hello.column #8 — Press Start


This week we take a break from the scheduled topic and weigh in on Fox News host Tony Snow being named new Press Secretary for Bush administration. What does this say about the role of media to objectively cover the news without bias or conflict of interests? Can Fox News even have any pretense of being separate and critical of our govt? Does a White House shake up really affect us, the common 20-something young pro? Read on…

Mike: Here are some selected links I have found… NY TIMES, NPR’s Morning Edition, Tony Snow’s official show website.

Greg: What do you guys know about Snow? According to NY Times article he is quite a bit different from McClellan- more of a showman.

Aryn: Yes .. quite amazing.. That guy Tony Snow is such a jack knob. I have heard his radio show on fox radio, and he seems to be in that (currently popular) group of right wing ‘feelists.’ And when I say ‘feelist’ I mean that in the way that you no longer have to have facts to support things, you only have to feel that it is truth and it will be. Basically exactly what Stephen Colbert makes fun of on his show. But I really think this is a terrible statement on the current state of our government, I am SURE that Mr. Snow will DEFINITELY give a fair and balanced view of our current White House happenings. Politics play way too much in the happenings of any politician, it seems that they are more worried about getting reelected than taking chances to actually solve some problems… or at least make movements towards solving those problems.

Mike: The thing is, he is the PERFECT candidate for this job as he was a speech writer for Bush I and his biased right wing news delivery is ideal to speak from on high of the daily procedures and policies and responses of the govt. A couple things to note: First, Bush is not up for reelection, nor is Cheney intending to run for Pres in 2008, so I believe this shakeup is really to set the agenda for the remainder of the current term and establish agendas for the Republican Party. Snow is essential there to act as a persuasive voice to the media and also has been given ‘walk-in privileges’ and an important role in ‘strategic thinking,’ as reported by NY Times article.

Second, They are looking to freshen up the relationship between public and the administration and this guy obviously comes with his own built in audience of fans and supporters. I just find that there is a conflict of interests for FOX NEWS as a legitimate news source. Not that this a new notion, but it establishes a further connection that is irresponsible to objectivity. Again, nothing new, but flagrantly blatant.

Also to note as told by NPR blog:

The man is Tony Snow, currently a Fox News commentator and amateur rock musician in a band called Beats Workin’. Snow is a former speech writer for Bush the elder and a former editorial writer for the Detroit News. And, in his most important “former,” Snow was once a commentator for Morning Edition.

I gotta hear this band! Here are two bands by that name, both of which do not include Tony Snow. Here is the actual band…

Aryn: BOO ya! I can relate to rock stars. And I like spinsters. It should make for a more entertaining press conferences, and maybe even boost some of the ratings on CSPAN. Have you heard any of his older morning edition shows? Are those available online? we should find some clips of his radio programs, and make a little link list to point to some of his thoughts.

Mike: After scouring the NPR archives for his contributions, I found that others at NPR were up to the same thing. Here are a few choice cuts of Snow reporting on “Kafkaesque” U.S. tax code, the American health care system, partisan politics and NAFTA. What is interesting to hear is old NPR stories about issues from the past Clinton Administration policies. A nice little time capsule. Also interesting to note is last week’s blog host on NPR, Mara Liasson, correspondent for the Washington Desk, is also a frequent commentator on FOX NEWS…coincidence? It’s all happening!

Greg: I think I need to watch this guy on TV- his NPR clips really weren’t that bad. I mean, he sounds like a partisan hack like the rest of them, but not as bad as say O’Reilly or Tucker Carlson perhaps??? When you think about it, it’s kind of a pointless job. Basically he’ll a punching bag for David Gregory to flex his ego with… good for political theater I suppose.

Mike: It’s all theatre! The point of the job is to speak for the administration. It puts him in the position, like any other press secretary to get the brunt of the shit storm when any bad news is reported. Scott McClellan oft had very little to say when he had the position and from what people say, he had little access beyond what they told him. It seems Snow might be more of a shaper of their media image. Tough gig…but then if George Stephanopoulos can do it, anyone can. In two years Snow will be on to another job much like McClellan, Ari Fleisher and the others before them. Not sure any of this really matters to change the way the administration performs.

Tony Snow working at the job.

So what do you think? Email us at hellocolumn@hellocomein.com

Coming up NEXT WEEK: We REALLY will take a look at Urban Redevelopment!

hello.column #7 — 100 Dollar Computers

Recently, an and engineering firm announced plans to create a computer that was affordable to those areas of the world and country where people would not have access to them. NPR did a bit of on the topic and brought up that many, including Bill Gates himself had doubts about the project. Is this good or bad? And if good, for whom?Greg: That’s interesting.Mike: So I’m not sure this is a good idea.Aryn: Why not?

Mike: In this form it might not be incredibly useful. The thought is in the right place, but the focus is slightly off and underestimating the way people will use them. Right now its more a toy and I think durability is an issue. It could be a great idea, but I too am a bit skeptical how it will relate in actual practice once in the hands of real people. It might not be what people will really need in the long run.

Greg: Like if they will be actually useful? Or the fact that they would be used by people who otherwise have no contact with similar modern technology?

Mike: Exactly. In some ways, what is the point? Glorified textbooks? I see the logic in giving people access to infinite books instead of just one. But that is from a economic cost-friendly view.

Greg: But they have wireless internet right? So supposedly you wouldnt need to store anything on a local machine.

Mike: Is this just a stopgap?

Aryn: I like the idea. Its a good way to get people information that would not readily have access or be able to afford a computer for educational purposes.

Mike: But isnt there some sort of ethical question here? Just playing devil’s advocate.

Aryn: Like providing computers when food and governmental stability are more crucial to their survival?

Mike: One issue yes.

Greg: Good questions. To me there are two criticisms- an ethical, and an engineering. Like you said- are they lasting and durable? So that’s a question of how well they are engineered. But then there’s also a question of if it’s just a glorified textbook. If it’s really useful. Is this an acceptable substitute for traditional pencil/paper education? Suppose you suddenly introduced these to a traditionally poor/illiterate population- what are the ramifications of that? Those I think are the ethical questions- which to me are the bigger questions.

Aryn: It may or may not be what the people need. I am not sure that is for us to decide.. But from a development stand¬point it would be good to have the option for people to use/learn from, in our ever increasing world reliance on computers. scoffs at the idea of a $100 computer, but I like it…

Mike: I definitely think the ethical questions outweigh the engineering ones.

Greg: What happens when you suddenly insert modern technology to a population that isn’t ready for it? I think you could also argue that it would be unethical not to introduce modern technology.

Mike: Its like technological evangelicalism in a way.

Greg: That’s true… candy to join free world.

Mike: It civilizes them to be able to meet the demands of the westernized world. But does it perhaps de-emphasize their own natural progression, by simply jump start them to new education…And who is to dictate what they will be taught. I am not conspiracy prone…its unlikely there is this clandestine plot to teach them our morals or that any of what I say is going to happen but these are certain things we should question a bit…whom does it truly benefit?

Greg:Is the point just to bring more tech-saavy people into a free trade, world market economy? Surely there’s plenty of historic¬al examples of similar situations.

Mike: Where is Jared Diamond when you need his expertise?

Greg: Yes. Maybe he has a Gmail account. He’d be fun to chat with everyday at work.

Mike: I know. I want to read Collapse.

Greg: Does he have a new book out?

Mike: Somewhat a sequal to where it talks not about how societies and cultures were built, but how they are destroyed.

Greg: Looks really good. I never made it through Guns Germs and Steel, so I had to get the bullet points from my Dad and but if I remember right he has a really interesting discussion on the domestication of animals. Those communities that had access to domesticatable animals gave rise to the greatest civilizations. Something to that effect.

Mike: Yeah…I never finished it either…its pretty dense. It’s true though…those with time to domesticate agriculture and animals had time to develop civilizations and cultures within due to the long term benefits of agriculture. I never saw the documentary. I feel it would have simplified it just enough to make the book a bit more digestible.

So back on topic then, IS the point to educate or to ‘save’ them?

Greg: Well… let me ask you this- is there a difference between the two? If the point is to save, is that bad? Why? I think it is, but cant pinpoint why I feel that way, besides the fact that it’s egotistical on the part of the western world.

Mike:I think thats why it has a weird feeling to me…it just comes across as this somehow. I’m not against these computers at all…It just feels funny like you said… it’s intangible. However education is the only way to bring people to a new potentials and help them but…

Greg: But couldn’t this technology be put to use in America? Poor areas that cant afford computers? Although it would be depressing to see in our own country.

Mike: I know… I oft think we neglect our own social problems while liberating everyone else. But our ignorance of the lower class is due to how it conflicts with our sense of the

Greg: Right. Here’s another question: Suppose you have some poor village in India- one of the target communities for this laptop project. Would people raise eithical concerns if instead of donating laptops, textbooks and other traditional learning materials were donated? If the laptops were loaded with the same exact textbooks (and potentially more b/c the associated costs of puting a .pdf textbook on a server would be likely less than printing), what is the difference with the laptops? If education is the key, that is?

Mike: I agree… I think that is their point. From a cost perspective its SO much better to give them everything in a tidy package and our dollar goes a lot farther to help. I wonder how much computers have helped educate people in our own country as a potential for higher education and knowledge for those who cannot afford them? Next to none, right? So if this is a sincere method of creating cost effective exposure to technology, information and outlets for these people (domestic or foreign developing countries) then I see this as a great means of a healthy first step.

But what kind of access are they really getting? Who decides? Do they want it? Does this commidify education? Will this create more strife as people will steal these machines the way they steal food from the underprivaledged? Am I sounding too negative and paranoid?

Greg: Nooo not at all.

Mike: I don’t think there would be a controversy if it were only books and not computers handed out…I’m not sure what makes this different.

Greg: I think this is why conservatives are generally against programs like this- social engineering programs always have unanticipated consequences. It’s strange- there’s no difference at all, yet it makes all the difference in the world, I think. And like you said, I can’t pinpoint why… but your questions about who decides and if they really want it, are important.

But another point I would make is that the textbook industry in our country is scary in and of itself- in some senses what Texas demands of textbooks is what the country gets b/c it’s a giant market. This is a different discussion, but my point is that the laptop concept has potential to actually free people from big brother so to speak. More

Mike: I want this to be a great gesture to really make a difference. But then, we wont know for years to come.

Greg: Exactly.

Mike: History and information will always be a bit tinted by perspective…and individual interpretation. The text books emphasis on particular events is what is across the States, but that I think is one of my points originally. I just hope this doesnt turn out to be another way to re-write history again in our favour.

It all goes in waves. Originally, the internet in general had all this potential to be open sourced, but then it became commidfied and in turn, unreliable. But another wave has resurged to allow for people who want to re-empower the internet to be a useful and connected place where there is a greater good to be served by contributing proper info. Perhaps these computers have the same potential.

Greg: I think it depends on the subject too. Math and, to a lesser extent, science aren’t nearly as sensitive to interpretation as say history. But how do you think the internet has become commodified and unreliable?

Mike: It’s less so now…but for awhile, yes. There have always been internet communities and usegroups etc, but to find real information, it was much harder to seek out. Now there is an elastic reaction to the other side where people are demanding fact and reliable sources…Hence Wikipedia (wikis in general), blogs and even the People are less patient with misinformation. Plus I don’t subscribe to your That’s crazy talk…

Greg: hah. Yeah, science is for the birds. Whoever thought testable hypotheses was a usefull idea anyways?

Mike: Not me. God doesnt use science…he uses his

So what do you think? Email us at

Coming up NEXT WEEK: We take a look at Urban Redevelopment!

hello.column #6 — Local Music Scene


How do you find good local music? This week Mike and Greg discuss their opinions and hesitations on local music scenes.

Mike: So how interested are you typically in local music?

Greg: I would like to be more so, but right now I couldn’t name a single local KC band, and maybe two Lawrence bands… When I was in Manhattan, I knew of the UNIT, but that was about it. I’d really like to find out more about the local scene, but it’s hard to do that without more people to do it with- know what I mean?

Although I did go see a local guy at a couple weeks ago- and he was amazing. Sounded like Dylan. So I’d really like to get more into local music. How about you?

Mike: Sometimes i just feel put off by it. I want to be part of it, but dont really enjoy seeing local bands that much because I dont know much about it, or how to find good ones, and also I like a band that has their sound more defined.

I just dont have my finger on the pulse that much. I also think there might be some resentment because, as a musician, I can never break into it very easily and still feel I am just as good as some of the people who are in it. If not better.

Greg: Yeah- I agree completely. It has a lot more social implications like you say, compared to just listening to an album… or even an indie group from some other city.

Mike: Maybe thats it. I just get frustrated when people talk about their local music scenes and perhaps its because being from Kansas City and living in DC they arent particularly known for that, compared to or Portland or Seattle or New York etc., but I find my self not caring, even when I think I should. I would like to know where to find these underground about to break bands.

Greg: That’s funny- I always thought that feeling of resentment was just me.

Mike: I think its normal. I always said that our band was the best band i knew that didnt get many gigs… and really it was because we didn’t try hard enough, but on another level, its often narrowed down too much in smaller music cities like KC or Lawrence.

If you want to play rock, you play the rock clubs and local bars, jazz in the jazz clubs, folk in the coffee shops…but never the two shall ever meet. We were never quite true jazz to play at a type place, let alone a dinner crowd like at nor would I really want to anyway. But we never quite fit in with the open mic route at the or other bars. And now, wanting to be in a rock band, I find it difficult to be something diverse.

No matter what type of music I like to play, I feel its hard to find a niche when there isn’t much creativity in the local scene to allow for that. I never really have liked the local bands I have seen.

Greg: Totally… that’s why places like and are so cool because they will host a huge variety of groups. Do you know anything about in KC? I’ve heard it’s a pretty decent place.

Mike: I just recently heard about it, but know little about it…just the name I think…where is it?

Greg: In a couple of weeks, Robert Moore is hosting a -fest there… two evenings, eight bands. Luckily I know someone who wants to go, so I’m hoping to hear some good local music. I’m pretty sure in Westport somewhere.

Mike: Sounds cool…that show is probably a good way to find good music, Sonic Spectrum that is.

Greg: Yeah, KC is lucky that is willing to play that show.

Mike: Yeah…there is little like that in KC. It’s a good resource for music. I need to start listening.

So what do you think? Email us at

Coming up NEXT WEEK: Mike, Greg and Aryn become educated by hundred dollar computers!

hello.column #5 — Politik


John Edwards and Barrack Obama in 2008? Getting off foreign oil helps our national security, AND saves the environment? Bush supports new hybrid technologies and math and science education? This week Mike and Greg discuss their opinions and hesitations on upcoming political issues.

Mike: I love the talk show Meet the Press. Tim Russert is a great interviewer, and one of my favourites in the business. I even listen to episodes in podcast form. I am relistening to a recent one with John Edwards

Greg: Let’s see- John Edwards?

Mike: Yep. It’s a pretty interesting 2nd half of the podcast.

Greg: I watched the tail end of that interview, so I’ll have to go back and listen. Edwards reminds me of JFK. I love to hear him speak- kind of idealistic. I’m rooting for an Edwards/Obama 2008 ticket.

Mike: Yes. I saw the very end yesterday as well and wanted to hear the full interview. That would be a great presidential ticket. Never thought of that matchup but it makes perfect sense. Maybe more so than John Kerry and Edwards.

Greg: I think they (Obama and Edwards) share a similar tone and message that could really redefine the Democrats; refocus on honesty and social justice.

Mike: It’s a matchup that is not as alienating as some of the other moderate democrats because social justice, I think, is a good angle to approach for the democrats. Edwards and Obama have so much to offer in that aspect to help the Americans w\ education, farm aid, healthcare and re-emphasize the domestic issues issues that are currently being ignored. However their weaknesses will be perceived as foreign diplomacy but then that has been Bush’s as well.

Greg: Well, Clinton didn’t have much foreign experience either being a governor… Obama has been going to Iraq.

Mike: And I thought Clinton was great at foreign diplomacy, especially his Middle East progress (which has since gone to hell under new leaderships).

Greg: I think they can probably mount a successful foreign policy bid by emphasizing energy independence and education… They’re domestic issues that have international effects. People are freaked out about India and China, so a big push for math and science education domestically could go a long way with voters. And energy independence is somewhat of a cure-all. According to Thomas Friedman at least. But yeah, I agree. Clinton has the magic skills, man…all around. It’s fascinating to watch him redefine himself as a humanitarian… he’d be a perfect secretary of state.

Mike: I agree. He should run Hillary’s staff when she runs. What is interesting about ditching foreign oil, was once seen as a way to get more money for domestic oil companies…Now it is seen as a terror issue of security… while energy efficient cars are now seen as a way to decrease our dependence on oil for security and cost while bush doesn’t really speak about how it helps our environment…its an interesting approach.

Greg: I think the Geo-Green approach is just dying for someone to embrace it… I mean it’s a win win situation political. Strong on terrorism, strong for the domestic economy, strong on the environment. I’d just love to see someone come out with a nationwide challenge- get people excited about this stuff; create a huge program to help develop new technologies, support people going into engineering careers that will develop technologies for this new economy. Basically an entire political platform could be built off of that.

Mike: It’s funny that Jimmy Carter was so right on about this 25 YEARS AGO!

Greg: I know. Too bad we didn’t do it then. Did he have the terrorism viewpoint with energy independance?

Mike: I think he did during the energy crisis and during the Intifada and the Iran stuff…he saw our involvement and over-consumption of oil as a potential threat.

He also has been a great diplomat and humanitarian since his presidency, but relatively hated during his time because of his handling of the problems he inherited from the Nixon\Ford era. He and Clinton just got short ends of sticks historically for their legacies because of Republican opposition. (and sexy scandals)

It would really be amazing to see a mass movement towards technology and science as a means to a better global society…I just kinda worry about the capitalist ethic getting in the way of solid progress. It’s great for those who can afford it and it makes these companies money which will fuel economic growth, but what happens to everyone else? Does it further stratify the socio-economic gap or will new innovations make these things more affordable to mass society?

It’s hard to phase out old automobiles for example for hybrid technology when there are so many who will not be able to afford to make the jump.

Greg: That’s a good point, but on the flipside, I would argue that as more educational opportunities are created for people to go into math and science, then we bring more people who might otherwise not have gone to college into the middle class where they can afford the new cars. Of course- things never quite work as easy as that, or as simply.

Mike: I definitely agree… Education and math and science in particular will help in so many ways to better our society and help people move into the middle class…this is something that will be vulnerable though depending on what type of administration is in power. Education is something that is such a key, but taxes are always cut for this (as you know)…US wants better education but doesn’t want to help pay for public as a way to help others (hence the school vouchers).

Hopefully Bush’s move will light a fire to help fast track some action on this and change our perception…He is doing to fight terror, but really it helps the economy and social issues too…very different approach, and strange coming from the Bush administration, but ultimately good. Its hurts my head to agree with Bush on something for once. His motives are different but, it still works. If he pulls it off. Unless the capitalist Repub bastards f- it up for us.

So what do you think? Email us at hellocolumn@hellocomein.com

Coming up NEXT WEEK: Mike & Greg take a crack at the unwieldy world of local music.

mentos and diet coke…explodes at NPR!

Okay…GREAT NPR story from yesterday. And a chance for me to share some behind the scenes action…

Mentos and Coke
Mentos and Coke
So yesterday was a strange but amazing day at work. I had just gotten back from watching a Bob Boilen film about the ‘Chairs of NPR’ from 1989 that depicted the ergonomic plights of a low budget workplace. I think this brilliantly funny and quirky documentary depicting people’s work chairs in the thriftier days of NPR put everyone in a cheerful mood around the building. Anyway, I get back to my desk and shortly Sue calls saying she has arrived. I gather a few things and go to the 5th floor elevator to meet her in Chinatown.

I’m caught offguard when the door reopens on the 2nd floor to a camera carrying Bob accompanied by ATC host Michele Noris, Science desk correspondant David Kastenbaum and a few other ATC producers. Bob immediately starts questioning my knowledge of the web videos floating around of people putting mentos into 2 liter bottles of coke. Supposedly there is a chemical reaction that when adding a certain amount of mentos to a bottle of warm carbonated beverage (coca cola) causing a huge geyser.

The weird thing is the mentos for the most part do not disintegrate completely. You can imagine what that is doing to your stomach. Though I’d seen it previously before that, I had just been forwarded one that morning by someone here at work. The videos are pretty cool actually.

People were abuzz with interest for this, from the webteam and blogteam all the way to All Things Considered In true-NPR fashion, they decided to see for themselves if it actually worked. Bob told me that I was needed to grab questions for Michele at the All Things desk. When I got back outside with copy in hand, I did my short interview on camera for Bob about my perceptions of the science and then along with a handful NPR-staff members from the various departments awaited the explosion on the grass lawn adjacent to the building.

This is when Sue rolls up with her luggage in tow, wondering no doubt ‘what the hell is going on here?’ Just as soon as I explained what was going on, the first 12-15 foot geyser erupted from the bottle. Amidst a fair amount of cheers and woots from the captive NPR audience and a few random bystanders wonder what this liberal media was doing this time, Michele interviewed David about what is happening. They tried it several times with various sodas and even M&Ms. This is HARD hitting news here folks. Anyway, I felt that was a great introduction for Sue to the NPR. This might be the best place to work EVER.

Well here is how the final story turned out…

here is more from the NPR blog…

fire is old technology…

Like many people, I have a idealistic view of some Golden Age where everyone ate apple pie and left their doors unlocked at night while they gathered around the radio with their children. Too many sick days watching Leave it to Beaver I guess. Anyway I have developed a love for many a things retro including a new obsession: old radio plays.

While developing some ideas w\ Aryn & Greg (while killing time at work) I stumbled upon this resource.

Some of these are so bad they are amazing. It is an interesting form of entertainment. Sound effects and dialogue drive these mysteries and sci fi heroics and some of it is actually great story telling. If not overly quaint. We are thinking of developing a story that can be adapted to this awesome and oft forgotten format. If I had a radio and a fireplace I certainly would listen to this stuff all night.

So gather your surrogate family and friends, pop in a DVD of a fire on your 50 inch plasma telly, plug in your iPod full of classic radio play mp3s and listen to some great adventures.

hello.column #4 — Reviewing Reviewers


This week Mike and Greg and Aryn chat about the purpose of critics of art and media. Why do we need them? Why do they sometimes come off as angry? Read on as we review the reviewers…

Mike: Okay, so Aryn inspired me to try something for next week’s Hello.Column… I read this review and was amazed how bad of a review they gave it. It seems a general trend in rock critics is the ‘impress me now’ mentality…that is, they are always unimpressed and a bit cynical toward many a records, and oft they change their tone later on when its deemed a classic.

Now its all subjective, so why would someone take the time to write a bad review of a band they already know they dont like? Why do we write reviews in the first place? Its a very strange practice and who is it really serving? Our own tastes? Or the consumer? I find its much harder to write a good review than rant on and on about all the bad things we find. It’s easy to find negatives, but what are the positives.

First: look at the above review. What are your thoughts? Second: relisten to album. Third: what do you think? Here are some other tidbits and links of reviews.

Greg: Good call. A similar discussion was on Talk of the Nation a couple weeks ago concerning movie critics. It evolves into a general discussion on the purpose of criticism, check it out, really good.

Mike: Good call… I knew I had heard a discussion similar recently… So what do we think the point of criticism is, first of all…? Let’s start there.

Aryn: Good call.. (enter laugh track) Reviews are an interesting beast. Theoretically I believe that they exist to assist the consumer to whiddle down their infinite choices to something that they will enjoy. We all have reviews that we read, some we heed, some not so much. It doesnt even have to be a good review to grab someones interest. I do enjoy seeing/hearing something simply riding on the fact that it was regarded as trash by critics.

But it does seem a little self-defeating to review something with a heavy pre-bias, but Its possible that this cannot be avoided. You can take the “sophmore slump” phenomenon that seems to curse new bands. Their first record is heralded as the “saviours of rock” , and then they have to go back to the studio and do it all over again, but this time with a million more eyes/ears watching/listening. It is almost impossible to have an opinion on something without referencing the previous works of an artist, or just the previous things that you have listened to.

Greg: My first thought is that critics are exposed to a large volume of the particular form (movies, music, books, etc), which gives them the unique perspective to make knowledgeable judgements. So critics are an easy way to gain perspective.

Mike: Here is another example of negative reviewing by coming in w\ pre-meditative ideas and expectations.

I think its hard to go into a review or listening to a record or seeing a film or reading a book these days without having a preconception of what you want it to be like. Our opinions are now clouded and based on our past experiences and expectations of other music (or whatever media\art reviewed) but also we are inundated w\ other people’s opinions on the internet, television, radio, magazines and any other niche medium. We are also spoiled by others opinions before we even get to make our own judgements.

Are we willing to even try to give something a second chance? Do we ‘waffle’ when we realize that EVERYONE else likes it. I have often tried to force myself to like a piece of music that everyone is going nuts over when I just dont dig it. I wonder, like I did with the Artic Monkeys’ press orgy, if I am missing something.

So is a critic looking out for us, the consumer, who spends hard earned cash on this stuff? Or are they there to be the judge and jury on all things art for a greater good? It’s so subjective that there are people I trust and others I don’t. I know politically I will ALWAYS disagree w\ a Bill O’Reiley type, while with the Daily Show-mentality, I will seemingly always agree with. so are critics of art, the ones who get to set the bar of polar extremes…love it or hate it, but decide based on their review? It seems people lack perspective and have short term memory loss when it comes to reviewing particular things… ‘the GREATEST EVER’… ‘WORST EVER’… ‘weak’… ‘uninspired compared to the last GEM’ etc etc…

Aryn: That’s why I only listen to classical music out of my Parlophone coin-operated phonograph. Let those rock critic review this music. They can’t! Its already been deemed “classic”.

Mike: So if a certain album is considered a classic, how hard is it to approach listening to the followup without that tainting your expectations?

Aryn: I think its impossible.. but the good ones will shine through, regardless.

Mike: In the Flaming Lips case they are known for having a really great album followed by one that is not as good. Are people expecting too much for having every album blow them away? I thought the Soft Bulletin was good, but not as good as Yoshimi which is quite the opposite of many people’s opinions. In turn I equally like the new album but for different reasons.

As a consumer\critic I think we are looking to bands to recreate the exact thing we love about the band, but then when they do its lambasted as well. Its like saying ‘take a leap, but not too far or I will feel uneasy.’ Look at Kid A compared to OK Computer…to me its a great follow up and I think maybe even better than the former…but thats not what most think. The majority reaction said Kid A was a failure and too much of a departure. It made us feel uneasy because it wasnt like the others. But isn’t that what we want?

Aryn: We want to be entertained. Which usually means that we want something familiar, but still unexpected. As musicians and artists age and get better and more used to what they are doing, their output will change and grow. In many ways I am glad that Kid A was a change from OK Computer, both being fantastic albums, but you can hear the shift in mentality between the two records, so that by the time their latest came out (Hail to the Thief) you can get a great mixture of the two sounds.

Mike: Aren’t you glad that Thom Yorke evolved from this… to this? I am. We have to allow for musicians to take a chance to reinvent and follow up. It bothers me when critics do not understand that not every effort attempts to be a classic. Sometimes that status is thrust upon it unfairly. Plus who is to say what is the aspect that makes a band so great. I guess this is where the critic comes in w\ some perspective of listening SO much.

But I have found that I often get to the point where I hear so much that i dont want to listen anymore…it gets watered down. I hear ever tiny influence and chord change and lyric and arrangement in such detail that its hard for me to understand why critics get so worked up about some groups good or bad.

Does having too much perspective allow us to lose our ability to just listen? I would love to go back and rewatch starwars or hear Abbey Road for the first time and see what I think.

Aryn: Does our perspective allow us to lose our ability to just listen? I say no. It enhances it. Without having a good ear for whatever it is you are listening to you lose a lot from the music. Having that perspective allows you to hear the little jokes, and subleties of the recording. I still can go back and listen to Abbey Road and enjoy the hell out of it because it IS one of those bad ass albums.

Or it could be changing the way that you listen to something freshens the response from it. I had always listened to it on CD form , and when I finally got a record player and played it on vinyl I finally understood the way that it was meant to be listened to. The build right before the end of the first side is fantastic, and the way that it forces you to stop and flip the record to hear the pleasant “morning after madness ” sound of side B… Truly amazing.

Greg: Come to think of it, I’ve never heard Abbey Road on vinyl. Usually I think people who praise the subtle superiority of vinyl are full of shit, but what you’re describing sounds cool… What song ends the first side?

I think in the end, critics are neither good nor bad. And perspective, too, is a double edged sword. I think just because a critic doesn’t like something doesn’t mean it’s bad… When dealing with criticism it’s easy to confuse originality with quality. The two are totally seperate in my view. Quality is relative to each individual person. Originality is historical and can be analyzed. Pizza Hut’s meat lovers pan pizza is freaking delicious in my mind. But it’s unoriginal cuisine and a lot of people would find it disgusting. Like Aryn said, you sometimes make it a point to watch the movies that critics hate.

Aryn: Ooh you must listen to it.. It was originally made (as all of those old records were) to be released on vinyl, which added the extra time factor for each side’s length. The first side ends with ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’ and the second side begins with ‘Here Comes the Sun.’ This little factor, which may sound trivial, is trully lost when it is all put together in one coninuous stream on a compact disc, but can be used beautifully if put into the right hands.

Mike: ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’ ends side A of Abbey Road… it builds with that repeated guitar riff and it builds and builds and then suddenly cuts off. Flip side and ‘Here Comes the Sun’ plays… amazing. Vinyl is a great way for some of those records to hear great album programing… Some of my favourite albums have that break somewhere…even many of the albums that were never really released on vinyl originally have that sense of break…its like the common story arc of intro, climax, resolution …and on two sides you can have that twice. Listen to ok computer. Or Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot… its there.

Greg: I know I know. It’s easy to overdue the Radiohead transition music-intellect bullshit discussion. We’ve all had it a million times…. but for your viewing pleasure, more before and after: Before and After

Mike: Very true about overdoing Radiohead conversation. But I still love the song ‘Creep’… Here’s an anecdote: When I was in 6th or 7th grade I bought Pablo Honey for that song and just listened all the time. But then I forgot about that band, and sold that disc along with about seventy other 90s alt rock trash cds like Candlebox and Bush… I missed the Bends completely back then… until someone told me to listen to OK Computer(b\c I recomended Beck’s Mutations)… I was floored. This band got good all of a sudden. Really good. end flashback.

Greg: Where on OK Computer?

Mike: To me I hear the break occuring (at least in my own listening) after ‘Fitter Happier’… I know Aryn just bought it on vinyl and I assume its two records…so what is the last song on side B? That would be where the break would be i think.

Aryn: It is after side B on the two records. Last song is ‘Karma Police’ and side C starts with ‘Electioneering.’ Thats your classic story arc album sequencing.

Mike: I think my anger at bad reviewers has subsided.

So what did you think? Email us at hellocolumn@hellocomein.com

Coming up NEXT WEEK: Mike & Greg once again attempt to speculate about 2008 Presidential election and talk politik.

hello.column # 3 — The Google Behemouth


This week Mike and Greg and Aryn chat about the Google behemouth… Are they the innovators we want them to be, or a collage of bad hype in the eyes of the US Govt?… All this plus a few other random bits!!!

Mike: Much has been reported, speculated, and compiled about Google recently. Especially in terms of their in internet censorship with China and its refusal to hand over information to the US. Not sure what to make of it myself besides just soak it in and learn about intellectual property, Patriot Act information gathering, ethics, blah blah.

Should Google agree to censor the information we or have access to? Should the government have access to the information we seek on the internet (even if it might help people learn how to rid us of ?) What middle ground can be found?

What does everyone else think? Email us at to give answers… we will post people’s opinions soonish.

Some more related links:

Greg: Check it- inside Gmail. Just another reminder that Google will soon be ruling the world.

Mike: I’m loving this though… seems to cut out the middleman of AOL or the others… I use chat with excitement. Its how we all are able to stay in touch. I wish other people would embrace this stuff…especially other friends who seem to disappear. It makes periodical phone conversations less awkward. But yes, Google is taking over the world. One online application at a time.

Greg: Oh without a doubt- I will be fully embracing it. Google has been getting some negative press lately, but I think they’re the most innovative company around these days- and we live in an innovate or die sort of world. A company is only as good as it’s most recent innovation. Or lack thereof.

Mike: The bad press is mostly due to the lack or compliance with the US about Patriot Act investigations. I can agree with their decision for privacy rights for users. I dont really fear that there is some alterior motive for them to withhold acess information and control the universe. People are more skeptical about a forward thinking innovative company than they are about their own government who has far more a controlling influence on info. I’m suprised no one has made that clear.

Greg: I was impressed that they decided not to comply with the government’s request. Every couple of weeks I come across an article about various companies starting to worry about google- AOL is probably worried about Google chat. There’s some talk of google developing an operating system. and the king of all Google rumors has to do with developing a free nation wide wireless high speed network. I guess they’ve been buying up fiber optic pipelines.

The thing I really love about Google is that once a week they have their employees spend the entire day working on a personal project of their choice… fleshing out new ideas and the like. I think that’s how they come up with a lot of these great ideas.

By the way, Thanks for adding me on to your discussion about Good topic because I’ve been thinking quite a bit about them lately. Seems like people love them or hate them.

Did you hear on Morning Edition? As usual, hilarious.

Mike: Its on my queue of things to listen to… I’ve been hooked on the Ricky Gervais podcast these days and I have to test some NPR podcasts…it’s about fashion week right?

I think Microsoft is definitly scared of google (and mozilla) and have changed their business emphasis for development. I see companies like Google or Apple or Pixar (before the Disney buyout) or Toyota and wonder why other companies never took the effort to go that extra mile for design and highly integrated features that are actually useful. They just seem to get it while Ford still has to layoff hundreds of thousands of people and close factories because their stupid oil guzzling trucks cost too damn much.

So now it looks like Google has now joined the other K Streeters by in Washington. Thoughts?

Greg: Hmmm. I’d like to know more about what they’ll be lobbying for. If they are doing this to try to counter some of the power of the telecom giants, as the article briefly says, then this has potential to be a good thing. They will probably need help from lobbyists when they roll out free nation wide wireless internet and Time Warner freaks out :) On the other hand- I halfway feel like we’re witnessing the indie band who’s selling out. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah got too much press too fast. Same goes for Arctic Monkeys. Google is a media darling and I see about a half dozen google articles every day with the latest rumor, stock info, dealings with China, etc. In the end, it’s a business, with the priority of making money… more money.

Aryn: I wonder when Google will have officially turned evil… as large companies tend to do.

Mike: Some people already think they have. For example the initial non-compliance with information sharing.

Aryn: And with the china stuff.

Mike: With the new ideas of online applications to rival Microsoft Office, it looks like online harddrives are coming soon. This is a great innovation that will tie people less to a particular compy but a just any compy w\ internet access…if there was ONLY a place to where this so called interweb would be in the airwaves without all those wires…almost like a WIRELESS society… and for free… make is so google!

Aryn: Is that a quote from somewhere?

Mike: It’s all from my rotten brain.

So what did you think? Email us at

Coming up NEXT WEEK: Mike & Greg speculate about 2008 Presidential election and politik.

hello.column #2 — V For Vendetta


Recently, the film V For Vendetta opened to mixed reviews. Based on a graphic novel by Alan Moore and David Lloyd and helmed by screenwriters\producers the Wachowski Brothers and director James McTeigue, the story is of a dsytopic Britain in the not so distant future rocked out of complacency by a terrorist\freedom fighter named V. Did it live up to the hype? Was it made well? What topics were discussed? Read on…


Mike: Here are some various reviews: NPR’s Bob Mondello, All Things Considered, Village Voice, NY TIMES and the source of all qualitative reviews condensed into a quantitative figure METACRITIC.

For information about how the comics community and Alan Moore (writer and disillusioned disowner of the original graphic novel) is reacting… check Comic Book Resources. One last (and overly negative) review…juxtaposing the graphic novel w\ the film ComixFan.

Let this be the place to discuss the goings on, the plot points, the references, the cinematic elements, the craft, the writing, the source material etc. Any opinions?


Mike: So I saw V for Vendetta and frankly, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Reviews across the board are mixed, and even the people I saw it with did not enjoy it that much. Aryn and Sue hinted on the phone that they thought it was weak. So, the question then is, is this all subjective or are their critical parts of the film either in construction or delivery that I am missing. Are the dissenters being overly critical of the film by expecting too much, or are they not looking deep enough? All I can say is that I have read the graphic novel and seen the film so I can say like I always do w\ adaptations to film, that certain things must be adjusted\shortened\tightened\added for a wider audience, for the film-story arc, the flow of the film etc.

LOTR\ Harry Potter\ Spiderman\ Batman\ Sin City and practically EVERY book or television series etc all have all had upset fans of the original work. However, this should not detract people from it. In fact I think seeing the films of these things only brings more interest to seek out the original work to learn a FULLER and more in depth story.

Aryn: My overall reaction about the movie was that it was a bit heavy handed. Normally I like the over the top depiction of social and political ideas when done well but I felt that this one was slightly off the mark. First items that I liked:

1) The blurred lines between terrorist and freedom fighter… I think that all too many times we (America or people in general) lack the perspective of the “other guy,” not to rationalize the senseless killing of innocent people in the name of a cause, its just that sometimes drastic measures have to be taken to institute the proper change that you feel in necessary.

2) The mostly lack of violence in the film. Although there was violence it wasn’t just a slasher comic book type movie.

3) The controversy and debate that has stemmed from this movie’s ideas and thoughts.

There are probably other things that I can’t think of right now. But the first three will suffice. Second items that I didn’t like so much:

1) The lamo “Matrix wannabe” fight scene between V and the cops at the end. I feel like they put this in just because they thought they had to. I think it was unnecessary.

2) The inconsistencies with some of the “rules” of the society. Supposedly it was a very controlled and censured, and if people were raised in this environment there is NO WAY that the tv people/ actors/ producers would go along with making that television show spoofing the president (although it was a pretty hilarious bit). I would see some underground group doing it but not a mainstream station.

3) The explanation for V putting Evey through the torture. I thought it was an interesting way to help her, but he could have come up with a better reason for doing it.

4) Why the heavy push to show the hatred of gays and Muslims. A little obvious I felt.

This movie I could see really enjoying back in high school, but I think the allusions to real current events were a bit heavy handed and long winded, and I began to groan as the movie progressed. So in summation, movie = mediocre. Although I do like Natalie Portman with and without a shaved head in this movie. She kind of looks like shanead o’conner (spelling?)

Mike: Many of your crits are valid…but here is why I think they can be explained in context of the film and the story.

While the fight scene at the end was in the graphic novel, it played differently. This might have to do with the fact that while adapting a story where a single point in time is depicted (in the comic); it lets the reader fill in the blanks. You have to as a comic story teller imply the action and let the reader do the rest. I thought the action was pretty good in the film. It implied the violence without being over the top… and honestly the film at this point NEEDED a confrontation to go over the top there…it was the climax of the film and V’s last stand. He had to go out like a hero in some ways to convince himself he was doing the right thing. In that way, his brutality was necessary to show 1) how far he was willing to go 2) he was a badass fighter.


The reveal that Evey was tortured by V was one people have stated was cliché. But once again, I think 2 things.

1) This graphic novel was written in 1981 and in turn has been read for 25 years. It has been regarded as one of the most influential graphic novels EVER. So I’m guessing that this type of plot twist rang as redundant and silly because this device is used ALL the time in mainstream film and television. We are always told expect the unexpected as a viewer from the audience.

2) I think story wise, V’s explanation of why he tortured Evey in trying to help her was SUPPOSED to be confusing, blurry and questionable. Remember, V was a terrorist and a freedom fighter. He took the method of violence and unhesitating brutality to shock people out of their complacency. But we are always supposed to question his methods. We are supposed to have the same reaction that Evey did to the surprise because Evey is us, the audience. She guides us through this story.

Of course there are other options V could have used to have the same effect. But that would have been out of character for him. We are never really supposed to trust V or understand everything about him, or know him deeper than what he gives. In that we wonder, was V really trying to help Evey or simply convert her to his side? He is a romantic character and with that he brings out our raw emotions in reaction…anger, hatred, revenge, love, compassion etc.


The reaction to the television host’s rebellion I think was just supposed to depict that the tide was turning in build up against the British government by the media and the public. This is much like after 9\11 where we and the media were quite nationalistic and outspoken in SUPPORT of our government. Anyone who questioned was seen as against America (remember ‘if you’re not with us you’re against us’?) and it took much time before we could be critical of our leaders’ decisions. Now we can lambaste and make fun etc and the president’s approval rating has plummeted.

Now think in V for Vendetta… they had countless wars and then the massive viral outbreak (albeit one sinisterly concocted by the government to bring the nation together under fear and the miraculous ‘cure’). Afterwards the government cleaned house to rid itself of dissenters (think Guantanamo Bay and all the Arab people held)…no one wanted to rebel out of fear and all these people went underground.

As the tides began to turn under the hope that V’s rebellion would happen, people, like the television host and the media, were finally willing to take part to rebel without fear. They saw cracks in the government by the ineptitude of the bureaucracy. The killing of the host, to me read as the last stand by the government…a desperation Hail Mary to revert control back to their side. But you cannot stop momentum of the ball already in motion that easily.

With Evey’s capture (now known to be a hoax by V) we believe that the government is winning as Evey (the audience) loses hope that the government can be overthrown. We later realize that much time passes with Evey underground as she slowly begins to change her outlook and become stronger. So too are the British people growing stronger to rebel. It all comes to a head on the night of the rebellion.

Aryn: Don’t get me wrong here, I always support films that bring up societal and human happenings into their subject matter, and considering our current political/foriegn people relational state, the parallels between this movie and real life are quite apparent. I just thought that it was flatly pulled off.

There wasnt much happening in the way of editing that jumped out at me, except for during the final fight scene where the camera shot is through the empty chambers of the gun very David Fincher). This film is lumped into the world of 1984 style plot lines– government gets too much control, people are robots, art is the way to show off your “rebelness” and the people in power eventually destroy themselves from their own attempt to control the masses.

It may be that this territory feels so well tread because it was one of the influencers, but the fact that I just saw the movie last Saturday and today (Thursday) not even a week after am struggling to remember scenes, shows (to me at least) why I didnt find the movie that earth shattering/memorable. But I think there is definitly a place for it in the realm of movieland; it’s good that it was made, it’s good that it talks about what it does, it’s good that it got Natalie Portman to show off her perfect head, it had a few good moments, but sadly its just not a good movie. end scene.

Mike: You are going to find this strange, but last night I saw the film again w\ my cousin and her friends b\c 1) I had nothing better to do and 2) I was curious what I thought on repeat viewing considering your feelings that it is unmemorable. Kinda sad, I know.

Though I knew the ins and outs of the plot twists and turns, I felt the film still held up. The pacing seemed to me like it flowed more naturally than I originally thought as it forshadows things early on in both quote, quick cut imagry and mirrored camera shot, that makes the film feel mildly cyclical…that is, all things come full circle. While on first viewing I thought the torture scenes of Evey were vague and overbearing and emotionally hard to watch, this time I saw them in a new light; as being part of the process of developing her character. This is prob because I knew she would end up okay at the end and therefore did not throw me for an emotional wringer.

The film seemed much more hopeful and energetic and while still has a very clear message of what its protagonists feel is right, still leaves you with the impression that its up to the people to decide what to do. Much like the audience is supposed to decide whether they fully agree, disagree or find grey areas. Some people took the film at face value, others did the same but with the acknowledgement that it mirrored our real lives and this was one possible outcome of the path we are on.

Others worried that it might call to arms all the crazies that disagree with government of any kind. The government in the film seemed much more facist than I originally remember so you cannot help but side with V, where before I felt they were a bit closer to being a step or two away from our own American Empire. Anyway, just thought I’d give my last bit of impression before I let this thing die. I thought it was a solid effort.

Plus the Rolling Stones’ song ‘Street Fighting Man‘ from the album Beggar’s Banquet was a great choice for the credits. That song is really great in that mid 60s brit rock (and in hindsight early punk) way. I am going to find that album for the ‘ol rock and roll collection.

Aryn: I will rewatch it and reevaluate some day.. I promise.

Mike: Yeah yeah, we’ll see…

What did you think? Email us at hellocolumn@hellocomein.com

Coming up NEXT WEEK: Mike & Greg chat about the growing behemouth that is Google.

wearing heart on sleeve is messy to my shirts…

I am going start compiling my ideas now for songs. I have a sketchbook or two filled with ramblings and scribbles of chords and phrases and I know so much of it is trash. What kind of themes are worthy of developing into a full idea?

Its definitley hard to equate the song idea when vamping and turning it into a song. Its equally hard taking some words and thoughts and setting it to music. It shouldnt be, but its hard to be a poet. It feels very naked and transparent to me to expose these things and not feel imitative or derivative. But then should I actually be naked while writing? Somehow I’m pretty sure they were joking.

Is every song supposed to be authentic? How do I makes something personal and turn it into something that everyone can relate to? Why does everything seem so cliche and oft woe is me? Why is my normally passable vocabulary suddenly constipated when I try to express myself? This is rock and roll lyrics 101. Welcome to it…