Posts Tagged ‘Prog Rock’

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The Presidents of Harvard University Vol. 2 – The Next Hundred Years (Very Approximately)

October 20, 2009
America's most prestigious university always reminds its students to sound difficult words out.

America's most prestigious university always reminds its students to sound difficult words out.

In case you’re playing catch-up, you can check out the beginning of this glorious (and fact-free) page in history here in The First Hundred Years.

If you’ve been playing along since the beginning, please mark spot “N-45.” This is your bonus free space.

Without further preamble, Fancy Plans presents Vol. 2 in the remarkable history of Harvard’s presidents, taking you on an aplomb-laden journey through the “Pyrite Age” of Crimson history.

9. Edward Holyoke 1737-1769*
Holyoke brought in a new wave of old school corporal punishment during his unprecedented 33-year deathgrip on the top spot. Underclassmen began to fear for their lives as hazing was not only encouraged, but made mandatory. Many requested transfers to schools with less stringent hazing techniques, like Rutgers and UC-Santa Barbara.

Holyoke’s downfall and eventual lynching was the result of his insistence on bare-bottom paddling, which put Harvard in the sights of another crippling class action lawsuit. The court found in favor of the red-bottomed underclassmen (as it often does) and sentenced Holyoke to “death by angry locals.” “Affectionately” known as “Ed Banger.”
*Official cause of death listed as “waiting to inhale.”

10. Samuel Locke 1770-1773
Four years was all it took for Samuel Locke to leave nary a mark on this hallowed institution, having enacted no major (or minor) reforms, rule changes, raids on Yale or catastrophic scandals. Often attributed hazily with coining the phrases “Don’t rock the boat” and “No, thanks. I’ll just sit quietly here in the back until the board meeting is over, if that’s ok with everybody.” Affectionately known as “Current Occupant.”

11. Samuel Langdon 1774-1780
Langdon is recognized as the first Harvard president to fully take advantage of a dangerously underage Congress, having lobbied his way into its heart and parts beyond shortly after its formation in September of 1774. Once firmly ensconced in the legislative body of the U.S., Langdon took care to have himself and his university “grandfathered” in (but not in a sexual way, of course) before most of the Constitution and Bill of Rights was enacted or amended.

He secured several large donations from various congressional bills and was often seen trumpeting his success by dangling his funding in front of various Yalies and yelling, “That’s right, pretty boys! Who’s well-endowed now?” Known affectionately as “Shaft.”

12. Joseph Willard 1781-1804*
Willard spent 14 fruitless years trying to match the successes of his predecessor, Samuel “Shaft” Langdon, the strain of which caused him to shorten his life drastically through a series of suicide attempts. This fruitless strain was further compounded by Langdon not having the decency to die in office like so many presidents before him. 

Langdon would often show up late in the evening, drunk on his own success and a combination of grain alcohol and horehound extract. These late night visits often ended with Langdon passing out in the elderberry bushes and Willard hitting a non-vital organ with his musket loader. Affectionately known as “Not Well-Endowed at All, Are We JW? Hahahahahaha!!! *vomit*”
*Died in office in an office supply mishap involving a malfunctioning moveable press prototype and perfectly functioning muzzle loader.

13. Samuel Webber 1806-1810*
Although Webber was responsible for several additions to both the student housing and professorial quarters (most notably, a much larger billiards room for the president’s office to complement the 6-lane bowling alley), he is now mainly known for not being “that guy” many people are thinking of, including:

  • the dictionary guy (Webster)
  • the grill guy (Weber)
  • that little guy (Webster)
  • that weird scout rank (Webelos)
  • that composer guy (Andrew Lloyd)
  • that previous president (Willard)

Affectionately known as “Samuel Webster.”
*Died in office due to an obituary misprint in the local paper, which Webber spent several years fighting, often in a “still living” capacity.

14. John Thornton Kirkland 1810-1828
J.T., as he was affectionately known, led the Harvard Crimson to several sports titles, including  battlechess, coxswaining, motocross, skullboning, contract bridge, narwhal hunting, Yale frosh-knifing, strip badminton and quarters. His willingness to take a “hands on” approach to coaching led to unparalleled success and several parental lawsuits. “Coach Knight” (as he was affectionately known) gave the once pasty face of Harvard Athletics the black eye it needed to “toughen up” and “take it one game at a time.”

As the new-look athletics department drew heavy coverage from the local papers, “The Ragin’ Cajun'” (affectionately a.k.a.) insisted on handling every post-game interview and is credited with the invention of the non-sensical character string which is used to denote horrendous, paint-peeling obscenities. Here’s one of its earliest usages:

Captain Kirk, as he is affectionately known, responded to this journalist’s query of “Dost thou think your coxswaining crew is yearning for the rough caress of the playoffs?” with a string of profanities, the likes of which I will try to reproduce here:

JK: Did you watch the same %^&$ race I did?? Did you?? You need to have your %^&#@ing head examined and your #@#%ing eyes as well, you piece of pen-scratching $#$%! Ask something else! Any of you %^##suckers have something even partially %^^#$ing relevant to ask? Anyone! Jesus !$@#.

Affectionately known as “Thornton ‘Van’ Wilder.”

15. Josiah Quincy 1829-1845
Quincy became known for his outlandish behavior as head of Harvard, insisting on hours-long meals every evening consisting of several courses and accompanied by his hand-picked musicians, who would often wander off somewhere deep into the E chord for 20-30 minutes at a time. Though many were impressed with the breadth of his culinary tastes and the skilfulness of the musicians, others were “turned off” by the lack of restraint and endless jamming exhibited.

Quincy would often track down those who “lacked proper taste” and lecture them endlessly on the inspiration that results when big ideas meet virtuoso musicians. This was also accompanied by his talented and meandering musicians, whose improvisations often were hailed as “breathtaking” and “grandly masturbatorial.”

Sadly, Quincy’s theatrical ideas failed to carry on once he left Harvard and he gradually became a balding lead singer/drummer in a terrible soft-rocking pop ensemble that outlived its usefulness by several years. Affectionately known as either “King Crimson” or “The Broadway Lamb.”
*If only he had died in office…

-CLT

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Architecture: An Interpretive Dance in Eight Parts

May 6, 2009
Lord help me, I hate this band.

Lord help me, I hate this band.

As a former DJ and constant music fan, I just thought I’d waste your time with some things I find depressing, annoying or just confusing.

Classic Rock
I know a lot of people who are classic rock fans but seem to only be interested in the outer surface. Their CD collections will contain Bread, Meatloaf, lots of Lynyrd Skynrd, Molly Hatchet, Billy Squier, Journey, etc., but nothing from Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones or the Beatles. Not to make the automatic assumption that the listed bands are worse (although they are) but that ignoring some of the greatest classic rock bands seems almost criminal.

The Beatles
Yeah, they were awesome. I just really don’t care for 90% of their output and that do-gooding sonofabitch Paul McCartney’s insistence on staying alive and producing weak music certainly isn’t helping.

mp3 Collections
Nothing wrong with them. I have a huge one. But with all the music out there, how come some peoples’ collections look like the playlist for the last 20 years of radio? There are millions of gigabytes of music out there but their players make me believe that they’ll never enjoy life as much as they did in high school.

Van Halen
See also Classic Rock, mp3. Who are you people who insist that Van Halen improved once they ditched the only member with a personality? I can’t see it, unless Haggar just tapped into the zeitgeist that was clamoring for more power ballads. See also: Aerosmith – the Armageddon years. (Note to Aerosmith: If your name isn’t Lynyrd Skynrd then country “artists” shouldn’t feel comfortable covering you.)

DJs/Electronica Artists’ Full-Length Albums
Why do godawesome DJs insist on delivering shitty full-length albums with radio-friendly four-minute tracks and flavor-of-the-week guest vocalists? The mainstream isn’t what brought you your success, so stop pissing off your actual fans while polishing turd (featuring T-I!) after turd (featuring Rhianna!) in an attempt to impress the easily-impressed.

It’s a little like heading to the club and watching your favorite DJ turn on the radio.

Case(s) in point: Timo Maas, any album past their first three for both the Chemical Brothers and Fatboy Slim, Paul Oakenfold, the Crystal Method.

Possible exception: the Brighton Port Authority, Fatboy Slim’s new supergroup. His/their debut album features some standout tracks featuring David Byrne (Toe Jam), Iggy Pop (He’s Frank) and Ashley Beedle (Should I Stay or Should I Blow?)

People Who “Don’t Get” Rap
Don’t worry about it, no one’s trying to sell it to you. There are plenty of others willing to pick up your slack. I’m not a huge fan myself, but I don’t wear everyone out with my insistence that it’s not a viable art form. Especially when the entire argument is wholly encompassed in this dandy of a line: “I just don’t get that rap crap.”

For instance, I don’t really care for classical music. Millions of people love it. Millions more pretend they do so they don’t get labeled Philistines. But I would never sum it up with something pithy like, “Whatever. But I don’t see them putting out anything new.”

I Don’t Get Jazz
I just don’t. People have tried to turn me on to it with basically the same persuasive arguments they use to try to get me to drink beer. “You haven’t tried the right beer/band.” “You’d like it if you drank/listened to more of it.” “Drink/listen to it for awhile and you’ll get used to it.”

I’m sure all these beer/jazz arguments also work for anything unpleasant like roadkill removal or terminal diseases.

Music Genres I Think I Like More Than I Actually Do

Prog Rock
Reading reviews and hearing a few select tunes has made me think this would be right up my alley. After all, I like a lot of space rock and that’s pretty much right in the ballpark. I really like the individual members of King Crimson but collectively most of their output sounds like several instruments in search of a tune.

This leads me to believe that proficiency does not equal listenablilty. (It’s a word. It’s my word.) It’s like several gifted musicians all doing their own thing.

I’d much rather listen to bands whose musical fundamentals are severely limited. Like the Jesus and Mary Chain, who shoved one guitar through an amp and made as much noise as they could with the others. Or Suicide, who set their synths and drum machines to stun and wandered around picking fights with their audience. Or, to bring things up to date, A Place to Bury Strangers (JAMC followers) and We Are Wolves (somewhere between Suicide and Death From Above 1979).

And as for the space rock, Hawkwind may be great and all, but they too often (especially in the live recordings) sound like a less-focused Grateful Dead. With more flute.

Electro
There are a million bedroom producers creating a million electro tracks. Some are fucking awesome (i-f’s Space Invaders are Smoking Grass, Westbam’s Agharta, Solvent’s My Radio, Zombie Zombie’s entire album A Land for Renegades) but most are a cliche casserole of clicks, bleeps and deadpan vocals. But I’ll still read some blog somewhere that will say nothing more than “Awesome electro track!!!” and away I go.

the Fall
Not really a genre, but prolific enough they could be one. I love Mark E. Smith’s delivery and his lyrics can be amazing, but I think the danger lies in the fact that they’ve released 1,392 albums over the last 30 years. There’s got to be something that could have been scrapped or left in the vault. But as a blogger, I totally get the mentality that “if I created it, it should be released.” See also: Guided by Voices, Prince.

Krautrock
As a theoretical fan of prog rock and an actual fan of repetitive beats, you’d think this would be right up my alley. But with the exception of a handful of tracks by Neu!, I honestly can’t say I’m impressed.

Some of the more contemporary artists, carrying on the proud German tradition of making sterile, emotionless music, have caught my ear. Fujiya and Miyagi’s Ankle Injuries, Stereolab & Nurse with Wound’s Simple Headphone Mind and a few tracks from Death in Vegas’ Satan’s Circus.

It just doesn’t click with me often enough. I can handle 13 minutes of 303-noodling in Laurent Garnier’s Acid Eiffel, but not 13 minutes of drum lessons from Can.

Go figure.

-CLT