Monthly Archives: May 2010

Just Say No To Market News

Dear NY Times News Alert service,

Please do not send me any more alerts about the hourly bipolar swings of the stock market. I do not care anymore. The financial services are a parasite upon our economy. Traders are drama queens who can’t get enough of our attention, and if we keep giving them attention with hourly news alerts on their changing moods, they’ll just want more. Sorry for the tough love, but it’s what’s best for all of us.

One love,

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Meacham on Stewart

My parents have subscribed to Newsweek since I can remember. It’s synonymous with media for me, and I think Jon Meacham is a real mensch. I just saw his interview on The Daily Show the day the Washington Post announced they would be selling Newsweek. Smart, sad, funny.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Jon Meacham
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party

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"Princess Noire" review

“Like her unprocessed voice and Bach-meets-barrelhouse piano style, Nina Simone’s life story is peculiar, beautiful, sometimes off-key and off-color but deeply, disturbingly dramatic.

In the 1960s, the “high priestess of soul” wrote and/or sang some of the most moving anthems of a profound period in American history: “Backlash Blues,” “Mississippi Goddam” and “To Be Young, Gifted and Black.”

She had sought for years to find a place for her unique vision, and she found it alongside her friends Langston Hughes, Lorraine Hansberry, Miriam Makeba and James Baldwin.

Hers was a dignified and formidable presence at many civil rights protests and benefit concerts. Yet all these decades later, sordid tales of disheveled onstage rants, mysterious hospitalizations and other indiscretions have threatened to eclipse her legacy.

In “Princess Noire: The Tumultuous Reign of Nina Simone,” Nadine Cohodas reinscribes into the historical record the musical contributions of a woman with prodigious gifts and sometimes unusual taste.”

Read my full Los Angeles Times review here.

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Just Call Me Teach

McDonnellJenkins_300p.ashxFellow SJ student Jonathan Arkin wrote a lovely article about my appointment at Loyola Marymount for the USC School of Communication and Journalism online newsletter. The quotes from Henry Jenkins make me blush. It’s been an intense but incredibly productive year. I went back to school in order to teach, and that’s what I’m going to do. Isn’t it amazing when plans work?

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The Economy Is not Holding Steady

holdsteady_heaven_cover_20100315_130124The Hold Steady held forth at the Grammy Museum Monday night, talking about their new album, Heaven Is Whenever, and playing songs from it and their previous CDs. I’ve loved this Brooklyn band since Separation Sunday, in part because their members are originally from my old Midwestern stomping grounds — guitarist Tad Kubler grew up about 15 miles from my Wisconsin hometown, and front guy  Craig Finn and I know the same old indie rockers in Minneapolis (we talked about our drug-dealing bass player friend, a quintessential HS character, when I interviewed Finn a few years ago). Those shared roots make their Springsteen-meets-Replacements anthems about bars and quarries and pot parties all too familiar. It was fun to see them in an intimate, stripped-down environment — though I think they’re best enjoyed rocking live in a small club.

It occurred to me Monday that while Springsteen sang about the old industrial economy in decay, the Hold Steady sing more about the new economy, what Mark Deuze calls “informational hypercapitalism” or what Scott Lash and John Urry call “disorganized capitalism.” I’m reading Deuze’s book Media Work. Some of his comments about changes in the workplace, like the intrusion of women and the decline of family, are disturbingly retro. But others hit home: “The worker of today must become an enterprise of her own: perfectly adept at managing herself, unlearning old skills while reflexively adapting to new demands, preferring individual independence and autonomy over the relative stability of a lifelong workstyle based on the collective bargaining power of a specific group, sector, or union of workers.”

The Hold Steady seem to be looking nostalgically at that Springsteenian past — ah, I remember working at the  drive-in movie theater in Kubler’s hometown — but also acknowledging a changing present. Or as Finn put it Monday, quoting another commentator when asked how he would describe the Hold Steady: “Led Zeppelin meets Microsoft Office.”

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Coachella Flashbacks

It’s been two weeks and Coachella already seems like ancient history — except for the sinus infection the dust left me with, which is still very much alive. Here are some memories that have also lodged in my cranial cavity:

MGMT‘s set: First tipped to their greatness by then-MOLI blogger Wendy Case, I love Oracular Spectacular — “Time to Pretend” has been my iPhone ring since I bought the damn device. But after hearing a couple tracks from Congratulations, I was afraid the band had toked itself into novelty nada land. Their live set reassured me that there’s something important and poetic about these pranksters. Andrew VanWyngarden has a sexy, sensitive Marc Bolan vibe — and that’s not a compliment I hand out lightly.

Thom Yorke: Not being a RHCP fan, I was extremely skeptical about the Flea collaboration. But it worked. The bassist, wearing a Minutemen T-shirt (go San Pedro!), anchored Yorke’s free-rock freneticism. Singing about a damaged lover’s artichoke heart — or maybe he was just talking to himself — Yorke falsettoed like an angel on “Atoms for Peace.”

The Raveonettes had to perform without the rest of their band, who were stuck on the other side of the volcanic dust. But stripped-down, the duo made their wall of sound all the more impressive.

Deadmau5‘s stage set was all I had hyped it up to be: His mouse head was integrated into the DJ podium, the backdrop, and the lights, so the show became this banging meditation on the continuum between man and machine. He played with the audience’s bpm expectations, going into this weird Bach-like interlude just when the rollers probably thought he was going to drop the bass bomb.

Riding bikes home: I’ve always said the only way to do Coachella, at least if you’re ancient like me, is to rent a condo at PGA West, so you’re just a few miles away and can recover in comfort. This year we took it a step further: Rode our bikes to and from the venue. Bye bye to long walks from the parking lot and traffic jams.

Aterciopelados: Polling the audience’s linguistic skills, Andrea Echeverri decided to speak in Spanish. She’s a true artist acknowledging those who have come before her, particularly Mercedes Sosa. It’s good to see Coachella getting slightly multicultural.

Speaking of which, Jay-Z was rocking the same stage set I saw on his tour with Mary J. Blige last year. But so what: It was great to see him in Indio, and to see any black face there at all, in fact. Though I missed Beyonce’s appearance ’cause I’d checked out for Deadmau5, damn.

The Gossip: I heart Beth Ditto. Though I feel like the guitar needs to drive her over the edge of the band’s beats more.

Muse: All the hipsters still hate them, but fuck ’em: Muse put on a monster show.  I can’t think of many people who can both play lead guitar and sing as well as Matthew Bellarmy. He’s Freddie Mercury and Brian May rolled into one. Way more interesting than Damon Albarn — though I’m kicking myself I didn’t stay and watch Mick Jones and Paul Simonon play with Gorillaz. If only I had known … And just that afternoon I had been wondering when Coachella is going to book a BAD reunion.

Next year?

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"Hot Stuff" Review

HOT STUFF: Disco and the Remaking of American Culture. Alice Echols. Norton. 338 pages. $26.95.

Even if you once proudly burned your Bee Gees records and wore “Disco Sucks” T-shirts (mea culpa), you’ll have a hard time resisting the relentless pull of Alice Echols’ entertaining and convincing reclamation of what was once Western culture’s most reviled music. The Rutgers professor and Janis Joplin biographer does an even-handed job of making a case for disco as the emblematic music of an underappreciated decade.

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