The Blog of Young America

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Tracy Morgan is the face of post-racial America

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This is what's going on right now that's important.

Jonathan Coulton is for everyone.

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MaxFunPal Jonathan Coulton is often presented to the world as a nerd troubadour, but the truth is that he's much more.

Jonathan Coulton is for Dads.
My wife just received an excited note from her father, a 50-year-old hardware store manager, musician and outdoor activity enthusiast, regarding the Jonathan Coulton greatest hits collection, JoCo Looks Back, which we gifted him for Christmas. He is absolutely nuts about it.

Jonathan Coulton is for little brothers.
Equally enthusiastic about the disc is my 15-year-old brother-in-law, a young man who is exceptionally handsome, socially capable, guitar-playing and broad-shouldered (due to his spot on the rowing team). His interest in nerd stuff begins and ends with Playstation 3, but he loves JoCo Looks Back enough to text my wife about it some weeks after Christmas.

Above all, though, Jonathan Coulton is for the San Fernando Valley Youth Chorus.
See above, featuring "human zendrum" solo.

Podthoughts by Colin Marshall: "The Quiet Sounds"

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Your Podthinker has already revealed that his primary musical weakness is the sweet, sweet sound of old school. He will now reveal his badly incongruous secondary musical weakness: the sweet, sweet sound of ambient.

The unwieldy behemoth defines ambient music as "a musical genre in which sound is more important than notes," "generally identifiable as being broadly atmospheric and environmental in nature." Ambient pioneer (and author of your Podthinker's favorite book, A Year with Swollen Appendices) Brian Eno wrote that ambient can be "actively listened to with attention or as easily ignored, depending on the choice of the listener" and that it "must be able to accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting."

At this point, the uninitiated reader will either be highly intrigued or turned off, befuddled. If the latter, they're probably confusing ambient with other, lesser, more-often-ridiculed musical genres like "new age". Ambient is far from that stripe of schlock, but the best way said confused reader can discover that is spending a few hours with a solid ambient music podcast. Similarly, the best way for the reader with piqued interest to satiate that interest is doing the very same. Luckily, neither group need search too far afield: The Quiet Sounds is merely a click away.

On the program, a mysterious fellow by the name of "The Unflappable Mister Eden" crafts thematic ambient mixes from 45 to 90 minutes long. These themes include the most underrated and/or obscure of ambient [MP3], the classic roots of ambient from the 70s and 80s [MP3] (which includes material from one of your Podthinker's choicest ambient albums, Eno and Robert Fripp's Evening Star), productions that use the guitar in one way or another [MP3] and a set in perhaps the richest seasonally-linked mood, autumnal melancholia [MP3]. There's also more standard stuff, such as Mister Eden's annual best-of-the-year playlists: 2007 [MP3], 2006 [MP3], 2005 [MP3].

Ambient music's best quality has to be its versatility. Most genres have their time and place — old school, for instance, works best in a certain specific contexts, though within them it works very well indeed — but no such apparent limitation binds ambient. Reading, cooking, driving, writing podcast columns, cleaning, sleeping, eating, laborious podcast-editing, walking, shopping, talking, bus-riding: ambient provides a fine soundtrack for all these activities and more. (Especially bus-riding; anything that prompts one to forget one is on a bus is an absolute godsend.) When Eno talks about how ambient accommodates many levels of listening attention, he understates the case; the stuff accommodates nearly all of human experience.

Ambient broadens one's own concept of the very nature of music to boot. The Quiet Sounds' sets incorporate a huge slice of the spectrum, all the way from pure sonic texture to actual rhythmic hey-this-sounds-kinda-normal gateway tracks. One can read in this column that describing something as a "long, repetitive drone with almost infinitely repetitive motifs" is, in fact, not necessarily pejorative and can, in fact, be a resounding approval. But, perhaps understandably, one will not truly grok the sentiment unless one hears the music itself. That's why it's so cool to have an engaged enthusiast like Mister Eden putting out podcasts of the stuff. In earlier episodes, he announced the tracks and verbally went into some detail about what they meant to him; somewhere in the middle of the archive, he switched to doing all his talking up-front. Alas, he's more recently given up the chat altogether, which is a bit of a shame as it's always nice to hear someone discuss why they love what they love. But over time his mixes have only improved, so if that's the tradeoff, that's the tradeoff; your Podthinker raises his Asahi high nonetheless.

Vital stats:
Format: ambient music
Running since: October 2005
Duration: 45m-1h30m
Frequency: erratic
Archive available on iTunes: none

[Podthinker Colin Marshall even checks his e-mail, colinjmarshall at gmail, to ambient. Discuss Podthoughts on the forum here or submit your own podcast for the next by-Max-Funsters column here.]

"Look Around You" on Adult Swim

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News comes from past Sound of Young America guest Robert Popper that his amazing series "Look Around You," created with Peter Serafinowicz, is premiering on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim on January 18th at one in the morning.

Above: the trailer. Below: an episode, "Maths."

"All About Steve"

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Why am I posting a trailer for a Sandra Bullock movie? The answer, at least for MaxFunsters in the know, is around the 1:50 mark.

David Malki ! Creator of "Wondermark" Interview on The Sound of Young America

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Show: 
Bullseye


David Malki ! (who really spells his name with an exclamation mark) is the creator of the comic strip Wondermark. He isolates woodcuts and engravings from 19th century periodicals, then alters them to create a surreal and hilarious gag strip. His first collection of the strip is called "Beards of Our Forefathers," and features extensive context for the strips, including faux advertisements and more.

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If you enjoyed this show, try these:
Chris Onstad
Tony Millionaire
Jack Handey

"The Noises Rest"

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"The Noises Rest" from lonelysandwich on Vimeo.

Our friends at You Look Nice Today have created a truly spectacular short film for a little institution called The Museum of Modern Art in a little town called New York City.

Gymkata, Starring Two-Time World Champion Kurt Thomas

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"WHEN GYMNASTICS AND KARATE ARE FUSED, THE COMBUSTION BECOMES AN EXPLOSION."

Gymkata is a movie in which World Champion Gymnast Kurt Thomas is locked in a Deadly Game in the nation of Parmistan, to save the life of his father, who was in the CIA or something. He has to fight a lot of Crazies in The Village of the Crazies, but the good news is, there's a pommel horse at the end of the alley, so that helps a lot.

If you are a person who wants to see an amazing film with a group of great pals who are high or drunk, this is an excellent choice. It was recently re-released on Digital Versatile Disc, which is a great way to enjoy the film.

Patton Oswalt Writes Jason Statham Into Prestige Pictures

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Patton Oswalt has identified a key issue with America cinema: not all films feature Jason Statham, the bad-ass bald guy behind The Bank Job and a lot of movies I haven't seen, but which I bet are cool.

Patton has stood up and done something about this, using his standing in the world of Hollywood script doctors to write Statham-included versions of this year's Oscar bait.

CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON: Jason Statham injects the backward-aging man-freak with a Sino/Chilean rage compound, and they fight in lava pit.

Sino/Chilean? The man's a genius.

Chris Onstad, Creator of Achewood: Interview on The Sound of Young America

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Show: 
Bullseye

Chris Onstad is the creator of the web comic Achewood, which chronicles the lives of a group of 20-something stuffed animals. It's a surreal and hilarious strip, once named the best graphic novel of the year by Time Magazine, despite not being a graphic novel. Onstad has just published his first book collection of the strip with a major press, called "The Great Outdoor Fight."

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If you enjoyed this show, try these:
John Hodgman
Kenny Mayne
Ben Karlin

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