JES Live: The Digital Tourist

I mentioned here a while back about having spoken at the State of Now Conference in Des Moines, on the topic of what I called digital tourism, which probably doesn’t mean quite what you might think it means. I was pleased to learn this morning that a high quality recording of my ten-minute remarks is now available online, so even if you weren’t there, you can learn what my secretarial position in the government of Cyber-Yugolslavia was. Seriously. So if you’ve only experienced my piffle and tripe in written format to date, here’s what it looks and sounds like when I deliver it live and in person . . . complete with a screen-capture that makes it look like I am about to attempt to fly, or deliver an interpretive dance . . .

Status Back Baby

1. 23 is a significant number for me, and always had been, even before I knew of the whole 23 Enigma. I should have been born on May 23 (5/23 . . . 5 = 2 + 3), but I applaud my Mom’s initiative in welcoming me into the world one day early, on May 22, so I could claim to have the rarest birthday in the United States. Of course, to balance out that little glitch, I had to get married on the 24th of a month, so that my two most significant days averaged out to 23. As it turns out, that day was June 24th, 1989 . . . 23 years ago today. Happy anniversary, honey!

2. I’ve often lamented how little attention the general public pays to space exploration anymore, even though we are arguably in the glory days of planetary exploration and discovery right now. But even given the low level of interest in space exploration, I’ve been amazed at how little coverage the emerging Chinese space program is garnering in the American media. Did you know that right now, as I type, three Chinese Taikonauts, including the first Chinese woman in space, and China’s first repeat space traveler, are orbiting above us, with their Shenzhou-9 spacecraft having docked with their Tiangong-1 space lab six days ago? This seems a big deal to me, but you wouldn’t know it based on the coverage in the American press.

3. It’s always nice when some lost material by a long-gone favorite band turns up, and my brain today is about to explode with pleasure as I marvel at the incredible and unexpected three-disc collection of Can: The Lost Tapes, which offers a wealth of great stuff, and not the usual dregs and cutting room floor materials such large, late archival collections tend to include. The collection features the amazing and influential German group with both their singers: Japan’s Damo Suzuki and America’s Malcolm Mooney. I love their whole oeuvre, soup to nuts, but I’m especially fond of the early music  that they made with Mooney. There was something transcendent when the technical, tick-tock, Teutonic tendencies of the German musicians was leavened with Mooney’s fabulously soulful, emotional and often story-driven delivery. Here’s the promo video for the new box set, featuring a Mooney-led song, and it is magnificent:

4. I’ve read G.B. Trudeau’s Doonesbury pretty religiously since the early 1970s, and consider it to be an epic, sweeping work of great cultural and artistic accomplishment, with many important and meaningful story arcs over the years. I’ve been particularly impressed over the past few weeks as Trudeau has documented the wedding of Alex (uber-geek daughter of series protagonist Mike Doonesbury) and Leo (gravely injured Iraq veteran and up-and-coming recording engineer). There are some beautiful grace notes in the words and images Trudeau uses here, and I have been awed at his marvelous depictions of the challenges our Iraq and Afghanistan veterans face, both in country, and upon returning home. Bravo! If you want to read the wedding cycle in order, start here, then click through the “next strip” links for a couple of weeks. It’s gorgeous work.

Future Games: In Praise of Bob Welch

Several years ago, I went on the record on one of my blogs stating that: “I will not go to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame until they admit Bob Welch as a member of Fleetwood Mac. It’s a travesty that they excluded him, since he’s the one who kept things going after Danny Kirwan flamed out and before Buckingham-Nicks arrived. Stupid, unjust and arbitrary.”

So it looks like I’ll be permanently removing Cleveland’s Great Pyramid from my to-do list now, since Welch sadly died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound this week, never having been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I never really have understood the Hall’s need to identify which members of a qualifying band make the cut and which members don’t . . . I would prefer that they just admit the whole band, and tell their story, and let the fans decide how important the so-called “minor players” were. But even if I accepted their idiotic approach to putting the life cycles of  bands into little boxes where some members are in and some members are out, the slight to Bob Welch is an odious one, especially when the Hall saw fit to include Jeremy Spencer as an “official” member of Fleetwood Mac.

Bob Welch (1945-2012)

Spencer was a Fleetwood Mac founding member, yes, but his creative contributions to the band’s body of distinctive music paled in comparison to Welch’s. Spencer  was mostly a one-trick musical pony (he mimicked Elmore James) who contributed only a few blues rip-off and rock and roll parody songwriting credits to Fleetwood Mac’s first four studio albums, didn’t play on half of those albums, nor on most of their seminal early singles (including “Oh Well,” “Albatross,” “Man Of the World” and “The Green Manalishi”), and abruptly left the band in a lurch on tour to join a cult. Bob Welch was Spencer’s replacement, the first American member of the band, and the one who encouraged Fleetwood Mac to relocate to Los Angeles to better cultivate an American audience. He recorded five albums with the group and wrote or co-wrote nearly half of their songs during that time, including “Hypnotized” and “Sentimental Lady,” both of which earned the group some well-deserved radio play in the States.

Welch’s tenure in the band spanned some of Fleetwood Mac’s most tumultuous days, with guitarist Danny Kirwan leaving after an alcohol-fueled on-stage blow-up, replacement guitarist Bob Weston leaving after having an affair with Mick Fleetwood’s wife (leaving Welch to front the first single-guitar version of the band), John and Christine McVie’s marriage falling apart, and the group’s manager putting a fake Fleetwood Mac on the road to tour the States when the real deal was unable to do so. By 1975, Welch had had enough, and left Fleetwood Mac to form Paris with former Jethro Tull bassist Glenn Cornick. (For what it’s worth, while Paris have been largely reviled over the years, I actually like their two records a lot).

Welch’s departure allowed Lindsey Buckingham to assume the Mac guitar slot, bringing Stevie Nicks with him, and the rest is history. The huge success of the first two Fleetwood Mac albums with Buckingham-Nicks in the band somehow turned Welch into some sort of pitiable Pete Best-like figure, who left a massive group just before it broke big. But that’s really an unfair assessment, since Welch oversaw the transition of the Mac from a British blues band to a smooth American rock band, making it possible for someone like Buckingham to step in and work his own magic. I believe that Buckingham himself knew this, as he and other members of Fleetwood Mac worked on Welch’s first post-Paris solo album, French Kiss, which became a huge platinum hit, largely on the strength of its solo remake of Welch’s Fleetwood Mac track, “Sentimental Lady.” Welch’s career faltered after his sophomore solo disc, but that’s no reason to devalue the great work he did once upon a time, is it?

So if Fleetwood Mac belongs in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (and I think they do), then Bob Welch certainly deserves to be a part of that story. It’s a shame that he spent the last decade of his life feeling like he’d been written out of his own history. I recommend you go listen to his work on Future Games (1971), Bare Trees (1972) or Mystery to Me (1973), the best of the albums that he recorded with Fleetwood Mac. I like them a lot, and listen to them a lot. More than I listen to Rumors, actually.

As a P.S. on a happier note, thanks to the Ames Tribune‘s Ezgi Ustundag and Iowaves Music Blog‘s Dave Murphy for including Indie Moines in their list of “10 Things: Best Local Music Blogs.” Those are kind words there, and we appreciate them!

Rubbernecking at the Trainwreck of Journamalizm

My dictionary offers the following definitions of the word “news:”

1. a report of a recent event; intelligence; information.

2. the presentation of a report on recent or new  events in a newspaper  or other periodical or on radio or television.

3. such reports taken collectively; information reported.

4. a person, thing, or event considered as a choice subject for journalistic treatment; newsworthy  material.

5. newspaper.

Definition number five is pretty near and dear to me, as I’ve written numerous times before how much of a newspaper-lover I am — and how poorly I though that our daily newspaper, in both its print and online incarnations, served my old home community in Albany.

My distaste for that newspaper notwithstanding, there are still a couple of writers I like at the old newspaper’s hyper-hormonal blog portal, so I occasionally poke my head over there to catch up on their latest musings.

I’m often silently appalled by the non-news things that get placed on the front page there — but today they really out-did themselves, moving into a whole new realm of unbelievably idiotic traffic-mongering, shown below:

Bad newspaper? Or worst newspaper ever?

Three cannibalism-related stories on the front-page, one on top of the other? Wow. I don’t know where to start with unpacking the idiocy of this one, and once I do, I don’t really know how I would stop in less than 25,000 words. So I guess in summary, I’ll just note that in every definition of “news” I’ve ever encountered, the subjects in question generally involve things that are real.

Last time I checked, zombies did not qualify on that front, and hence, they should never be news.

But even if they did qualify, why in the world would I care how my boss would fare against them? Will having a strong zombie-fighting boss make me feel safer if a bath-salts-addled face-eater or a human-consuming Canadian blue-movie star happens to land in the office next to mine?

The mind reels . . . as do, I suspect, the hit counters. Wow, and wow again . . .