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“A Modern Promise” From Francis and the Lights

August 18th, 2008 by Jeff Simmermon

Francis Farewell Starlite

Musically, our culture has achieved singularity. Every song ever recorded is dripping off the tip of the Internet’s long tail and into the ears of anyone with headphones and an iTunes account. Bands like the Black Lips and Interpol do solid service to sounds past, and Girl Talk mashes old songs together to make something new. While New York’s Francis and the Lights has one foot rooted solidly in Prince’s synth-heavy ’80s output, the other foot is rhythmically shimmying its way straight into the future.

I’ve mentioned them here before, several times, with good reason. They’re one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen, in New York or anywhere else.

This video for “The Top,” from the new mini-album “A Modern Promise” just made me scream. It’s shot on 35mm, pops in a giant new Quicktime window. Compared to Youtube videos, this is Batman in IMAX, except funky. Click the dancing Francis after the jump to see for yourself:
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Worthy’s “Work the Walls”

August 12th, 2008 by Jeff Simmermon

I can’t get enough of “Work the Walls” by Bay-area DJ Worthy, and the video’s nearly perfect, too. The song itself chugs along like a relentless earworm chewing a funky tunnel right through my eardrums and deep into my soft, soft brain. It kind of reminds me of Yello’s “Oh Yeah,” and the video is a perfect throwback to the videos I grew up with — back when hair was high, effects were cheap and videos were about STYLE, not fashion. I love the grinning, creepy, surreal announcer and the whole enterprise feels like the sort of thing that only came on late at night, blasting through a wave of static.

The remix is pretty solid too. You can hear it here, though the screen stays black.

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The Internet’s Principal Exports are Bullshit and Outrage

August 8th, 2008 by Jeff Simmermon

I came across a pretty interesting passage in “Host,” an essay by David Foster Wallace that perfectly sums up why negative news travels so fast on the Internet. The essay happens to be about AM talk radio, but the words still apply:

It is, of course, much less difficult to arouse genuine anger, indignation, and outrage in people than it is real joy, satisfaction, fellow feeling, etc. The latter are fragile and complex, and what excites them varies a great deal from person to person, whereas anger et al. are more primal, universal, and easy to stimulate (as implied by phrases like ‘He really pushes my buttons’).

In other words, the principal exports of the blogosphere are bullshit and outrage. Why? Because as a species, we are flawed creatures that gobble it up.

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Goodbye, Marisol Caceres

August 6th, 2008 by Jeff Simmermon

flower

I’ve been staring at the screen for days trying to write this and I don’t have any idea what to say. The newspapers have it easy here — they just have to report the facts about strangers. Writing a memorial for the twelve year old sister of a good friend, that’s hard.

When that little girl’s been murdered and the whole thing’s been all over the Washington Post already, it gets even harder.

The father of 12-year-old Marisol Caceres was arrested in her killing and jailed without bond yesterday as more grim details emerged about the girl’s strangulation Tuesday in her family’s Northeast Washington apartment.

I’m just putting this here for the strangers, and I really, really hope Jose and Marisol’s family understand that I’m only repeating this so that strangers understand the story. I’m going to let the Post do the heavy lifting here and just explain my angle …

I met Jose Andrade through the Youth Action Research Group (YARG) early in 2006. I interviewed Jose for this blog back in 2006, about a walkout he and YARG put together at his high school to support a just immigration reform.

Not only was he the most thoughtful, intelligent, precocious and wise 19-year-olds I’d ever met — he may have been one of the wisest human beings I’d ever met. Once he opened up to me a little, he was this busted fire hydrant of knowledge about philosophy, classical music, video games and maybe jazz, too. The only organ bigger than Jose’s mind is his heart. I remember a lot of late nights at our friend Danielle’s place, him telling me about growing up in Columbia Heights while I made us dinner. He was telling me about his apartment when he just trailed off and gaped at the burritos I was putting together.

“You just like, made that right here, man?” he asked. “Can you teach me how?”

I think that may have been one of the most fulfilling nights of my life. We saw each other a lot over the next year, talking about all kinds of stuff — his girlfriend, his dog, school, and his family. He loved his little sister so, so much.

From the Washington Post‘s article about Marisol’s memorial:

“She was open to new friendships and always creating new ones,” her family said in a statement. “She always found a way to make us laugh. She was the youngest of the family yet she was, in many ways, the oldest because of her demeanor. She lived her life vividly by visiting museums, taking up martial arts, and sharing new thoughts and interests.”

She liked soccer, too.

She always took very good care of her little nephew.

She loved her dog, Moe, and her pet birds.

She liked video games and movies.

She never hesitated to share her cosmetology techniques.

And she was always a princess on Halloween.

I never met Marisol, personally. I saw her waving to Jose from across the street, heard him talking about her a lot. It’s hard for me to memorialize someone I never knew directly. But I’ll say this: I saw her effect on Jose, and I could feel his love for her just pour out of him when he told me how smart she was, how kind and giving she was even as such a little girl. Jose and his family had it tougher than most of us can imagine for a very long time, and they had a lot of reasons to be cynical. But when they looked at Marisol they felt pure love and a tremendous, giddy hope.

Now Marisol’s gone, and I’m all the way up here in New York. I have no idea what else I can do. So I’m doing this:

Marisol’s family needs money now. They need it badly. Her mother does not receive generous bereavement benefits. Cell phone bills still need to be paid, laundry needs to be done, and people still need to eat. And above all else: they have to move as soon as possible. Imagine having to come home to that same apartment every night.

***UPDATE***According to my friend Danielle at YARG, the family has since found housing. This does not at all change their need for money, mind you, but they do at least have a new place to sleep and try to rebuild their lives.***
I’ve never asked for donations on here before, and it’s going to be a long, long time before I do it again. But this is really, really important, and every little bit helps. It’s so easy to spend money — five bucks to download the new Radiohead album, thirty bucks on dinner and drinks — and this is so much more important than pretty much anything we could spend money on. I’ve seen users on Reddit buy thousands of dollars worth of flowers for Helen Thomas, seen the Web bail a woman out of credit card debt and help a guy trade a paper clip up to a brand new house. Those are cute stories, and they say something important about the power of crowds and commerce online. But this is a grieving, devastated family that needs real help.

If you’re reading this at work, you can afford to double what you spent on lunch and drop it into the family’s Paypal account. If you’re reading this in a coffee shop, double your check and donate it. Don’t let me stop you from dropping in more, all I’m saying is that doesn’t need to be much — and please pass this on.

Link to this post if you want, or write me through the “Contact Us” page up there and I’ll send you the code for the donations button above. The Web’s an incredible, weird place that can really do some good. If you don’t do it for them, do it for me. And if you have a problem with me, fine, whatever, just please do your part to help this family out.

Jose’s family will be accepting donations through Darling Andrade’s (Jose’s sister) PayPal Account. We chose this method because it is safe, secure, and makes the funds be available to the family immediately. To make a donation, click this button:

Paypal online isn’t comfortable for everyone, and that’s fine. If you would prefer to make your donation in cash or by check — or just want to send a card to express condolences — mail to:

YARG
Attn: Jose Andrade
1419 V St NW
Washington, DC 20009

The family would also be grateful for donations of food. Please the executive director of YARG at danielle@yargdc.org if you are able to prepare food for Jose and his family. She’ll help you coordinate the best way to deliver food to the family, as they will be in different locations throughout the week. Meals are best if they require as little preparation as possible, i.e. meals that can just be reheated or eaten cold.

Jose left this in the comments, and it really sums it up for me:

My family is going through a very difficult time.. and has it becomes clear whose responsible for this hideous act.. strange feelings arise and we have to deal with them in a peaceful and intelligent ways.

Thanks so much for all your help, friends.




Archives Posts

Klondike Commercial From ‘I Eat Pandas’

August 4th, 2008 by Jeff Simmermon

My friends Glennis and Eliza of I Eat Pandas just shot a commercial for Klondike Bars. From the Youtube page:

Klondike held a contest recently where they asked users to create and upload their own commercials for Klondike bars. The only real restriction was no “violence or acts that appear to cause harm”. And we tried. We really did. We even hired a beatboxer to star in it. But, well, we are what we are.

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Cube Lube

July 28th, 2008 by Jeff Simmermon

Wow. This is so almost, isn’t it? The joke is just hanging right out of reach, and I’m too tired to jump for it.

cubelube

(Via Lady, That’s My Skull.)

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G.I. Joe Meets ‘The Thing’: Zombie Zombie’s ‘Driving This Road Until Death Sets You Free’

July 25th, 2008 by Jeff Simmermon

Chocolate meets peanut butter. Lightning hits Frankenstein. Bonzo meets Page.

Every so often the universe conspires to bring together disparate awesome elements that combine into something so incredible that the brain’s pleasure centers hemorrhage with white, blinding joy. This video for Zombie Zombie’s “Driving This Road Until Death Sets You Free” is a deep soul tickle from God’s favorite finger. It’s an homage to John Carpenter’s “The Thing” — both the movie AND the soundtrack — reenacted with G.I. Joe figures. The song is rocking, repetitive and minimalist earworm, and the video, well … have a look for yourselves.

You can see a sharper, higher-res version here.

This would be one of the best scenes in Carpenter’s film, an absolute motherload of surprise, suspense, and incredible special effects.

It’s always cracked me up, the way that head skitters away like that. Happy Friday, friends.

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Furry Robots Bump Club Bangers: Muppets Gangster Rap, Showbiz Pizza Covers Usher

July 23rd, 2008 by Jeff Simmermon

Muppets performing gangster rap … it never, ever gets old for me. Here’s the Muppets doing M.O.P’s “Ante Up”:

More impressively, here’s the Showbiz Pizza furry robot house band performing Usher’s “Love In This Club”:

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The Beauty Of A C-Cup Face

July 22nd, 2008 by Jeff Simmermon


Here it is, half-past 2 pm on a workday and my fly is ALL the way down. Again. I can’t even remember the last time I went to the bathroom here at the office, but it was definitely before lunch. I can, however, remember the last time this happened.

Yesterday.

And definitely a time or two last week, too. It happens to the best of us, but still. At least twice a week since I started this job, I’ve looked down midway through the afternoon to see the zipper on my suit pants gaping open like a grey and hungry Venus Flytrap.

I have absolutely no explanation for this. I’ve been zipping up my pants for thirty-some years now, so it’s not likely that I’ve started forgetting that particular task. I’m not sure that it’s the pants, either. Honestly, I don’t know what it is. I’ve got two suits, one grey and one black — one for laundry days and Fridays, one for the other times — and zipper lightning strikes them both right in the crotch without honor or pity.

Still, it could be worse.

I was in the cafeteria yesterday assembling my lunch at the salad bar when I switched directions unexpectedly, mistaking tofu for chicken cubes and fixing it when I bumped into a woman in line behind me. I’d guess she was just past her first promotion in the marketing department for one of my company’s cooler media properties. She wore brilliant white pants, pants that perfectly matched two rows of blinding shiny Chiclets in her smile.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” I said. “It’s okay, don’t worry about it,” she said. “I made the same mistake yesterday. Enjoy your lunch!” she said, smiling, and turned to walk away, stopping to wave at some friends on her way to the elevators.

When she turned, I saw the copper-colored streak creeping up the back of her perfect white pants. It spread slowly, a Rorshach blot that every lady reads as her worst nightmare.

I was able to grab her just before she got on the elevator. “Uh, I think you’ve sat in something,” I said. “It’s urgent.”

She blushed and said “Oh God. Thank you so much,” backed her way onto the elevator and vanished. Then I noticed my zipper, right as a crowd of people came around the corner.

That’s how it goes. You think you’re so cool, so put together with your unassailable public armor on. Then it turns out you’re the king of a crumbled castle and everyone knows it but you.

There’s this guy in my neighborhood. He’s an older guy, maybe in his sixties — always dressed sharp in creased slacks, a guyabera and a fedora. He stands as tall as his posture will allow. Age is creeping in, but he’s ramrod-straight, always looks you in the eye when he says “hello.” And he always says “hello.” He’s got a really, really large fatty tumour on the side of his face.

Like this, but much bigger. I’d say the side of his face is at least a C-cup. But there he is, walking upright, looking people in the eye, taking that walk all the same.

We’ve all got flaws. Big ones, most of us. They’re like scars for the soul, the spirals that give our personalities their fingerprints. So what’s better, really … primping and preening up a big lie about how slick you are and having everyone else see the truth? Or just getting that tumour out in the sunshine and tanning that thing until you’re laughing in your coffin?

My fly’s still down, and it’s staying down. And when I get bored I’m going to feed that hungry flytrap bits of burger meat, just to see what happens.

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Brainless Barnyard Keyboards: The Short Saga of Royal Quiet Deluxe, Chicken Band

July 17th, 2008 by Jeff Simmermon

This story appeared on here a while ago in a slightly different form. I’m working on it to perform at The Moth, but figured it would go okay on here …

The keyboard players in my band were spacier than Sun Ra, more abstract than John Coltrane and brought more sheer, squalid anarchy to the stage than GG Allin and the Sex Pistols combined. When they weren’t playing music they were either feeding, fighting, or shitting on the floor – and they managed to do a lot of that onstage, too. But they didn’t just act like barnyard animals, they were barnyard animals: the keyboard players in my band were two chickens named Kitty Wells and Patsy Cline.

ChickenKeyboards2

I played percussion on a modified vintage typewriter miked up loud enough to sound like the thunder of an angry God. At that volume, the space bar and shift keys rumbled like a kick drum, and the letter keys snapped like a tight snare. My friend Tim Gordon (the band’s other human being) played the guitar and bass semi-simultaneously, wearing the guitar up by his collarbone and the bass slung low at his hips – he’d loop the bass notes through a pedal and play rhythm guitar against himself while I thumped and cracked the typewriter. Once we hit a stride of sorts, we’d pull a blanket off the top of the cage where Kitty Wells and Patsy Cline sat with two little Casio Keyboards.
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