More Morrissey than you bargained for.

January 31, 2009

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The Red Hot Chili Peppers have nothing on the Moz. (I like how they hid the fat guy in the back, BTW.)

You know, artistically speaking, Morrissey has aged better than almost all of the artists I liked in college, and I firmly believe that’s because, on some essential level, Morrissey has always been somewhere around 60 years old. Funny that he was always so strongly associated with teenage angst, rebellion and all of that, because I can’t think of anyone more misanthropic and curmudgeonly in a get-off-my-lawn kinda way than the Moz. His new song sounds good, too. Check out the vid, below.

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Change you can click on.

January 20, 2009

Fast Company notes that the Obama Administration didn’t even wait until the body was cold (reptilian, only-technically-alive ex-Vice President Dick Cheney being an exception) to replace the old White House web site (traditional, austere, boring) with a new one (multimedia-driven, color-rich and even includes a blog). See screen-caps of the two sites below:

Bush:

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Obama:

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Of course a president’s merit isn’t be measured by the quality of his online presence. But the tone the Obama administration has set with the new site is a welcome change from the beaurocratic, distant and officious feeling of Bush’s site. If nothing else, it’s a hell of a good start.

[Update: Slate just published a nice little tour/analysis of the site that’s worth checking out.]


I bet Malkmus spells it “phantasy” football.

January 15, 2009

124711__malkmus_lI’m too cool for several things.

I’m too cool to approach famous or semi-famous people in a setting where a conversation between us would never naturally occur.

For example: I went to see Stephen Malkmus in concert last year. Prior to the show, Malkmus walked into the pub where I was having dinner. Now, I wasn’t too cool to text two of my friends to tell him he was there. But I was far too cool to get up and say hi to Malkmus, who was sitting alone sipping water and watching an NCAA basketball tourney game. He gets bugged by strangers all the time. Why interrupt the dude just to have a brief and awkward conversation? I’m way too cool for that.

Another thing I’m too cool for is fantasy sports. I played fantasy football once a couple of seasons ago, just to see what it was like. It was predictably lame, no doubt due partly to the presence of several profoundly apathetic players in my league. By week 7, half the owners stopped bothering to update their rosters. After it was over, I walked away thinking, “Man I’m glad I’m too cool for that, because it’s really boring.”

So you can imagine the vortex of bewilderment I was thrust into when I read, via Deadspin, that Stephen Malkmus is an avid, passionate fantasy sports player. According to an interview with Malkmus at Rotoworld.com (its tagline: America’s #1 Source For Fantasy Sports News!) Malkmus “is one of those guys that who will always field a strong fantasy team, regardless of the sport.”

The writer (who, coincidentally, mentions seeing Pavement in ’95 at Lollapalooza in Indianapolis) continues: “He’s smart, committed, does his research and is active on the waiver wire. Regardless of what else you have going on, those ingredients are the start to a recipe for fantasy success.”

This isn’t some joke article from The Onion. This is a real interview posted on web site devoted exclusively to fantasy sports news. It also tells us that Malkmus’ fantasy sports basketball team is named “Widespread Perkins” and that his wife gets pissed when he’s one the waiver wire while cooking dinner. “It’s better than internet porn, right?” Malkmus quips. “Especially during dinner!”

It’s good to know his wit is still intact. Meanwhile I’m left wondering what to do with this information, or how it will affect the things I thought I was too cool to do. Because Malkmus used to be the poster boy of too-cool. In the early ’90s he was too cool to tune his guitar, sing on key or dress like a rock star. Yet in 2009, he isn’t too cool to utter the phrase, “Baseball is all about the roto, basketball is all about the head-to-head match-ups.” What does it all mean?


Cover your cyber-tracks.

January 14, 2009

I recently started writing a weekly Work & Money column for the Indianapolis newsweekly/social networking web site Indy.com. The most recent installment includes a conversation with the bright folks over at Firebelly Digital. This week’s topic: Why job-seekers need to monitor their online presence.


Masters of the web site.

January 13, 2009

No, they’re not joking.

(Thanks to bnferguson for the tweet.)


Marketing folks jizz in their pants over Whopper Sacrifice.

January 13, 2009

burger_king_whopperBurger King won the enthusiastic admiration of countless creative directors when it launched Whopper Sacrifice last week. Already widely acknowledged as the king (if you don’t mind) of irreverent marketing and advertising (e.g. the Subservient Chicken and the Creepy King), BK hit the jackpot with this clever little Facebook app.

Like most smart interactive marketing gambits, Whopper Sacrifice is simple in its elegance. Users just install it, choose 10 of their Facebook friends to de-friend (or “sacrifice”) and sit back and wait for a free Whopper coupon to arrive in the mail (unless they’re Canadian, in which case they’re screwed.)

It’s a deliciously prankish little game. And it further contributes to Burger King’s status as the rule-breaking smart-ass in the fast food market — an enviable position when your target audience is largely young and male.

Whopper Sacrifice hasn’t come without a price, though. First off, no matter how “cool” the whole shebang might seem to most people, nobody hates a slick, successful online marketing campaign more than young computer hacks. Attempts to hack Whopper Sacrifice have so far been unsucessful. But don’t count ’em out yet. Also, users are finding creative ways to cheat the system. In a particularly pathetic case, this young woman posted a Craigslist ad to recruit new “friends” for the express purpose of de-friending them so she can get her free Whopper without actually offending any of her real online friends.

Really, though, all this attention is exactly what BK wanted. And now matter what you think about them, it’s refreshing to see a big company willing to do the daring stuff their marketing agency (the It boys at Crispin Porter + Bogusky) designs for them. As for me, I won’t be deleting any friends. But that’s because Whoppers are like Boone’s Farm and clove cigarettes. If you’re over 30, you probably know better.


No pleasure. Only pain.

January 8, 2009
Joy Division in 1979. © Paul Slattery / Retna Ltd.

Joy Division in 1979. © Paul Slattery / Retna Ltd.

I can’t recall what motivated me to buy Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures when I was in high school. I may have been drawn to Peter Saville’s excellent cover art — a stark black and white image that resembled a drawing of dozens of tiny mountain ranges stacked neatly on top of one another — and which in reality were the radio waves of a dying star.

What I do recall is my initial reaction to the music. I was nonplussed. Bewildered. Slightly intrigued, but, more than anything else, terribly disquieted. It was icy, terse, neurotic. It sounded like someone trying, unsuccessfully, to work through a terrible mental illness. I didn’t like it. Not at first, anyway.

Joy Division wasn’t the first band I had to grow into. Another one that mightily challenged my then-virgin ears was the Velvet Underground. But that was a matter of sloppiness and shitty production values more than anything. With Joy Division, it was a matter of the band’s unnervingly canny ability to conjure the demons of its lead singer, Ian Curtis. It was disturbing on a very elemental level. Anthony Wilson, founder of the legendary Factory Records, put it this way: “Punk enabled you to say ‘Fuck you’, but somehow it couldn’t go any further. Sooner or later someone was going to want to say, ‘I’m fucked’, and that was Joy Division.”

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Ian Curtis

Unlink so many goth bands — who always seemed comically melodramatic to me — Joy Division had a bone-chilling directness about it. There was no hiding from the pathological despair. The throbbing bass, metronomic drums and deliberate guitar were each eerie and foreboding in their own ways. But most unsettling of all was Curtis’ voice. Blood-curdling in its austerity, it was the sonic equivalent of black.

I finally got around to watching the Ian Curtis biopic Control last night. My initial reaction to it was similar to this one by Noel Murray at the AV Club. Writes Murray:

What [director Anton] Corbijn doesn’t get is any kind of reasonable explanation for how such a normal-seeming guy and the three moderately talented lads he shared a stage with managed to write and perform songs as shattering as “Disorder,” “She’s Lost Control,” “Transmission,” and “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” Something reached down and touched them. But what?

If you’re a Joy Division fan, whether or not you’ll like Control depends on what you want out of it. If you’re cool with a conventional narrative that humanizes Curtis (the other band members are treated peripherally) while revealing how his epilepsy and an unhappy marriage (in which his own unfaithfulness, the movie suggests, exacerbated his depression) led to his suicide, you’ll find it satisfying. But if you’re looking for insight into how Curtis and his bandmates managed to write such original and devastatingly dark music, don’t bother. Instead, just watch the Youtube clips. Here’s a nice one.