Friday, May 27, 2005

Something light

For the holiday - I wanted to make things fairly low-key. I just saw Green Day at the Qwest. I initially said I would put in my 'top ten' but I started thinking and I do have to say the show just missed my top ten - joining the ranks of The Eels at the Ranch Bowl in Omaha in 2003 and Def Leppard in Omaha in 1987 and the Beastie Boys with Fishbone and Murphy's law in 1987 for their Licensed to Ill Tour.

So - here's my informal 'Top Ten' list for best concerts I've attended.

10. Pearl Jam/Bad Religion - Red Rocks Stadium (Colorado) - 1995. This was during their Vitology tour. Besides Bad Religion's near-flawless set and Pearl Jam being on top of their game, the nostalgia of seeing Red Rocks for the first time put this above such stellar shows as Green Day in Omaha and The Eels at the Ranch Bowl.

9. Beck/The Flaming Lips - Orpheum Theater (Minneapolis) - 2002. Beck touring for Sea Change. The Flaming Lips touring for Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. Beck at his heartfelt best.

8. The Flaming Lips - Knickerbockers (Lincoln, NE) - 2000. I'm still trying to figure out how they put on a show that was supporting what NME called 'Album of the Decade' in a dingy bar that could sit barely more than a thousand people. With band-issued headphones passed out to the crowd and talking sock puppets, the worldwide scope of The Soft Bulletin was reduced to a beautiful essence - even the beer tasted supernatural.

7. Reverend Horton Heat - Royal Grove (Lincoln, NE) - 1997. It's Martini Time was the album. To that point, I had never seen a mosh pit so frenzied and so intense. My friend was lost in the mosh pit for almost a minute, he came up, lost his shirt in the pit and I got my first chance to see the 'Rev stand up on Jimbo's upright bass like a crazed surfer. Absolutely amazing.

6. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Sokol Hall (Omaha, NE) - 2004. A sold-out show. At the top of their game. Karen O coming onstage wearing a utility belt that was circa era Luke Skywalker 1977. Yeah, Karen O is rock-star-worship worthy, but Nick Zinner was the unsung hero of the night for his guitar antics.

5. Pixies - Pershing Auditorium (Lincoln) - 2004. Ever wish you could see a band that broke up long before you formed a love for them. Ever have that band reform, but when you saw them, the band was a pale imitation of their prior glory, making the nostalgia all the more bitter to swallow? Didn't happen when the Pixies reunited last year. Thank god - now let's just hope Husker Du can do the same.

4. Radiohead - Alpine Valley amphitheater (East Troy, Wisconsin) - 2003
Finally got a chance to see this band. I've been building up more than six years of anticipation on how these guys would perform live. They didn't disappoint. Highlight of the show: being scrunched in with thousands of other geeks, on a grassy hill that felt like you were going to fall over into a human boulder - and having that energy explode when the band tore into "2+2=5."

3. Tori Amos - Midland Theater (Kansas City) - 1994
Couldn't have been a more elegant place to see Tori Amos support Under the Pink. Her other shows at the Orpheum in Omaha were solid, but this was the first time I saw her - and the only time where her albums didn't contain a smidgen of filler.

2. U2 - Arrowhead Stadium (Kansas City) - 1992
The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy and the Sugarcubes opened up. U2 was supporting Achtung Baby. Bush I was about to get the boot - and partial thanks was because of MTV and U2. It was a big event - big and bloated - with vid walls and old cars used as spotlights. Long before webcasts, this was one of the foundations on how concerts were to be judged. Ask anyone who saw this concert in their late teens and early '20s and you'll get basically the same response: most kids felt like they could change the world after seeing this show - or at least have a helluva story to tell their grandkids on how they were AT the Achtung Baby tour.

1. Morphine - Music Hall (Lawrence, KS) - 1997
No question. The opening act couldn't perform, so Morphine simply opted to put on a longer show instead of string out the anticipation. Mark Sandman was the epitome of cool and the venue was perfect for the band's ultra-intense coolness. The venue's single Jack and Cokes were actually doubles. The audience lapped up Sandman's beat-poet banter with the audience and Dana Colley's dual-saxophone attack so much that the audience didn't let the band leave the stage until they heard basically their entire catalog - and a few quirky tunes in-between. I wanted to move to Lawrence for three years after seeing this show. RIP - Mark Sandman.

Disclaimer - this list subject to change as I'll be seeing Neko Case on June 6 and Wilco with the Roots on June 17 at Red Rocks...

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Masked and anonymous (sources)

"Is it worth the aggravatiooooonnnnn, to find yourself a job when there's nothing worth looking for?" - Oasis - "Cigarettes and Alcohol"

- 179 resumes printed and sent
- two drawers full of clips - one for edited copy, one for clips

Resume posted on,, University of Nebraska Medical Center,, University of Nebraska and about a half dozen more that most likely need updating because I learned a better word for 'impact'. Resume updated in three formats, all on nice, sandstone-resume paper from Kinkos; each resume geared toward a specific market (one freelance, one techical writing, one newspaper). Two 3x5 spiral notecard books (75 count) filled with job leads, contact person, when I sent the resume, contact person's email, phone extension and the materials I sent.
... welcome to the job search for the 21st century.

And it doesn't end here. There's always a better way to say 'compiled,' 'assisted' and 'led.' The column format that was so praised by a resume expert gets ripped to shreds and you're asked to resubmit it in a more organized, horizontal format. All of this stuff will lead to a better opportunity, but after working a nine-and-a-half-hour day, it's the last thing you want to do - go out and fight another battle, revise your strategy and get back in the ring for Round 34. It could be far worse - you could not have a job and have to do this. Like exercise, every workout will produce a great result down the road. But... bloody hell, competing in a globalization society with approximately two million new grads can suck all ass.

Media topic - Newsweek and New York Times
So, Fox News and Rush Limbaugh basically say Newsweek killed more than a dozen protesters by running a story that had to be retracted. However, Hamid Karzai said the riots had virtually nothing to do with the Newsweek article. No doubt Newsweek did a stupid thing. And if I read one more "a senior official who spoke on condition of anonymity said she was 'concerned' about Bush's stance on such and such..." - I'm going to freak. I understand anonymous sources are needed in the media, but the reasons that papers are giving sources anonymity has to either get a lot stricter or the reason for giving anonymity to sources needs to be made a helluva lot more clear.

Different media topic (sort of) - but still relating to the Newsweek article - I'm renting the second season of '24' again - the one with the fabricated tape that tried to get three countries into war with the U.S. Yeah, this is a fantasy show, but when that season first came out in 2002-03, I was worried that after the nuke exploded, the last half of the season would get preposterous because, come on... using false information as a means of going to war with a country? (what a difference a few years makes). Anyway - in the age of improved technology, journalists are going to have to not only become journalists, but cops, detectives and CIA operatives as well. It's only going to get easier to make convincing forged documents and even doctored photos and recordings. This happened when Photoshop initially came out - people were worried that newspapers may accidentally run fabricated photos out of ignorance, but with the exception of a few major screw-ups, this never came to be a huge problem. And nothing still beats good old fashion intuition and hunches. But still, with deadline pressures, low paying jobs and newspapers forced to do more with less in the face of lower circulation, it looks like there is a recipe for more Newsweek and 60 Minutes 2 - type gaffes in the future, not less.

Listening selections
Sleater-Kinney - The Woods
Modest Mouse - The Moon and Antarctica
Paul Westerberg - Stereo
Oasis - Definitely Maybe

Sunday, May 15, 2005


Recently, there's been a lot of talk about activism - namely 'activist judges.' It strikes me that when judges become activist when it comes to enforcing laws such as requiring the ten commandments be posted in judicial courthouses, or in the case of the 2000 election, judges are upholding the law. However, in other cases, such as the case in the striking down of the 416 law in Nebraska - it's almost like a declaration of war on the Christian right. Keep in mind that some of our proudest moments in our country came from judicial activism - namely, some of the key decisions on the civil rights movement (namely Brown vs. Board of Education).

Far less serious topic...
Took my nephew to see his first concert tonight - Green Day at the Qwest Center in Omaha. Hats off to Green Day for giving him a memorable first-time experience as a concert goer. My vocal cords are already beaten raw by a cold (most likely acquired from trying to find my car after seeing Bright Eyes and the Faint at the Mid America Center and walking through a torrential downpour for 30 minutes) - the smoke from the floor of the Qwest Center and my occasional lapse into teenage geekdom by jumping and screaming is going to do wonders on Monday.

Anyway - yes, for the punk pretensions crowd, the Green Day concert reeked of the very excess of rock that punk was trying to destroy in the 70s: huge pyrotechnics, dumb shout-alongs from the crowd and a ton of confetti dumped on the floor during an encore. But, I have to cry 'uncle' on this one - it was one of those great moments as a concert goer - seeing a not-bad-at-all concert through the eyes of an estatic, firsttime, 14-year-old concert goer (who, by the way, owns Radiohead's The Bends AND OK Computer).

I will rattle off some highlights, since I'm still recovering from a massive cold and needing to get to bed before going to my technical writing job tomorrow and draft up some documents that no one will read and work in a cubicle where no one will notice whether or not I'm there - Billy Joe Armstrong dragging a novice drummer, guitar player and bassist from the crowd to play a number - and then giving his guitar to the elated Iowa-raised guitarist and forcing the drummer to take a stage dive, a blistering opener of "American Idiot" in front of a Nazi-like backdrop of the Green Day American Idiot logo, and in a moment where I probably went into embarrassing uncle mode (read... jumping up and down like I was on an invisible pogo stick) with Green Day's absolutely devastating performance of "Jaded."

The concert ended around 10:30 - plenty of time to take my nephew home, talk about the concert to my sister (half-jokingly saying to her that we're even for her taking me to see The Beastie Boys and Fishbone in 1987) and have me just miss the final moments of Aqua Teen - Hunger Force on the Cartoon Network. Yes, I saw ... And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, The Shins and Bright Eyes/The Faint within two weeks, but I relent, I didn't have nearly as much fun as seeing Green Day in concert. Maybe because it's the release of hearing such an articulate response to what it's like to live in post 9/11 America, or the fact that ... face it... - they may just write really, really good songs, but I will have to put seeing Green Day during the height of their American Idiot tour in my 'top 10 concerts of all time' list while the Shins and ...Trail of Dead will most likely be forgotten in a few months. Yes, it was cliched, with their cover of "We Are The Champions" and the endless "Somebody say 'heayahhh'" crown banter, but, as journalists, we know that sometimes cliches work and are necessary. Bravo, Green Day, for making a believer out of a cynic and giving my nephew an unforgettable first-concert memory, and thanks for playing "Jaded."

Current listening selections:
The Eels - Blinking Lights and Other Revelations
Green Day - American Idiot
Green Day - International Superhits
Aimee Mann - The Forgotten Arm

Thursday, May 12, 2005

My Commencement Address to the News Editorial Class of 2005

I caught Bright Eyes and The Faint last night at the Mid America Center. I will be the first to concede that I was about ten years too old to fully be part of 'the crowd.' It's going to be really interesting when I take my 14-year-old nephew to see Green Day. (continuing my family tradition first adopted by my sister, who, despite her refusal for listening to anything heavier than Styx or Kenny Loggins, fearlessly took me to see the Beastie Boys and Fishbone during their 'Licensed to Ill' tour in 1987). Anyway - I saw one of my journalism grad buddies - who is about 27 now - wearing denim Capris and a lace, thrift store Ballerina top over those Capris. All that was missing was a polka-dot, Hello Kitty purse to mask her desperation to remain cool. I believe she works for an insurance company now. And making more than she would working at a newspaper.

I'm in the same boat. I got out of the full-time journalism game to take a job as a technical writer for a medical software company. The job gives me full authority, I have virtually no supervision and I can listen to NPR (right now Ridley Scott dissecting his masterpiece 'Blade Runner' right now on Studio 360) and CDs all day. And it pays the bills.

But I'm still kicking myself for not taking a copy editing job in Bend, Oregon a few years ago. I justified this career decision by saying that I didn't want my eight years of hospital radiology experience (I worked there for eight years to pay for school) to go to waste. I justified it by saying that I can learn new technology like RoboHelp, FrameMaker and DreamWeaver and keep myself relevant in the marketplace. But - it came down to being able to live alone and pay for a car payment, student loan and your average credit card debt vs. having a roommate and working a second job waiting tables and working at a paper.

I can imagine a lot of kids feel the same way. It doesn't help that some of our journalism peers call us "sellouts" for taking corporate jobs. I keep vowing to get a freelance job, but securing a national freelance gig that pays is about as difficult as beating Halo on the 'Nightmare' level in one setting.

It's not just the money. As far as occupations go, the public trusts the media about as much as lawyers and porn producers. True, the public doesn't rave about the media, but they also don't rave about the drinking water - I think it's just one of those aspects of life where the majority of people are cynics. In essence, you're going into a job where people already hate you. You're also entering a market where newspaper sales are plummeting (why clutter your house with paper and coupons for processed cheese when you can read most articles on the Internet for free?), some press corps members and even networks are turning into propaganda machines and not legitimate news sources, forcing an average reader to get one take from NPR, another take from Fox news, maybe some Salon, Slate or BBC to balance things out for one damn story and finally, you see stuff like Iraq and Afghanistan take a back seat to runaway brides. This business is not for the weak.

Still, you can do it. When I was making $10 an hour as a copy editor during an internship, I somehow made ends meet. If you feel it in your gut that you have to be a journalist, that's going to be something that will eat you away if you don't at least give it one half-ass shot. Besides, that hunger in your gut will always bring journalism out of its doldrums. So, best of luck to you. Just don't be hating us folks on the sidelines who are still looking for the perfect freelance gig (that pays - that's the key).

Music topic - The Shins
I'm beginning to think The Shins's Oh Inverted World will be the cult album of this decade. It came on the scene more than three years ago, but if you catch Amazon's best sellers, it remains on their Top 50. Yes, Garden State has something to do this - but there is something to be said for word of mouth. In a few years, it could be one of the only 5-million-plus selling albums that probably sold about around 10,000 copies a week at its height ... however, as long as colleges have freshmen and sophomores, it's pretty safe to assume that this album is going to sell 10,000 copies a week for a few years.

Music selections of the day:
Bruce Springsteen - Devils and Dust
The Clash - s/t
The Shins - Oh, Inverted World
Fountains of Wayne - Utopia Parkway

Friday, May 06, 2005

Scopes and fluffier topics

It was just announced on the news that Boise, Idaho and Austin, Texas were some of the best places to find a career. New graduates, take note - Austin is an especially hip city to live in - if you can handle the humidity.

NPR's Morning Edition program is doing a segment on Christianity in politics. Today, they are focusing on Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, two of the more extreme representations of Christianity doctrine. It would be nice to have some of the moderate voices start appearing out of the woodwork. Just goes to show you how similar Muslim and Christian religions are in terms of their political clout in their own regions; both have a way of suppressing the more moderate voices in favor of the more dynamic/extreme voices.

Speaking of religion, this week marks the anniversary where John Scopes was arrested for teaching evolution in a classroom. Coincidentally, Kansas is currently rehashing this trial at this very moment. The argument is basically to let other viewpoints be taught and put the focus on categorizing evolution as a theory. Ok - but why is this one specific theory being attacked? When the theory of relativity is taught, it's usually not given a disclaimer. While I agree that Darwin's theory is still a theory and not a fact, it's as close to a fact as I can imagine in the science world. Horses originally had toes. We grew thumbs. Even the former Pope said that evolution could very well be in God's plan. Just like the argument that social conservatives have about judicial activism (would James Dobson label a judge 'activist' if he or she used their authority to put the Ten Commandments on the steps of a state court?), it appears that those who argue against the filibuster and against having Darwin's theory be one of the primary cornerstones of biology are not necessarily concerned with judicial activism or scientific theory at all. It's just a veiled attack against anyone who doesn't share their beliefs that the Earth is about 12,000 years old and a holy war is imminent because people watch "Desperate Housewives" and "Sex in the City."

Anway - different, lighter topic...

I know these albums were made while Green Day was making American Idiot, but it seems like the concept album is making quite the comeback. True, The Flaming Lips sort of got the ball rolling with The Soft Bulletin and Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, but artists who you generally wouldn't associate with big concept albums have released their own - namely The Eels Blinking Lights and Other Revelations and Aimee Mann's The Forgotten Arm. Out of all the new/big releases this past month (Springsteen, NIN, Garbage, Aimee Mann), The Eels has been receiving the most glowing reviews. Blinking Lights... is a beauty of an album; sad, morose and with 33 tracks - bloated. Not an album to listen to during a workout or if you are already in the throws of a deep depression (unless you like listening to depressing music). Aimee Mann's release is more focused and catchier. Both are worthy investments.

Current listening selections:

Aimee Mann - The Forgotten Arm

The Eels - Blinking Lights and Other Revelations

Radiohead - OK Computer

NIN - With Teeth

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Dumb pride and prejudice

Had a good conversation with a friend about prejudices today. The topic definitely is surfacing due to Dr. James Dobson's claim that the democrats are attacking people of faith when it comes to Bush's judicial nominees. (Pay no mind that number-wise, the number of nominees that have been approved under Bush's wing is about the same as the number of judicial nominees approved when Clinton was in office.) I tend to be prejudice as well - when I meet with a supporter of Focus on the Family, I will have a prejudice that this person is going to be a closed-mined, Bible-beating hypocrite - but it's important to be keep your prejudices in a critical realm. Still, I have to admit - it was fun running off a list of my prejudices.

Here's a short list of people who I'm prejudice against:

Nerds (not geeks, we'll get into that difference in another Blog)
Critics that already have an album review written before an album comes out (e.g. - put a '90s has been label on any artist who came of age in the '90s (so far, I've seen this applied to Beck, Garbage AND NIN).
Drama queens who can't spin their self-pity into an engaging story
Carb-phobic people
People who constantly talk about their 'core' (thank pilates for this)
SUV drivers
Hummer drivers (one of the only groups I freely discriminate against)
Pavement fans with no sense of humor
Hipsters who use the word 'hipster' at least five times a day
Moral value Republicans
Promise Keepers
Anyone who doesn't have one Bob Dylan CD in their collection
Gay men over 25 who use 'boi' in their screen name
People who take sections of the New York Times that you paid for from your couch at a coffee house and get offended when you refuse to let go of it.
People who don't critically discriminate

See?! It's fun to rally off a list. I invite anyone who wants to list their prejudices to post as well. Just so we have the understanding that these are prejudices. Deep down, we as civilized people need to give each person the benefit of the doubt. However, be honest, how many times have you formed a prejudice in your mind about a driver ahead of you - you think "this jerk's going to cut me off, I just know it" - and that person does exactly what you predicted?

Oh, and a real quick thanks to Aimee Mann, Nine Inch Nails and The Eels for emptying my wallet this week. Would have rocked to get these releases spaced out a bit.

Listening selections for the day..
Nine Inch Nails - With Teeth
Aimee Mann - The Forgotten Arm
Bruce Springsteen - Devils and Dust
Sonny Rollins - Saxophone Colossus
Wilco - Summerteeth