Wednesday, December 31, 2008

FBO: 'The Best of FBO 2008'

It's been a busy 2008 for the Failed Bands of Oklahoma:

--> The FBO noted that Oklahoma designed a really dumb quarter.

--> The National Automobile Museum purposely endorsed some old car race that went out of its way to snub Oklahoma. Hence the FBO asked for an apology and never received one.

--> The FBO recognized the danger of naming the new OKC NBA team, offered pre-emptive suggestions (that ended up better than the final verdict).

--> The FBO -- fed up with critics' negativity -- responded by falling in love:

--> The FBO tried to like REM again, then listened again to Hear-n-Aid's curious 164-second guitar solo.

--> The FBO took issue with Virginia's quarter, which noted the death of Jamestown.

--> The FBO, in Bulgaria, responded to critics at the same hilltop it released FBO news in 2006. Then created a poem -- using a disrespectful act to a pet to work as a proxy rebuttal -- in a Bulgarian rental car for the ongoing criticism FBO receives without warrant.

--> FBO's first member Tall Tales played their first show in 14 years.

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

Monday, December 29, 2008

FBO: 'Rather Upset with SE Hinton'


If you've not seen it yet, editors Matt Weiland and Sean Wilsey put together a fine new hardcover book State by State: A Panoramic Portrait of America, with essays by 50 writers of the 50 states. It's fashioned -- with its neat cover and concept -- as a reprisal of the WPA Guides, a Federal Writers' Project during FDR's administration. Some pieces are great -- Dave Eggers' spirited case for why Illinois is the best state (because of skyscrapers, Lincoln, license plates, friendliness) is hilarious, and rather convincing.

Others are awful. Anthony Bourdain reinforces the image of Jersey suburbia -- a slave to New York City -- in his ultra-personal history of New Jersey, and misses an opportunity to talk of its actual rural heart (unseen from the turnpikes). His call, I guess. Meanwhile, Said Sayrafiezadeh from New York's Lower East Side stumbles through the most obvious South Dakota sites, akin to 'City Slickers,' without saying anything meaningful of a state with pink highways or touching on anything beyond the obvious. OK, maybe, in another venue, but unsatisfying for the purposes of this book.

The worst, so far (we're not finished reading), is Oklahoma's chapter, written by Tulsan SE Hinton, who remains Oklahoma's turn-to writer though she's only known for a handful of teen books written three to four decades ago.

In her four-page entry (the briefest in the book), she explains why she still lives in Oklahoma. She quotes Will Rogers a few times, talks about how meteorologists are 'demi gods' there, throws an offhand note that 'no state is prouder of its Native American heritage' (without giving an example). It comes off like back-cover blurbs, designed to sell a guidebook ('Oklahoma has all kinds of terrain...'). That she wrote it (in a day?) while being iced in her Tulsa home during the December 2007 ice storm makes it feel more like a break from her boredom. A crossword puzzle for her to pass the time.

Other writers bother to return to their homes for the story, talk with locals to give life or other perspective.

Suggestions for what SE Hinton could have talked about:

* Oklahoma has the best state shape in the country. And the reason is because Texas wanted slaves. After the Missouri Compromise forbid slavery over the 36-30 parallel, so they just sliced off the top of their panhandle.

* Oklahoma has the best state flag in the country. And the only one devoted to Native American themes.

* Rand McNally once famously forgot to include Oklahoma in a road atlas.

* John Steinbeck immortalized Dust Bowl Okies' move west in The Grapes of Wrath, but didn't bother to check much about the setting. He described a dusty flat plains for the Joads' hometown, but placed it in the hilly, green east of the state.

* Oklahoma is named for the Choctaw word for 'red man,' has more Native Americans than any other state (per capita), is planning a huge Native American museum in downtown OKC, and the state's nickname openly acknowledges law-breakers, the Sooners.

* That Oklahoma, like Kentucky, is a state without a clear region. It's sort of Great Plains (but with a FAR more diverse population than any state north of it), too western to be Midwest ultimately, and not south at all. In the end, Oklahoma is part of what I call the Texas sub-continent, linked to its rival big brother more than any of its other neighbors.

* Oklahoma's 'black towns' like Boley, which hosts a 'black rodeo' annually -- all legacies of towns settled shortly after the Civil War.

* Oklahoma is redder than any state -- election-wise (all counties went McCain in 08) -- yet OKC did the unthinkable by voting in a one-cent sales tax that helped improve itself more than any other American city in the past decade (eg Art Museum downtown, new library, putting water in the river, Bricktown canal, Ford Center, Flaming Lips Alley...)

SE Hinton calls Oklahoma a 'great place for a writer, a free place for a writer.' It's too bad she made her case without leaving her home. A missed opportunity.

--> The FBO encourages all writers interested in writing about Oklahoma or North Dakota to contact the FBO before-hand.

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

Saturday, December 27, 2008

FBO: 'Acknowledges Canadian FBO(BT)'


The Canadian site -- Five Bucks On By-Tor, curiously beginning with 'FBO' initials -- focuses on less-than-heralded non-failed music heroes north of the border. We applaud the focus, even if it snubs failed bands of Canada (a note will be written to them).

--> Finder's acknowledgment to Tom C-- of Wisconsin.

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

Postscript: We've sent the following message to FBOBT:

A quick message here from a different 'FBO' -- the Failed Bands of Oklahoma -- which tries to trumpet failed, unheralded bands of all US states, Canadian provinces and other territorial divisions worldwide. The FBO appreciates your efforts here, and you have been acknowledged on our Dec 27 issue.

If you have suggestions for failed Canadian bands -- bands that were never 'signed' to a label, played at least 75% original music, and began at least 10 years ago -- we'd love to hear about them.

FBO Admin

Thursday, December 25, 2008

FBO: 'It's a New Christmas Video'

In celebration of the holiday season, the Failed Bands of Oklahoma releases this packaged video -- culling snippets of worldwide Christmas celebrations -- into a 53-second track 'Christmas is for Christians.'

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

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

FBO: 'Baby Books on Watchlist'

Christmas comes tomorrow, and with it much talk of one of the most famous babies of all time. The FBO, however, is concerned with a disturbing trend in 'baby books' of dropping any article or modifier for reference to a -- emphasis 'a' -- baby.

Examples include:

* 'caring for baby'
* 'adjusting to life with baby'
* 'dressing up baby'

This is wrong and offensive. And tragically yet more ammunition for the small-scale anti-baby movement out there. What's wrong with saying 'your baby,' 'my baby,' 'our baby,' even 'the baby' on occasion?

Do we ask 'you have sister in Cleveland, don't you?' or 'you have a sister in Cleveland, verdad?'

Why should it be any different for a baby?

In dropping the modifier, such baby books as Humble Bumble's Baby Journal: A Keepsake Journal for Baby's First Three Years are openly mocking foreigners who speak English as a second or third language -- and not used to modifiers as 'the' or 'a.'

Meanwhile, some book titles use a modifier on the covers -- eg The Baby Book: Everything You Need to Know about Your Baby from Birth to Age Two -- then sneakily drop the modifier with all references in the text. This is even worse.

The FBO asks these baby-book publishers to apologize and make edits, and reminds us -- everyone --to modify all babies as yours, or theirs etc.

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

Monday, December 22, 2008

FBO: 'Grading the Underachiever Triplets'

Guns'n'Roses new album Chinese Democracy came out a few weeks ago, and I was quick to download it. Anyone -- pretty much anyone -- who spends so long (14 years) with so much pomp and self-destruction to make a rock record is, as a rule, interesting, and occasionally pretty good. It's very easy to root against Indianan Axl Rose, but the thing is, the album is fairly remarkable. When do you have a lead single that requires Wikipedia to get all the references (Falung Gong anyone?).

Things are often overblown -- tripled lead vocals, guitar leads peppering any gap, sound bytes in the horrible 'Madagascar' range from Cool Hand Luke to Martin Luther King Jr. But the biggest surprise is that it's actually a real Guns'n'Roses album, a blip back to a different rock'n'roll era, despite the Nine Inch Nails sound effects and electro beats picked up over the 14-year sprawl-in-the-making (not to mention the Terrence Trent D'Arby dreads!?). It's better than the mess of a double album Use Your Illusion (1991).

-->Axl's Underachievement Score: A-. Guns'n'Roses have three studio releases of original material over a 20-year period.

Fourteen years in the making, Chinese Democracy only wins silver in an album's delay. The gold honors go to Brian Wilson/Beach Boys' Smile (2004), which took nearly 30. In 1967, Wilson tried to one-up the Beatles' Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band -- which had tried, and failed, to one-up the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds (aka 'best album of all time,' 1966). The Smile project was flooded with over-thought arrangements and lyrics, which led to Brian's madness (more or less), an eventually scrapped album, then a jarringly barebone follow up Smiley Smile that (other than 'Good Vibrations') barely hinted at what the vision had been. Brian Wilson assembled some studio musicians to 'finish' (re-record) the original Smile in 2004, so unlike Axl's, the finished work wasn't continuously worked on and re-tooled over a long period of time; it was merely scrapped, forgotten, then returned to. Notably, the final version of Smile didn't show any real changes from leaked demos from 1967 -- no funk guitars, wah wah pedals, rap breaks, slap bass or four-on-the-floor disco beats had been picked up along the way. It's interesting, but there may be a reason Brian got frustrated (and crazy) in 1967 -- he was reaching too far.

--> Brian's Underachievement Score: D-. Brian needed 27 years for Smile, but no apology needed for churning out breathtaking song after breathtaking song through most of the '60s. He also re-emerged from the Smile disaster to make a few worthy songs here an there, particularly on 'Honkin' Down the Highway' in 1978. Plus he can use illness as an excuse.

Brian and Axl's other separated triplet of underachievement is Tennesseean Quentin Tarantino, who burst with promise with a two-fer of 'isn't violence funny?' movies: Reservoir Dogs (1992), Pulp Fiction (1994). Then he ran out of ideas. Three years later, he did a version of an Elmore Leonard novel with the so-so Jackie Brown (1997), then waited six more years before bringing out an original story again with Kill Bill Vol I & II (2003 & 2004), which seemed to stem from a Pulp Fiction joke about a TV pilot of the 'Fox Force Five.' He's talking of adding Vol III & Vol IV in another ten years.

-->Quentin's Underachievement Score: B-. If not for Kill Bill, Quentin would lead Axl.

Failed Bands of Oklahoma sympathize with the creative trappings of these nonfailed artists, but do ask for an apology from each.

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

Thursday, December 18, 2008

FBO: '(In Defiance of all the Critics) New FBO Band Makes Debut Rehearsal'

The new Failed Bands of Oklahoma band -- The Failed Bands of Oklahoma -- practiced last night as a four piece, after one of the five members (Eric Davison) had to step down from band participation due to scheduling conflicts (despite some reports, he was not fired).

Here is a sample of the goods to come in the double B-side single in early 2009:

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

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

FBO: 'Why Don't Future-Failed Bands Talk with Us More?'

Budding new bands miss out on an untapped resource for plotting out how to name their band, design promotional materials, think of themes for songs, and where to insert guitar solos: failed bands.

The FBO is always available to offer for free consultation to new future-failed bands.

The 'digital revolution' of recent years -- with Garage Band mini-studios on every Mac, and blogs to post videos and MP3s -- essentially allows more people to be 'in a band' and write/record music than every before. Even ten years ago, perhaps 15, you really had to want to be in a band -- now just tap the fake-sax on your keyboard.

It's good, but leads to a bunch of junk too.

One thing that caught the FBO eye is teenage Italian goth-metal band Soul Cry, who had two members (an 18-year-old singer and her 16-year-old brother) STAB the guitarist 50 times for 'playing badly' in rehearsal (see story). Unbelievably, the guitarist is doing OK.

The FBO appreciates the band's attention to detail, but only wishes that Soul Cry had contacted us first. Stabbing bandmembers is a no-go.

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

Monday, December 15, 2008

FBO: 'North Dakota Week (Hidden Track)'

North Dakota is used to false reports and misconceptions and an unfair shake of things. It's the least-visited state, and most who stop to consider it at all think of it as the coldest (it's not) or by the actors portraying Minnesotans in the film Fargo. Last week, USA Today one-upped the ante, with an article, following up on the Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich story, that slams the 'Peace Garden State' as the nation's most corrupt.

That'd be fine if it were at all true. It's not. And North Dakota is rightly furious about it.

The editorial pages of the Grand Forks Herald called it a 'laughable claim,' and the state Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem called it 'patently ridiculous.' The Bismarck Tribune added if the claim is true, then 'there are legions of elected and appointed officials from other states who can walk on water.'

There's some facts on their side, apparently. Some half of the 'guilty officials' sited as corrupt of the state's 600,000 residents, were local, not state, officials, including many officials from a Chippewa reservation (which operates outside the state jurisdiction). The Grand Forks Herald claims the last North Dakota state official to be found guilty of corruption was in 1954. In a New York Times article on the controversy, the Herald editor said he could only recall a state legislator being charged for shoplifting some peanuts, back in 1981.

North Dakota Attorney General: 'These groups that grade states should be graded themselves. This group deserves an F.' (Referring to Corporate Crime Reporter, who -- in 2004 -- called North Dakota the second-most corrupt state (after Mississippi).

The FBO sees many comparisons between failed bands, lack of awareness of failed bands, and frequent dissent over failed bands' collectives such as the FBO -- and with the barrage of disrespect given to North Dakota over the years.

We side with our adopted state on this issue, and ban USA Today from linking to our site for eight full weeks.

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

Friday, December 12, 2008

FBO: 'North Dakota Week (Conclusion Postponed)'

Despite overwhelming positive reaction to the FBO North Dakota Week, the concluding portion -- including a music video -- must regrettably be postponed at least one week.

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

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

FBO: 'North Dakota Week: NAM's Center'

I went well out of my way, on May 10, 2001, to reach Rugby, the geographical center of the North American continent. A little on a Great Plains map can mean hours -- and I didn't question my decision for a second.

Here's my journal entry from that day:

The Rugby visitors center is why you travel.

Located across the road from the cute stacked-stone geographical center of North America marker, the worker here -- dressed in a 'Rugby - Geographical Center of North America' jacket -- is a serious, bald, 35-year-old local who sells Mexico and Canada flags along with US ones to keep the North American focus. He takes that seriously. He pulled out travel planners he's painstakingly collected from all 50 US states and much of Canada -- to have onhand, as a defacto representative of North American travel, here in a sad wind-swept town far from an interstate.

'It's something,' he said in an eager monotone, with a trace of a Fargo accent. 'You really learn which states have the highest tourism budgets and which don't.' Which have the least? 'Oh Virginia, definitely. They sent us just one guide. Said if we wanted more we'd have to pay postage,' he added without a trace of resentment. 'But New Jersey, they sent us cartons of magazines and brochures. They sent us 1000 New Jersey maps.' I laughed at this, but he clearly saw no humor in it.

Rugby wants to create a new visitors center, but ran out of money. He showed me three separate artists' renderings of a new proposed center. I left to check out the North American stone marker across the street, first asking if it really was the real geographical center.

'Oh no,' he said. 'The actual spot is 16 miles south -- in the middle of a swamp.'

The FBO is considering a failed bands show in Rugby.

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

Monday, December 08, 2008

FBO: 'North Dakota Week T-Shirt'

FBO fans ask for an official North Dakota t-shirt. And one is delivered. It can be ordered here.

Careful observers will note a Dakota swap in the clip art. (Only South D was available.)

More North Dakota-related posts will resume tomorrow.

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

FBO: 'Launches North Dakota Week'

The USA's least-visited state -- sometimes misinterpreted as the coldest of the contiguous 48 (Maine is colder, for instance), and made fun of by a movie that takes place in next-door Minnesota (Fargo) -- is getting the last laugh on the rest of us, it appears. According to a New York Times article a few days ago, North Dakota is, more or less, taking a bypass around the recession. It enjoys a $1.2 million budget surplus, the nation's lowest unemployment rate and a recent rise in real-estate values. Good for them.

The FBO has particularly been a fan of the state's punk-rock threats of renaming its state -- from 'North Dakota' to simply 'Dakota,' which pops up in its state legislature every couple years. Predictably South Dakota -- the more famous twin -- gets furious over the notion, but the FBO thinks more states should remain fluid with its nomenclature. Some examples:

*New Jersey --> York. The only thing that could possibly make New Jersey cool is upsetting New York (the Boss certainly hasn't done it). Another option would be simply Manhattan.
*West Virginia --> Authentic Virginia. No one will know which came first after 80 years.
*Oklahoma Panhandle --> Actual Massachusetts

We visited North Dakota in the tender days of early 2001, arriving in Fargo's proud, just-opened tourist information center -- fashioned from a giant grain elevator, and excited to launch a full tourism campaign for a state everyone skips -- the same day USA Today slammed the city as the 'country's ugliest city.' That's just mean.

The FBO adopts North Dakota. And bans the USA Today editorial board for three weeks.

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

Thursday, December 04, 2008

FBO: 'Failed Bands of Oklahoma Band Meets'


Despite the critics' calls for the Failed Bands of Oklahoma to stay away from rehearsal spaces and livehouses, the FBO band -- a five-piece featuring (so far) Joe Guerrero, John Whitaker, Eric JJ Davison, Doug Russell and Robert Reid -- met, talked, discussed instruments in possession and set plans to write/record a 2009 FBO Anthem 'Be in a Band.'

There is also the possibility of an 18-minute conceptual recording called '1812 Mind Control.'

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

Monday, December 01, 2008

FBO: 'Responds to Critics'

Here we go again. The latest FBO initiative -- to form an all-new, short-term FBO band in the semi-permanent hub of Brooklyn, New York -- has unleashed a storm of criticism, who wonder why the Failed Bands of Oklahoma should bother.

The FBO responds:

Meanwhile, the FBO would like to welcome an outgoingly positive new fan -- one who could potentially top our Top Fan in a future poll -- Sue Seeger, who is an artist.

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