Steve J. Moore

Archive for the ‘Radio’ Category

Diana Saw Dr. Awkward Was an Aid.

In Comedy, Film, poem, poetry, Radio, The Web, TV on February 8, 2009 at 6:50 pm

So I’ve spent much of this weekend doing several things while my wife was out of town: finding new blogs and people to follow on twitter, watching TV, putting off writing assignments, and watching as much Demetri Martin as I could find on YouTube. If you are following me on Twitter (@stevejmoore), then you probably saw me sharing my excitement at Mr. Martin’s videos as I discovered them.

I had seen his work on Comedy Central, knew he wrote for Conan O’Brien for a while, and was a big fan of his flip-chart bit because of the part where he draws an empty circle and says, “this is a pie chart about procrastination.” That killed me.

I highly suggest that you check out his DVD, Demetri Martin, Person and his new show coming up this Wed. on Comedy Central as well. If Bill Gates was successful because he dropped out of Harvard, then Demetri is so because he dropped out of law school.

What stuck out to me most in his routine was the over 200-word palindrome

img_0310

Yes, I drew these all by myself

“Dammit I’m Mad”

by

Demetri Martin

Dammit I’m mad.
Evil is a deed as I live.
God, am I reviled? I rise, my bed on a sun, I melt.
To be not one man emanating is sad. I piss.
Alas, it is so late. Who stops to help?
Man, it is hot. I’m in it. I tell.
I am not a devil. I level “Mad Dog”.
Ah, say burning is, as a deified gulp,
In my halo of a mired rum tin.
I erase many men. Oh, to be man, a sin.
Is evil in a clam? In a trap?
No. It is open. On it I was stuck.
Rats peed on hope. Elsewhere dips a web.
Be still if I fill its ebb.
Ew, a spider… eh?
We sleep. Oh no!
Deep, stark cuts saw it in one position.
Part animal, can I live? Sin is a name.
Both, one… my names are in it.
Murder? I’m a fool.
A hymn I plug, deified as a sign in ruby ash,
A Goddam level I lived at.
On mail let it in. I’m it.
Oh, sit in ample hot spots. Oh wet!
A loss it is alas (sip). I’d assign it a name.
Name not one bottle minus an ode by me:
“Sir, I deliver. I’m a dog”
Evil is a deed as I live.
Dammit I’m mad.

Truly the work of a solitary genius. Off the top of my head, I only know a few palindromes beyond the title of this post (ah, did you catch it?), “madam, I’m adam,” and “racecar.” I certainly can’t imagine spending time trying to create an entire poem out of nothing but these reflexive devices; simply astonishing and awesome. I think his act, if you take a bit of time to watch it, says a lot about art. Martin was interviewed this week on NPR, which is what prompted me to find more of his material. He has a great narrative and is now an artist I respect very much. His stand-up explores more than jokes; he gets in so many digs about humanity, philosophy, and social idiosyncrasies, but does so with such loveable sophomoric snark, that you have to digest it all with a hearty chuckle.

Very funny, and I hope his new show will be too.

Spider Music and Sad Stories

In Music, poetry, Radio on January 27, 2009 at 12:05 pm

 Chris ThileSara Watkins, and Sean Watkins started making music together before they were old enough to drive. With violins, a mandolin, a guitar, and sirenesque voices they made five albums just this side of inspired. They took me in and introduced me to folk music as a genre; told me stories about foxes catching their dinner, lighthouses concerned with love, and little birds leaving the nest. Their sound was so rich in emotion, so authentically human, I couldn’t get enough. Why Should the Fire Die  was their most mature, and final album. We were invited continually into their lives through allegory and heard about their hard luck, their heartbreak , and their crises of faith. Then, in 2007, something very sad happened. The band Nickel Creek parted ways after over twenty years of making music together. 

 

Chris Thile had already made a career on the side as a virtuoso mandolinist even while Nickel Creek was touring and recording. He joined up with a few other neoclassical bluegrass-heads and formed The Punch Brothers. They continue to churn out overpaced octaves and twinkling tiny tunes today along with giving Bela Fleck and Edgar Meyer a run for their money.

 

 

Sean Watkins took a little more time off. It wasn’t until he met up with former Switchfoot frontman Jon Foreman that he got back to work. Together, the two formed Fiction Family. Not the team-up I would have suspected. I hadn’t really even heard Switchfoot since “Dare You to Move” back in 2004. NPR’s Ken Tucker gave the review that introdced me to the Family. He called their work, “spider-web music — delicate, industrious and intricate. Here today and, perhaps, gone tomorrow.” After listening to their work, I couldn’t think of a better fitting description. There are glimmers of beauty like dew drops in the sun, less filled-in areas that leave its makers vulnerable, and awkard stretching strands to some far-away branches. 

 

ffalbumcover

 

  1. “When She’s Near” – 2:55
  2. “Out Of Order” – 3:31
  3. “Not Sure” – 3:06
  4. “Betrayal” – 3:03
  5. “Elements Combined” – 3:38
  6. “War In My Blood” – 2:57
  7. “Throw It Away” – 4:14
  8. “Closer Than You Think” – 3:12
  9. “Please Don’t Call It Love” – 5:11
  10. “Mostly Prove Me Wrong” – 3:02
  11. “We Ride” – 3:18
  12. “Look For Me Baby” – 1:35

 

 

When you listen to this album you will hear the simplistic elements of Switchfoot’s New Way to be Human, but infused with the poetic wonderings of songs like Nickel Creek’s When in Rome. Especially on “Elements Combined,” we get a true marriage of styles. You hear the high-strung mandolin’s plea against Foreman’s tin-can voice singing “some day you’ll be mine.”  Other tracks like “Throw it Away” introduce us to the slow contemplation of a man drinking wine alone–the image of a closed book in the corner. This folornness is whispy like the spider web too, because it is easily wiped away by the very next track, “Closer Than You Think.” 

 

I can’t decide if I like it as a whole. At times it’s “Scotch and Chocolate” and at times it’s alt-rock in a church I heard in 9th grade. It builds its pace up, slows down, shows you a delicate flower in the road, then spends the next fifty miles mourning its loss to the wind. There are songs I’d very much like to come on the radio at random to lift my spirits, maybe to help me appreciate a sunset or to help me find my way home. “We Ride” has a sound of that sort. Ambiant and ambling, the ticking clock of the stringed instruments tumbles forward clumsily into slow drum breaks and a lyric solo.

 

Sometimes I get very tired of hearing Switchfoot’s laothesome signature ding ding ding ding… circus chime xylophone in the background (you know what I mean), but generally this album stands out as one of the more interesting trials I’ve heard this year. I leave you with their first track, and first single, “When She’s Near.”

 

A Poetic Inauguration

In poetry, Radio, TV, World Events, Writing on January 20, 2009 at 9:48 am

Because I love poetry, because I love politics, because I am too lazy busy to write anything else, I am posting a copy of the inaugural poem that Robert Frost read for John F. Kennedy on this very day in 1961.

Barack Obama has chosen Yale poet and scholar Elizabeth Alexander to pen the fourth presidential inauguration poem for him. She was a Pulitzer finalist in 2005 and has written several volumes of poetry.

 This first poem, Dedication (pictured below), was written in commemoration of John F. Kennedy’s 1961 Inauguration, but due to 87 year old eyes, Frost could not read the type. Instead of the poem below, he read The Gift Outright (further below) from memory.

 

frost

 

Dedication

 

Summoning artists to participate

In the august occasions of the state

Seems something artists ought to celebrate.

Today is for my cause a day of days.

And his be poetry’s old-fashioned praise

Who was the first to think of such a thing.

This verse that in acknowledgment I bring

Goes back to the beginning of the end

Of what had been for centuries the trend;

A turning point in modern history.

Colonial had been the thing to be

As long as the great issue was to see

What country’d be the one to dominate

By character, by tongue, by native trait,

The new world Christopher Columbus found.

The French, the Spanish, and the Dutch were downed

And counted out. Heroic deeds were done.

Elizabeth the First and England won.

Now came on a new order of the ages

That in the Latin of our founding sages

(Is it not written on the dollar bill

We carry in our purse and pocket still?)

God nodded his approval of as good.

So much those heroes knew and understood,

I mean the great four, Washington,

John Adams, Jefferson, and Madison

So much they saw as consecrated seers

They must have seen ahead what not appears,

They would bring empires down about our ears

And by the example of our Declaration

Make everybody want to be a nation.

And this is no aristocratic joke

At the expense of negligible folk.

We see how seriously the races swarm

In their attempts at sovereignty and form.

They are our wards we think to some extent

For the time being and with their consent,

To teach them how Democracy is meant.

“New order of the ages” did they say?

If it looks none too orderly today,

‘Tis a confusion it was ours to start

So in it have to take courageous part.

No one of honest feeling would approve

A ruler who pretended not to love

A turbulence he had the better of.

Everyone knows the glory of the twain

Who gave America the aeroplane

To ride the whirlwind and the hurricane.

Some poor fool has been saying in his heart

Glory is out of date in life and art.

Our venture in revolution and outlawry

Has justified itself in freedom’s story

Right down to now in glory upon glory.

Come fresh from an election like the last,

The greatest vote a people ever cast,

So close yet sure to be abided by,

It is no miracle our mood is high.

Courage is in the air in bracing whiffs

Better than all the stalemate an’s and ifs.

There was the book of profile tales declaring

For the emboldened politicians daring

To break with followers when in the wrong,

A healthy independence of the throng,

A democratic form of right divine

To rule first answerable to high design.

There is a call to life a little sterner,

And braver for the earner, learner, yearner.

Less criticism of the field and court

And more preoccupation with the sport.

It makes the prophet in us all presage

The glory of a next Augustan age

Of a power leading from its strength and pride,

Of young ambition eager to be tried,

Firm in our free beliefs without dismay,

In any game the nations want to play.

A golden age of poetry and power

Of which this noonday’s the beginning hour.

 

 

gift-outright-frost

The Gift Outright

 

Poem recited instead by Robert Frost at the

1961 Inauguration

  

The land was ours before we were the land’s.

She was our land more than a hundred years

Before we were her people. She was ours

In Massachusetts, in Virginia,

But we were England’s, Still colonials,

Possessing what we still were unpossessed by,

Possessed by what we now no more possessed.

Something we were withholding from our land of living,

And forthwith found salvation in surrender.

Such as we were we gave ourselves outright

(The deed of gift was many deeds of war)

To the land vaguely; realizing westward,

But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,

Such as she was, such as she would become.

 

As a gem for those of you who at least scrolled to the bottom of this post (not everyone reads poetry carefully, I know) I stumbled upon two poems that Obama, himself, had published in an Occidental College journal years ago. Read them for yourself here.

Not Too Late for This White Horse

In Music, Radio on January 8, 2009 at 10:52 pm

Warning to People of the Internet: the following post contains references to country music.

Taylor Swift’s sophomore album, “Fearless,” enters the room of coked out pop starlets that is pop music with an enchanted poof of fairy dust, looks around, dusts off a stool with a pink feather, and orders a Coke. Prince Charming, Akon, and John Mayer all ask if they can get her a straw. Swift disposes the notions quickly that she’d be someone’s bong hit (sorry Johnny) or something to smack ’til sore (no love for Mr. Kon). Only a gentleman will do.

fearless_cover

Five years ago, I would have never told you that I enjoyed country music, and if I did it would have been a lie. It was usually an experience relegated to the passenger seat of my girlfriend’s car. Slowly but surely, I was assimilated through various means like my interests in folk music (Bob Dylan leads to Gordon Lightfoot, who leads to Nickel Creek, who leads to Dixie Chicks… you get the picture).

I knew even  then that resistence was futile; I would surely soon be reborn in a straw hat, coveralls, a carhart jacket, riding an international harvester. I suppose my conversion is total now, except for all of the stereotypical items I just rattled off, because here I am writing about Taylor Swift.

To be fair, even now I’ve only heard the album because of my wife (still don’t have CMT set to record my DVR, sorry), but I crave variety. My Coverflow should go from Kraftwerk to Tom Waits, from Hootie and the Blowfish to Dave Bruebeck, and from Yo-Yo Ma to (old) Metallica. I’d recommend trying new things to everyone 😉 I find that the more I branch out the more I come to appreciate new things about old favorites.

Back to Taylor, it always makes me happy to see cohesion on an entire album as opposed to a series of single tracks that just happen to be on one disc. Fearless goes from title to title like the pages in Swift’s diary (take that for what you will, but it flows). The fact that she wrote every song herself, with help on only a few, including the female Jack Johnson herself Colbie Caillat, makes for a nice authenticity in style. Every song feels necessary, which, on a pop album of any sub-genre, is not easy to find.

Check out the album on the new DRM-free iTunes +

Taylor Swift - Fearless

Walk This Way Kanye

In Music, Radio, TV on December 31, 2008 at 1:06 pm

Minor disclaimer: I do not like Kanye West  as a person (just see his blog). Mine is far from perfect, but if you actually find a post where he writes, you will get an idea of just how childish and spoiled this overly-produced mega star is. I do, however, have room to appreciate him as an artist.

 

I do like hip-hop and rap (see post on Atomosphere). My tastes in music vary greatly and I credit myself as a person who gives people chances. So, I listened to Mr. West’s entire new album 808s & Heartbreak (I applaud him for his grammatical ommission of an apostrophe in plural but not possessive “808s”) and tried to sincerely block out my usual desire to laugh, cry out in pain, or sigh in disgust.

 

I need music to have a reason behind it. I need to believe that the person or group I’m listening to believes in a message of some sort, even if that message is “we have no message.” As I see it (before hearing 808s), Kanye believes in only himself and his continued ability to make money.

 

808

 

The track list is as follows:

1. “Say You Will”  

2. “Welcome to Heartbreak” (feat. Kid Cudi)

3. “Heartless”  

4. “Amazing” (feat. Young Jeezy)

5. “Love Lockdown”  

6. “Paranoid” (feat. Mr Hudson)

7. “RoboCop”  

8. “Street Lights”  

9. “Bad News”  

10. “See You in My Nightmares” (feat. Lil’ Wayne)

11. “Coldest Winter”  

12. “Pinocchio Story”

 

While listening, I kept thinking to myself,

 

“Geez… who wrote these lyrics…

they’re so boring…”

 

Then I realized that Kanye wrote all of it himself (of course!). Perhaps the only well-produced parts of Mr. West are his beats. Most of the words rapped in the album wouldn’t get you through a high school talent assembly. When you usually get infusions from incredible groups like Daft Punk in songs past ( I keep telling myself they just did it for the money) and you only get acclaim for your sampling feats, there’s a problem with your talent.

 

But moving back to 808s, there were several tracks that started with promise. I couldn’t help but thump my foot and bob my head in time with a few musical phrases here and there. A cool beat would develop… some nice synth motion…that’s not bad… and then BOOM— the Auto-Tune takes over and all you can hear is Kanye’s unsinging, unrapping, whine (it’s something like cats being stepped on during a bowel movement):

 

ugh.

 

It would be different if the well-managed drum machine was interrupted by someone who could either actually rap, like Mos Def, or someone who can actually sing, like John Legend. Sadly, there is no such reprieve with Kanye.

 

I know things like black lights, venetian-blind sunglasses, and pretending you’re as cool as Jesus (or John Lennon) are important, but when did making good music take a back seat to meaningless (albeit highly sellable) personalities?

 

kanye1

 

Most of 808’s is, sadly, exactly what I thought it’d be: ignorable, forgettable, and some of it just plain bad. I won’t start a separate rant here, but I’m tired of songs “feat. ‘so-and-so'” that you would have no idea of unless you were in the studio during the session and you saw them bring in lunch. Sadly, Hip-hop has become somewhat dependent upon name-dropping lately.

 

Here’s the game: lay down one hot track…

*beat boxes while holding tin foil*

release the “song” under a cool pseudonym ignoring spelling and reason (probably with Asian influence for good measure) like:

“Sh4ng Sung”shang_tsung

Then, sell your marketable moniker to big names in need of a quick shot in the arm.

“Bounce ‘dat” by Beyonce feat. Sh4ng Sung

Ca$h in!

 

 

I’m not trying to say hip-hoppers/rappers need to stop collaborating, but just save your thanks for the liner notes unles your act is like Run DMC and Aerosmith.

 

 

I’ll end with a quote:

“Unfortunately for certain media outlets, you will never be able 2 ‘Michael Jackson’ me. That means 2 make it seem like everything I do is so weird or out of place…they always try 2 make it seem like everything is about my ego! That joke is getting old.”

Words for Music, A Sonnet for “The Management”

In Film, Music, Radio, TV, Writing on December 12, 2008 at 11:48 pm

One Strange Title to Another


“Oracular Spectacular” alone is a whopping four iambs,
but I hate counting syllables, hand to my throat
bumping into my chin awkwardly. I’m always left laughing
and I lose count. Better to stick with number of lines
as I listen to the Brooklyn breeding psych pop dancing
of The Management. The only rhyming happens between keys,
as the electric feel wages weekend wars with the youth
and the handshake kids decide “it’s time to pretend”
with pieces of what, I cannot tell. The speaker foam
hides a prision for Bob Dylan, condemned to jamming
with the Sex Pistols using only old church organs,
a hand-me-down strat and Barry Gibb’s larynx. Voices
transport me in a telephone booth to a discotech arcade
where pac-man does lines, trying to escape the ghosts.

.

.

The MGMT’s newest album, “Oracular Spectacular.”

oracular_spectacular_2008

The American Idol Life

In Music, Radio on August 1, 2008 at 7:38 pm

Before this year’s American Idol winner David Cook was crowned, not many people outside of the Midwest, or even Missouri for that matter, had ever heard of a town called Blue Springs. Now the world is abuzz with, well… buzz about this small town’s proclivity for producing even more musicians of Cook-esque caliber.

Let’s take a moment to cross genres from pop-rock to what I’m going to call pop-punktronica.

Enter onto the scene: The American Life, Kansas City’s own octet of punk ambassadors. What tastes David Cook meets with his clean cut charm, powerhouse voice and Seacrest-pleasing boyish face, TAL does so with a rougher-hewn blade; skin-sleeve tattoos, chops, and a general badass nature that escapes anything durrogatorally emo.

Somehow these guys manage to remind me of what I like best about bands like Lit and Marvelous Three while infusing both elements of more hard-edged bands like Pillar and Hawthorn Heights with the occasional Kraftwerkian electronic twist. The synth leed runs rampant behind high-strung guitars while you’re left far away from everything you know about punk rock. Their salutary address Intro comes through loud and clear to herald their arrival onto the scene.

No more are the three-chord filled tracks days of wailing whiners with poorly written anti-establishment lyrics. TAL’s exposition is personal and narrative, giving way to the band’s soul. When was the last time you heard punk rock with a soul? The depth of sound in each chorus and verse leaves you floating in a peaceful state of mind as Coming Home ends. No emo comas here though, a wicked key line snaps you out of any sleepy state you were in and reminds you that We Are Alive.

More surprises await as you surrender your ears to the electronic snare/synth cadence of Wait. Right here is where I knew this album was different; this album was good. You may just have to wait for more yourself.

The American Life’s All the Things I’ve Grown to Miss can be purchased on iTunes

The American Life

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