at any time.

25 July 2006

cosmo is better in Europe (another thing I never thought I'd ponder about)

(I started writing this almost a week ago, got distracted and saved it, the thought train may have derailed I'm afraid.)
I've long been a fan of UK magazines over most American ones in certain areas. For instance I think Empire is one of the best mainstream movie mags and it makes me sad for all those years I was reading Movieline for my not so elitist fix (though there was something entertaining about trying to guess if an actor would pass my movieline test. Few ever did, because Movieline was really excellent at making everyone they interviewed come off as a completely self-obsessed asshole who was nowhere near as compelling as they thought they were. Henry Rollins was the big exception; he came off as a self-obsessed asshole who actually was as compelling as he thought he was, and the interview introduced me to the bit of cocktail trivia that is the fact that he keeps a piece of his best-friend's brain in a jar on his desk. I'm sure one day that will be a question on Jeopardy or Who Wants to Be a Millionaire or something, and then I will win, (or you, now that you've read it, or if you've selected me as your phone a friend lifeline) Anyway, I read Empire, I read Q, though technically my favourite music magazine is Resonance which is out of Seattle and thus American, however it's not a major magazine and thus not really what I'm about to discuss because smaller magazines tend to have better design or more freedom with content choices in general because they are more willing to experiment to get a reader base and also they haven't whored out to advertisers because they have to get a reader base before advertisers will want them to whore themselves out. Consequently the reason that I love Empire is because while they are a mainstream publication, rather than a scholarly film journal, they still have features and reviews of films, including classics, which talk seriously about the film theory aspects of films, including otherwise entertainment only blockbuster movies. In market-comparable film magazines on this side of hte Atlantic I find you either get overly serious or pretentiousness or pointless PR driven pap.

Today I picked up a UK Cosmo, there was already a US Cosmo in the drawer at work. I read the UK Cosmo and was struck at how much longer it took me to read through and how much more content it seemed to have. It takes about an hour with customer interruptions to read an American Cosmo. I don't really like American Cosmo it's just a bunch of sex-related rehashings of YM embarrassing moment stories, yet another description of that bold new sex move (the reverse cowgirl has been the ost popular selection for about 2 years running) that's somehow been bold and new for the last 15 years that I've been looking at that magazine, a horoscope about what everyone's best days to hook up with their co-workers are, some hot new trend that is the exact opposite of what they told you was hot last month, a vapid interview with a celebrity which now features some myspace meme style questionnaire that they all fill out with handwriting that looks like they've just graduated grade 8 and are excited about starting high school, and a few pictures of coked out whores in clothing that costs more than your rent and will never look good on anyone who is not a coked out whore. Oh wait I almost forgot now there are 8 or so pages of bland looking guys with surfer physiques and no shirts on and half of the content is targeted at men (presumably because half of Cosmo's readership is men who want to wank to the photos of coked out whores in pantaloons [and what the fuck is up with pataloons anyway?! Who? Who one day said at the meeting of the style council: 'You know, I was looking at some paintings of Sir Francis Drake and William Shakespeare and just admiring their poofy pants, I really think that this year's hot shorts style should be pantaloons.' Were they high?])

Basically I find it vapid and completely ads dominated. I felt a bit surprised reading the UK version because there seemed to be a lot more content and much of it was really useful to the sort of general person who reads a women's fashion mag. You know those of us that don't have 1200 dollars to put don on a single pocketbook and are not a size 0. I was curious though whether it was true or just a perception of more content so I counted pages of the 240 pages in the August American Cosmo only 115 of those pages contained actual content which is 48% conversely the UK version was 296 pages 136 of which had content (though the UK edition has a rather big classifieds section including several pages of career pages of companies hiring so if you knock those out the percentage climbs to 51% content, but counting all the pages that's only 46% and therefore actually less content to advertising than the US version just slightly.

First off it's pretty sickening that more than half of both magazines is taken up entirely by advertisements. What's most interesting is that there's a strong perception in me that there is significantly more content in the UK version (I was actually expecting them both to be vapid and ad-filled so it's not like I suddenly have a culture snobbery in this case) I've come to decide that a lot of it has to do with the design and layout decisions, at least as much as the choice of content. In the American edition, you have to wade through 16 pages of ads before you even come to the contents page while in the UK version it's on page 3. In the UK edition pages are laid out so that there's a lot of content on the right-hand side of a spread and when you flip those pages there's either continuing text, or the next story on the verso of that page whilst in the US version the layout favours sticking all content pages on the left on what is mentally seen as the back of the last page while the advertisements take up the right hand prime real estate in the spread. (Now I know we all read left to right in English, but the right side is still the prime real estate because one we don't read magazines like we do books, generally due to the format and two our eye wants to travel right anyway especially if there's a giant dominant image on that side as opposed to text.) Text is rarely carried across both sides of a single page so everything seems broken up by ads in a way it doesn't in the UK arrangement, because even if all the pages are separate single page stories carrying it over onto the backside of the page content-wise helps create an illusion of bigger chunks of content.

10 July 2006

This is probably why I don't write music reviews

As I'm a hopeless music addict I thought I'd also start doing a random set of reviews of things I've downloaded or listened to in a week. Thus providing content to this journal in these times when nothing is particularly going on in my life otherwise to write about. I'm so generally long-winded it's an interesting exercise to blurb like this.

This week's downloads (part 1):
nobody and mystic chords of memory-- tree colored see: what it is: Sweeping alt-country Americana mixed with electronic elements and hip hop that makes for a genuinely satisfying indie pop record, and a perfect addition to your summer soundtrack. Just listening to the tracks surrounds you in an aural version of hazy summer heat and floating idly in a canoe down the creek or lounging on a picnic blanket somewhere in a wooded clearing (or maybe I've been down the basement too long and I'm hallucinating the childhood I didn't actually live, but imagined I would have if only I could have lived in the books I read growing up.) I wouldn't be surprised if this album pops up on some year end best of lists.

Ed Harcourt-- the beautiful lie: Apparently, this chap is rather prolific. I don't know how I've missed him before, probably because I'm not the sort who usually downloads lush pop singer-songwriter type albums, mainly because that genre is full of utter shite (like James Blunt), but lately I've been more willing to give anything a shot, and this album is well worth it. What it is: the sort of sweet mainly acoustic pop album whose tracks you could imagine on a thoughtful gen-x romantic comedy's soundtrack. You'll likely like it if you like: M Ward, Tom Waits or The Eels My favourite songs: 'you only call me when you're drunk', 'I'm the drug' 'the last cigarette' and 'whirlwind in d minor'

Peeping Tom: You can always trust that a Mike Patton project will be different and interesting. They all sound slightly like an AM easy listening channel run through a perverterator, and would probably soundtrack a porn film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, but that's interesting right? Of course it is. Peeping Tom is actually a soundtrack of sorts, the project was inspired by the 1960 thriller. Collaborators include Amon Tobin, Dose One, Massive Attack, Kool Keith and Norah Jones. The Norah Jones track 'sucker' is genius. Made to be listened to: while driving downtown at night or at any party where you want to invoke a slightly seedy stripclub that for some reason is where to too hip to trend hop congregate. Best tracks: 'five seconds', 'mojo' and 'sucker'

quasi-- when the going gets dark Quasi remains a darker more sonically complex cynical and bitter Ben Folds five. The music is harder and less twee than before, but still unmistakably quasi. Best tracks: 'I don't know you anymore' and 'death culture blues'

casiotone for the painfully alone-- etiquette Owen Ashworth is sounding a bit scarily like Connor Oberst on his new album, well minus that obnoxious tremolo. If you think I'm kidding, listen to 'young shields.' Etiquette is a much slicker, more produced effort than the previous albums, the lofi casiotone is still there, but it sounds more like an instrument rather than a gimmick this time. Overall a really nice progression musically and a worthwhile album. best tracks: 'young shields', 'I love creedance' and 'bobby malone moves home'

Gomez-- how we operate: Gomez is one of those bands that I never got into despite the many times they were supposed to be on the cusp of being the next best thing. They still sound like they're on the cusp of being big, but I mean they sound like they're on the edge of being great, not that this album could put them into the big. Don't get me wrong, it's an alright album, though I think it sounds like it could have come out 10 years ago as much as today it has a kind of bland 90s alt-rock timelessness about it.

Keane-- Under the Iron Sea Dear Keane, Why do all the songs on your new album sound exactly alike? And why do they sound like they could also be on a Coldplay album? Is it because someone told you that the world needed more coldplay songs, but Chris Martin could only write so many at a time so you thought you'd bravely step in to fill the void we all felt? To be honest, I like Keane more than I like Coldplay, mainly because as soon as 'Yellow' hit the airwaves I immediately loathed Martin et al for making me want to puncture my eardrums. I'll probably not delete the album from my harddrive just in case I ever have one of those days where I need to wear a thin floaty blouse and khakis and walk through the rain in the park distressed about fucking up and mucking up a relationship with my soulmate, because we all know this would be the soundtrack for that montage that ends in a profoundly revealing makeout session while the synths swell to orchestral levels, and I'm certainly not doing the makeup makeout to coldplay.