Thursday, November 30, 2006

#53: Jarvis Strikes Back.

Whoa, I don't think we've ever received as many messages on our MySpace account as we did regarding yesterday's Harry Potter post. Apparently all of his fans are equally rabid.

The other day, Nina and I were listening to Separations in the car; chronologically, it was Pulp's first thoroughly great record ("Countdown" is their first perfect song, I'd argue) and on it you can hear frontman Jarvis Cocker finally wrapping himself around the repressed-yet-dauntingly-sexy persona he later perfected on His 'N' Hers and Different Class.

Well, Mr. Cocker is back with a new record, Jarvis, and while some people are greeting it with a lukewarm reaction, I find it difficult to dislike anything he lends his voice to. (In fairness, I'm not alone in that opinion; The Guardian deemed it an "idiosyncratic triumph"--take that, Pitchfork!) The record is incredibly textured yet cohesive, the many facets coming together to form a very satisfying whole. "Black Magic" feels like a send-up of Mellencamp's "Jack and Diane"--in a good way--while "Heavy Weather" sounds like it could've been co-written by Teenage Fanclub.

It seems like what people react most negatively to is the lack of uptempo material, but then again, that's what Relaxed Muscle was about. Anyway, Jarv does provide a couple of those songs anyway. For instance, take "Fat Children," a song about being killed by overfed kids and then coming back to haunt them. Download here or watch this live performance and marvel at Cocker being the youngest-looking 43 year old you've ever seen:

Don't you think he and Moby could be cousins? There's something of a resemblance there...


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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

#52: Harry Potter, Beast of Burden & Gift Ideas.

Apologies for our sporadic blog posting the past few days; we were hit by an unexpected internet outage here at the base camp. The downtime led Nina to ressurect a hobby of hers that hadn't surfaced in a while: Harry Potter. She is now in the midst of an intense (some might say obsessive) HP binge, something I find baffling and mysterious. It is possible that I won't see her for a few days only to have her reappear, slightly haggard and pallid, with a devoured stack of Ms. Rowling's tomes in tow.

When the Potter bug strikes Nina, it always entertains me to no end. First and foremost is the fact that you couldn't pay me to read the books (believe me, I've tried stealing glances over her shoulder). It isn't a bash against the book, though; ever since I can remember, I have been entirely turned off by anything having to do with sorcery, wizards, and witches (or, for that matter, knights, princesses, and mysterious forests where Strange Things happen). Maybe I'm just missing that gene. However, this is the stuff of nerdy dreams for Nina, who loves indulging herself in fantasy worlds where bizarre creatures scamper about and objects take on magical qualities. Indeed, you can see it reflected in much of her art. This contrast has been one of those "opposites attract" elements of our relationship, perhaps analogous to my love of post-bop jazz or watching baseball on television.

Another noteworthy aspect of her Potter fixation is the degree to which Nina becomes visibly excited (not like that) while reading the books. She gets this adorably goofy grin glued to her face and lets out the occasional involuntary giggle. Or, like last night, she'll pause her reading long enough to look at me and say something like "I wish I lived in a magical wizard world!!!" before promptly returning to her spot on the page. And yes, the statement comes with three exclamation points. I wonder how many of our blog readers are pro/anti HP?

Lastly, in a few days we'll be launching a special D&N gift guide... you know, because you needed another. If you have any suggestions you'd like to submit, just send us an e-mail: gifts[at] We look forward to reading your ideas!


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Saturday, November 25, 2006

Editorial headline from the Dallas Morning News#51: Plano, Part 72,396.

The Plano plotline has definitely turned out to be one of the more unexpected and amusing tangents in our project. It is the sort of thing we could never have anticipated before launching the vote and has garnered a lot of strong opinions from people all over the country and the world.

Today, we woke up to find this opinion piece in The Dallas Morning News; the headline ("Sour Krauts") sums the article up pretty well. I must admit that it was surprising to find this as their lead editorial in a weekend edition--it's blush-worthy and exciting. If anyone in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area has a copy they can mail us, we'd appreciate it.

It's entertaining that even though the article takes an offended stance in regard to the German phenomenon, it still seems to be encouraging people to send us to Plano... so ultimately both parties are pushing for the same result. The piece also serves as a nice foil to the video segment produced by Plano Wired. It also provides a lot of interesting information about Germany's current emigration trend, something Nina and I were unaware of.


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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

rock lobster#50: Lobster attack!, New Bloc Party & Vote for Amp Camp.

Nina and I were at the grocery yesterday, and as everyone knows, half the fun of going grocery shopping is taking samples from the products being 'demonstrated' around the store. I had an unusual run-in with the demo employee as a I reached for a sample of some lobster spread that went as follows:

Employee: (gesturing to previous sample-taker) Are you together?
Me: No.
Employee: (keeping me from lobster spread) Well you need permission.
Me: (confused) Permission?
Employee: Yes.
Me: Permission from whom?
Employee: An adult.
Me: I'm twenty-three years old.
Employee: Oh... Well you're lucky to look so young!

I wasn't angry or anything, just sort of thrown off by the unexpected nature of the exchange. After all, it's been a while since I've been carded for alcohol at a bar and I certainly didn't expect something similar at the grocery store... over some lobster spread. Once I was able to realize what had happened, I figured it must have something to do with keeping kids with seafood allergies away from that product. Still, how young could she have thought I was? What is the cut-off age? 16? 18? 21?

Bloc Party has a new record coming out in February and since Nina and I are unapologetic fans of Silent Alarm, we thought we'd share an MP3 of one of the tracks. You can download "Prayer" and let us know what you think. Personally, I thought it was a little underwhelming (especially since this is what they are intentionally putting out on the net via their MySpace page), but it did prove to be catchier upon repeated listens.

Finally, the website I ran and helped launch, Amp Camp, is up for a PLUG Independent Music Award for "Online Record Store of the Year." Show some love with your vote and tell your pals to vote, too! You also get to vote for other fun things like "Live Act of the Year" (Art Brut!).


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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

BINGO!#49: New Article, A Day at the Beach and a Night at Bingo & Goya Theft Update.

Yesterday folks in Columbia, Missouri were treated to this newspaper article about our project in the Columbia Daily Tribune. The woman who wrote the article, Annie Nelson, was really fun to speak with and Nina and I are growing increasingly comfortable with our role as interviewees. Columbia is definitely another one of those towns we probably wouldn't have considered on our own without this project but, after some investigation, seems like it could be a really nice place for us to live. Since the article ran yesterday, they've racked up about 750 votes--not bad!

The only odd thing about this piece for us was looking at the photo they ran with the story, which looks like it had some out-of-the-box Photoshop filter applied. As a result, the whites seem to have gotten blown out which somehow simultaneously make Nina look a little bald (she isn't) and made my facial scruff very high contrast. We were pretty entertained by the subtle alteration, especially since it took us a while to figure out that something had indeed changed. Subtle is the word though, this was definitely no Couric.

secret sand messages...Yesterday Nina and I had a fun day with my brother Michael at the beach. Afterwards, we spent the evening--three hours plus--playing bingo with a bunch of elderly Jewish ladies (and one man). It was a lot of fun even though we ended up not getting to shout out that magic word during any of the 25 games. I was impressed at how relatively high-tech the bingo world has gotten: handheld, wireless devices, CCTV, all of the information boards, etc.

Finally, if you read our post the other day about the stolen Goya painting that was nicked en route to the Guggenheim Museum, you'll be happy to know it has since been recovered by the FBI. Apparently, it was taken from the transport truck somewhere in Pennsylvania... no word yet on whether those wild outlaw Penn-Dutch folk were involved.


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Friday, November 17, 2006

Noir style, courtesy of Hayden-Harnett#48: Thanks Giving & Random Interesting Things.

First off, we want to take a moment to thank Hayden-Harnett, who earlier this week became the first advertisers on our blog. They're actually a really cool company run by two nice, young New Yorkers who design some pretty amazing handbags and accessories and we hope you'll take a moment to check out their stuff. Their current season features a very noir vibe that reminds us of some of our favorite movies.

Yesterday, while surfing some local media outlets for press contacts, I came across the following news story in the Duluth (MN) News Tribune: Lawyer argues sex with dead deer not crime. Whoa. This raised so many questions, I had to post it on our site. I'll leave the judgments to you, but suffice to say I'm glad I'm not that fella's lawyer.

My very rudimentary understanding of experimental physics wasn't enough to get me through this entire article with total comprehension, but I'm a sucker for the prospect of time travel anyway.

Rem Koolhaas is one of the few people that could live up to such a stylish and exotic name, but here he's done it yet again with his design for the Central Chinese Television building in Beijing.

And for the record, I'm rooting for Michigan but know Ohio State will pull off the win tomorrow.


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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The lifted Goya#47: An Air Guitar You Wear and An Art Heist.

This is almost too weird and unlikely to believe, but scientists in Australia have developed an
air guitar t-shirt that allows the wearer to produce guitar music by playing nothing but the air around them. One of the engineers responsible calls it "an easy-to-use, virtual instrument that allows real-time music making even by players without significant musical or computing skills."

But how does it look and sound?
See for yourself by checking out the streaming WMV file here. Lest you think the Aussie science corps is a one trick pony, they've also done the same with the tambourine and guiro. Shouldn't these guys be trying to cure cancer or something?

Elsewhere, Goya's 1778 oil painting "Children With a Cart" was stolen in transit from the Toledo Museum of Art in Ohio to New York's Guggenheim museum. Doesn't this sort of thing only happen in bad thrillers? Apparently not.


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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Lookie... 2,000,000 votes!#46: 2,000,000 Votes!

Early this morning we reached a pretty impressive milestone on the site: our 2,000,000th legitimate vote.

It's a great feeling knowing that so many people have responded so positively and enthusiastically to our idea, especially since it was only a few weeks ago that we wondered whether we'd ever see one million votes, let alone two. In fact, exactly one month ago we were celebrating our 45,000th vote.

A lot of people think we're sort of nuts entrusting such a major decision to people who have never even met us, but this project has been an incredible amount of fun and a tremendous learning experience for us both. Our sincere thanks to everyone who has voted thus far and for all the votes yet to be tallied.

In honor of our recent millions, here's an interview with artist of all trades Brian Eno discussing his latest project, 77 Million Paintings. He uses light and generative software to create visual configurations that seamlessly shift and fade to produce a total of 77 million combinations:


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Sunday, November 12, 2006

Danny and Nina as envisioned by Plano Wired#45: Plano Catches On & New Illustrations.

We got a special treat this weekend from the lovely folks in Texas. It seems as though some of our zealous German supporters wrote to a cable access show called Plano Wired to let them know about our project. The resulting bit of investigative journalism is pretty funny stuff.

Some of our favorite bits include their original cartoon rendering of the lower halves of our bodies (they made Danny taller and gave me some smokin' legs--see today's image) and the inclusion of the song "Plano, Texas, USA." Without further ado:

Aside from that, I've just put up a new section on my site entitled illustration. I'm going to try doing a new sketch each day and hopefully I'll have something more to show soon. I love your feedback, so please share any constructive criticism you may have as well as your thoughts on the Plano Wired piece!


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Friday, November 10, 2006

#44: Innuendoes and Other Assorted Tidbits.

Last night, Nina and I watched the following clip and laughed so much we cried. This children's show took double entendres to new heights--it has to be intentional, right?

What else, you ask? We've mentioned
Graham Coxon before, and now it seems as though at least one Blur member wants the guitarist back (which is good, since they've become soulless without him)... Clearly, Britney couldn't cope with K-Fed's rapid ascent into the artistic pantheon... And several years into the show, residents of the O.C. realize that show about "them" may not be so flattering after all.

Meanwhile, the country that brought us Sergei Eisenstein apparently can't deal with a little Borat, since Russia has banned his new movie... Youth voter turnout for the recent elections may have been the highest ever (definitely the highest in at least 20 years) for a midterm ballot... And Apple has axed their "Mac guy" from their television spots because he is kind of wanky and is obviously no match for John Hodgman. Hodgman will continue to make appearances in future ads.



Thursday, November 9, 2006

#43: Our First TV Appearance!

Yesterday during their local news broadcast, Eugene, Oregon NBC affiliate KMTR aired this segment about us and our project:

It's the first time a television station has picked up on our story, and we're both proud of and humbled by the attention. Since we couldn't be there in person, reporter Mun Li Kong cobbled together some personal photos, our first YouTube video, and a phone interview she conducted with us to create the two minute piece.

Thoughts and comments are welcome on the blog and on the video's YouTube page here.


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Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Thg High Line gets cleaned up#42: Elections, Line Rider & the High Line.

Kudos to everyone who voted in yesterday's elections. Nina and I stayed up pretty late watching the still-unclear Senate races in Montana and Virginia, but who knows how long it will be before there is a clear victor there. One thing that was unmistakably clear, however, was that most people in the United States were looking for big changes... and they got them. Hopefully this will put us on a path to recovering some of our status in the international community.

My winner for best waste of time so far this year has got to be Line Rider. Just try it out, this one doesn't need an introduction. Here's to decreased productivity.

Lastly, we're really happy to report that the High Line's conversion into a Manhattan park has seen some significant progress over the past few months. For those unfamiliar with it, the High Line was formerly an above-ground railway built in the 1930s that ran through a significant portion of Manhattan's west side. It had been dormant for years, becoming overtaken by vegetation and trash, and was scheduled to be demolished. However, a group of concerned citizens had the idea of turning the decaying railway into a lush public promenade in the manner of Paris'
Promenade Plantée. The group successfully lobbied for the conversion into a park, and on April 10th (re)construction began. When it's done, it will surely be one of the most magical places in an already enchanted town.


Tuesday, November 7, 2006

#41: VOTE!

Monday, November 6, 2006

#40: YouTube Ahoy!

This weekend we finally took the plunge into the wild kingdom known as YouTube with a 1:20-long video outlining this wacky project of ours.

As of the writing of this blog, it's been viewed a surprising 533 times. We hope you'll visit the YouTube page and leave us some feedback:

For the curious, the song in the background is the "Megamix" of Section 25's "Looking from a Hilltop" (download here--11 mb). It's off their 1984 album, From the Hip, which was released on Factory Records and produced by New Order's Bernard Sumner.



Saturday, November 4, 2006

DFA takes on Timberlake#39: Timberlake vs DFA: "My Love" remix.

Here's a song that roughly 89.7% of folks can agree is pretty bad-ass: NYC powerhouse duo DFA remix Justin Timberlake's latest single, "My Love." Sure, it isn't their best work to date, but it's pretty fun nonetheless.

Plus, we know you already downloaded Justin's record anyway... you know, just out of curiosity. Maybe this will get us our first cease and desist.

Also, if your thieving heart is looking for a way of giving back, LCD Soundsystem (aka James Murphy, DFA's more rugged half) has a new MP3-only release available via iTunes. It's one long mix entitled "45:33" and is a great guilty pleasure for those in need of one.


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Friday, November 3, 2006

A Diebold voting machine#38: Hacking Democracy and the Electronic Vote.

Last night, Nina and I watched a documentary on HBO called Hacking Democracy; you can view the trailer here. Given the outrageous amount of hacked votes we encounter on our site every day and--of course--the proximity of the midterm elections, it seemed a particularly appropriate blog subject.

Hacking Democracy is about a few different issues, but the dominant theme is how unsecure new electronic voting machines produced by companies like Diebold (who fruitlessly petitioned the cable network not to air the film) really are and how easy it would be for someone to use this proprietary technology to rig an election. Electronic was supposed to be the safeguard, but instead it seems to have only made matters worse.

While the documentary itself wasn't necessarily spectacular, it did raise a lot of important questions which all Americans should be concerned about, regardless of political affiliation. Particularly in a time when so many citizens feel as though voter suppression and voting irregularities have marginalized their impact at the polls, it is critical to take a good, long, analytical look at the systems we have in place... even if the voting software companies don't like it.

I wish the film hadn't had as much of a political bent as it did, although to a certain degree there is no way of escaping it. Elections, after all, are all about politics. For those of you who didn't catch it, here's a nice piece from CNN's Jack Cafferty that touches upon a lot of the points raised in the documentary:

You can also watch a video put together by Princeton University, whose researchers found massive security breaches with Diebold's hardware and used it to successfully hack a test election, or watch Lou Dobbs interview filmmaker-cum-voter-activist Bev Harris and security expert Hugh Thompson. The last clip is worth watching just for Thompson, who reminds us an awful lot of a young Professor Frink.



Thursday, November 2, 2006

Powdered milk, powdered eggs, baby powder... what a country!#37: Accentuating the Positive.

Sometimes when I am really bored I start speaking with a fake Russian accent. This accomplishes only two things: it drives Danny nuts and amuses me to no end.

It's really the only accent I can do well, probably because... I am Russian. Danny's Russian accent sounds more like Yakov Smirnoff on drugs who has to yell a lot and make jerky movements. Or is this the way Americans view Russians in general? In fairness, I should point out that his other accents are much better than mine, except maybe British (although this claim is disputed by Danny, who thinks he does a great garbled Mancunian rockstar impression).

This got me thinking to why we imitate accents.

If you are speaking to someone with limited English skills (or any other language), do you sometimes start to feel like the other person would understand better if you imitate their accent? This has happened to me before and than I start to wonder if I unwittingly sound a little patronizing. Does the other person even notice?

Another case of this involves kids. It's often really apparent if you talk to moms of kids aged 2-5. They start talking in a slow and deliberate manner, pronouncing every word with emphasis and pauses. There is generally a lot of exaggerated facial expression that goes along with this too. I guess it helps their kids learn, but still seems very strange to be the adult whom this is directed at. I start to feel like I'm talking with somebody with a lot of problems.

Babelfish, by the way, who we've been using to decipher all our Ehrensenf comments translates with a distinct (in this case German) accent. I haven't tried it out on the Russian yet, but something tells me it'll be a Russian one.

How do accents sound to people? I know most Russians prefer an American accent to a British one, but does this hold true for Germany too? Americans love guys with British accents, but not girls. What gives?


Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Old School.#36: NYC Halloween Parade, Virtual Drum Machines & The Mary Onettes.

First off, we weren't there, but Rocketboom covered the NYC Halloween Parade. Check out the fun. We'll have some of our Halloween photos up soon.

I have a soft spot in my heart for ancient synthesizers and decrepit drum machines, so the dork in me thinks this collection of virtual drum machines is pretty much the coolest thing ever. Thank you for fighting the good fight.

Our favorite record label in the world--Sweden's Labrador Records--has a new EP out today by recent signings The Mary Onettes. They are one of the few acts on the label that was initially recruited by another label; The Mary Onettes had a critically-acclaimed EP in 2005 through Sony/BMG. Their sound isn't a particularly novel one (splashes of Echo and the Bunnymen, Jesus and Mary Chain, the Cure, and New Order are easy to single out), but they do it very well.

This song, "Lost," is the title track from their new EP. The video below is for "Make Me Last" from their debut EP:

If you're enjoying them, you can stream all of the new EP over at their MySpace page.


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