Friday, July 31, 2009

The Clock in the Sky is Pounding Away

Dr. Fred Beldinstein and Lori the Librarian embark today on a mission referred to by Dr. Beldinstein as "Project: A2."

Their departure for a location known as "The Mitten" means The Typing Monkey will have a decidedly more difficult time drinking with them while the good Dr. spins Bo Diddley's Black Gladiator, various Venom cuts, and as much of Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music as he can get away with before the rest of us notice.

They are good people. They will be missed. Congratulations to you Lori. Good luck to you both.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Amazing Disappearing Music Magazine

A former Blender writer outlines the "three biggest reasons music magazines are dying" in a piece published by Slate. It's not groundbreaking to anybody who's been paying attention, but he does talk about it in a way that doesn't condemn any of the players. He simply lays out the ugly details of how the big magazines are slowly sinking into a tar pit of public dispassion.

Is it still vivisection if the creature is barely breathing?

Very Metal

Have you talked to your children about The History of Heavy Metal? Perhaps it's time.

Artist Mike Hill, a longtime fan of heavy metal music, decided to make a "single drawing -- a giant timeline that contained every heavy metal band from the 1970's to present day, organized by subgenre."

It has since evolved into four parts, and even if you don't know Angel Witch from Morbid Angel, the art pieces themselves are worth a look simply so the viewer can marvel at what a monumental task Hill assigned himself.

The "Metal Subgenre Popularity Index" has an almost geometric-abstraction look, until a closer examination reveals that it's a functioning chart.

Hill keeps a blog about his endeavor too.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Seasonally Effective

Ambivalence Avenue
The press materials for Bibio's fourth LP claim that his switch from the Mush label to Warp "reflects a difference in musical output." This is one of those rare instances in which the PR one-sheet is correct.

Bibio, aka Stephen Wilkinson, sings on the majority of the 12 songs comprising Ambivalence. Granted, he uses his voice as another instrument most of the time, masking the clarity of his lyrics, but it's a big step for a man who previously hid behind his hypnotic guitar exercises. The bigger change here is the move toward actual songwriting.

Previous compositions relied heavily on Bibio's brassy guitar picking, looped into brittle melodic cycles. They were not without their charms, but here he's opened up the melodies and stretched them out, creating a broader spectrum of moods and pushing himself into unexpected territory. (His Curtis Mayfield falsetto ribbons around a freeze-dried funk in "Jealous of the Roses.")

The experimental aspects of his work -- field recordings, salvaged equipment not necessarily designed for professional use -- are all still in place. What's different is that he wields them better here. Chopped up recordings of children's voices stutter through the first half of "Fire Ant" and the separation between digital, analog and purely organic instruments is pleasantly, deliberately blurred.

Ambivalence Avenue shifts easily from sun-warmed music to fly kites by ("Lovers' Carvings" and the title track) to autumnal psych-folk ("The Palm of Your Wave" "Abrasion") while still leaving room for sampler & drum machine fun.

Reference materials: Calibrate your interest based on enthusiasm for Boards of Canada, Koushik and loads of other musicians who successfully dress muffled hip-hop beats in psychedelic finery. Or if you liked the direction J Dilla was taking before his death (e.g. "Nothing Like This") you might find new joys in Bibio's music.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Monkey Reads: On Death

The Year of Magical Thinking
By Joan Didion
Leave it to Didion's short, sharp new-journalism-defining style to examine the grieving process with both a microscope and telescope. As with her other non-fiction writing, Didion inserts herself into the equation carefully and well, a feat often imitated but rarely duplicated or perfected by generations of others who've attempted reporter-as-the-story writing.

Discussing her life and her emotions is essential for a book about the death of her husband of 40 years, John Gregory Dunne. But her research and explanations of the cause of death, and how hospitals and other medical staff in the United States deal with death, pulls back just far enough to let the writing function as an examination of our attitudes toward death all while reminding the reader of the very real event that triggered Didion's words.

Identified early on by hospital staff as a "cool customer" because she didn't instantly sob and rend her clothing at the news of her husband's death, Didion immediately -- perhaps uncontrollably -- goes into reporter mode and learns what being a "cool customer" means, even as the layers of her grief peel away. With each layer comes a new discovery about mourning, what we allow ourselves to do and show when everyone around us knows of our personal tragedy.

For all the sadness (her daughter Quintana is fatally ill throughout the course of the book) Didion squeezes some humor out of the story. An attempt to take up crossword puzzles reveals how distracted she is. Later when she reports to a friend that she and her daughter split a Big Mac during a cross-country flight with two medics, Didion's daughter is conscious enough to correct her. It was a Quarter Pounder they ate.

Magical Thinking paints a tender picture of lasting love. For the reader it's a brave exposure of what goes on in the mind of a person who is just beginning to discover and navigate the empty spaces in a life no longer shared.

Reference material: Mary Roach's Stiff is a fascinating book about what happens to cadavers before and after the funeral -- a good read for the clinically minded. But William James' The Varieties of Religious Experience is a better companion to The Year of Magical Thinking. Both touch on the universal and the personal for events that are assured for all of us, and always intertwined.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Mmm. Comics.

We have been posting many links to Websites, news items, and other media lately. (Some might argue that's the entire point of The Typing Monkey.) Soon we'll publish something that requires a little more effort, but until then, blow too much time enjoying the following:

Beware ,There's A Crosseyed Cyclops In My Basement!!!

It's a blog by Zen Tiger that offers hundreds of comic book downloads, with a book for just about every taste. Honest, just start scrolling down the alphabetical list on the right nav of Crosseyed Cyclops and start clicking -- television, film and cartoon characters; mainstream superhero titles; and underground political conspiracy comix all piled up in one place.

Don't thank us, thank Zen Tiger and Datajunkie.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Movie Time!

Even Chuck Jones admits he learned the art of the cartoon gag from Tex Avery. "The Legend of Rockabye Point" was nominated for an Oscar in 1956 and is a fine example of Avery's skill with the medium. The story is one part urban legend, nine parts lunacy, and relentlessly funny.

Gather the kids:

[Courtesy Geancarlo1980]

Bonus fun facts: Chilly Willy and the polar bear are voiced by Daws Butler, who lent his pipes to the majority of cartoon characters for Hanna-Barbera, including Yogi Bear and Snagglepuss. Dal McKennon portrays The Skipper. McKinnon's less well known, but no less acomplished -- he voiced, among others, Archie Andrews and Wally Walrus. (And liked alliteration?)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Blue Wednesday?

April may be the cruelest month, but Wednesday is a killer. According to a five-year study of deaths in the United States, nearly a quarter of all suicides happen on Wednesdays. Read an MSNBC article here or dig into the study itself, from the journal Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology.

Monday, July 6, 2009

A Blinding Sight to See

On the next-to-last day of June, staffers at the The Typing Monkey's Seattle offices arrived to start the work week and were surprised to find publisher S.L. Kreighton in his office already, with the door open and Donovan's "There Is a Mountain" playing on the hi-fi.

Assuming he'd ended up in Seattle on a trans-continental drinking tour, and must be nursing a snarling hangover -- though we all found his musical selection, set on repeat, an odd choice for him sober or drunk -- we let him be.

But his eventual visit to the editorial offices found him in a pleasant mood. It was the kind of cheerfulness that causes suspicion in reasonable people. He smelled of root vegetables, sap and dandelions. Our receptionist insists that the boss had a bit of glitter on his cheeks. Some of the accounting staff saw him in the lobby, engaged in an animated conversation with the janitor, with whom he may or may not have left the building.

We wrote it off as a rarity that we'd all still manage to forget in time. Then the car-rental bill arrived and with a little more investigation, we believe he may have been at the 9th Annual Fairy and Human Relations Congress.

There is such a thing. And now we're a little upset that this wasn't offered as a corporate retreat. Read an account of this year's event.


Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand.
-- from "The Stolen Child" by Wm. Butler Yeats