December 28th, 2011, by

There has been a lot of good stuff tickling my ears over the last 12 months, including Bill Callahan, The War on Drugs and Frank Fairfield, to name the three probably in heaviest rotation. My pick for the best new music of 2011, however, is based on longevity. Some music hits you right away and then loses its appeal, but this record has endured well enough to earn its place in my permanent playlist. All respect to Ye and Jay, but apart from “Otis” (which is a good song, but mostly due to the Otis Redding sample and the crazy-cool Spike Jonze video) their “Watch the Throne” doesn’t have a huge amount of staying power in my mind.

The album I chose is “Kaputt,” but Vancouver-based Destroyer (aka Dan Bejar and friends). It’s campy without being cheesy, fey without being mopey, and incredibly catchy. My one complaint about this album, in fact, is not about the music at all, but about the music videos for its best songs, which are about as inaccessible and self-consciously “edgy” as you can get. It’s forgivable in light of the strength of the album, but still seems like a waste if you ask me.

Here’s the title track, sans video, for your listening pleasure.


December 27th, 2011, by

Christmas is one of the most celebrated holidays around the world. Millions of families across the globe celebrated the holiday with their families this past week. But even as the history of Christmas is discussed in both secular and religious circles, the one question that continues to emerge has to do with Jesus’ appearance. What exactly did he look like? Where did all the images of the previous century’s depictions of Jesus, to present time, originate?

This past week, I came across some archival footage online that not only asked the question, but provided some interesting answers. Folks may be surprised by what they learn. Check it out.


December 27th, 2011, by

The Obama's pose for a holiday photo inside the White House. Credit: Lawrence Jackson

Is it just me or did Christmas just fly by way too fast? Hopefully, all the Black Friday sales, last minute shopping and long lines were worth it.

If you thought your holiday shopping was tough, just look at President Obama. You would think with all the Secret Service protection, getting down the aisles at a local store is easy, right? Not so much when you’re the President of the United States.

The president was seen throughout the Washington, DC  and tri-state area making purchases for Christmas and gave people a quick look at how even the most simple of tasks get super-sized when you’re leader of the free world.

Be sure to check out President Obama’s Christmas shopping (I don’t think it’ll be a secret what he’s getting anyone this holiday). Be sure to count your blessings and be thankful that your holiday shopping won’t ever have to be like that. Happy Holidays!










December 27th, 2011, by

2011 was, in spite of the best efforts of Adam Sandler, Michael Bay and a viciously banal gang of Smurfs to ruin it for everyone, a very good year for film. As previously noted here, The Interrupters, Drive and The Upsetter were among my top new picks, while my belated discoveries included Happy Go Lucky and Valhalla Rising.

So far, however, I’ve neglected to mention the one film that stands out among them all, the film that when asked if I’ve “Seen any good movies lately?” immediately springs to mind. The movie is Kelly Reichardt‘s slow, painfully beautiful Meek’s Cutoff, starring Michelle Williams, Bruce Greenwood, Paul Dano and some incredibly majestic scenery. I’ll be the first to say it wasn’t a popular favourite, and for understandable reasons: primarily the fact that plotwise, not a whole lot happens over the course of the film. It’s about a group of pioneer-era settlers headed westward who lose their way and are forced to make some difficult decisions. And without spoiling it too much, there’s not a whole lot more to it than that. At least on the surface.

If you care to look past the austere script, however (and you can start with the lovingly-captured western landscape that forms an important character in the film) you’ll find a story that runs as deep as the Grand Canyon. Williams and Greenwood deliver wonderful performances as a strong-willed settler and an egotistical guide with questionable credentials, respectively, and whoever designed the soundtrack of creaking wagon parts and crunching boots–a beautiful, minimalist symphony unto itself–deserves praise as well.

Reichardt and Williams last worked together on the heart-wrenching Wendy and Lucy, which was a thus-far high point in the careers of both. Meek’s Cutoff, while a different beast in many ways, suggests that their creative partnership is just getting started.


December 22nd, 2011, by

Protestors react to Lowe's pulling their ads from TLC

After the utterly mind-numbing decision by Lowe’s stores to pull their advertising from the TLC program All-American Muslim, people have taken to the streets.

Protestors in Allen Park, MI and Brooklyn, NY gathered in Lowe’s store parking lots to voice their frustration and disagreement with the North Carolina-based company. Apparently, a show about a family that showcases their life, everyday challenges and faith is too controversial for Lowe’s.

Hmm. I wonder, if TLC had shows called All-American Jew or All-American Christian, would corporations have felt pressured to pull their ads? It’s that kind of warped thinking which led to the current firestorm that Lowe’s is currently facing.

Protestors across the nation have every right to be infuriated at the lack of respect and indecency Lowe’s displayed. And yet, in this case, the pressure to pull ads from the show says more about the level of intolerance from the groups protesting the show than Lowe’s themselves. It’s a shame Lowe’s couldn’t see that.

TLC has a long history of showcasing programs that aren’t seen on mainstream television. Audiences are given a rare look into what really goes on behind closed doors in the lives of those that some might otherwise not have a window into. Everyone from political leaders to those in the advertising industry have expressed how horrible of a mess their decision was.

Nowadays, corporations can get into hot water at the snap of a finger and find themselves reeling from the backlash for some time. So companies, take note: don’t allow the fringe elements to hijack your message or your image. The damage can be costly.

December 22nd, 2011, by

I’m always fascinated by old magazines, particularly where the cover art is concerned. Nowadays, convention dictates that mass-market consumer magazine covers must be adorned with celebrities to sell on newsstands; but back in the golden age of magazines, this wasn’t the case.

Man’s Life was a men’s adventure magazine specializing in stories of daring escapes and titillating sexual escapades. I haven’t actually ever seen one of these in the flesh, and thus can’t vouch for the quality of the editorial, but the covers are pure pulp-gold. Here are a few of my favorites, and you can find a bunch more on Retronaut.


December 20th, 2011, by

To be perfectly honest, I’m no big fan of Christmas music. With the exception of Vince Guaraldi and, of course, the infamous Bowie/Crosby duet (although I think I like the John C. Reilly/Will Ferrell version better), it’s a matter of just enduring it until January.

That said, I get a special kick out of Bob Dylan’s 2009 Christmas album, “Christmas in the Heart.My appreciation is based more on the fact that I’m fascinated by Bob Dylan and all of the inexplicable weirdness that’s emerged from his singular brain over the years, than the music itself, which is pretty standard holiday fare. All of your favorites are here, including “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing,” “Winter Wonderland” and “Little Drummer Boy,” all sung in Dylan’s unmistakable (and frequently unintelligible) nasally drawl.

The music is one thing, but the accompanying music video to “It Must Be Santa” takes the (fruit)cake. The scene is what I can only imagine to be your quintessential Dylan Christmas party, complete with accordions, fisticuffs and a singing, stringy-haired hobo in a white top hat. Oh wait, that’s Mr. Zimmerman himself. It must be watched in its entirety to be truly appreciated, but you’d better believe it’s not a Bob Dylan Christmas until someone gets thrown through a window.

December 19th, 2011, by

I know I would. And, just in time for the holidays as it happens, one has come up for sale. Are you listening, Santa?

The “Adirondack Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Silo Air Park” in Saranac, NY is an Atlas Missile site from the 1960s that has been converted into an elegant modern home. Beneath a rather inconspicuous Adirondack-style log home (and behind a pair of heavy steel blast doors) is a 52-foot-wide silo descending 176 feet below ground. While the silo itself is yet unfinished, the realtors note that a deck built within it would add an extra 2000 square feet to the property.

With 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and its own private runway, this could be the perfect spot to get away from the grind of city life or ride out the zombie apocalypse. And, at only $259,000, it’s a relative steal!

December 5th, 2011, by

Best-selling author and minister Joel Osteen Photo: cliff1066 Wikimedia Commons

Look out reality fans! Guess who has a new show coming to TV? Houston-based minister and acclaimed author Joel Osteen of Lakewood Church has agreed to host a reality series.

With a televised Sunday morning worship service that reaches over 100 million homes, Joel Osteen is no stranger to television. What Osteen and Lakewood Church haven’t had is a reality show that airs in primetime. But that’s about to change.

Teaming up with Mark Burnett, famed TV producer of shows like The Apprentice and Survivorthe new show will focus on the missionary trips Lakewood Church participates in overseas.

Known for his inspirational messages and best-selling books, Joel Osteen and Lakewood Church have been in the national spotlight for years. The program will join the ranks of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and other “feel-good” TV shows.

It should be pretty interesting and draw in faith-based viewers looking for something heartwarming to watch.

December 1st, 2011, by

People in faith-based communities work to keep the the holiday spirit year round. Photo: Dav3wil5oncna Wikimedia Commons


With the holidays officially upon us, our attention turns to spending time with others
volunteering one’s time and service to others.

For many in faith-based communities however, turning to God to give thanks isn’t contingent upon a particular time of year. In fact, it’s a way of life. So, before the holiday season comes and goes again in the blink of an eye, I thought it would be a good idea to share ten questions worthy of reflection.

1. God won’t ask what kind of car you drove; he’ll ask how many people you drove who didn’t have transportation.

2. God won’t ask the square footage of your house; he’ll ask how many people you welcomed into your home.

3. God won’t ask about the clothes you had in your closet; he’ll ask how many you helped to clothe.

4. God won’t ask what your highest salary was; he’ll ask if you compromised your character to obtain it.

5. God won’t ask what your job title was; he’ll ask if you performed your job to the best of our ability.

6. God won’t ask how many friends you had; he’ll ask how many people to whom you were a friend.

7. God won’t ask in what neighborhood you lived; he’ll ask how you treated your neighbors.

8. God won’t ask about the color of your skin; he’ll ask about the content of your character.

9. God won’t ask about your social status; he will ask what kind of class you displayed.

10. God won’t ask how many material possessions you had; he’ll ask if they dictated your life.


It’s little reminders like these that really stop me in my tracks. So much of our time is spent on chasing things that we forget what’s truly important. As we continue to embrace the holiday season, let’s all take an extra moment to remember that giving and sharing isn’t season specific activity.



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