Consumer spending is down? Thank f-ing God!

With all the news of Americans spending less than predicted this holiday season, and everyone worrying and fretting all over the media about how the drop in consumer spending spells doom for all, I have to wonder where our priorities are. If people are spending less on wasteful holiday crap and cars and gift cards that don’t even get spent half the time, I think we should get a freaking medal!

In a country as dangerously addicted to consumption as our own, where the average person has a mortgage and about 18 credit cards to pay off (I exaggerate, but not much), spending less is exactly what we need to be doing! Shame on the media for making it seem like a bad thing. Yes, downsizing our economy is going to be awkward for a while, because if we decide we don’t need 858 different companies all making flip-flops, some of those companies are going to have to close. But it is the responsible thing to do. Nobody needs to walk into a supermarket and face an entire aisle lined with different kinds of cereal.

We can only cross our fingers now and hope that lending agencies will wise up and stop giving money to people who have no intention or means to pay it back. Without the imaginary income that credit cards allow people, maybe they’ll start to see just how much crap they buy that they don’t need, and start to (gasp!) live within their means. Imagine how much more humble and less disgusting America would be if we all did that!

“New York Skeletons” reaches its stunning conclusion; fans weep openly

Dearest readers,

I, Laura, would like to thank all of you who took the time to read some or all of my serialized, internet-only novel New York Skeletons. As you may or may not know, I published it one (short) chapter per day, from September 18th to December 19th of 2007.

I plan on offering a physical copy for sale in the near future, for those of you who don’t like reading off a computer screen (I don’t blame you). UPDATE: You can now buy the book in print or e-book form on Lulu! I took it down from the site so, er, I guess that’s your only option.

Thank you again, and happy holidays!

*Love, Laura*

Liz’s Favorite Albums of 2007

8. Of Montreal – Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?

Of Montreal

Yes I am. No, but seriously, this jubilant yet immensely depressing album really did something big for Of Montreal this year. Never before has intense personal drama been so much damn fun to witness, and it seems lots of ravey youngsters have discovered this truth, as the band has exploded in popularity. I can’t say if Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? represents a permanent stylistic shift for Of Montreal, but pretty much the whole thing is a frenzied and dense dance-fest, which is super for Kevin Barnes’ flamboyant yet lady-loving persona. Through it all he maintains a voice very real in its suffering and very, well, human in its revelations. We can relate to him in those sparkly ass-huggers, we really can.

Show: Roseland Ballroom, October 15th, 2007

7. Andrew Bird – Armchair Apocrypha
Andrew Bird

I like that Andrew Bird. Just take his part Beck, part Rufus Wainwright voice, prodigious whistling talent, and violin skills and try and make a non-engaging album. And look, I didn’t even have room in that sentence to mention the glockenspiel. He weaves it all together in a way that not only pleases our pop sensibilities, but also leaves adequate room for spin-offs and moments of revelry in all his individual talents. Lyrics and instrumental proficiency combine to portray him as a pretty smart young man who has fun with his skills while also creating something artistically pleasing. The astounding range of that whistling of his shows a significant appreciation for sound and the places it can go.

6. Feist – The Reminder

Feist

Some might call the story of this album a fairytale, while others who shun mainstream commercial success might now be using it as a coaster. Either way, there’s no denying that the ever-charming Feist made herself a lovely album with The Reminder. Her distinctive voice during its more subtle moments still carries with it a gorgeous emotive power, and then there are those places where she lets it wail and really delivers the shivers. The songs range in style and character appropriately so that she has the chance to show us what she’s packin’, and they’re delightfully arranged so we’ve plenty of dancing moments, weeping moment, and “Wow, she’s awesome” moments. Her dancing around in a sequined jumper with that euphoric fun-bunch of hers in “1 2 3 4” just adds to the good times, plus I dig the banjo on that track. Also, best use of handclaps, found throughout.

Show: McCarren Park Pool, August 31st, 2007

5. Joanna Newsom & the Ys Street Band – EP

Joanna Newsom

The Ys Street Band, oh that is witty. Though this be but a humble EP delivering a mere three songs with only one of them new, I really, really like Joanna Newsom and so was thrilled over its humble release. “Colleen” (the new one) comes away from the dense orchestral arrangements all over last year Ys and brings us a playful sea ditty with lots of old-timeyness and Joanna hiccupping gorgeously all over the place. In this and the other two remixes, a batch of new instruments are tested out, each given ample space to explore, awe, and in some cases take great songs ever further. Note the pleasing addition of a tambura and musical saw (which is left to wail away on its own for the track’s last five minutes) to the already astounding “Cosmia.” “Clam, Crab, Cockle, Cowrie,” remains simple yet beautiful, and is here lent extra vocal accompaniment and sounds richer than when recorded for The Milk-Eyed Mender. Good job being awesome, guys.

4. Tiny Vipers – Hands Across The Void

Tiny Vipers

Though notably bare, this album’s campfire strummers are potent and gripping. The sparseness brings you close to singer and words sung, such that you really do end up feeling like you’re in the room there with her. Which I was one chilly evening recently, at an under-attended show at Union Hall. The audience consisted mostly of just me and a swaying, really confusing bum in the front row (How did he pay for the show, and why? Shouldn’t he have spent that money on vodka?), and Jesy Fortino with only her guitar played a lovely though withdrawn set. Her shyness didn’t dampen the pipes one bit, but rather lent her an endearing respectability that sorta made it all about the music, as they say. Her voice is the star of Hands Across The Void, with its sometimes low richness and other times playful singsong. Some have compared her to Joanna Newsom, but she totally doesn’t play the harp.

Show: Union Hall, November 17th, 2007

3. St. Vincent – Marry Me

St. Vincent

St. Vincent’s lush voice is not unlike that of Feist in some ways, and on Marry Me it dances beautifully around the excellently produced songs. This was made only the more clear when seeing her live, where the layered sounds of the album were meticulously reproduced on stage with a tangled mess of wires and pedals that she constantly leapt forward to stomp on. It was that performance that pulled me back to the album and revived the ear for some deeper appreciation – the sounds packed in there are a whole lotta radness. Some simply rock in a straightforward manner, while others appropriately relay the tinges of oddity that make Annie Clark special. I particularly enjoy the chipmunk effects and the jingle bells.

Show: Knitting Factory, October 18th, 2007

2. Iron & Wine – The Shepherd’s Dog

Iron and Wine

This album makes me feel warm and fuzzy, because it takes an artist I already adored and expands his talent to new reaches of excellence. With The Shepherd’s Dog, fans got to hear their beloved Sam Beam’s gorgeous whisper up against all kinds of fun new instruments and collaborators, and were even given the chance on a few tracks to shake booty. Beam’s singing style naturally conveys humility, which infuses the poetry of his lyrics with real passion and trustworthy insight. He really is a talented fellow in many realms, including certainly that of hair growing and maintenance. Besides the greatness of most of the songs on this album, it’s also satisfying that it fits nicely into the story of Beam’s progression as an artist.

Show: Town Hall, October 1st, 2007

1. Animal Collective – Strawberry Jam

Animal Collective

This album is difficult to categorize, a fact I found to be true in raving about it to various friends and acquaintances (non-annoyingly, I assure you). On Strawberry Jam, Animal Collective have exercised their talent for cramming in endless bits of splendid sound, but this time they’ve made it insanely catchy, through and through. Giving it a listen brings about a state of elation the likes of which you might not have experienced, because really what “genre” do these dudes fit safely into? This is an excellent album to listen to with headphones, so that you can properly hear all the loaded moments and be rattled by those leaping sounds that are thrown or coughed in at always exciting points. And guess what kids, this album was recorded in Tucson! Represent!!

? Radiohead – In Rainbows

Radiohead

This one’s a “Duh.” In Rainbows is a loaded album to tackle, and I don’t dare try to add to the already overflowing critical gushing. Personally, I was just really glad that this album didn’t suck. In my eyes, Radiohead have an immaculate record of genius-displaying output, so wouldn’t it have been a total bummer if they made a crappy album? Not due to lack of faith in their awesomeness, but rather a foolish adversity to tempting chance, I hoped suckitude would not occur, and certainly it did not. Also, the box set is kickass. Along with the vinyl and the actual regular CD, it comes with a disc of bonus tracks, a fancy booklet of artwork, and a nifty case to wrap them all carefully away in. Score!

The Star of Bethlehem and other dumb religious pseudo-science

star-lights-rf.jpg

I caught an episode of PBS’ Religion and Ethics this morning, and something in it really made me do a double-take. It was a perfect example of what nonreligious people like me always complain about: religious people giving all the credit for natural phenomena to deities, simply because they don’t understand how things work. You see this all the time, when someone marvels at how complex the human body or a sunset or a plant happens to be. They’ll say something like, “another one of God’s miracles,” when really, everything just evolved to its present state from a puddle of primordial ooze, out of necessity, not intent. But this really takes the cake.

This scientist (I’m not even sure if he was a legitimate scientist…somehow, I doubt it) said he decided to look into any possible explanations for what the Star of Bethlehem might have been. Now, part of this was very interesting, because it explains a whole lot about the Bible from a literary perspective, i.e. assuming that the character of Jesus is either made up or very loosely based on a real guy, but not a supernatural one. He explained that the Magi or Three Wise Men (who didn’t necessarily number three; the number was never specified in the Bible) were basically astrologers, who reacted to a very rare astronomical event by reading it as saying something about the king of the Jews and all that.

So what was this astronomical event? It could have been a very rare intersection of the Female and Male ruler planets, Mars and Venus, which would have produced an incredibly bright light in the sky. Others have said it could have been an intersection of up to four planets, but I think that in the context of the story, it would make sense to get a conception and birth prediction out of the intersection of the male and female planets.

Now for the part that irritated me. This guy went on to say that some eclipse or something also happens to mark the death of Jesus, and that these two lunar events which match up ‘perfectly’ to the story really helped to strengthen his faith, and made everything make sense. He said that once he knew that God wrote poetry in the heavens to mark events, everything changed, and he saw the whole world as a symphony and blah blah blah.

But hold on a second. This guy is assuming that the church did absolutely zero marketing in the Bible, which we all know isn’t true. We all know that Christians appropriated Yule and a number of other religions in terms of holiday traditions, and otherwise integrated the mythology of the people they were converting into the religion, to make it seem not only familiar, but legitimate and eternal as well. For instance, they chose their new religion’s details and numbers carefully to make sure that their characters and stories matched up to the ancient prophecies of other religions (i.e. Jesus fulfills Judaism’s prophecy of a messiah). The character of Jesus, whether or not he had any basis in reality, is extremely similar to any number of other mythic heroes, even down to the details of the allegories themselves. I just love hearing people argue about which town or grave Jesus might be buried in, then remember that we might be talking about a character no more real than James Bond.

So wouldn’t it make perfect sense for this fledgling church to also incorporate astrological omens? We already know that Jesus wasn’t born on December 25th, or even in the year Zero (if he existed at all), and it is assumed that the mid-winter time of the year was chosen because that’s when the mega-popular Yule holiday celebration started. But since these clever Bible-writers were writing about the distant past, they could pick and choose through the years using almanacs and figure out which year had the most impressive sky event. Then, bingo, you get the day you have your messiah character born.

As for having an eclipse on the day he died, that makes sense too…plenty of eclipses to choose from over the years, and they could have their character die whenever they wanted.

I just feel bad for this guy, that he can be so easily swayed. Not necessarily that he believes, but that he would take it as unalterable fact that the story proves that the stars did something supernatural, not the other way around. He decides that his little theory is correct before anyone has a chance to disprove it, knowing full well the margin of error he must be working with (who can say they know the exact time and date of three men seeing a star in a book?).

I guess there’s nothing wrong with this guy seeing magic in the stars from now on, but I just don’t give him much credit if he’s so easily won over. This is the type of guy who would convert to Scientology five minutes after touching the e-meter. Well, to bastardize Barnum’s famous saying, there’s a sucker born every minute, and most of them get baptized.

Vice President Dick Cheney and Mr. Potter from “It’s a Wonderful Life” — separated at birth?

Vice President

Vice President Richard B. Cheney

vs.

Potter1 smaller

Henry F. Potter

from It’s a Wonderful Life

White haired, balding, bespectacled politician with extensive business interests which have made him a millionaire. Since working with Nixon in the ’60’s, he has been plotting to centralize the power of the Executive branch, something he’s arguably already accomplished as Vice President under George W. Bush.  Bio White haired, balding, bespectacled businessman with political influence. Since George Bailey’s father opened the Building and Loan, Potter has been plotting to centralize his power in Bedford Falls by taking it over. As Joseph tells Clarence, “That’s Henry F. Potter, the richest and meanest man in the county.”

 

(On Guantanamo Bay) “I think these people have been well treated, treated humanely and decently. Occasionally there are allegations of mistreatment. But if you trace those back, in nearly every case, it turns out to come from somebody who had been inside and been released by to their home country and now are peddling lies about how they were treated.”

 

Typical Evil Quote “You once called me a warped, frustrated, old man! What are you but a warped, frustrated young man? A miserable little clerk crawling in here on your hands and knees and begging for help. No securities, no stocks, no bonds. Nothin’ but a miserable little $500 equity in a life insurance policy. You’re worth more dead than alive!” 
“The Vice President subverted the national security interests of the United States by setting the stage for the loss of more than 3,300 United States service members; the loss of 650,000 Iraqi citizens since the United States invasion; the loss of approximately $500 billion in war costs which has increased our Federal debt; the loss of military readiness within the United States Armed Services due to overextension, lack of training and lack of equipment; the loss of United States credibility in world affairs; and the decades of likely blowback created by the invasion of Iraq.” -Rep. Dennis Kucinich in HR333, calling for the impeachment of VP Cheney

 

Criticism They’ve Received “You sit around here and you spin your little webs and you think the whole world revolves around you and your money. Well, it doesn’t, Mr. Potter. In the whole vast configuration of things, I’d say you were nothing but a scurvy little spider.” -George Bailey

 

“In Iraq, a ruthless dictator cultivated weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them. He gave support to terrorists, had an established relationship with al Qaeda, and his regime is no more.” –Nov. 7, 2003

 

A Diabolical Lie They’ve Told The Building and Loan misappropriated $8000.
Skipping the White House Christmas party to go hunting.

 

How They Like to Spend Christmas Making sure that damned George Bailey spends Christmas in jail!

 

If that isn’t enough evidence for you, take a look at this still from a scene that was deleted from the original movie.

Potter_and_Trustees with text

Got questions that need answers? Ask Liz and Laura!

If there is one universal truth that connects all mankind, it is that no man is an island. We are social creatures, as dependent on one another as we are on food or Coors tall boys. And in a world as confusing as our own, who can really say they don’t need help navigating life’s tricky corridors?

Well, fret no more! Liz and Laura are in the house, and if you’ve got a question, they’ve got the answer! Send your questions in via Twitter and we’ll be happy to answer them!

Ask Liz and Laura: How long should you wait before gettin’ sexy with a new sweetie?

Ask Liz and Laura smaller

Dear Liz and Laura,

I was criticized over the weekend for my 12-hour rule. Basically, I have a rule with women. if I’m starting to date or becoming friend or both or neither, I can’t see them topless or bottomless before being in their presense for 12-hours. Example, you meet a girl at a party, you talk for an hour, decide we should go on a date, that’s an hour. Meet for dinner at 7pm-have drinks until midnight, that’s five hours + 1 = 6 hours. Next date, we got dinner and movie, say 4 hours. that’s 10. So by the third date when it gets to the 2 hours mark, I’m free and clear. You get it? So what do you think of my rule?

A very patient man

Dear Man,

Criticized? So a lady you were on a third date with was wondering why you hadn’t yet laid on the sexy moves? I’d say your policy is quite refreshing in this day and age, what with the booze-driven, “Hey, we just met, let’s bone in the coat check room” attitude that is so common in the modern world of dating. During those crucial first few dates, most of the women I know fret about when it’s appropriate to safely enjoy certain levels of romance, without seeming overly slutty in the gentleman’s mind. We all have our bodily needs and desires, but most of us are also aware that it’s dangerous to rush into physical intimacy before deciding if you actually like the person, or even can stand being in the same room with them for five minutes. Clearly you are well aware of this fact, otherwise, why would you have created this 12-hour rule in the first place?

Thusly, it’s somewhat shocking that this lady friend of yours became so frustrated. We’d say she should appreciate your personal code of courtship, and be glad you’re not another frat boy date rapist trying to slip her a roofiecolada. But perhaps she was unaware of your 12-hour policy, and by the third date was interpreting your failure to make a move as lack of interest. Women accustomed to the singles’ scene (unfortunately) aren’t used to guys restraining themselves for two hours, much less twelve. We’ve all had our humiliating experiences where a crush turns out to be gay, asexual, married, or otherwise undateable, so you can’t blame a girl for taking note of a potential red flag. Bottom line is, if you keep calling, she should know that you’re still havin’ it. Now, if it’s been 36 hours and you still haven’t touched her, we give this girl full license to worry.

Good luck,

Liz and Laura

Keep the questions coming, kids! Contact us on Twitter