Monday, June 3

Watch, Read, Listen

It's June, which in Austin means summer is already upon us. So to stay cool, you'll need some distraction. Here are a few great ways to pass the time:

Beat Making Lab - This PBS Digital Studio series, developed at UNC Chapel Hill, is a program that brings the tools and techniques of digital music making to young musicians in developing nations Stephen Levitin (aka Apple Juice Kid) and Professor Pierce Freelon travel to places like Panama and Senegal and document what they find along the way. It really goes to show how universal the language of music is, and who knows? You may even learn a thing or two about making a killer tune.

It's Alright - I've been on a big Matt & Kim tear recently, and their latest music video finds them doing a choreographed dance on a bed while appearing to be asleep. There's pillow fighting, a rodeo section, and a breakdown with a nod to The Kama Sutra, plus the song is catchy as all get-up. Far better than all of the boring performance-based videos out there nowadays.

Arrested Development - I'll be honest--I haven't seen every episode of Arrested Development. Which, in Austin, apparently, is grounds to be ostracized and banned to a neighboring city. But with Season 4 becoming available on Netflix this past weekend, those seven years of life without the show now just seem like a distant memory. Yes, the pacing is a bit different, and it might take some getting used to, but it's still pretty awesome. Glad to see it finally made it back.

Iris Has Free Time - When Iris Smyles' story starts with a woman in her young 20s at a job fair, freshly graduated from college and looking for something to do, I felt a ping of familiarity. After all, it wasn't too long ago that I found myself with ample free time (and now, I hardly have enough of it). While the character of Iris does produce some frustrating behavior--often by how hard she is on herself--Smyles' writing is a lot of fun and really almost lyrical. Of course, there are plenty of pop-culture and literary references to satiate fans of both, and by the end of the book, the Iris we see is hardly the one that was at that job fair. Rather, she's more wise and mature, though that sense of humor is still quite apparent. (Soft Skull Press).

The Pocket Scavenger - I'm a fan of scavenger hunts, and I'm a fan of choose your own ending books. Keri Smith's The Pocket Scavenger (Perigee Trade Paperback; May 7, 2013; $15.00) combines them both. A used tea bag, something that was part of a tree, and something you can see through are just a few of the many items you'll collect and record in the book. Each item will also require you to make an alteration, truly creating a unique, one-of-a-kind experience. Even better, there's a corresponding iOS and Android app (for once, I can finally say I'm on the iOS side of things) that has players take pictures and make alterations purely by chance, while sharing with friends and seeing what other scavenges or going on nearby. Let the hunt begin!

Facing Ted Williams: Players from the Golden Age of Baseball Recall the Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived - Let's face it--the majority of people (and I would bet everyone reading this blog) are not going to make the big leagues. I have a better chance of going to umpiring school and becoming a Major League umpire than I do a ballplayer. But I always love reading about individual matchups, whether it's a great scorer/defender, a receiver/cornerback, or in this case, a ton of pitchers against arguably the greatest hitter who ever lived. In Facing Ted Williams, a number of greats and non-greats alike talk about what it's like to face Mr. Williams. Some of them only had one appearance against him, and it may have just ended in a walk. Which in the grand scheme of things isn't too terrible. There are also interviews of other position players, which are a nice touch. (Edited by Dave Heller, Sports Publishing, April 2013)

The Young Things - The New York rockers are dropping their debut album Hello Love/Goodbye Sexual on June 4, but thanks to that handy link I just provided you can listen before it's released. There are definitely some Beatles-esque moments, with just the right amount of "ahh" harmonies and churning guitars. Listen to the title track here.

"Hearts" by Dan Black and Kelis - I first heard of Dan Black courtesy of his song "Symphonies," which showed up on NBA 2K11. That song was delightfully earwormy and a perfect jam to play during the hot summer months. His new single "Hearts" is similarly catchy, and I much prefer Kelis in this role rather than in "Milkshake." The music video's pretty cool too--time lapse stuff is always a winner in my book.

Steriogram - The New Zealand rockers took the U.S. by storm with their 2004 single "Walkie Talkie Man" (which also featured a wonderful yarn music video), and then kind of disappeared from the map. Well, they've still been making music, which I recently discovered is quite good. Songs like "Moving On" and "Texas Beauties," the latter of which is a nod to how awesome the women of Austin are, will get your toe tapping and your head nodding. And if you think that's not what music is all about, I don't know what to tell you.

For the last installment of "Watch, Read, Listen" please click here.

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