"Sounds for the Space-Set" (RIAA)

I mentioned RIAA's Sounds for the Space-Set, a free, downloadable 22-song album, in my earlier post on mashups--at which time I'd heard only one song from it, "Intergalactic Centerfold."

I've listened to it all now.
20 times or so.
Wowie Kazowie.
This is brilliant, brilliant stuff.

Those mashups I mentioned earlier were songs. The tracks on Sounds for the Space-Set are songs, social commentary, stand-up routines (their musical sense of humor ranks up there with early Ween, TMBG, and the Flaming Lips), and more. If music and pop culture have any sacred cows left, RIAA's grinding them up into half-beef, half-Moog patties. Witness:

*The somber vocal from "Space Oddity" over the bouncy music from "Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)"

*Music from Cosmos mashed with the Star Trek theme and Ella Fitzgerald singing "Out of Nowhere"

*The vocal to the original "Why Does the Sun Shine?" ("The sun is a mass of incandescent gas...") mashed with Earth, Wind & Fire's "Shining Star"

*Sinatra's "Fly Me To The Moon" with Portishead's lead singer plaintively bursting in at intervals with "Wandering Star"

*The instrumental to "Walking in Space" from Hair mashed with Eric B. and Rakim's "Follow the Leader" and something identified as "old-time radio" called "Planet Man"

*Additional bits from Serge Gainsbourg, Justin Timberlake, Vangelis, Celine Dion, Fatboy Slim, Kraftwerk, J-Kwon, Sun Ra, and a man obsessively, repeatedly asking, "What if the robots are SPIES?"

Highly, highly recommended. RIAA has a whole page of free albums I've yet to thoroughly listen to. Two non-Space-Set songs I've loved so far are Guantanelievable (#6)--"Guantanamera" with EMF's "Unbelievable"--and "Johnny SKAsh" (same link, #12): Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues" with, I kid you not, Mancini's "Baby Elephant Walk." Heaven on a stick.


Interesting, from a 9/17 Virginia Quarterly Review blog post:

The ten most common titles of submissions that we’ve received in the past year:



Worldmapper: "The world as you've never seen it before"

Worldmapper is home to a set of visually arresting world maps based on statistics (about health, wealth, energy use, pollution, etc.): in each map, countries shrink or swell up based on their numbers relative to the rest of the world.

Wealth 1990

Wealth 2015

HIV Prevalence

Nice .pdf posters of the maps--including the image, explanatory text, data tables, and more--are available for free download and printing. That "HIV Prevalence" map is a stunner.


Why I Can't Look After Patches: The Reference Book

Great Personal Letters for Busy People: 501 Ready-to-Use Letters for Every Occasion was in my inbox this morning: a new reference book to add to the collection. I'm afraid I've been reading it like a novel on my breaks ever since.

On first opening it I found:

"Dear Pastor Murphy,
It's been such a pleasure listening to your sermons these past few months. I can't tell you how delighted I am that you chose to settle in our parish. I'm sorry only that we haven't gotten a chance to know each other better. Will you be our guest for dinner on Saturday night? I'll be making my grandmother's fried chicken, and Herb has promised to whip up one of his famous tortes for dessert. You needn't bring a thing except maybe a hat, as we'll be eating on the lawn if the weather's nice..."

[Occasion: "Inviting Clergy to Dinner"]

"Dear Victoria,

I cannot thank you enough for the flawless technical support that you've given me over the last couple of months. The slides that you created for the Glazton presentation were a big hit, and the multimedia extravaganza unfolded on cue with perfect precision..."

[Occasion: "Appreciation of Technical Support"]

After a deeper perusal, I landed on


Sounds like you and Michelle have a great trip lined up. I could use a couple of weeks on the beach myself. With the way things are going at work, though, I won't be taking a vacation anytime soon. In fact, most nights I'll probably be working past eight. That's why I can't look after Patches while you're gone..."

[Occasion: "Declining a Request to Petsit"]


"Dear Dave,

I can't help cringing when I think about our argument at the ball game last weekend, about what a self-righteous blowhard I was...

[Occasion: "After an Argument with a Friend"]

...and so on. I haven't had this much fun paging through a book of letters since Joe Wenderoth's Letters To Wendy's. My first reaction was self-righteous horror (or blowhardism?): Can't people put down their Uncrustables long enough to write a nice note to the new clergyman these days? But then: who really wants to put her brain towards writing these kinds of sentences?--and these kinds of sentences are often expected and even successful, appreciated, loved.

I am reluctant to place Great Personal Letters for Busy People: 501 Ready-to-Use Letters for Every Occasion on the print reference shelf, where it will no doubt go unnoticed, gather dust, and ultimately be weeded away for lack of use. It's wonderfully browseable, and I would like to place it in the humor section, or in fiction (Could it be remarketed as a trendily wry novel called The Letter Writer?).


Before "mashups" were "Stuff To Do To Google Maps": a primer

"For he is Ishi--the last of his tribe"
"Couldn't help noticing your aftershave"
The mind that takes this in its stride
is yours and mine, and it is late

--Anselm Hollo

As a kid, I loved both the Aerosmith/Run-D.M.C. version of "Walk This Way" and the club scene in "Xanadu" where the young guy's bad '80s rock vision ("Lover, I won't take a backseat...") melds with the older guy's '40s vision ("I want to dance with you
til the sun comes creepin' thru-u") (see it on YouTube)--two songs that, along with a bunch of Charles Ives' work, seem like natural precursors to mashups. Mashups (music, not app) may be my favorite form of "user-created content"--definitely what I'd be most itching to make if I had the tech.

If you're not familiar, a mashup is a new song created from two or more songs. Mashups got a lot of press 2-4 years ago (remember Danger Mouse's Jay-Z/Beatles mashup "The Grey Album"--or at least the hype around it?), but big media fascination seems to have died fairly quickly. I haven't heard many--okay, any--people talking about mashups offline for years.

I still love them, love the little disoriented feeling some give me upon first listen, the slightly chaotic position they put my brain in: two songs! at once! Holding two songs equally in your head is like thinking while driving in fast-but-thick traffic. Or, as the Hollo poem above has it, living in the 20th or 21st century. The most dissonant mashups make excellent morning commute music.

Many mashups are not at all dissonant, but seamless--sounding as though entirely original, the parts fit together so well (see "Sexual High" below). (Note: "seamless" loses value [for me] if the mash isn't a little clever--Go Home Productions has a mash of "We Will Rock You" with "Back In Black" that's entirely smooth, but a no-brainer, a puzzle anyone could have figured out). Many mashups are successful mainly as experiments (things you might want to listen to and admire once or twice--like the mashes of Eminem's "Without Me" and Glenn Miller's "In The Mood" or the Benny Hill Theme and 50 Cent's "In Da Club") ; many aren't even successful that way (There's a difference between "interestingly dissonant" and "violently clashing"). The following, a handful of my favorites, are, I think, wildly successful (even revelatory--see "Sexual High" again) as songs in their own right, and I highly recommend them to anyone just encountering this form.

Oh, yeah: I highly recommend encountering this form. If you decide to download only one of these, make it the already-much-mentioned "Sexual High." Only three? Add "Callin' On Sunday" and "Making Plans for Vinyl." The rest, as you see fit. They're especially fun to listen to when you're familiar with both (or all) of the source songs--and when the source songs are from very different genres. I've arranged them by mashup artist.

Mark Vidler/Go Home Productions
Vidler is currently offering a retrospective of his mashups for free download (click link), including those below. If you're at all interested, don't miss it--availability will expire soon.

"Making Plans for Vinyl"--XTC's "Making Plans for Nigel" and Tweet's "Oops (Oh My)"
--I used to love "Making Plans for Nigel." This is better.

"The Weather Episode"--Crowded House's "The Weather With You"/Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre

"Karma in the Life"-- Beatles' "In the Life"/Radiohead's "Karma Police"

"Sexual High"--Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing"/Radiohead's "High and Dry" (not available on site, try here)
--I love Marvin Gaye, but I've always found "Sexual Healing" creepy ("Wake up, wake up" my ass, you old perv). Stripped of its bumbling electronic bassline and accompanied by Radiohead's gentle guitar riff, it finally becomes for me a song about what it really is about--longing, not just sidling up and trying to get some.

"Shannon Stone" --Shannon's "Let the Music Play" and the Rolling Stones

"Rapture Riders"--Blondie's "Rapture" and the Doors' "Riders On The Storm"
--really kicks when Debbie Harry comes in with the "Fab Five Freddy" rap towards the end

Party Ben (all available on site for free download)
"Callin' On Sunday" --a mash of U2's "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and Lyric's Born's "Callin' Out"
--Sublime. I was surprised at how nice it was to NOT hear Bono's vocal.

"Galvanize the Empire"--The Chemical Brothers' "Galvanize" and John Williams' Stormtrooper March
--Kitschy as it is, this somehow moves beyond being one of those "mere experiments"...I'm not a big Star Wars fan, but I can imagine the blast this was on the dance floor when it debuted (Party Ben, like many mashup artists, is a DJ). Hear it on YouTube, without having to download anything, here (might have to close your eyes to concentrate [grin]).

Irn Mnky
"J.C.R.E.A.M. [Johnny Cash Rules Everything Around Me]"--Johnny Cash's "Get Rhythm" and Wu Tang Clan's "C.R.E.A.M."
--Extra credit for only having to change one word in the title. Hear it instantly here on YouTube (NOTE: there's no visual--someone just posted it so we could listen).

Dangerous Orange
"Hurts Like Teen Spirit" --Johnny Cash's "Hurt," Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit," Blue Oyster Cult's "Don't Fear The Reaper" and something by New Order.
--There's no improving on the original Cash track, but this is a good example of a masher handling more than two tracks deftly, and I like the way the Blue Oyster Cult vocals seem to rise and swirl through the song, like past ghosts haunting Cash's persona.

"Like I Love Your Generation"--Justin Timberlake's "Like I Love You"/Bob Sinclar's "Love Generation"
--This sounds a little off at first. I think Sinclar's chord progressions are in tune with Timberlake's vocal, but they're not the same as those used in the original "Like I Love You"--a shift my brain has a hard time accepting. A minute into the track, when Sinclar's vocals are added into the mix, all doubts are erased--this is skillful, even beautiful.

"Twilight Back"--Timberlake's "Sexy Back"/2 Unlimited's "Twilight Zone"
--Like an energy drink mixed with an energy drink. Hear it now, without downloading, in this YouTube video.

Norwegian Recycling
"How Six Songs Collide"--Jason Mraz's "I'm Yours," Howie Day's "Collide," Five for Fighting's "Superman," Angela Ammons' "Always Getting Over You," something from Boyzone and...?
--A little light for my taste, but lovely and well-done--almost makes hearing Howie Day palatable. Hear it immediately, without downloading, on YouTube here [I'm starting to realize that YouTube is as much a listening station as a video site].

DJ Clivester
"Am I Undone?"--Erasure's "Am I Right?"/Korn's "Coming Undone"/Fatboy Slim's "Weapon of Choice"
--I love Chorus-era Erasure, but "Am I Right?" is undoubtedly the suckiest song they ever recorded. I'm amazed that anyone picked it up, brushed it off, and tried to make something of it. More amazed that he did a good job. Click on the link to hear it without having to download.

Robotic Intergalactic Astro-Artists (RIAA)
"Intergalactic Centerfold" (scroll down to #16 to play, without having to download)--Beastie Boys' "Intergalactic Planetary"/J. Geils Band "Centerfold"
--I haven't heard the rest of "Sounds for the Space-Set" yet, but can't wait: how can you not love a song called "Head Like a Moog"? (NOTE: Beastie Boys mashups are practically their own genre, and no mention would be complete without The Beastles--dj BC's mashups of the Beasties and the Beatles. I've not yet heard them.)

Some mashup sites for finding more:
Mashup Industries
goodblimey (currently down, back on 9/9/07)