Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Top 10 Most Desrving Get Out of Town Recipients

This time of year, you can’t escape year-end countdowns. It’s become a little over-the-top, since besides the usual compilations of the best movies, albums, and TV shows our local and national media fill up time and space with countdowns that mean absolutely nothing.
VH1 and E rerun over and over every night clip shows with such great titles as “Top Celebrity Scandals” and “Sexiest Reality Show Moments”. ESPN has a new list almost every night, including the “Top 10 Monday Night Football Plays”.
All of these silly lists exist for two reasons. The obvious reason is to create another reason to show those same Angelina Jolie, Tony Romo, and Tom Cruise clips another few dozen times. The real reason, however is that nobody wants to actually do any work in December, and lists are extremely simple to create in both the print and visual mediums.
Bloggers are no different. We all have our own silly lists…and I’m no exception. Besides a best-of 2006 music list that has been distributed in CD form to my friends all across the country, it should come as no surprise that I’ll conclude this year with a list of the Best Out-of-Town boots of the year:
10. Argus Leader Magazine Monopoly. The daily paper is guilty of plenty of indiscretions, but their underhanded attempt to get rid of the city’s independent publications was indefensible. Businesses across the city were (supposedly) asked to sign contracts that removed any non-Gannett publication from their stores…unless these publishers paid the Argus for rack space. Luckily, an outcry from not only the publishers but businesses who claimed to have never seen this contract forced the daily paper to back down.
9. County Courthouse Employees and Computer System. Obtaining license plates and other government documents has never been an easy task, but it seems to be getting worse every year. Computer breakdowns are generally blamed on Pierre’s mainframe, but employees in Pierre deny these charges. Even when the computers are online, it usually feels like at least half of the courthouse staff is on break at any given moment. It has become beyond maddening that a transaction that should take no longer than five minutes easily turns into two or three frustrating return trips.
8. Playstation 3 Campers. I’ve never been a fan of video games, but I can understand why others enjoy them so much. Yet the sight of dozens of people camping outside of Best Buy and other retailers for the opportunity to purchase Sony’s latest gaming system made no sense to me…especially given the fact that most of these campers were not even planning to keep the systems for themselves. The good news for people like myself who ridiculed these people is the fact that outside of the first people to post these systems on Ebay, few people made any real money.
7. Best Buy’s Geek Squad. Earlier this fall, I told the story about how I damaged my laptop and was told by a Geek Squad representative that there was no hope for the machine. A new computer was purchased, and despite the fact that there was no damage to the old system’s hard drive, only a few gigs of the 100 gig box were transferred to the new computer. To mask his laziness, the Geek Squad moron completely messed up the rest of the drive’s contents by hiding them under a new, hidden profile. It turns out the original computer only needed a new screen, but hours of labor were needed to make gigs and gigs of music, movies, and photos once again accessible.  
6. Pam Homan. The superintendent of our city’s school system has not had an easy tenure, but most of her problems are of her own doing. After failing to fulfill her promise of moving into the very city she works, she’s been in the middle of a number of incidents that have shown her to not be adept at putting on a personable PR face. She’s been quiet for most of this year, but in the weeks prior to the end of the school year she made news when she rejected the graduation participation of two students whose health problems caused them to be a credit or two short of graduating. After a public outcry, her solution was to create a “separate but equal” section before cooler heads finally allowed the students to graduate with their class.
5. Darrell Viereck. This city big-wig had a beef with a couple of Washington High School basketball coaches. Instead of going through the proper channels to address the problems, he came up with a novel solution. He owned a worthless piece of property adjacent to Lincoln High School that he claimed was worth six figures. If the school system fired the coaches that he despised, he would donate this land to Lincoln. Thankfully, our school board declined the offer, which led to one of the most bizarre press conferences in recent memory.
4. Jodi Schwann. For years, little attention was given to this former KELO reporter. She was just another in a long line of generic teleprompter readers who refused to ask anybody any tough questions. The only thing memorable about this young woman was the fact that her mouth never seemed to move when she spoke. It’s obvious now, though, just why she was such a suck-up to a Mayor whose conduct shows that he’s in way over his head. Years of turning news reports into PR appearances for the Mayor became an almost $100,000 a year gig as Munson’s Chief of Staff. Since then, few people have even seen the woman.
3. Road Construction Planners. We knew this summer was going to be a nightmare, but nobody in their wildest dreams could have ever dreamed that almost our entire western half of the city would turn into an impossibly-managed maze. Interstate 29 and West 12th Street were major projects that were clearly going to take months to complete, but what morons would simultaneously tear up Grange, 14th, 15th, 16h, 18th, 21st, 22nd, 33rd, 33rd, and a few others at the exact same time? As Husker Du once sang, it “makes no sense at all”.
2. Jail4Judges. The term “judicial activists” has long been a favorite term of talk radio, but these clowns (mainly out-of-state residents) scared the hell out of 90% of the state with their poorly-written proposal that would allow anybody with a complaint against a judge (or any elected official if their critics were correct) to go before a special jury. Even months after the public gave these idiots the swift kick they deserved, letters are still being printed in the daily paper complaining (without any proof) that mean old judges just weren’t fair to them.
1. Leslie Unruh/Roger Hunt. A person cannot mention one of this pair without also babbling about the other. She’s the ying to his yang. She plays the so-called innocent victim who can’t get a decent cup of coffee without a godless heathen calling her names, while he portrays himself as THE moral arbiter while at the same time flagrantly breaking laws against special interest contributions. Thankfully, the voters just said no to their oppressive abortion ban, saving our state hundred of thousands (if not millions) of dollars in court costs to take this to the Supreme Court.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Hudson's Best of 2006

It seems hard to believe that it was exactly twelve months ago that I was sprawled out on my bed with two computers and dozens of CD’s. Yes, it’s that time once again to come up with Hudson’s Best of the Year.
What a year it’s been. Stacks and stacks of discs in almost every room (including the bathrooms) are waiting to be filed, and Teagan the Ipod has over 6500 new songs competing for listening time.
Yet it’s also an extremely hard year to put together this list. While there are arguably more great releases than in recent years, nothing has really jumped out to declare itself a true candidate for album of the year. There’s little distance between the top and bottom of the list, and if I was asked to redo this next month I’d probably have a completely different running order.
Besides a wealth of new music, the record business did an amazing job with the odds and ends in their vaults. There has never been such a wealth of reissues, with almost all of them expanded with demos, outtakes, and live performances almost as great as the initial recordings that made these releases so worthwhile.
Instead of wasting more space with my thoughts and opinions of the past twelve months, let’s jump right in with the best albums of 2006

  1. Beck, The Information. Over the course of his fifteen year career, Beck has generally alternated between wacky, hiphop-ish pop and quiet, introspective folk. On his latest album, Beck combines the formats in what may be the album of his career (particularly when accompanied by the DVD of low-budget yet beguiling videos).

  2. The Decemberists, The Crane Wife. Eyebrows were raised when this literary-minded baroque band signed to Capitol Records. Could the band’s wide-range of styles possibly survive with integrity on a major label? The answer is a resounding yes.

  3. Bob Dylan, Modern Times. Who knew that the grand old bard is actually a funny guy? Between his radio show and this actual album, Dylan is full of great one-liners that showcases a personality long hidden behind an indifferent scowl. The ironically-titled Modern Times sets these witticisms in front of an old-school backing of blues, gospel, folk, and other old-time forms of music.

  4. Muse, Black Holes and Revelations. With no Radiohead album this year, leave it to Muse to step into the British art-rock void. Much more pop-oriented than Radiohead ever was, Black Holes and Revelations is a career-making album for this veteran band.

  5. Willie Nile, Streets of New York. Nile has been hanging around the fringes of the New York underground rock scene since the late 70’s, releasing numerous albums that have disappeared within weeks of their release. Recasting himself as a singer/songwriter, Streets of New York could be the best record Ryan Adams never recorded.

  6. Golden Smog, Another Fine Day. Although Wilco leader Jeff Tweedy’s presence is minimal, the latest release by this alt-country supergroup is quite possibly the most rewarding of their three albums. Recorded at their leisure on analog equipment during a month-long working holiday in Spain, Another Fine Day’s warm sound harkens back to the days of vinyl, when you listened to an entire album instead of the “hottest” tracks on your Ipod.

  7. The Twilight Singers, Powder Burns. I didn’t know former Afghan Whigs leader Greg Dulli even had a new album until actor/comedian Denis Leary hyped the album on both the Daily Show and Opie and Anthony. If only their record company gave them so much publicity, as Powder Burns is the most rewarding post-Whigs album Dulli has released, combining the intensity of his former band with the sultry haze of his last few albums with his current band.

  8. Ray Davies, Other People’s Lives. It’s simply amazing that the former leader of the Kinks has never released a solo album. Well, it was definitely worth the wait. Other People’s Lives may not have the intensity that made the Kinks so legendary, but it proves that he still possesses songwriting skills equaled by only a select few.

  9. Primal Scream, Riot City Blues. After two messy albums of hazy electronica, Bobby Gillespie returns to the British charts with this organic collection of Rolling Stones and New York Dolls-influenced swagger.

  10. The Hold Steady, Boys and Girls in America. Books, bars, and babes are obviously Hold Steady leader Craig Finn’s obsessions, and the band’s latest album is the perfect soundtrack to a Friday night bender.

  11. The Raconteurs, Broken Boy Soldiers. Maybe the garage-rock supergroup of Jack White, Brendan Benson and two members of The Greenhornes was not the blockbuster insiders predicted before its release. Yet it’s still the catchiest power pop album of the year.

  12. Morrissey, Ringleader of the Tormentors. Pairing Morrissey with legendary producer Tony Visconti (Bowie, T. Rex) was certainly an inspired idea, and while the resulting album may not match the quality of 2004’s You Are the Quarry this is still one of his best albums since the dissolution of the Smiths almost twenty years ago.

  13. Pernice Brothers, Live a Little. Joe Pernice is one of the true unsung heroes of American pop music. Every year or so he releases amazing music yet he’s virtually unknown outside of his fanbase that’s followed him since his years with the Scud Mountain Boys. This year’s release carries on the blueprint of memorable melodies and lush vocals, but the quality of the tunes is a slight step above his last few albums.

  14. Bruce Springsteen, The Seeger Sessions. Who could have predicted that an acoustic album of songs associated with old folkie Pete Seeger could be so upbeat and…well, fun? Many of these tunes date back to the 19th century, yet the performances by Springsteen and his dozen or so friends are every bit as energetic as the wildest E Street Band encore.

  15. Gnarls Barkley, St. Elsewhere. Every year, the Hudson list has a surprising appearance by a group outside of his comfort zone. This year, it’s the debut pairing of Danger Mouse and Cee-Lo. Any hiphop act that can get away with covering the Violent Femmes deserves a spot on my list.

  16. Joseph Arthur, Nuclear Daydream. I must thank my good buddy Casey for informing me that one of my favorite songwriters had quietly released a new album. Featuring a more stripped-down sound than on his previous couple of releases, Nuclear Daydream is also easily his most varied album.

  17. Built to Spill, You in Reverse. It’s been five years since indie rock’s version of Neil Young’s Crazy Horse released an album, but it’s certainly been worth the wait. Doug Martsch has cut down on the layers and layers of guitars, and the result is the most organic album of their long career.

  18. The Flaming Lips, At War With the Mystics. It says a lot about the quality of Wayne Coyne’s music that even his band’s most disappointing album still ranks so high on my chart. There’s just a little bit too much funk and 70’s prog rock (and maybe too little actual songwriting) present on this album, but even at their most pretentious they’re more interesting than anybody else in the music business.

  19. Calexico, Garden Ruin. After years of updating and interpreting various Tex-Mex sounds and genres, Calexico dropped their more esoteric elements and released this more accessible album. While this could have spelled disaster for Garden Ruin, the elevated quality of the songs on this album are proof that the words “more accessible” doesn’t necessarily mean a drop in artistic worth.

  20. Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan, Ballad of the Broken Seas. I doubt if anybody could have predicted that a pairing of a former member of Belle and Sebastian with the former leader of the Screaming Trees could be so endearing. Not since Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra has such a “beauty and the beast” set of duets resulted in such a strong album.

  21. Sonic Youth, Rather Ripped. After 25 years and 21 albums, Sonic Youth continue to roll on. While undeniably a SY album, what’s shocking about this album is its pure pop sound. Thurston Moore cuts down on the guitar histrionics and Kim Gordon’s tunes are much more melodic, yet the rawness that we’ve come to expect from these legends still carries the day.

  22. Yo La Tengo, I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass. Like Sonic Youth, Yo La Tengo just continues to create inspired music. Their latest is sort of a career overview, jumping from genre to genre. Book-ended by lengthy guitar drones, the rest of the album includes garage rock, jazz, surf, R&B, country, and seemingly every other known style of music.

  23. Sparklehorse, Dreamt For Light Years In the Belly of a Mountain. Mark Linkous may be a troubled man, but he’s a songwriting genius, and his first album in five years is also his most varied release. Aided by Gnarls Barkley leader Danger Mouse, Linkous adds elements of electronica to his indie folk-rock sound.

  24. Belle and Sebastian, The Life Pursuit. Every B&S album is an expansion of their previous, and The Life Pursuit is no exception. Just as 2003’s Dear Catastrophe Waitress added higher production values to their patented 80’s indie-folk sound, their latest sees them exploring elements of Motown and even a bit of funk.

  25. The Arctic Monkey, Whatever People Say I am, That’s What I’m Not. It seemed inevitable that this album would find itself in the upper regions of my list when it was released at the beginning of the year. Months later, it’s still one of the best British albums of the year yet it’s lost a bit of its initial luster.

  26. Grandaddy, Just Like the Fambly Cat. The final album by Jayson Lytle’s renowned California psychedelic pop group may not be the band’s finest moment, but it’s a fantastic final chapter for an act that should have been as big as Radiohead and the Flaming Lips.

  27. Cat Power, The Greatest. Chan Marshall, the “American PJ Harvey”, set aside her indie rock influences and hired some of the great 60’s soul sidemen to accompany her on quite possibly her best album to date. The results may be quieter than her previous albums, but it reveals an amazing voice that fits perfectly with the low-key professionalism of her acclaimed sidemen.

  28. Mission of Burma, The Obliterati. As if to prove that 2004’s Onoffon was no fluke, the second reunion album by this legendary hardcore band stands proudly with anything they recorded during their early 80’s heyday.

  29. Cursive, Happy Hollow. Bright Eyes may get all the press, but Cursive is quite possibly the more deserving Omaha act. Happy Hollow continues the band’s winning combination of leader Tim Kasher’s distinctive Cure-ish vocals with dissonant yet melodic guitar styles carrying a set of songs primarily dealing with small-town malaise.

  30. Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint, The River in Reverse. This pairing of two legendary songwriters obviously came about as a result of Hurricane Katrina, but there is no forced sentimentality present on this album. Costello and his band members bring a raging intensity to Toussaint’s songs, while Toussaint’s crew certainly brings out a more soulful sound to this collection of old and new songs.

  31. M. Ward, Post-War. For his fifth album, the acclaimed Americana songwriter expands his sound beyond well beyond the traditional indie folk that has made him a music magazine favorite. Hell, some songs could even be considered “alternative”.

  32. Camera Obscura, Let’s Get Out of This Country. For their third album, Scotland’s Camera Obscura go the full-fledged Phil Spector lush pop sound…and succeed.

  33. Lloyd Cole, Antidepressant. The former Commotion leader goes acoustic with songs about middle age, prescription drugs, and Scarlet Johansson.

  34. Johnny Cash, American V. In a year that saw the marketplace deluged with Cash compilations and reissues, American V is the real deal. The only real deal, as this is not a “cash”-in. These are the tracks that the Man In Black was recording in the weeks leading up to his death, and while the vocals are at times rough they’re still full of the intensity that made him such a beloved artist.

  35. Cocktail Slippers, Mastermind. There are few things hotter than female rock ‘n’ roll. Unfortunately, there aren’t many “chick rockers” left these days, so almost by default Mastermind is the best album of this sort since the first Sahara Hotnights album.

  36. Mogwai, Mr. Beast. Stripping away most of the electronic elements of their more recent recordings, Mogwai’s latest is a back to basics collection that could be their most accessible album of the Scottish band’s career.

  37. Thom Yorke, The Eraser. The first solo album by the lead singer of Radiohead could be considered a successor to Kid A if it wasn’t such a low-key effort. In fact, it actually sounds like a collection of Yorke demos, with electronic blips and bleeps accompanying Yorke’s trademark expressive vocals.

  38. The Long Winters, Putting the Days to Bed. Let’s just say if you like their pals Death Cab For Cutie, you’ll love this album. Yet put aside the intimate pop lyrics and melody and you’ll find an innovative band who have made a giant leap with this album.

  39. Killers, Sam’s Town. There’s a lot to hate about Las Vegas’ biggest (and seemingly only) rock band. Yes, they’re ambitious, and it seems that stardom is more important than art. Yet nobody can deny they know how to write a catchy, anthemnic pop song.

  40. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Show Your Bones. One of the most anticipated albums of the year, YYY’s latest couldn’t possibly live up to expectations. Ignore the hype (and subsequent letdown), though, and you’ll discover a band most likely to last years longer than the Strokes, Interpol, and the rest of the New York class of 2002.

Best Compilations
  1. The Replacements, Don’t You Know Who I Think I Was? Besides being the first release to compile the highlights of their entire career, this best-of package deserves notice for bringing the band together for the first time in 15 years.

  2. R.E.M., And I Feel Fine…The Best of the IRS Years 1982 – 1987. Long considered the band’s glory days, this compilation (in both one and two disc versions) samples the highlights of classics such as Murmur, Reckoning, and Life’s Rich Pageant.

  3. Oasis, Stop the Clocks. Criminally ignored by Americans (with a couple of charting exceptions), this double disc set makes the case that Oasis was one of THE best bands of the past ten years.

Best Box Sets
  1. Tom Waits, Orphans. This triple-disc collection created almost a week of obsessive thought. Where does one classify it? Is it a new album eligible for the main list? (I realize I’m coming off as a High Fidelity caricature here.) I finally decided that even though almost half of the tracks are “new”, the fact that this is really an outtakes collection. Either way, though, this is an amazing set of tunes that deserves a slot in the library of any Tom Waits fan.

  2. Andy Partridge, Fuzzy Warbles Collector’s Album. The former leader of XTC empties the cupboard of seemingly every demo and fragment he’s ever recorded in this nine-disc set. Overkill? Maybe, but any fan of the acclaimed 80’s band will revel in the treats he’s stockpiled over the years.

  3. Rockin’ Bones. Rhino Records has always been the leader in themed box sets, and this four-disc set of 50’s punk and rockabilly is recent proof. Sort of a precursor to the Nuggets’ 60’s garage-rock box, these 101 tracks are as ferocious as anything recorded since.

  4. The Clash, The Singles. Ok, the material on these 19 singles could be combined into a rather nifty two-disc set. But there’s something really cool about having these singles stand alone with their original artwork. Yes, I’m a geek.

Best Reissues
  1. Pavement, Wowee Zowee: Sordid Sentinels Edition. While not the band’s top-selling album, many fans consider Wowee Zowee the greatest album the band ever released. It’s certainly the most varied, especially when expanded with b-sides, outtakes, radio sessions, and concert excerpts into a 50-track double disc. Think of it as Pavement’s White Album.

  2. The Cure. Six Robert Smith-led albums were given the deluxe edition treatment this year, including The Glove, a rare collaboration with Steve Severin from Siouxie and the Banshees. Each of these releases, which also included arguably their greatest albums (The Head On the Door, Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me) were accompanied by a second disc of rarities and unreleased material.

  3. The Jesus and Mary Chain. One of the most underrated 80’s British bands had their entire catalog reissued as DualDiscs. Although no rarities were added to the package, the sorely-needed remastering is enough reason to toss away those original versions.

  4. The Pretenders. Along with a great box set, the first two Pretenders albums (and the only ones necessary for any collection) were given the double-disc treatment.

  5. The Pogues. The band’s entire catalog was remastered and reissued, complete with rare tracks from EP’s and singles.

  6. The Monkees. It may sound crazy, but the deluxe treatments of both their self-titled debut and More of the Monkees is chock full of excellent outtakes and rare tracks.

  7. Mott the Hoople. This criminally-neglected early 70’s band’s catalog was also given a reissue campaign this year. Like all the others listed here, various rarities are included in each title.

  8. Lucinda Williams, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road. If there is a deluxe edition reissue that deserves a bit of criticism, it’s this one. The recording of Lucinda’s definitive album went through a number of different sessions with numerous producers. Yet despite the outtakes and alternative mixes that have been floating around collector’s circles the past few years, only a couple of rare session material was included in this set. But who can complain when an entire concert from the era comprises the second disc?

  9. Dinosaur Jr. Last year saw the reissue of this great band’s indie catalog. It’s only appropriate that Warner Brothers would finish the job this year with remastered versions of their major label output.

  10. Matthew Sweet, Girlfriend. One more “Deluxe Edition” of a classic album that everybody should own.

Best Tribute or Covers Albums
  1. Grant Lee Phillips, Nineteeneighties. The former leader of Grant Lee Buffalo gives the acoustic treatment to old alternative songs by acts such as the Cure, Pixies, Psychedelic Furs, and New Order. Somehow it works.

  2. Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, Love Their Country. Hank Williams, Johnny Lee, Dolly Parton, and other country legends are given the punk rock treatment in this latest installment by members of NOFX and the Foo Fighters.

  3. We’ll Inherit the Earth: A Tribute to the Replacements. 23 relatively unknown punk bands tackle the catalog of somebody’s favorite band of all-time. Like all tribute albums, the quality varies from track to track, but at the very least the raucous spirit of the Replacements’ early days is evident from start to finish.

Best Soundtracks.
  1. Open Season. Of course, this Westerberg-penned collection would top my list…even if it is for some silly animated feature. But I have no issue with the eight Westerberg tracks included in this soundtrack.

  2. Tenacious D: The Pick of Destiny. Many soundtracks are better than the accompanying movie. In this case, however, the soundtrack explains the movie’s plot better than the script.

  3. The Beatles, Love. This soundtrack to a Cirque de Soleil production could have been a disaster. Cutting up the Beatles’ master tapes just seems like a terrible idea. Yet the surviving members of the band allowed original producer George Martin and his son Giles to radically reinterpret the band’s catalog. The drums from “Tomorrow Never Knows” becomes the backbeat for “Within You, Without You”. The drum solo from “The End” is crafted as an intro to “Get Back” Somehow it all works, particularly in surround sound.

Best Live Album

Chris Difford, South East Side Story. Reportedly, Difford has been clamoring for a Squeeze reunion. Since Glen Tillbrook has no desire to reunite, Difford recorded this low-key acoustic live album as sort of a “goodbye” to these songs.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Hudson's Annual Letter to Santa

Dear Santa,
It’s hard to believe that it’s been another 12 months since we last talked. Not a lot has changed, thanks for asking. I’m still a hermit, tired and bored with myself. I still rant and rave about things I have no business babbling about, and I continue to waste too much of my disposable income on music, movies, and porn.
With that in mind, once again I’m here to give you some gift ideas for some fine folks that I have not been too kind to in the past year. Like maybe some cloned family members for Mike Rounds so he could continue to use his position as Governor to create new industries to enrich his family. It’s worked out pretty well for his current stable of brothers, so maybe adding a couple of more would increase our state’s revenues. It’s a win/win idea for our entire state.
Ok, maybe that’s a bit beyond your reach as the patron saint of Christmas. Wait, that position belongs to somebody else? I’m sorry. I thought the whole point of the holiday was to pay attention to whatever our television tells us to buy. My apologies, sir.
Let’s kick off the Hudson gift list with the fine folks at our television stations. Last year I asked that you deliver Lite Brite’s to all of the area’s weather practitioners. I never found out if you actually followed through with that request, but if you hadn’t I’d suggest that you consider it for this winter. You see, despite all of their safety tips and hand-wringing whenever a cloud was discovered, they really had little to do this year. There were no blizzards and no real summer storms. With a winter that so far has been extremely mild, we haven’t even heard Shawn Cable give us advice on what to wear or how to drive.
Here’s the ultimate gift you could give my buddies at all three television stations. Give us a little blizzard that will keep them on air for a few hours. My only request is that you don’t do it on a Thursday, as I’d hate for My Name Is Earl and The Office to be pre-empted. Follow that up with sixty degree weather the next day so I don’t have to haul out the snow blower.
Don’t think I’m going to leave out the news department. They also deserve some treats. But it’s tough to come up with gifts for them. I’d like to say a great gift would be a real news story, but that would have to include some heartache for some others. I don’t want to wish ill will on some innocent victims.
So here’s my idea. We do have some evil people trying to control our lives, so maybe you could create a situation for them that will enable them to utilize those dreaded “team reports”. Like maybe a sexual situation involving Roger Hunt and Leslie Unruh. I realize that sounds gross, but think of the comedy that would ensue.
Before I forget, Santa, I have a great idea for a former television news reporter. Remember Jodie Schwann? Yeah, she’s easy to forget. I think she’s just sitting in her office counting the money the city’s paying her. Who knew that sucking up to the Mayor would result in quadrupling your salary? Santa, please bring her some muscle relaxants. I’ve sat here for some time trying to figure out how to fix that frozen smile, and that’s the only solution that’s come to mind. I’m open to ideas, though. If you have a better idea how to make her mouth move, please feel free to substitute.
Let’s move on to the fine folks at the daily paper. There are so many gifts that would be perfect for these people. Like a proper website designer, for instance. The best gift, however, would be a giant photo album to collect all of those heartwarming photos of pets and kids that plague their paper. The free space could be then used for real news. Yeah, right.
While we’re talking about the paper, I think it’s time for Robert Morast to receive a special gift. Poor Robert – I’d hate to be in his position during this bland time of local music. Here’s what he needs – a new local band that has a bit of an emo touch but is also a bit rocking and experimental. They need to be sort of popular, but not too popular as he can’t be caught enjoying something that everybody else likes. (I know, the same could also be said of me.)
Santa, you also have to think about the fine folks that are in charge of road construction. Oh, what a great job they did this year. What a fine idea it was to have a three mile stretch of one of our biggest streets torn up all summer and most of the fall, but it was a stroke of genius to have almost every surrounding street torn up at the same time. Last year I suggested that our fine Mayor should receive the Sims video game; actually, giving it to the city planners would be a smarter move.
While we’re talking about city leaders, let’s hand out some vacations to Sir Munson and some members of the City Council. They have this misguided belief that a certain section of our city just west of downtown is a ghetto. Sirs, I have spent a (very) short amount of time in a couple of real ghettos and the old Loop doesn’t quite fit the definition. Let’s send our city leaders to…oh, I’d be happy with northern Minneapolis but Harlem or South Central L.A. is not out of the question.
Don’t think I’ve left out the common folks of our fine area. I’ve got a number of ideas that could help all of us. Cell phone blocks in fast food drive-throughs would help us all get in and out of these places much quicker. Hands-free attachments to everybody may also help people pay attention to what they’re doing on the mean streets of Sioux Falls. How about sensors to assist people who can’t handle their large trucks in Best Buy’s parking spots? Or GPS systems for people with Iowa or 44 plates that will show them exactly how to get to Wal-Mart?
I’ve also recently upset an entire neighboring town. Here’s what I’d like for you to do to apologize to these fine folks. Why not bring a pro wrestling event to entertain these citizens? Instead of the WWE, who have been to our area many times in the last few years, let’s bring them a TNA show. Think of the cash this town could make off a show featuring Kurt Angle, Samoa Joe, Sting, Christian, and their wacky eight-sided ring?
All kidding aside, Santa, we’ve had a tumultuous year that has seen family members turn against other family members because of silly little political issues. We’ve had local politicians involved in scandals that would make even Washington insiders blush. So let’s make this an especially great holiday season for everybody. As I said last year, please give special attention to those poor children whose baby-daddy’s don’t supply enough support, both financial and emotional. They deserve a wonderful Christmas, free of any baby-mama drama.
As for me, I expect nothing. Give it all to my family and friends...and especially my son. If by chance, though, you do want to leave something for me in my living room (I don’t have a tree), you can find my amazon list by entering Hudson@iw.net. Beyond that, a Replacements reunion tour would obviously make 2007 a banner year for me. Better yet - last year I asked for Jenna Jameson. She’s single again, you know. Or Teagan Presley, Taylor Rain, and Jesse Jane would also be nice surprises.
Merry Christmas, my friends! Be safe, be well, and keep it covered.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Ugh, I Hate Infomercials!

Before I get into the topic of the week, a word of congratulations is in store. I was wasting a few minutes yesterday with the daily paper, and I was flipping through the back few pages of the Sioux Empire section. I have no use for those cute pictures of people’s kids and pets, and I certainly don’t waste my time with the wedding announcements.
Yet for some reason I actually glanced at the wedding pictures. “These poor people ruining their lives”, I thought. “Why would anybody do something as stupid as getting married?” (It’s an especially dumb act with the news that we actually have prostitutes in our little town. Ok, we have one part-time hooker from Omaha.)
As I was about to turn the page, a certain picture caught my eye. No way, it can’t be him. It was. On October 20, 2006, KELO’s Shawn Cable (aka Potsie from Happy Days) married Stacy Poppens. I can’t believe that nobody told me the big news.
I wonder what the weather was like that wonderful day. Since it is Mr. Cable Guy, I’m sure it was perfect. But if by chance it was a bit chilly, or we had even the smallest chance of precipitation, I hope he grabbed a jacket and gave himself a few extra minutes to get to the church. Either way, I hope he gave his bride a few extra minutes that evening, if you know what I mean.
Congratulations, Mr. Cable. Just don’t Pay It Forward in this direction, as I have no desire to follow in your footsteps.
Let’s move on. This past Saturday, I had a deadline for Prime Magazine. Well, technically, I was a day past when I was supposed to have my material ready, but that’s typical procrastination on my part. I also was behind in creating the extra special end-of-year music list that many will find under their tree in 12 days.
To save a bit of time, I decided to combine the two tasks. My hard-working editor would get a copy of my lengthy year in review and edit it down to the measly 1000 words that I’m given every month.
After three mugs of delicious Black Sheep coffee, I was ready to roll at around noon. Just before 7 p.m., I was finally finished. The caffeine had long worn away, my head was throbbing, so the plan was to just relax in front of my television for the evening (which, unfortunately for me, is not that much different than any other evening).
Unfortunately, Saturday evening television is a black hole of nothingness. Sure, there’s Cops at 7, but that’s it. Cheaters has been moved to Sunday, and there were no sports to watch. But a Law and Order rerun was scheduled for NBC at 9…that’s a mindless show I can deal with.
Nine o’clock comes and the show starts with a Hispanic televangelist. Wait a second! This isn’t Law and Order! KDLT was running a religious infomercial, complete with former television stars I had never heard of…and musical entertainment from Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis! What the f?
How can a network affiliate justify pre-empting prime-time programming with an infomercial? Especially one that’s actually sort of worth viewing? I could handle this situation if it was The Biggest Loser or one of those terrible game shows hosted by failed comedians. At least then I wouldn’t know about it.
This infomercial phenomena has gotten out of hand. There are times on the weekend that three local network affiliates is showing the exact same lies by Kevin Trudeau. Hasn’t anybody foolish enough to fall for his crap actually purchased his publications by now? Or Bruce Jenner’s exercise machine? Or any of those slice and dice machines?
There are only two infomercials worth viewing…once. One would have to be the Girls Gone Wild ads…trust me, though, the commercials are more entertaining than those boring soft-core videos.
The other set of infomercials that were actually entertaining starred roly-poly porn star Ron Jeremy and a couple of other porn stars for a pill that would make you bigger, as they so succinctly put it, “down there”. Actually, what made these fake talk show ads worth watching was the number of descriptions they used to substitute for penis enlargement.
I’m going to age myself here but I actually remember an era where the local affiliates actually scheduled programming at all times. Empty half hour slots were the homes for old sitcoms. Non-sports weekends were set aside for movies. There was no way that an infomercial would be aired at 11 a.m. during the week, or Saturday afternoons. Ah, the good old days.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Twelve Annoyances of Christmas

Like everybody else, I enjoy the holiday season. I love surprising people with gifts, and like most people I certainly appreciate when people think highly enough about me to give me a present or two. (If anybody wants to be my super secret Santa, my Amazon wishlist can be accessed by using the Hudson@iw.net email account.) It’s also the one time of the year when most people that I have strong feelings for come back to town to visit for a few days. Yes, the “hermit” actually escapes from his southeastern fortress.
What should be no surprise to most regular visitors to this site, however, is the fact that there are a number of things that annoy me about this time of year. Although I realize that many people actually enjoy some of the exact same things that drive me to the Windsor bottle, I know I’m not alone in my complaints.
With that in mind, here are the 12 things I hate about the holiday season:
  1. The annual (and silly) Winter Survival Kit story on KELO. Wow, it’s a good idea to carry blankets and a flashlight when traveling in the cold? Thanks for nothing.

  2. Pre-emption of all of my favorite television shows by syrupy-sweet Christmas specials. The few shows that aren’t pre-empted always seem to be reruns. Hey, some of us don’t go out shopping and drinking every night!

  3. The reappearance of Gloria Estefan on all of those awful holiday shows. We don’t have to deal with that twit for eleven months of the year, and then she’s on a dozen or so shows in a thirty day period. Hey, Gloria, that Latin music thing (thankfully) never really happened, and your career ended over a decade ago. Go back to Vegas, or wherever your lounge act appears the rest of the year.

  4. The so-called War on Christmas. Stupid Bill O’Reilly created this false outrage last year to spur sagging ratings. His ideological-similar colleagues jumped on the bandwagon, despite no evidence to support it besides a few retailers greeting customers with “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”.

  5. Small-town traffic driving at small-town speeds clogging up our city streets. I hesitated to add this annoyance, as I certainly don’t need more little villages calling me names and/or threatening my life. But it does need to be said. If the speed limit is 35, you shouldn’t be driving 15.

  6. Weekday newspapers overstuffed with advertising inserts. I’d pay an extra quarter if I could get an ad-free paper, as I really don’t care that Wal-Mart has holiday diapers on sale. The only insert I need is Sunday’s Best Buy ad – there’s another Married With Children box set coming soon and I can’t miss out on that!

  7. The lack of December new releases. The record business basically shuts down the last month of the year, with the exception of a handful of awful hip/hop and American Idol albums. Hey, some of us do still have a need to buy stuff for ourselves.

  8. Department stores that clog their entrances with the same terrible gift ideas that didn’t work last year or the year before. Does anybody really give Isotoner gloves as gifts? Attention Lewis Drug – I’d shop at your stores if you actually had some merchandise not geared to senior citizens.

  9. Christmas music in general. 90% of it is all more syrupy than the worst Muzak, and stores tend to play their background music twice as loud as they do the rest of the year. Mariah Carey? Ugh. That acapella group from Minneapolis? Ugh. If somebody…anybody…would play anything from the excellent 10% (Pogues, Phil Spector, etc.), I would not complain. Until that happens, though, I’ll continue to wear Teagan or Jenna the Ipod whenever I shop.

  10. Overenthusiastic store clerks. Unless you’re a beautiful babe between the ages of 21 and 35, leave me alone. I can navigate the shelves by myself. If I have questions, I’ll come to you. It should be pretty clear to the snot-nosed clems at Best Buy that I know how to browse through the CD’s.

  11. The fake shocked look I get from people when I tell them I’m not putting up any Christmas decorations. When my kid was young, I participated. He’s not young anymore, and if he doesn’t care neither do I. What am I going to do, sit there and stare at my tree? (Although I must admit, my non-traditional decorations of Rolling Stones lights and Simpsons, Beatles, and Beavis and Butthead ornaments were pretty awesome.)

  12. Finally, we hit my last complaint of the holiday season – the cold. As Cade and I discussed last week, why do we put up with it? Why don’t we move somewhere that doesn’t regularly dip into single digits and below? Is it the low crime rate and high standard of living? Or is it family and friends? Or could it possibly be that we’re just too lazy to make that move? It’s probably a combination of all of those factors, and despite my weekly rambling rants, I do enjoy living in this fine city of ours. I just need to find something or somebody to inspire me to look at things in a bit more positive light. I’ve asked before, but is there anybody out there willing to be my internet groupie?

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Hudson's Ipod Secrets (From December Prime)

So you finally broke down and purchased an Ipod. Or maybe that little wrapped box under the tree turned out to be one of these wonderful Apple products. Either way, you are now the proud owner of what is arguably the most innovative consumer product to come out since the home computer.
You’re bound to be a little overwhelmed when you first open the package. How does this thing work? How do I make the most of the Ipod’s features? That’s where I come in. I’m here to point out some things that you won’t find in that little instruction manual that was included in the packaging. In fact, much of what I say in the following paragraphs would never get a nod of approval from the fine folks at Apple. I guarantee, though, that at least one of my tips will be useful to any Ipod owner.
Initially, you must follow Apple’s instructions. Download Itunes and connect your Ipod to the computer to initialize and register your player.
Here’s where I first break from Apple’s preferences. The company recommends that you set your player to be “in synch” with Itunes. In other words, whatever is stored on your player is also kept on your computer. That’s pretty unrealistic if you have any of the models with a large capacity, or if your family owns more than one player. In my home, my son owns a 40 gig model, while I own both a 40 and 60 gig. There’s no way, even with two computers, that we can store that much material.
One of the reasons Apple makes this recommendation is for backup purposes. Electronic devices eventually break down, and storing your tracks on both your computer and Ipod is a bit of a safeguard. As I recently discovered, however, there’s no guarantee that a recovered computer or Ipod will once again synch together. That’s also why I don’t understand those who sell off their CD libraries after they’re loaded onto their Ipod, or who no longer purchase CD’s. I still have a desire for the “hard” copy, and rarely purchase music from Itunes.
To go “out of synch”, you simply have to click the “manually manage music and videos” option on the summary page that opens up when you connect your Ipod. While you’re at it, also click on the “automatically download album artwork” option in the preferences section (more on that later). One other advantage to not being “in synch” is that you’re no longer tied to one computer. You can hook your Ipod up to up to five different computers, which is really handy if you want to add some of your friend’s albums or have a few spare minutes at the office to add some new stuff.
You’ll also need to purchase some accessories. I can’t recommend highly enough that you’ll need some sort of protective sleeve or carrier. Ipods are extremely fragile, much more so than a cell phone, and it’s inevitable that you’ll drop it at some point. Other accessories include speaker systems, carrying cases, and even alarm clocks. My only real recommendation is to not be afraid to spend a little extra cash for a car adaptor. There are a lot of cheap products out there that have no business being in the stores. I went through four different adaptors before finding one that worked to my satisfaction.
Let’s go back to Itunes. It’s now time to load some music. This couldn’t be easier. You pop a CD into your disc drive and click “import” (or answer yes to a prompt). The majority of the time Itunes will figure out what disc you’re importing, and will supply the needed information to each track.
There are times, though, that Itunes’ database doesn’t appear to contain your disc. You’ll then have to do this yourself. Before you begin this tedious process, though, go to the advanced tab and select “Get CD Track Names”. Quite often, the info will come through on this second shot.
If you are forced to provide the info, you’ll quickly learn that the “shift/click” is your best friend. In other words, click on the first track and then shift/click the last. The entire album should be now highlighted. Right-click and select “Get Info”. You’ll then be able to type in various attributes (album title, artist, etc.) and it will apply this info to the entire disc. All you’ll need to do after this is type in the individual song titles.
If Itunes does recognize your disc and you’ve selected the “download album artwork” option, the album cover should pop up whenever you play a track from that album (if you have one of the newer models). Itunes is not perfect in this area, however. If by chance the artwork isn’t downloaded, or you’ve had to manually type in the album and track info, just go to amazon.com and copy and paste the artwork in the appropriate section after once again right-clicking “get info”.
After you’ve loaded a few discs into your computer, you’ll need to transfer them to your Ipod (if you have selected to not be “in synch”). I have found that the easiest way to do this is to go to the “recently added” playlist on the left hand side of Itunes, do a “select all” (or “shift/click” the desired tracks), and drag the highlighted tracks onto the icon of your player. Depending on how many tracks you have to load, this may take a few minutes. After they’re loaded, you’re free to delete these albums from your hard drive.
Speaking of playlists, one of the handiest features of Itunes is called a “smart playlist”. A normal playlist is pretty obvious. You create your own greatest hits collections of your favorite artists or party mixes of favorite songs.
A smart playlist, though, allows Itunes to use parameters that you select to group tracks, artists, genres, and seemingly dozens of other options into a collection that can be automatically updated.
In my case, I quickly discovered that while I was continuing to purchase just as much (if not more) music, these new tunes were rarely being heard as I normally listen to my Ipod in “shuffle” mode. The odds of hearing a new song or two is mathematically almost impossible when your player holds 10,000 songs. I created an automatically updating smart playlist unimaginatively titled “New Releases” that contains nothing but the tracks that I’ve added to the player in the last 15 days. On a similar note, when I recently held a party for old college buddies, I put together a smart playlist that featured nothing but alternative music released between 1981-1985.
Let’s move on to what will ultimately be the most controversial section of this piece. Most of the newer, large-capacity Ipods allow you to play videos. Apple would love for you to purchase all of your video material from their Itunes site. I personally have a hard time spending money for something that I will ultimately purchase on DVD in the future, particularly to watch once or twice on the Ipod’s tiny screen. I think of my Ipod as a portable DVR, and download shows that I initially missed or want to show my friends. They’re generally deleted within a week.
I’m not going out on a limb when I say you can find almost any television show somewhere on the internet. Many fan sites host recent episodes, and there are tons of “torrent” sites. I recommend tvtorrents.com, or torrentspy.com.
Torrents may be the most exciting method of downloading invented in recent years. While the speed of conventional downloads decreases as more people aspire to own the same file, torrents actually depend on a high number of downloaders. This occurs because you’re sharing the “bits” you’ve already downloaded as you’re gaining more and more bits from others. These bits are collected together to create the actual file.
Here’s two important pieces of advice to torrent “newbies”. When you click on a torrent, you’re actually just downloading a small file that partitions space on your hard drive for the actual video (or audio) material. You have not yet actually downloaded this material although it appears to be on your computer. Clicking on the torrent file (and using a torrent program such as Azureus) will begin the actual downloading process.
It’s also torrent etiquette to “share” at least as much as you download. Many sites will boot you off their system if your “share ratio” is below 1.00. To avoid this problem, keep the torrent open for a few hours after your download is completed.
Since a good percentage of available video files are not in the Quick Time format, you’ll also probably have to convert the files to play on your Ipod. There’s a ton of converter programs available that will not only convert these files but any DVD’s that you wish to load on your Ipod. Most of these are extremely easy to use, and after converting you just have to import it into Itunes and drag it onto your Ipod icon, just like you do with music files.
While most of these tips may sound a bit intimidating, there’s nothing stated above that can’t be accomplished by even the most casual computer user. The good news is that any mistake is correctable. Does that video not work correctly on your Ipod? Just delete it. Did that smart playlist pick out tracks that you have no desire to hear? Create a new one. Whatever headaches you may encounter is more than made up by the fact that you can now carry in your pocket a library of music ten times larger than the playlists of all the local radio stations combined. You are now your own program director of your own personal radio station. What could be better?