Tuesday, June 29, 2010

That Wonderful Year in Music... 2000

When I was growing up, the year 2000 was subconciously associated with the future and all that it entailed: progress, maturity, technology, uncertainty. This especially makes it hard to fathom that such a mystical year was a whole decade ago. I think it's fair to say that all the space-age sturm und drang that science fiction writers first envisioned in the mid-20th century is not going to happen --especially if said story took place in the first decade of the millennium, like so many did-- yet the myriad technological advances of the past decade are a blunt reminder that perhaps the future is now and that we undoubtly control our own destiny.

On a personal level, 2000 was my first full year as a high school disk jockey. Where my peers were playing bubblegum pop, unintelligible death metal, or "hits" from bands on the local scene, I ensconced myself into a classic rock comfort zone. If the song was recorded somewhere between 1966 and 1981, more likely than not I played it. Though current musical trends didn't interest me at the time, most of the artists mentioned below were in my peripheral and received regular airplay at the station. Like my 1999 list, I didn't discover most of these acts until after high school, when I finally tired of mimicking '70s AOR and searched for a new challenge.

1. Kid A, Radiohead. When you think about it, Radiohead had no right to record three straight masterpiece albums. They already proved their mettle on The Bends and OK Computer, so where would they go from there? Maybe Kid A succeeds because it moves in the opposite direction of its two predecessors. Upon first listen it's hard to pin down a distinct musical shape or hook; on top of that, there's no obvious single and the newfound electronic swirls are especially cold and detached. After the second and third listens the mystique dissipates, and you slowly realize that this difficult and alienating disc is a statement, a genius effort to say the least.
2. The Marshall Mathers LP, Eminem. It would be pretty hard to paint Eminem as a sympathetic character if he weren't such a talented musician (or was, anyway). The Mathers persona would be ungainly in less delicate hands; why would anyone bother to listen to a tempermental, wifebeating homophobe? Where most of the mainstream rap scene was regressing towards insipid songs about bling and booty, Enimem kept it real in the most visceral and outrageous manner possible. Paired with mentor Dr. Dre and a small army of special guest stars, Marshall Mathers spotlights a gifted artist at a creative peak he couldn't possibly match or eclipse.
3. Veni Vidi Vicious, The Hives. Not released in the US until 2002, this sophomore effort launched the short-lived "Swedish invasion" as well as the garage rock/DIY revival that is still simmering to this day. I fell in love with "Hate To Say I Told You" the first time I heard the song, and I was floored that the album from which the song was culled was just as raucous and energetic. At their best, Vicious is like early-period Kinks, only without the tact.
4. Since I Left You, The Avalanches
5. Mass Romantic, The New Pornographers
6. Stankonia, OutKast
7. White Pony, Deftones
8. All That You Can't Leave Behind, U2
9. Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea, PJ Harvey
10. Parachutes, Coldplay. Though I listed three debut albums in this top ten (see #4 and #5), you can't deny Coldplay had the widest-reaching impact of the three rookies. Initially written off as imitators of fellow British piano-rockers Travis, the success and critical acclaim of Parachutes and its four follow-up studio albums made people forget Travis even existed. "Yellow" was the ace-in-the-hole hit, though "Trouble" and "Shiver" are fine songs in their own right.

Honorable Mentions: Figure 8, Elliot Smith; The Moon and Antarctica, Modest Mouse; Furnace Room Lullaby, Neko Case & Her Boyfriends; Rated R, Queens of the Stone Age; Lost Souls, Doves.


"Pardon Me," Incubus
"Teenage Dirtbag," Wheatus
"Little Black Backpack," Stroke 9
"One-Armed Scissor," At The Drive-In
"Testify," Rage Against The Machine
"Outside," Aaron Lewis and Fred Durst
"Babylon," David Gray
"I'm Like a Bird," Nelly Furtado
"I'm Gonna Make You Love Me," The Jayhawks
"Bohemian Like You," The Dandy Warhols


1. "Since I Left You," The Avalanches. This could be best described as whimsical juxtaposition; though the idea of a lumbering, breakdancing coal miner is surreal, the video has a lot of heart.
2. "Stan," Enimem feat. Dido. The most haunting song from The Marshall Mathers
is fleshed out with film noir finesse.
3. "Sexx Laws," Beck. Silly for the sake of being silly, this raunchy clip is loaded with wacky sight gags and double entendres. Plus, check out the Tenacious D cameo.
4. "Untitled (How Does It Feel)," D'Angelo. The R&B star goes full-frontal in
arguably one of the sexiest clips in recent memory. (Warning: NSFW)
5. "Yellow," Coldplay. Elegantly shot in slow motion, the quartet's breakout hit finds frontman Chris Martin wandering the beach, collecting his thoughts.

Your thoughts?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Random Notes, June 2010

+ Pinning the GOP for not helping the unemployed? In a way, the accusation that President Obama made in his weekly radio address has some weight, but it'd be best to wait until his other acts of federal intervention kick in before pushing more legislation through Congress. The Democrats will likely lose seats in November, and the partisan gridlock in all three branches of government are tight enough without worrying about reelection, but there is such a thing as too much too soon. In spite of widespread criticism of his handling of the Gulf Oil spill --which only tapered off somewhat when he demanded and received $20 billion from BP last week-- Obama's approval rating is still hovering around 47%. His critics are confident that he won't be reelected in 2012, but it's far too soon to tell. His enforcement of costly, slow-cooking legislation could have a silver lining, and maybe his handling of a Katrina-level disaster will be nothing more than a lesson learned in missed opportunities, who knows. He's still personable enough that you wish he'd find a way to succeed.

+ Over in Illinois, the trial of our former Gov. Rod Blagojevich is in full swing, and to the surprise of no one he's still mugging for the cameras with doe-eyed glee. Nearly 18 months since his impeachment, our pompadoured ex-gov is still treating his corruption trial like a minor annoyance, dishing sound bytes to hungry reporters as his legal defense slowly falls apart. If you looked up Blago on a Yahoo news search late Tuesday morning, you'll see that five stories about his wife Patti's hair trumps the real story: an ex-aide's testimony that Hot Rod ordered him to pressure then-Congressman Rahm Emanuel and his brother Ari into illegally staging a fundraiser. During his 75-minute stint on the stand, former Deputy Gov. Bradley Tusk painted a picture of Blagojevich quite similar to other witnesses' testimony: the governor was often disengaged and aloof to the responsibilities of his job, often leaving important decisions up to Tusk and others. He's just the gift that keeps on giving...

+ Fantasy Update: I'm slipping. In the TV.com league, after spending the first week of the season at the top of the heap, I've been in seventh place (out of eight) for three of the last four weeks. My other team has been in or near first almost the entire season so far; now I'm one game out. Rockies closer Manny Corpas was my secret weapon for awhile, but he got rocked last week; plus, it seems like he'll be giving up fireman duties to a refreshed Huston Street very soon, so I dropped him on both teams. Reliable closers are in short supply in both leagues, but I'm hoping that neither of Corpas' replacements are short-term answers. Otherwise, I'm emphasizing power and speed and letting the bats do the talking.

+ Improv Update: a week ago, I completed Improv Level 1 at IO and started Level 2 last weekend. I also went to another audition last night, not for the Second City Conservatory but for an actual show (the Writing Level 6 revue) at SC. Hopefully things went well.

+ Finally, some good news from the Gulf of Mexico: for every 100,000 gallons that BP spills, you get a free NFL glass. ;)

Next week: the year in music, 2000.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Retrospective: Five Years of Aimless Ramblings

And now, the latest and greatest in all things Stu:

This month marks TV.com's unofficial fifth anniversary, and as such, the wooden jubilee of this blog. When I first joined the site on June 4th, 2005 I really had no idea what to expect of myself, or the episode guides that I edited, or even our new overlords at CNet. Our user profiles had a blog option that didn't exist at TV Tome, so my first entry was a dry run that merely served the purpose to introduce myself. I wrote two more of these before coming up with the weekly gimmick; if people wanted to know who I am and what I was up to, why not do it on a regular (read: semi-rigid) basis? I was skeptical about the new format, but at the same time I wanted to help out this new site.

For the last few weeks I wasn't sure what to do with my anniversary blog, but I knew for sure that I wanted to acknowledge the milestone in a special way. I was compelled at one point to write out a list of statistics, like the most frequent topic of the past half-decade (sports edging out current events, but barely) or the most frequent commenters (by my best estimate, a virtual six-way tie). I also considered a list of wacky fun facts; in five years I've only missed one week (it was in December 2005; I was on vacation), three Updates have been posted a day early (i.e. Monday) and six a day late. Otherwise, I've been fairly consistent about posting my latest missive on late Tuesday morning or early afternoon.

As the above links will tell you, the priorities in my life were far different than they are today. I was 20 years old and six credit hours away from earning my associates in arts at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, IL. At the beginning of 2005 I was intent on transferring to North Central College in nearby Naperville, chomping at the bit to earn my bachelor's in radio communications. In either March or April '05, one of my bosses at WDCB suggested that I look a little further from home; I spent Spring Break glancing at other schools' radio programs, and I realized that Illinois State not only had an equal-size reputation than NCC, but it was a lot cheaper. Alas, I missed the transfer deadline for Fall semester at ISU, so I spent one more term of sorts at COD. What does that have to do with TV.com, you ask? Well, I had to do something with my time before leaving for Normal.

To be frank, I'm too modest to take all the credit for what my weekly dispatches have become, and I couldn't have made it this far without the support of all the wonderful people that made this blog (and the site, of course) what it is today. I typed 6,432 posts at TV Tome and nearly 26,500 so far at TV.com, none of which would be possible if I didn't have somebody to debate with. Individually, I want to thank:

  • TheDiamondDog, unofficially the most prolific blogger in TV.com history, and my oldest friend at the site;
  • algetrig91 and bry456, whom I've been acquainted with since the TV Tome era and continue to contribute to TV.com to this day;
  • ClevelandRocker, arguably the wittiest and most facetious user on this site, past or present;
  • millerem99, for balancing my left-of-center ramblings with a well-informed moderate-right rebuttal;
  • thecomedianky, who I met via my reviews on the old site and egged me into taking classes at the Second City Training Center;
  • Tapeleg247 and jmarsh89, for our regular chats on AIM, YIM, and Facebook chat;
  • Scopeless, who I met at TV.com and became my friend and collaborator at the Student Television Workshop at Illinois State University;
  • mtjaws and jokipper, for their consistent dissections of my monthly music blogs;
  • FlyingHellfish, fantasy commish extraordinaire;
  • Darth_Revan45, for his strong opinions;
  • BaronOne, whoaitsconner, and avmon, for their regular comments in the SNL forum;
  • RealityFan2686 and Pulch23, for enduring all my abuse in said forum;
  • mp34mp and Water78, whose banishments from TV.com I still question to this day;
  • and to anyone else that I might've forgotten, thank you for everything you do, and keep up the good work.

I don't want to end this on a dour note, but right now my life is at a crossroads. About six weeks ago I lost my job; I'm sorry for not mentioning anything sooner, but it's not an easy subject to bring up. I don't want to get into all the gory details, but it wasn't a particularly fair situation and in some ways I'm still smarting over it. That doesn't mean I'm canoeing without a paddle, though; I registered for unemployment to pay the bills, I'm e-mailing resumes out at a steady rate, and just to have something to fall back on, I re-applied to be a substitute teacher for the 2010-11 school year. As my friends, please keep me in your thoughts.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

South Carolina On My Mind

Another week, another ugly primary. This time around, the mud is being slung in South Carolina, where character assassination has always been in the DNA of their political petri dish. During an online interview last week, state senator Jake Knotts referred to GOP gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley as a "raghead" and implied that the government is being taken over by Muslim radicals. As this article points out, Haley's parents are Sikhs of Indian descent, but she converted to Christianity in her early 20s. Though Knotts half-heartedly apologized several hours later, the damage might already be done. During this campaign, Haley has twice been accused of philandering by men with connections to her opponent, SC Lt. Governor Andre Bauer. Luckily, this potential sex scandal was dismissed as mere heresy, but the "raghead" slur carries heavy connotations in a state that's still shaking off its association with segregation 45-plus years after the Civil Rights Act.

Even though Haley is the chosen Tea Party candidate and nabbed an endorsement from Sarah Palin, I would rather see her take her party's nomination over Bauer. Proving that the Palmetto State can make social progress and cut down on race-baiting is one thing, but Haley would also wipe out an incumbent with strong ties not only to the ineffectual mainstream GOP but his infamous ex-boss as well. It's largely speculated that Bauer wasn't in command when former Gov. Mark Sanford disappeared to Argentina under the guise of a hiking trip, nor did he take a stance when the scandal broke out. In short Andre Bauer might be, regardless of whether he's Democrat or Republican, the single least-deserving candidate in an otherwise wide-open race. When South Carolina goes to the polls today, I hope they make a logical choice.

Other notes:

+ First Glenn Beck tries to connect Catholicism with socialist theory, now he's endorsing the writings of an anti-Semetic blowhard? How does anybody take this guy seriously?

+ Shameless plug: from now until Friday, June 11th, WDCB 90.9 FM in Chicago (my old work) is holding its quarterly pledge drive. If I somehow converted you into a WDCB listener in the past or you have a general appreciation for music-oriented public radio, feel free to pledge at http://wdcb.org/ or call in at 630-942-4200. Every contribution helps, regardless of the amount.

+ No word yet on how I did during my Second City audition, but I'll keep you guys posted.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Red State, White Knuckles, Bluegrass

Since the Kentucky primary was held two weeks ago, I've been fixated on the disturbing rise to prominence of GOP senatorial candidate Rand Paul. The son of outspoken libertarian intellectual Ron Paul, the Tea Party mouthpiece decimated Secretary of State Trey Grayson in a five-candidate runoff on May 18th. I would go in length about what bothers me about Dr. Paul, but blogger Daniel Solzman of The Kentucky Democrat has done an outstanding job of covering this controversy, and has been subjected to character assassination by at least one Paul supporter as a result.

In short, Rand Paul encompasses everything that the Tea Parties don't want to be but really are. He ran on a platform of smaller government and minimizing the influence of lobbyists, yet he has strong connections to the oil industry. Dr. Paul wants to unify a section of the population that feels like they've been ignored by the government, but he's repeatedly criticized the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the 14th Amendment. He wants to clean house in Washington, yet his father is a longtime representative of the state of Texas. I can see why there's an anti-incumbent fervor in America right now, and I won't disagree with the general feeling of frustration, but this is what happens when people that aren't qualified to run for office win over the public's support. He's a pied piper, the man that offers solutions but gives you far more than you paid for. (On the other hand, Paul opposes the Patriot Act, so at least he has something that might appeal to middle-of-the-road voters.)

With all due respect to my friend Mr. Solzman, the state of Kentucky is not known for social progress; his fellow Democrats are a minority in the commonwealth, yet these pockets of liberal and moderate-left thinking are the closest thing to common sense in the Bluegrass State. The mainstream GOP hates Rand Paul, but in a topsy-turvy election year like this, Mitch McConnell's opinion couldn't be more irrelevant. There's no chance in hell that Paul will back away from his candidacy; any media criticism is white noise to his ears, and his ardent supporters will defend him to the bitter end.

Other notes:

+ Speaking of being speechless, I don't think there's anything I can add to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Regardless of where you stand on government deregulation, corporations, or the environment this is a terrible situation with no winners and we'll be feeling the ramifications for years.

+ In the first two months of the 2010 baseball season, we've had two perfect games, a no-hitter, three one-hitters, and four two-hitters. Ubaldo Jimenez has a 0.78 ERA after Memorial Day and Jamie Moyer, 47 years young, became the oldest man ever to throw a complete-game shutout (which was also a two-hitter). To hell with 1968; this is the year of the pitcher.

+ This Friday I audition for the Second City conservatory. Wish me luck!