Monday, July 31, 2006

FBO: 'Women Conquer 2006 Pop'

The best three songs of 2006 so far, per FBO's limited ear-scope, are sung by women.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs, 'Cheated Hearts'
Second LP by the NYC trio is a step above their first. Unlike the White Stripes' self-destructive tendency to keep the pared-down drums/guitar set-up with minimal/no overdubs on record, the Yeahs fill out their drum/guitar set-up with little extras to make listening to the album a bit less hollow. Singer Karen O looks like the child of Joey Ramone and Chrissie Hynde, and she effortlessly offers new hooks with her stand-out clipped voice. 'I think I'm bigger than the sound,' she calls out. Yes.

The Pipettes, 'Your Kisses Are Wasted On Me'
Again, the UK's pop industry remains miles ahead of the USA's. This poppy singles-oriented band of three rather dorky women conjures up Vandellas and other fun synchronized finger-pointing musicians of the early 60s. This song, here-and-gone in 2:11, mixes a B-52s/Kate Pierson soaring chorus with a sassy interjection by the verse singer.

Cat Power, 'Willie'
Some critics are after Cat for her latest album, The Greatest, but the FBO considers it her best. Best is 'Willie,' with its elusive lyric story and faintly syncopated vocal delivery that seems informed by rap via Stephen Malkmus. Unlike some indie kings -- like Malkmus -- Cat is figuring out how to stay relevant in her late 30s. Maybe that's what talent is. We also like 'Living Proof,' and if you can understand its implications towards religious tensions -- as implied by the video where Cat in a jumpsuit holding a crucifix races against women in hijabs -- please let us know.

FBO Admin
Mobile/Semi-Permanent HQ -- Brooklyn, NY

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

FBO: 'Embracing Failure is Positive Gesture'

RECENTLY a prospective candidate band for FBO Member #005 scoffed the idea of membership, saying being in a 'failed band' collective is 'too negative.' It's worth talking about why such a collective is not negative, but the opposite.

1. WHO SAYS FAILING IS BAD? Conditioned by 'good guy winning' cartoons and some rewritten nurseries where the pigs are NOT eaten, it's hard for some of us to see the glory in Nebraska's football team going for two points and losing the national championship to Miami in 1984. But is Coach Tom Osbourne bad for choosing not to tie? And is it negative to remember that the two-point conversion failed?

2. WE APPLAUD CREATIVITY. In an era when Hollywood films are content to keep as many as possible new multi-million-dollar projects with things that are 'familiar' -- ie sequels to previous successes, remakes of previously successful films or TV shows, or biopics of celebrities who succeeded in various media -- even a failure at something new, totally new, should be applauded. In life, it is far easier to listen to your copy of 'She Sells Sanctuary' than go write a song about trans-gendered apes. These failed bands, and others, deserve recognition for not staying at home or going to parties and listening to the Cult.

3. WE ARE NOT DEAD. A band that stopped playing, with little or no ongoing record of their production is ultimately a dead band. In fact, they quit. Failed bands, in this forum, are NOT dead, but have resurrected -- unquit themselves -- and have a chance to reach new audiences and even create new art. It's hard to think of anything more positive. Unlike a high-school reunion, where guests laugh about the distant past, the FBO encourages new projects.

The FBO issues a challenge to those who think this collective is negative. Please come up with some means of pooling quit bands, dead bands that is more honest and more constructive and more positive than the FBO. And we will bow to your success, if you can do it. We'd love to!

Until then, the FBO remains ready to grow. We accept all failed bands -- anyone, everyone. As long as you failed.

FBO Admin
Mobile/Semi-Permanent HQ -- Brooklyn, NY

Monday, July 24, 2006

FBO: 'Is it OK to Go to a High-School Reunion?'


Probably no other event in our life is a more apt forum for gaging failure/success in an unapologetically, guilt-free nostalgic environment than high-school reunions. Recently FBO Admin and a couple FBO members attended a 20-year high school reunion for a graduating class of half a thousand. Here are a few FAQs and FCPs (frequently cited problems) of high-school reunions that FBO will simplify for you.

Should I go to my high-school reunion? Yes (depending on your class size -- smaller schools might be more painful). If you have a need to 'go home' for visiting purposes, or live in the area, missing one (at least) is like going to Niagara Falls and not seeing the water. Might as well. There's nothing to lose. If the pricks are still pricks, or the hotties sporting new facelifts, or the jocks holding onto the glory days in letter jackets, so be it. But you'll never have a chance to enter a room with some many personalities from your life long ago. It may be superficial, but it's like time travel. Plus you get to see who got fat.

What should I wear? Let's start by saying what not to wear. Unless you have eye problems or your name rhymes with Tory Part you should NOT wear sunglasses at night. And there's no possible excuse for shirts unbuttoned half way to the navel (wiht no under shirt). Several FBO members had this treat on Saturday, with an unironic MC calling shots as if on a particularly far-reaching SNL skit. Its gawl still sinking in two days later. A reunion is probably not the occasion to make statements. Wear what you wear at Thanksgiving, but 'summer it up' a bit. For some that's a tie-free day at a bank or mixers at the yacht club, others it's vintage Nightranger muscle tees. But unless your name rhymes with Tory Part don't wear sunglasses at night.

Should I listen to the band? No. And perhaps there shouldn't be one. No matter how good they are, reunions are not about 'rocking.' A DJ can pump out the '80s hits for you to help set the background for a nostalgic mood, spur on conversations about Huey Lewis concerts. Recently, FBO members witnessed a put-together quartet of people attending a reunion. Side-by-side expensive guitars lined the stage, and the band -- named for a school endeavor for the event -- treated it as a 'gig' to land shows in bars in the area. They finished with a 1986 classic, but peppered the set with early 21st-century heavy-alternative anthems, played loud enough to make soccer moms' noses bleed. They were good, but so what? The singer -- two wrist bands on his strumming arm, unbuttoned shirt over a Jim Morrison t-shirt, and two gold necklaces tight around his neck -- complained after a compliment, 'Yeah, but no one was watching us.' Yes, they were here to talk and mingle and reveal crushes and ask about jobs or children they'll never see.

I'm on the planning committee for my reunion, where should we hold it? Why not see if you can at your high school? The FBO members' recently shelled out several dozen dollars each to go to dark casino banquet hall, with a mezzanine bar area looking over the loud slots. Cash (or open) bars are a good way to break the ice, but why not rent out the high-school gym, have punch and cake, and -- just like the good ol' days -- sneak in your own liquor?

Will I score? If you are available and looking for love, don't look for it at a 20th-anniversary high-school reunion. Tenth maybe. At 20, it's about the saddest thing imaginable, and so many people there are not doing the same. If it happens, well good for you.

I used to be mean to a few people, should I apologize? Hopefully they've gotten over it, but it might be nice to just say 'hi' and see how they're doing. If you want to apologize, that's OK, but don't do it with an audience that puts the sad freak in for some public scorn once again. Also, it's really lame to resort to 20-year-old jokes though and subject a few people to the same abuse. If you see someone doing it, it's your job to intervene and stop it -- these incidences are rare, however.

Will the cool kids finally give me a chance? Probably not. If you're looking for redemption at not being in the 'in' crowd, it's not really going to happen unless you've done something amazing the past 20 years. People are really there to see who they knew way back when. Don't take it personally.

Are pricks still pricks? Almost always.

FBO Admin
Mobile/Semi-Permanent HQ -- Tulsa, OK

Friday, July 14, 2006

FBO: 'July's Entertainment-Alternative Planner'

Clerks II is out, Pirates of the Caribbean II is swabbing decks, Superman Returns is fizzling, Miami Vice is looming. It's going to be a busy summer of popcorn-eating and movie-going, right? Wrong.

The FBO urges you to S K I P - T H E M - A L L .

The FBO continues its voluntary ban, in an effort to promote a more stimulating and creative Hollywood film industry, any movie that banks on the 'familiar' -- bio-pics, TV show, sequels.

--> Four July back-ups for your entertainment fix:

See 'A Scanner Darkly' Since his Slackers debut, Richard Linklater has always been interesting, and Keanu Reeves might finally do something to shed the 'bogus' rep he has from his 'Bill & Ted' origins in the cartoony take on the Philip K Dick book. Apparently Dick's real-live family was so pleased with Reeves they gave him a long-held copy of the manuscript. Quite a gift.

See the World's Largest Amateur Rodeo It's hosted in Pawhuska July 18-23. Hopefully we'll have some coverage posted here next week.

Contribute in the FBO's Communal Review of 'The American Outback.' Read The American Outback: The Oklahoma Panhandle in the Twentieth Century, Richard Lowitt's new essay covering the FBO's favorite piece of land, and post a review here for the FBO Communal Review of the book. Anytime before the end of the month. The review will be posted August 1.

Make a wicker basket People knock it, but it's a skillful CRAFT that takes time and thought to replicate. Baskets make great gifts and Arbor Day is around the corner.

FBO Admin
Mobile/Semi-Permanent HQ -- Brooklyn, NY

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

FBO: 'World Cup 2006 Fails the Case for Soccer in the USA'


EVERY FOUR YEARS soccer makes a case to be a relevant sport, a great one, one that should at least surpass hockey in the minds of most Americans, with the exposure to the World Cup. This year soccer failed. More so than in any World Cup in recent memory.

This year's 64-game tournament, held in Germany, just finished with Italy's anti-climatic penalty kick win over France (and the much-talked about head-butt by French captain Zinedine Zidane), most games it seemed were one-goal games, with the goal coming off a controversial penalty kick (like Italy's iffy call over Australia in a second-round, 93rd-minute 1-0 win), or aid of player ejections that seemed extreme (like the USA's two reds against Italy), and continous dives to call fouls for free kicks (France's win over Spain in the second round came off a non-foul foul).

Bad TV
American TV announcers didn't help. Constantly criticizing the referees is something that works when you're going after the BCS' burps for an audience that truly understands college football. But 'analysts' this time -- like goateed, long-haired Marcelo Balboa -- pulled no punches on the refs, only confirming some budding soccer fans' beliefs that the sport is unexciting or flawed. Rarely will you see more negative coverage (though it may be justified). One announcer, during an Iran game, inappropriately politicized it, by constantly referring to Iran's politics, then even pointed out the 'chill' of seeing an event in the Nuremberg stadium where Nazi rallies had once been held. TV coverage likes to promote story lines in games, and their (convincing) adoration for three or four games straight of French captain Zidane unravelled when he head-butted an Italian player 20 minutes into overtime. He got the red card, and the rest of the game felt stained.

Doesn't the USA have a soccer league?
Most enigmatically, the American soccer league, MLS, seemed to care less that the world's favorite tournament was on during their season. They didn't suspend games, and only made ONE advertisment in 64 games to signal that 'hey, American soccer happens every year... you can watch it now.' They should have at least advertised during US, Mexican, Brazilian and English games. If the New York Red Bulls can, purportedly, afford to pay David Beckham $100 million to play in the USA, SOMEONE should have the money for a few ads. They really missed an opportunity.

Teams were not 'beautiful'
Over-hyped favorite Brazil -- they never play well in Europe -- never gelled on the field. The 'world's team' were never much to see, and they fell in the semi-finals to France 1-0. The Americans, particularly coach Bruce Arena, got bitter from their first-round exit, something TV coverage zeroed in on, like ESPN analyst Eric Wynalda -- a former player -- giving sharp critiques at Arena at every break. Only Italian fans are satisfied with Italy's play in the final. They held out for a post-overtime shoot-out, where their 6'4" goalie had a huge advantage over France's. The 'beautiful game' was a little plain this time.

Wasn't 2002 great?
Recent Word Cups have done a better job. In 2002 co-host South Korea surpassed expectations and the US team came a non-call hand ball in the penalty box from getting pass finalist Germany in the second round. In 1998, host France shocked favorite Brazil 3-0 in the final, and Mexico had some inspired last-second wins to rally around. In 1994, the USA hosted the event, only lost to the winner Brazil in the second round 1-0, and underdog Bulgaria made it to the final four.

FBO's suggestions for World Cup 2010

--> a) never let a final game be settled by penalty kicks; let teams earn a new sub per every 20 or 30 minutes played in overtime, and go until someone scores; it's better entertainment, and it provides a more satisfying victor
--> b) check replays for ANY penalty kick awarded or red card given; these game-changing plays occurred too much in 2006; the field is so big that it's hard for a ref on it, or two on the sidelines to see what was a dive and what wasn't
--> c) MLS needs to think of how to market itself AT ALL during any World Cup
--> d) TV coverage should stop talking story lines during every break and compile a World Cup overview videos to explain tournament history to people who don't know it (yes! Uruguay won it twice!!), with some of the great goals and controversies on video
--> e) never ever politicize the event

Unfortunately for those Americans who haven't seen the 'beautiful game' when it's beautiful, soccer felt like a game of cheats, dives, ugly defense, and bad refs. A pity.

FBO Admin
Mobile/Semi-Permanent HQ -- Brooklyn, NY

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

FBO Question: 'Did Sting End the Cold War?'

THREE MONTHS after Mikhail Gorbachev became the General Secretary of the Communist Party in the USSR in March 1985, English pop musician Sting released his solo debut The Dream of the Blue Turtles, which included the hit single 'Russians.' In the next couple years, Gorbachev revolutionized the Soviet system, encouraging a policy of 'openness' (or glasnost) that led to a freer media to attack the government, and an economic 'restructuring' (or perestroika), which accidentally paved the way toward the fall of the USSR. The Cold War's first steps toward ending began, then, around the time of the release of Sting's stoic 'Russians.' Clearly Gorbachev was listening.

Though melodically flat, Sting's lyric held no punches. Take this in:

'In Europe and America
There's a growing feeling of hysteria
Conditioned to respond to all the threats
In the rhetorical speeches of the Soviets
Mr Krushchev said ''We will bury you''
I don't subscribe to this point of view
It would be such an ignorant thing to do
If the Russians love their children too'

Despite Sting's fascination with Soviet quotes that dated (at the time) three decades, it seems clear Sting played a compelling part in ending the Cold War.

It's up to our viewers to vote whether Sting deserves a Ribbon of Merit. Please let us know what you think.

FBO Admin
Mobile/Semi-Permanent HQ -- Brooklyn, NY