Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Sturgill Simpson is not related to Jessica Simpson or Homer Simpson or OJ Simpson but you should check out his new album anyway

Sturgill Simpson released his third album, "A Sailor's Guide to Earth," last month and you should check it out if you haven't already done so. Simpson is typically considered a country artist, but some of the songs on this album don't fit into that category. If not for the twang and timbre of his voice they'd be flat-out indie R&B. For example, "Call to Arms" is on some straight Blues Brothers shit.

Check out the switch at 2:20 in "Welcome to Earth (Pollywog)":

And "Brace for Impact (Live a Little)" has a little Al Green in it:

Simpson's developing a habit of including startlingly unexpected and good covers in his albums. This time around he did "In Bloom."

I've seen a lullaby version of "In Bloom" before, but this is a lot better.

Simpson will be in Brooklyn, Boston, and DC on October 8, 9, and 11, respectively. Who's up for a show?

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

"Presser, I hardly know 'er!" said Kanye West.

Gábor Presser is a Hungarian citizen residing in Budapest. Presser is a living legend in his homeland, and the song "Gyöngyhajú Lány" has been one of the most beloved and enduring songs in Hungary and across Easter Europe since Presser wrote it in 1969. I know this because Mr. Presser's lawyers said so in the complaint they filed against Kanye West in the Southern District of New York alleging copyright infringement.

Mr. Presser is a member of the band Omega, a Hungarian rock group. "Gyöngyhajú Lány" is their biggest song, according to their Wikipedia page and Mr. Presser's complaint. Their Wikipedia page also says that the Scorpions covered the song and called it "White Dove" despite the fact that their Wikipedia page also says that "Gyöngyhajú Lány" means "Pearls in Her Hair," while Google Translate turns it into "Pearl-haired girl" which reminds me of an old movie.

But I digress. Here's the Omega version of the song.

Mr. West sampled this song for almost a minute and a half at the end of "New Slaves," which appears on the album "Yeezus." Here it is--skip to 2:53 if you just want to hear the sample at issue.

The real (and NSFW) video for the song is available on Vimeo, but the last minute and twenty-five seconds have, interestingly, been cut off. Even more interestingly, Kanye West sampled a 40-some-odd-year-old Hungarian rock ballad?!?

The complaint details how Mr. West approached Mr. Presser for the rights to the sample after "New Slaves" was released, and how they have tried to work something out but failed. The complaint also details how "New Slaves" received tons of positive critical reviews, including a quote from the New York Daily News stating that "New Slaves" "features the most cool, and obscure, sample on the disc, from early ’70s Hungarian prog-rock group Omega." The most cool! Grammar! I also recall a Grantland article by Rembert Browne in which he describes how he felt the first time he heard the switch to this sample on "New Slaves" and how he wishes he could experience that feeling again and regrets that he can't.

So this honestly appears to be a pretty significant sample.

Accordingly, this seems like a cut and dry case of infringement, especially given Mr. West's ex post request for a license, but if we know anything around here it's that the little guy always loses and Mr. Presser is the littlest guy in this fact pattern. Also in this fact pattern is co-defendant Sony, and you know what happens to old guys who get cranky when Sony busts their loops.

I expect Mr. West to take a page from Ghostface Killah's playbook.

Not necessarily that page. I expect him to sit back and let Sony do the heavy lifting. I also expect this case to settle because no one in their right mind wants to defend Kanye West's deposition.

I'll let you know how this pans out.

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Test 50: Closing Lines

This week on The Test, Cunningham teaches us how to finish strong. She administers a quiz on the closing lines of seven famous novels, and then she delivers a rousingly inspirational peroration in the waning moments of the podcast.

Stacey and I prefer to start like balls of fire and then fizzle out. This is how we teach novels, and this is how we perform on this episode.

In a few weeks, we'll have completed a year's worth of the show. Not sure if we'll finish the year strong, or fizzle out, but hopefully you'll come along for the ride.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Shit, Completely Lost

It's rained something like 22 of the past 24 days here. It's pouring today. I'm covered in mud from a 5k that I didn't realize was competed on a cross-country course. I've lost my freaking mind.

Enjoy Washington 80s hair band AlleyBrat covering 'Singing in the Rain'.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Beautiful Little Trees

Open Culture bills itself as "the best free cultural and educational media on the web". As we are somewhat culturally deficient and long past our prime educatin' years, most of us don't generally spend a lot of time on the site.

Which is a shame, because Stanford professor Dan Colman and his team do a pretty incredible job of curating online classes, public domain books, music, and videos, and any number of other edifying materials. If you were so inclined, you could audit Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art from James Grant at Oxford, or American Immigrant Experience from Carl Mason at Cal. You could dig into MIT lecturer Richard Schmalensee's Energy Decisions, Markets and Policies (TR might want to consider this one) or Stephen Pinker, Larry Summers and Michio Kaku's Great Big Ideas. You get the point.

If online courses aren't your bag, you can peruse thousands of free eBooks, mostly classics from the likes of Hemingway, Kubrick, David Foster Wallace, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Kids can get their learn on, too, with hundreds of K-12 courseware. There's art from The Met, music from Bach (and the Grateful Dead), and thousands of free movies.

And as of now, the world can watch all ten seasons of Bob Ross' epic The Joy of Painting series. Open Culture isn't hosting Ross' work, which originally aired on Northern Virginia's public television station, WNVC, but did let the world know that the collection is now available on YouTube.

A mere 90 seconds into this, the first-ever episode, Ross lets loose with "the almighty palette knife". The man loved his work. And we him.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Hey KD, Beware the Wrath of This 8 Year-Old

My boys, who are in second-grade and kindergarten, are becoming big sports fans, due to their own involvement in youth sports and their dad's incessant sports-watching. The NBA became a big hit this season, due to: 1) the front-yard hoop I painstakingly put together last spring, and 2) my son's interest in reading sports books. He has devoured some big picture books on the history of the NBA, which makes for fun questions like "Did you watch the Big O play?" and "Why did Dennis Rodman look like that?"

(Back to that hoop. It took me six hours, and every neighbor walked by and laughed at me for not paying somebody $100 to do it. But I figured it out all by myself and feigned competence in handyman things to my kids. And they are now mad bombers that shoot hoops every day. The same neighbors comment on how frequently they are out there. Great financial and time investment, in retrospect.)

My oldest has become a big Thunder fan, rightfully worshipping at the altar of KD and Westbrook. So much so that when we got him a youth Thunder uniform for his first Holy Communion (a Westbrook one, for reasons that become obvious below), he actually cried tears of happiness. My youngest...likes the Heat...because his first rec team was called the Heat...because that team had red t-shirts. That's all it takes for a six year-old. Both kids got caught up in the Kobe coverage that was on ESPN non-stop all year, but I forcibly steered them away, refusing to buy them anything with his name/number because "he was mean to his wife and to women." It worked.

So anyway, we are moving our boys into separate bedrooms this summer, and giving the oldest some input on decisions. His request to paint the walls orange, like the color in the Islanders and Thunder uniforms, was denied. But his request for a Thunder player Fathead was approved. My son asked for KD. I told him that would be okay, but we should wait a couple months to find out if KD was going to leave the team.

And that's when shit got real. My son's jaw dropped and he was visibly upset. I tried to explain free agency in general - KD grew up near Washington DC, his contract was ending, and some players like to play in Miami, where it's warm all year. He wasn't having any of it. He left the room in a pissy mood.

A few minutes later, I found this letter/rant/poster on our kitchen table. I have no idea if he planned to mail this, carry it into a game, or just use it to vent. But here it is. Look carefully at the "RIP 2007-2016" at the top. After I saw this, I picked up my iPad and saw "when did kd get drafted" as a recent search. He did his research. KD was picked in the 2007 draft.

So watch your back if you end up in Chocolate City or South Beach, KD.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Test 49: Where Do Bad Folks Go When They Die?

I feel like crap today: it's either allergies or I'm possessed by a malevolent spirit (and it's probably the latter).

For more spooky stuff, my reaction to the Tibetan Book of the Dead, and why Cunningham would rather relinquish control of her life, check out this week's episode of The Test.