Archive for December, 2011

Going To ’11: Songs of the Year

Which Adele song makes the list?

Last year, my “Best Of” music post didn’t come out until January 27th. Well, I wasn’t about to let that happen again. Hopefully, you’re not sick of reviews of 2011 music yet.

Here are the best songs of 2011 (with a limit of one song per artist):

25) “The Merry Barracks” – Deerhoof – Deerhoof vs. Evil

I love the way this song moves from simple to complex.

Continue reading

Going To ’11: Albums of the Year

Best Cover Art of 2011?

At the start of the 2010, I made a goal for myself to read one book a week—a goal I ended up abandoning by, I believe, the end of January. (Do you realize how much reading that entails?) In 2011, I tried to keep it more manageable: I made a plan to listen to one new album per week. While I once again fell short of my attempted goal, this time I came a lot closer to completing it and, as a result, I ended up listening to far more new music this year than any year since high school.

You would think that this would make compiling a Best Of list easier, but it did not. Unlike last year, when my number one album was never in doubt, 2011 lacked a standout record. This is not to say there weren’t great albums released, but there were none that had the impact of The Suburbs, or This Is Happening. Over at The A.V. Club, Steven Hyden called this year “The year of no Important Albums,” and while I don’t really like the term “Important Album” (important to whom?), I pretty much agree: This was a year of a lot of Very Good albums, but few Great ones. Continue reading

Going To ’11: Music Videos of 2011

I always think that nobody watches music videos anymore, but then I remember that like 75% of the “Most Viewed” videos on YouTube are music videos that have, collectively, been viewed over five billion times. Nevertheless, it still seems like the cultural importance of music videos have waned. It seems like they exist now for people who want to listen to music on their computer without using iTunes, Spotify, or Pandora.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t cool videos that come out every year. This is a brief overview of the most inspired videos of 2011 (that we saw):

Best Use of Abstract Shapes in a Music Video

“Second Song” — TV On The Radio (Dir: Michael Please)

This is what geometry is for. Continue reading

Monday Medley

What we read while wondering what it’d be like if we’d never been born…

John S Still Hates Christmas

John S explained why he hates Christmas last year (and the year before that), but it’s all still true:

It probably doesn’t come as much of a shock to you to hear that I hate Christmas: For one, I like hating things that are popular. More substantively, though, Christmas combines two of my least favorite things in the world: religion and consumerism. At Christmas, people are encouraged to buy a bunch of stuff that they don’t need in order to celebrate the birth of a god that doesn’t exist. Continue reading

Monday Medley

What we read while the Egyptian government REALLY cracked down on Tebowing…

Monday Medley

What we read while turning down the Donald Trump debate…

The Art of Fielding and Fictionalizing History

“What happened to Steve Blass? Nobody knows, but some speculation is permissible—indeed, is perhaps demanded of anyone who is even faintly aware of the qualities of Steve Blass and the depth of his suffering. Professional sports have a powerful hold on us because they display and glorify remarkable physical capacities, and because the artificial demands of games played for very high rewards produce vivid responses. But sometimes, of course, what is happening on the field seems to speak to something deeper within us; we stop cheering and look on in uneasy silence, for the man out there is no longer just another great athlete, an idealized hero, but only a man—only ourself. We are no longer at a game.”

—Roger Angell, “Gone for Good,” June 1975

Nobody knows. Even 35 years later, nobody knows what happened to Steve Blass, why, after his best season in the major leagues, Steve Blass lost the ability to pitch. Blass was, historically speaking, the first in a list of infamous players that now includes Mackey Sasser, Steve Sax, Chuck Knoblauch, and Rick Ankiel—baseball players who suddenly and inexplicably could no longer do simple tasks that they had long ago perfected.

Sports, as Chad Harbach points out at one point in The Art of Fielding, create a strange paradox between the art they aspire to and the artless, thoughtless repetition required to best attain it. Baseball, just like any other sport, relies heavily on muscle memory and on keeping your brain as far out of your physical movements as possible. KISS, we all hear at some Little League practice: keep it simple, stupid.

Harbach’s much-anticipated debut novel—it isn’t often first-timers get six-figure advances these days—adds another name to that ignominious list with Henry Skrimshander, a balletic shortstop for Division III Westish College in lakeshore Wisconsin. Harbach’s novel essentially takes its cue from Roger Angell’s oft-praised (and deservedly so) profile of Blass from 1975: What happens to a baseball player when he loses the ability to play baseball? What happens when your self-definition dissolves?*

Continue reading

Monday Medley

What we read while Newt Gingrich started quoting Dragon Ball Z…

The Double Bonus: Early Season Thoughts

The Double Bonus podcast is back! In the second podcast of the 2011-12 season, Tim and John S discuss the surprises of the first few weeks of this season. Is UNC as good as we expected? Is Ohio State even better? Have our sleepers looked good so far? Who is the third best team in the ACC? How does Austin Rivers compare to Kyrie Irving? Will Herman Cain be the next president? Also, who will win today’s Kentucky-North Carolina game? All these questions and more are discussed (to no definitive conclusions, of course) in today’s podcast. (Though, due to technical difficulties, we weren’t able to add the Pacific Life theme song, which, of course, is usually the best part of NPI Comes Alive!) Click here to listen to the podcast of a lifetime.