Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The United States of Skewed Values.

I'M SUPER PUMPED to have Cliff Lee on the Phils again. I wish the season began tomorrow.

Cliff will be a hero in Philly as he rejected an offer from elsewhere for more money - he could have earned a reported $28 million more from the Yankees. But he's still guaranteed $120 million over five years in Philly. That's more than I will see in my lifetime (unless I live to be 2,034-years old).

I bitched on facebook that Jayson Werth will earn my annual salary every 29 hours. Someone responded by saying, "If someone offered you $126 million, you'd be a liar if you said you'd turn it down."

I would turn it down. Or, rather, I would take the salary and donate $125 million of it to various places - educational institutions, mostly.

I just don't need that much money. Who does? Even if you buy the most expensive crap in the world and travel to the farthest places and eat the most expensive stuff, won't the Cliff Lee's of the world still have a shit-ton of money leftover?

I'm concerned by how much of a priority we put on money. Your high salary doesn't make you a better person. The big bucks don't prove your worth.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Can Philly Support a Local Music Mag?

A BUNCH OF people have gotten together with the dream of launching a quarterly magazine that focuses solely on the music scene in the Greater Philadelphia region.

No such product exists. So, rather than our local talent becoming huge in Philly, they run off to Brooklyn or London to feel appreciated.

It's time to end that.

The media kit above outlines our plans. We can print 10,000 copies of a 48-page, full-color, glossy magazine for around $6,000. Our plan is to generate that much cash and launch the magazine in March. It will be distributed (by us) for free at area bars, venues, studios, universities, coffee shops, book stores and wherever else music lovers might be hanging out.

Can it work? Is there enough interest out there for such a product? Is there enough material to warrant 48 pages, four times per year? Is it stupid to launch a magazine in an era when the world is going online for everything?

Check out the media kit. Let me know what you think.

And if you want to get involved and/ or advertise, I'd love to hear from you.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Regret is a Worthless Emotion. Move On.

AFTER SPENDING SEVERAL weeks editing and designing our London music magazine, then playing catch-up with the world, I needed a respite. So I picked up a Nick Hornby novel and burned through it (no television, baseball or sleeping for one week).

Juliet Naked is about obsession, regret and loss, I think, though the book jacket says the novel ends with "optimistic conclusions."

One of the primary characters, Duncan, religiously studies the short-lived career of Tucker Crowe, a fictional American musician who mysteriously ends his career while on tour 20-some odd years ago. Duncan interprets lyrics and builds his narrative about the former musician, then posts everything online.

Duncan's ex-girlfriend Annie is a follower but not as stalker-ish. Through a series of events, she winds up connecting with Tucker Crowe online and then brings him to her English seaside town.

Duncan meets his hero, only to learn that he's been off the mark for years. All of Duncan's conjectures are wrong. Annie realizes that the 15 years she spent with Duncan were pretty much a waste of time. Tucker realizes that he squandered his career, talent and life, scattering fatherless children around the globe along the way.

It was an enjoyable, amusing tale although, as a 39-year old dude who still dreams of being in a ska/punk/funk/hip hop band, the notion of squandering your life and not living up to your talents hits a little close to home. Since I finished the book a week ago, I've been non-stop grading, attending meetings, teaching classes and generally running around in circles. I have no control over my life. It's pretty annoying.

What would I have done differently 15 years ago? Probably nothing. I will learn how to play guitar. I will launch that band, someday. And I will read more books.

OK. I have to get back to grading papers.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

This Makes Me Happy.

I WISH PEOPLE would burst into Verdi all the time.

Monday, October 4, 2010

JUMP! The London UnderSound 2010 is DONE.

THE MAG WE worked on for six weeks in London over the summer went to the printer today. Check it out. Let us know what you think.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Yellow Plastic Ball = Fun For All.

WE WERE HANGING AT THE Little London Fields festival in Dalston and we ran out of beer.

So, we walked over to the nearby convenience store, grabbed a few bottles of Red Stripe and approached the cashier. Near the checkout counter, however, we found a little, yellow, plastic ball.

It's not a soccer ball but it's painted like one. It weighs next to nothing. Hit someone with it and they might not even feel it.

I bought it. It cost me £1.49. And it may have been the greatest purchase of the trip, so far.

Of course, the early moments of my time with the ball were rather inauspicious.

When we left the store, it started raining. We retreated to the dance tent where the drum n' bass was pounding. I had to hold onto my ball, which was awkward since I was drinking and dancing. I waved the ball in the air to the beat and Meghan said, "Throw it."

Next thing I know, it was bouncing all around the tent. It took on a life of it's own. I thought I'd never see the ball again. But it seemed to be having fun.

An hour later, when the rain stopped, I was eating by the main stage. And wouldn't you know it - the ball flew through the air, soaring over the crowd.

We made our way over to the ball and wound up kicking the stupid, little, plastic ball for hours with random people.

Really, hours.

We wound up meeting a bunch of folks and just having fun, laughing and playing, until well past dark (we arrived at the party around 4:30, I think).

That ball was an amazing cultural icebreaker. And it was tons of fun.

Luke (below, left) and Kevin continued kicking the ball all the way home on the tube. They hit numerous people with the thing. In Philly, that might earn you a beat down. Here, in London, even the tube passengers joined in the game. And they seemed to be enjoying themselves.

Pretty stunning.

Publishing a Magazine and Loving Life.

THERE IS A young, creative vibe in the East End of London, with so many things happening under the radar.

So Elizabeth Barrett and Luke Edge created a magazine, STATION, to show off the scene - as well as their own talents. They've published four free, bi-monthly issues so far and they have big dreams.

Elizabeth (in the center of the above image) is a trained journalist who previously covered fashion for the conservative newspaper, The Daily Mail ("After a while, I quit telling people where I worked," she said. "People hated it.").

Luke (in the hat) is a designer. They do the majority of the magazine themselves, with the assistance of unpaid columnists and family members forced into a variety of tasks - proofreading, babysitting, distribution, etc.

They had considered doing a website but they like print.

"With a website, you can change things anytime," Luke said. "It's not real. Holding a magazine is like having your balls in your hand. It's permanent."

That has its ups and downs. With such a small crew doing so much work, minor little details often get messed up along the way.

"When it comes back from the printer, I don't even read it," Elizabeth said.

The mag focuses on the arts, music, fashion and lifestyle. They try not to thrust their opinions on people, saying this or that is the cool new thing. Instead, they just highlight interesting people doing interesting things.

It is beautifully designed - simple, with great use of images and white space. They have evolved their product with each issue. For instance, they no longer print the publication date on the cover, giving every issue a feel of timelessness.

They print and hand-deliver 6,000 copies. The publication is financially supported by advertising, though they have yet to make any profit worth noting. The couple, who have an 18-month old son together, do other contract work to support themselves. They recently produced the magazine for the Lovebox music festival. They are currently negotiating a deal to produce a magazine for a major UK retailer.

After they celebrate their one-year anniversary, Elizabeth wants to expand the mag from it's current 64 pages to more than one hundred. One year after that, she'd like to take the magazine monthly. And it will always be free to readers.

Ultimately, the magazine is a labor of love.

"It's lovely just to be able to do something I really like," said Elizabeth.

It's the Jumpoff, UK Style.

WHEN TAKEN AS an entire collection, well, I fear I may have abused my powers as a university professor. I made my students jump in the air at numerous locales around the UK, like at the Fuller's Brewery (above and below).

On the beach in Brighton and at the Royal Pavilion.

On the tube.

At the Hackney Wicked festival (including with artist Adam Beale and his 8-foot tall wooden chicken).

In pubs (The Lexington).

With a street performer in Bath.

At Stonehenge.

Near Brick Lane.

We have five more days here in the UK. I'll likely have more jump pics coming.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

I'm an Old Punk.

THIS IS MY NEW favorite song, from the band Rum Shebeen. They got a kick start from the good folks at Strummerville, the legacy foundation of Joe Strummer.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Haroon Amir: "Our Minds Are Richer and Wider Than We Ever Imagine."

IT SEEMS ODD to be in London, sitting in pubs or on underground trains or cafes or wherever, and just reading. But I love it. Especially when the book revolves around the place where I am.

I finished The Buddha of Suburbia by Hanif Kureishi moments ago and I can't think of a better way to have spent the last four or five days.

It's a fascinating tale about London and it's people - the complex relationships they have with their familial backgrounds and their present situations, as well as their relationships with each other.

Karim, the teenage primary character, is an Englishman born to an Indian immigrant father (Haroon Amir) and an English mother (Margaret). He doesn't easily fit into any categories so he really doesn't have a social group (he's too English for the Indian immigrants and too Indian for the white folks). At the same time, he represents so many categories (racially, sexually and intellectually) that he easily gets swept into various activities - almost none of which he feels an attachment to.

Throughout the entire novel, he's on a quest of self-discovery during an era of great tumult in London - the 1970s. We see hippies and punks and New Wavers. He lives - for a period - in West Kensington, one neighborhood away from my Earl's Court flat (a neighborhood he describes as being home to whores, transvestites, addicts and Australians).

Part of my discomfort about reading while in a different land stems from the idea that I'm reading about people doing stuff, rather than actually doing stuff myself.

Ultimately, books make me feel a greater connection to the place, I think. For the most part, sadly, I am a tourist here (today I visited Big Ben and Parliament). I could never live the characters' experiences, even over the six weeks I am here. But books provide context for what I do actually get to experience.

Now I need another book that takes place in London.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Joe Strummer, Punk Rock Warlord.

ON EDGWARE ROAD near the Harrow Road overpass, the Brits actually recognized Joe Strummer, one of the most passionate musicians of all time. Seven years after he died in 2002, they named a subway tunnel/ art gallery after him. Apparently, Strummer used to be a street musician in these tunnels.

On one hand, the subway tunnel seems appropriate for a punk revolutionary. But Liverpool actually named their airport after John Lennon. At least Strummer hasn't been ignored completely by London, like other local greats.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Music is the Meaning of LIfe?

I PICKED UP NICK HORBY'S novel High Fidelity with great reluctance. I hated the film, especially the way John Cusack's character addresses the audience. Ugh.

But I'm here, in London, working with students documenting the music scene. And the actual book is about a 35-year old Londoner who runs a record shop in Camden Town. It was perfect for me, I thought.

I loved the book. Read it in about four days. The story of a guy roughly my age who loves music and refuses to let go of his teenage idealism? He hates those who succeed and lose their youthful angst? He still dreams of being a musician? He questions the purpose of his existence?

Me and this dude should sit down for a few pints.

Which, I guess, is why the book was so successful. Everyone likely reaches a certain point in their life and wonders, "Is this what I was meant to be doing?" If that question doesn't arise, I can't help but wonder what kind of meds they're on. Or if they are just suckers who have bought into the mainstream mentality.

I hope it's not just a guy thing - that stereotypical mid-life crisis. I hope everyone asks the question - "Why?"

In the book, the main female character has the same self-doubt. But it is written by a dude. So who knows?

For the remainder of my time in London, I'm keeping my eyes open for Nick Hornby. If you're ego surfing and stumble across this, Nick, drop me a line.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Understating the Hugeness of the Object.

Students jumping over Stonehenge.Students jumping in Bath.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Tag This Building! Remember the Punks!

IN THE 1970s, the location above was a hotbed of anarchy. Now it's an Indian restaurant, I think.

Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood
operated their boutique, SEX, here. Some of the former employees went on to become members of the Sex Pistols.

Today, there aren't too many punks on Kings Road. No Teddy boys, safety pinned-shirts, studded-leather collars, PVC pants or anything. Youthful angst seems to have been replaced by capitalistic ambition. Bummer.

The area seems pretty posh, actually. There are no traces of 430 Kings Road's past significance - no plaques or even graffiti. I am slightly disappointed.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Randomly Experiencing London (in Pictures).

HERE ARE A FEW photos from around London.

Above is at the Camden Stables marketplace.
The healing tent at the Lambeth Country Show in Brixton. Below is the Mega Slide.
Here are some of the townhomes in my Earl's Court neighborhood.
This is the old Lots Road Power Station in Chelsea, along the Thames, a few blocks from my flat.

More pics from London can be found here.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

"If You Are Engaged in the Events of Your Era, Then Journalism is the Best Career to Have."

HOUSED IN THE FORMER TIMES of London printing plant, and sharing space with UK network ITV, NBC News London covers Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

With a staff of 42 - including three correspondents, 8 producers and two shooters, they hustle to produce content for NBC's various outlets - the Nightly News with Brian Williams, the Today Show and the brand's websites. Producer Paul Nassar (above) and correspondent Tom Aspell spoke to us today about documenting the world.

In 2003, Nassar spent only 20 days at home. The rest of the time, he was traveling, covering events - mostly the invasion of Iraq. He worked around the clock and, on occasion, slept in cramped tanks with six or seven soldiers. But he loved it.

"We were at the heart of the story the whole world was fascinated with," said Nassar, a native of Lebanon who speaks Arabic, French and English. "If you are engaged in the events of your era, then journalism is the best career to have.""It's never fun when you're there," said Aspell, a veteran correspondent who began covering conflict during the Vietnam War. "But afterward, it's fun. There is a rush that comes with covering war."

Aspell, a native New Zealander, is usually based out of Cyprus.

"When you get home, even the mundane feels great," he said. "After being at war for two months, you get a kick out of the simplest things like going shopping or taking a bath. Food tastes better."

It was a pretty amazing experience meeting with these two, learning about their lives, and getting insight into the process that gets international news to an American audience.

We also saw the state-of-the-art facilities of ITV (below).

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Three Images of Tower Bridge (And One of The City Through the Bridge).

WE ATTENDED A performance by R&B troupe White Elephant today at The Scoop, an outdoor arena along London's South Bank waterfront. The space is about one block from Tower Bridge.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Locals Only? Free Music on Brick Lane.

FILTHY BOY from Peckham in South London headlined a free concert at 93 Feet East on Brick Lane this evening. Three of the four band members are 18; the fourth is 17. And they rocked - the lead singer has a deep baritone and the confidence to make it work.
Four different acoustic groups played inside at the bar area, including Olly the Octopus (pictured above). 93 Feet East holds free shows every Monday.
Brick Lane is a largely Bengali neighborhood, sprinkled with hipsters on fixies. There seemed to be very few tourists.

Between the numerous South Asian restaurants are a handful of bike shops, record stores and music venues. And the random Banksy artwork, like in the image immediately above.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

I'm in London but I'm Not a Tourist. Sort of.

WE DID THE BUS tour around the city and it kind of sucked. Bus tours generally do. But it was a way to show the students the essential tourist stuff, like St. Paul's Cathedral (above).

I wandered around St. Paul's and found some interesting light in a plaza a block away.

What we're really in London to do is see and hear music. Rough Trade holds a free concert series every Saturday at the Notting Hill Arts Club. Yesterday, I saw the Walnut Tree label's artist showcase, including Burn the Fleet (above).

Two days ago, we had a massive night partying in Brixton at the Hootananny. Royal Gala (above) was on the bill and then we partied with them afterward.

The reality is that we are tourists here. We aren't from here and we have no expertise on the area. We walk around snapping images constantly (at least, I hope the students are as well). I hope the students will at least make unusual images from interesting places, experiencing things away from Central London.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Non-touristy Way to Experience London.

IN JULY AND AUGUST, I'll be in London with 18 students documenting the music scene in words and images (and some video). We'll be posting to our class blog I Rock London, as well as to several other sites. We'll gather enough information so that we'll create a music magazine at the end of the program.

We'll hit Big Ben, Parliament and all that other regular stuff. But what we're really looking for is the real London, the way folks live there every day. We won't be tourists. For six weeks, we'll be Londoners.