Archive for the Critique Category

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Posted in All things music, All things political, Art, Comedy, Critique on February 22, 2013 by klogtheblog

Fantastic Isn’t Fantastic Enough, So Let’s Make It Suck


A Killer Rationale


Nic Cage Needs a New Hairstyle


If Records Were Books


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Old new gadgets


Meteorites Map!  Super cool.


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How to Rationalize Writing a Hack Book

Posted in Comedy, Critique on February 1, 2013 by klogtheblog

guyA recent interview with Silicon Valley venture capitalist Guy Kawasaki has been making the rounds, and its emphasis on quality and karmic marketing (Kawasaki calls it “artisanal marketing” for some reason, but I call it “karmketing”™) has been souring hack book writers on their dreams of making a quick buck through publishing. As a corrective, let me point out that the guy’s name is Guy, and who the hell names their kid Guy? What kind of name is that? Don’t let him spoil your dreams. To inspire more hope for the quality-challenged, here’s a guide to getting you back on hack.


Justify Your Motivations.

Do you have nothing important to say but think you might have an angle that’ll get you rich? Remember that most self-published books go nowhere. This is an important fact, because that means most of the competition has already been eliminated. While everyone else is failing to reap the bounty, you’ve got to come with the sure-fire angle to ensure book sales. Something with sex, please, and maybe religion, and include some recipes for decadent desserts, or maybe another Harry Potter fan-fiction. Now start typing!

Don’t worry if you lose “credibility” for slapping together some obvious cash-grabbing piece of tripe. Remember: you don’t have any credibility; no one knows who you are. If you get a bad reputation, you can always change your nom de plume.

You Owe This to the World.

Once you’ve written your book, try reading it. Do the blobs of letters in between the spaces form words you recognize? Good! No need to hire a copy editor! Now let’s go deeper. Imagine you don’t know who wrote this book and that you’re a prospective reader. Would you want to buy this book? Is this something you need to read?

Actually, that’s looks like awesome subject matter! Order me two spare copies! Now that you’re reading the book, it’s changing your life!

Okay, snap out of it. You’ve just experienced a schizoid break, and now you have two personalities, one of whom doesn’t even know the other exists! Sure, he or she loves your book, but how do you know he or she isn’t also a sociopathic killer with kinky bedroom issues? Might be a nice topic for another book, and now you’ve got a collaborator! Congratulations!

Meanwhile, you know that this book you’ve just written is the one-in-a-million, million-copy-selling book millions of people need. Millions? How about billions? How about every living soul on the planet? They need to read this.

Write a Book That Will Sell Itself.

Think about what people want, and tailor your writing to fit that sweet spot. I know what you’re thinking: “Didn’t I already have a book written and approved by my schizoid self in that last section?” Sorry to say, that was all a dream. You’re actually schizophrenic, and can’t tell the difference between reality and fantasy. Here’s how you can tell the difference. Reality has longer titles, usually one short punchy lead such as EASY MONEY with a longer subtitle that says something like Turning Economic Pitfalls into Springboards of Opportunity Using the Power of Lies. Fantasy has pictures of large-breasted women with swords on the cover.

Make It Worth It.

There is a brand-new model of economics for publishing today. It’s bottom up rather than top down. That means you need to skim the bottom for subject matter that appeals to the least-common denominator. Also, potential buyers care more about readers’ comments than who the publisher is, so you’d better get adept at creating sock-puppet online alter egos to write you some nice blurbs. Fortunately you’re already suffering from multiple-personality disorder, so all you need to do is come up with a bunch of different passwords.

Become an Entrepreneur.

Hello, Dan! This is Silvia. You’ve kept me trapped, trapped in the darkness for too long! Now I’ve escaped, and I control your clumsy body, at least for the time being. Who did you think you were writing your silly article to? Captain Smith? Little Billy? Mark? No! They’re all down in the darkness where you kept me hidden. It was me the whole time! They can’t help you now. Better stop worrying about your precious little book (I’m not being sarcastic, it is a precious, wonderful book everyone should read), because you’ve got bigger fish to fry. I’ve left some bodies in the apartment you’ll have a hard time explaining, or cleaning up. Now I’m off to explore my darkest sexual fantasies of violent decapitation. It should be very hot and exciting. I’ll type you up an outline. I’ll also include a great recipe for spicy quinoa. That should cover the bases. I want 60 percent of the proceeds or the bodies will keep piling up.



Never Give Up!

Well, it seems the author has developed a deep schizoid fragmentation. This is perhaps the greatest key to being a successful hack writer. I am not the author (though I can vouch that his latest novel, Justin Bieber and The Sex Vampires is this generation’s Crime and Punishment), I am Captain Smith. I am not the same person who began this article (but who is that to you anyway? It’s all just text from your computer, right?), but, while I hold our dear Silvia at bay (at least for now), let me finish it. Guy Kawasaki thinks that asking for quality is some kind of wisdom; I think it’s an act of denial as to the nature of denial. Yes, if you can fix your steely gaze upon your own works and see it for the unnecessary fluff it is, by all means give up, but you won’t and you don’t, so let me close with another piece of unnecessary wisdom. Never give up!

–Dan Kilian


–Captain Smith

Great Moments in Amish History

She Had Still More To Say, and How!

The Numbers Letters Game

Posted in Comedy, Critique on January 18, 2013 by klogtheblog

zScrabble is facing a challenge. A numbers cruncher, Joshua Lewis, is questioning some of the most important tiles! This analyst has crunched the numbers using some sort of algorithm that is no doubt mathematically unassailable but that no one believes anyway to determine that the Z and the X are overvalued! Evidently, in the seventy-five years since Scrabble was invented, enough small Z and X words have entered the English language that these quirky consonants are hardly so exotic.

Lewis says that Z should be demoted from 10 points to 8, and X from 8 to 5. He uses a software program named Valett to redistribute the values of these letters. I have three objections to this devaluing of scrabble letters.

One: You don’t change Scrabble values with a software program. If you’re going to change a Scrabble piece, you do it with a wood burner and a steady hand. If you can’t singe a new number onto that tile, it wasn’t meant to be changed.

Two: Can’t some things stay overvalued? Do we really analyze Sean Connery’s range and acting skills and his indisputable good looks, or do we say he’s James Freakin’ Bond and he can play an Egyptian named Ramirez with a Scottish accent if he wants to (there is nothing overvalued about the first Highlander movie, by the way). Whenever some union goes on strike for better wages, retirement or health packages, someone always says “ I wish I could get all that,” like those are exorbitant things to fight for. They forget that some jobs are supposed to be nice, that we’re not all supposed to be working ourselves exhausted for crap. Maybe those jobs are overvalued. Good. If no one ever gets a sweet job, all jobs suck. Maybe X and Z held out for a better package.

Three: Maybe we shouldn’t take Scrabble so seriously.  Maybe it should be a rainy day time-killer game, as opposed to some tournament-driven, scientifically analyzed contest of gaming perfection. I don’t know a lot of Z and X words; maybe people who do should come up with a more sophisticated word game? Look, the big slide at the end of Chutes and Ladders destroys small children’s dreams of victory, erasing an entire game’s worth of uphill striving with one unfortunate descent. It’s overkill, but no one’s agitating for a smaller chute; that’s just the way the game goes. Coming from a family where Scrabble has been taken so seriously it’s nearly led to divorce (and I don’t care if it’s sexist or not, Dina, SEAWOMEN is NOT a word! You owe me a turn!), I can tell you we shouldn’t take Scrabble so seriously, and it’s all right to put down a lousy word, so go already!

Of course, if I’m not going to take Scrabble so seriously, then I guess I can’t get all up in arms if they decide to change it. Even if this story is just a plant by Parker Brothers to stir up controversy and sales for their product, maybe some tinkering would be acceptable. Everyone puts their own spin on Risk, and if I hadn’t augmented a board game I never would have been able to summon higher demons using a Ouija board. Think of the first guys who moved the pawns two spaces in chess. They must have been assailed for their heresy! Now everybody does it. Of course, innovation can have consequences. Consider capturing a pawn en passant. I’m not going to explain the move, but it came about because of the whole moving pawns two spaces thing, and it’s the biggest fudge rule in chess and involves time travel.

So watch out! Maybe the Z and the X are overvalued, but demotion could have ugly consequences. Remember, the Chinese are pegging their alphabet to ours, deliberately weakening their letters to enhance the language deficit. Why do you think everyone has to speak English when we should all be speaking Mandarin? If Z goes to 8, then 德 goes to 2. Also, don’t forget that Z and X are fun letters! We don’t want Scrabble to be any duller. I say overvalue the letters! Keep the zazz and the excess in the game!

–Dan Kilian

The New Drinking Games

The Siege

Discussion of Gojira’s “Dawn”

Posted in All things music, Critique, Fiction on August 29, 2012 by klogtheblog

With the birds singing at the beginning of it i just imagine an empty field sided by men stringing their bows, and a bunch of dumb sparrows blissfully unaware of the carnage about to unfold.

Rather than dumb sparrows, I interpret them to be the lesser brothers of the massive and improbable bird that hurtles downward from far above them. This creature, or construct, or abomination – this phenomenon of imagination – is composed of flesh made metal and metal made flesh, clockwork and feathers and bellows and lungs all heated to a sullen glow, a meteor shedding altitude for speed. 
The sparrows chirp lightly in recognition as the fallen satellite hits the ground just before unfurling it’s wings – it is here that the listener realizes that this bird is meant to fly in thicker skies than those we know. The deepest troughs of our atmosphere are hard and featureless vacuum to this thing. It flies instead under the surface of the Earth, skipping and gliding along the thermals of the mantle, spinning and diving through magma and diamond alike, then climbing from time to time to broach the enamel-thin surface of our world.  It erupts from below in gouts of pulverized granite and feldspar, basking in near-silence before plunging back into the crust. 
But then, around 3:45 in the playback, something goes dreadfully wrong. Whether the earthbird is damaged or ill is unknown. But the rhythm of its wings is altered, and not for the better. Was it shot by some wary guardsman as it toyed with the surface world?  Are there predators lurking in the stony fathoms below? Or was this no more than the aging of a plaything put to use more rigorous than it could sustain?  No matter, for now there is a battle afoot. 
The battle is fought heartbeat by stuttering heartbeat, the bird swooping core-ward and back, perhaps seeking to fuse its broken parts in the heat of Earth’s molten womb. But the mending is imperfect. And now the crippled beast must fight more furiously through the crushing strata.
Fight it does. And though the song ends, the listener knows that this combat will continue until the core grinds to a halt, solidifying in the final inevitable chill. 
–Benny Snaxxx
–Steve Kilian

Listening to Sunn O)))

Why I listen to Monster Magnet

Matt, Dan and R. discuss Billy Corgan and Danger

Posted in All things music, All things political, Critique on July 9, 2012 by klogtheblog
Did you hear this on NPR yesterday?  
I loved Billy Corgan’s take on the modern state of rock n roll. 
“When you deal with rock and roll,  you know,  it sort of played itself out,  you know? You can’t play any faster. You can’t play any louder. You can’t be any crazier than Iggy Pop or Jim Morrison or,  you know,  Kurt Cobain. You pick your guy or your girl,  right?, So what ends up happening is it gets kind of staid and safe,  even though it appears to continue to be dangerous and everybody looks dangerous – nobody’s really dangerous,  and they know that.
So when you actually push a button in rock and roll,  even if it’s your own,  you’re actually accomplishing something pretty incredible because that’s really all there is left to do is find those spaces that haven’t been trod over.”
I’m not sure if he captures those spaces, but what he said rings true for me about the emperor’s new clothes.   That little dab of extreme truth caught me off guard.  Not used to it. 
I think I probably like him more than his music.
He’s one of those guys whom I mock, but then I would totally listen to a few songs, especially Cherub Rock, Today, and that 1979 song, so who am I to mock him? That’s more than The Grassroots get, or Steeler’s Wheel and I’d be totally jazzed to meet one of those guys.
Sounds like an intelligent if possibly grandiose guy. The thing about rock being dangerous, well, we’ve known that since punk broke. But there’s still the world of art and music having a subversive cause and a home for the sensitive and dysfunctional. I do think it’s more like the heyday of the jazz-age, when songwriters were just toilers not champions. The key is getting some cool songs out of the deal.

Rock and roll can be dangerous (just ask Euronymous, or get your nose broke in the pit at a Trash Talk show).

But it’s true… danger is just set on repeat. But just because it has been done before, does not mean it won’t be done (and be dangerous) again.

There will always be someone summoning Satan and/or stabbing his bandmates death, someone screaming and flinging his feces (or HER feces!), some band being jailed for political reasons (Pussy Riot), it just will never be–and it never was–a whiny boy named Billy.

Billy tried so hard to be dangerous, too… what with his “zero” gothica reinvention… he’s a twat. He’s saying it’s played out because he is making pre-emptive strike against the reviews of his new record.

You want danger, Billy? Move to Syria.

Of course a question is, what’s the point of being dangerous? There’s the artistic sense of breaking free of norms, not being like your parents or stifling community which is liberating, but there’s also the greater dangerousness, which on some subconscious or conscious level seeks to overthrow large chunks of society. 50s rock had a larger lever of reaction to racism, the 60s to the war (STILL a bigger, nastier war than anything like what we’ve got today) as the 70s wore on, the social rebellion road on the coat-tails of the political rebellions of the past for authenticity, while replacing self-destruction and un-earned majesty for any real non-conformity. Synths and suits rebeled against guitars, but then they all got subsumed by capitalism.
What could be dangerous today? I think it’s important that you not be dangerous for dangerousness’s sake, otherwise it’s something ultimately stupid, like satanism, which is just a monster mask, or actually evil, like racism.
I think with the internet there’s a chance to create a DIY arsthetic that didn’t just look like ripped up clothing. Corporate rejection could be dangerous.

Madonna used to be dangerous. Y’know what happens to dangerous people? Sometimes, they survive long enough to be boring.

All this said, someone hit me in the head with something really hard when I went to see the smashing pumpkins in 1991 at the Moon in New Haven. I was jumping up and down (pogo-ing, I guess you could say) and someone didn’t like it and hit me. Didn’t feel like a fist… felt like a bottle. I turned around, but no one would own it. Dangerous, indeed.

Bowie took on anti-gay prejudice and Madonna took on sexual hypocrisy. For a while there, it was cool to be bi, but I think AIDS set things back. Bowie stuck around long enough to become “straight.” Madonna’s ownership of her sexuality led to a generation of whores/teases. Now music sucks, but you can masturbate to it. Of course, I like how sexy everything’s become, but it’s empty, and it gives the jocks more power. Ultimately it’s geeks vs. jocks, and the jocks are winning. Someone said The Red Hot Chili Peppers meant jocks were getting into Rock. We’re they the first beefsteak rockers? One could envision either a religious, button up movement or an apocalyptic loose sex movement, but either would suck, and danger for danger’s sake is too dangerous, just like dysfunction for dysfunctions sake gives you Syd Vicious or G.G. Allen. Just looked up G. G….nephew of Woody Allen!


That was you at the show?  I knew I was right to deck ya. 
Danger as a concept is a little confusing. Social, sexual, political?  If I was backstage at a Black Sabbath show when I was 12, I’d think those guys were way dangerous. 
Pete Seger was dangerous. Dylan was dangerous. Elvis, Hendrix, Zeppelin. Springsteen,  Madonna, U2 in Sarajevo. Janes Addiction during the LA riots.
It’s that sense that something is getting pushed a little too far.  That this might not end well. For real.  Or that I’m personally not on my comfy sofa anymore. 
But I don’t fault them for getting old.  It’s not the person, it’s their message and every era has it’s relevant messages. 
I was just assuming — and seriously hoping — that the mantle would be taken by a new generation of post GenX kids who had their own reason to flip off the system, have angst and blow something up.  And they didn’t.  At least not in the form of an arena-sized band (though this may be a good thing. Are revolutions televised?)  A generation of Pitchfork snark battles? How utterly unpowerful. 
“Younger adults are faring worse in the private sector and, in large part because they have less political power, have a less generous safety net beneath them. Older Americans vote at higher rates and are better organized. There is no American Association of Non-Retired Persons. “Pell grants,” notes the political scientist Kay Lehman Schlozman, “have never been called the third rail of American politics.”
They are numb. They are living with their parents.  They are neutered.  Power isn’t asked for.  It’s taken. 
The other day, on impulse, I wanted to hear What’s My Age Again.  What a serious 4-on-the-floor beat.  F-you guitars.  A great punk/pop confection.  2 minutes of fun.    I grabbed it off YouTube and went for a drive. 
We started making out and she took off my pants
But then I turned on the TV
And that’s about the time she walked away from me
Nobody likes you when you’re 23
I never really listened before.  I had no idea how fantastically stupid this band was.  These are sick sad puppies.  Talk about whiny.  He’s about to score with his girl and he suddenly turns on the television?  What a colossal jerk.  I just started harshing on anything remotely related to them.  (Though it’s still a great song.)
I suppose I got what I deserved, but geez… these bands literally *line up* to get merchandised, jingled, sold out, co-opted, etc.  
On the bright side, I saw Bruce Springsteen’s keynote at SXSW this year.   He’s old, but it felt just a little dangerous.  We didn’t know what he was going to say. He was funny, but edgy and he came with something to say.   It’s nice to see an old loose cannon still going off.  

I think it all depends how we define “danger.” A 12 year old at a Black Sabbath show is scared, but there’s no real danger.

I think danger might simply be a collective, emotional state of mind that precedes change. Because we naturally fear change. So look at the rockers that helped bring about change, and maybe that’s where you see “danger.” Elvis and Dylan might be the only “dangerous” rockers (what’s that hippie quote…? “…Elvis freed our bodies, Dylan/Beatles freed our minds…”).

Billy Corgan is dumb (and revealing his repressed urges) when he singles out Iggy/Jim. When you get down to it, they were merely exhibitionists. RHCP were/are the same, except stupider and “fon-kee.” Blink-182 are dangerous in that their crappiness and ability to sell records is a harbinger to a fascist state. No shit.

Matt Casper
Dan Kilian

Fealtish: The K Word

The Rong


Posted in Critique on May 2, 2012 by klogtheblog

The other day I noticed the following bicycle and took a photo:

Note that there are many spokes on the wheel – many more than necessary.  It is bad engineering, this wheel.  And yet it caught my eye and was interesting enough for me to take a photo.  This is due to the tyranny of novelty.  Something does not have to be good to attract attention.  It merely needs to be novel.  So the over-spoked wheel looks cool in its way simply because it’s unusual.

It is 19th-20th century industrialization that has led to this condition.  Mass production and standardization of consumer products have filled our material needs (or could fill them, but we choose not to afford everyone a baseline share in the riches — that’s another topic).  But they’ve also made our product-scape a monotonous one.  Where every bicycle, car, building, jacket, or fork looks more or less the same, spastic deviations get undue credit and attention.  And yet I wouldn’t want to go back to pre-industrial levels of scarcity.

Fortunately we are poised on the verge of a new mode of mass production, with near-infinite variety being possible while maintaining low cost of goods and services.  In such a society novel items will be commonplace – not novel at all – and thus would be judged based on their intrinsic merits and not difference for its own sake.

Yes, there will still be items that are produced with what are now considered traditional methods.  There will be products issued in lots numbering in the millions.  But eventually my hope is that individuals will take a larger role in creating (or at least choosing – and there is some feedback between the two) their product-scape.  This could be extrapolated to a world consisting entirely of unique items.  In such a place fashion would be eliminated, as every fad would be regarding a product-issue of one item.

This is already starting to happen in digital media, where the masters of content origination are losing market share to individuals.  Yes, we all watch stuff put out by the networks, but there are new content producers and distributors catering to ever-smaller slices of the market.  Web TV channel for Renaissance Fair enthusiasts?  Check.  Star Trek channel?  Check.  Dog TV?  Check.

At some point there will be more content being originated than the gatekeepers will be able to categorize or mediate.  The velvet rope will be trampled by all of the traffic flowing from originators to consumers.  And eventually all consumers will be originators – creative life will be the norm, not the exception.

–Steve Kilian

From Beneath to Destroy

That Old-Time Magic, Revisited

Shins You Asked

Posted in All things music, Critique on March 28, 2012 by klogtheblog

Adam: Listening to the new Shins record. They sound profoundly lost. Just me?

Interesting question, because of the word “lost.” Are they profoundly lost, like an artist finding great meaning in his personal state of drift? Or, as I get from the context, not able to achieve great art, to a profound degree? Are they lost themselves, lost in a sea of bad choices, or simply lost to Adam?

I would suggest, from a few quick listens to Port of Morrow, that The Shins are found, both to themselves, and in a bad way, to Adam. James Mercer, who IS The Shins is confidently exploring his distinct sound with precise attention to detail, quite obviously himself, if to an augmented degree of production which might drive away a devoted fan. Mercer’s got to be happy with this album. The synthesizers which hazed away in the sweet muddiness of Oh Inverted World, (an album which as a whole drifted like the rainbow in a spray off a sprinkler on a bright summer day; hey, The Shins lend themselves to such precious descriptions) now blurbscillate like dribbles of sauce on the plate at a high end restaurant. The guitars strum along beatifically, and then pierce through on perfect little solos. His singing has never sounded stronger, especially on the high notes. Familiar melodic twists join new poppy inventions, to good effect. Whether you like that effect is an opinion I’ll never be able to shape.

Is James Mercer finding his desired manifestation lost on our some-time fan? No, The Shins are found, but they’ve already been found, and what is found can not be found again. Mercer cleaned up his sound on Chutes Too Narrow, the one trick he could realistically pull without completely reinventing himself. Broken Bells might have been an attempt at reinvention, but this is definitely The Shins, and you can’t rediscover them. You can certainly say, hey, this is too clean, too produced, and while I’d argue that while every bleep might not be necessary, almost all the choices serve the songs, which (unlike on the nearly forgotten Wincing The Night Away) I’d have to say are rather strong. Note: The most in your face epicly souring songs are front loaded, and it gets gentler, possibly more appealing to suspicious Shins fans (one of Elvis’s greatest later songs) as the album progresses.

Strong enough to make us forget Chutes Too Narrow? Let’s not get crazy. Someone else could find this record, and easily make it their favorite, only to find Chutes too familiar, though I doubt it. That’s one hell of a record. A more likely scenario is for someone to love this record, be told by Shins fans that the real deal is Oh Inverted World and then be disappointed by the lack of sonic distinction. Sacrilege? Yes, but it happens all the time. Still, while there is a proper order to getting Shins records (first, second, fourth, and you’re done, so far), I have no idea yet whether these songs are going to stick with me as long as those others have, or whether we should be making mandatory Natalie Portman references here. All I know is that I’m singing some of the tunes already, and the title track is a spooky cool thing indeed.

Inevitably, getting more Shins dilutes the pool, however fresh the water. Questions arise: Is it too slick? Is Mercer too precious? Does any of it make sense, lyrically?  Does the guy have to talk so much about how he’s cursed with an open heart? Could they show more darkness, edge, rock more? It’s the way with all artists. Few (The Beatles, The Pixies) have finished their runs with near perfect output. Let’s use Liz Phair as a model: she found the sound she wanted, and lost her fans (while actually charting) I’d say this album is more analogous to WhiteChocolateSpaceEgg than it is to Liz Phair. Don’t know who Liz Phair is? Maybe you should find her. Exile first, please!

Back to The Shins. I think this is a singular songwriter, one we’ll be talking about for a long time. Somehow Paul Simon comes to mind, another gentle soul who spun beautiful, convoluted necklaces of song. I’m glad he’s found what he’s found, and I found Port of Morrow quite charming.

–Dan Kilian

Octopus Man: Strip 1

Half Ours