8 years ago, when the Warriors made the playoffs for the first time in 13 seasons, there was much rejoicing among fans and players, and I wrote a giddy post entitled “Hell Freezes Over.”
This week, they mathematically clinched a playoff spot in the middle of a game against the Lakers, when the Oklahoma City Thunder lost to the Dallas Mavericks. Everyone glanced at the scoreboard, shrugged, and went about their business.
We are not living in a golden age of music right now. Sure, there is good music being made; always has been, always will be. But there’s nothing like the depth and breadth of the 60s and 70s, or even the 80s and 90s. You could come up with a thousand reasons why, from the decline of Western civilization to the rise of downloading and the vegetative state of the music business, but it hardly matters at this point. We all have access to so much music, no one now living will ever run out of new things to explore. So in a sense, who cares if not much great stuff is being recorded these days? We don’t really need much more.
But one place where the boundaries are still being pushed, and new summits still being reached, is in the area of hype. Last week, for instance, the Wu-Tang Clan held a public event at a museum in Queens, New York to preview their new album, Once Upon a Time in Shaolin. Why would people crowd into an auditorium and consent to have their phones confiscated to hear 13 minutes of music by a group whose previous release – A Better Tomorrow, still just a few months old – did not exactly set the world on fire?
The sole existing master of Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, of which all backups and digital files have been destroyed, is available through the New York auction house, Paddle 8. It is presented in a hand carved nickel-silver casing designed by the British Moroccan artist Yahya and accompanied by a 174 page volume containing lyrics, credits and anecdotes on the production and recordings of each song.
And the answer is yes, yes I do. Andrew does such a good job of explaining why that I am tempted to just leave it at that:
So much of the NBA belongs to people who are gifted beyond comparison and talented beyond comprehension — guys who make impossible skills look routine. Guys like Steph, Klay, even someone like Harrison Barnes. I love Draymond Green like a family member because he was none of those things. He was the regular dude from Michigan who might one day be able to foul people professionally, and through sheer will and self-confidence, he has made himself as irreplaceable as anyone. This is the goddamn American Dream, at least for the 99 percent of us who shouldn’t bother dreaming.
But let me go ahead and add a few words of my own. Read more »
“Your mind…blow it.”
-David Bowie, “The Gospel According to Tony Day”
Klay got his Harry Potter scar from a J.R. Smith elbow.
A couple years back, when I was first trying to brainwash my special lady friend into being a Warriors fan, I suggested that she pick a favorite player as a way to personalize the game. She quickly homed in on Klay Thompson, then a raw second-year guard with a huge upside and what looked, to me, like an equally enormous schnoz (she claimed it was “Roman” and elegant). Klay’s fortunes have soared ever since, and this year he signed a $70 million contract extension, started in the All-Star Game, and did this:
Very few NBA players will ever score 37 points in a game, much less a quarter. I unfortunately did not happen to be watching that night, and learned again the hard way that you just cannot miss Warriors games these days, because you never know when something mind-blowing is going to happen. (See also: Curry, Stephen, subject of previous post.)
As for Klay, what I like most about him is his matter-of-fact demeanor. He rarely shows emotion on the court (except when dropping 37 points in a quarter, and really, isn’t that a good time to flip out a little bit?). In a sports world overrun with hyperinflated egos, it’s refreshing to see a guy with superstar skills and a “just-doing-my-job-here” attitude.
“Your mind…blow it.” -David Bowie, “The Gospel According to Tony Day”
Steph Curry can also fly, apparently.
As of this writing, the last day of the All-Star break, My Golden State Warriors have the best record in the league at 42-9. They have been so good, so consistently, that at times it’s become a little bit boring. After they methodically squeezed the life out of the at-one-time-considered-a-threat Houston Rockets a couple weeks back, sweeping the season series in decisive fashion, columnist Ray Ratto’s summary was:
Warriors add another sculpture to their Tedium Through Excellence exhibit.
This is a whole different world from what Warriors fans are used to, and while we’ve had a couple years to get used to the team not sucking anymore, my little monkey brain has not quite caught up to where things are now. In the days before the All-Star game I would see promos prominently featuring players in the familiar blue and gold and it would take me by surprise, even though Steph Curry was #1 in the overall voting, beating out even LeBron James. Read more »
About two and a half years ago I bought a new MacBook Pro. Unlike my previous laptop, it didn’t come with any music preloaded, so this was a chance for me to start from scratch with an empty iTunes library.
At first, I loaded only albums from 2012 to force myself to listen to recent music. Then I added stuff from 2011, and then 2013 when the time came. Then I wanted to have staples like the Beatles and the Stones, so I relaxed the rules, and from there things started to get out of hand. Around this time I discovered that it’s pretty easy nowadays to take your laptop to the library and burn to your heart’s content, without bothering to check stuff out and return it. My friend Robert gave me a memory stick full of Sly and the Family Stone and Madlib mixes. I got 8 CDs’ worth of both Johnny Cash and James Brown. You get the picture.
Fast-forward to today, and I just reached the 10,000-song mark. This seems like a good time to step back and reflect for a minute. Of course, 10,000 songs represents only the merest fraction of my total collection, but that’s still a lot of music; to be precise, 26 days, 5 hours, 4 minutes, and 56 seconds’ worth. So I could still theoretically listen to all of it during the month of February, as long as I didn’t sleep. If I just made a job of it and listened to 8 hours a day, it would take me 79 days to get all the way through, assuming I didn’t add anything more in the meantime. Which is unlikely. Read more »
“I’m exhausted from living up to your expectations.”
—Jareth the Goblin King, Labyrinth
One of the perks of being David Bowie, with a long and distinguished career behind you, more money than God, and an inexhaustibly deep well of heavy heavy cool to draw from, is that you can do whatever you want.
Last year, what David wanted to do was release a career retrospective that includes greatest hits, unreleased tracks, and songs he felt were insufficiently appreciated. He also recorded two new songs, one of which (“Sue (Or in a Season of Crime)“) leads off the three-disc, reverse-chronological-order version of Nothing Has Changed. (There are also double-vinyl and single-CD versions, each with different track listings and sequencing.) I must admit that despite my best efforts I have been unable to find a way to enjoy this song; it does not seem to be designed with enjoyment in mind.
“Sue” is perhaps best viewed as the latest step in the pas de deux between Bowie and Scott Walker, which has gone on for 40-some years now. It’s a little hard to wrap your head around but it’s quite possible that, as great as we all think being David Bowie must be, what David Bowie really wants is to be Scott Walker. My theory on this is that despite his artistic adventurousness, Bowie has always been somewhat constrained by his desire to please his audience. In doing so he has become rich and famous, but I wonder if he has in some respect felt hemmed in by what people expect of “David Bowie,” and wished for the freedom afforded a Scott Walker, who seemingly cares to please only himself. In the last 20 years Walker has abandoned all commercial considerations and explored completely alien territory that challenges what we think of as music. I don’t personally care for albums like Tilt and Bish Bosch, but there is no denying their integrity. Read more »
Disc 3 begins in 1975 with “Fame,” which may be the first Bowie song I ever heard; it’s certainly the first one I remember. As with so much of the innovative music of that era that I ended up loving, I initially found it disturbing and frightening. At that point I was not yet a person who controlled his own musical environment; I just soaked up whatever was around me, mostly from the radio, and there was nothing else on the radio like “Fame.” For one thing, it was hard funk when the charts were dominated by soft rock and first-wave disco (funky enough, in fact, that James Brown ripped it off wholesale for a song called “Hot (I Need to Be Loved, Loved, Loved)”). For another, it had that bizarre descending vocal line near the end; surely nothing like it had penetrated my tender young ears before.
But now “Fame” is a comforting old friend, ditto “Young Americans,” which follows it on Nothing Has Changed. Like “Heroes,” “Young Americans” is lyrically ambiguous, to say the least, if not downright grim (consider: “Well, well, well, would you carry a razor?/In case, just in case of depression” or “We live for just these twenty years/Do we have to die for the fifty more?”). But as with “Heroes” that tends to get lost in the sheer sonic bliss and forward momentum of the music. There is a sense here that the Young Americans are maybe not all that bright, that they’ll gladly swallow any poison pill wrapped in tasty candy. And I have to admit I’m right there with them; I love this song regardless. Read more »