Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Assassination of Jesse James

It's no secret that I have fallen in love with Western films. I had the opportunity to watch a relatively new Western this week, and enjoyed it so much I'll be watching it again tonight with my uncle. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is set right in my backyard; Jesse James was born and lived in Clay County Missouri, not far from where I grew up and where my parents still live. The movie, starring Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck, examines the tail end of James' lawless career and his ultimate demise at the hands of a member of his own gang, Robert Ford. I found this film fascinating on a number of levels. First, the acting was top notch - both Pitt (as Jesse James) and Affleck (as Robert Ford) were nominated for a host of awards following the film's release. However, it's Affleck who steals the show, portraying Ford's ambition, insecurity, sleaziness, and cowardice to perfection. Furthermore, I found that the film provided an interesting take on the idea of celebrity. Some scholars argue that Jesse James was the first "modern" celebrity, his fame spanning the country. Though he was cruel and merciless, robbing banks and killing anyone who stood in his way, you find yourself saddened by his assassination. But it's interesting - why are we drawn to individuals whose actions we fundamentally despise? It seems the same holds true with today's celebrities. Finally, the scenery is incredible. Most Westerns leave me in awe of the beauty of America's landscape. This was no different (although technically it was filmed in Canada). Still, you don't have to enjoy Westerns to enjoy this movie.

- Joel

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Jeremy Messersmith

I came home today to my sister and brother watching the television show Chuck. I don't watch the show, but I did discover a new musician, whose song played as the episode concluded. Jeremy Messersmith hails from Minneapolis. His latest album, The Reluctant Graveyard, is fitting for anyone to discover in the month of October. Plus, he's doing like Radiohead and giving you the option to pay what you want for his music. Check out his website here and snag his albums here. For a taste of his smooth folk sound, listen to/download the track from Chuck below, or listen to his entire album below that.

- Joel

Jeremy Messersmith - "A Girl, a Boy, and a Graveyard"

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Morning Benders

The Morning Benders seem to have leaped onto the scene this year. People way cooler than me probably knew about them a few years ago. But normal people like me heard their name for the first time earlier this year. This week I revisited an album of covers they recorded a few years ago. You might like it too. Download it using the widget below. I've also included the tracklist below that...chances are I posted this a few months ago. I guess this gives you a second chance to make things right if you didn't download it the first time.

- Joel

The Bedroom Covers:
1. crying - roy orbison
2. mother and child reunion - paul simon
3. why dont they let us fall in love? - the ronettes
4. lovefool - the cardigans
5. i won't share you - the smiths
6. he's a rebel - the crystals
7. marie - randy newman
8. fools rush in - johnny mercer/rube bloom
9. temptation inside your heart - velvet underground
10. dreams - fleetwood mac
11. pull up the roots - talking heads
12. caroline, no- beach boys remix (bonus track)
12.5 why don't they let us fall in love? (live daytrotter version!)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Stanley Chow

I finally had time to watch the Mad Men Season 4 finale last night. So much happened. Coincidentally, I saw these Mad Men illustrations on the Public School site yesterday as well. Stanley Chow (the illustrator) has a great style. Check out more of his work here.

- Joel

True Grit

In 1970 John Wayne won the only Oscar of his career playing Rooster Cogburn, an indefatigable U.S. Marshall hired to avenge the death of a young girl's father. This Christmas, the Coen Brothers, who won their own Academy Award directing No Country For Old Men, join forces with Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, and Josh Brolin to bring a new rendition to an old favorite, True Grit. I for one am excited.

- Joel

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Last night I introduced my favorite music venue, The Bottleneck in Lawrence, KS, to my brother Cory. We made the trek to Lawrence to see one of my favorite bands of the day, The Walkmen. Other than the fact that the show didn't let out until midnight (and we had a 45 minute drive home), it was one of my favorite shows I've been to in quite awhile. The Walkmen do it right when you see them live. The surprise of the evening, however, was the opening act. The Walkmen are currently touring with Japandroids (my ears are still ringing from their set, and I will not be listening to their music any time soon), yet it was the third band Brazos, added late to the bill, that caught our attention. They hail from Austin, Texas and reminded us a lot of Local Natives. Check out a few tunes below. And go see The Walkmen if you have the opportunity.

- Joel

Brazos - "Day Glo" (link removed by request)
Brazos - "Tell" (link removed by request)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


From the time I was six through the end of high school, my family decided not to celebrate Halloween. I guess technically it was my parents who made that decision, one in retrospect they admit to be a bit irrational. Thus, instead of playing dress up and overstimulating my system with sugar, I spent the formative years of my childhood eating pizza and swimming at the Holiday Inn Holidome every October 31st. While my parents' decision led to many awkward conversations as a kid ("You guys don't celebrate Halloween?!"), it's a part of my story I wouldn't change if given the opportunity. Although, I do wonder if the absence of Halloween explains my aversion to costumes in any setting and my fear of horror movies. I have slowly warmed to the holiday in recent years, though my Halloween-temperature still registers as "tepid". A big thanks to Ryan Gosling and Dead Man's Bones for easing my distaste for the spookiest day of the year. Check out a song and video below, both released this time last year.

- Joel

Dead Man's Bones - "My Body's A Zombie for You"

Monday, October 18, 2010


Apparently Alex Ebert, better known as Edward Sharpe of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, likes to whistle. The standout track, "Home", by he and his Zeros (now featured on an NFL commercial) opens with that infectious whistling. So too does his new solo track, "Truth". Listen below.

- Joel

Alexander - "Truth"

Friday, October 15, 2010


Last Saturday, as my poor, defenseless automobile waited patiently in line for an oil change, my plans and my perspective were substantially altered. A fellow customer backed into my car leaving me with $1400 in damage. Fortunately, the employees at the garage witnessed the accident, took down (most of) the offender's information in my stead, and called me to inform me of what happened. Over the past week, I have worked with the other driver and his wife to get the money, or the insurance information, to fix my car. What began as a relatively friendly interaction turned sour, and complicated, when they were given the estimate of the damages. Suddenly, in their eyes, I was at fault for parking my car too far away from the building as well as a contributor to our nation's economic woes having purchased a "German" (actually I drive a Volvo and it took all my might not to respond, "It's Swedish, thank you!") automobile. Furthermore, I was informed that their sister was in the hospital, their insurance company was almost bankrupt, and their landlord was "getting her leg fixed". Thus, they aren't sure if they can pay for the damages - yet mysteriously they refuse to give me their insurance information.

My situation reminded me of a piece Nick Paumgarten wrote for The New Yorker back in January. Noticing a recent trend across the country, Paumgarten astutely observes, "You learn, at an early age, to own up to your mistakes and misdeeds; and then, apparently, at some later age, you learn to disown them." If nothing else, this whole situation is a fresh reminder that I need to be vigilant to take responsibility for my own mistakes. It's hard enough when others don't take responsibility for theirs.

- Joel

Read Paumgarten's article here.

Monday, October 11, 2010


Silly Pond. November 2009. Rockport, Maine © Allison V. Smith
Times like these I wish I lived in Dallas. My photog friend Allison opens a new exhibition this weekend. Her photographs from Maine are outstanding. I'd expect nothing less from her.

- Joel

Twin Sister

Twin Sister is generating a bit of buzz in the indie world at the moment. They dropped an EP earlier this year and recently released a new track through a project called Shaking Through. If you are looking for an introduction to other new bands, Shaking Through is a good place to go. Watch Twin Sister perform "Lady Daydream" (and download the live version of the song), a track off of their EP, below. Also, check out the Shaking Through track "Meet the Frownies" below that.

- Joel

Twin Sister - "Lady Daydream (LaundroMatinee Session)"

Twin Sister - "Meet the Frownies"

Saturday, October 9, 2010

William Burton Binnie

William Burton Binnie is a Dallas-based artist. A lot of his work involves creepy stuff, which is not usually my flavor. But I found his take on Lee Harvey Oswald (and the hats involved) to be really creative. And the piece below makes me think of a Western movie on Halloween-steroids. Both of these pieces would take up your entire wall. I'd like to see them in person. Check out more of his work here.

- Joel


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Quote of the Day

I have thought a lot about the concept of "cool" in the past year. It seems like being cool is an endless retreat; as soon as others are doing, saying, wearing the same things as you, you've got to retreat to something new and different and "better". There's also an inherent spirit of indifference somewhere within the concept of cool. You aren't cool if you try too hard or care too much. I find David Foster Wallace's take on the concept of cool (or "hip" as he calls it) to be interesting.

- Joel

"What passes for hip cynical transcendence of sentiment is really some kind of fear of being really human, since to be really human … is probably to be unavoidably sentimental and na├»ve and goo-prone and generally pathetic."
- David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Hoover Dam Bridge

Two summers ago my family embarked on a Great American Family Vacation across the Southwest. We flew to Phoenix and then drove across the desert to San Diego, back across the desert to Las Vegas, over the Hoover Dam, to the Grand Canyon, through the red rocks of Sedona, and back to Phoenix to fly home. The Hoover Dam left me awestruck at the power of man. The Grand Canyon left me awestruck at the power of God.

When we visited the Hoover Dam, crews had begun construction on a bridge allowing the highway to bypass the dam. Standing atop the dam and looking at the nascent bridge inching away from the earth and into the void above the Colorado River, I thought to myself, "How in the world are they going to build that thing?" The bridge has taken shape in the year and a half since my visit, and it remains a remarkable sight.

- Joel

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Avey Tare

New Animal Collective tunes! Well....sort of. Avey Tare amounts to one fourth of the collective. He's doing a solo thing on the side with a new album dropping October 26. Check out his new tune below.

- Joel

Avey Tare - "Lucky 1"

Monday, October 4, 2010

Twitter Revolution

© Robert Frank
Last month I took a Twitter-fast. My attention span waning, I tried to cut out one many things which compete for the quiet moments of my day. Unplugging myself was admittedly difficult, much like kicking an addiction. Maybe I'm more conceited than most, but I found it telling that what I missed initially about Twitter, if I'm gut-level honest, was the ability to promote myself (how funny, clever, observant, etc. I am). Things would happen in my day and I would instinctively come up with clever observations no more than 140 characters in length; I was missing out on the opportunity to prove my good humor to the masses! Furthermore, during that first week I found myself preoccupied with the unknown - what was going on with my followers/followees? Yet the headache that was Twitter-withdrawal slowly subsided and I began to enjoy living life unplugged (or partially unplugged).

The fast got me to thinking. "Connectedness" seems to be one piece of heavy artillery proponents of social media use as they wage war in the digital age; Twitter, Facebook, and the rest are great because they keep us connected, or so they argue. Yet, based on my experience, I can't help but wonder if ego lies beneath connectedness. We want to be connected, at least in part, to build an arena in which we can demonstrate our own value, our credentials. Maybe the reason we tell ourselves we want social media (connectedness) isn't actually why we become so addicted. Or maybe it's just me....

Maybe the same truth, that social media isn't all it promises to be, applies in other areas. In this week's edition of The New Yorker, Malcolm Gladwell analyzes social media's usefulness to facilitate social activism. Proponents will argue that we have entered a new age, one in which activism can be empowered with a few key strokes and a single click. Yet, Gladwell finds a difference between true activism, the kind that actually enacts change, and what is happening on Twitter and Facebook. He argues that social media "makes it easier for activists to express themselves, and harder for that expression to have any impact." As always, Gladwell makes a compelling case. I certainly don't agree with him 100% of the time, but I do agree with his take this time. Read the article at the link below. It's short and well worth your time.

- Joel

Malcolm Gladwell - "Small Change: Why the Revolution will not be tweeted"

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Dallas Weekend

Great weekend in Dallas. Fuel City tacos. State Fair of Texas. Crazy Mouse. Corny dogs. Bishop Arts Urban Street Bazaar. North Park Mall. Gossip girl. Louie's Pizza. The Old Monk. Thanks for being a great hostess, Cassie! And thanks to Jeff & Nicole for lots of fun too.

- Joel