They Might Be Guest Editors: The Singer Building

TMBGlogoIf you seek proof of the theory of evolution, consider They Might Be Giants. Over the course of three decades, the duo of John Linnell and John Flansburgh learned how to adapt and thrive in an increasingly hostile musical environment. TMBG diversified early and often, from its Dial-A-Song project and TV theme songs (Malcolm In The Middle) to podcasts and, more recently, a string of successful children’s albums, books and DVDs. TMBG’s latest children’s album, Here Comes Science, is a fun and surprisingly educational foray into the world of elements, planets, photosynthesis, electric cars and, yes, evolution. The duo is guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our Q&A with Linnell.

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Linnell: I’m pretty sure I remember the Singer Building, or maybe it evokes a whole set of sense memories from my early childhood in New York City. It was demolished in the ’60s along with many other ornate relics from a pre-bauhaus vision of urban architecture to make room for the minimalist steel-and-glass skyscrapers that are themselves becoming a little quaint. The Singer Building looked like a fancy Victorian pile that had been fed the cake that Alice ate in Wonderland. The whole structure was grotesquely huge, and like Alice’s neck after she ate the cake, the tower was especially distended looking. To me, it is something more than beautiful. I get a little scared when I look at pictures of it. I can’t say I’m exactly nostalgic for the period that produced this monstrosity. I get the feeling that the fat cats who were building and running New York in those days had even less sympathy for the common man than they do now. The early-20th-century skyscrapers were more terrifyingly heavy, and the excessive wedding-cake ornamentation was mind blowing rather than pretty. It seems fitting that bits of terracotta sometimes fall off aging towers and hit people on the head. Architecturally, the Singer Building represents an evolutionary dead end, before the skyscraper was freed from any sense of human scale and assumed the soaring geometry that it still has, even in its current fashion for playful textures and undulating shapes. By the end of its life, the building must have seemed like a brobdingnagian haunted house, completely out of step with the times and, fatally, an unpleasant reminder of the fussy past. Like the grand and decrepit old Penn Station, it had to go, but unlike the train station, I don’t think it was mourned. Even so, the cold, dead fingers of this long departed New Yorker still reach out to me from beyond the grave, seize me by the heart, kill me.

Film At 11: Pierced Arrows

Seminal punk band Dead Moon broke up in 2006, but the core of the group, husband-and-wife duo Fred and Toody Cole, picked up drummer Kelly Halliburton and formed a new band, Pierced Arrows, not long after the dissolution. The band’s sophomore LP, Descending Shadows (Vice), is due February 2. Check out the video for the lead single “Paranoia,” which sounds like a dark, basement-punk version of a fist-pumping AC/DC tune.

TiVo Party Tonight: Ronnie Spector

TIVOronniespector4914Ever wonder what will happen during the last five minute of late-night TV talk shows? Here are tonight’s notable performers:

Late Night With Jimmy Fallon (NBC): Ronnie Spector
Ronnie Spector, legendary bad-girl rocker and former member of ’60s chick group the Ronettes, performs on Fallon tonight. Spector recently released The Last Of The Rock Stars, her first domestic album in more than 20 years; it features appearances by legends like Keith Richards and Patti Smith as well as impressive new talent like Nick Zinner (Yeah Yeah Yeahs), Patrick Keeler (Raconteurs) and Jack Lawrence (Dead Weather).

They Might Be Guest Editors: Baloney Explosions

TMBGlogoIf you seek proof of the theory of evolution, consider They Might Be Giants. Over the course of three decades, the duo of John Linnell and John Flansburgh learned how to adapt and thrive in an increasingly hostile musical environment. TMBG diversified early and often, from its Dial-A-Song project and TV theme songs (Malcolm In The Middle) to podcasts and, more recently, a string of successful children’s albums, books and DVDs. TMBG’s latest children’s album, Here Comes Science, is a fun and surprisingly educational foray into the world of elements, planets, photosynthesis, electric cars and, yes, evolution. The duo is guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our Q&A with Linnell.

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Flansburgh: Let’s start charting the intervals between baloney explosions on the 24-hour news cycle. Starting on October 16 with the balloon-boy incident, and then on November 26 there was the White House party crashers. That’s just a little bit over a month. So in just a few weeks, we are due to have another reality-TV-motivated freak-show moment. This information needs to be tracked! Video after the jump.

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MP3 At 3PM: The Art Museums

artmuseums286Self-described Bay Area burnouts Josh Alper and Glenn Donaldson are the Art Museums, and they spent the summer of ’09 recording music that could have easily fit in on radio 40 years ago. Check out the lo-fi jangle and vocal harmonies on “Sculpture Gardens,” off the band’s debut album, Rough Frame (Woodsist), which is set to come out sometime in 2010.

“Sculpture Gardens” (download):
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/SculptureGardens.mp3

“The Runaways” Trailer: Kristen Stewart Plays Joan Jett

We love rock ‘n’ roll, and when Joan Jett told us to put another dime in the jukebox, baby, we did just that back in 1982 at Vince’s Pizza in suburban Philly. Before Jett fronted the Blackhearts, she was a founding member of the Runaways, an all-girl band composed of teenagers that released a handful of albums between 1976 and 1978. Next year will see a biopic about the band, starring Kristen Stewart as Jett and Dakota Fanning as bandmate Cherie Currie. Here’s a teaser clip for the movie.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MYPoIs04IzY

They Might Be Guest Editors: The Minolta Autopak 460T

TMBGlogoIf you seek proof of the theory of evolution, consider They Might Be Giants. Over the course of three decades, the duo of John Linnell and John Flansburgh learned how to adapt and thrive in an increasingly hostile musical environment. TMBG diversified early and often, from its Dial-A-Song project and TV theme songs (Malcolm In The Middle) to podcasts and, more recently, a string of successful children’s albums, books and DVDs. TMBG’s latest children’s album, Here Comes Science, is a fun and surprisingly educational foray into the world of elements, planets, photosynthesis, electric cars and, yes, evolution. The duo is guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our Q&A with Linnell.

Minolta-Autopak

Linnell: I have a pile of old cameras that I take around with me. Some are kind of half-broken and some seem to be unbreakable, like the Minolta Autopak 460T. It’s a subminiature camera from 1979 that uses now-extinct 110 cartridges, which can nevertheless still be purchased and processed with a little Internet searching. Like any film camera, but unlike any affordable digital camera today, it has the virtue of taking a picture at the exact moment that you press the shutter. That and it’s extremely compact, slim, ’70s styling make it an excellent point-and-shooter. Photos after the jump.

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Film At 11: Foreign Born

Singer Matt Popieluch and guitarist Lewis Pesacov of Foreign Born are core members of an incestuous Los Angeles-based music collective featuring Fool’s Gold, Big Search, Glasser and Cass McCombs, among others. Foreign Born’s sophomore album, Person To Person (Secretly Canadian), was one of several released by the collective earlier this year, and the band’s latest video, “Early Warnings,” looks like a Cousteau-cum-Steve Zissou nature documentary. The song sounds a bit like Arcade Fire: upbeat folk rock and a lot of vocal reverb, but with an African Highlife-inspired lead guitar. Filmed on and around the island of Catalina, just off the coast of L.A., the clip features the band travelling by land, air and sea to explore “uncharted reaches.”

TiVo Party Tonight: Matisyahu, Franz Ferdinand

tivomatisyahu4604Ever wonder what will happen during the last five minute of late-night TV talk shows? Here are tonight’s notable performers:

The Late Show With David Letterman (CBS): Matisyahu
Letterman hosts Hasidic reggae rapper Matisyahu as he promotes new album Light as well as his New York Hanukkah performances.

Last Call With Carson Daly (NBC): Franz Ferdinand
Franz Ferdinand appears on Last Call in support of Tonight: Franz Ferdinand. The band will be playing a number of overseas festivals and shows to kick off the new year.

They Might Be Guest Editors: Downward Spirals

TMBGlogoIf you seek proof of the theory of evolution, consider They Might Be Giants. Over the course of three decades, the duo of John Linnell and John Flansburgh learned how to adapt and thrive in an increasingly hostile musical environment. TMBG diversified early and often, from its Dial-A-Song project and TV theme songs (Malcolm In The Middle) to podcasts and, more recently, a string of successful children’s albums, books and DVDs. TMBG’s latest children’s album, Here Comes Science, is a fun and surprisingly educational foray into the world of elements, planets, photosynthesis, electric cars and, yes, evolution. The duo is guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our Q&A with Linnell.

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Linnell: It’s hard to justify but, I think, easy to understand the appeal of the Downward Spiral. From Greek tragedies and the horrors of ordinary folk tales through King Lear and on down to loads of contemporary books and films, stories that end badly have always been compelling. I never get tired of hearing about hapless people who don’t realize until too late that they are on a one-way journey to their own annihilation. Wheee! Here are a few tales that can be grimly enjoyed right through to the inevitable sorry end.

Wise Blood is a great novel by Flannery O’Connor about a zealous preacher with a deformed and hilarious vision of his own “church without Christ.” His earnest belief in his own righteousness leads him, step by terrible step, to his grisly fate.

Miami Blues, despite its drab title, is an engaging film starring Alec Baldwin (pictured) as a sociopathic con man who, eyes twinkling, claws his way to his own doom through a series of impulsive scams. His character’s wackiness and proclivity for random acts of violence underscore his pointless, anti-heroic descent.

Franz Kafka seemed to specialize in various kinds of awful fates. Beyond his popular tale The Metamorphosis (man wakes up to find he’s a cockroach, family isn’t sympathetic, cockroach slowly expires), there is also a wonderful Kafka story called A Hunger Artist that details the predictable demise of a circus performer whose talent is starving to death.

I’m not sure whether to count Mike Figgis‘ excellent film Leaving Las Vegas as exactly meeting my definition, because the protagonist (brought vividly to death by Nicolas Cage) has kind of planned out his own end in advance, so he’s not quite the paradigmatic loser who doesn’t know what’s about to happen.

Likewise The Road by Cormac McCarthy, the best book I’ve read this year, is unbearably sad and ends up in a very bad place. But it starts out that way as well, so there’s not so much downward to go.

Video after the jump.

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