Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Hey Developers - Where's Your Platting Fees?

To say that I have no faith in our city’s government is not much of an exaggeration. It’s always seemed to me that our dim-witted Mayor, along with the majority of our City Council, are in the back pockets of a handful of developers who have amassed substantial fortunes on the backs of the citizenry the Council is supposed to represent. If you’re not a part of that cartel, or just a normal citizen wanting to further themselves, you’re forced to leap over hurdle after hurdle to get the city’s permission to do almost anything.

Yet people who feel like me are instantly labeled “haters”, or “against progress”. Nothing can further from the truth. I sincerely want our community to prosper, and I have yet to meet anybody who feel differently. It amazes me that our local press, including not just the daily paper but the 2 ½ television stations, never investigate what is really going on downtown (other than constantly vilifying the one dissenting elected official).

The perfect example of what’s wrong with our city government can be found in the (almost) untold story of last year’s sales tax increase. I know I initially ignored the story when it was raised by .08%. How evil could such a minimal change be?

Plenty evil, as it turns out, especially when the city helps cover up their business partner’s deficient contribution. This tax increase was designed to raise money to build new arterial roads, despite the fact that our city is tens of millions of dollars behind in maintenance on existing city streets. To help sell this idea to voters, a number of people in the building community put together a plan where platting fees paid by developers would match the sales tax proceeds. Months after this plan was railroaded through the City Council, city officials claimed that developers would actually pay 60%.

Unfortunately, the developers don’t want to pay their share. Six months after the increase went into effect, the city had collected around a million bucks from the sales tax. The amount collected from developer’s fees? Eight grand!!! This is an outrage!

Although our media has reported little on this discrepancy, the little bit of talk on various websites such as southdacola seems to have embarrassed the local building industry. The latest figures claim the developers have now contributed $116,000, compared to the $1.8 million that has come from sales taxes. They’re not at even 5%, let alone the 50% (or 60%) we’ve been promised. More importantly, we’re also a long, long ways from the $5.4 million budgeted for next year.

I just don’t understand why every person in this city doesn’t know about this shortfall. It’s clear to me that developers had no plans to actually fulfill their promises, and just wanted the four councilors they’ve paid off…I mean contributed to their campaigns…to give them exactly what they wanted. It’s shameful that the daily paper and local television stations have devoted absolutely zero coverage on this issue. I understand that it’s hard to find room when you have to report on every single person in this city who has flu-like symptoms, or every stripe painted on the streets for the dozens of people who ride their bicycle to work, but there are times when the media HAS to report on stories that affect every single one of us.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Jon Bon Jovi's An Artist?

Full disclosure - I've never been a fan of Bon Jovi. Few can deny, though, that they've pretty much coasted the last 10 - 15 years. They've become one of those acts that are continually booked onto television shows because they're safe; not because they have anything to say. You know, the Sheryl Crow and Gloria Estefan syndrome.

It appears we're going to be forced to endure them quite a bit the next few weeks:

Every network looks to book talent first: NBC Universal is taking the concept to a new level with the singer Jon Bon Jovi.

Over the next two months Mr. Bon Jovi, whose new album, “The Circle,” will be released on Nov. 10, will be seen exclusively on shows on outlets owned by NBC Universal. These appearances will include the “Today” show, “The Tonight Show,” “The Jay Leno Show” and “Saturday Night Live” — and even an interview on the “NBC Nightly News” with Brian Williams. Mr. Bon Jovi also will appear on “Inside the Actors Studio” on the Bravo channel of NBC Universal.

Mr. Bon Jovi is being called NBC’s “artist in residence” for the two-month period — and that means he won’t be anywhere else. “Of course you usually try to be out there everywhere, when a new album is coming out,” Mr. Bon Jovi said in a telephone interview on Wednesday. “So we have to sacrifice certain shows and relationships. We hope this doesn’t jeopardize any of them. But in a shrinking media environment, you have to kind of reinvent the wheel.”

Artist in residency? Really? Inside the Actor's Studio? I know he's been in a couple of movies, but he's no actor. This may be the dumbest move since NBC put Jay Leno on prime time every night.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

More Proof The Media Are Dopes

This afternoon, I was attempting to get through another boring day of work when news came that the cable news channels were following a renegade balloon supposedly carrying a six year-old child. Like hundreds of thousands of people, I flipped around between the three networks for well over an hour before the balloon finally descended in rural Colorado.

As most viewers probably predicted, there was no child inside the balloon. In fact, he was apparently hiding in his family's home. Or was he? It's hard for me to believe anything that comes out of the mouths of anybody who has appeared on shows such as Wife Swap.

Regardless of whether this was an attempt by the family to make headlines or an honest mistake by the child, the media needs to be castigated for their handling of the situation. All of the media outlets stuck with the story for its duration, throwing out meaningless conjecture and phony expert opinions that had no basis in reality. CNN's anchors seemed to relish the possibility of a tragic ending, while Fox's Shepard Smith was caked with fake empathy. The local Denver affiliates were even worse; the female anchor threw out so many cliches she seemed to be auditioning for a national gig. Hell, even the helicopter reporter acted as if he was on one of those terrible car crash clip shows that fill Court TV's lineup.

It's amazing that cable news will give this story (and the aftermath) hours and hours of airtime, but has yet to give real issues such as health care and unemployment nothing more than the usual talking heads from the left and right yelling at each other. John Stewart is bound to have a field day with this story.

Edit: It's looking more and more like this really was a publicity stunt:

From Mediate.com
It didn’t take long for Balloon Boy and his spotlight-loving family to tell their story, spending an hour with Wolf Blitzer who filled in for Larry King on CNN tonight.

While Richard Heene and Mayumi Heene (Balloon Boy Falcon Heene’s parents) mumbled their way through a story about their traumatic day, it took a hide-and-seek-loving six-year-old to finally admit the truth.

“Did you hear us calling your name?” Richard asked his son midway through the show tonight. Falcon said he did hear his father call his name. And here’s the key line, via Balloon Boy himself: “You said…that…we did this for a show.

For some reason, Blitzer let this slide. Richard tried to stumble through an explanation for that blatant moment of clarity. “Whenever we tell him things like, it’s a bad thing to do, he does go and hide,” he said, which means nothing.

At the end of the interview Blitzer finally got back to that comment from Balloon Boy. “I have no idea,” said Richard. “I think he was talking about the media. They’ve been asking a lot of questions.”

Here's footage of Falcon's gaffe:

Reissue Mania!

Few people can argue that the record industry is in a freefall. Music sales this year continue to decline by double digits, and no release has managed to capture the attention of the general public. Yes, there are “stars”, both new and old, that continue to land on magazine covers and entertainment news programs, but for the most part the public has just yawned before returning to their video games and Netflix rentals.

Not that there haven’t been some fantastic albums in the past ten months. There’s always great music that primarily exists far away from Big Media, and this year is no exception. Yet in the last couple of months, an ever-growing percentage of my purchases and plays has actually been older or previously unreleased material that has been reissued in either box set or special deluxe editions.

While I’m happy to go back and reacquaint myself with old faves, the question that comes to mind is why are the vaults being emptied this year? Sure, every year sees some great remastered classics, but it seems like every week there’s at least two or three releases of this sort.

The answer is pretty obvious - record companies know that sales woes are here to stay, and they’re attempting to get what they can before the public completely gives up on them. While some are still destined to sell only a few thousand, that’s still a substantially higher figure than they’ll see in two or three years.

A perfect example of this sort are the first two albums by Hoboken’s The Feelies. Although a huge influence on mid-80’s jangly college rock, few people have heard either their 1980’s Crazy Rhythms or 1985’s The Good Earth. Mixing the quirky, angular rhythms of Gang of Four and the anxious urgency of punk with the vibe of The Velvet Underground, both albums have that rare trait of being able to slowly creep into your psyche.

The Feelies, "She Said, She Said"

Another band that sold little but influenced almost an entire generation is Big Star. Led by Alex Chilton (and Chris Bell on the first album), the band combined the energetic power pop of Rubber Soul/Revolver-era Beatles with dark, almost self-destructive lyrics that almost single-handedly gave Paul Westerberg and others a template on which to base their career.

A few weeks ago, Rhino Records compiled the highlights of their three albums, along with outtakes, demos, and a 1973 Memphis concert on the four-disc box, Keep An Eye On the Sky. It’s absolutely stunning, and every true music fan needs to discover the beauty of “September Gurls, “Thank You Friends”, “The Ballad of El Goodo”, and so much more.

Big Star, "September Gurls"

One band partially influenced by Big Star, but also by the early 70’s country-rock of Gram Parsons and Neil Young, is the Jayhawks. Signed by Rick Rubin in the early 90’s to his Def American label, the band never hit as big as they deserved. Sony is now attempting to write this wrong with an ambitious reissue campaign that began earlier this year with the double-disc Music From the North Country: The Jayhawks Anthology.

The first disc’s collection of highlights from their seven studio albums are Americana at their finest, but the b-sides, demos, and unreleased material that comprises the second disc are just as essential.

The Jayhawks, "Waiting For the Sun"

While The Stone Roses have little in common with any of the artists mentioned above, their 1989 self-titled debut is just as influential. At a time when the British charts were dominated by dance music, the Stone Roses pretty much invented the "Madchester" mix of pop, punk, acid house, and psychedelic that is still prevalent in almost all British pop. The deluxe reissue of this debut now includes a second disc of primarily unreleased material, and a DVD of live footage and other videos from that time frame.

The Stone Roses, "I Wanna Be Adored (Demo)"

Obviously, one cannot talk about the reissues of 2009 without mention of the biggest band of all time. One can hardly open a music magazine these days without talk of the remastered Beatles catalog, but is it deserved? Unequivocally, yes. The entire catalog sounds like it was recorded yesterday (no pun intended). In fact, the majority of the material sounds better than almost anything that’s released in this compression-heavy era.

The early albums, recorded primarily live in the studio, sound like the band is in your living room, but it’s the latter discs that are truly enhanced by the Abbey Road engineers. Having heard Abbey Road and The White Album hundreds of times, I was completely unprepared for the previously hidden instrumentation on songs such as “Here Comes the Sun”, “I Want You”, “Glass Onion”, and so many more. “Dear Prudence”, in particular, is almost a completely different song. Previously a low-key, almost forgettable ballad, the track slowly builds up before it transforms into an almost Sonic Youth-ish wall of crashing drums and noisy guitars.

The Beatles, "Dear Prudence"

This is obviously just a partial list of the reissues that have emptied my wallet this year, and there’s plenty more to come the next few weeks. Some of these include expanded versions of U2’s Unforgettable Fire, Isaac Hayes’ Shaft, Nirvana’s Bleach, Spiritualized’s Ladies and Gentleman We Are Floating In Space, and Jawbox’s For Your Own Special Sweetheart.

Most Hated Bands/Artists

I admit that I'm stealing this from the Postcard mailing list, but it really is right up my alley. As you may imagine, this is just a partial list, but I'm hoping that I'll inspire some of you readers to contribute your own list.

1. Creed. Yeah, this is an easy and obvious response, but nobody deserves to be on here more than these pompous asses. Lowest common denominator garbage at its worst.

2. Jimmy Buffett. Adult rock/country at its worst...and truthfully I hate his fans even more than I hate him. Parrotheads? Ugh. One of my main wishes in life is to never hear "Cheeseburger in Paradise" again.

3. Nickleback. See the entry for Creed.

4. Phil Collins-era Genesis (and solo Collins). I can actually handle the 70's Peter Gabriel-led era of this band, but everything that is wrong about the 80's is present in the dozens of albums and soundtracks featuring Collins. That awful compressed, synthetic drum sound became the cheap production tactic of the decade, and many good albums by other artists suffered because of it.

5. Fall Out Boy. Fake punk for fake poseurs.

6. The Beach Boys (except for Pet Sounds). I've never understood the love for the extended Wilson family. Oldies radio would be much more listenable without the likes of "Help Me Rhonda", "I Get Around", and the three other songs they seem to have on constant repeat.

7. Midwest rock in general (Journey/Head East/REO/38 Special/April Wine/Styx/etc.). I could have another whole list of awful MOR rock that was way too popular in this part of the country in the late 70's/early 80's. Almost all of these acts are still touring the county fair circuit, so we're guaranteed to see them every other year or so...even if there's only a bass player or drummer left from the original band.

8. Dave Matthews Band. The next generation of parrotheads.

9. Limp Bizkit. No comment necessary.

10. Garth Brooks. He almost single-handedly ruined an entire genre of music, and now I hear rumors of a comeback. Please, say it ain't so!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Partial List of People and Things That Need To Go Away

It’s list time again! As I’m sitting here listening to today’s new releases, including the latest by The Flaming Lips, I’ve been daydreaming about people and things that shouldn’t bug me but of course do. So here’s a partial list - feel free to add your own.

1. Dave Munson’s insane bid to claim city poverty to steal federal funding that would be better used in communities that have seriously felt the effects of our current recession.

2. De Kunudson. She’ll always make these sorts of list, especially after I learned she jogs in her neighborhood wearing nothing but a sports bra.

3. The concept of a $40 million dollar high school football complex, especially when building a parking ramp at the Arena would be at least $10 million dollars cheaper than moving Howard Wood Field.

4. Those awful “Husbands needs wives” billboards. I now realize they’ve been put up by Avera to publicize a worthy cause, but it’s a terrible campaign.

5. The never-ending construction on 22nd Street.

6. The quick demise of fall, straight into winter. I don’t mind jacket weather, but it’s way too early for winter coats.

7. Last Sunday’s Denver Broncos throwback jerseys. As Tony Kornheiser noted, the players looked like giant bottles of Quik.

8. Theme songs to nighttime football games personalized for each game. Hank Sr. is rolling in his grave every Monday night.

9. Major league baseball umpires.

10. Itunes-only music releases. Hey, some of us do still purchase the physical product!

11. News and sports networks treating twitter updates as news. Yes, I’m talking to you CNN and ESPN.

12. The current season of SNL…and their musical guests. I expected Lady Gaga to be terrible, but even U2 was embarrassing two weeks ago.

13. Jay Leno. More specifically, the never-ending commercials for Jay Leno.

14. Our local Fox affiliate dropping Jerry Springer. Yet Tyra Banks and the Doctors are still on local television.

15. Mike and Mike’s lame TV segments. In fact, the only thing worse than actors making music are radio guys doing television.

16. Glenn Beck, and the idiots who believe every crackpot thing that spouts out of his mouth.

17. The Kardashians, Lamas’, Kendra, and every other non-talent that screws their way into a series on E.

18. Jon and Kate.

19. Self-proclaimed moralists who want Letterman fired for his indiscretion. Don’t watch the show if you’re offended by his actions, but you really have no right to tell me what I should watch.

20. Facebook/Myspace/Twitter/whatever business “friends” who saturate my mailbox with drink special and schedule updates. Seriously, I don’t need five messages per day about the exact same event. All you’re doing is verifying that I won’t be participating.