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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Progression Through Unlearning

I knew this would eventually get out there somewhere, but a portion of a book by a former Victory Records employee leaked online and was linked on Idolator. As someone who read the full chapter earlier this year, I found what was said just heartbreaking. It's the kind of heartbreaking stuff that can make me feel very jaded about the music industry in general. I know this is a business selling musical products, but I know listening and discussing music is a part of it as well. I enjoy the latter way more than the former, so maybe that's why I've never fully ventured into a career in the music industry.

From what I've seen in the last ten years, my perception of major and indie labels has changed quite a bit. I had never heard of an indie until Nirvana broke through. (You mean they cut an album before Nevermind and it only cost $600?) Following a whole slew of Alternative Nation bands in the following years meant hearing more about the independent labels they came from. I never fully bought into the idea that major labels were the Devil, but I always thought indies were a safe haven. Boy was I wrong.

Indies have their faults, as do major labels. Anybody can screw over a band and it's not just labels. If you want to do your band beyond a passionate hobby, you'd be wise to understand this. There is no cut and dry path for every band. It's wise to explore your options because selling yourself short is probably far worse than selling out.

There are so many different independent labels out there and not every one does follows the paths of Dischord and Touch & Go. Enough people still believe that an indie is virtuous while a major is venomous, but that has been slowly changing since 1994. Labels like Epitaph, Fat Wreck Chords and Vagrant evolved from being bedroom operations to fully functioning labels after the Nineties pop-punk boom and subsequent institutionalization of the Warped Tour. The kind of reach they have is popular enough to warrant pundits claiming they're too popular. In other words, they've become as hated as major labels in certain circles.

Sure, reading about shady, mafia-like deals to get songs on Top 40 radio in the book Hit Men makes me forget my previous line of thought (good music sells and sells itself). But music is still music to me and I'm not sure anything can fully taint that view. With the responses to the leaked Victory Records chapter, I realize I'm not alone in my lack of sympathy for their troubles. But I still rock out to Snapcase's Progression Through Unlearning, Thursday's Full Collapse and Taking Back Sunday's Where You Want to Be.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Physical or Digital?

As our music collections take up more and more hard drive space than shelf space, I pose a question: do you feel closer to music in a physical form or digital form? For me, as nice as it is to have a portable digital jukebox, I'm not about to jump ship on the physical format any time soon.

MP3s are convenient, but there's a more intimate value with holding a CD or vinyl record. Having the album's cover pop up on iTunes is just not the same. "Value" is the key word as I wonder how much of value something is when it's a phantom, ones-and-zeros kind of thing. Plus, when you can get so quickly and easily (and free in a lot of places), is there any value?

This is not exactly the same, but what if this was seventeen years ago and you replaced your entire vinyl and CD collection with dubbed cassette tapes? You may save on space, but what about the connection to the music itself? Case after case of handwritten liner notes with no real distinction between them is what I'd see them as. Plus, I couldn't claim I really owned this stuff.

It's been six years since I was in college (when CD-Rs, burning and peer-to-peers exploded), but I still feel weird about having burned CD-Rs. I have numerous spindles filled to the brim with copies of mix CDs, full albums, EPs and so on. But the most I listen to one of them is in the car. Usually, six of my eight sleeves in my CD wallet are CD-Rs because of safety reasons. I know quite a few people who lost almost all of their CD collections because they put them in a large case in their cars. If my car was to be broken into and the CDs were taken, I'd probably lose about five dollars worth of CD-Rs. In other words: no big loss.

CD is still my preferred way of listening to music. The sound is still far better than any MP3 or vinyl I've heard. Maybe that shows my entry point to music as a child of the Eighties, but that's the way it is. But I wonder about kids who were born after Napster and the iPod broke through. I doubt the connection to music in general will be substantially less, but the disposable nature of current listening habits makes me wonder.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Like You Were Never There

There's no shortage of columns, books, podcasts, movies, or songs about breaking up with a boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse. Yet the kinds of break-ups I've experienced more than any other -- aside from drifting apart from close friends -- is being kicked out of a band.

I've often heard being in a band is like being married to two, three or four people. I agree. Most people can only handle being with one person; so trying to juggle more than one is rather difficult. It can be difficult to start/join a band playing the kind of music you like with people you like. But when you find the right vibe and the vibe lasts, it's pretty cool.

I've enjoyed every band I've played in, but it's been difficult to get over the two times I was laid off/dumped/fired/replaced. Two seems like such a small number, but there were more than two emotions I went through in the partings of ways. Here's a summary:

Band #1: A five-piece in a nearby town had a demo I heard through a friend at the campus radio station. I really liked what I heard: rather dark, Samiam/Pop Unknown style of emo-ish post-hardcore. Turns out, they needed a drummer. I contacted them and set up an audition. I passed my audition, got along great with everybody and became pretty close friends with the lead guitarist.

Length of stay: Only a couple of months.

Number of shows played: Other than playing one song at the Ridglea Theater to an audience of three people (soundman included), none.

Story behind being let go: Mere days after I received a phone call from the lead guitarist saying I was now the permanent drummer, I get a call from the singer. I never received a phone call from the singer before and I got a little nervous. Turns out, they wanted to go on tour for a couple of weeks that summer -- the same summer I was going to live in Austin while I did an internship. Even though I was returning to town the following fall semester, they wanted to move on without me. I felt weird about it, but I really wanted to do this internship in Austin.

Aftermath: Because I liked the music and the band as a whole, I invited them for a interview on my radio show later that fall. The interview went alright despite some awkward moments. It would be the last time I spoke to them for quite a while. If memory serves me correctly, I made a few attempts to stay friends with the lead guitarist. Numerous phone messages were left, but he never called back.

----

Band #2: College friends of mine had a rotating drummer position and I offered to fill-in with them until they could find a permanent drummer. I liked the music and the people and I had the time to help out, so it was a perfect fit.

Length of stay: One year. Much longer than normal fill-in situations.

Number of shows played: At least a dozen. Also did two radio appearances and sat in on an interview for a local paper.

Story behind being let go: These guys wanted to "make it" in the music business. They wanted to go on tour and play music that actually said something intelligent. I do not fault them for this. They knew that I couldn't drop everything and go on tour if they got an offer from a label or a booking agent. No offers were coming in, but they hoped it could happen soon.

Due to scheduling conflicts with my work, they opted to record an EP with another drummer. Before they recorded this, I was told to my face that I was loved by them and I was their drummer. Only a few weeks later, I was having a hard time getting ahold of the guitarist, my main contact with the band and also one of my best friends. This was odd because he was always very swift in returning my phonecalls.

Receiving a call from the singer -- like Band #1, the one member I rarely talked to outside of the band -- he told me the band decided it was a good time to find a new drummer.

Aftermath: I was actually pretty relieved. I wanted to start playing with some new people, but didn't want to leave my friends hanging. But the sour grapes came in when my attempts to maintain a friendly relationship with the guitarist resulted in numerous unanswered phone messages. Things didn't help when I heard the EP they recorded: the drum parts I wrote were completely reworked. It was almost like I was never in the band.

---

The experiences I have with being kicked out still haunt me. I never want to let the team down, so I have a hard time telling bandmates whenever I have a scheduling conflict with a gig or recording date. I worked hard for where I'm at job-wise. I've never considered taking shit jobs in hopes I could quit them and do music full-time. I love playing music, but when playing with a band is greatly overshadowed by the business of the band, it becomes an unhealthy environment.

This said, these experiences help me have a better perspective with the bands I'm in now. I choose to speak up and convey my feelings about stuff, but it can be a little difficult at times. I don't really want to go through similar situations with future bands, but if it happens, it happens. That's a part of the growing process.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Speed Read

I'm now 355 pages into Deathly Hallows, but I'm still nowhere near finishing this book. Devoting about 2-3 hours a day reading it, I can't help but think about the people who have been able to read all 700+ pages in a matter of hours. How in the world can people read so fast and remember what they read?

For me, when I read, I try to imagine what I'm seeing. Rowling has a wonderful way of explaining the world of Harry Potter and I want to be fully engulfed in that world. I try to read every word, but tend to skip over a few words here and there describing people's reactions to dialogue (ie, "Ron twitched" and "Harry sighed"). Not only that, but I'm trying to remember six books worth of material as I read this one. Rowling skillfully reminds the reader what's what without insulting those who have read the previous books over and over again. Still, there's a lot of information flying around my head.

I remember a few years ago hearing from a friend that he read The Sorcerer's Stone in one night. I found that to be an incredible feat; he thought it was just an easy read. Not me: it took me a couple of weeks to read the whole thing. I argue I'm reading and processing the whole thing at the same time. It takes me a while.

So, for you readers, can you read a book at a brisk pace and remember what you read?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Dinner for Five

Since I still don't have IFC, I have yet to watch a lot of episodes of Dinner for Five. I rented the first season via Netflix and have watched various episodes on YouTube and have loved what I've seen. Now that the entire season is available to buy, I really don't have any more excuses. Where else can I see uncensored roundtable discussions featuring people like Kevin Smith, Rob Zombie, Bruce Campbell and Vince Vaughn talking about their working experiences? Definitely not anywhere else on TV.

Call it "bullshitting," but I find a lot more meat in the discussions as compared to other quickly-paced shows claiming to be about entertainment and/or Hollywood. Be it Roger Corman talking about how his low budget movies rarely lose money or Mark Hamill talking about his voiceover experience as the Joker, this goes beyond the standard chitchat. Actors can talk all they want about how much fun a film was to make and how brilliant the director was while reporters can talk all about how money the actor was paid to do the film, but that just doesn't interest me. There was a time when it did, but that time has long passed.

I don't enjoy listening to fluffy talk, but I don't enjoy excessive mudslinging or sour-grapes either. Thankfully, the show walks a clear line between all of this. It's the kind of stuff that would only really be brought to life on a commentary track or a book. Besides, you can't talk for four hours straight about all things fluffy or sour without getting tired of it.

One other thing I should mention: I really dig how a lot of rumors get cleared up on the show. I'm talking about rumors that make headlines and fall into lore because they're never fully explained. If you never saw the episode featuring Jon Favreau's Daredevil co-stars, you'd think Kevin Smith and Favreau still have a beef with each because of a comment Favreau made while doing press for Made. It's cleared up right away in the episode and it's a pretty funny moment. Frankly, this is way more compelling than reading and believing what the IMDb "trivia" section says about this kind of stuff.

Dinner for Five may only really appeal to the people that want to learn more about the entertainment industry beyond EPK-fare. It may suck that Favreau is not doing any new episodes. But I say at least it's out there and people can find it . . . and not have to pay the hefty price for a top-tier cable package that has IFC.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Meadowlands

200 pages into Deathly Hallows and I still haven't checked out any spoiler sites (though I did take some peaks at future chapters). While I'm at a good stopping point, I wanted to share my experience of seeing one of the best shows I've ever seen . . . and it was this past Friday night.

New Jersey's finest the Wrens came back to Denton on another one of their weekend tours. Due to job and family commitments, the band has been doing these kinds of mini-tours for quite a few years now. Because of the responses found with Denton audiences, they always put it on their schedule. Winding down another tour, they hit up Hailey's on Friday.

Though I've never heard any of their records before, it felt like I had been listening to these guys for years. Moody interludes weaved with pumping songs sounds like a formula done way too many times, but if it's done right, it doesn't matter. These guys played well and were incredibly sincere about every note they played, lyric sung and in-between song banter said. I wouldn't go so far and say they played like it was their final show, but it was close enough. Hopefully a new record will come out later in the year or next year.

What was also inspiring was how well these guys have aged. If you only looked at the band members instead of listening to their music, you'd think they were more apt for the county fair/wedding circuit. The drummer looks like a PE couch and one of the guitarists looks like he could be in the current line-up of Chicago. Nevertheless, when they played, they weren't trying to recapture their youth or pretend to be someone they weren't. They were themselves.

In a time when I wonder if how many music "fans" are really just serial downloaders with no real allegiance to bands that aren't talked about on MP3 blogs, I wasn't seeing this at the show. The place wasn't packed to the gills, but it was well attended by people of all ages. Heck, Jason and I might have been the only few up front who weren't singing along. When fifty members of the audience came up on stage to bang on the floor with drumsticks or bare hands, it was about creating a moment that you definitely couldn't have at home listening by yourself. Like the show as a whole, it was a purely tribal moment. And a fantastic one at that.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Supply and Demand

All this talk about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows leaking online reminds me of the record number of 12 million copies for its first pressing. Feeling 98% sure I will find plentiful copies at the Borders near my favorite Saturday lunchtime spot this weekend, I think about supply and demand. Scholastic knows how wide the reach of the series is and chances are very good this first pressing will sell out in a few days. Seeing how well this stuff sells (and keeps on selling well), I wonder about other mass appeal products. Especially one where the demand almost always greatly outweighs the supply: video game consoles.

During my time as a "media specialist" at Best Buy, I experienced months and months of being asked about the availability of GoldenEye, PlayStation 2 and GameBoy Advance. When I heard about similar availability issues with X-Box, X-Box 360, PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii, I wondered when the console industry would get their act straight. What am I missing here folks?

I understand assembling and shipping a video game console requires more parts and labor than printing a 700-page book, but the large demand is pretty much given with any new console. Kids, teenagers and adults want to play these things and are willing to drop hundreds of dollars to get them right away. And it's not like the demand withers away after the first week of sale. Plenty of people still want a Wii, but the chances of there being one at their local retail outlet is iffy.

Aren't gamers annoyed and put off by this? For me, I'm still very satisfied with PlayStation 2 and enjoy playing Wii Sports on Jason's Wii. I'm not studying up on the latest gadgetry or games, but I still like playing video games in general. If I was really into getting stuff on the day of release, I'd be twice shy when the next big thing came out.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Save us from the ball and chain . . .

I'm this week's guest on Leah's Girl Talk Podqast. The topic: being single while everyone around you isn't. So, think of this as an audio blog post.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Do You Realize?

Watermarked CDs came up during a recent conversation with a music critic I greatly admire. I have yet to review a watermarked CD -- so I have yet to experience this --, but he had plenty of times. I can see why labels take to this method in hopes of curbing online MP3 leaks, yet I wonder how much they realize this a bad thing.

A recent mention on Idolator led me to this post by a music writer receiving a watermarked copy of Eisley's forthcoming record, Combinations. Not only did it not play in his computer, DVD player or car stereo, it wouldn't even play in his "archaic portable CD player." Which led him to ask Reprise/Warner Bros., "Where am I supposed to listen to this CD that you want me to review?" It's a great question. I think the bigger tragedy lies in not reviewing these records in a variety of places, especially the car.

I spend way more time listening to music while I'm in the car. I'm not so sure I would have clung to records like Clarity and Whatever and Ever Amen had it not been for my car stereo. Since I seem to concentrate on music a little better in the car than when I'm at home, the car ride listen is like a litmus test.

When I'm at home, music is more of a background thing. When I'm in the car, it's not. As a matter of fact, a number of records I reviewed for Punk Planet got the car ride test. Reviews of records like Happy Hollow and All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone were greatly informed by this. Had I not felt the experience of "The Birth and Death of the Day" cranking out of my car stereo, I'm not so sure I would have felt so connected to it. I had to feel my spine move during that searing guitar line found halfway into it to understand.

Think about how the sound merely travels in a car. It's like you're in a booth and you don't have to worry about volume. The sound is travelling all around you and there's no real escape. That's a pretty cool feeling -- and it's a feeling you can't get with an iPod, a boombox or even a den stereo. So what do labels want us to say about their limited listening-setting advance copies? Don't listen to this in a variety of places and base everything off of one or two settings? Right . . .

Monday, July 16, 2007

On (Blog) Writing

Donna recently posed an excellent question: is blogging writing? As a blogger since 2004, I'd say yes. But it's not the same compared to what it is traditionally known as writing.

The reason why I blog has a lot to do with not being able to express myself efficiently for a long time. Putting my feelings up in an online space is different than writing them down on paper, but I don't treat this as a lesser form of expression. Sure, it sucks to be lumped in with what Donna put best as "the smiley-laced, ungrammatical and indifferently-punctuated Xangas maintained by a certain demographic." Still, I can't let certain people's ill feelings towards poorly-worded scribbles speak for everyone. Hence why I speak up.

A lot of what fuels my desire to write blog posts (as well as books, record reviews, et al) comes from being in a lot of situations where I was frequently interrupted and my opinions were made light of. People telling me "nobody cares about that stuff" was another one. It felt like I could think all I wanted to, but I could only do such in some dark corner where not too many people would hear or see me.

As melodramatic as that sounds, it seemed like the only thing I could really do. If I wanted to share my enjoyment of NOFX's music in an e-mail discussion list, I'd have to deal with a few jerks that spoiled the whole thing by pretending to be more deadpan than Fat Mike. If I wanted to share my enjoyment of MxPx's music also in an e-mail list, I'd have to deal with super-defensive people constantly quoting scripture. These situations were not conducive to an environment of free expression. Don't believe for a second talking about punk rock is all about being free. A certain number of vocal people want to reinforce boundaries and frankly, it sucks.

Blogging allows me to say what I want, when I want. Sure, I could benefit from an editor check over stuff, but I'm not making anybody pay to read this site. This is me, warts and all, trying to say and share something. Blogs may get a bum rap from its worst writers, but thankfully not all blogs (and bloggers) are alike.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Understanding in a Car Crash

. . . I've too often see(n) people go that route under those auspices and then be pressured for exactly the things they've been told they wouldn't be pressured for.

-- Ted Leo in Punk Planet #78 on major labels courting bands

A recent article on Thursday discusses their split with Island Records. The band's less-than-amicable exit from Victory a few years back was very well documented, as was the band's potential for becoming a massively popular band on Island.

I distinctly remember reading Jim DeRogatis' Guitar World article on screamo and thinking Thursday and fellow Island-mates Thrice were about to become crossover stars. They were supporting intelligent, well-crafted, albeit dark, records and selling out venues left and right. But the buzz didn't seem to last for very long. Both bands got a lot of exposure to new people, but an embrace far beyond the Warped Tour audience just didn't pan out. So it came as no shock when both bands found themselves off the label.

Why I bring all this up is because I find situations like this rather terrifying. You're in a band and want to do it full-time. You have no ambitions to be a rockstar, but you don't want to work crap job after crap job because your band frequently tours and records. Major label reps who really get what your band is about woo you to come to their label. They assure you that you don't have to become Duran Duran in order to break through to a larger audience. Signing a deal that hopefully won't bite you in the ass down the line, things seem to be OK for a while. But, as the Leo quote above says, there are pressures from up above that change the game. (More stories like this can be found in Kyle's extensive article on a number of bands that were signed post-Nirvana and Green Day.)

Frankly, when I hear these turn-the-tables stories in all sorts of life, I'm hesitant to go "the distance." Be it a writer who finds his articles slashed to pieces before it goes to the printer or a filmmaker who finds his labor of love turn into a cheesy star vehicle, I get very nervous thinking something similar will happen to me. I guess hearing all sorts of horror stories out of context reiterates all those Steve Albini and Ian MacKaye interviews I read a few years back. As in, the ones that basically spelled out not bother going into "that world." Yet not everybody makes records that are like what Shellac or The Evens do. The same can be said with books and films. There in lies a really difficult wire to tiptoe around.

It's understandable if you're making something very non-commercial to consider releasing it either yourself or with a small independent label. If Post was a 700-page novella with haikus on every even page, then I shouldn't bother looking beyond the DIY circuit. Since it isn't, there's a lot of "what if?" I want to get this out to people that have heard of these bands and labels but have never understood what was so great about them. So, I'm kicking around a lot of ideas and I am not ruling out working with a known publisher. At the same time, I don't want to get robbed in the process. Nobody ever does, but it seems like so many people fall into this trap all the time.

The idealist in me wants to live a life sans major bumps like heartbreak, massive debt, unbalanced compromise and shattered dreams. Yet there's this feeling that you haven't really lived life until you've been kicked to the ground x-number of times. I understand these are a part of life, but is it too much to ask to not be kicked down so much?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Adams-zed out

After a few listens to Ryan Adams' latest, Easy Tiger, I wondered if my fanaticism for his work has waned. Sure, the record is probably one of his most straight ahead releases, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's one of his best. After eight proper albums, I think I've become Adams-zed out. This got me to thinking about how many albums an artist can release before I start to lose interest. It's an issue of quality, but what determines the quality varies from act to act.

In Adams' case, I was never really taken with the double-disc Cold Roses. So much so that I never ventured to check out Jacksonville City Nights and 29, also released the same year as Cold Roses. Though certain tracks from those records have really caught my ear (especially 29's "Elizabeth, You Were Born to Play That Part"), but there's a lot of material in his earlier catalog that I prefer.

So maybe that's why I'm really looking forward to the long-in-development box set of unreleased albums he cut early into his solo career. Slated for release later this year, full albums such as 48 Hours, The Suicide Handbook, and Destroyer will come out, as well a few other ones. Though thirteen tracks from these albums were originally released on the Demolition compilation, I've always wanted to hear more. I heard some rather poor-quality copies of 48 Hours and The Suicide Handbook a few years ago and hoped better-sounding versions would surface at some point.

Adams definitely writes fantastic songs, but compared to the fan I was back in 2001 to the fan I am now, I have less of a tolerance for his newer material. He's still capable of putting out a new record that I could value as much as Gold, Love Is Hell and Rock & Roll, but I'll have to play this one by ear.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Stay Afraid

With the new work schedule requiring a 4am wake-up call Monday through Friday, there is a desire to get into bed around 9pm. Like a lot of people, it's very hard for me to function off of a couple hours of sleep. Plus, I still think about a tidbit I heard in high school health class: a regular lack of sleep will take years off your life. However, we when we think about our lives in the past, we don't often remember how many hours of sleep we got; we remember what we did during the waking hours. With that in mind, I decided to head on out to see Brooklyn's Parts & Labor play last night.

After just a few months of hearing about them and digging into their records, I wanted to see the band whenever they came through. I missed them a few months ago when they opened for Adult., so when the Big Slavinsky called me about the show yesterday afternoon, I really had no good excuse not to go. Sure, I might be a little sluggish the following morning, but the possibly amazing experience of seeing the mighty Parts & Labor outweighed everything else. In short, my gut instinct was right.

Following a brief set by Ghosthustler, the band wasted no time to get all their gear set up. There was no stage and there was just a PA, some vocal mics, and a monitor. But something felt like this was the perfect setting to see these guys: right up front with barriers or high stages. Personally, I've always liked the danger of being right up front while a band rips away. While it would suck if a tuning peg slashed your face in the process, at least you had a much more personal experience compared to seeing a band play miles away in an arena.

Make no mistake, Parts & Labor is LOUD live. Take all the screaming guitar lines, twitchy keyboard lines, wide open singing and pounding drums from the records and raise the volume level to near-submission. However, that doesn't mean their anthemic, melodic tunes lose their power in the process. Far from it actually. It's the exact kind of experience that translates into a great live band.

For a solid thirty-five minutes, these three guys shined. I've seen bands play much longer sets that never reached the same kind of emotional climax. Opening with "Great Divide" and closing with "Fractured Skies" (two of my favorites, no less), things never dragged. I place a lot of credit with powerhouse drummer Christopher Weingarten for this. His attack never let up, thus allowing his fellow bandmates to drive the songs to the top. This was good reminder about how a drummer can effectively make or break a band live.

With the show coming to a close around 11:35, I was relieved I might get some decent sleep. I did and felt fine this morning. But I can't get this show out of my head. If I missed this show, I'd probably regret it for years. I didn't want to add this missed opportunity with the time I missed Horace Pinker with Miguel Barron on bass and vocals. My geology test the following day made me think I should place academics over the show, but when I got a C on the test, I wondered why I decided to stay home. I could've seen them perform the Barron-sung "Pop Can Park" -- a song they apparently haven't played since he left the band.

So my words of wisdom is this: if there's a show where there are some cons, but some very possibly life-affirming pros, go to it no matter what. You may feel sluggish the next day, but you'll probably remember the show way more than the exact number of hours of sleep you had.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Where You Want to Be

It's pretty interesting to ask why someone lives somewhere. More often than not, there's a really engaging story behind it. I posed the question to fellow blogger Donna and she gave a lengthy response on her site today. I posed it to her because she and her family live in Conway, Arkansas -- a town I had never heard of before. I wondered what drew her there: job, family, good place to raise kids, etc. Reading her response, along with a lengthy conversation over the weekend with a couple friends related to the topic, I got to thinking about why in live in Dallas. No, the town is not as cool or hip as Austin or Chicago, but this is where I want to be.

As much as I loved growing up in New Orleans and Houston, I always loved visiting Dallas. With three pairs of aunts and uncles living in the area, we always went there for either Thanksgiving or Christmas. I don't know if it was the slightly colder temperatures, the farm country in Ennis or the building in downtown Dallas outlined in green light, but something felt really right about Dallas.

After four years in Fort Worth for college, I desired to make the trek across I-30 once I graduated. I didn't make the move until the then-home situation went south seven months later. Plus, the job prospects were more promising living in Dallas seven months later as compared to when I graduated. I was so fed up with the rampant "why bother going to Dallas? We've got everything here" attitude because the town's offerings were rather shortcoming to me. So when it seemed like it was the right time to move, I moved. The job prospects definitely paid off as I landed a producing gig the week I moved in. Coming upon five years living here, Dallas definitely is my second home.

I wouldn't go so far to say that I never want to live in another town, but I have no desire to move out of here anytime soon. If there was something very pressing to move out of here (job, family), I'd move. But Dallas, even with its flaws, is where I want to be at this stage in my life. Chicago is a great town as is Austin, but Dallas feels like where I should be.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Thursday, July 05, 2007

What if Comments Sections Were a Real Place?

One again, a recent post by Noel got me thinking. Along the lines of that Chappelle's Show sketch wondering what the Internet would be like as a physical place, I thought about what a comment section would be like. And it seemed straight out of THX 1138.

Imagine if you will: a brief news item, a diary entry, or a rant written on a wall. Down below the text, responses appear every few minutes. Some responses are poorly-worded and/or filled with typos while others are well-written and thoughtful. Certain comments are defensive, some are of the praising variety and some have nothing really to do with the topic. They're all in the same font, so understanding the comment's tone is almost impossible. A lot of people pass by this wall while this is happening. Some stop to take a look and read the whole everything. Interestingly, the number of lookers is far more than the number of actual people that posted responses.

So, does this sound like the kind of place anybody would really want to go to? Not me. It's too dry and boring in a physical sense. So why do we feel compelled to see this in a virtual sense? Well, I have some theories.

For one, it's automatic feedback. Secondly, it keeps the discussion going. Third, it gives the chance for the reader to speak his or her mind. But more often than not, what I see is a mixture of venting sessions, defensive conversations and sophomoric name-calling. If MySpace makes us all act like we're all in high school, then comments section can make us feel like we're back in kindergarten.

I don't mean to say that all comments sections are a bad, but it's difficult for me to look past the anonymous haters when they show up. I don't even bother reading comments sections on some sites because I don't really care about who was the first to post a response, which band/record/movie is overrated, or why something is "the worst ______ ever."

On this blog, I appreciate comments and I read every single one. I had to put a stop on the anonymous comments last year for various reasons and I haven't regretted that decision. I see my blog as a place I'd like to go to with conversations I often have with people in everyday life. But as a whole, isn't the whole allure about the Internet is to go to a virtual spot where you can do things that you normally can't in the physical world? Would anybody really want to go to the Internet if it really was a physical place?

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Check it Out

One of the greatest innovations in my grocery shopping life is the self-checkout line. My local Tom Thumb put in four stations a few months ago and I find it difficult to ever go back to my old checkout ways. But what's strange is whenever I shop, there is no line at the self-checkout. I'm not complaining, but it seems like other people avoid this spot.

For some reason, the people who don't have a lot of stuff in their carts are more likely to go to the self-checkout. Since my cart is usually a quarter full, I've never wanted to be in a line behind someone who had a full cart. So this self-checkout has been awesome. It's very hands-on, easy and quick. But that's just me; a shopper who shops solely for food to feed myself and no one else.

I wonder if people find this hands-on approach rather daunting. Sure, certain items are difficult to scan, but more often than not, there's at least one very helpful employee standing around willing to give you help. I'm guessing for people that have a lot of stuff in their carts and/or have kids in tow, self-checkout might be a little off-putting.

So clue me in here. Do you like or dislike self-checkout?

Monday, July 02, 2007

A shortage of shorts

Something the Big Slavinsky pointed out a few weeks ago that I hadn't really noticed before: no matter how hot it gets, a lot of male hipsters still wear pants when they're out at bars. I don't know if this is intentional, but I'm trying to understand why.

I've always wanted to dress comfortably, be it in shorts or pants. With the summer months, I often wear shorts because it's hot outside. It doesn't really cool down after sunset, so there's no relief when a show starts at 10. No matter how strong the A/C is inside, pack a bar with people and it's not going to be much better.

This might be stretching things, but is there some correlation between shorts and the kinds of dudes that wear flip-flops, listen to Dave Matthews Band, drive over-sized Chevy trucks, drink Coors Light and hold business degrees? In other words, the types that aren't considered hip, but often go out for a good time. Are hipsters intentionally steering clear of any confusion?

Maybe this is just some aversion towards shorts in general. They show your birdlegs if you have them. They show your pale, untanned legs if them as well. So it's understandable to cover them up. But it seems like people don't want to dress comfortable. I still remember standing in line for a Braid show in Houston a few summer ago. A rather portly guy in front of me wore slacks with a white shirt and a thick, sleeveless sweater. The dude was sweating up a storm and I just stood there puzzled.

So, out with it. What do you think holds people back from wearing shorts at bars?