February 27, 2007

Serenity & Firefly: The Space Westerns

As previously mentioned several times, I spent the early months of 2005 watching every episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer the TV series. I gained an appreciation for what Joss Whedon has running around in his head. Joss directed a recent episode of The Office, though he apparently had nothing to do with the writing, ironically considering the vampire storyline. There's been increasing buzz about the short lived TV series Firefly, lately in my "meta-circles" so I added it to my Netflix queue to see what all the buzz was about. I knew from my Buffy experience that there was going to be witty dialog and that the characters would all be uniquely gifted to make the whole of the group more powerful. I didn't have a concept of what the story was, though. Without giving too much away for those of you who will immediately run out and rent it, I'll share what I liked about the TV series and then the movie (that due to a Netflix hiccup, came before the Firefly discs, which incidentally came out of order too). I like that there aren't alien creatures. It sets it apart from just about every other scifi space story. Some might argue the Reavers are alien creatures, but we don't learn enough about them in the TV series to know anything other than they used to be humans and you don't want to be anywhere near them. I like that the visual effects (which won the series an Emmy) don't make it look like one of those weekend mid-day scifi shows on syndicated networks (you know what I mean). There were probably too many characters for the show to not become messy with holes in the story. Perhaps had the show continued beyond the 14 episodes, we would have had some more insight. There are hints throughout the series that we don't know everything we should know about Book, but we're never told what makes him so experienced for a Shepherd. TV has a long history of having romantic tensions play out for a season or a series and there are plenty of cases where once two characters finally get together, it's a letdown, so the tension between Mal Reynolds and Inara (the prostitute in an age where prostitutes are at the top of the social food chain) never came to fruition either by design or because of the shortened series. I'm left at the end of the movie (which comes chronologically after the TV series) wanting more, but I'm not sure there was more to tell about these characters. The conflict and themes were compelling and I loved the universe (the 'verse) they were set in, though so there's potential. I know there are comics about the series, but that's not my thing. The space western worked for George Lucas once too, maybe it's a valid genre for a clever writer to explore.

New Camera and I Finished Babel

I got a new camera. It was on my list of resolutions for 2007 to get a digital SLR and I can cross that one off. I got a Canon EOS Rebel XTi...that's the 10.1 megapixel model of the Digital Rebels. It will definitely get the job done for getting some pictures of California over the next couple weeks as well as chronicling my adventures in Alaska. Also purchased to go along with it is a Waterproof backpack that should ease my anxiety of taking a supercamera out of it's box it came in.

I finished Babel. It's a pretty interesting film, but I still think The Departed deserves best picture. I felt like Babel was making some valid statements, but they were a little heavy handed and I felt like there was a lot I already had seen in movies like Crash and Traffic. Some great performances, though. Definitely worth two and a half hours of your time. Drop it in your queue with Little Miss Sunshine, The Departed, and Everything is Illuminated.

February 26, 2007

Recapping the Weekend

Lakers @ Warriors
I went to the opening night match-up between these two teams where without Kobe and Phil Jackson, the Lakers made the Warriors question whether they'd improved at all. What made anyone think that with Kobe and Phil the result would be different? Again, the Warriors were left questioning their existence while again causing the fans in Oakland to exit early. It was my first time seeing Kobe play in person and despite only scoring 26 points, he had an impressive game and it's pretty amazing to see him impact the game both when the clock is running and when it's not. He did a post-game interview and when he made his way to the locker room, you'd think it was a rock star because the stands were full and chanting MVP all around the exit tunnel.

The Oscars
Rather than some in depth analysis of the awards show (which you can probably type anything into Google today and find someone's opinion of the Oscars), I give you my favorite moments.

Ellen asking Steven Spielberg to take a picture of her and Clint Eastwood.

Scorsese being awarded the Best Director award by Spielberg, Coppola and Lucas (?).

Clint Eastwood translating Ennio Morricone's acceptance speech. Made me wonder if the show's producers knew he spoke Italian or if that's why Clint Eastwood was up there; it didn't seem like the smoothest thing if it was planned.

Any Reese Witherspoon screen time, which if you ask me wasn't enough.

Abigail Breslin's reaction when Jennifer Hudson was announced the winner, it was so genuine and seemed like a 10-year old girl whose favorite movie star just won an award. Abigail will be back.

Jack Nicholson's bald head. He's shooting a film in which he plays a terminal cancer patient, so that's the answer to that trivia question...

Montages. I loved the foreign film montage.

The iPhone spot. Though I thought the ad itself was a bit lame, it's nice that they're putting the June window for launch out in the public.

Though I missed it because I was on my way home from the game, Alan Arkin winning for Little Miss Sunshine. I've mentioned before that I thought his performance (whether or not he was the body in the sheet) was the best supporting performance I saw.

The Departed winning best picture.

On a separate not, I'm somewhere in the middle of watching Babel. I fell asleep watching it (which hopefully isn't my impression of the film) and need to figure out where I left off being conscious of what was happening.

I almost forgot to mention Rainn Wilson and Arcade Fire on SNL. Though most of the show was pretty poor, I enjoyed several of the sketches and Arcade Fire (are they now Arcade Fire instead of The Arcade Fire...I'm so confused) were awesome. Guitars everywhere should watch that performance as a warning, that if their strings break, they too might be destroyed.

February 23, 2007

Between Jobs

I'm officially now between jobs. I worked my last day at the job I've had since June today and I will start a new job on March 12th, so officially I'm between jobs. The exciting announcement I've been teasing has to do with that new job. On March 12th I will be employed by my old employer in Alaska. I'll be working remotely for a few weeks from California while I tie up some loose ends and then around the first week of April I will be moving back to Alaska. I won't be doing the same job I had before, it's a new and exciting job that will use a different side of my skill set, so I'm really looking forward to it. I'm also looking forward to getting back to Alaska. There's a lot that I miss about that place. So call Humpy's, Kaladi, and Bear Tooth and warn them, I'm coming back.

A few questions that have come up in telling people about this.

Q: How are you getting there?
A: I'll be working on the details over the coming weeks.

Q: Will you change your blog title back to your old blog?
A: No. MK will stay in motion.

Q: Why?
A: I'll be covering that in more detail over the coming weeks.

If you have other questions, feel free to drop them in the comments or you can email them to me at matt[at]mkinmotion[dot]com. You can look forward to other interesting announcements in the coming weeks.

February 22, 2007

New Music Tuesday...err...Thursday

I've been a bit absent from the blog lately working on some other things, but I thought I would take some time to do a couple of album reviews of some new music that's come around in the last few weeks. It'll give you something to do while you wait for the previously referenced announcement (which should be made tomorrow).

Patty Griffin has been widely recognized as a songwriter, which to some extent has overshadowed her performances. She's written songs that were taken and made famous by such artists as The Dixie Chicks, Jessica Simpson, and even Linda Rondstadt, but her latest release Children Running Through is a showcase not only of her songwriting but of her talent as a performer, as well. This is a great album for driving on an open road or for sitting outside watching the sun go down, but also holds up being played on an iPod in an office.Buy Patty Griffin - Children Running Through (iTunes)

Elvis Perkins is the son of two famous people in their own right. His father Anthony Perkins played Norman Bates in Psycho and his mother was an accomplished photographer and actress. She died as a passenger on American Airlines Flight 11 that was crashed into the World Trade Center. There's been a lot of buzz about Elvis' album on the internet, and Ash Wednesday finally hit stores on Tuesday. I'd heard most of it in leaks on the web, but I still made the purchase because it's a great album of a unique folk country rock.Buy Elvis Perkins - Ash Wednesday (iTunes)

As mentioned in the Julie Moffitt interview, Lucinda Williams has a new release. West hit stores a couple of weeks ago, and has made itself easily into my rotation. I find myself checking the screen of my iPod each time one of the songs comes up on shuffle reminding myself I need to spend some more time with Lucinda.Buy Lucinda Williams - West (iTunes)

The Frames quietly released The Cost recently. While I don't think it's as good as Glen Hansard's solo album or 2005's Burn the Maps, it's fairly solid. It might not be the Frames album I would suggest you introduce yourself to the band with, but if you're a fan, you'll like it and if you aren't a fan yet, you'll still enjoy it.Buy The Frames - The Cost (iTunes)

The new Arcade Fire album is just a few weeks away and the leaks are flooding the internet. For some legit sampling, check out the latest episode of NPR's All Songs Considered as it features a complete Arcade Fire live performance.

The new Kings of Leon album is even farther away from release, but all the advanced songs I've heard are very promising. I read an article on NME where the band described it as bigger music and it truly is bigger. The song currently on iTunes "On Call" was one that they played in the Fall when I saw them open for Bob Dylan and it's one of my favorite songs right now.

February 19, 2007

XM & Sirius

The web is all a buzz with talk of the merger between the two major satellite radio providers. I've considered satellite radio on a number of occasions but the thing that's kept me from subscribing is having to make the choice between the two services.
XM had MLB and ESPN.
Sirius had NFL and NBA.
Just sports alone makes a decision hard to make. The merger will of course be a bigger deal to a consumer once they can subscribe to a service that gives them Howard Stern and Air America on the same service. It should put "terrestrial" radio stations on notice. With the increase in internet radio, podcasts, and satellite radio, maybe there will finally be a revolution in the way radio is done. None of the news stories that I've read today have consistent facts, so I imagine a lot of it is speculation, but I'm ready to sign up when I can get the merged services.

Upcoming: An Exciting Announcement

Coming later this week, an exciting announcement from MKinMotion.com. I ask if you're already "in the know" to hold off on commenting until I make the announcement myself...

The Presidential Voice,Part Five: President's Day

Today is President's Day in the U.S. It's a day between Abraham Lincoln's birthday (Feb 12) and George Washington's birthday (Feb 22), but the honor is passed to all U.S. Presidents. I've seen lots of photos of Mt. Rushmore floating around the internet today. I know I've posed the question here before about who would be next President to be added to Mt. Rushmore or a Rushmoresque honor. Who was the last great President? The latest addition to Rushmore was Teddy Roosevelt who left office almost 100 years ago. Modifying Rushmore might be too difficult a task, but is there an equivalent honor? And if so who in th e last 100 years is deserving of such an honor? I believe it's virtually impossible to be considered a great president anymore. In an age of harsh partisanship and the media's no holds barred exposure journalism (and frankly, our "enlightened" desire for knowing every detail about our leaders). It's been well documented how the press kept FDR's physical disabilities quiet, but now the party leadership will discourage a candidate from entering the primaries if they have anything that might have to be explained in their family tree or their past. On one hand the American people are loosening up their standards, but the media is looking for a story too, so it's safer to try to find a perfect candidate than have to explain a divorce or experimental drug use. Four names that get thrown around since Rushmore are FDR, Kennedy, Reagan and Clinton. I think all four of these president's have dibs on a Rushmore level honor, for their own accomplishments. FDR guided the US through World War II and helped to rebound the U.S. Economy from the Depression. Kennedy was outspoken on Civil Rights and gave Americans hope when he made his famous Man on the Moon speech and started the modern space program, and there's a lot of speculation as to what the world would be like today had Kennedy not been assassinated. Reagan strengthened the Economy and kept the U.S. from getting into a global conflict with the Soviet Union while still maintaining a healthy challenging relationship that ultimately lead to the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union to be torn down. Clinton enabled technology to develop and helped bring back the Reagan economic progress. Sure, they each have their limitations and vices, but if you put whatever partisan leanings you have aside, and just look at the progress they managed from the Oval Office, they definitely the distinction of being great presidents. So honor the presidents from Washington to Adams to Jefferson to Polk to Taft to Nixon to Carter to Bush, for only the 42 (Cleveland twice makes 43 presidencies, but 42 men) to sit behind those desks with that title can really judge who was successful and who did the best they could with their row to hoe. As for the next president, we can only hope that they realize the responsibility and the history of the office and strive to be a great American President.

February 17, 2007

Netflix Dump

A couple of movies that have passed through the USPS lately...

The Science of Sleep
What a great movie! There's so much about it that I don't understand, but the way the film mixed dreams, reality, lucid dreams and the film's own reality was pretty brilliant. It comes from Michel Gondry who directed Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Where Charlie Kaufman's writing helped Eternal Sunshine have a little rhyme and reason to it, Gondry wrote The Science of Sleep and brilliantly keeps you confused the whole time whether what you're seeing is real or dream or just the reality in which the film lives. It's highly recommended.

The Departed
I like gangster shows and films and I like clandestine stories too. This latest film from Martin Scorsese does the gangster genre, the cop genre and adds the thriller suspense plot twists to it to make an excellent film. It was originally a Hong Kong film called Infernal Affairs (Wu Jian Dao). Jack Nicholson is great in the film. Leonardo DiCaprio is pretty amazing as usual. Mark Wahlberg does a great job (he's nominated for Best Supporting Actor for the role) but I think Matt Damon's performance is overlooked. He may never have a Will Hunting performance again, but I think this was one of his best roles.

Never Cry Wolf
I saw this movie several times as a kid, but only had vague memories of it. It's the story of Farley Mowat and his adventures in remote Canada. Farley Mowat was sent by the government to study wolves to see if they are the cause of caribou shortages. It's fascinating and beautifully told and filmed.

Game 6
This movie didn't come in the mail, but rather was my testing of the new feature of Netflix to stream movies on your computer. The service worked flawlessly (though it requires using Internet Explorer and isn't compatible with Firefox. The movie surrounds Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, the game made famous by the Red Sox collapse culminating with Bill Buckner letting the routine grounder slip by him giving up the winning run. It stars Michael Keaton and Robert Downey Jr. Though the movie only briefly touched on the idea, I was thinking that it was going to explore the impact of that game by showing an alternate reality in which Buckner got the ball and put Mookie out at first base. Somethings would be significantly different, but much would be the same. This isn't a baseball movie, so put that idea that the players on the team are actors like a Costner movie. The events of the movie surround the game. It's a good story and I liked the characters a lot. I can recommend the movie and I can recommend the service of watching the movies on your computer.

February 16, 2007

The Presidential Voice,Part Four: The Birth of America

Though the constitution says that the President must be a natural born citizen of the United States, the first several presidents were well along in life when the birth of the nation took place, but they have all been born on what would ultimately become U.S. soil. The nine candidates that I've been tracking in the race for the White House in 2008 have some potential for some firsts. John McCain was born on a Naval Base in the Panama Canal region and if elected would be the first president to be born outside of the continental U.S.; also his home state of Arizona has never been represented in the Oval Office. Speaking of the continental U.S., Barack Obama was born on Hawaii (yes, it was already a state at the time of his birth) and would be the first U.S. President to be born on Hawaii, though his residence and constituency is Illinois and Lincoln was born and raised there, and Ronald Reagan was born in Illinois though represented California. Hillary Clinton was born in Illinois, established residency in Arkansas, but ultimately wound up in New York and New York has produced both President Roosevelt's, Van Buren and Grover Cleveland (though born in New Jersey). Sam Brownback would be the first president to be born and represent Kansas (Eisenhower lived there in his childhood, but was elected representing New York); Kansas has been the representative state of two defeated presidential candidates in Bob Dole (1996-Clinton) and Alf Landon (1936-Roosevelt). Mike Huckabee could follow Bill Clinton's lead being born in the same town in Arkansas and being governor of that same state. Mitt Romney's dad endured some buzz because he was born in Mexico (though his parents were U.S. citizens) when he ran for President, but one of his Republican opponents Barry Goldwater was born in Arizona before it was a state. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts was born in Michigan, so no controversy there as Gerald Ford represented Michigan when he was president. Rudy Guiliani was born and raised in New York and still represents New York in his run for the White House. John Edwards was born in South Carolina but represents North Carolina, Andrew Jackson was born in South Carolina but represented Tennessee while James K. Polk and Andrew Johnson both were born in North Carolina but represented Tennessee. No president has represented North Carolina. Joseph Biden of Delaware would be the first president to represent that state, though he shares his birth state of Pennsylvania with James Buchanan. We're a long way off from having all 50 states represented in the White House, we have the distinct possibility of a new state to be added to the list.

February 14, 2007

Pete Yorn: The Fillmore, San Francisco (2-13-07)

There was a lot of buzz about Pete Yorn back in 2001. None of my friends had heard of him, but I kept hearing the name come up in circles, so I took a chance and bought Musicforthemorningafter. It quickly became a favorite, and not only has it remained a favorite, but his subsequent albums Day I Forgot and Nightcrawler have also become favorites. So naturally when the opportunity presented itself for me to see Pete Yorn live, I jumped at the chance. Not to mention he was playing the Fillmore which is a great venue with legend status. The show was a sell out so I got there as early as I could to make sure I could at least see, and ended up just feet from the stage. There were two bands opening Charlotte Martin and Aqualung. I'd only heard one of Charlotte's songs before last night and thought it sounded a lot like Tori Amos, I got the same feeling from her live performance. Aqualung has been in my rotation since my preparatory collecting I did for ACL in 2005. He gained some popularity between then and now with some exposure on Scrubs, The O.C. and the single "Brighter than Sunshine." The set was solid and Matt Hales band was very tight and I enjoyed it a lot...much more than the last time I saw him play in Austin. He played some new songs from his album that will be out in March and it made me look forward to its release.
Pete Yorn put on a great show. The sell out crowd was very excited and really into the music and Pete and his band were equally enthusiastic. When done correctly, the 5-piece band is a beautiful thing, and Pete Yorn and his band did it correctly. He started off the set with a quick hit of "Friend of the Devil" which at the time I thought was an homage to the Fillmore/Grateful Dead connection, but when I saw a bootleg I got from Heather (the biggest Yorn fan I've seen on the internet), I noticed he kicked off a Denver show last summer with the same song. They were filming the show last night, but there were several technical difficulties that may either require some creative editing or bump any DVD performance to a different venue. Other than "Lose You" (which might have lost the crowd's enthusiasm) I can't think of a song that I wanted to hear that he didn't play. The 5-piece band allows for multi-instrumentalism to be utilized so Joe Kennedy jumped between lead guitar and keys, whereas rhythm guitarist whose name escapes me (edit: Tim Walker) jumped on the pedal steel when the songs called for it. Something that makes Pete's live performance different from his albums is he generally tries to play as much of the music on his albums as possible. I read an article that said that he was such a perfectionist that he had a hard time working with other musicians, but it didn't seem like there was any problem giving up the control last night. Perhaps the quality of his backing crew made all the difference. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Pete's music, the only word I can use to describe it is that it's rock. The second you try to put him in a genre or category is the second it doesn't fit. Last night reminded me that he's pretty brilliant as a songwriter and very talented with his guitar. He involved the crowd a lot in singing along and his drummer Malcolm Cross got the crowd energized when it seemed that they'd cooled. In looking up some other information, I noticed that several members of the backing band last night make up the California band Minibar, who I'm a fan of, but know nothing about other than loving their song "Road Movies." I'd give the performance 5 stars and highly recommend checking him out if he comes to your area...and if you can get a ticket. Oh and in case you didn't already know...the chicks dig the Pete Yorn.

Buy Musicforthemorningafter
Buy Day I Forgot
Buy Nightcrawler
Buy Live From New Jersey

Coming to a venue near you?

February 12, 2007

Rick Rubin: Producer of the Year

If you've been reading MKinMotion.com for a while now, you will know that I have a fascination with the role a record producer plays in the creation of music. I've written posts about T-Bone Burnett, Daniel Lanois, George Martin, and the title producer Rick Rubin. While Rubin won the Grammy for Producer of the Year, he also produced the Dixie Chicks album that won in several categories. He produced Stadium Arcadium, Johnny Cash's American V: A Thousand Highways, Neil Diamond's 12 Songs and a track on Justin Timberlake's album. Shakira performed at the Grammy's too , and her album has production credits from Rick Rubin.
The track record speaks for itself with such albums as Tom Petty's Wildflowers, The Chili Peppers' Blood Sugar Sex Magik, LL Cool J's Radio, The Beastie Boys' License to Ill, and Run DMC's Raising Hell. Along with this year's Grammy attention, Rubin is a pretty solid lock to produce the next U2 album. 2007 will also see a new Rubin produced Metallica album and the final Johnny Cash set of American recordings.
His ability to take artists as diverse as Justin Timberlake, The Dixie Chicks and Red Hot Chili Peppers and improve the sound of the elements of their music has been well documented, but is not more recognized by the industry than ever.

February 11, 2007

The Presidential Voice,Part Three: Timing and Rhetoric

As I'm sure you're aware, Barack Obama (D-IL) officially announced his intention of running for President in the 2008 election yesterday. There isn't much suspense between when a potential candidate declares they are setting up an exploratory committee and when they announce they're going ahead with their campaign, but don't think for a moment that yesterday's announcement isn't significant. Senator Obama will be a key figure in American politics for years to come.
I was watching Tim Russert's interview show on MSNBC last night and he was interviewing Terry McAuliffe (former DNC chair and current Hillary Clinton campaign chair) and he pointed out that Bill Clinton didn't enter the 1992 election until October of 1991. Translate that fact to this year's election cycle and the precedent is there for someone off the radar today entering the race 8 months from now. While I know "the event of the internet" has made it less and less likely for someone with presidential credentials to be even relatively unknown, the possibility remains. This might be a particularly hopeful thought to the Republican Party, considering their lackluster cast of candidates.
This is an interesting time for the candidates, too. While the most exciting time might be as we get closer to November 2008, this time period between candidates declaring their intentions and the actual primaries is rare. The candidates are messaging to define themselves which sometimes gets lost once the "eating of young" starts. I've always thought the most fascinating part about a Presidential election is when the non-incumbent party's candidates shred each other to bits for the nomination, but this year both party's are in that position of not having a predetermined candidate. The rhetoric today is not a foreshadowing of things to come. When Senator Obama says, "Each and every time, a new generation has risen up and done what's needed to be done. Today we are called once more — and it is time for our generation to answer that call" Hillary's campaign will counter with something about the lack of experience in Washington. It's all rhetoric and the toughest thing is to try to disseminate who the candidate really is through the message of the people behind the candidate. Barack Obama's speech had a great deal of energy and genuineness to it, and I admire that. Like Reagan spinning the age question back on Mondale in the 1984 debate, Obama has spun the inexperience question to be a genuine message of change. I'll be interested in the coming weeks to see who joins the Obama campaign.

February 7, 2007

Stealing Julie Moffitt, Part Two

"All You Need Is Love" is track 11 on Magical Mystery Tour, "Bohemian Rhapsody" is track 11 on A Night at the Opera, and "Nightswimming" is track 11 on Automatic for the People. While many artists use track 11's to close down their albums, Paste Magazine has used track 11 on their sampler for issue 28 to help give a boost to Julie Moffitt's career. Being featured on a national music magazine's sampler isn't the end all be all, it sets the stage for what looks like a very bright 2007 for Julie Moffitt. A bit of internet synchronicity occured over the last week or so. I am a regular listener to Coverville, and I made a suggestion for a Clash "cover story" with Matthew Ryan (I received a very nice message from MRyan for the effort) covering "Somebody Got Murdered" and Living Colour covering "Should I Stay Or Should I Go?" Just days after that show was released, Brian who runs Coverville posted Julie Moffitt covering R.E.M. and mentioned he was trying to get an audio version of it to feature in a show. That show (290) was released this week. Check out both at Coverville. Continuing my email conversation with her, she talks about the Paste Magazine sampler, her plans for 2007, and the (now obvious) impact of the internet on the music industry.

MK: The Paste Sampler is a big step for anyone, what's it like to be featured on a compilation with The Shins and Lucinda Williams?

Julie Moffitt: I was actually giddy when I picked up my copy of Paste at Borders. I opened up the plastic around the magazine, looked at my name on page 32, and showed it to the guy at the coffee counter (he wasn't nearly as impressed as I wanted him to be, but what can you do).
The best part of it, aside from having my name associated with people whose music I've enjoyed and respected for a while now, is that it's a solid reference - a little bit of weight behind me. There's a kind of checklist of achievements in my head, guiding me up the path to where I want to be in this career, and "nationally distributed magazine" was on that list somewhere after "college radio" and "indie label." Now I get to look ahead to things like "opening act on tour for Jonatha Brooke" and "song on Grey's Anatomy." (On a related note, if anyone knows Jonatha Brooke or Shonda Rhimes, feel free to burn a copy of my CD for them - I won't mind.)

MK: Your EP (The Stolen EP) is amazing and leaves me wondering: when I can expect more?

Julie Moffitt: I'm wondering the same thing! :) Honestly, I'm planning to have a new CD out this fall. It might be a live CD, depending on how planning goes - I've got a ton of new music that I really want to put out there, but I don't want to rush through a studio recording if I can't really make it kick more ass than the last album. So look for something new by September, and in the meantime, I've got videos going up on YouTube pretty regularly.

MK: How is your touring going? Do you expect to make any West Coast stops (I have a high percentage of readers on the West Coast)?

Julie Moffitt: Touring is going great. I tour the Midwest for the most part, just because it's easier to drive to Minneapolis from Chicago than to Los Angeles, but I have a lot of friends out on the west coast and am planning to come out and do a tour again toward the end of this year or early next year. I'll have new CDs and T-shirts by then. I'm happiest when I'm on the road, so the more I do it, the better.

MK: I read an article about a remix contest you were involved with, how did that get started? You found me and I found you on Myspace, what are your thoughts on how the internet has changed the way music is distributed and marketed? Do you feel like you have an advantage over a major label artist or do you think the internet has leveled the playing field?

Julie Moffitt: Hmm, loaded question...this subject comes up with relative frequency in the music community, and I've noticed that it can cause just as much tension as topics like religion and politics. I won't pretend to be fully informed on every aspect of the music industry in relation to the Internet and indie marketing - even if I could somehow absorb every book on the subject overnight, I'd still have a ton to learn through experience and experimentation. But in the 2 years since I started recording my own albums and concentrating on succeeding in the industry, I have formed a few opinions.

The freedom that the Internet has given to indie artists is astounding. Imagine 20 years ago when there was no public Internet like there is today, when music was spread through radio and MTV and movie soundtracks. All of those things require a chain of approval, and that chain was most likely chock full of people who wanted to be paid (a lot) for giving the green light to a new artist.

Now, so many things are cheaper, easier, and possible to take care of on your own in an afternoon instead of hiring someone or waiting or spending wads of dough. Recording an album used to require a studio, a producer, an engineer, studio musicians, lots of money to pay for it all. That's definitely still an option - or I could just go home tonight and record a few tracks on Garageband, mix them myself, and burn them to a CD. I could have a new album ready to go by my show next Friday. I won't pretend to have the knowledge base to make it a fantastic album, but it's possible.

Consider mailing lists. These things are integral to a small artist - posting flyers, putting listings in the paper, those things rarely bring in any kind of result. I've seen talented artists waste hundreds of dollars printing and posting beautiful promos for their next show all over town - and then playing for 5 people because they didn't bother to contact the fans who had already heard and enjoyed them enough to come out again. An old mailing list would have involved collecting addresses, money spent on postcards or letters or flyers, stamps, envelopes, printing costs. Last night I clicked on "Chicago mailing list" in my Gmail account, spent a little time composing a quirky email about my show tonight, and sent it. Less than an hour of work, no money spent, and people have the information in their Inboxes instantly.

On the other hand - the Internet makes it possible for ANYONE to put their stuff out there, and it makes things very, very crowded. There are, at any given time, hundreds of thousands of musicians in this country, to say nothing of the world at large. And it feels like each and every one of us are out there on MySpace and YouTube and Epitunes and Sonicbids vying for the attention of the same audience. We're reaching people directly, we're having a more personal relationship with them, but we're also spending hours a day on our computers at home or Starbucks doing it. Instead of focusing on the music and letting someone else handle the business, we're doing it all solo and spreading ourselves thin in the process. Not all of us, of course, but a hefty majority of the "indie" artists I know are in the same boat as I am.

I do think that the Internet is an indispensable tool for musicians today, though, in spite of my doubts and frustrations with the process. Without MySpace, my shows would be about half as packed as they are now; there's a touring dance teacher who would never have choreographed to one of my songs, and hundreds of teenage dancers who would never have performed to it; about a third of the shows that I play wouldn't be happening, because I do about that much of my booking through MySpace. Without iTunes, there are people in Japan who wouldn't have bought my album because they found it while browsing. And with the right support (a small record label with a little financial backing, a few friends or family members who will help with major projects, a PR girl who believes in me enough to do some promoting for free), the Internet is offering chances that would never have been possible before. The remix contest, for instance - can you imagine buying a Debbie Gibson CD in the late '80s, taking it home, and putting the vocals for "Electric Youth" over your own beats and instrumental tracks? People in Sweden and Australia enjoyed my songs enough to spend hours creating their own versions of them. That kicks ass.

Well I want to thank Julie again for taking the time to answer my questions. The internet and technology do make many things easier to accomplish, but without the talent of singing, songwriting, and playing instruments that Julie has, even the latest technology would be obsolete. So in light of that, again check out the links below for more information on Julie's great music. Also if you're in the Chicago area, I'm listing her shows below, as well.

Julie Moffitt @ Myspace
Julie Moffitt @ Burst Records
Julie Moffitt on YouTube
Julie Moffitt on iTunes
Julie Moffitt on CD Baby

February 16 - Bird's Nest Bar (Chicago)
February 24 - Chicago Street Pub - Breast Cancer Benefit
March 1 - Davenport's Piano Bar (Chicago)
March 10 - Uncommon Ground (Chicago)
March 16 - UHL Battle of the Bands @ the Sears Centre (Hoffman Estates [suburb of Chicago])
For a complete list of her shows, visit her myspace page.

February 6, 2007

Stealing Julie Moffitt, Part One

Truly a rising star, Julie Moffitt has all the elements of a seasoned professional. She was brought to my attention when she sent me a message on MySpace. I get a lot of friend requests from musicians and usually accept them after giving their profile a peek and a listen. What was unique about Julie was she sent me a message that in really down to earth words, just simply said that we were both fans of a particular musician and that I should check her stuff out. I’m sure she sent similar messages to lots of people, but it seemed much more personal than the typical request from a band or a musician, so I checked out the profile and listened to her stuff. It’s been quite a while since I’ve been captivated with a singer on first listen. She’s a self-described "chick singer"; and not only is she amazingly talented but to go with her mesmerizing voice, she’s also adorable and accessible. Her song "Let Him Be" is featured in Paste Magazine alongside works from Lucinda Williams, The Shins, and Of Montreal; a huge step for any musician and exposure to a national audience.

I had a chance to conduct an email interview with Julie where she discusses her history, her songwriting, making the Paste Magazine Sampler, and the power of the internet for today's artists. This is part one of the interview and part two will follow shortly.

MK: Where does this music come from? Did you grow up playing music and singing? Did your parents get you started? Who are some of your musical heroes? In your videos you're playing piano, do you play any other instruments?

Julie Moffitt: My parents are not musicians, though they do both have some musical skill. Mom sang me lullabies when I was very little, and she taught me how to harmonize along with them before I knew what harmony was. I took piano lessons for a few years in elementary school, but was never consistent about it and ended up teaching myself for the most part. Then there were the years in children's theater, classical voice lessons, and school band, choir and orchestra. I pretty much lived music growing up. I play piano and guitar, and I used to play the French horn. As far as musical heroes, singer/songwriters like Jonatha Brooke and Sheryl Crow, the ones I grew up listening to, are definitely in there.

A lot of musicians leave the small towns to head to New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco or Nashville, but from what I read you left LA to end up in Milwaukee, WI, is there something I missed, is there a thriving music scene in Wisconsin?

Julie Moffitt: No, there isn't really a thriving music scene in Wisconsin. There are people who are really putting forth a great effort to bring the musical talent there out into the public eye, like Daniel Holter in Milwaukee and Brian Sauer in Marshfield; but honestly, it's a tough crowd and not generally someplace I'd recommend going to start a music career.

I ended up there on accident, honestly. I grew up in northwestern Wisconsin and, at the time, hated it. I bailed and went to Los Angeles for 5 years, which was wonderful and, in a lot of ways, still feels like home; I went to college there (USC), performed in a few different cover bands and groups, and spent a lot of time roller blading in Santa Monica and Hermosa Beach. But a year after I graduated, I started to feel restless and knew that it was time to try something new.
My intention was to move to Hawaii for a few months - I had a reserved hut at a yoga retreat on the Big Island, and I'd gone to visit and spent a week falling in love with the entire place. So I sold most of what I owned, packed up what was left, and drove across the country to Milwaukee to leave my car and possessions with my family, who had moved there when I left for college. Except that once I got to Milwaukee, I kind of got stuck. I started singing the blues a bit, got nervous about the idea of being removed from civilization for an extended period of time, and a year later I realized that I was still in Milwaukee, waitressing and spending a lot of time in blues clubs and bars. I wasn't happy, except for two things: my family, who have been endlessly supportive of me, and performing.

Because it was a small pond, it was relatively easy to meet people who had some connections and wanted to help me out in Milwaukee. Five months after landing there, I was performing at Summerfest; less than a year later, I'd recorded and released my first album. I still didn't want to commit to Wisconsin, but everything kept falling into place there - Burst Records, based in Wauwatosa (just west of Milwaukee) signed me, we started recording my second album, I went on tour, etc.

I'm currently living in Chicago, which has a far more thriving music scene than Milwaukee. I will have been back in the Midwest for three years in March. I still miss the west coast, and this cold snap we're enjoying isn't very fun, but I'm pretty sure that if I'd stayed in LA, or gone to Hawaii, I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing now. It was the right choice.

MK: I'm fascinated with the art of songwriting. How does the writing process start for you? Do you write songs perpetually or do you set aside times/days to focus on writing?

Julie Moffitt: I know people who write intentionally, with a set time and place. I've tried that method and failed miserably - it just felt horribly contrived and I wound up with songs that sounded like high school extra credit projects. In all honesty, I do most of my writing when I'm driving. My mind wanders, I get the idea for a melody or a lyric that catches my attention, and I just play with it from there. I love words and am a voracious reader, and I was actually accepted to Sarah Lawrence's Nonfiction Writing program before I decided to become a full-time musician, so I really enjoy trying out different combinations of words, different approaches to whatever emotion I'm feeling, and matching the words to a rhythm and a melody. Most of the time I hear a melody in my head at the same time as the lyrics, so I go from there using the original idea as a base.

Subject matter has always been actual events in my life. A large portion of my music is about relationships and my difficulties in making them work, because it's when I'm frustrated or upset that I'm most inspired. Lately, I've been more interested in writing playful songs, approaching the same ideas (insecurity, love, fighting, fear) from a new perspective. There are an infinite number of ways to say any one thing, and I don't ever want to repeat myself.

The other aspect of the songwriting is, of course, the instrument. I play both piano and guitar, so when I start writing a song, I can generally determine immediately which instrument will suit it best. When it comes time to sit down in my room and flesh out the music, sometimes I'll just mess around for a couple of hours improvising until I hear something that not just fits the song, but adds another unique quality to it. Other times I've got the background clear in my head and I know exactly what to play.

I am totally rambling. Sorry for all the editing you'll have to do...

Well, no apology necessary Julie, I only made one edit so far. The rest of my interview with Julie Moffitt will be coming to you soon, and will cover the Paste Magazine Sampler, the future, and the internet...but in the meantime check out and buy her music with the links below.

Julie Moffitt @ Myspace
Julie Moffitt @ Burst Records
Julie Moffitt on YouTube
Julie Moffitt on iTunes
Julie Moffitt on CD Baby

February 5, 2007

On Blogging Part Two Point One (2.1) Linking and Deep Linking

I know that I've promised to return to my series on blogging, and I will, even more than this addendum. Over the past couple of months I've been linked to by some odd places. My post about Coffee People was briefly linked on Diedrich's Google Finance page, which generated some traffic. As previously mentioned, I was linked on Joseph Arthur's website for calling his album and his song "You Are Free" one of the best of 2006. On the other hand, I was also "scraped" for my hands on experience with the Zune for an ad farm and for my essay on the fall of the Portland Trailblazers.
Linking is what makes a blog have more authority in search engines, which aside from having a large family or circle of friends is one of the biggest factors in making your blog feel like it's worth it to spend the time on. Links can come in Blogroll form or just name dropping in a post. Most bloggers obsess over traffic on their blogs, whether they're attempting to make a living at blogging, just being creative, or just blowing off steam. An indirect way of gaining attention from other bloggers is to link to them. This implies you're reading blogs outside of your family and your circle of friends, of course. A number of times when I've linked to someone, the blogger I've linked to has noticed traffic coming to their blog from mine, which leads to them reading my blog, which at times has led to them linking to me (if for no other reason than to say "MKinMotion thinks this about what I think"). I'm pretty horrible about keeping up with a blogroll, but I am working on getting my Google reader organized enough to set up the sharing function of it which will give anyone who wants to know what I'm thinking is cool out on the net. So the lesson of linking is if you want to be linked to, the first thing you can do as a first step is point out who/what you are reading either in your blogroll or in your posts.
Deep linking is a somewhat controversial topic. It's most commonly used to refer to the use of media. For example say you see the latest leaked track from the upcoming Arcade Fire album on someone's blog, deep linking would mean you put a link on your blog not to the other blog or the other blog post, but to the file itself on the other blogger's server. People oppose deep linking because they make their ad money based on how many people visit their site or by the odds of people clicking ad links on their site...basic math says: more people equals more clicks. I don't deep link to text based "Printer Friendly" articles or to media files. I am guilty of deep linking to photographs. In fact most of the photos you see on this blog are deep links from other sites. I generally try to find AP pictures or grab from the biggest source (i.e. Rolling Stone, Sports Illustrated, Amazon and big news sites) or from Wikipedia (I read somewhere that pictures uploaded to Wikipedia become public domain or at least fair use, so that's the story I'm sticking with). Occasionally I link to a photo on Flickr or on a similar site, and even less occasionally I link to a photo on another blog. If I do, I try to figure out who took the picture and give them credit, but it isn't always that easy. If you subscribe to the MKinMotion RSS feed, you'll notice that my post from December of my review of Glen Hansard's show was updated this evening. If you read the comments associated with that post, you'll see Jana say that the picture belongs to them (I'm unsure of Jana's gender and don't want to make any assumptions as the IP address is in the Czech Republic). I knew something was up when I saw several hits coming from a Czech forum for The Frames, but I can't read Czech so I was in the dark until the comment. I updated the post to reflect the photographer and location, and would have included that had I been able to figure it out in December. Most people have the same philosophy as Jana and just want credit. I'd link to Jana, but I was only given a link to the photo and not to a flickr page or a blog. I have the same philosophy about the photos I take, and I know someone out there is deep linked to my photo of the saddest care bear, because I see the traffic floating by.
And now back to the rest of your surfing....while you're at it, check out this for a link.

Obligatory Super Bowl Recap Post

As the title suggests, I feel a little obligated to reference the Super Bowl. After all, it's the self described greatest event in American culture. I'm very happy with the result. The conditions of the game favored offense and Indianapolis out executed the Bears offense easily. Why do poor conditions give an advantage to the offense you might ask? When the ground is slick and vision is impaired, the advantage goes to the team that knows where to go and what the play calls for. The defense is forced to chase and react. When the opening kick off was returned for a touchdown, I thought out loud, this is just like Ohio State. The results were similar. It was the first time in 41 games that it has rained on the Super Bowl. I admire Peyton Manning, I have since his rookie year, and I'm happy for him to get that monkey off his back. While his advertising mojo will likely only increase, don't expect the haters to stop hating. Speaking of advertising, I'm not going to play armchair creative director and critique the ads, as I have no professional advertising experience...which apparently doesn't keep the rest of the non-professional advertising world from sharing their non-professional opinions. If you want perspective from professionals, I suggest catching up with American Copywriter and their post Super Bowl podcast.
Prince's halftime show was a highlight for me. And while my dream of a 15 minute rendition of Purple Rain would have been even more amazing than what we got, I like that he did his thing and also mixed in the covers of "...Watchtower" and "Best of You." And I did get the poetic "Purple Rain" to close out the set.

I've always had tremendous respect for Prince as a songwriter, guitarist and performer. He showcased his guitar playing last night and it led me to a great idea. I think Rick Rubin ought to contact Prince and make a rock album. Think Blood Sugar Sex Magik with Prince's songwriting and guitar...tell me I'm wrong, but Prince would be huge again if he released a rock album, and Rick Rubin is the guy to strip it down and yet keep it true to Prince. I know, I'm pretty brilliant.

February 3, 2007

The Day The Music Died

It's been 48 years since Richie Valens, Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper died in a plane crash in North Dakota. Plane crashes are one of those things where there's always a story about who could have been on the plane and who wasn't supposed to be on the plane. An event like a Run Lola Run moment where going back and having one little thing change causes the whole situation to change in the future. Waylon Jennings was supposed to be on the plane instead of The Big Bopper and Dion of Dion and the Belmonts was also offered a place on the plane. In his memoirs, Waylon recalls the conversation that happened after he gave up his seat. He and Buddy were razzing each other about having to take the bus. Buddy said something to the effect of hoping the bus breaks down and Waylon replied that he hoped the plane crashes. The type of joke friends share all the time, but it haunted Waylon for some time. No one can say for sure what would be different had the plane not crashed and killed these musicians, but you have to concede that the music world would be different. Buddy Holly was easily one of the great talents in his generation and with his life cut short at 22, it's hard to imagine where his career would have gone. He was already on a similar career path as Elvis. His music was influential to the Beatles the Stones and the Beach Boys, and Paul McCartney even owns the publishing rights to Buddy Holly's music.
Richie Valenzuela (Valens), was pioneering the music world too. Seventeen at the time of the crash, he had already began to blaze a path for other Latino rock and roll. Although he might be more well known for La Bamba, Donna and a Lou Diamond Phillips movie, studio outtakes as well as his produced music show clearly that he was a phenomenally gifted guitar player.
Something in the music did die on February 3, 1959, but the legacy continued despite the tragedy.

February 1, 2007

The Mixtape, Part Three: I Sink Like A Stone

So I applied just about every principle discussed in parts 1 and 2 of this series to make this mix. The glory of the iTunes is that I can publish the entire playlist as an iMix and the whole thing is available to sample and buy.

Applied Principles
I broke the rule of having a movie clip simply because it couldn't be uploaded to iTunes, but I probably would have bookended the mix with the two quotes from High Fidelity. The title comes from a lyric in the Ryan Adams song. And it goes with the theme of some songs that tell the story that it isn't always good and it isn't always bad. Luminous Times is a pretty obscure U2 song, but lovely. New stuff to be exposed to could be the Swell Season song, the Julie Moffitt song, Regina Spektor and Feel. The Pixies track qualifies for the 80's song. I'm missing a motown or bubble gum retro song, but I have the vocal standard in "Moon River." You're cringing at Journey, but I guarantee it will be the most played song on this list. The Mates cover isn't necessarily rare, because it's pretty recent, but it qualifies. Creedence will always qualify as the classic rock song. It closes out with perhaps the low point of the compilation which drives the nails deeper. All links are to iTunes.

I Sink Like A Stone: A MKinMotion.com Compilation

  1. The Arcade Fire - Wake Up (from Funeral)
  2. Kings of Leon - Slow Night, So Long (from Aha Shake Heartbreaker)
  3. Athlete - Street Map (from Tourist)
  4. The Swell Season - Leave (from The Swell Season)
  5. Journey - Don't Stop Believing (from Escape)
  6. U2 - Luminous Times (Hold on to Love) (from With or Without You - Single)
  7. Julie Moffitt - Slow (from The Stolen EP) [More on Julie Moffitt in a future post]
  8. Louis Armstrong - Moon River (from Hello, Dolly!)
  9. The Pixies - Where is My Mind? (from Surfer Rosa)
  10. Death Cab For Cutie - This Temporary Life (from Future Soundtrack for America)
  11. Cary Brothers - Forget About You (from Waiting for Your Letter)
  12. Creedence Clearwater Revival - Wrote a Song For Everyone (from Green River)
  13. Keane - Nothing in My Way (from Under the Iron Sea)
  14. Cat Power - The Greatest (from The Greatest)
  15. Band of Horses - The Funeral (from Everything All the Time)
  16. Feel - Got Your Name On It (from Feel)
  17. Regina Spektor - Better (from Begin to Hope)
  18. Ryan Adams & The Cardinals - Meadowlake Street (from Cold Roses)
  19. Mates of State - California (from Music from the O.C. 6 - Covering Our Tracks)
  20. Drive-By Truckers - Goddamn Lonely Love (from The Dirty South)