2007 won’t go down in the history books as a particularly memorable year, although with little competition from the previous 200x years, I would say 2007 wasn’t that bad.
Things Worth Raving About In 2007:
Evil Looks Good – The story was finished in the middle of 2007. I set it aside, and came back to it over the 2007 Christmas break, and re-re-re-read the whole thing cover to cover. It is ready for beta test-readers and feedback, and perhaps one more round of revision before I subject it to an editor.
jaggedspiral.com The website got a MAJOR overhaul, and I personally programmed every last line of HTML/CSS by hand using an esoteric combination of Notepad++ and Adobe GoLive. Thanks to James for the new, shiny band logo.
Days From Evil the debut album from Jagged Spiral, two-years in the making and finally released at the end of 2007. Each track from the album was released one at a time on the internet (FOR FREE) over the last 9 weeks of 2007.
Nine Inch Nails marketing genius. The Alternate Reality Game / Marketing behind the Nine Inch Nails release “Year Zero” was nothing short of genius. Trent Reznor remembered that an album is more than just an album, it’s an experience. The more you can add to that experience for the fans, the better. In the case of Year Zero, the album is great on it’s own, (and if you haven’t heard “Capital G”, you’re missing out) but the experience of the online phenomenon/pseudo-conspiracy pushed this album to the top for 2007, and showed the rest of the world how it’s done.
i-[fill in the blank] In 2007, “i” became the new “e”. Pretty much anything that started with “i” in 2007 was something you shoulda bought stock in. i-Pod, i-Tunes, i-Phone…
Things Worth Ranting About In 2007:
The 35W Bridge Collapse. I was surprised at the reaction of many Americans to this disaster, specifically the reactions of those NOT involved. If there is a house fire in Minnesota, you generally don’t call everyone you know and tell them that *you* are alright simply because you live in a house in Minnesota too. The bridge hadn’t even finished collapsing and bloggers were posting announcements that they and their families were OK, and tweeting on twitter.com to update their status as “Uninjured”. Someone should come up with a name for this strange behavior…
If you talk to anyone in Minnesota besides myself, they will tell you they JUST drove over the bridge moments before it collapsed. That’s about 4,919,478 people, which pretty much explains *why* it collapsed.
DRM = Dumb RIAA Morons. As much as I railed against the horrific, poisonous, anti-consumeristic atrocity that is DRM, you simply can’t stop what the consumers want. It’s obvious that people want music, and they want to get it through the internet, badly enough to put up with DRM, and are willing to let the RIAA force a square peg up their round hole.
Too bad for music fans, but it looks like DRM is here to stay. Sorry, but I did my best…
Things To Look Forward To In 2008:
More stories from yours truly. Because the Demonslayer’s Handbook is written, my inner writer gets laid off for a while and my inner editor takes over. But every now and again I have to shift between the left and right brains, so I plan on letting my inner writer out of the basement periodically to work up some short horror stories…
Guitars, not DJs. DJs are dead. Good riddance. Long live guitars!
Jagged Spiral LIVE Look out world! Jagged Spiral is coming to a town near you! (…as long as you live near Minneapolis.) The band already held court at a private party back in October, and the first official public performance at Stasiu’s on December 11th. Look out for two upcoming shows, at Club Underground on Thursday 31 Jan 2008 , and a Battle of the Bands at the Dinkytowner on 10 Feb 2008! Check out the band blog for more details, pix, and future concert updates…
The heyday of The Replacements (whom I refuse to call ‘Mats’) was before my time, so much of my knowledge about them comes filtered through elder hipsters who go on about how awesome it was to be in on the Minneapolis music scene back in the 80’s. By the time I was hitting clubs back in the 90’s, the Replacements had broken up, and news about them was scarce. “I’ll Be You” would pop up on the radio occasionally, but Prince, Matthew Sweet and Sugar were getting all the airplay.
Grunge was king in the 90’s while I worked the midnight shift at a recording studio in Minneapolis, and habitually scanned the Reader and the City Pages for new and interesting bands. The Nixon Pupils, Johnny Clueless and Mile One were my main staples back then. I was playing solo-acoustic-dark-rock (like my heroes Neil Young and Stuart Davis) and my circle of friends coulda cared a whole lot less about the Replacements.
One particular night shift, I listened to “The Replacements A to Z” on KQ92, and thought they were pretty good. Eventually I purchased their CD compilation, “All for Nothing and Nothing for All” and what I was told was their definitive album, “Tim”.
It wasn’t until after I started enjoying the Replacements music that I started hearing the stories. Stories about a band that shone so brightly they burned a hole in the heart of Minneapolis. Every tale put a look on my face as if I had just taken a sip of Windex:
“They stole back their own master tapes from the record company, and tossed them in the Mississippi River?”
“They played ‘Hello Dolly’ over and over until everyone left?”
“They did entire gigs without finishing a single song?”
I felt like someone who just found out that so-and-so and you-know-who did you-know-what years after it happened. It’s like the entire city of Minneapolis kept these dirty secrets until they were safe to be discussed. But just how much of it was true?
The book is described as an Oral History. It’s written in quotes from a large number of people, including (some) members of the band. It’s interesting to read the different perspectives on key moments of the band’s history.
Readers should keep in mind that this is the current-day perception of the band, a conglomeration of The Replacements As Certain People Remember Them. There are some assumptions made, and there are undoubtedly people who either cannot or did not participate in the book. Those looking for the actual, official history of the Replacements might want to look elsewhere. But I think Jim Walsh wanted to capture the enduring spirit of the band, the parts that survive in people’s memories, the brightest and darkest moments.
However, the quotes of ‘oral history’ did make the book a disjointed read. It wasn’t till I was halfway through the book that I stumbled upon a glossary of names in the back, which makes the book easier to manage. Many of the quotes required that information to provide context.
It amazes me how hard the Replacements tried to sabotage their own success, and how everything they did simply made them more and more famous. It makes me think some bands are destined to be famous, and have no choice. The Replacements seemed to be dragged kicking and screaming into popularity, confounded by the personality of Paul Westerberg, which glares through the cracks of the writing.
After reading it, I can say that the Replacements deserve a book like this. Jim Walsh has done a great job. I’m glad I read it. It should be required reading for anyone who is in a bar band in Minneapolis, because whether you know it or not, you are living under the shadow of a glorious tragedy.
Revolver Modele had just finished up their set, and a giant projection screen descended from the ceiling, separating the First Ave stage from the audience. Minutes ago, I watched Jim Walsh onstage, pouring his drink all over the Revolver Modele’s guitar player, and pushing him to the floor as he played. Jim even jumped on the mic for a verse or two. He wisely left the bass player alone.
The screen lit up with giant, glowing Tom and Jerry cartoons, as ‘One For The Team’ began setting up to perform the next set of Replacements covers.
Jim opened the book and paused, pen in hand, clearly drunk, off alcohol or the event or both, and clearly having the time of his life.
“Conrad Zero,” I said, holding my right hand up in what I hoped conveyed a manual representation of a ‘zero’ but possibly also could have been interpreted as jacking off.
He started scribbling my name down in the book.
“Never heard that before?” he asked.
“I guess I’ve never seen Bono without sunglasses on.” I suddenly wanted to talk about something else. “Tried to make it out to your book reading at Treehouse…,” I started, in an attempt to change the subject.
“Oh, what good are book readings?” Jim interrupted with a laugh. “I mean you read the book to people. What is that? People can read it themselves, right?”
“Yeah,” I laughed, “…and you had said that the reading was on the Wednesday *before* Thanksgiving, but…”
“Hey,” Jim said, turning to one of the ladies at the nearby booth for ‘The Onion’. “Doesn’t this guy look like Bono?”
She nodded her disapproval.
“Usually it’s Sean Bean,” I said. “People always say I look like Boromir.”
Jim started laughing, and had to pause in the middle of signing. “Sorry, I don’t want to screw up your book.”
“It’s not my book,” I corrected. “It’s yours.” This just made him laugh more.
“No,” he said, finishing the dedication and handing it over, “it’s your book now. I hope you enjoy it.”
‘One for the Team’ got a great set of Replacements songs (Skyway among them), and did a fine job with them. I left shortly afterward, book clutched in my December-chilled-and-chaffed hands, went home, pulled up the internet, and looked up pix of Bono…
If you want to purchase the new Nine Inch Nails CD: “Y34RZ3R0R3M1X3D” online, you have two choices:
I do not advocate Piracy. It is not OK to steal the work of others. I also do not advocate DRM. But this is the Current System: we have the IPOD for music and video, and we have Kindle for books. We have subscriptions for online newspapers, and paid access to the content of certain websites (you know what I’m talking about…).
But the system is not working: people are still pirating virtual products like graphics, music, video, books and software, and the creators of that content are not getting paid for their work.
Why is the Current System not working? I suggest three reasons. Not surprisingly, they are the same three reasons consumers need to purchase a product of any kind – Desire, Cost and Convenience.
A New System For Selling Virtual (Soft) Products
I suggest a New System be devised, which takes these things into account. A new system that will reduce piracy, and increase the potential for artists to be fairly compensated for their soft products. The New System that takes Desire, Cost and Convenience into consideration will succeed where the current system is failing.
1) Desire – The consumer must want or need the product.
Why would consumers want DRM-infected files? Why should they pay for files that come with a list of restrictions on how they are used? Would you buy a car that came with rules for when and where and under what conditions it can be driven? Or a shirt that came with rules for what days of the week it can be worn, and what accessories must be worn with it? Of course not.
People use DRM-infected content from I-tunes because they either don’t know any better, or don’t care. People who do know or care pass on the DRM-infected files and opt for the non-DRM ones available through piracy. Neither of these solutions is acceptable.
Also, why should consumers tolerate products like Kindle that will only work with one supplier? I wouldn’t buy a CD player that only played CDs from a particular Record Label, but that’s exactly how the new Kindle from Amazon works. This is not an acceptable solution either.
The New System should let consumers use soft products the same way they can use the hard products: WITHOUT RESTRICTIONS.
2) Cost – Consumers must believe the product is worth the price.
There is an underlying rule which never changes: PRODUCTS ARE WORTH WHAT PEOPLE ARE WILLING TO PAY FOR THEM. You can set your price point anywhere along the bell curve, but the consumers ARE the bell curve. Accept it. It doesn’t really matter how much it cost to make the product; it never did. The consumer ultimately sets the price.
Hard goods aren’t a problem. People are willing to pay $30 for a Jagged Spiral hoodie. They know $30 is less expensive than the effort and materials it would take them to make it themselves. But for soft products like music and books, the internet has created a system where the product is an endlessly renewable resource, available from any internet connection, at any time, in infinite supply. Remember the laws of Supply and Demand? Worldwide, instant availability with negligible distribution cost has created a significant shift in what people are willing to pay. It truly has devalued soft products, and the current system has not taken this into account.
For example, you can draw a picture of your stupid kid with his tongue stuck to a flagpole in a Minnesota Deep Freeze, and hang it on the wall of the local coffee shop with a $200 price tag. But scan that same picture to a .jpg and post it on the internet. How much is that worth?
What is the cost of your picture done in Charcoal on Canvas, versus the cost of your JPG? Whatever people are willing to pay for them. The questions you *meant* to ask are: What are people willing to pay for Charcoal on Canvas, and what are people willing to pay for digital bits on the internet? OK, how much would it cost them to exactly duplicate your Charcoal on Canvas? Let’s see…Art Supplies, Art Lessons, then the time required to duplicate your every stroke, or possibly contract an artist willing to duplicate your work for a lesser price… OK, now how much would it cost them to exactly duplicate your jpg? Click, paste, done.
And song downloads from I-Tunes are a dollar each? So a 12-song CD that used to cost $12 is still…$12???? Why should people pay the same price for downloaded, mp3-compressed, DRM-infected files that they pay for the higher quality and unlimited use of the physical CD? Wrong, wrong, wrong. Some people buy the DRM-infected files because it’s convenient, or because they want the song badly enough, but they shouldn’t have to. The price is too high.
The New System will have to take this into account. The more the prices line up with what the consumer is willing to pay, the less attractive the piracy options becomes. If piracy abounds, that’s an indicator your prices are too high. That is why bands like Radiohead are jumping onto the model that Jagged Spiral devised: post the media online for free, and let the customer pay what they want. This might be the New System. It might not. But it holds to the rule that the product is worth what the customer is willing to pay.
It could turn out that artists are not able to make a living on this system, especially if their art is crap.
3) Convenience – The customer can’t get the product more conveniently anywhere else.
Which do you think is easier?
opening an account on Amazon, entering your personal info and shipping address, agreeing to the No-Privacy Statement (without reading it, natch), entering your credit card info, verifying your e-mail address, going through the checkout line with your purchase…
Downloading BitTorrent, install, type in the name of the album, and downloading to your hard drive?
Admittedly, the online purchasing experience has gotten better. It would be better still if someone could devise a system where the consumer’s online ‘wallet’ was usable at all online locations. Consumers should not have to provide any personal information for a downloadable soft product purchase, and they certainly should NOT have to provide their personal info for each-and-every-website they do business at. You don’t have to go through all that bullshit when you go to a Burger King you’ve never been to before! You shouldn’t need a username and password to make a purchase at amazon.com, or any website! ID and Credit Card, that’s all!
Google, PayPal and Microsoft are working on this, but it just isn’t there yet. This is a major holdup to a New System that would reduce piracy, and there is no reason for it, other than businesses that are not willing to cooperate. They want that user info, they want those e-mail addresses. They want it to be difficult for you to purchase from somewhere else.
The New System should let you make your purchase quickly, securely, and conveniently, without setting up an account on the seller’s website.
When we look at the Current System from the perspectives of Desire, Cost and Convenience, Piracy makes more sense; it offers better product for less money, and it’s easier to access. I’m not advocating piracy, I’m saying the existing system is fucked up, and here is why, so let’s get it fixed so I can buy music online at a fair price and without DRM restrictions.
No System is going to eliminate piracy, there are people who will pirate works simply for the fun of it. But a New System that takes Desire, Cost and Convenience into account could significantly reduce piracy by filling consumers needs, and help artists make a living selling their works online.
My expectations for Hitmanwere average. I didn’t like the video game; staring at the back of some one’s shaved and tattooed head was not gratifying, and the game was nearly uncontrollable. I almost garroted myself more than once trying to play it.
So I was pleased to see the Vin-Diesel-produced movie merely paid homage to the game. There were a couple funny references to the game, the best being when Agent 47 interrupts a couple kids playing the Hitman video game.
Anyway, Hitman was a hit. Better than many of the James Bond films. The plot was good. The fact that there was a plot was better. The main character was played by Timothy Olyphant, and he did a great job of being stoic. The other acting was good to average. Fight scenes were mostly well choreographed, except the train fight scene when everyone agrees to put down guns and draw swords in order to ‘die with some dignity…’ Hmmph.
Unlike the James Bond films, I noticed there was little product placement in the Hitman film. Sobe, Audi, and McDonalds notwithstanding, I never saw a closeup of his cellphone or wristwatch.
And the hot female lead Nika, played by Olga Kurylenko does a realistic job as well, and is obligatorily, scantily-clad. In a daring first for male-lead-shooter-films, the hero does NOT have a sex scene with the female lead. I was disappointed to see him treat her poorly at first.
Hitman – The Short Version
Take a James Bond film with a good plot, remove the sex scene, remove the main character’s hair and sense of humor (possibly the entire personality), and remove the product placement, add a Scotch with Ice instead of a Vodka Martini, and some great locations in Russia, Istanbul and Bulgaria, then you’re got the recipe for Hitman.
I knew Fragile Things was a collection of short stories and poems, and I thought it would be a good way to cover more ground with Neil Gaiman and get a more definitive sense of his writing style. I was right, but I was wrong to approach his writing that way. In the end, Fragile Things was a slight disappointment.
Don’t get me wrong, Neil Gaiman is a very good writer. He has a marvelous tongue for storytelling. Fragile Things runs through past, present and future periods of fantasy and poetry, adult fairy-tales and Gothic nearly-horror. He writes with clever turns of phrase, alternate realities, twisted mythologies, and interesting points-of-view.
But, the Things inside Fragile Things are just too Fragile; unfinished snippets or unused plot branches from other works; roughed-out ideas collected and published once the name “Neil Gaiman” on the cover of the book would sell more copies than anything inside it. (Hint: Check the last few pages to see where all the stories came from and when.) Few of the stories let me in deeply enough to really enjoy them.
So I got what I wanted, but it turns out it wasn’t what I wanted after all. Like I said, the ideas were clever, but not very flushed out. Fragile Things is like walking past the bakery and having a look and a sniff of the whole lot, instead of a solid taste of anything in particular.
So, I can’t really recommend Fragile Things to anyone but the most hardcore Neil Gaiman fans who have read Everything Else and still want more. I’ve added ‘Neverwhere’ and ‘Death: The High Cost Of Living’ to my Christmas list, in the hopes of getting something a little less fragile…
The name Jim Walsh is nearly-famous here in flyover land, as was the band he writes about in his new book, “The Replacements: All Over But The Shouting“. The book release party is coming up, one week from today. (See details below) I’ve mentioned this gig before, but it is worth mentioning again.
As a musician, your art will be referenced to where you make it, and I suspect that if the Replacements had been birthed in California, they wouldn’t have made a single wave, but to flaunt that kind of arrogance and energy *here* in Flyover Land? It’s all about being in the right place at the right time, and the Replacements certainly were.
For those of us who “missed out” on the heyday of the Replacements Era, Jim Walsh lived through it, and kindly provides us a look back into what was happening at the time. His unauthorized documentary on the band, “The Replacements: All Over But The Shouting” was just released on 15 Nov 2007. I haven’t read it yet, and in fact, I meant to go to the Treehouse Records reading/signing tonight, but I discovered that what Jim Walsh meant by “The Wednesday before Thanksgiving” was actually “The Wednesday BEFORE the Wednesday before Thanksgiving” In other words…I missed it. But I fully intend to pick it up at the release party, and I’m really looking forward to some cool bands like Revolver Modele covering a bit of Replacements material for us. (I bet the bands all will fight over who gets to play “Bastards of Young“…)
Book Release Party for “The Replacements: All Over But The Shouting”
Wednesday, November 28
First Avenue Mainroom & The 7th Street Entry 7:00 PM / 18+
89.3 THE CURRENT PRESENTS…
JIM WALSH’S THE REPLACEMENTS:
“ALL OVER BUT THE SHOUTING”
BOOK RELEASE PARTY FEATURING
THE ALARMISTS, BIRTHDAY SUITS, THE EVENING RIG, THE FALLS, THE HONEYDOGS, JEREMY MESSERSMITH, KRUDDLER, THE MAMMYS, MARTIN DEVANEY, ONE FOR THE TEAM with DAVE CAMPBELL, RED FLAGS, REVOLVER MODELE , TERRY WALSH, and TODD NEWMAN
$6.00 advance / $8.00 door