Gibson to Unleash SELF-TUNING Guitar Next Week, Guitar Hero-Trained Guitarists Rejoice

Okay, so I know this sounds contrived, but last night, in a bizarre turn-of-events that is certainly in no way a journalistic exploitation of the fact that it's almost Christmas or to a certain Victorian word-monger, I was visited by THREEEEEE SPIIIIIIIRITS!

Spooky, I know. Here's a recap from my journal... I mean, "Xanga":

- 1:00 AM

Ghost of Musical Christmas Past arrives in my room. I freak out.

- 1:05 AM

I calm down. We fly out the window, stop at Waffle House. Ghost of Xmas Musical Past has an egg white omelet. I just have coffee.

- 1:35 AM

Ghost flies me to Memphis 1952, where jazz guitarist and inventor Les Paul and the Gibson corporation prepare to release their new "Les Paul Gold Top" guitar just in time for Christmas! This 1952 Les Paul features two state-of-the-art, P-90, single-coil pickups and a one-piece, ‘trapeze’-style bridge and tailpiece, with strings that were fitted under (instead of over) a steel stop-bar. Despite these technological amenities, guitar playing is still quite the act of performance art, as this original Les Paul guitar has problems with intonation, neck angle, and pitch and require a good ear and a real "musician's touch" to perform on.

- 1:53 AM

Ghost flies me home bewildered. I go in for a hug. Ghost backs away and extends hand for shake. It's awkward. Ghost then disappears promptly.

- 2:00 AM

Huge guy appears in my room, calls himself the Ghost of Musical Christmas Present. I know the routine this time, so I put my shoes and coat back on.

- 2:03 AM

We hit the streets. It's the next morning, somehow, and everyone is staring. I'm tired. Ghost wants to bum a cigarette from me. I try the “dude, I only have like 3 left” line, but it doesn’t work.

- 2:10 AM

Ghost of Musical Christmas Present whisks me over to a present-day Memphis guitar plant where the Gibson guitar company is eagerly preparing to release the world's first self-tuning guitar on December 7, 2007 (also just in time for Christmas!). This technological whiz of a guitar, apparently called the “Bigson Robot Les Paul,” will retail for around £1,400, the ghost tells me.

- 2:12 AM

I explain to the ghost that I'm American and don't know what that price means. Ghost rolls his eyes and tells me that it's $2,200.

- 2:13 AM

Ghost continues his diatribe, explaining that, aside from being ludicrously expensive, this new gadget will actually allow different tuning presets to be "stored in its memory," meaning tomorrow's players can simply push buttons to flick between presets without actually having to alter the string tuning by hand. Gibson apparently bills this as a "remarkable music experience" and claims that this new axe will be available at 400 music retailers across the world.

- 2:21 AM

I think that this technological advance sounds "sweet." But the ghost disagrees. Says something about how, in time, advances like these will lead to the ruination of creativity and artistry in popular music, etc.

- 2:40 AM

I'm weary from his lecture. Ghost of Musical Christmas Present rolls his eyes, snaps his fingers. Boom. I'm back home.

- 3:02 AM

Ghost of Musical Christmas Future shows up. "You're a little late," I say. Ghost flips me off. Apparently, this guy doesn't really talk.

- 3:03 AM

Ghost wastes no time shuttling me to the Gibson plant of the distant future, which is now located not in Memphis, but in Beverly Hills, California. I take a look around and see, to my horror, that manual electric guitars are no longer being produced. I pick a Guitar Center Christmas ad book out of a nearby trash can and promptly read the front-page advertisement for the 2057 Gibson "Guitar Hero XXIV" model. There are no strings; there is no wood. Lights and buttons are everywhere. Thanks to the needless technology first used by Gibson's 2007 "Bigson Robot" model, guitar playing has apparently now become a video game that any idiot can play as long as he or she is willing to shell-out the cash. A "free tab" sheet in the ad depicts a very foreign series of triangles, squares, Xs, and stars. The title at the top of the page reads: "Master of Puppets," by Metallica. I realize that the Ghost of Musical Christmas Present was right after all. There is much wailing, gnashing of teeth, etc.

- 3:15 AM

Distraught and upset with Gibson, I commit suicide by running in front of a Gibson truck that is hastily leaving the plant in order to deliver these sinister, self-playing guitars all over the world. But just as everything is fading to black... I WAKE UP.

I know! Creepy, right?!?

What does all of this MEAN, you ask?

Well, to be honest, I don't rightly know if it was all a dream or not. My girlfriend assures me that it was. My stoner friend who listens to Tenacious D all day swears that it wasn’t. Either way, just to be on the safe side, if you want to keep the musical world safe from swift, mechanized, creativity-squelching oblivion, DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES visit this address this Christmas.

You have been warned.

Doin’ It for the Artists: Sarkozy Backs Three Strikes & No Internet Plan

So, I guess the French have totally stellar internet, and it's mega-easy to illegally download stuff.

Sarkozy is not down.

Sarkozy says illegal file-sharing will cause a complete destruction of French culture.

On November 23, Nicolas Sarkozy, the President of France and leader of the conservative party UMP, officially endorsed the three-way agreement that would entail tracking the habits of all internet users. For those users who are caught illegally downloading, three warnings will be sent via e-mail before their broadband would be either suspended or cut off completely.

In an effort to make nice with all this broadband cutting-offage, the agreement also includes an obligation for France's film industry to release DVDs of films six months after their cinematic release rather than seven-and-a-half, as well as an obligation for the music industry to remove copyrights from archived French music, therefore making it possible to play material on all types of players. The idea is that this would make everything more accessible, and you wouldn't have to steal it.

But then again, monitoring all internet usage kind of steps on the toes of some civil liberties, so say some members of Sarkozy's own cabinet.

But then again, the international recording industry is all about it.

Discuss.

Iran Declares Rap Music Illegal

Rappers, put down your passports! Just when you thought Iran has made enough headlines this year, the country has now decided to make rap music illegal due to its "obscene" lyrical content. But can they really do that?

The answer, my friends, is yes. Unlike in America, where we have this little thing called “Freedom of Speech” -- however debatable that might be -- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad likes to instead spend his time dealing with things of greater importance, like constantly trying to make nice with the U.S. or saying "In Iran, we don't have homosexuals, like in your country" (sure, the Western conception of "homosexuals" can't easily be applied to Iran, but possible death penalities?).

So, why the sudden crackdown on rap music? “There is nothing wrong with this type of music in itself,” said Mohammad Dashtgoli, an official for evaluation of music at the Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry. “But due to the use of obscene words by its singers, this music has been categorized as illegal.” Dashtgoli continued, “In coordination with the police, illegal studios producing this type of music will be sealed and the singers in the genre will be confronted.”

Daaaaamn, a possible confrontation between the Iranian cops and rappers?! Sheeeeiiit.

Let’s Write A News Story: Marah – Which Sounds A Lot Like Mirah – Is Touring; Hey What Is Mirah Up To?

1. Look for a band on tour. Let’s see... hey, Marah, that sounds awfully like Mirah. Maybe it’s a typo?
2. Alright, it’s not a typo. Marah is, in fact, its own band. Now we’ve gotta make the most of it.
3. Angle, what’s a good angle. Let’s look at the website of the band’s booking agency, The Billion Corporation...
4. Aww shit, Mirah gets hooked up by these suckaz too. Wut a crazy tidbit.
5. Fact from booking agent: "Marah turned ten years old in July 2005"... one of those little kid bands maybe?
6. Damn, those entrepreneurial munchkins are selling their You Can’t Take it With You EP on vinyl and Der iTunes. Whoa, then they’re releasing a record called Angels of Destruction early next year.
7. They grow beards fast for prepubescents. Kids are growing up older these days I guess.
8. Okay, that’ll do. Results: name recognition of ‘Marah’ increases by 5.8%; confusion about the difference between ‘Marah’ and ‘Mirah’ at an all-time high.

Let me try to help:

Mirah: (1)woman

Marah: (1)man + ((x)man + (y)woman)

Mirah: Name that contains the letter ‘I,’ the ninth letter of the Latin alphabet sometimes used to indicate an imaginary unit in mathematics.

Marah: Name that twice contains the letter ‘A,’ first letter of the Latin alphabet whose origins can be traced to a scratchy Egyptian drawings of an ox’s head.

That about sums it up.

Oh yeah.... Marah tourdates:

Mirah also has shows, so I might as well:
01.23.08 - San Francisco, CA - Great American Music Hall $$$
01.25.08 - Los Angeles, CA - Henry Fonda Theater $$$

$$$ Co-headlining with The Blow

Fuck Diamonds: Take Your Lady To An Upcoming Richard Hawley Show

You may know him from his time as touring guitarist for Pulp or as a member of the Longpigs, but Richard Hawley (not to be confused with the classical composer of the same name or techno mainstay Richie Hawtin) is a mighty fine solo musician in his own right. He released his latest LP, Lady's Bridge (Mute) late last summer and has been receiving raves for it, as he had for his previous three LPs. 2005's Cole's Corner (Mute) was even nominated for the UK's Mercury Prize.

This man hearts ‘50s music, his hometown of Sheffield, and Scott Walker (does anyone from Pulp not L-O-V-E SW?), and has taken those influences and spun them into something romantic, lovely, and new. Maybe one day he will be coined the "Godfather of Post-New Romantic," a genre that does not yet exist. Of course, some johnny-come-lately prat will probably swing in a few years later and make shit-tons of money off his musical ideas and "Post-New Romantic" in general. Ugh.

That is kind of depressing, so let's not think about it -- we should focus on RH's upcoming North American tour. It starts December 1 in NYC and finds the man going for about two weeks, until the festivities wrap-up in LA on December 13.

Add Some Iron and Wine to Your Diet with a Delicious Extended Tour!

There are so many things that one can extend! What about a ladder, or say, a foreign visa? Maybe you feel like getting a tax extension, or doing something similar with your hair? The possibilities don’t stop there, though — oh no! You can extend a warranty or condolences to a loved one. Now I’m sure you’ll agree with me that these are all fine things, but definitely not on the same level of fun as when a favorite artist extends their touring schedule.

That’s what the wonderful Iron and Wine have just done, and in a BIG way!
Our man Sam Beam will transform cities from Cali to Copenhagen this winter with a little iron, a little wine, and a whole lot of haunting lo-fi songwriting. And in honor of Mr. Beam’s hard work, I will extend this article no longer and provide you with a dazzling array of opportunities to see Iron and Wine in a city near (or not so near) you.

* Califone

Note to New Zealand/Australia/Japan RE: Gossip

Have you seen The Gossip live? If not, you really need to prioritize and go see them when they come through your town... actually, anywhere NEAR your town. Admittedly, I don't own any of their records, like 2006's Standing in The Way of Control (TMT Review), but I can tell you without hesitation that The Gossip are amazing live.

Why, you ask? One reason is that no matter who Beth Ditto is performing in front of, she acts exactly the same. I have seen this band both in basements and at huge festivals (via live footage), and Beth sings and screams with all her heart, takes her shirt off if it's too hot, and then tells you about watching crap reality TV. She's been on the cover of NME, and she's still the same, awesome queer feminist lady that she was in the basements of Olympia playing for five people. Another reason? I saw them once at this weird show in Berlin, where the sparse audience consisted mainly of middle-aged industry dudes -- she ended the set by making a fake dick with a beer bottle under her dress, before flipping off the audience. It was totally hilarious.

Not to mention that Hannah and Brace are totally electric to watch.

So go already!

Black Lips Add Tourdates, Star in Let It Be (VICE Magazine Readers’ Wettest of Wet Dreams)

About a year ago, I saw The Black Lips do the following on stage: vomit, make out (after vomiting), display gold teeth grilles, spit in the air and catch it... I think you get the point here. And now I hear they're some kinda movie stars and shit? Times have changed, my dears.

Let It Be (and we don't mean no Beatles) drops us down in the trendiest of eras to be nostalgic about: the late ‘80s post-punk American underground rock scene.

The following will be true about this movie:

1. The Black Lips will star as The Band (not that one), representing the tumultuous nature and culture of this time period.
2. It will be produced by Andrew Meyer (Fried Green Tomatoes, The Breakfast Club) and Winn Coslick (The Bottom).
3. It will be directed by producer/director Roger Rawlings (Neurotica).
4. It will contain more than one outfit that falls in a certain magazine's category of "Do."
5. It will begin filming in May of 2008 and feature new tunes from The Black Lips.

The following will be false about this movie:

1. James Vanderbeek will play the supporting role of "all-purpose lameass yuppie white kid who doesn't 'get it.'"
2. The Black Lips will all make out while pouring beer on each other and ride off into the sunset.
3. Michael Douglas will reprise his role in Wall Street.

Here are some tourdates. All true:

Upcoming tourdates:

(Some for now!)

Foo Fighters to Keep On Being All “In Our Faces” by Touring in 2008, Dave Grohl to Solidify Reputation as Aging, Hippie Classic-Rockster by Raising Money to Plant Trees

Is it just me, or is Dave Grohl just rapidly turning into Neil Young?

And it’s not just that they’re really kinda starting to look eerily alike, either.

Granted, the longtime Foo Fighters frontman is probably a good 25 or so years younger than the infamous, squeaky-voiced folk-rocker, but that doesn’t seem to be stopping him from smashing willfully through the boundaries of relevancy and into that same weird, lonely, elder-statesman’s world -- a world where cultural and political ballyhooing, nagging responsibilities to a younger generation, and the pandering of fan-appeasing, self-caricaturing music (ahhhem) all become more important than innovating and writing kick-dick rock songs.

It is seemingly with this new attitude of unapologetic insufficiency that old-man Grohl and his cronies have announced that they will be hitting the road this coming January for a string of dates supporting the comfortably lukewarm Echoes, Silence, Patience, and Grace, released this past fall on Roswell/RCA.

And, in another move befitting of the aging rock icon-turned-caretaker of his own legacy, Grohl and the Foos’ upcoming tour will feature guest stars aplenty in order to bloat the arrangements and make fans feel like they’re getting their money’s worth of that arena-sized ticket price, including Pat Smear on guitar, Rami Jaffee on keyboards, and Jessie Greene on strings. (Hey, SOMEONE’s got to help the Foos out with all of their Arcade Fire covers and shit.)

But what elder-statesman’s tour would be complete without the classic “never mind my music, support this charity” tag attached? And god bless him; Grohl and co. have actually found a darned worthy one. See, for fans who want to ensure themselves good seats and support a good cause at the same time, a limited quantity of premium tickets for a number of shows will be auctioned off through Ticketmaster, the proceeds from which will benefit local urban tree planting through TreeBank, an online donation system dedicated to urban forest tree planting. Each auction will run for approximately two weeks following each show's on-sale date, and TreeBank will distribute auction proceeds to local "branches" (ha, get it?) for tree planting in every community on the Foo Fighters tour. You can find more information about the program here and here, but not here.

My, my, hey, hey. See you in Saskatoon:

Copyright Alliance (Including RIAA) Sends Ridiculous Poll to Presidential Candidates; Stance on Intellectual Property Enforcement Turns Hella Political

For those smart-but-no-genius students who make it to a university, the California State education system created STAT 100 Intro to Statistics for would-be art and journalism majors as a way to fulfill what would otherwise be a challenging GE math requirement. I took this class two years ago, and if there's one thing I learned, it's that statistics can be manipulated to represent and say whatever you want, and since most people are cheating liars, statistics derived from seemingly innocent polling questionnaires are not to be trusted.

But you didn't have to pass STAT 100 with a C or better to see through the outrageous and innate bias in questions such as "How would you promote the progress of science and creativity, as enumerated in the U.S. Constitution, by upholding and strengthening copyright law and preventing its diminishment?"

This question ACTUALLY appeared on a questionnaire sent out by a coalition of publishing companies last Tuesday. The 44-member, Washington, DC-based Copyright Alliance (made up of such stick-in-the-mud hoity toities as RIAA, Viacom, Microsoft, Walt Disney and the Motion Picture Association of America), sent the questionnaire (along with a letter which can be viewed and criticized here and here) to 17 Democratic and Republican ‘08 presidential candidates, requesting their responses by January 7 in order to inform "the creative community and public at large where our presidential candidates stand on copyright and artists' rights."

Can you see me waving the pirates' red "BULLSHIT!" flag right now? I'm waving!

According to RIAA chief Mitch Bainwol, "When Americans vote, they are making decisions about the values important to them. And one of those values must be a commitment to creativity."

As if sharing copyrighted musical content was a malicious act intent on smiting the despised value of creativity.

"Haha! I've just uploaded an album to my blog because I hate music and the artistic community at large," says the malevolent, digital pirate.

As the questionnaire continues with "How would you protect the rights of creators to express themselves freely under the principles established in the First Amendment?" one gets the feeling that generous, music-loving pirates are being vilified as freedom haters. Which they may well be.

You hating haters, you know who you are. Shame on you.

  

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