General

MySpace is the New Jersey of the Internet

Or perhaps New Jersey is the MySpace of states? Any time I go to either MySpace or New Jersey, I find myself uncomfortable, disturbed, and wanting to leave.

Business travel recently had me flying into Newark. As we flew in, I saw the usual complement of ugly shipyards, depressing office buildings, and something new – fuel silos that appeared to have collapsed roofs. The last time I was in New Jersey, I had drove over from Philly, learned what a jughandle is, and then rushed back to PHILLY. And I don’t like Philly very much. But it was better than New Jersey.

Like MySpace’s obscenely noisy “You Must Be Logged-In to do That!” login screen (I swear that the first 20 times I saw this page, I didn’t even see the login box), so many things about both MySpace and NJ give me a visceral reaction of wanting to flee to anywhere else. Both places have so many major, highly-visible issues that I’m not sure how anybody can be proud to be associated with them. I mean, unless you’re Bon Jovi, Kevin Smith, or a stock-option millionaire, there’s not much to be proud of.

New Jersey left me with another great impression this last trip, a 45 minute wait after our plane left the gate before we took off. For some reason, Newark Liberty’s runway design (possibly designed by a UGA “graduate”) required us to wait in line to taxi across an active runway (how is this NOT a horrible idea?). It definitely helps me appreciate Atlanta’s runway design where, in a stroke of common sense, our FIVE runways all run parallel, and thus don’t intersect, and all have sensible means of using them that don’t involve the airline equivalent of walking across an interstate (or perhaps we just have air traffic controllers that don’t suck).

Music

Rock! Smashing Pumpkins Zeitgeist brings back angry Billy

This week, The Smashing Pumpkins released “Zeitgeist”, their first album of consequence since 2000.  Their “Siamese Dream” album is among my favorite albums of all time, and certainly among the cream of the 90’s grunge movement.  Their later work is fine by me, but trended toward more electronic influence and mellower songs, marking a slight downward trend (to me).

The new album, Zeitgeist, is half of an awesome album.  Which half is awesome apparently depends on your Pumpkins history.  “Cherub Rock”, “Bullet with Butterfly Wings”, “Rocket”, and “Zero” are among my favorite Pumpkins songs, so the thunderous first half of the album is right up my alley.  From reviews I’ve seen, fans of “Disarm”, “1979”, “Perfect”, “Thirty Three”, etc. seem to enjoy the latter half of the album more.  People who never liked band still won’t, and folks who are fixated on the current lineup of the band (only half of the original lineup returns) will hate it, because lead singer Billy Corgan seems to be an odd and contentious dude.

The return of the angry Pumpkins is awesome.  Thick, layered, angry, driving guitars move the songs along, and Jimmy Chamberlin’s intricate, expressive drumming may be more prominent and important to the music than ever.  From the massive opening track, “Doomsday Clock” to the first half of track 7, “United States”, the intensity and quality of the songs should send all the whiny, derivative, emo bands running for the exits (I can only hope).  Radio and mp3s don’t do these songs justice – listen to them on big speakers at high volume.  “United States” clocks in at almost 10 minutes long, and signals the album’s shift into music for patient people – ballads,  jam tracks, etc.  They’re not bad, not a departure from the band’s sound – they’re just not the Pumpkins that appeal to me.

But the first half of the album is entirely worth it.