Notes From The Flip Side: 05.04.2003
"It's hard convincing yourself that where you are at the moment is your home, and it's not always where your heart is. Sometimes I win and sometimes not."
There's A Little Bit Of Springtime In The Back Of My Mind ...
Winter is leaving like a bitter ex who decided to take the flatware with her. It's a hair over 40 degrees Fahrenheit right now. It's grey. And this grim day is just begging for a cup of cocoa. And another round of All-Star Baseball 2004. My Padres are leading the NL right now - on my PS2 console. The cellar - in June - is 20 games back. I wish that life imitated art - and console games for that matter - more often.
On the other hand, spring is on the way. It's usually warm enough that I can walk the dog and get coffee. He always wants to chase the squirrels but small and nimble near a tree beats out big and clumsy and can't climb in nature's grand game of paper, rock, scissors.
The dandelions have taken over here. Every time someone mows a lawn, they spread and within a week, the grass is covered with a golden sea of blossoms. Squirrels - one of my favorite animals lately - chatter from the trees. And it seems like most people sleepwalk through this, like they miss these subtle signs of life returning, of winter's end. And me ... I slow down to watch those amusing, playful little critters bounding across the street, curled tail following them. I watch them sit and warily watch me.
Spring is on the way like that girl - the one whose smile takes my breath away. The one who makes me feel shy when I see her. The one who I want to wrap my arms around and hold. Sooner or later, I'll figure out how to say all this shit and stop fucking around with these goddamned mix CDs because they just aren't working.
And it all boils down to this - I want to know what it would feel like to slip my arm around her waist, pull her close and taste her mouth for the first, second, tenth and ten thousandth times. I hope that, if there's a first time, her eyes will be shining.
Spring is here. And I'm finally starting to come out of my hibernation.
The Ballad Of The Sin Eater ...
I saw Ted Leo in Champaign last night. Or maybe it was Urbana. Much like where I live, the two cities seem indistinguishable from each other although I'm sure there must be subtle differences.
At any rate, he was losing his voice. It wasn't good when the show started. By the middle of the show, he couldn't hit the high notes. Toward the end of the show, he invited someone onstage and encouraged them to make up their own words to the song. And with the exception of that song, he gutted it out, voice cracking, register going and drinking lemon tea all the way.
It reminded me that the true measure of a band cannot be taken when they're on fire or having a great night. As good as those shows may be and as long as they may linger with us, we must judge a band based on what they do on the off nights - the nights when they're tired, sick and nearing the end of a 50-show tour.
And by that gauge, Ted Leo will forever be one of the champs in my book. He didn't quit. He didn't give up. He gave us everything he had and left it all lying on the stage when he was done. One of the people I saw the show with noted that, if he intends to play tonight, he'd better not talk at all today. And that, more than anything, suggests exactly how hard he tried and how much he gave us.
Superbad And Nationwide ...
My small triumphs for the day are these - I have written two articles for Clamor Magazine, an excellent publication which I highly recommend. The first article, Notes On Unnecessary Complexity On Communication, was excerpted in The Chronicle Of Higher Education in April 2002. I recently learned that the second article, How Much Did You Pay For Your Identity?: The Big Business of Selling Individuality to Kids, has been excerpted at BadAds.org and is also part of the reading list for American Popular Culture: Cultures, Sub-Cultures, and Resistance Honors Seminar 292C: American Popular Culture at U. Mass. Talk about having my day made for me. That's a happy thing to wake up to on a Friday morning.
When I started this zine, numerous people told me I'd be wasting my time. If this is what wasting my time looks and feels like, fuck being productive.
Here Comes The Judge ...
The RIAA effectively got its ass kicked in a big way recently when U.S. District Court Judge Stephen Wilson said two file sharing services should not be shut down because they cannot control what is traded using their software. The judge also recognized that the software in question could be used for legitimate purposes, like a VCR (or CD burner), as well as illicit ones.
With that said, here's an open letter to the RIAA and, particularly, Hilary Rosen:
You lost. Pandora's Box is open and there are too many P2P clients available for you to sue all of them out of existence and you aren't likely to succeed in that effort, so get over it. The government is not required to legislate your 20th century business model into profitability in the 21st century. Stop your whining and evolve already. If you want people to stop sharing music (which will inevitably cut into your bottom line because my anecdotal evidence is that my record habit exploded after P2P became an Internet mainstay), here are two quick suggestions off the top of my head:
- Lower the price of CDs. Unless it's an extraordinary circumstance, I refuse to pay more than $15 for a CD. I get bitter when I'm asked to pay more than $12. And I prefer to only spend $10 or less.
- Release better albums. The new Blood Brothers disc is awesome and cheap. You'll probably see some pretty significant sales on the AFI record. And while you're at it, don't raise the price after a month or two. Leave that special low price in place for the life of the disc.
There you go. There's your new business model. No more $80 million five-album deals. Go cheap. And stop being such flaming assholes.
Of Selling Out And Being Used ...
I recently got an inquiry from Warner Brothers about putting some sort of player for The Used on this site. I responded with my usual tact and diplomacy but, amazingly enough, I haven't heard anything from them yet. We'll see what happens.
And as long as I'm on this topic, why do major labels and most publicists for bands on major labels always seem to think that I should be grateful to have such an astounding opportunity to promote one of their shitty little baby bands like The Used - compromising my credibility - without receiving anything in return? I don't have an answer to that one, but it sure makes for entertaining emails. More on this as events warrant.
There's not much better than having Friday off and finishing the day by reading Jonathan Carroll's "Bones Of The Moon" in a hot bath while Dexter Gordon's "Dexter Calling ..." plays. I think I'm ready for that cocoa now. And random thoughts about that girl.
Off The Top Of My Head ...
- Ted Leo. I'm going to be hard-pressed to find a better album this year ...
- Except for the new Elliott record. Yes, it's that good. It's better by several orders of magnitude than "False Cathedrals," my favorite album from 2000. Ted, meet your competition. 2003 has barely started and I can't see anything better than this coming out ...
- Except for the new Down By Law album - the first one in four years - which comes out on May 6, 2003. That will probably settle it (unless D4 releases something this year). I've heard a whopping one MP3 from the disc and it sounds like vintage, four-on-the-floor, stage-diving, fist-in-the-air, shout-along, "punkrockacademyfightsong"-era DBL.
- Rainer Maria. Yes, still. While Ted Leo and Elliott's records are the early front-runners for my favorite albums of the year and some of the most interesting and brilliant artistic accomplishments of any year, "Long Knives Drawn" is an amazingly consistent, compelling album which demands repeated listening. Every song could and should be a hit. It's almost like an indie version of "Thriller."
- Uncle Tupelo reissues. All four of them. They contain what amounts to an extra full album of unreleased material, b-sides, demo versions and covers. Yow.
- The Essex Green. This sounds like it stepped out of a 30-year-old British pop magazine - while it may not quite belong in this era or fit in with how things sound these days, I'm glad it's here.
- Hot Hot Heat. You should be dancing.
- Radio 4. I've been listening to "The New Song And Dance" this week and it sounds better than "Gotham!" did.
- Bill Hicks. The only reasonable reaction to the world we have is outrage and Hicks practically cornered that market.
- Left Off The Dial. The more I browse this site, the more I like it. It's still expanding, but right now it combines bios, basic discographies and links for bands to provide a fairly interesting, if high-level, view of alt music.
- I want to start a fanzine or site dedicated to the awesomeness of Avi Rubin. This is the guy who helped create Publius. And he recently co-authored a paper on Internet-based attacks in the real world. Avi rules!
- Clean sheets make me happy.
Lonnie Johnson. Big Bill Broonzy. Hankshaw. Hot Hot Heat. Radio 4. Dave Brubeck. Uncle Tupelo. J.J. Johnson. Blind Willie Johnson. GoGoGo Airheart. Leonard Cohen. Jaga Jazzist. Dexter Gordon. Bill Hicks. The Explosion. The Flaming Lips. The Essex Green. Lightning Bolt. Jazzanova. Steve Reich. Elliott. Dillinger Four. Donald Byrd.
Andy Bellin, "Poker Nation"; Ben Greenman, "Superbad"; Jonathan Carroll, "Bones Of The Moon"; Ernest Hemingway, "The Sun Also Rises"
Paul Avrich, "Anarchist Portraits"; Umberto Eco, "Island Of The Day Before"; Alan Lomax, "The Land Where The Blues Began"; Peter Guralnick, "Lost Highway" and "Sweet Soul Music"; Thomas Wolfe, "You Can't Go Home Again"; Andrew Feenberg, "Questioning Technology" and "Alternative Modernity"; Steven Heller, "Graphic Design History" (edited with Georgette Ballance); Gunnar Swanson, ed., "Graphic Design And Reading"; Daniel Guerin, "No Gods No Masters"