The History of sub:marine

(This was recovered from the Wayback Machine. Originally published in 2002.)

editor's note:i (matt) have decided to use some of this space we have at
sub:marine to share some thoughts and experiences about running this label.  my hope is that through this, other people will understand what sub:marine is all about, and understand what running a small label is like.
 
let it inspire or discourage you-- maybe equally.

Chapter One

sub:marine started simply enough as two ideas who's destiny it was
to become one.  jeremy had this name "sub:marine" that was spawned
by his fascination with punctuation and a tie-in with the underwater
song "sub:space".  quite conveniently, sub:marine and underwater
were synonymous so it just had to be given birth at some point.

some time after sub:marine (the name) had been willed upon us, the
underwater record contract with RISK records gave us confidence that
we'd "make it" in this music business.  we had grandiose plans for
side-projects and other things we wanted to do musically that didn't
fit the idea RISK had for us, and thus, the notion of a small side-label
was born.

enter henry's ghost, a simple but moving song written by dan rosen and
recorded with jeremy.  i heard the song and thought it would somehow
make good remix fodder for LARVAE.  before we knew it, underwater
was covering the song, LARVAE and jeremy's studio persona, u-RAD had remixed it, and we were more than half-way to an EP worth of versions of the song we all somehow loved.

it was settled then, that henry's ghost would be our first release for
sub:marine.  it was just the kind of indulgent, self-satisfying but (we thought) important release that the label would be based around.  we knew it would have a limited audience, and we didn't care.  we'd make 300 copies and hand-print the artwork and it would be great.

it was great.  it was all those things in fact, limited, self-indulgent,
hand-made (if i only had a picture of all the artwork drying in our dining
room!)  but with the separation of underwater from RISK, suddenly,
the label was less of a pet-project and more of a way for us to
continue sharing the music we made with others.

the sub:sampler was our first release, an introduction to our catalog and
it actually came out BEFORE henry's ghost (hence the sub:000 cat #).
even though it contained new tracks from stillife;gaijin, underwater, and
LARVAE, it wasn't so much of an announcement of intent as it was a way to bridge the past with the present.  we didn't just fill it with any old thing, but we wanted to demonstrate the transition from old projects to new.  it even featured the first sub:marine appearance of miles tilmann in the form of a remix. 


Chapter Two

we did not, (and i can't stress this enough) want to be just another band
with a "label" in name only, tagging a logo on the back of self-released
cds that no one cared about.  we aspired to much bigger heights, and
wanted sub:marine to be a place where like-minded people could find
the kind of music we liked, and they liked.  4AD had to start somewhere,
right? 

 

from the beginning, i think we've modeled the label's ethic after the labels we knew and trusted as we first discovered the music we would call our own.  4AD, Wax Trax, MUTE, and Warp come to mind.  You couldn't always tell what a Warp record was going to sound like, but you kinda always knew it would be A) challenging and B) good.  we wanted that.

with that in mind, we began looking for people who's music we felt
compelled to release.  underwater was recording a new album and that
would be our first big sub:marine release, but we wanted to follow it
quickly with some others.  i'd been getting demo cdrs from miles tilmann
around the same time, and i was liking his music more and more.  i
also liked miles!  that was (and still is) a big concept in the sub:marine
ethos-- we only release music by people we like.  (if you're an aspiring
musician somewhere, it doesn't mean you have no chance with us--
after all, we may GROW to like you, but it does mean we're going to
get to know you beyond the sound of a demo tape before we even
consider helping you.)

so miles tilmann was the next up to bat, and he was followed quickly by
audomobil? who's twisted symphony of noise pop we'd grown to love from
some joint shows with underwater.  but before we get into all of that, let
me break down for you how underwater's this is not a film worked.


Chapter Three

this is not a film was a difficult record to make in a number of ways.
it wasn't difficult in the VH1 Behind the Scenes kind of way, but it
took a toll on me in the sense that i was never sure what the point
of releasing it as an album really was.  from the perspective of a
member in the band, it was great to see ideas come together in a
way i was proud of.  from the perspective of the label, i thought this
would be our signature release-- the thing that would really kickstart
the label and get us in the door with radio/distributors etc.

instead, what i found was that the business of running a record label
isn't just the idealism of putting out music you believe in.  sure, we had
that.  we were missing some of the other stuff.

one of the first things we did was get a map of the US and a couple
boxes of flag push-pins.  this was to be our visual stimulus for working
hard to promote this is not a film.  and it worked insofar as it was
designed to inspire us to see the fruits of our labor.  we had flags
planted wherever radio stations had told us that they'd put the underwater
record on the air or into their catalog.  it was fun to see where other
people were listening to it, and to see where our efforts at radio
promotion were paying off.  still, the map stalled at a certain point and
subsequent investigations of airplay told us that not that many people
were really listening to the record.

we had hoped that a good showing at college radio would be our foot
in the door with distributors.  as it turns out, charting an album on
college radio is as political and big-business of a venture as there is.
that's not to say little startups don't or can't have success... it might
just mean not many people really were into underwater.  but the whole
process of tracking down people at radio stations and asking them to
remember to play your disc etc. was somewhat disheartening.

a bit of advice: don't be an artist and a salesperson at once.  it's hard
enough to be a salesperson, but when you can't divorce your own
creative feelings about your work from your need to sell sell sell, it's
nearly impossible.  that's what labels are for!  if i had it to do over
again, i'm not sure i would release something like that on sub:marine
simply because the backlash is THAT MUCH HARDER when it
flops and it's your own work!

we tried to get underwater reviews and radio spins and into the hands
of record stores and distributors as much as possible.  we sent out
nearly 500 copies to people, hoping to get somewhere with it.  to
understand the economics of this, it's fruitful to do some math.
we went all out with a 12 page booklet for the cd, which meant that
our unit price per disc was a lot higher than something like, say the
miles tilmann disc that has a 2 panel black and white insert (his choice,
not ours mind you!)  add on top of that the fact that it's heavier and
costs more to mail, and you have promo packages going out to 300
radio stations and nearly 200 magazines, stores, and distributors at
$4-$5 a pop!  was it worth it?  well, the band didn't help matters, but
that's a whole other story.

after promoting the record for 6 months with no full-fledged tour, no
booking agent, and no manager, underwater broke up and the label
was left looking at quite a few unsold copies of this is not a film.
we took out ads, sent out promos, did the shmooze thing the best
we could, but to little avail.  what we can say is that we are still
very happy with the record, we still think it's worthwhile and think
that there are people in the world who'd like to hear it, but they just
don't know it's out there.  alas.


Chapter Four

so, unwilling to rest on our laurels and undeterred by the relative
lack of commercial success and subsequent breakup of our
"flagship act", sub:marine pressed forward with the plan we had
established prior to the release of this is not a film, namely-- to
release music by other people!

miles tilmann's underland ep was an interesting experiment for us.
the radio/promo blitz hadn't really worked for underwater, and we
needed to find a more cost-effective way to promote underland.  
not only that, but miles' music while similar in tone to underwater, 
was a completely new ballgame.  people who liked underwater,
in our estimation, SHOULD have liked miles tilmann, but there was
no real easy way to explain that or prove it.  

additionally, miles was unapologetic about making electronic music
that wasn't focused on bleeding-edge technology or the newest
reaktor plugin.  i love underland, and completely agree with miles and
his position: he just makes music that makes sense to him, and if it
draws comparison to old aphex twin or even vangelis, he's not too
worried about changing.  but from a business perspective, this all
made me a bit nervous as the music review sources i thought would
be most into covering underland, (places like grooves and the wire and pitchforkmedia) seemed almost obsessively focused on the newest
in-sound of the exact moment.  "autechre is so LAST SUMMER", if you
get my meaning.

so our strategy was to promote miles online as much as possible.  
reviews began to trickle in, always good and always sure to mention
that "this is not the next big sound in electronic music".  fair enough.
still, with some moderate success on college radio RPM shows and
a burgeoning interest in miles in his own hometown of chicago, the
real trouble was getting stores to carry underland.  even as i write this,
miles has just completed his first tour, a 2 week affair that saw him
playing 5-6 days a week, sometimes with 2 sets in a day.  he's
tirelessly promoting his work, and we're behind him and it's starting
to feel like this whole "label" idea makes sense.

watching people react to miles' live show has been the first real
payback that the label has generated for me.  we still have a ton
of underland cds to sell, and i know that in time, we'll do that and
get his music to the people who will love it... but i derived an
unexpected amount of satisfaction from watching people really
enjoy miles' work, and from knowing that what we were doing was
making that possible.

so the moral of the story of the first year for sub:marine?  was it
worth it?  will it go on?  it's all in finding the balance between
the music and the business, and it's something that as newcomers
to this, we are still learning.  it's been downright frustrating at times
and it's also been exhilarating in the same way that creating music
is at times.  like a new father of sorts, i'm always beaming with
pride whenever a new batch of cds or stickers etc come in the mail.
hearing people get excited that the audomobil? record is out now
is fulfilling in ways i couldn't have imagined it would be.  as for plans
in 2002, all i can really say is that people i like are still making music
i like, so i don't see a reason that we can't help them bring it to more
people.

A Thought A Day - 2001 - 2002

06.20.02
the fever is rising...

if you don't care for soccer or world cup items, tune out now, but that's where my head is.  the nationalism of these world-wide events has always struck me as the biggest downside... i don't really feel like we should need to be nationalistic anymore.  i'd like to think of the globe as a more connected, and hopefully moving toward, more unified place.  with that being said, there is, i think, a healthy sense of patriotism that can arise from sports, that i didn't ever really understand until now.  i'm about the least likely guy to throw an american flag sticker on my car that you are going to find, but at the same time, when the USA beat mexico, i had this urge to go out and buy a flag and wave it around.  there's a strange feeling of kinship with the US soccer team--something i don't feel for the US military (no offense) or US government etc.  usually, I think americans run around the world like we own it and generally act like idiots, but at least on the level of soccer accomplishment, I'm proud to be a citizen of a nation that's still in the running.

06.18.02
futbol

it really sucks that american coverage of soccer is dominated by abc/espn and their european commentators.  sports fans in this country have a hard enough time relating to soccer as it is, but when you bring in the european jargon of "football, boots, pitches, nil, etc" it puts the game that much further out of reach for the uninitiated. 

06.17.02
suture tray

i had to get some medical treatment recently and let me tell you, dealing with the hospital and their billing people can be daunting.  i got two bills for my treatment in the mail, each with a different total, and with different line items listed.  most of the people i spoke with at the hospital seemed to take it for granted that i was familiar with hospital in/out procedures, prescriptions, etc.  in fact, this is the first time i've seen a doctor since i was a teenager, and i had no idea how most of this worked.

06.16.02
teamUSA

first, my apologies for the absence.  it won't happen again unless i go to another country again.  i have been thinking a lot, just not writing it here.  so for now, here's a shout out to the US World Cup team, may they beat Mexico soundly and move forward to the quarterfinals!

5.28.02
nippon

it's almost impossible to describe japanese pop culture because it seems to be in a constant state of flux.  one thing i can say about it is that you have to really immerse yourself in in to really get a sense of how far out some of it is.  read my japan tour page for more details. (coming soon)

05.06.02
a job worth doing

pardon me if i sound like a fogey, but i'm noticing lately that there is a lot of truth to that old adage that a job worth doing is worth doing well.  if you're going to go to the trouble to use a database, why not use it AS a database, and not as a loose file storage system?

05.03.02
spiderman

spiderman was a good movie, but when you watch it 15 years from now, all you are going to be able to see are the Dr. Pepper Can and the Cingular wireless sign! i'm sure sam raimi didn't have much choice, but shame on the makers of the movie to stoop to such pedestrian product placement.

05.02.02
W

why don't we all start calling george w bush, george bush jr? after all, he is george jr, isn't he? he's not fooling anyone into thinking he's less of a boob by calling himself george W is he? i think the american people should be reminded of the system of royalty we fought to escape and the paralells to the MEN who've held our own executive seat of power for so long.

04.29.02
smug

someone shot me a smug look today, and it really made me think about how it's easy to pick out when someone is being condescending.  in fact, it's so easy to spot, it's a wonder that people try and pull it off.

04.25.02
belief

do american's have any beliefs that sort of define us to other people in the world?  i guess there's the "you can achieve anything with hard work" and the "follow your dreams" ideas that inspire so many people to move here.  maybe it's just my own cynicism that wants to replace those two idyllic motivations with the word "greed", but it seems like we as a people are lacking some deeper, less goal-oriented beliefs.

for instance, in japan (as in many asian countries) there is a guiding principle that says group harmony is something to be preserved.  this belief colors everything from manners to mores to customs and culture.  that's not to say that every belief has it's dissenters, and maybe for the popular american beliefs, i am just one of those, but i wonder if we really have anything that meaningful holding us together at all?

04.24.02
the song loops

sure, you've had those days where a song will get stuck in your head and won't leave... but have you ever flip flopped between dot allison and "up all night, sleep all day"???  i don't even know who sang that stupid song, but i've had that and the first song from the dot allison record playing on continuous loop... it must be time to put on some music.

04.23.02
attack of the geeks

my ever-fragile faith in humanity was restored this evening as i was able to mingle with my fellow toy collecting star wars geeks at the toys-r-us midnight madness sale in peace.

maybe it's because episode II hasn't been hyped as much as episode I, or because people realized that they couldn't horde and make out on ebay like they used to... or maybe people just generally got nicer, but for whatever reason, this year's midnight sale had none of the angry, grubby, mean-spirited nonsense that it did in 99.

in fact, people were willing giving up the last zam wessel's and clone troopers so that others could complete their collections.  and the toys-r-us staff showed a great amount of patience and willingness to cooperate when one guy pointed out that certain figures were only going to be in certain boxes that had not yet been opened.  as much as i love star wars and collect toys, i can tell you there is no way i would have wanted to dig for oddly marked boxes to find these 'gems' when so many boxes were already open and lying around.   props to them.

04.22.02
trace elements

we saw a tv preacher the other night... well, let me start over.  we saw an infomercial the other night where a man, proclaiming to be a preacher but acting like a salesman, asked people to send in a sketch of their hand on a piece of paper.  supposedly, if you sent in the sketch, AND SOME MONEY, you would receive a "secret winner's prayer".  kinda sounds like a japanese confection- 'secret lucky gum' or something like that.  anyway, this guy was quite insistent that the prayer was a 'winner's' prayer, and sent out the clear message that if you 'bought this prayer from him, you would be a winner!"   you can be scared by his website located here.    here's another good source of info about the good rev.

now, far be it from me to tell someone what they should or shouldn't believe in, but it really seems like these kinds of predatory televangelist schemes are what make things like marilyn manson seem reasonable to half-way discriminating kids.  here's a letter to all people of faith: if you want to turn people on to your faith, don't start with telling your friends and neighbors about your beliefs; start by writing idiots like rev. ike a letter and GET THEM OFF THE AIR!  they are misrepresenting you in the worst possible way, and they have a bully pulpit that reaches thousands thanks to television.  please, send rev. ike a letter today:
REV. IKE
United Christian Evangelistic Association
P.O. Box 9000
Boston, MA 02205
 
uceabma@rcn.com

04.19.02
nice effort man

erika green just won 58 million dollars in the lottery.  her boyfriend, however, couldn't be bothered to put on a nice shirt or pair of slacks for their national press conference so you get him as seen here with the jeans, the faded harley shirt, and the mullet.  nice effort man.  although i gotta say i admire a guy who is comfortable being himself!

 

04.15.02
we are friday closed closed

so read the sign on a nail salon near our favorite vegetatian chinese restaurant.  it made me think- there really is a difference between just being closed and being 'friday closed'.  'friday closed' is like "we should be open, but what the hell, it's friday'.

04.14.02
alliance

an alliance is a union of people connected by a common interest designed to provide mutual support for advancing a shared goal.  i'm in an alliance, and it sure doesn't seem to fit that bill.  our alliance could perhaps best be described as a collection of people with similar interests, but different goals.  it's sad really.  if we ever had to attack the death star, we'd be fucked.

04.12.02
pink II

i was reading an interview with Pink in the latest issue of SPIN (for the record, no, i don't consider it a valid source of music journalism) and it confirmed my previous notion that 'pink is okay.'  in a lot of ways, she sounded like mel c, which as anyone who knows me would know, is a good thing.  i'm not saying there isn't a sick, hype-driven image machine making Pink tick at times, but she did seem pretty down to earth.

04.11.02
stimulation

two guys stand outside the door of a club looking in.  they have in intention of paying to get in because they have no intention of staying.  they watch a band perform for about half an hour through the open door, discussing 'the scene' and how it sucks and how it's not connected and no one supports anyone else, then they say 'i need some stimulation', make a beer swigging motion, and leave.  thanks guys.

04.09.02
3 wishes

if you have three wishes, you better save one to fix the things you mess up with the first two.

04.02.02
vocoder

everyone loves a good vocoder part, don't they?  like many things in the days of early synthesizer technology, i'm not sure what the vocoder effect was supposed to be useful for, but it sure does a great job of predicting the future sound of the human voice.  it always sounds futuristic.  even that cher song with the vocoder part- at least THAT PART of the song was cool.

03.31.02
dog people

what's up with people bringing their dogs to your house?  i grew up with a dog and have been around them my whole life, and i never once remember us taking our dog to someone else's house.  brining a dog or other noisy pet over when you are a guest, especially without asking, is just plain rude.  people also like to take their dogs into places like kinkos, the mall, and bookstores!?  what the hell is wrong with people?  here's an open letter to dog owners:

Not everyone thinks your dog is as cute as you think it is.  Not everyone will think it's funny when your dog acts territorial and yelps at everything that moves.  Leave your dog at home.

03.28.02
editorial note

being unemployed fucks with your self esteem.  it's nice not to have anyone to answer to and not to have anywhere to be, but at the same time, it's a heavy feeling knowing that you are putting out resumes and applications and no one is accepting you.  it's like going to a bar and hitting on every girl and systematically being ignored (i guess, as i've never done anything remotely like that!)  

you start to find ways to rationalize your failures and shortcomings when you are unemployed.  i've found 30 different, very good reasons not to get out of bed before noon.  

as i'm waking up of my own free will around 9, i tell myself any number of the following:
1)people in the house are still sleeping, you can't get up and make music, so just sleep in till they are awake or gone.
2)you are more creative at night, so sleep in and let things happen naturally after lunch.
3)people on the west coast aren't up and about until noon on the east coast, so who are you gonna call?  (like i have people in oregon to call!!!!!)
4)no one is online this early, so you won't have any email... so sleep in!
...ad infinitum.  it's depressing of course to realize that by the time you have finished your email and lunch, that half of most people's day is over, and of course staying up until 3 am looking at the prices of gear on ebay isn't the most constructive use of non-peak hours!

you also lose track of time and days and weeks and start to think of things in new temporal ways.  everything in my life now is organized relative to a few important dates and deadlines.  there's no REAL structure, just vague "drop dead dates" that appear all too soon.  and you get real annoyed when other people have petty things like careers and families getting in the way of doing things you want them to do at any given moment. 

but most of all, unemployment just makes you cynical.  i didn't need any help with that!  so, sorry for the lack of thoughts.  you probably wouldn't want to read many of them lately anyway.  more to come later.

03.22.02
tougher than leather

RUN DMC just don't give a f___.  it's nice to see that they break out the old rick rubin beats and rock it old school in this day of hip hop careers lasting one album or one single.  it was a little weird to hear them preaching and yelling "make some goddamn noise" in alternate breaths, but what can i say, i saw RUN DMC!

03.21.02
shop emo

nothing says "i'm a dickhead loser whose sense of irony is gleaned from mass marketed 'punk'" like wearing a shirt you bought at shopemo.com.  well, actually, buying the same shirt they sell for $13.50 at their store for more than $15.00 on ebay says it better!  

emo: it's not just a musical style, it's a category of overpriced crap on ebay!

03.19.02
cut the mullet

this is one thing upon which wesley willis and i can agree: cut the mullet... you look like an asshole.  of all the insipid trends of retro-fetishism to pop up, the return of the mullet amongst the hipper than thou youth is without a doubt, the worst.  it's bad enough we have to sit through retro music and fashion and have people looking like they walked out of a 1978 rock concert everywhere, but the mullet is back so dipshits without a clue everywhere can relive the mistakes of the past.

03.19.02a
kitsch

Louie Austen is yet another in a long line of bad jokes sold to trendy club kids.  Why can't people get as excited about genuine, sincere and moving music as they do about an old man in a tux crooning Sinatra-style over some badly produced house tracks?  I swear to god i am going to start giving out my irony awards soon.

03.18.02
attack of the clones

damn, that trailer was cool.  some of the cgi and blue screening looked a little too fake, but giant land battles between jedi and droids and an early verion of the AT-AT... how can you go wrong with that?

03.09.02
1.800.monster.com

for as functional and seemingly well-put-together as monster.com is, i'm finding that it's not very useful.  i spoke with someone yesterday who said she gets about 800 resumes per day thanks to monster.  800 resumes PER DAY!  i don't like those odds.

03.05.02
MIT is greek to me

it seems to me that if you didn't go to MIT, you didn't do anything substantial with your college career.  of course that's a hyperbole, but when i listen to people talk about what they are doing at MIT, people in undergrad or graduate programs- people under 30- it makes me feel like "going to class" and "writing papers" was a big waste of time when it comes to the bigger picture.

02.28.02
bola

if you don't own any music by bola, you should.

02.26.02
fashion fallout

you can't come to truth until you divorce yourself from fashion.  in the same way experience is informed by culture, history, and fashion, the creative process can also become a slave to these things.  you can't consider that which is fashionable when making art, as the result is necessarily less a product of pure creative expression and more a lumpy soup of your reactions to trends.  any reaction, be it a violent neglect for what is fashionable (alec empire) or a careful consideration of fashion (cibo matto) is still going to be just another cog in the pop culture machine.  you have to absolve yourself from the notion that fashion exists in order to get at the heart of your subject.  and for those who complain "what about art that's subject is fashion?"  i say that the self-referential culture loop is not art, but commodity.

02.21.02
breakfast is for champions

this is why i don't get up before 11... not enough has happened by noon to divert the city of decatur police from pulling people over on seatbelt violations.  doesn't it always seem like there's a crime or a hoodlum somewhere that a cop could be taking care of that would be more of a community service than pulling some idiot over for not wearing a seatbelt?

02.20.02
binr dd_atcclax herdl

02hrrrz null-m rit tinng yhoughy : idmese.  if blecc exizits dicc twone arrr, :: spurrt2.11.
(if you can't read today's thought, grab some kid who knows what the words "reaktor" "warez" and "dsp" mean, and get him to interpret.)

02.19.02b
money orders

the first person who can write me with a legitimate argument for the use of money orders over checks or online accounts for paying bills, will win a prize.  why on earth would you want to stand in line at the post office and pay a surcharge per transaction when you could easily get a checking account?  do banks intimidate people?  most banks will offer free checking if you maintain a minimum balance, and if you can't do that, you still usually get a certain number of checks per month free-- certainly enough to cover 4-5 bills.  it's bad enough that the line at the post office is long with people who don't know if they want priority/insurance/registered mail, etc... now it's clogged with people getting money orders to pay bills too?

02.19.02a
no no no, bad dog

having a dumb dog must be like having a young child except you can yell at the dog.

02.16.02
tasmania

maybe it's not very culturally sensitive of me, but we just got an order from Tasmania, and i can't help but think of saturday morning cartoons whenever i look at the address.  i know there really is a tasmania, but just like i can't hear the name of the town albuquerque without thinking about bugs bunny, i can't really take Tasmania seriously thanks to warner bros. cartoons.

02.15.02
college radio

all college radio stations are decorated the same.  at least all the ones i've been to share these qualities: posters with clever sharpie graphiti held to the wall with stickers, stickers, and stickers.  i remember there was a godflesh poster i wanted from the V89 back room when i worked there... someone went and scribbled V89 all over it so no one would steal it (presumably).  oh well.

02.13.02
lomography

do yourself a favor and get yourself a lomo.  you can find them on ebay or even at amazon.com.  i've been taking roll after roll and getting nothing but crazy lights and flashes of color.  one day it'll all be put to good use.  for now, just go here.

02.11.02
library

has the internet made the library completely obsolete, or do people without any academic requirements generally not use library services anyway? i can't think of anyone i know who isn't in school who has been to a library in the last 3 years.

02.09.02
as alanis said

you live, you learn.  you have to let people make mistakes sometimes.  if you try and intervene every time someone is doing something that you think is a huge mistake, you will either be stepping into a lot of cases where the person isn't  making a mistake, or you will keep the person who is  from ever learning not to do that thing again.

02.08.02
file extensions

no great revelation here, but you know the letters that follow the "." in a filename?  like '.htm', '.doc', and .'tif'... well they seem to confuse a lot of people.  someone at my office was trying to turn a .jpg into a .pfd so it could be put into a .doc???  then, last night at about 2 am, i finally figured out that adobe premiere will only accept .mpe mpeg2 movies, not .mpg (which is a perfectly valid file format!)  go figure.

02.07.02
thriller 2

can michael jackson not make a nice, 4 minute music video like everyone else?  if you were ever interested in a projection of michael jackson's physical form into the future, just check out his new "special" or whatever you call it, where he plays a middle-aged white man and a skeleton.  sounds about right.

2.06.02
four women

i just finshed up the new sam keith (the maxx) series called 'four women', and while i thought the book was great, i have to complain about the ads.  the overall gist of the story is that four women of wildly different backgrounds are on a trip together, their car breaks down and they are assaulted by 2 guys.  it deals with issues of rape and violence and ultimately forgiveness, but interspersed throughout the book are ads for video games, bubble gum, and soda.  obviously, the advertisers are thinking "ah, this is a comic book, let's put in a playstation ad, but do they not bother to read the book?  it's very disturbing to go from a scene where someone is about to be raped in a very tense situation to a picture of faux video game violence and a tagline of "beat him him" or some such.  to the publishers of the book- shame on you for carelessly letting advertising break the flow of a very adult story... and to the advertisers, well, there's little hope for you anyway.

02.04.02
super-8 is super

i was watching some of the footage from the LARVAE film TRANSMISSION the other night, and i remembered how cool it was to get those rolls of super-8 film back from the processing joint, load them into my rickety old projectors, and check them out.  you should all have a super-8 camera and some film and make little movies and send them in to sub:marine and i will post them.

2.03.02
911 is a joke

i'll probably get all kinds of hate-mail for this, but i think it has to be said, and so if you disagree with me, that's fine, just be civil about it.

congratulations america - you've managed to brand something as abstract and un-'ownable' as a terrorist attack, and make it a themed commodity like sprite or rush hour 2.  people everywhere from tv news anchors to paul mccartney now refer to the attack of september 11th as '911' or 'nine eleven'.  is it the insatiable need for people to be able to have a single logo-like word to describe everything in their lives, or the media's uncanny ability to turn the act of delivering information into selling a version of information, that leads us to boil a tremendous event down into an acronym?

language is a funny thing.  it has levels of specificity that affect meaning.  for example, your mother is not, to you, just 'woman', but 'mom'.  sometimes that specificity can yield an uncomfortable level of meaning, so it's dummied down to be more palatable.  we don't say that hamburgers are 'ground cow flesh', rather, 'ground beef' or 'ground meat'.  people who are shamefully lunging into booty calls don't say they are 'having intercourse' but they are 'hooking up'.  and so, we distance the reality of 'terrorists attacked our country on september 11th' by calling it '911'.  it removes the power of the real experience and replaces it with a more digestible shorthand-- one that can be summed up in patriotic car commercials and human interest stories on the 11 o'clock news.

this isn't a matter of political correctness; rather, it's a symptom of a culture so unable to cope with reality that it creates manufactured realty television, so unwilling to address problems with real solutions that it spends billions of dollars providing a means of escape, and so uneducated about the state of affairs that it considers late night talk shows a valid source of news!  please, if you have to make the reference at all, have the decency to talk about the attacks on september 11th rather than throwing out the hip-hoppable, sequel-ready, brand '911'.


02.01.02
let's not argue about who killed who

that great line (paraphrased) from a great movie got me thinking that i've been too negative with these thoughts.  it's become too much of a bitch-zone and not enough of a "here's a thought" zone.  so, as a february resolution, i will try to be more positive, at least to the extent that this column is well-rounded.

01.31.02
3D printer

i want one of those 3D printers.  i think they cost about 70,000 dollars right now, but they'll come down, i'm sure.  i've been collecting printer mistakes for a couple years now- glitched inkjet and laserjet pages mostly, and i'd love to see what kind of strange errors one could get with 3D printers using laserjet-style technology.

01.29.02
judge not

without getting too biblical, i felt like i should share that little bit of profound insight... i was reading reviews of the new movie 'storytelling' and people were very up in arms about the way solondz tends to judge his characters and the way that the audience is forced to look down their noses at them.  someone also brought up the "american movie" example, and thought it was somehow 'wrong' that an audience of people would be laughing at antics of the film's misguided, if not enthusiastic would-be filmmakers.

i then thought a bit about sports and how perennial losers are often put on display to be the continuing laughing stock.  here's the thing: if you are setting people up to fail embarrassingly, that's something i can agree is 'wrong'. but if you are showing someone who happens to be in the act of failing miserably, well, that's okay.  even if your intent is to show people you know or have a strong belief will fail, the fact remains that they can surprise you.  often, they won't, but on occasion the hawks beat the lakers, the geek gets the girl, and so on... the only way you can have a preconception that something like 'american movie' is mean-spirited is if you have already made the judgment that the producers of 'coven' SHOULD fail.

01.28.02
vertical looping
beware the vertical looping mechanism of the new culture merchants.  it probably doesn't need to be said here, but i'll say it anyway- every time you make a purchase, you should be able to trace the path of that dollar from your pocket to its ultimate destination.  if you aren't happy with where it ended up, you probably have the loop to blame - your decision, influenced or not by the megabrand promise of utopia, is ultimately telling the MAN at the top that he (yeah, and i mean HE) is or isn't succeeding.

01.27.02
limits

there's a careful balance to be learned between having your dreams and ambitions and knowing your limitations.  i'd make a terrible motivational speaker because i believe it's important to recognize that the sky is not the limit- that we can't do anything we set our minds to, and that we can't achieve any goal with hard work.  there are some things you just won't be able to do, and it takes a lot of strength to know that, and to continue to pursue the goals that are difficult, but attainable.

01.26.02
glitch

the new (or not so new, now) buzzword for electronic music.  yuck.  someone once told me that art doesn't happen by accident.  i strongly disagree with that statement, but in the sense that art is a finished product, not a process... if the process involves an accident- so be it.  however, there is a new breed of musician out looking for accidents, worshiping mistakes and trying harder to make their machines break than make them work.  maybe this is what my friend was talking about... that you can't make art if all you are doing is experimenting and keeping the results, no matter how damaged.

01.25.02
my kung fu

two kung fu related notes:
1. everyone who likes old school kung fu flicks should check out 'shaolin soccer'.  imagine monks in orange robes using their kung fu skills to play soccer, aided by fancy cgi effects!
2. the shaolin warriors are performing at the fox theater, and for tickets at any reasonable distance from the stage, it costs like $50 a seat.  what better way could there be to get people who otherwise wouldn't see anything more cultural than an mtv cribs marathon out to an event at the fox than by making tickets to see monks performing kung fu feats reasonably priced?

01.22.02
dismissed

if you watch mtv for any length of time (which i don't recommend, but it's interesting to see what "the kids" are doing these days) it becomes clear that the "jocks" (and i use that term quite figuratively, see the rant about sports below) are back in control of youth culture.  to me, this is actually refreshing because it means that the "subversives" aren't being used as the cool-barometer anymore, and that maybe kids growing up now will have a chance to decide to be rebellious, misanthropic punks instead of having that lifestyle sold to them by mountain dew.

01.22.02
f.u.a.

i remember at one point at my previous job having to explain to our president and some other folks that the term "faq" was common enough on the web that most people would know what it meant.  i'm beginning to wonder if i was jumping the gun a bit there, as i continue to receive emails asking the exact questions that are listed in the sub:marine faq.  perhaps i should change it to a f.u.a. = frequently unread answers.

01.20.02
hell phones

in all the rush to adopt new technology and its promise of a better, faster tomorrow, it seems like the most ubiquitous new tech device is the one that slows us down the most.  while most people will probably swear to you that their cell phone enables them to do things they would otherwise be unable to do, in timeframes that would be otherwise impossible, i submit that cell phones in fact make people lazier and more procrastinating.

take any important event or decision.  for hundreds of years decisions have been made, and events have been coordinated without cell phones.  people have gotten to weddings on time and management has been able to decide where to hang pictures in the office after hours without resorting to calling someone who might be eating dinner, driving, sleeping, or otherwise spending private time...  thanks to cell phones.  it isn't that the people with cell phones are necessarily more lazy, it's that the people who know they have cell phones are less considerate and less willing to be prepared.

01.19.02
EZ does not mean 'easy'
pardon my french, but what the fuck is the problem with computer software and hardware creators?  is it really too much to ask that the words "easy" and "EZ" and such not be affixed to applications and devices that are anything but easy to use and install?

try using your pc for digital video, i dare you.  it's a nightmare.  this format doesn't talk to that format and this machine doesn't see that one... and the "easier" the developers try to make a program, the more ridiculous the interface looks and the more dumbed-down the software is to the point that it's virtually useless.  sub:marine video is coming.

01.18.02
hypothesis

experimental music is not much like experimental anything else.  well, that is to say, it IS like other experiments, but it doesn't want to be perceived as such.

most experiments fail.  they might be good exercises, but they don't actually lend any new knowledge to the world, or theycertainly don't achieve what it is the experimenter was after.  with experimental music, however, people seem unashamed to present each and every detail of every experiment ever conducted, successful or not, and what it yields is a massive body of bad work.  that isn't to say there isn't good experimental sound out there... just that you better be taking the time and putting the thought into your work that a scientist would into hers if you want the output to be any good.

01.10.02
the slate

i watched heathers for the first time post-columbine last night and i have to say that the movie had a much different tone.  if it had been any more successful of a film, maybe it would have been the scapegoat rather than kmfdm and marilyn manson.  whatever the case may be, it was a little less funny and little more troubling to see christian slater running around with a gun in a trenchcoat killing the "popular" kids and planning a mass murder by explosive.  i found new things about the movie funny this time around, but found that i had little tolerance for veronica or j.d.  and to think, we named our undergound newspaper 'the slate' back in 9th grade because of this film.

1.04.02
management theory

i wanted to write a book when i got out of high school.  it was going to be a self-help book based on my travels across the country eating pizza.  i never made the trip and subsequently never wrote the book.  but i think i can take my experience in the corporate world, mix it with my knowledge of pizza, and come up with the "management is like a pizza" method...

01.01.02
this looks important

i never played d&d as a kid.  i wasn't really allowed.  i did have a marvel super heroes rpg for which i had about 30 characters made, but we could never find a game-master.  i went on one 2 hour d&d campaign once and it was pretty fun, i guess, but nothing that started a craze for me.  however, i've spent the last 3 days holed up in my room playing baldur's gate: dark alliance for PS2.  so that explains the lack of thoughts.

12.22.01
kris kringle

as deceber 25th draws near, i'm reflecting on tolerance.  the word 'tolerance' to me is interesting because it presupposes a certain amount of dislike for something.  after all, if people didn't dislike homosexuality, they wouldn't have to be 'tolerant' of it.  that's problematic for me, because in so many ways we teach tolerance, not acceptance.  i guess it's just a matter of taking things one step at a time.

so with the holidays on hand, please, don't force your holiday on anyone else.  i've already been in several uncomfortable situations where good cheer and well-wishing has turned into an insensitive display of belief-centric celebration.  be tolerant of those who don't believe as you do, and recognize that not everyone wants to hear christmas carols 24 hours a day.

12.20.01
winter wonderland

as insidious as i might find a shopping mall the week before christmas, i was reminded last night that there are a great many people in the world with different views.  we took two japanese exchange students to barnes & noble.  after book shopping, we had to agree on a place to eat, but they had already eaten.  after numerous questions about the distance to the mall, i suggested we eat at the mall and allow our guests to wander about. this was met with a hushed exclamation of "yatta!" a sort-of japanese version of "hooray!"  seeing people unjaded by the consumerism that plagues the american consciousness just enjoy the mall as a cultural microcasm was actually pretty cool.

12.17.01
this is not a film study group

in the index of amber's new film class textbook, there is a short list of a dozen or more pages referencing quentin tarantino, but only one reference to andrei tarkovsky.  now, i'm not saying that tarkovsky contributed more to film history than tarantino- obviously since the american movie market plays such a large role, and since pulp fiction almost single-handedly opened the door for independent films to find a mainstream audience- the guy deserves some props.  but i could fill up several websites about solaris alone, to say nothing of the sacrifice, and stalker.  oh well.  when i took a film class in college, the big thing was that you weren't supposed to call science fiction "sci-fi"... serious scholars call it "SF".  nuff said.

12.15.01
pearly dewdrops drop

one of the great things about cocteau twins is the fact that much of their music can be enjoyed on two completely different levels.  i've heard a muzak version of bluebeard in a grocery store while shopping for pasta, and i was at a thai restaurant tonight that had a mix cd of enya and the cocteau's head over heels.  my mom always loved cocteau twins.

12.14.01
thoughtless

i've had no thoughts recently.  i've been streamlining things and reducing my thought-load recently so that i have less to worry about.  if you work in the internet or advertising world, you should check out this link: iterate revolutionary infomediaries

12.10.01
things

having altogether too many things makes you forget the spaces between the things that give your life meaning.  

12.08.01
throw the rice... now

weddings are such formal things.  i've been to 5 that i can remember: one in germany that was for a german couple and lasted about 15 hours, one in a big church when i was ~4, one in another big church about 5 years ago, and 2 outdoors in gardens.  all of them were very different but at the same time, all were very stuck in the notion of how a wedding "should" be.

the wedding dj is one of the worst people on earth.  it's not their fault, they are virtually scripted to the minute to mc the dances, the conga line, the bouquet toss, etc etc... what strikes me as weird is that there seems to be very little room to individualize.  well, i should say that another way: there's a ton of room to individualize, but i haven't seen too many people do it.  by the time we are cutting the cake, the dj is on autopilot and suddenly everyone is expected to dance the macarena, do a conga line, and engage in general bufoonery until everyone is ready to leave.

anyway, the wedding today was nice, and the music was actually good... so there's some hope.

12.07.01
one man's leaves

rich folks don't rake leaves,
they use machines to blow them
out into the street.

12.06.01
pink

thanks to mtv's new policy to actually show videos and my downtime here at home, i now have the pink song stuck in my head.  i don't think i'd like the song if i had heard it first, but seeing it first kind of endeared pink to me.

the same thing basically happened with the spice girls- mel c had a kind of charisma in that spice world movie that i liked and somehow, i now have a shrine to her in my home and i own all of her singles, albums, etc.  someone at pitchforkmedia was bemoaning the lack of good-humored music and people who only like serious music.  i like very non-serious music like mel c just fine, but there's a problem i think with music that's not serious but is intentionally made for 'serious' music people.  (see my rant about moldy peaches)  anyway, that pink, she's a character!

12.05.01
fax war

i need something to combat the morons who are sending me faxes about fax toner sales at 7 in the morning. (the only reason i would ever run out of fax toner is that i get spam faxes from idiots trying to sell it!)  if you think the world of telemarketing calls and spam email is bad, you have got to get a fax machine and a publicly listed number.

of course, i could have my number put on a "no-call" list, but that only works for about 3-4 months AND you have to pay for it.  you have to pay for the freedom to be left the hell alone.

my new strategy is to download the most offensive, vile, disgusting images i can find on the internet-- rotting carcasses, autopsy photos, that sort of thing, and fax them back to the people who want to sell me vacation trips and sports coats.

in the meantime, don't buy anything from these companies, and send them hate faxes if you want!
Central Imaging : 1-800-291-7402
Stockscape Technologies, Inc. : 1-800-665-1755
(A company too ashamed to print their own name) : 1-800-722-4162

12.04.01
moldy peaches
just to clarify, i don't actually like the moldy peaches, i just thought the nintendo reference was funny.  i actually don't "get" the attraction to things like bright eyes and the moldy peaches... but then again, i don't get the attraction to
the strokes
the donnas
trans am
the faint
etc etc etc

12.02.01
uuddlrlrba
the first person who can email me and tell me what this means gets a free audomobil? cd.  i heard it the other day in a moldy peaches song and about died laughing.  (ok, someone won.  it is up up down down left right left right b a, the old nintendo code for games like gradius and contra)

11.30.01
self-censorship

as mentioned before, art isn't hard.  it really just requires a little effort and some creativity.  i think all people are creative, but most don't know how to channel that skill.  having said that, if we assume that making art isn't hard, it should further be noted that making "good art" is.

the debate over a quantitative aesthetic rubric will wait for another day.  believe me when i say that art can be judged.  what we can talk about now is the need for the artist (and by artist i mean anyone who has figured out how to channel that creative urge into something she/he calls art) to recognize the value, or lack of value, in his/her own work.  

you see, too often artists live and thrive off of the energy derived from sharing their work with others.  this isn't necessarily a bad thing, but in many instances it causes the artist to lose a certain sense of quality control.  it almost goes without saying that the more prolific you are, the more of a chance you will have to flop.  since a few flops in a great body of work are forgivable, it's not that big of a deal, but the ability to know when to draw the line with your own work is a special and much needed gift.

11.29.01
pitfall harry

to those who might not already know this, i hate to break it to you that there is no real objective in the atari 2600 classic Pitfall.  you can try to amass points and there may be a grand total number that's possible to get in your timeframe, but there is no prize, no damsel in distress, no reward...

of course games haven't always been sophisticated enough to have a story and an ending and hidden characters etc.  but pitfall would be such a great game if only it were a little more like montezuma's revenge.  oh wait, that didn't have a point either!  i just got pitfall 2 for my 2600 this weekend, so i'll let you know how it goes.

11.28.01
too low bitrate for listen

amazon.com is a somewhat scary thing.  it tracks every click of your mouse while you are poking around, then attaches that data to your profile (if you have one.)  it suggests things that you might like based on the sales of similar items to others.  this smart agent technology is, on the one hand, pretty good at picking out things that might interest you once it has collected enough data from others with similar interests.  however, it's also prone to pigeon-holing and tends to force everyone slightly closer together as it applies this recursive formula for recommendations.  anyway, it's still a good way to tell your parents what you want for christmas!


11.26.01
stay in school

what they don't tell you when you are in school is that you should stay in school... forever.

11.25.01
xbox

i saw the mess that is the microsoft xbox this weekend.  if the device's aim is to captivate teenage boys with violence and sports simulation, then it's doing a good job.  otherwise, it's a microsoft product.  even as i type this, microsoft's own software doesn't recognize the word 'microsoft' as a legitimate word.  that's telling.

11.21.01
this page

is it just me or is this page getting out of hand?  i wanted it to have a kind of non-linear layout so that you could skip around and not really read thoughts as they occurred to me sequentially, but this may be getting to be a bit much on the eyes.  i'm going to take the thanksgiving break off and figure out a new format.  just 9 days in and already it's being changed- now that's internet speed for you!

11.20.01
amen

jungle music was basically made possible by a nice breakbeat called the 'amen'.  full of energy and a dynamic frequency range, the amen is the quintessential uptempo break and even now, after years of steady abuse,  there are still countless uses of it springing up in record bins and on mp3.com every day.

what gets me about the amen is that its the centerpiece for making formulaic music.  that's not to say there aren't some inventive uses... alec empire distorted the beat enough for all of us, squarepusher has chopped it into a billion little pieces and spit it back out all garbled and virtually unrecognizable, and many drum n bass producers have used it to interesting effect to rouse dancers to their feet.  still, there's something a little too easy about it.

underwater used the amen in RED. to tie the song in to the pseudo-jungle sound that the chorus achieved,  but even then i was saying to myself "isn't there another break?"

well, there are other breaks.  in my mind,  the amen and the funky drummer should be put solemnly to rest.

11.19.01
there should be only one

the original highlander was an awe-inspiring epic tale of magical heroism with all the trappings of modern day mythology (and a kickin' soundtrack by queen!)  why oh why oh why did they ever make highlander 2?

i was hoping the dvd with its featurette about the making of highlander 2 and its director commentary would shed some light on the complete lack of congruity with the first film, the abysmal plot and script, and the subsequent highlander franchise (including highlander 3 and 4 and the tv show...)  alas, all that russell mulcahy has to say for himself is that the insurance company had final cut and the original theatrical release is not his vision.

unfortunately, his true vision is captured in the highlander 2 : renegade version edition, and it still sucks.  suddenly, the immortals are actually aliens?  macleod and ramirez have known each other in a previous life (on a previous planet!!!) and macleod has newfound powers like reverting to immortality whenever another alien shows up on earth and being able to summon his headless friend ramirez at will.  he also seems to know about this past life and all that he can do, despite bumbling through the first film almost completely unaware of why anything was happening.  to boot, his name on the alien planet is still macleod, despite the lack of anything there remotely resembling A.) Scotland, B.) the highlands, and the super-villain has an uncanny knack for 1990-era one-liner villain comedy.

i wish this movie had never been made, or at the very least, that i had never seen it.  now i know how those spiderman fans felt when they found out spiderman was a clone!  what a jip.  

11.18.01
thai food

i don't see any reason why i couldn't just eat thai food every day.  i suppose that if i was thai, this would be a rudimentary thought, but seeing as how we as americans are bombarded by ads for fried chicken and hamburgers, it's somehow not as obvious.  places to visit when you are in atlanta include:
thai one on
siam
surin
my thai
thai chili
thai restaurant of sandy springs
talay (r.i.p.)

11.16.01.a
irony is the new irony
irony is a feedback loop of intentions.  the first guy who busted out the circa 1982 hostess twinkie shirt was saying, "look at this shirt!  how uncool is this shirt?  it's so uncool, that it's cool!"  kudos to him.  now, as multi-billion dollar marketing firms tap the pulse of youth, they find the anti-establishment irony to be the perfect way to sell mountain dew and sketchers back to the very kids who profess to find something ironic about wearing corporate logo t-shirts.

as pimply teens in shopping malls freely advertise jolly green giant green beans and trans-am muscle cars, the supposedly older and wiser (certainly more condescending) indie rock set spends hours sifting throughthrift stores for wardrobes that express just the perfect amount of irony. irony commands a price now, and the more unimaginably uncool a shirt or pair of slacks is, the more it's worth.   this further invades other cultural habits, as it becomes en vouge to like the blistering great kat-like guitar stylings of the champs or the retro-wave misfires from any number of new-new wave acts.  

so, the only irony is that it's really not ironic anymore to be ironic for a laugh, or for cool points, or whatever because if the movement was there in the first place to take a piss at the establishment, well welcome to gadzooks.

and the cycle continues.  the geek chic endears and it's cool to be uncool, but decidedly uncool to be cool!  well, however that works.  this is an open letter to anyone who's thinking about putting on those aviator sunglasses and circa-1978 running shoes; it's a call to common sense for the legions of fans of gimmick rock and pabst blue ribbon cause it was in blue velvet; it's a plea for a return to normalcy so that when someone wants to make a point with the very effective use of "irony", the point can be made.

11.16.01.b
art isn't hard

it's not hard to make art.  it's much harder to make 'good' art, but it really doesn't take much to make something that people will at least put up on a wall, look at, and talk about.  the thing is, most people are just too damn lazy to even make a collage of newspaper clippings and human hair or whatever the case may be, so art seems so removed from most people's daily lives.  i think that's a shame. we should all be making art at least as often as we see our dentists.

11.15.01
sports
at my second of three high schools, there was a
great social division between jocks and drama
folks.  i remember a very palpable sense that i
had to choose one group or the other, and that
cross-pollination was not allowed.  i enjoyed
soccer and basketball, but most of the "jocks"
called me a fag when i wore my depeche mode
shirts to school.  choice made.

now, nearly ten years removed from the ant-farm
of high school life, it seems like there's still a
division between hip, counter-culture types and
the world of sports.  it's a remnant of the failed
social pedigree of high school, but come on... 
can't we move past this?  maybe the new motto
for sub:marine ought to be: 
"it's okay to like the sixers and audomobil?"

11.14.01
rub down

sometimes in life, you are going to rub people the
wrong way.  you can either try and avoid this from the get-go by being a more agreeable, malleable person, or you can try and fix it after it happens by compromising somewhat on your position, or by saying you are sorry.  either way, sometimes there are people with whom you are just not destined to get along.  accept this fact and it will make more sense when someone says "see you around."

11.13.01 
obligation choco
this is a perfect illustration of the difference between japanese and american culture.  unlike the american, commercialized version of valentine's day, in japan they do valentines day a little differently.

wrapped into the uniquely japanese version is
the notion of "obligation chocolate".  this is candy
that a person gives to a coworker or friend out
of obligation, rather than desire.  there are, of course chocolates designed for giving to "sweethearts", but curiously, there are bland and unimaginatively packaged chocolates produced specifically for giving to people for whom you would not otherwise buy chocolate.  the best part of this is that the people receiving these obligation chocolates know that they aren't especially liked.