Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Am I Missing Something?

So, when the crushingly awful With Teeth came out, I got sick of hearing the "return to form" and "the best since The Downward Spiral" talk. The album was a horrible stab at trying to be relevant for the new batch of incoming, morose college freshmen.

What pissed me off most was most critics tossed away The Fragile. Not only was it a great album, a good argument can be made that it's Nine Inch Nails' best album and - front to back - probably the best double-CD album released by a major rock artist in the past 20 years (exceptions to Jack Logan's Bulk, Tom Waits' Orphans and The Magnetic Fields' 69 Love Songs). I remember my first full introduction to the album: it was at Pride Kansas City of all places in 2000. I quickly grew bored with the scene and the bad music and I opted to drive back to Lincoln a day early in my then-new/used Toyota Camry. I thought the drive to Lincoln from Kansas City was the perfect chance to a) break in the stereo and b) listen to The Fragile from front-to-back. Until then, I listened to the album in bits and pieces, but that was my first opportunity to fully digest the album in its entirety. With full volume, it absolutely floored me.

When I streamed Year Zero, I was immediately disappointed. It could have been I was listening to it at work, but none of the tracks, with the exception of the last track, evoked any reaction. With a lack of hooks and a lack of incisive lyrics, what's left? (see for yourself at When the reviews came back, I was thinking critics were going to savage NIN for two reasons:
a. the album was mediocre
b. he's an aging Gen-Xer - and critics love to attack aging scenesters (hell, Bright Eyes is already getting some press for his 'aging' status at the ripe age of 27).

I was ready for a nice ol' 1.5 rating from Pitchfork.
Much to my surprise, Pitchfork gave it a 6.7 - a huge leap above Bright Eyes' latest (6.0) and just a notch below the Yeah Yeah Yeah's Show Your Bones.
Then Rolling Stone gave it a four-star rating (not too surprising)
Then the show Sound Opinions raved about the album, saying it will be revisited many years down the road and new discoveries will be mined.
Then a general consensus of critics gave Year Zero a favorable rating at MetaCritic.

I'm still scratching my head at this. Personally, I think the critics are jumping the gun on this album and time won't be kind to this album. I remember how people initially said Weezer's Pinkerton was a stinker and now it's a classic and that U2's All That You Can't Leave Behind was a classic when it came out - and time hasn't been kind to that album. So - who knows.
But I've given this album three listens - and I'm still perplexed why this is rated above The Fragile (true, when The Fragile came out, it received raves, winning album of the year honors in Spin).

I guess one of the things that bugs me most about the album (since the music can't really bug me since it didn't leave an impression) is its generic dystopian premise. A few years into the future. We're a police state. Iraq is still going on. *Yawn*
It's sort of like going from watching a truly moving and utterly plausible dystopian film (Children of Men) and then seeing something like the cartoony-distopianism of a film like Ray Liota's No Escape or the Stallone/Snipes film ...oh, you know - the one about the cop that's frozen and then thawed out in a totally PC world to nab Snipes' character...

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This is goodbye: Sanjaya's hair-raising turn on American Idol ended Wednesday night.

Much like the BCS in college football, American Idol escapes a near disaster near the end of its season as Sanjaya is voted off. The integrity and honor of American Idol is preserved for another year.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Chuck Klosterman dissects a newsroom

Went to Chuck Klosterman's talk tonight at the University of Nebraska Lincoln. First off, thank you UPC for putting this together. Klosterman's talk was like reading one of his essays: funny, a few nuggets of brilliant, analytical thinking and some Tesla references thrown in. I'll just focus on his basic breakdown of the personalities of a newsroom...

The Sports Reporters
When asked about his experiences working with different beats and the personalities of the reporters that cover those beats, Klosterman said that regardless of the beat, the personality of a dedicated reporter is fairly similar. That said, sports reporters tend to be a bit more self-righteous than usual. When the Duke lacrosse scandal broke, sports commentators were all over writing pieces moralizing about how this is a symbol of society's decay. Despite this moralizing, they're fairly laid back, much like...

Music Reporters
A laid back bunch as well - but probably the most obsessive lot of reporters you'll encounter. They will put as much importance behind an argument about the best Beach Boys song as historians will argue over what military battle had the most significant impact in American history.

Business Reporters
Probably the most bitter bunch of reporters you'll encounter. And why not? Klosterman said when he was writing arts and entertainment stories, his desk right next to the business reporters. While Klosterman was interviewing people who were trying their best to come off as authentic, business reporters spend day after numbing day dealing with a brick wall called public relations for companies. In essence, they spend their days fighting to get the truth and having to go through a department that will only spill their version of the truth to the reporter.

Copy Editors
Extremely intelligent. Extremely lonely. They come in at around 2 p.m. Leave at around midnight. In between, reporters are out trying to get people's life experiences and put them in the paper while copy editors sit in an enclosed environment, sealed off from that life, fact-checking and obsessing over layouts and two-column decks. When they get off work, they're naturally too wired to go to bed, so they either close a bar down or go home and chat with a girlfriend from Sweden online. The rest of the night is spent on the couch, watching bad TV, 'cause if you're in a relatively small town, what else is there to do at 4 in the morning when most of your friends are asleep? They get to bed around 9 a.m. - wake up about a half-hour before work and repeat that cycle again.

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

A night at the airport

I arrived at Dallas International Airport about two hours after my flight was supposed to arrive. In case you haven't searched the news sites, weather has been killing air travel the past few days. Much to my relief, I saw my plane to Omaha was LEAVING at 9:58. I looked at my watch: 9:45 as I ran out of the gate. And the gate for Omaha was only two gates down. But the doors were locked. The plane hadn't even left the terminal. The folks at American actually were cool, practically begging the crew to open the door, but no go. I started to curse the two slow-ass folks who were in front of me in my flight that took about three minutes to wiggle their fat-ass storage luggage out of its bin.

So, at 11 - and no bars open, I opted for a cot. I could have driven to Albuquerque from Tucson to see Neko Case, but I already spent too much cash in Tucson. So, I grabbed a cot and read. With no one around, I was pissed that the volume on every set in every gate was amped up so an audience of 50 could hear. Trying to get some sleep, I drifted in and out of counsciousness, dreaming of flooding and Imus (the TV was on CNN).

I got into Omaha this morning, smelling quite funky and slightly agitated. I skipped my usual breakfast at the Radial to nap for a few hours. Even though this was a damn-near flawless day, I opted to waste a few hours and catch the Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie.

A slight disclaimer: I know it was basically a long ep. of Aqua Teen Hunger Force. But to be honest, it just wasn't funny. I chuckled a few times at the shock value of hearing unchained vulgarity of the show that always seems to want to break out in a "motherfucker" now and then. But aside from that, it just wasn't...funny.

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Friday, April 13, 2007

Imus ditched

Imus fired from CBS. THAT's how you get results.

Of course, it didn't take long for FOX to spin this. Any remaining person who thinks that FOX has no bias need only to hear a few snippets of last night's broadcast where one of the anchors wondered why it took Obama so long to publically state his opinion on the Imus matter and have his opinion stated after everything was pretty much resolved. The famous 'question mark' subhead read something like "Has the Imus controversy hurt Obama?"

Imus, Imus, Imus... yeah, the producer's "jigaboo" remark is far more offensive - as well as many of the blatantly unfunny and racist skits throughout the years. About as offensive as Limbaugh's "Halfrican American" remark. And this is what public outrage does. Are you trying to tell me that the public can't get organized enough to bring up companies who do business with organizations (private and public) in Sudan who are sponsoring genocide - but we can get an almost immediate dismissal of a radio personality who uttered "hos" - a term that has been uttered in almost EVERY sitcom by both white and black actors?! I watched a bit of the '700 Club' yesterday morning and Robertson was sympathetic toward Imus, but he was salivating - basically asking folks to use this momentum to go after rap music and other things ungodly. If Imus was this easy, it's going to be only easier to go after another personality - but this time, it could very well be because a few very visible public advocates do not like the ideas the person is spouting - even if that person is not using course language.

This is where my liberatrian gene kicks in. Limbaugh's TV show was cancelled. Dr. Laura's show was cancelled. Why? Yeah, a few very public figures attacked both - but their untilmate demise came from a straight ol' public ass-kicking. Low ratings (e.g. the market) did them in. Not because a public figure tried to fan the flames for their own opportunistic means - but because the public simply decided to turn it off. That totally stripped Rush and Laura from any sense of martyrdom - something that Imus can proudly declare himself. I will be the first one to pop a champagne bottle if Rush's or Sean Hannity's shows gets cancelled - but it g*ddamn better not be because a single person, but because the public generally got fed up and ditched their sorry asses.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Kurt Vollegut - 1922-2007

Kurt Vonnegut was the author of at least 19 novels, dozens of short stories, essays and plays.


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Tucson Bound

Why the hell did I book a flight for 6:20 a.m.?
Oh yeah - the flight was only $110 round-trip.

Two job interviews. Though I'm kicking myself for not looking at the schedule a bit closer - Neko Case is playing Monday - I'm coming back Saturday night.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Grindhouse, Sopranos and 24

From USA Today about the underperforming box-office of Grindhouse:
And Weinstein says that because the movies will be released separately on DVD, "we need to change strategy and educate audiences that the Grindhouse experience will only be in theaters. It's too early to call the fate of this movie."

Here's the link to the story.

Uh - actually, Weinstein, it's a safe bet to say that movie is done. I've never heard of a speaking engagement at a few midwestern cities raise the box office revenues by say - 100 percent for a major motion picture.

Hell with it - it's the public's loss. I remember a few years ago, Michael Savage was saying our society was at its collapse because Sin City was the number one movie around Easter. I saw Grindhouse in a fairly crowded theater and the crowd totally ate up the movie. The grindhouse phenomena was before my time, but I do remember all of the shitty c-grade monster/slasher/detective/disease movies on KPTM (a Fox affiliate, but in its early days, it was a local station that had to find hours of cheap entertainment to fill their schedule since they had no sports coverage and only a few shows on Fox at the time - think pre-Simpsons). I squirmed at the grotesqueness of Planet Terror and nearly doubled-over in laughter at the picture-perfect ending of Death Proof.

The next day, a friend of mine called and said she thought Ghost Rider was actually really fun and she had a great time at the theater. She knew what she was getting herself into (her nephew wanted to see it) - and she was genuinely surprised at how fun the movie was. I could only shake my head. But then I thought to myself "If that was a Tarantino movie, would I have been more lenient?" Maybe. But truth be told, Tarantino is still able to command attention and make you feel like you've gotten yourself drunk off of cinema like few directors of today. Ghost Rider, like Death Proof, may be intentionally cheesy, but without seeing the movie, I can assume Ghost Rider didn't have a spec of the dialogue that Death Proof had that gave viewers a reason to care for the characters.

Topic 2...

As my profile states, I'm a geek.
Geek to the point where I've been the weekly host for - to quote Mr. Rollins - a TV Party. During the X-Files heyday, people would come over to my roommate and my self's apartment. But then something happened. The show started to lose its novelty. When it looked like it was "the end" (e.g. most of the shrouded conspiracy architects getting pretty much toasted by aliens) - the Sopranos started up. With David Chase's gift for dialog and rich character development, soon my roommate and I started migrating to another friends' house to watch The Sopranos (they had HBO, we didn't). Soon, the Sopranos was so good, we subscribed to HBO. And soon I started cooking ziti for the occasion.

Then the Sopranos started waning. Then I graduated college, got an apartment on my own and realized I couldn't afforded HBO, so suddenly, 24 started to become the excuse for friends to come over and geek out. But this season has made me look at my watch and count the hours until this show ends and the trashy, but goddamn it's good trash Hell's Kitchen comes on the air. It's not the right-wing slant of the show. The show's creator's have teetered to the right for quite some time. Though it's surprising because most of Season 2 revolved around a president who stubbornly insisted on following every lead before attacking a country for an alleged tie to a terrorist organization who was set to detonate a bomb in LA. This season, we've pretty much seen a retread of Season 2 - and lacking several great cast members (mainly Xander Berkeley, who played George Mason, who could almost be described as a precursor to House).

So, without 24, what's left to pick up the slack? First off, I'm not really stressing. I usually allow myself the luxury of one or two television shows to follow during the year. An hour freed up will usually go to reading or searching for a better job. I'm obviously not going to be one of those people sporting a "Kill Your Television" shirt at a concert. Statistically, I believe almost every medium produces an equal amount of greatness (not much in each medium) and trash (usually a helluva lot more). I've sat through many-a-shitty one-act plays with dialog as bad as anything on - say The O.C. at its creative sunset (just using it as an example, I've never watched the show). And I've seen episodes of Twin Peaks, Six Feet Under, The Sopranos, The Office (primarily the BBC version) and House that rivaled some of the best moments in cinema that year.

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Elvis, Neko and Tucson

Got my trip mapped out. Just going to run my suit to the cleaners over lunch for my job recruiting trip to Tucson next week.

A bit sleepy today after catching Elvis Perkins (who has a nice write-up in USA Today) and Let's Go Sailing at the Waiting Room last night. The night before, I caught Neko Case at the Rococo. I've seen Neko play at the Sokol Underground as well as with the New Pornographers in Lawrence, KS. She put on a great show, as usual. The crowd wasn't nearly as obnoxious as the last concert I attended at the Rococo (Jeff Tweedy). I think Neko Case, at least right now, has achieved this level of untouchability in my ears. In terms of songwriting and music, I can't see her releasing a weak album, but I know it will eventually happen if an artist is in it for the long haul. I can imagine PJ Harvey releasing a weak album (though people have already said it has happened - though I liked Uh Huh Her and Is This Desire?), many say Lucinda Williams' West isn't on par with her usual output. But Neko - I dunno, it's going to be really hard to imagine her releasing a weak album.

Elvis Perkins was great, though I opted to hang back at the bar near a tabletop videogame machine and admire the show from there, nursing a few vodka tonics. Let's Go Sailing put on a great show as well. It was one of those performances that could make you purchase a CD after the show even if you didn't know anything about the band before coming into the venue. Looking forward to listening to it today.

This was my first time in the Waiting Room Lounge. I talked to one of the bartenders, who was also a drummer. I asked him if the place was open on Sunday and he responded with an enthusiastic "Yup." Awesome - ever since Brother's Lounge decided to close on Sunday, I've been looking for a decent watering hole to have a pint or two and play a game of pool on that occasional Sunday afternoon that justifies such an action. In addition to being a generally great venue to catch a live act, the place is incredibly laid back - vintage pinball games (from the '90s-vintage), a pool table, I'm assuming a decent juke box.

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Monday, April 02, 2007

CDs and Baseball

No matter how bad work is today, the fact that baseball season is kicking off has put me in a good mood. Wish I would have known about the Boston/Kansas City Royals game - I would have taken off work in a second to see that - but my vacation days are already thinning - I booked a trip to Tucson to check out some job leads.

It looks like I'll be saving on average of about $40 a month now that CD Warehouse has closed it doors. I know it's a chain, but the closing did leave a slight lump in my throat. About a third of my 600-plus collection of CDs came from that place over the past six years. There would always be a brand-new release that you could find used on a Wednesday or Thursday from a disgruntled fan. Some of my proudest purchases...

Luscious Jackson - In Search of Manny ($3.99)
PJ Harvey - To Bring You My Love ($3.99 - my third copy of that CD)
Neneh Cherry - Homebrew ($2.99)
Beck - Mutations ($7.99)

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