Album Review: 11:11 by Regina Spektor – 3 out of 5

Title: 11:11
Artist: Regina Spektor
Rating: 3 out of 5
Purchase from:Amazon, iTunes

Regina Spektor is a recent pop obsession of mine. I first discovered her from some radio play from her 2004 Soviet Kitsch album. Since then I have amassed all of her albums and remain a dedicated fan. 11:11 is not Regina Spektor’s strongest album, but rarely are first albums the best albums. However, it already demonstrates a strong, quirky songwriting talent and shows off her incredible vocal range.

This is certainly her jazziest album with “Rejazz”, “Marry Ann” and “Wasteland” as good example of her jazzy roots. However, the album also features early examples of her bouncy song poems that she will become famous for. Stand out tracks in this style include “Buildings” and “Sunshine”.

Her most adventurous track is the 7:43 long, sprawling “Pavlov’s Daughter” which is, at different points, a spoken work beat poem, a driving, angry piano piece and a sad, soft mournful ballad.

I still consider Soviet Kitsch as her best album (with What We Saw From The Cheap Seats climbing in my esteem), however, 11:11 is a good album for those who need some fun anti-folk to make their day a bit brighter.

Album Review: 1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours by Green Day – 2 out of 5

Title: 1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours
Artist: Green Day
Rating: 2 out of 5
Purchase from: Amazon, iTunes

From a recent favorite album to an album of my ever-increasingly distant youth. I purchased this album in a small record shop in Boston while visiting Harvard for a disastrous debate tournament my senior year of high school. I’m pretty sure that Dookie had probably already hit the airwaves by the time of the trip or I doubt I would have heard of Green Day considering that my musical diet at the time was a strict combination of grunge and rockabilly.

The surprising thing about this album is how little different it is from just about everything Green Day has ever produced. You can definitely tell that they would definitely get better producers and mixers later on and thankfully they don’t stretch themselves into any melodramatic ballads like “Time of Your Life”. However, you also can’t find any track on this album that contains anything to distinguish it from every other song. Heck, the time signature and tempos are almost identical across the entire album. The closest thing to a musical stretch here is the droning tones on “Rest” and the slightly bouncy dance beat on “Knowledge”. Beyond that it is an astoundingly repetitive and boring album.

The only reason this album gets two stars is that it has somehow survived in my album collection for the last 19 years which is a minor achievement worthy of some sort of recognition.

Hosting Recommendation

For many years now, I’ve been using webhost4life as the hosting company for my various websites.  When I signed up they offered really top notch service and a reasonable price (especially for .NET hosting, which I was primarily using at the time).  However, over the last year or so, their service has become increasingly unreliable and even at the best of times, extremely slow.  Earlier this week, this site went down unexpectedly.  I contacted support and they told me it would be 24-48 hours for a response to the problem.

Well, I know I’m not a big client, but that was a bit much, so I started hunting for a new hosting company.  After scouring the web, I decided upon inmotionhosting.  So far the experience has been extremely pleasant.  The setup process was less than an hour and the sales personnel were very helpful.  Transferring the sites was a breeze and the performance has been spectacular.  Additionally, their business class hosting allows you to host multiple domains under a single account which will save me a considerable amount of money.

Of course, it’s only been less than a week, but so far the experience has been extremely encouraging.

The Perversion of Avatar

Avatar I’m having a difficult time remembering a film that has incensed me as much as James Cameron’s latest effort, Avatar.  I have never had a great deal of respect for Cameron’s work, the first two Terminator films exempted.  In fact, his greatest commercial success, Titanic, has always been one of my most despised films.  However, with Avatar, Cameron has truly done something monstrous.

I know there have been several complaints about this film that have been floating around, the small controversies about the notions of racial loyalty, the white man’s savior complex and Sigourney Weaver’s incessant smoking.  Even the Catholic Church has strongly criticized the films endorsement of nature worship.  I think all of these small critiques are hitting around what is really really wrong with this film.

The fact is that James Cameron has put forth one of the most astounding achievements in cinematography ever.  The film is a simply breathtaking visual feast from the first frame to the last.  For the first time, digital filmmaking has the ability to allow us to enter an imaginary world without constantly being reminded of the artifacts of the computer.  Yes, the artifacts are still there in the background, but you can quickly forget them and just revel at the beauty of an imagined world.

And the world he has created is simply astounding.  There were places in the film where my eyes misted up at the sheer beauty of what I was seeing.  The delicacy of the jungle plants, the glowing seeds that undulate like a jelly fish, the little gnat that hovers at the edge of your vision while you take in this world in amazing 3D; all of it is almost too much to take in.  You just want to pause and rewind parts of this film just to check out what is sitting at the far edge of the screen.  Here is a visual representation of all the magic and wonder that has kept so many fans running back to Tolkien generation after generation.

So, to create such an amazing world and then tack on a story so trite, petty and moronic is simple appalling. It’s not the particular political message of the film that really disturbs me, it’s that the film has a political message at all.  Of all the things to talk about in a film of such visual attractiveness, politics should be the absolute last.  And then to make the politics some sort of watered down collection of populist messages combined with a dash of primitivist theology held in a saccharin wrapper of utopianism is almost sickening.  Maybe if this film could have had some serious complexity to its social message a la Lawrence of Arabia (another visually astounding film) I could have forgiven it a little for having a political track.  However, no, that was not to be.

I’m not indulging in hyperbole here, but I felt very similarly watching this film to my viewings of Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will and Olympia.  No, of course there is nothing here that rivals the evils of National Socialism.  However, Riefenstahl was an absolute technical master who changed the world of filmmaking.  Unfortunately, in creating her technical masterpieces she combined them with a message of such stupidity and wrongheadedness that most of what could have been in her films was lost.  Here too Cameron has ruined all that he achieved technically by seeking to have a “message”.

This could have been a coming of age story about a young Na’vi child coming to know this world he lives in or a love story about two distant lovers making there way across the vast landscape to find each other.  Heck, this could have just been a serious version of The Gods Must Be Crazy.  Anything but what was done here would have been preferable.  It’s almost as if, that after creating David out of living marble, Michelangelo decided that the public would only like it if it was covered in excrement and went right out to find the nearest outhouse.

The worst thing about Avatar is the fact that I’m still going to recommend to friends that they see it.  It’s still so beautiful that I can’t stop myself.  However, if you can find some, get a really good set of ear plugs and make up a better story as it goes along.  Maybe then you can appreciate this film for what it could have been.