Song of the Day: Gotye, featuring Kimbra, “Somebody that I Used to Know”

I seriously have, in the most lackadaisical way possible, been trying to figure out who sings this song since May. (And by figure out, I mean ask people in the car with me when it comes on the radio, not actually go out and, you know, use the interwebs for their intended purpose.) I’m not entirely sure how such a contemplative song by a Belgian-Australian artist managed to get mainstream radio play; even he has no idea how it happened, judging from the interview below:



Dove Bikes and The Arctic Monkeys

The image I’m still thinking about from the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics is still the one of the dove bikes. The Guardian has how they did it here. Apparently, it’s been a tradition to release doves at every Olympic ceremony, but leave it to Danny Boyle to mix LED lights, cycling, doves, and the Arctic Monkeys covering the Beatles all together.

One of the people I follow on twitter, Matt Smith, got to be one of the cyclists. Go to his twitter feed for insider images. (I don’t want to repost them.)

The Arctic Monkeys ridiculously good cover of the Beatles “Come Together” set the perfect tone, and set up Paul McCartney at the end as well. I posted the album version here below because nothing online was an actual video.

Foreign Relations

I’ve been good in avoiding commenting on the horse race politics of an election year, mostly because I’m the only one I know who really cares enough to follow polling fluctuations, electoral college head counts, and gaffes and other things that make up the campaign in the summer. Everyone else in the world who is not me or a election reporter is more interested in shark attacks, reality television, and the Olympics. But I can’t resist this one for the sheer hilarity factor.

As you may know, Mitt Romney is doing the typical summer European tour of a presidential campaign. It’s like that semester abroad in undergrad: every candidate does it; most get in and out unscathed and with our foreign relations still in place. Not so much Romney, who at the moment is doing a really good job of insulting David Cameron, the London Olympic planning committee, and the Brits in general. Andrew Sullivan has the round up here. Even the conservative Daily Telegraph is carping about it. (For the unaware, newspapers in England have open political bents. Just don’t think a Tory newspaper is the same as a Republican one.) Of course, no one will remember this gaffe after Friday’s Opening Ceremonies. Danny Boyle is the director, and I’m pretty sure it’s going to be entertainingly weird. Make your gaffes now because two weeks of Olympics coverage will pretty much knock them out of the headlines. It’s going to be August when the real crazy starts, and when the gaffes start counting.

Song of the Day: The Weakerthans, “Everything Must Go!”

One of my all time favorite bands, it’s been four years since I’ve seen The Weakerthans play live. I remember this well because it was the only birthday celebrating I allowed myself before I defended my dissertation three days later. At any rate, I’m in a cleaning out sort of mood–not atypical for me at the end of the summer and before the new term starts. I come from a long line of pack rats, and I find that I feel lighter when I just get rid of the stuff I don’t need, use, or want. I did some of this back in June when a friend had a garage sale, but it’s now July. In July, I almost always have the urge to throw out things, reorganize, and generally re-examine how I do things. Long summer days aren’t good for brain work, at least they aren’t for me, and I find that I do better in July when I try to finish projects verses begin them. Of course, reorganizing is messy to say the least, and I have more than a few projects to finish before the fall. But, I’m also working on being less hard on myself when not everything gets done. So, I’m working for messy not perfect.

Olympic LomoWall

Since we’re a week and some change away from the official kickoff to the London Olympics, the news is gradually being filled with different stories about the Games. Some of them are funny stories about the standing order for 100,000 condoms for the Olympic Village–the Olympics are apparently like a two week, ever evolving rush party. Others are like the ODNB twitter feed, highlighting famous Brits involved in previous games. Even Doctor Who has gotten in on the fun, with Matt Smith being one of the Olympic Torch bearers when the Torch made its way through Cardiff back in May. Given my general anglophile ways, it’s not surprising that I find myself more interested in these Games than I have been in the past. They also interest me because I so clearly remember the summer of 2005 when these Games were announced: the news came in one day that Trafalgar Square had become an impromptu party celebrating London’s win of the Olympic bid. The next day, Friday, was the 7/7 bombings. I taught Ian McEwan’s Saturday that Fall too, a book strangely prescient about the possibilities of such an occurence, and I’m teaching it again in my Brit lit survey (a connection I just realized) this Fall. So, for me at least, there’s a bit of strange synergy about these Games.

Olympic Games are funny things. Ostensibly, they celebrate the best athletes in the world. Yet, they are also common cultural products, bringing the world together via communal experiences. They also celebrate the cultural identity of the host nation. I think perhaps one of the best things coming out of the Olympics as a cultural moment is the different ways that London is showing off what it means to have the Games in London. The LomoWall is a perfect example of this synergy between place, art, and Olympic moment.

A LomoWall is a wall of analogue photographs (or those normal pics you use to take) that have been stitched together to make a mosaic. BBC News has a full gallery here.


NPR Field Recordings

In honor of Philip Glass‘s 75 birthday, NPR Music commissioned a new piece by Glass and then rounded up a choir, a soprano soloist, a conductor, some passing strangers, and a film crew in order to perform it in Times Square. Essentially the assembled voices function as a kind of human orchestra. As perhaps is well documented, I have a passionate fondness for different forms of busking, take away shows, and flash mob choral performances. Most busking or street performance is out of need not creative design, but I think it takes an enormous amount of bravado to perform in public in this manner. I think the different ways we take high cultural forms like Glass’s music and put them in the public square–quite literally in this instance–make music and so-called high culture part of the fabric of our everyday lives.

Seriously, does NPR Music offer internships to geeky literature professors for the summer? I’m not willing to give up the day job, but this kind of thing is just too cool. I swear I’m good at photocopying.