Tuesday, February 20, 2007

My Omaha Friend Base is Hemorrhaging

A guy I used to date caught up with me on AOL messenger. He said he was in New York now. He sent his resume to a recruiting firm. A few weeks later, a company hired him to manage a few high-profile Web sites. He had to pretty much pack whatever he could into his car - and the rest was gone. I couldn't be more proud of him - after a few rough weeks of brutal commutes and long-ass hours, he's settling into his routine.

A year ago, my roommate - a brilliant, sullen, intense, introverted chef took a job at a resort in Alaska. He's considering moving back to Nebraska to go to school at UNL and possibly earn a degree in chemistry to combine with his food expertise. Still, if he can help it, he's not coming back.

This afternoon, I was CD shopping and I bumped into another good friend of mine. She told me she was packing up and moving to Austin. She has family there and she said she would stay with family for awhile and then take any job - Starbucks if need be.

My roommate and ex had jobs to go to - and that was a big factor in their move. My other friend has been talking for ages about getting out of Omaha. She just got tired of talking and decided to do something about it. Me...I'm still looking. I've tried to keep my bitching about Omaha to a minimum until I can actually find a better option. Still, as more and more of my friends are falling into the 'outside of Omaha' column, the more restless I am to do the same.

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Britney/Madonna debate closed

I remember when Chris Rock asked the audience if the remembered that "whose the better artist, Prince or Michael Jackson?" debate. "Prince won!" Rock declared.

I think the same thing can be said about the fleeting hope that Britney Spears was Generation Y's heir to Madonna. I realize some critics have given due props to some of Spears' singles, but it's been almost a decade since "Hit Me Baby One More Time" and Spears has, what - five or so singles that are memorable?

I realize that before you can say "The Emancipation of Mimi," Spears will emerge from her rehab haze, hire a hot producer and begin her third comeback run. Still, when Madonna tanks, she releases a bad movie, comes out with a tasteless book and releases something like "American Life." Still, she almost immediately turns it around keeps herself MUSICALLY relevant by smartly choosing the producers that can play to her strengths.

Side note - news media - doing a story about how the media is obsessing over Britney Spears and using You Tube footage to show people's fascination - is cheap pandering at its best. Bravo -

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Fox's stab at the Daily Show

Humor just doesn't work without self-depricating humor. The Daily Show has it. Johnny Carson had it. Richard Pryor had it. Bob Hope had it. Chris Rock has it.

I see about as much prosperity for this show as Dr. Laura had with her televised show and Rush Limbaugh had with his.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Village Voice Pazz and Jop

So, the Village Voice Pazz and Jop poll came out - here's the link:

But if you want a quick view - here's the top 10:

1. Bob Dylan - Modern Times
2. TV on the Radio - Return to Cookie Mountain
3. Ghostface Killah - Fishscale
4. The Hold Steady - Boys and Girls in America
5. Gnarles Barkley - St. Elsewhere
6. Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I am
7. Clipse - Hell Hath No Fury
8. Neko Case - Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
9. Joanna Newsom - Ys
10. Tom Waits - Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards

A few choice, awesome comments from commentators and fans...
Garrett Kamps:
My Chemical Romance: It ain't Dickens, but at least it ain't Sam's Town. Notably produced by American Idiot's Rob Cavallo—who, notably, also produced the Rent soundtrack—The Black Parade is playful and brash, with a solid pair of hairy nuts on it. Concerning "The Patient," his premature death via cancer, and the "Black Parade" that escorts him six feet under, the record is absurdly big and theatrical; if Rodgers and Hammerstein were alive today and into tattoos, they might've written "Welcome to the Black Parade." (A single that, also notably, pollsters preferred to the whole album, though not with such a Killers-esque disparity.) But here's the point: If all these new rock bands are gonna wear costumes and eyeliner, they may as well put on a damn show. Thanks, MCR! You're douchebags, but you're our douchebags.


Like most sequels, Love & Theft II: Modern Times recycled the old thrills but wasn't as good or fresh as the original. Sometimes, though, old thrills are better than new nothings. The Joanna Newsom album reminds me why I never dug the pretentious artsy kids in my high school: The stuff they liked sucked, and the cutesy alternative universes they created for themselves seemed even more torturous than the mainstream jock-hells the rest of us were stuck in.
Tim Grierson
Los Angeles, California

My gut reaction: Dylan's Modern Times got it out of namesake and namesake alone. I sincerely hope in a few years, this one grows on me, but compared to his previous two triumphs, this felt like Love and Theft 2.0.

The Hold Steady's Boys and Girls in America's high rank was overcompensation for folks who felt guilty for not putting Separation Sunday closer to the Top 5 last year.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Bloc Party

I bought Bloc Party's A Weekend in the City today - but I have yet to even open the annoying plastic wrapping. I haven't been too impressed with what I've heard so far - but if the band can hold together, I think their next album will be absolutely incredible.

Of course, some of the criticism I've heard has nothing to do with the music. It seems that for the music press, any band that at least tries to use their music for political purposes is asking for ridicule. Caring about something is one of the least cool things to do because it shows a form of vulnerability. U2, Midnight Oil, Coldplay, Sting - I think with the exception of The Clash, bands that wear their political beliefs on their sleeves have taken their share of potshots. It sort of brings to question whether or not an artist can retain their hipster or indie credibility and still be active on the political front. 'course, the coolest artists out there say "fuck your indie labels, I'm doing whatever the hell I feel like."

Like Bob Mould before him, Kele Okerke is making some press not for his band's perceived sophomore slump, but his sexuality. http://music.guardian.co.uk/rock/story/0,,1984350,00.html

The song "I Still Remember," as Okerke said in the Guardian interview, is partially autobiographical (but seriously, isn't almost any song written by an artist, no matter the subject, partially autobiographical since the artist almost has to draw on his/her own experiences for the lyrics?). Okerke has said he has struggled with his sexual identity. Kudos for him for publicly revealing this and refusing to "take one side of the fence." I keep telling folks that bisexuality doesn't mean a black check for promiscuous behavior - it's just the way some folks are wired.

Moving on ... I'm in a serious Brit pop/rock phase right now. I just picked up Pulp's We Love Life used and last night, I was combing through the lyrics to This is Hardcore. The lyrics to "Like a Friend" sum up a good cross-section of my friends: ones who you pretty much know don't value your friendship as much as you do theirs, but they remain the mates that challenge you and excite you more than anyone else in your circle...

Don't bother saying you're sorry.
Why don't you come in?
Smoke all my cigarettes - againe.
Every time I get no further.
How long has it been?
Come on in now,
Wipe your feet on my dreams.

You take up my time,
Like some cheap magazine,
When I could have been learning something.
Oh well, you know what I mean.

I've done this before.
And I will do it again.
Come on and kill me baby,
while you smile like a friend.
And I'll come running,
Just to do it again.

You are the last drink I never should drunk.
You are the body hidden in the trunk.
You are the habit I can't seem to kick.
You are my secrets on the front page every week.
You are the car I never should have bought.
You are the train I never should have caught.
You are the cut that makes me hide my face.
You are the party that makes me feel my age.

Like a car crash I can see but I just can't avoid.
Like a plane I've been told I never should board.
Like a film that's so bad but I've gotta stay til the end.
Let me tell you now,
It's lucky for you that we're friends.

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

Children, Connections and List

I can cross Children of Men off my 'Must See' list.
Note - spoilers below this picture...

Children of Men Movie Stills: Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Michael <span onclick=Caine, Alfonso Cuaron" align="middle">

So many ideas and themes in this movie - and for pretty much most of the movie, the big ideas and themes didn't derail the film. From the harrowing last few minutes where the cameras move seamlessly from building to building as tanks were blasting so called "terrorists" out of hiding. A few people I've talked to say they were disappointed the way the movie ended, but given the other hour-and-a-half, I will say it's a petty gripe.

One of the petty bitches that I heard was the building-to-building fighting stopped once Kee emerged with her baby. The basic premise - a human birth is witnessed for the first time in more than 20 years - yeah, I would that would turn anyone's head - even during combat since the event would be so shattering. And, of course, the fighting resumed. Yeah, the execution was a tad clumsy, but honestly, I couldn't do better, so I'll shut the hell up.

It's a dystopian film, but it's a reality that can easily be envisioned. We had the Princess Di-like mourning of the death of the youngest person on Earth, the shelled cars that look like daily car bombing reports from Baghdad and the crackdown on terrorism and immigrants - taken to some extremes, but totally plausible if you take the stance that this is what would happen if for every terrorist event, there came more laws that chipped away at personal freedoms. It quickly moved to my top two or three movies of the year (United 93, Pan's Labrinth and Children of Men).

Moving on...this morning -
I was at The Radial Cafe - eggs, sourdough toast, hash browns, coffee and paper. A girl sat next to me and I overheard her conversation. I felt an odd connection for some reason, but I ruled it out breaking the ice since she was talking to a guy. I soon later heard her say "I have a journalism degree" and knew why I felt the connection. The guy left for church and I asked what she was doing with the degree.

It was a story I've become all too familiar with: doing insurance work for a company. She gave newspapers a try, but the $7 an hour wage just wasn't paying the rent and student loans. She lamented that she wants to get back into the field and ditch the "responsible" job. I'm in the same boat. I just applied for a job in central Oregon as well as Prague. Both promise a vow of poverty just as my car is approaching its twilight years. Soon, I found myself encouraging her to look into freelancing. I told her about how computer savvy reporting (being able to not only report, but post your stuff on the Internet, take photos and even video) is the way to survive. I told her to seriously think about freelancing. Basically, I was encouraging her to play it safe. The exact thing that I'm trying not to do.

There are others out there - in Omaha. There's enough to start a freelance support group: a place where all of us can trade stories, pointers and encourage one another. Just like Omaha's rock/indie music scene is supposed to be super supportive, the same ethos should apply to writing. Except for a few things: first - writing is a solitary activity. Second - though I'm not speaking for writers in general, I would say that if I was in this group, I would encourage writers to apply for certain magazines and give certain pitches...but only after I was rejected by that magazine.

Long iPod list since I had to work Saturday...

"Broken Chairs" - Built to Spill ****
"A Chance of a Lifetime" - The Rapture ***
"Ars Moriendi" - Mr. Bungle ****
"A Boy Named Sue (live)" - Johnny Cash *****
"Centre For Holy Wars" - The New Pornographers ****
"Instinct Blues" - The White Stripes ***
"On the Road" - Tom Waits ****
"Take to the Sky" - Tori Amos ***
"Lighten Up" - The Beastie Boys ****
"As Wicked" - Rancid ****
"My Finest Hour" - The Sundays ***
"Sweet as the Night" - ELO ***
"Yard of Blonde Girls" - Jeff Buckley **
"For We Are the King of the Boudoir" - The Magnetic Fields ***
"I Am a Pilgrim" - Johnny Cash ***
"Murder for the Money" - Morphine ***
"They're Red Hot" - Robert Johnson ****
"Big Day Coming" - Yo La Tengo ***** (Whitey's daily dose of Yo La Tengo, along with Tom Waits and Johnny Cash)
"Chillout Tent" - The Hold Steady *** (Way too many folks jumped onto this band with this album)
"Approaching Pavonis Mons By Baloon (Utopia Planitia)" - The Flaming Lips ***
"The Fly" - u2 *****
"Leif Erikson" - Interpol ****
"Solitary Man" - Johnny Cash ****
"Blackbird" - Beatles *****
"Creeque Alley" - The Mamas & the Papas *****
"Hat and Feet" - Fountains of Wayne ****
"3rd Act: ? Vs. Scratch 2... Electric Boogaloo" - The Roots ** (not much to it)
"Back in the U.S.S.R." - The Beatles **** (though not a fave - still better than a ***)
"Artistic Roll Call" - Bill Hicks ****
"Peas Porridge Hot" - De La Soul ****
"Please" - NIN ***
"To Have and Not to Hold" - Madonnna ***

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