1. Lithuania: Now Smaller

    DID YOU KNOW…?

    Lithuania used to be a lot bigger. And more important. As in, other countries used to ask to be ruled by Lithuania. True story.

    In review: Small and obscure now, previously was a great big deal, calling all the shots for a few centuries. There was also something with the Grateful Dead and their Olympic basketball team. And they built the basketball equivalent of Stonehenge.

    That’s all I’ve got. Except this.


  2. Do You Need a Tote Bag? I’d Like to Meet You

    I know there is someone out there, somewhere, who needs another tote bag. Raise your hand, I know you’re out there. The universe doesn’t make any sense without you in it, Mr. Unknown Quotient, because they are seriously making a goddamn metric hump-ton of tote bags these days and I have no freakin’ idea who needs another one.

    Seriously. I like artists and crafty people. I live in Brooklyn. I get all lathered up when I hear someone I’m talking to screen prints things.  That is awesome! Way to create, friend! But if you ask me to buy one of your screenprinted creations on a tote bag I’m going to say no because I’ve got 462 of the things stacked up like extremely ineffective cord wood in my closet and hanging from hooks in my hall where I should have jackets.

    The furthest I can stretch my concept of multiple tote bag use is two at a time. There are a limited number of things one would put in a tote bag as opposed to backpacks or messenger bags or purses or pockets or, y’know, hands. Right now I’m thinking groceries and towels, that’s about it. So maybe going to the beach with friends you might need more than one tote bag? Ah, but the hitch in that is that will likely have their own tote bags that they’ve been waiting to use in such a situation, perhaps totes acquired from a public radio donation or purchased at some sort of farmer’s market in a eco-sustainable frenzy.

    I would completely grin ear to ear if I saw a tote bag full of oranges. Make this happen. But that’s not the point.

    The point is that I heard that Toro Y Moi is packaging his latest album as a tote bag plus download code and I want to like this idea. Really, I do. I love this period of flux in the business of music marketing where added value items are thrown hither and yon and big crazy ideas come crashing around the blogs like ancient monsters awakened to destroy by the sound of the record industry’s collapse. It looks way less desperate than when the comic book industry did a similar thing in the 90s with chromium covers and holograms and polybagged trading cards and crap like that. Much cooler.

    It’s even printed in Michigan and man, they could use the work.

    My problem is that I will never use another tote bag. Ever. There will never be a need for me to buy a tote bag. Even if rendered homeless and nude with all my earthly possessions burnt and the ashes scattered by bitchy ravens (really guys, rub it in), if I found myself in need of something to carry a towel and some oranges I could simply yell on any street in the land “Hey, TOTE BAG!” and one of my fellow humans would have a spare they could give me.Within minutes.

    In summary, can we please start releasing non-record records in some commemorative form that actually has a use? Like maybe load the album on a USB drive that’s the handle of a Bowie knife? (Sweet jams for Wild West defense!) Or maybe a pizza stone with a unique download code etched into its surface? Or a plum tree seedling with label stick that reads “I ABSOLVE YOU FOR TORRENTING IT”.

    Image from the Etsy page where you can get a tote bag with a little dog wearing glasses and a curly black toupee.


  3. Yes, You Can Just Throw Money at the National Debt


    While there’s not an app for that (not yet), there’s a convenient website where you can go and give extra money to the government to pay down the national debt. Yes, people use it.

    And you have options!

    The Bureau of the Public Debt may accept gifts donated to the United States Government to reduce debt held by the public. Acting for the Secretary of the Treasury, Public Debt may accept a gift of:

    • Money, made only on the condition that it be used to reduce debt held by the public.
    • An outstanding government obligation, made only on the condition that the obligation be retired and the redemption proceeds used to reduce debt held by the public.
    • Other intangible personal property made only on the condition that the property is sold and the proceeds from the sale used to reduce the public debt.

    And people actually use it! Last year they gathered up $2,840,466.75 in contributions from fine well-wishers of the Republic! That’s somewhat less than the $21,122,729,715.18 the government paid out in interest on the debt last month but it’s the thought that counts, right?

    Uuuh. Seeing that many commas in a number preceded by a dollar sign made me a little nauseous.

    Thanks to The Consumerist for tipping me off to this depressing as hell site.


  4. 1981 Post-Punk Boxed Set For Free Download

    We all know it and we all complain about it: the internet tends to privilege the up-to-the-second cult of newness in it’s music delivery methods. Blogs killed albums, everything’s a badly ripped leak, and kids these days are all listening to MP3s compressed to shit. Grumble grumble grumble, get off my lawn, etc.

    But it’s not all gone to hell. The same gifts of compression, free storage, and sharing have enabled the quiet obsessives, the crate diggers, the mix makers. Case in point: Musicophilia’s 1981 Boxed Set. 10 discs and over 400 bands from that year, documenting the energy and variety of what is very loosely termed ‘post-punk’.

    Why 1981?

    1981 probably wasn’t the peak year for any sort of “pure” cultural or musical strain of what defined “post-punk” as an ethos or as a sound (I’d give that title to 1979).  But I chose to focus on 1981 in such depth because it seemed to me the year that that sound and way of looking at music had spread farthest without diminishing in intensity (few would argue, no matter how much they love the music of 1982, that even in that one year later there was not a bit of a come-down, or at least a diffusion into more disparate strains).  The heroes of the first wave of post-punk were about to retire (like Wire, Buzzcocks, first-run Pere Ubu) but still hadn’t lost a step, and so many others were at their peak (and still many more greats just getting started).

    This is a true labor of love, compiled from the original records and painstakingly cleaned up to take out the pops and hisses. Better yet, each mix has a flow and purpose that makes it less a file dump than a unified listening experience and a true education in the sounds of the era. Gang of Four, John Foxx, YMO, New Order, and Talking Heads share space with lesser known groups like Weekend, Liquid Liquid, and Bush Tetras.

    Presently exploring disc 2 myself. Check it out and get educated.


  5. The Road Between Heaven and Hell: The Story of the Leatherman

    The Leatherman was a 19th century itinerant who walked a circuit through New York and Connecticut at a precise pace and timing, appearing in the same towns (and at the same porches for supper) on his route every 34 days, year round. Named for his apparently self-made suit of patched leather clothes, the Leatherman was a mysterious figure who rarely spoke and resisted close contact or medical treatment throughout his life of wandering.  The caves where he once bedded down have since become popular for geocaching and a book–The Old Leatherman by Dan DeLuca–written about the various accounts of his travels have made the Leatherman something of a local legend.

    His grave, though, is a public hazard:

    The cemetery, owned by the Ossining Historical Society, is within 16 feet of a highway, Route 9. That proximity is already a safety issue, Historical Society President Norm MacDonald said, and potential expansion would take the road to within a foot of the grave.

    “Since DeLuca wrote the book, we have had increased visitations to the grave,” MacDonald said. “We have had school buses of children, Boy Scouts, the elderly all visit. It’s somewhat of a dangerous location so close to the road.” One man has already been hit by a car, he added.

    (via The Record-Journal)

    Future highway expansion threatens to roll right over the Leatherman’s grave. To protect the visiting public and the repose of the deceased, an exhumation of his remains is scheduled for some point this Spring. While some historians and archaeologists view the Leatherman’s disinterment as a chance to answer questions about his origins and mental health, some area residents have taken umbrage at what they see as a violation of a local legend’s privacy.

    If you’ve got 20 minutes, the dramatically-titled Connecticut public television-produced documentary above will bring you up to speed on all things Leatherman. (Unless your Google search for “leather men” has brought you here entirely by mistake. Sorry, buddy.)