Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Dancing Tax Preparers Need to Disappear!

Since I get to look at hot, young amateur strippers tonight, It’s hard for me to get too fired up about anything else. Visions of nearly naked booty and other body parts is probably the only thing that can make me forget about my awful, empty life.
I have a job to do, though, so here’s something short and sweet. It’s actually a replay of a bitch I seem to have every year around this same time. Since the people I’m referring to refuse to do the right thing, I have to babble about them once again.
If you drive down four of our busiest streets in town – 10th, 12th, 41st, and Minnesota – you’ve undoubtedly seen the most ridiculous sight one can possibly imagine. In the bitter cold, and it’s been worse than most years, there are morons stationed outside of a tax preparer’s franchises attempting to grab our attention.
One of these halfwits does this awful little break dance routine. What is it, 1989? He twirls around, does a James Brown little knee bend, and prances around like a complete lunatic.
Another person is out on the street with a Guitar Hero controller. It’s not hooked up to anything, so it’s this bizarreland air guitar routine. I don’t get it. Well, I don’t get any of it.
The other locations are a bit more low key – silly people standing outside in dumb costumes. One regular employee dresses as the Statue of Liberty. There’s also an oversize Miss Liberty costume that for the most part seems to not be occupied by a person.
Please, make it stop. You look ridiculous, and there’s no way this is actually helping your business. Income tax is serious stuff. Would you really trust your finances with a company that doesn’t take themselves seriously?
Plus, the awful drivers of this city don’t need any more distractions. Besides local drivers, I’m scared to death of anybody with license plates from Iowa or Lincoln County (44). If it’s not terrible driving skills, then it’s cell phones that cause people to swerve from lane to lane, make sudden turns, or not notice that the light has turned red as they’re heading towards the back of your car. The last thing they need is some dancing fool that makes them point and laugh.
I’m begging you people – please pull these people off their posts and give them some real work to do. I’m sure you’ve got some cleaning or sweeping they can do. Just don’t put them to work doing my taxes. Anybody who would do the “Hammer-time” dance is not qualified to file my return.

The End of an Era

NO DEPRESSION MAGAZINE
TO CEASE PUBLISHING
AFTER MAY-JUNE ISSUE

No Depression, the bimonthly magazine covering a broad range of American
roots music since 1995, will bring to an end its print publication with
its 75th issue in May-June 2008.

Plans to expand the publication's website (www.nodepression.net) with
additional content will move forward, though it will in no way replace
the print edition.

The magazine's March-April issue, currently en route to subscribers and
stores, includes the following note from publishers Grant Alden, Peter
Blackstock and Kyla Fairchild as its Page 2 Hello Stranger column:

Dear Friends:

Barring the intercession of unknown angels, you hold in your hands the
next-to-the-last edition of No Depression we will publish. It is
difficult even to type those words, so please know that we have not come
lightly to this decision.
In the thirteen years since we began plotting and publishing No
Depression, we have taken pride not only in the quality of the work we
were able to offer our readers, but in the way we insisted upon doing
business. We have never inflated our numbers; we have always paid our
bills (and, especially, our freelancers) on time. And we have always
tried our best to tell the truth.
First things, then: If you have a subscription to ND, please know
that we will do our very best to take care of you. We will be
negotiating with a handful of magazines who may be interested in
fulfulling your subscription. That is the best we can do under the
circumstances.
Those circumstances are both complicated and painfully simple. The
simple answer is that advertising revenue in this issue is 64% of what
it was for our March- April issue just two years ago. We expect that
number to continue to decline.
The longer answer involves not simply the well-documented and
industrywide reduction in print advertising, but the precipitous fall of
the music industry. As a niche publication, ND is well insulated from
reductions in, say, GM's print advertising budget; our size meant they
weren't going to buy space in our pages, regardless.
On the other hand, because we're a niche title we are dependent
upon advertisers who have a specific reason to reach our audience. That
is: record labels. We, like many of our friends and competitors, are
dependent upon advertising from the community we serve.
That community is, as they say, in transition. In this evolving
downloadable world, what a record label is and does is all up to
question. What is irrefutable is that their advertising budgets are
drastically reduced, for reasons we well understand. It seems clear at
this point that whatever businesses evolve to replace (or transform)
record labels will have much less need to advertise in print.
The decline of brick and mortar music retail means we have fewer
newsstands on which to sell our magazine, and small labels have fewer
venues that might embrace and hand-sell their music. Ditto for
independent bookstores. Paper manufacturers have consolidated and begun
closing mills to cut production; we've been told to expect three price
increases in 2008. Last year there was a shift in postal regulations,
written by and for big publishers, which shifted costs down to smaller
publishers whose economies of scale are unable to take advantage of
advanced sorting techniques.
Then there's the economy
The cumulative toll of those forces makes it increasingly
difficult for all small magazines to survive. Whatever the potentials of
the web, it cannot be good for our democracy to see independent voices
further marginalized. But that's what's happening. The big money on the
web is being made, not surprisingly, primarily by big businesses.
ND has never been a big business. It was started with a $2,000
loan from Peter's savings account (the only monetary investment ever
provided, or sought by, the magazine). We have five more or less
full-time employees, including we three who own the magazine. We have
always worked from spare bedrooms and drawn what seemed modest salaries.
What makes this especially painful and particularly frustrating is
that our readership has not significantly declined, our newsstand
sell-through remains among the best in our portion of the industry, and
our passion for and pleasure in the music has in no way diminished. We
still have shelves full of first-rate music we'd love to tell you about.
And we have taken great pride in being one of the last bastions of
the long-form article, despite the received wisdom throughout publishing
that shorter is better. We were particularly gratified to be nominated
for our third Utne award last year.
Our cards are now on the table.
Though we will do this at greater length next issue, we should
like particularly to thank the advertisers who have stuck with us these
many years; the writers, illustrators, and photographers who have worked
for far less than they're worth; and our readers: You.
Thank you all. It has been our great joy to serve you.
GRANT ALDEN
PETER BLACKSTOCK
KYLA FAIRCHILD


No Depression published its first issue in September 1995 (with Son Volt
on the cover) and continued quarterly for its first year, switching to
bimonthly in September 1996. ND received an Utne Magazine Award for Arts
& Literature Coverage in 2001 and has been nominated for the award
several times (including in 2007). The Chicago Tribune ranked No
Depression #20 in its 2004 list of the nation's Top 50 magazines of any
kind.

Artists who have appeared on the cover of No Depression over the years
include Johnny Cash (2002), Wilco (1996), Willie Nelson (2004), Ryan
Adams' seminal band Whiskeytown (1997), the Drive-By Truckers (2003),
Ralph Stanley (1998), Elvis Costello & Allen Toussaint (2006), Gillian
Welch (2001), Lyle Lovett (2003), Porter Wagoner (2007), and Alejandro
Escovedo (1998, as Artist of the Decade).

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Herbie Hancock For Best Album?

At the beginning of last Sunday’s Grammy broadcast, they aired a clip of Frank Sinatra from the very first award’s ceremony 50 years ago. In welcoming viewers to the show, Frank explained that the awards they were going to hand out were to reward “excellence”, and not necessarily the biggest sellers of the past year.
If only that was the case. For the next 3 ½ hours, we saw almost nothing but chart toppers from every major genre. Too bad there was little art. A Time reunion was interrupted by the latest bubblegum pop tart singing a song that was originally intended for America’s Greatest Trainwreck, Britney Spears. If she had put the pipe down for a day or two, poor little Rhianna would not have been in the building. And I doubt she ever will be there again.
After almost nothing but predictable wins, the final award went to a record that I doubt anybody reading this even knew existed. Jazz legend Herbie Hancock’s tribute to Joni Mitchell defeated multi-Grammy winners Kanye West, Amy Winehouse, Vince Gill, and the Foo Fighters to nab the Album of the Year award.
I don’t doubt that River: The Joni Letters is a fine album, but let’s be real. This is not an album that received much notice anywhere. It didn’t any critic’s polls I’ve read, and I thrive on that crap. It certainly didn’t set any sales records. Grammy apologists will claim that it’s “proof” that Grammy voters selected quality over popularity, but it really doesn’t pass the standard that the Chairman of the Board proclaimed way back in 1958.
I have no problem with awards being given to artists that aren’t household names. The Grammies would have more validity if it truly did make their choices based on artistic integrity. In fact, I could name albums in every category that would be more deserving than those that actually win.
Was the worst Foo Fighters album ever really the best rock album of the year? Was Slayer’s latest album the best metal album? Should Maroon 5 be allowed to exist, let alone be rewarded with a Grammy or two? No way.
Enough about the actual awards – let’s talk about the telecast. Sigh. If I wasn’t expected to comment, I would have turned the channel off the minute Alicia Keys oversang her first lyric.
That’s really the problem with the majority of performances this past Sunday. I’m sure Alicia Keys, Beyonce, and that American Idol twit are all fine people, and I do understand their popularity. Yet it drives me up the wall that they can’t just sing a song. You don’t have to prove on every line that you can hit all of these extended notes; not every line has to end with wailing. Watching Beyonce try to caterwaul a semi-rock song with Tina Turner was excruciating.
As for Ms Turner, all I have to say is the wrong Turner left the earth a few months ago. Or did they? I’m convinced that it wasn’t actually Tina Turner that was squeezed into that unflattering spandex outfit. It just had to be a robot, because even at the age of 190 Tina Tuner could not have been that wooden. I was embarrassed for her.
At least Jerry Lee Lewis obviously didn’t even know he was still awake. Note to producers – senior citizens must be in bed before sundown. Poor guy, getting upstaged by a 65 year-old John Fogerty.
I have to admit, though, that there was one moment that was almost worth the misery. For weeks, the music world wondered whether Amy Winehouse would even be alive by the awards ceremony, let alone have the ability to perform.
Although she was denied a visa to attend the ceremony, she did perform via satellite from London. The entire world sat back and waited for the meltdown. Yes she was tentative, and hit a bum note or two. Yet unlike all of the robots that had not a hair or step out of place, Winehouse came across as almost human. Clearly nervous, and messing with the hem of her micro-mini, Winehouse gained confidence as her two-song segment progressed, and this emotionless zero actually cheered when she gazed directly at the camera and angrily pointed as she got to the “no, no, no” part of “Rehab”.
A few minutes later, “Rehab” was a surprise winner in the Best Song category, and again we saw real human emotion. While Kanye, Alicia, Vince, and most of the other winners acted like it was business as usual when they gave their speeches, it should have been clear to anybody watching that this award actually meant something to Winehouse. Hell, it may have even been a lifesaving event. She may be a car crash waiting to happen, and somebody who is easy to parody, but this past weekend she was by far the most human person who was beamed into our homes.
Here’s a few more quick suggestions for next year. Make Kid Rock learn the song before throwing him up on stage. Keep the current bubblegum queen off the stage when you have a not-so-surprising reunion. Let musicians play Beatles songs instead of forcing us to listen to an album cut while Cirque whatever cavorts around the stage. Most importantly, though, if we have to sit through the gospel and other garbage throw us a bone and let us see some alternative or indie rock. Just please don’t make me endure Fergie ever again!

The Best News Ever!

From Billboard

February 12, 2008, 10:45 AM ET

Jonathan Cohen, N.Y.
The Replacements' first three albums and an EP will be reissued in remastered, expanded form this spring, completing a long awaited upgrade of the seminal band's early work. "Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out the Trash," "Stink," "Hootenanny" and "Let It Be" will arrive April 22 via Rhino, Billboard.com can reveal.

Originally released on the band's hometown label, Twin/Tone, the albums were prepped for reissue by Replacements manager Peter Jesperson, with involvement from the surviving band members.

The Replacements' debut, 1981's "Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out the Trash," introduced its lovably shambling rock style via tracks like "Shiftless When Idle," "Takin a Ride" and "Johnny's Gonna Die." Bonus material includes frontman Paul Westerberg's original four-song demo from 1980, several outtakes and the B-side "If Only You Were Lonely."

The EP "Stink" followed in 1982, tearing through eight songs in 15 minutes. The four bonus tracks on the new edition are all previously unreleased: the outtakes "Staples in Her Stomach," "Hey, Good Lookin'" and "(We're Gonna) Rock Around the Clock," plus a Westerberg home demo of "You're Getting Married."

The Replacements' sophomore album, "Hootenanny," arrived in April 1983, further cementing its status as one of the most exciting new rock bands in America on the strength of songs such as "Within Your Reach" and "Color Me Impressed." Rhino's new edition boasts six previously unreleased tracks, including a demo of "Bad Worker" and an alternate take of "Treatment Bound."


Rhino's final reissue in this batch, "Let It Be," is regarded by many as the Replacements' best album. The 1984 release boasts indelible tracks such as "Unsatisfied," "I Will Dare" and "Androgynous"; it is here bolstered by an alternate version of "Sixteen Blue," the home demo for "Answering Machine" and covers of the Grass Roots' "Temptation Eyes" and T. Rex's "20th Century Boy."

Later this year, Rhino will continue the reissue campaign with expanded editions of the Replacements' Sire catalog: "Tim," "Pleased To Meet Me," "Don't Tell a Soul" and "All Shook Down."

Here is the bonus material for the Replacements reissues (previously unissued tracks marked with *):

"Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out the Trash":

"Raised in the City," live, 1980 - demo*
"Shutup," live, 1980 - demo*
"Don't Turn Me Down," live, 1980 - demo*
"Shape Up," live, 1980 - demo*
"You Ain't Gotta Dance," studio demo*
"Get on the Stick," studio demo*
"Oh Baby," studio demo*
"Like You," outtake*
"Get Lost," outtake*
"A Toe Needs a Shoe," outtake*
"Customer," alternate take*
"Basement Jam," rehearsal*
"If Only You Were Lonely"

"Stink":

"Staples in Her Stomach," outtake*
"Hey, Good Lookin'," outtake*
"(We're Gonna) Rock Around the Clock," outtake*
"You're Getting Married," solo home demo*

"Hootenanny":

"Lookin' for Ya"
"Junior's Got a Gun," outtake - rough mix*
"Ain't No Crime," outtake*
"Johnny Fast," outtake - rough mix*
"Treatment Bound," alternate version*
"Lovelines," alternate vocal*
"Bad Worker," solo home demo*

"Let It Be":

"20th Century Boy"
"Perfectly Lethal," outtake*
"Temptation Eyes," outtake*
"Answering Machine," solo home demo*
"Heartbeat -- It's a Lovebeat," outtake - rough mix*
"Sixteen Blue," outtake - alternate vocal*

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Who Gives a "F" About the Super Bowl Ads?

I’m not the biggest sports fan in the world, but I love Super Bowl Sunday. I follow football enough that I’m a pretty informed fan, but I’m not a clem who has to sit in front of the TV wearing my team’s latest jersey.
Like most of America, I was even more excited for this year’s game. Not because of the Patriots run towards immortality, but for that seemingly faint chance of them getting the smugness knocked off their face. And oh how much I wanted to see their awful fans crying in their beers.
The game itself could not have been more perfect. A great defensive struggle for the first three quarters that saw stupid Tom Brady knocked on his ass on almost every play, followed by a fourth quarter that saw plays that Hollywood would never dare script. Will anybody who is not a Patriots fan ever get tired of that scramble and catch play that set up the winning touchdown?
Yet as anybody who knows me may expect, there is something about the Super Bowl that drives me nuts. Come on, nothing in this cynical bastard’s life is perfect.
So here’s my bitch – enough about the goddamned commercials! I can’t stand to hear people say they look forward to the commercials, or they only watch for them. WTF? You actually enjoy seeing your intelligence insulted?
Thankfully, this game was for the ages so we didn’t hear as much about the ads the next day. But every year we see more analysis of the products advertised then we do the actual game. News shows, entertainment shows, talk radio, and even sports channels run through the so-called best and worst.
How can anybody tell the difference? They were all terrible. Oh look, there’s Shaq dressed as a jockey. Oh god, now stupid Justin Timberlake is pretending to like girls at the end of whatever soft drink he was hawking – give me a break.
Even worse were the ads directing you to go online to see the “full” ad. I don’t want to see any auto racers ever on my television or computer, and I’m not going to go to Go Daddy’s website to see the surely not-so-shocking “uncensored” Danica Patrick ad. Even worse, Fox at one point directed us to a website to see all the ads we might have missed. Why would anybody with any intelligence do that?
The overall worst, though, was Fox’s self-promotion. Is there anybody in this country that doesn’t know about that godawful American Idol? Do we really need to see those ads during every commercial break? Or the promos for that “very special episode” of House? Isn’t every episode a “very special episode” where House does something that nobody had ever done before? Please, please, please, I also beg you to never ever allow Paula Abdul to lip-synch ever again.
Since it’s likely to get even worse before it gets any better, I think it’s time to move the game away from the broadcast networks. I know this will never happen, but I’d happily pay more for HBO if I could get a commercial-free version of the game. Hell, simulcast the damned thing – the cheap bastards could watch it with ads on Fox or CBS and purists like me could pay for it. I’ll take anything to free me from birds dancing to “Thriller”.