Thursday, February 28, 2008

Jerry Schroeder

It takes one hell of a clever recording artist to get me to listen to ambient electronica. And that artist is Jerry Schroeder.

While I, like countless music enthusiasts, rebel against the invisible hands that force us to affix genre labels to every music act in existence, I do believe that every music act needs some kind of genre label to serve as a verbal descriptor...even if the artist in question is alone in his or her genre. In the case of Renton, WA-based Jerry Schroeder, that genre label might be something like "make-out music for robots."

Xbox 360 owners may have heard Schroeder's work without realizing it; he provided the complete sound design for the game Hexic, which comes pre-installed on the console's hard drive. The game itself, a simple puzzle title with a subdued audio aesthetic, owes much of its appeal to the dreamlike aural mixture of ambient, trip hop and dub sensibilities that underscore its comparatively garish color scheme. In fact, until I discovered this page with Schroeder's Hexophilia tracks available for download, I found myself playing Hexic just to hear the music.

If the rhythmic spookiness of Hexophilia doesn't quite do it for you, consider any of the other tracks available for listening on Schroeder's page. Then tell your robot friends about the new make-out music you've discovered for them. They'll name their kids after you.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Let's Learn Japanese: Kuuki Yomenai

A very useful (yet difficult-to-translate) Japanese phrase is kuuki yomenai. Literally translated, kuuki yomenai means "can't read the air." It is used to describe people who lack social tact. The written phrase looks like this:


Always the innovators, Japanese young people have recently abbreviated kuuki yomenai to the Roman alphabet letters "K.Y." But sometimes just saying that someone is kuuki yomenai doesn't do justice to that person's lack of social skills. Sometimes you need to take it up a notch. At times like these, you have to use chou kuuki yomenai:


That means "REALLY can't read the air," and is abbreviated "C.K.Y."

I want everyone back home in the US who reads this to try using "K.Y." or "C.K.Y." in daily conversation. When someone asks you what it means, tell them what it means, then tell them to start using it.

The English language needs a phrase like this.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Police Concert

Tonight's Police show at Tokyo Dome was just about as good as it could have been, considering the fact that the band members' combined age is about 400. Luckily, I was so far from the stage I couldn't really tell how old they looked. The great thing about the show was that it was just the Sting, Summers and Copeland playing instruments that sounded very much like their 70s and 80s counterparts, and with very little extra nonsense thrown in. No keyboards, no saxophone, no backup singers dressed as drum majorettes. They even used some of the medley patterns and "live-set shenanigans" they used during their 80s tours (e.g., the starting and stopping goofiness at the end of "Hole In My Life").

A word on Stewart Copeland: I already knew he was the greatest American drummer ever. But tonight he also wore one of the coolest shirts I've ever seen: A black jersey with the red Ghost In the Machine logo on the front. He wore a Police shirt to a Police concert...while playing drums for the Police. If anyone else did that, I'd say they were foolish.

The set list was as follows:

Message in a Bottle
Synchronicity II
Walking On the Moon
Voices Inside My Head / When the World Is Running Down
Don't Stand So Close to Me
Driven to Tears
Hole In My Life
Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic
Wrapped Around Your Finger
De Doo Doo Doo De Da Da Da
Invisible Sun
Walking In Your Footsteps*
Can't Stand Losing You / Regatta de Blanc

First encore:
King of Pain
So Lonely
Every Breath You Take

Final encore:
Next to You

*Featured weird video footage of computer-generated dinosaur skeletons, not to mention Sting playing a pan flute.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Continued Intrigue in the JT Gyoza Scandal

The scrutiny I wanted Japan Tobacco to undergo following their poisonous gyoza screw-up has all but materialized.

News outlets reported Saturday that, just prior to the public announcement that tainted gyoza had been sold, JT's stock dropped dramatically due to a sudden leap in sell volume. This suspicious 8% drop in stock price has, in turn, sparked suspicions of insider trading among shareholders who knew bad news was about to be made public.

I really wish I could look at this revelation as good news, but there's a major problem: The Japanese government, whose job it is to investigate this kind of unsavory business, happens to own 50% of Japan Tobacco. Would it be silly of me to expect someone to do a criminal investigation of himself...and do it well?

Yes, I guess so.

So rather than the satisfaction I might have gotten from knowing that JT's corruption would be appropriately punished, I am left with an increased feeling of agitation when I hear nationalist knuckleheads badmouthing China for producing some gyoza that made a handful of people sick. If those people really feel their safety has been compromised, I cordially invite them to cut back on the gyoza and shut the hell up. Meanwhile, here we are standing around like fools waiting for our leaders to investigate themselves for criminal negligence and unethical business practices.

Man, are we stupid.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Clean Movies, Dirty Life

Misguided Utah man Daniel Dean Thompson thought it would be a good idea to edit nudity and harsh language out of Hollywood films and then rent them out for profit. Apparently, he also thought it would be a good idea to have sex with a fourteen-year-old.

Thompson's film censorship/rental enterprise (operating under various names including Clean Flicks and Flix Club) was targeted by Hollywood studios who were, not surprisingly, irate with the man's practice of making money off his own "clean" versions of their films and put an end to his business at the end of 2007. That, however, didn't stop Thompson from exploding onto news pages once again. It turns out his own sexual antics are more obscene than the stuff he claimed to be protecting kids from with his rental business. He ended up in jail for sexual abuse and unlawful sexual activity with a minor.

The linked news article calls this a "shocking discovery," but I beg to differ. The people who put themselves in charge of advocating for your kids are also the first ones to be found fornicating with your kids. The next time you hear someone talk about fighting indecency, obscenity or profanity, you know that's someone you don't want little Johnny and Susie hanging out with.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Japan Tobacco Wants Us All Dead

Many thanks to all those who offered guidance on my iPod replacement adventure. I will consider every option (even those goofy music player shoes from outer space).

My daily musical goings-on have been superseded by the far more pressing issue of DEATH GYOZA! This week saw dozens of "claimers" (corrupted English for people of a litigious nature) who stood up and said, "me too" after some imported Chinese gyoza dumplings were reported to have been the cause of unconsciousness in some Japanese kids. Apparently, these pesticide-flavored gyoza are very popular in elementary school lunchrooms...and kids, as we all know, come runnin' for the taste of pesticide.

The Japanese press has gone out of their way to let you know that these gyoza came from China. Incredibly, the incident seems to have reinstated China as the #1 perceived threat to Japanese people, a position long occupied by North Korea. What gets some (although not enough) attention is the fact that the domestic distributor of this tainted food is none other than Japan Tobacco, whose slogan is "JT: The Delight Factory." From now on, however, JT's slogan in my mind will be "JT: The Narcotic Gyoza Factory."

Japan Tobacco has bothered me for a long time now. Ignoring the fact that they're an inherently evil cigarette giant, they grab my annoyed attention every day with their inane TV ads. They have ads with U2 playing in the background (somebody call Bono) bragging about how JT is contributing to scientific progress. They put ads on the train admonishing people who don't practice "good manners" when they smoke. Oh, and by the way, their top seller is a happy little product called "Delight." Buncha clowns.

The good news is that, with all the media coverage and repeated airings of the list of products consumers who don't like the tangy zip of pesticide should avoid, JT Foods will have to be more careful about their importing practices, lest people see that the Delight Factory is also the Unconsciousness, Nausea and Vomiting Factory.

Suddenly I'm hungry for gyoza.