Saturday, May 30, 2015

We're Going Places: Nirvana - Taking Punk To The Masses

Seattle's EMP, Gehry-designed like a discarded sheath at the foot of the Space Needle, is a hell of a venue; broadly collecting together popular culture. There's a suspicion that the idea is it's a museum of things that aren't usually in museums, but with most cities with a large young-ish population having tried similar schemes with mixed success, it's not quite as unusual as it might like to think it is.

Amongst the exhibits is a celebration of Nirvana, Taking Punk To The Masses. (Because he spent so much time sharing bills with the band, it's also accidentally something of a history of Tad as well.)

It's not clear who it's aimed at - tubby, balding guys who remember when all this was in the present tense and for whom the explication makes you feel like you've just come round in a hospital and the nurses aren't sure you can remember who you are; or the kids who choose a Nirvana shirt when the Ramones one is in the wash? It falls somewhere between the two, and that makes the lovingly-curated show strain a bit.

There are pieces of the true cross on display - demo tapes, Kurt's stripey green jumper, setlists and smashed equipment. But they're all tucked away in glass cabinets, giving them a reverence that they existed to reject. Like orcas, punk stuff doesn't really thrive in a small, visitor-friendly box and it loses its power. (Sure, I got insanely excited seeing the Fastbacks' name on a flier, but not as insanely excited as I would have done if there had been some Fastbacks actually playing.)

An extensive oral history project sits on a massive screen - pretty much ignored, as these huge screens tend to be; at best prodded for a few seconds before the visitor moves on - and this seems to offer the context and other voices (and the experience) that the static displays miss. It suggests that, really, this might work better as an online project rather than a thing to go to. I would have loved to have spent longer poking about in the fanzine section, but when you're already being reminded the museum closes in a half hour, and there are other people milling about, waiting for their poke at the screen, it's not the time or the place. (This also seems the place where - the walk-ons for Courtney and the odd mention of Bikini Kill excepted - most of the not-male experience seems to have been shunted to.)

Across the way, there's an exhibit of indie video games where visitors are happily playing with the games themselves on numerous large screens. It makes sense - how do you understand the evolution of video games better than by playing them for yourself?

So why didn't this logic not get applied to the Nirvana exhibition? Sure, reading the form letter they sent to fans was fun ("when we're in your home town of _______________ I hope we can hang out with cool people like you"), but nothing in the room felt like it did watching Kurt beyond-dead-panning on Top Of The Pops, or that lurch on the Friday night wwhen the news broke.

Crucially, if there's an argument for having punk (of any era) in a museum, it should be to provide the kick up the arse that all punk did; all punk does. You should leave the EMP wanting to form a band, or do a zine, or even just play a record. Instead, it just makes you want to wander over to the gift shop.

In the middle of the museum as we leave, there's a massive (100 foot? 200 foot?) screen playing a Tacocat performance for KEXP. It feels more subversive than anything in the Nirvana display. That's got to be wrong.

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The Beatles' childhood homes
Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame]

Friday, May 29, 2015

"Well, this ranch certainly impressed Suzy and Tim, but can it beat the cottage in the Lake District that Johnnie showed them?"

It feels like Neverland ranch is constantly at the centre of about to be sold stories - even when Jackson was still doing what I guess we can best understand as "sort-of-alive" it was repeatedly being refinanced or eyed as part of a possible firesale, but this time round there's a snooty statement from an auctioneer:

The estate agents have warned off fans hoping to get a glimpse inside the piece of Jackson history, telling the Wall Street Journal anyone wanting to view the property would be subject to "extensive prequalification".
"We're not going to be giving tours," said Suzanne Perkins of Sotheby's International Realty.
I'm not quite sure what the "extensive prequalification" will consist of, but suspect it's going to involve some sort of wallet weighing.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Never Mourn The Buzzcocks

Yeah, it's probably no surprise that, finally, a BBC Two controller has decided that Buzzcocks has delighted us enough and swung the axe.

What is odd, though, is the timing. The series spent a good five years or so post-Amstell years looking like a knackered warhorse; the most recent series, though, with a fixed host in Rhod Gilbert, was still warhorse, but was at least able to break into the odd gallop or two.

What we have, then, is a series that was able to survive having Eamon Holmes pretending to be Elvis Presley as guest host (or whatever the hell that was) but got axed just as it healed itself.

The news, though, is most grim for any drummers from mid-90s indie acts who were looking for an easy way to make a few quid and promote their new self-released album/tour of Shropshire pubs. The easy route of a Buzzcocks line-up has been cruelly wrenched away; it'll be back to sticking fliers under windscreen wipers.

Bookmarks: Mikel Knight

Thanks to @pedro_dee for passing me the link to the alarming story of Mikel Knight and his street teams. It's a business model that appears to cut out all the normal music-related ways of building an audience, and just rushes up to people in the street, browbeating them into buying not very good CDs. It's like a cross between pyramid selling and chugging. The scary thing is, it brings in money - without necessarily worrying too much about paperwork. Or the people involved:

Ky Rodgers says that one night when riding in a street team van, the vehicle was in an accident in Utah, and the van fell off a three-story cliff. Ky was severely injured, and had to be care flighted to a hospital. He broke his L2, L3, and L4 vertebrae, his pelvis and sacrum, and was in the hospital for a week before he was discharged. He claims that Mikel Knight completely abandoned him and the rest of his street team crew, did not pay them, and would not return their personal possessions. Ky was stuck with $38,000 in medical bills, and couldn’t get Mikel Knight to even work with the auto insurance company to take out a claim, if the van was ever insured in the first place. “There was nothing we could do because we never signed anything saying ‘hey, you’re hired!’ He leaves no paper trail, no proof that anyone works for him, and he never withheld taxes from anyone’s pay.”
Knight's response to this, and other allegations, is to post things about "haters" to social media.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

If McDonald's staff were paid a decent wage, Man I Feel Like A Woman would never have happened

It turns out that McDonalds pay their staff the least money they possibly can as a service to humanity, and not because they're bastards:

If the food stores paid their frontline workers enough to survive on, Shania Twain would still be working there, a shareholder claimed at the company’s annual meeting this week.

The unidentified man, who said he’d been a McDonald’s investor since 1990 according to BuzzFeed News, used a Q&A session to rattle off a list of successful celebrities like Twain, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, and Hollywood star Sharon Stone who had worked in a McDonald’s earlier in their lives. “I’m sure if they were making $15 an hour, they’d still be working at McDonald’s,” he said, as thousands of current McDonald’s workers protested outside.
"Hi, is that Sharon? It's your agent. I've got you a callback for that TV series... oh, you're only two sessions away from getting one of those little airplane pins for your namebadge? Okay, sorry to bother you. I'll try Meg Ryan as I think the iHop is cutting back on hours right now..."

Eurovision 2015: The public and the juries were split

Away from all the excitement about how a terrible song from Russia could even look like it might win for a short while, there was something different about the points from last night:

The juries - comprised of people who presumably 'know about this sort of thing' - no longer represent the people who dutifully sit through the whole thing and spend money voting.

And that difference could have made the difference between Britain being totally humiliated, and merely just humiliated:

Digital Spy surprised to discover how TV works

Digital Spy seem genuinely upset to discover that Nigella Lawson wasn't stood on the Southbank at Midnight:

While the UK's five points were nothing to behold, it's always a proud moment to see our capital in the background of the scores presenter during the Eurovision Song Contest.

This year we were treated to Nigella Lawson - who wowed us with her German, Italian and French skills - but unfortunately the London Eye you saw in the background wasn't quite what it seemed...

Yes, we're afraid to report it is indeed a green screen.

Of course, chroma key is common these days but we thought the beloved London skyline might at least be real - ol' Nigella could have been in her living room for all we know.
Actually, the London skyline is real, DigitalSpy; I've been to London at least twice and have seen it in place; it's not just painted on a backdrop by Joe from the Mayor's Office. It just wasn't in the same shot.