Archive for December, 2004

Monkeebusiness

Note: Linkage gets a bit intense in the following entry.

Thud sent me an e-mail today. Knowing that I’m a huge Monkees fan, he figured I should know that today happens to be the birthday of both Davy Jones and Mike Nesmith. Huzzah!

I don’t know which I’m more surprised by – the fact that Nez is 62 years old or the fact that Davy just released three more albums. I’d say he’s trying to give Frusciante a run for his money, except that most of the tracks on the albums are new versions of old Monkees singles. Davy may have a solo career now, but he knows where he gets his bread and butter.

Nez, meanwhile, has recently put almost his entire library up on iTunes (link goes to Tropical Campfires) – and it’s an impressive body of work. I recommend Tropical Campfires and Infinite Rider on the Big Dogma in particular, although most of Nez’s work is good. You can also find his albums through his own website, the Videoranch. Nez has also released Elephant Parts on DVD.

You can also celebrate Monkeeday by stopping by the iTunes music store and picking up any of the fine albums by the Monkees (link goes to Headquarters). I recommend either Headquarters or Pisces, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Jones, Ltd., and recommend steering clear of Changes and Justus if you’re not a completist. Pool It! is an all right – but not stellar – 80’s reunion album done without the Nez. Make your own call on that one.

Thursday, December 30th, 2004

PodToids…

So, you have your iPod in one pocket, your “emergency” Altoids tin in the other – where do you put your wallet and keys? And, more importantly, the Altoids tin that actually contains Altoids?

This fine Altoids/iPod hack brought to you by the human desire to rip things apart and put them back together again.

Thursday, December 30th, 2004

Oh, Magoo.

“Oh, Magoo. Once again, you’ve mistaken something for something.”
– Homer Simpson

The holiday season means plenty of holiday music. Everywhere. You can’t get away from the stuff. There’s Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas,” Elvis Presley’s “Blue Christmas,” Johnny Mathis’ “Do You Hear My Tremolo,” that God-awful Mariah Carey Christmas album, The Vienna Boys Choir of Repeated Head Trauma’s “Little Drummer Boy” – and if I have to hear Jessica Simpson and her hubby butcher “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” one more time, I may go nuts with a weedwhacker.

So, I’m doing my best to contribute to the insanity.

It’s a well-known tradition that every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings.

It’s a lesser-known tradition that every time Jim Backus sings, an angel denounces God and His works and is cast down from Heaven to spend eternity in the Inferno.

This means that Cartoon Network’s Christmas programming is directly responsible for the increase of evil in the world, as they have insisted upon showing Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol in which the lovable ol’ blind coot goes through the whole Ebenezer Scrooge shtick – complete with original musical numbers.

And, for your listening pleasure (and the increase of evil in the world), Your Pal Doug – who routinely offers out-of-print vinyl as free mp3 downloads – will give you a complete mp3 copy of Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol – the original motion picture soundtrack.

Hurry up and snag it now – I don’t know when he’s going to change it out.

Tuesday, December 21st, 2004

Graduate Schools Beware…

I’ve just received my scheduling information for the U/RTA NUA/I’s in Chicago this February.

For those of you unfamiliar with the alphabet soup that is the vast array of theatrical associations and organizations, U/RTA is the University / Resident Theatre Association. A great deal of the grad programs for theatre in the U.S. are members, as well as a good number of the non colelge-associated resident theatres and a handful of theatre festivals. Among other things, U/RTA arranges the NUA/I’s every year (National Unified Auditions / Interviews), which are invaluable for students seeking placement in MFA programs.

Meanwhile, U/RTA should not be confused with the UPTA’s – the Unified Professional Theatre Auditions. These auditions bring together a lot of the major employers of theatrical professionals for one set of auditions, and they are of great significance to pre-professionals looking for a way into the theatre. U/RTA’s are for those who want their MFA’s, UPTA’s are for those who want a job.

This is in addition to the SETC’s (Southeastern Theatre Conference) where both MFA programs and professional groups from the Southeast audition, the NETC’s (New England Theatre Conference) where theatres from New England audition, the MWTA’s (Midwest Theatre Auditions) and so on and so forth. All in an endless quest for MFA’s, AEA cards, SAG and AFTRA memberships, and the like. Sometimes I think the only sector with more acronyms is the federal government.

Theatre: It’s a whole other alphabet.

Friday, December 17th, 2004

6 Albums, 6 Months…

John Frusciante is about to give a whole lot of musicians an inferiority complex like you wouldn’t believe.

As inconceivable as the concept of recording and releasing six albums in six months may seem, Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante, who is in the middle of doing just that, says the incredulity is all his.

“It’s funny to me that I always have to answer this question about why did I record these albums?” Frusciante told Billboard.com. “I’m a f—-ing musician, why don’t more people record albums this quickly? It seems part of my wanting to do it and part of my disappointment that nobody even knows that I’m doing it, is that people don’t need to take the amount of time that they do between albums.”

Actually, Da Froosh makes a good point. One that has been made before by the at-times prolific output of independent artists like Ani DiFranco (who has gone two years between albums, only to release four albums and a double-CD live recording in a single year). Musicicans feel the need to create. Sometimes the need to create can be sporadic – you can go months without writing a new song. Other times it comes hard and fast, meaning that before one album is finished you have the material for two more.

Of course, Frusciante’s being a little bit unfair. His six albums are largely culled from material that goes back as far as four years ago. While his albums may have all been recorded during his six month hiatus from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, they were recorded after four years of preparation.

Even allowing for that, however, Frusciante is still releasing six albums in a single year. And if you spread the albums out over the complete time that he spent on them, then it comes to an album every eight months.

As we all know, major label artists are incapable of producing more than a single album every two years.

Well, not so much. Most major label artists actually record far more than they release. Sometimes the material trickles out after the artist shuffles off their mortal coil. Sometimes it gets released bit-by-bit to encourage fans to buy box sets containing music they already have in their collection. And sometimes the artist actually manages to get it out on their own. But unless you have the capability of Ani DiFranco, the chances of getting to release an album every time the urge strikes you are very slim.

And that, Froosh, is why more artists don’t release this many albums in a year. Because they’re signed to labels that worry about things like “commercial viability.” Two years between albums gives the labels time to exploit the current album to its fullest extent while allowing just enough time for anticipation for the next album to build. It’s a business decision as opposed to an artistic one.

And that’s the dirty truth.

Thursday, December 9th, 2004

Musings on the Death of TechTV…

I’ve talked a little before about TechTV’s “merger” with the craptastic plastic G4 network, both before and after the final merger. Despite my misgivings, I had hoped that some of the spirit of TechTV would continue on at the new, combined network – that, perhaps, there would be one or two shows that remained watchable.

Of course, as quickly became apparent, G4 had bought the company purely to shut it down. First there was the cancellation of most of the TechTV line-up; the move to Los Angeles; the new, generic, plasticized sets for those shows that remained; the systematic hazing-style embarrasment of the TechTV hosts at their new home; and now the much-ballyhooed cancelling of every TechTV show except for “X-Play” and a new, bastardized version of “The Screen Savers.” And it has now been announced that the channel will no longer be G4TechTV come January, but will “return” to being G4.

An insider’s account of the last days of the independent TechTV is available at TheMacMind.

One Friday morning when I got to work, to my horror, the offices were empty. Adam Sessler was the only one at the X-Play area, and needless to say he was not happy. He directed me down to the Conference room, where I saw most of the TechTV staff crammed into what was a large room. Comcast had just announced that they were firing all the staff at TechTV. They also announced that people had until May 14th to re-apply for jobs in LA. As was pointed out by one member of the audience, this was the week of the largest gaming conference in the US, E3. That’s right, G4 were blissfully unaware that the deadline they had set was right in the middle of E3. At this point I wanted to go and punch the new CEO (G4’s CEO). Fortunately for him, I left. I heard later that G4 had extended the deadline to the following week. As Becky Worley said “Chalk that up to CEO Charles Hirschorn. I’ve met with Chuck, the guy has the leadership abilities of a clam, and about the same personality.”

My first thought was that Comcast were never interested in the content of our shows, rather they where after the 45 million households where TechTV was being shown. That works out roughly to be $5 per household. Over the following weeks, it seemed that a great cloud had set over TechTV, the jovial, exciting place I had come to know and love was slowly being swallowed by the horror that everyones days were numbered. A couple of weeks later, the last episode of Call for Help aired. The next day that I came into work, it scared me. The lack of Call for Help staff generated a deafening silence throughout the office.

The G4TechTV saga is an example of how media mergers can be bad for the consumers in general. In the end, all the merger succeeded in doing was depriving the viewers of a choice. There was little improvement to G4’s line-up, and the destruction of everything that had made TechTV viewers loyal. Perhaps worst of all is that G4’s audience has been different from that of TechTV from the beginning. TechTV targeted computer users of all ages, featuring shows like “Call For Help” that answered tech questions of all sizes. G4, on the other hand, has targeted the gadget-heavy middle-to-upper class young white male with expendable income and an uncomfortable gangsta fetish. The kind of person who will honestly believe that Pringles are the gamer’s chip of choice because it gets less grease on their hands, and who will be convinced to buy a game because Jenna Jameson giggles and bounces as she declares it the sexiest game of the year.

Ah, well – apparently, hard work and community building doesn’t really matter in the media when your competitor ultimately has more money.

Thursday, December 2nd, 2004