Well, this is going to be my last post before the new year, and Come On Let's Go's first full year on the Internet. Regardless, I'll be glad to see 2010 go. This isn't a blog about my personal life – withstanding childhood nostalgia – but some very awful things happened this year and I have spent most of it adjusting to the fact that their aftermath will pretty much be my life from here on out. I don't mean that to sound as apocalyptic as it does, but god damn if my family didn't draw the short straw and get a whole lot smaller this year.
...and yet in many other ways, it is probably the best year I've had yet. And I don't mean that in some Solzhenitsyn-esque making-the-best-of-it way. Genuinely and honestly, this has been a really great year.
Enough of that. In honor of COLG's full blog-year, let's take a look at some posts I am particularly proud of:
Banana: Anti-humor on the B6.
Zakurka: A Russian cigarette-pack retrospective.
Hyperbrooklyn: Snark about Brooklyn neighborhoods.
Every Personal Trace: These are the places where I've lived.
I Believe in Yesterdays: Soviet and Post-Soviet animation.
An Explosion in a Shingle Factory: My visit to the 2010 Armory exhibit of contemporary art.
The Language of the Unheard: Civil rights struggles and modern media.
...and a very special thanks to my friends who helped me keep schedule by covering for me when tragedy struck
Perusing the Stack: CJ on his latest media choices.
...and finally, let's all say goodbye to my mother, Ludmila Goldberg, who passed away on March 30th, 2010, just two weeks shy of her 53rd birthday:
I found this ad in a 1991 issue of Computer Gaming World.
However morbid that copy may have been during the Gulf War, it's a lot worse now.
Below is the (unintentionally) romantically-titled "Shadows on the Sidewalk" ("Тени на тротуарах"/"Tenyi na Tratuarakh") It is a beautifully shot Soviet social hygiene film about the lures and depravities of rock and roll culture.
While more-or-less indistinct from American social hygiene films of the same nature, the Soviet-ness bursts forth in its moments. State disapproved rock music, for instance, is distributed through dubbed x-ray plates, which serve as makeshift records. And the culture spawned by these bootlegs? Well, it takes away valuable time young Soviets could be using to develop state infrastructure and comradeship within factories.
My old roommate Jeff was responsible for introducing me to a lot of indie/lo-fi/twee music that I now enjoy on a regular basis. He's a big K Records fan who lived in Olympia during their big music boom -- much like the one Brooklyn has been experiencing for the last while -- and was once even mailed the album to complete his Beat Happening collection by K's founder Calvin Johnson (what with Johnson also fronting Beat Happening.) Anyhow, Jeff and I used to hang out in his room as he played ADD-DJ, cycling through single songs from his enormous CD collection, jewel cases and booklets everywhere. Off the top of my head, he introduced me to the aforementioned Beat Happening, the Field Mice and NYC's own Jeff Lewis, all of whom I turn on -- if even for a single song -- at least twice a month.
What's this leading up to? Well, he also introduced me to a band called Heavenly, who I should have enjoyed. They had everything I liked: ethereal female vocals, jangly and distorted instrumentation, sweet-but-acerbic lyrics. The combination, unfortunately, did not work for reasons I still cannot explain. A few months later, however, I came across a home-made, Internet-distributed compilation called "Twee As Fuck: The Joy of Kittenhood," (also featured in this post) which was based partly around Pitchfork's 2005 "Twee As Fuck" indie pop article. The one song that really, really got to me was a track called "C is the Heavenly Option" by Heavenly, featuring -- you guessed it -- Beat Happening's Calvin Johnson. This time, it worked in every possible way it could work. Calvin's bass vocals offset Amelia Fletcher's perfectly, and the lyrics bit.
So, here's "C is the Heavenly Option":
The entire compilation is available for download here.
It's pretty much an open secret that I love Christmas. It's inappropriate enough as a Jew to love the birth of
our their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, so imagine how I feel about it being a secular Jew. I grew up watching Christmas specials on TV, and considering I watched at least six to eight hours of television a day growing up, that was a lot of Christmas specials. In school, we had regular class stage productions and sing-a-longs, so the lyrics to most non-religious carols are permanently ingrained.
So, imagine my surprise and delight when a few years ago I learned that many, many of my beloved Christmas carols were written by Jews! Sure, they might not have celebrated the holiday -- although, some may have; the Hanukkah thing is pretty recent (it is by no means a High Holiday) and so is relating Christmas to Jesus outside of the home -- but they acknowledged and appreciated it enough. Sure they were selling these songs like hotcakes made of crack, but that little idealistic part of me that truly believes in the immortality of art takes over this time of year and I'd like to think that no song can get as popular as these without being genuinely inspired by the spirit of whatever the hell it is that Christmas is all about (I couldn't tell you myself as the hours and years of Christmas specials have gone all Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius/Simulacra and Simulation in my head.)
I started listening to electronic music via "Solid State," a Saturday-night techno/house/etc. show on K-ROCK, NYC's old alternative/rock/metal station. "Born Slippy," a track by Underworld that was featured in Trainspotting, was probably the first song I heard on that show that I really, really enjoyed. I'd heard nothing like it before. Listening to it on the radio the first time, I also misheard Trainspotting as Batman and Robin and for years thought there was a cooler, underground soundtrack to that godawful film.
Today I took the final exam and submitted my last paper for my English seminar course. Now, I have a single paper left on Nazis, and my final full semester is over. Why Nazis? because the only other option is to write about the Bush administration. If I attempt to do the latter, I will end up handing in a semi-coherent conspiracy theory piece that may as well be a corkboard with "HALIBURTON," "SOUTH OSSETIA," and "DICK CHENEY'S ROBOT HEART" connected by string wrapped around pins.
So, here's "Der Fuehrer's Face," a Donald Duck cartoon from 1943. I originally heard about its existence when I was eleven or twelve, from my mom's boyfriend, who heard about it on Howard Stern. Considering that I had grown up in the sanitized Cartoon Network era, after their purge of anything remotely "offensive" from their collection of classic animation, I refused to believe in it. I wouldn't encounter the wide world of pitch-black Holocaust jokes until high school and my complete disbelief was further supported by growing up a European Jew from Leningrad and taught that there is nothing funny about Hitler, ever. When a friend of mine tracked this down and showed it to me, around age sixteen or so, it blew my mind. It didn't feel like something anyone at Disney would ever have the balls to make, and yet here it was! Donald Duck the Nazi, just like mom's boyfriend said!
As with all of Disney's output during that period, it's a wonderful piece of music and animation regardless of the subject matter. While not particularly witty -- wartime propaganda rarely is -- it is rather funny. The conformity and uniformity of the Nazi regime tends to breed lazy satire, but this is quite the opposite; the animators imaginations are clearly firing on all cylinders and they thankfully set out to make a good cartoon as much as a piece of propaganda. Unfortunately, this is also a cartoon to which I must give the "product of its times" racism-pass and I'd rather go no further into that territory lest I end up turning the blog post into a dissertation on race and politics and then offhandedly mention Glenn Beck and have it turn from dissertation into that whole conspiracy-pinboard situation I am trying to avoid in the first place.
I love how the two videos below are almost complete inverses of one another. Not only that, they also remind me of sitting with my mom in the back seat of my uncle's car, some spring night in Israel. I must have been about 13 at the time. He had the radio on to a pop station and what came on was a skit from some rap album or another (although I’m still not entirely sure it was an actual rap skit and not the first five minutes of Aphex Twin’s Windowlicker video.) This had been the first time I had ever been barraged by so much obscenity with adults, nevermind my family, in the frame, and I just sat there slightly giggle myself. After about a minute and several dozen angry conjugations of the word “fuck,” my mother asked my uncle to change the station, more out of annoyance than anything else.
Self-playing Super Mario World levels have been around for a while now; the editor for the SNES SMW ROM has been with us for almost a decade now. Three years ago, Joystiq did a pretty good rundown on them. Recently, however, I was introduced to what I think is the alpha and omega of the self-playing Super Mario World genre. It's a four-part harmony set, appropriately enough, to Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now." The amount of skill and coordination it took to do not only do this, but do this and make it look as awesome as it looks, is staggering.