Monday, April 18, 2011

Dress Your Family In Poor Career Choices, or David Sedaris & the Great, Shaky Dismay

"It's kind of sad that newspapers are crumbling and that no one really reads them anymore."

This was the response I got from David Sadaris after I told him I was a journalism student.

"Wait, what? What the fuck? Aren't you supposed to support writers? Aren't you supposed to offer a pep talk or something about how I'm making the right career move?" That's what my mind said. What I actually said amounted to me blubbering about how things are just evolving to more online centered media. He replied to that with, "I mean the thing I don't get -- is that I've been reading the papers every day of my tour..."

This was after waiting two hours in line without anything to occupy my mind other than my own thoughts and the anticipation of actually getting to meet David Sedaris, which, granted, was poor planning on my part. Two hours for a two minute conversation that didn't really feel like a conversation at all. It wasn't terrible, but I wouldn't say the experience was pleasant at all. He just pretty much talked at me, mentioned  how "once you're in the New Yorker, you don't really care (about papers and journalism stuff) because you're in The New Yorker" and then sent me on my shell-shocked way.

Up until this meeting point, I'd loved Sedaris. I'd read most of his books. Every time I listened to This American Life I'd wait for Ira to mention if he'd have a segment. Up until that meeting point, Sedaris had a very positive impact on life. He made me laugh. He made me think. However, since that brief conversation, I haven't listened or read a thing by him, and this meeting was over six months ago.

Am I bitter? Maybe. Am I disillusioned? Probably. But it's not a conscious he-bad-mouthed-my major-so-fuck-him attitude, I'm just basically turned off by him now. I have an unfinished copy of "Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim" on my bookshelf. I'm looking at it right now. And I have no urge whatsoever to finish it. I'd like to, but odds are I'm not going to touch it for a very long time. 
Sedaris was the first significantly important person I admired that I've met. Since Sedaris, I've met two other people I greatly admired: Kevin Barnes (lead singer from of Montreal) and Dan Bejar (New Pornographers side-man and Destroyer Lead). Both of these encounters were very positive, awesome experiences for me. So, I can say that leaving these conversations where you meet people you greatly  admire don't always leave you dismayed. On the other end though, they didn't ask me about my major and we mostly just talked about music.

So why I am I just talking about all of this now? Well, partly because I'm lazy, but mostly because I wanted perspective. I can talk about my first break-up with considerably more articulation than my most recent. If had written this post the week of, it would have been much more pissy and angst-y than this post already is, which would not be good CAUSE PEOPLE GOT PROBLEMS OF THEIR OWN. You don't need to hear my complain about mine all the freaking time.

But what's at the core of this? Why am I so bothered by this encounter? It's because I'm scared of my future (surprise! deja vu). Will I have a job? Will I survive? Having one of your favorite authors talk about how your career path is crumbling is some scary stuff. Eighty percent of the time I am fully confident of my career choice because I like journalism. I like where it's taking me. But, there's times -- mostly in the morning -- where I wake up and yearn for a steady job, a nice family, and a wife to wake up next to. I want the steady job and the steady life because I wake up unsure of myself.

But if I followed that path I would become unsatisfied. I've seen too many people throughout my life depressed that took they took the easy path; they have the wife and kids, but they started right away. They didn't follow any of their dreams. They didn't see Europe or whatever. And now they're in an intense game of responsibility. Revolutionary Road is a very real thing.

Don't get me wrong, I want a family. I just don't want a family till I can completely support one, and that's going to take a while with a major in journalism. There's just a million things I need and want to do before I have a family, which sounds vague, but you get what I'm saying? The best things come to those who wait right? Right? I sure hope so. I hope all my friends don't run out on me.     

So, until next time, I'm telling the David Sedaris of my head to stop fracturing my dreams and maybe it's time for "Dress Your Family" to finally come off that shelf...

Joel Samson Berntsen  (Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) - Arcade Fire)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

One of the Best: Rest in Peace Sidney Lumet

Around the time Before the Devil Knows You're Dead came out on DVD, I read an article in Rolling Stone celebrating the career of Sidney Lumet. It was one of those articles that I just got completely wrapped up in -- one of those, "what are all these awesome movies and who is this awesome person, I need to know more, TELL ME MORE" articles. I went out and bought Before the Devil on dvd later. It opened with a kind-of raw sex scene though -- and my parents soon discovered and confiscated it and then proceeded to throw it away in the trash. But my love for Lumet was sparked.

There are eleven Lumet directed movies currently streaming on Netflix Instant Queue including Dog Day Afternoon, Network, and the Roger Ebert recommended Running on Empty. Go watch one if you've got netflix or just rent one if you don't.

Joel Samson Bertsen (History Lesson Part II - The Minutemen)

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Pains of Being Pure at Heart: "Belong" — B

New York’s premier pun-loving group, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, swept away the internet in 2009 with their cutesy, adorable music that focused on the emotional conditions of the every-person of indie-class America. Today, the group opens a new chapter as it delves into new territory with its sophomore album Belong.

There’s an added reach to the songs on Belong, and it’s not just that the guitar is louder or that Kip Berman’s voice has more weight. It hinges on the fact that POBPAH, with the help of famed producer Flood (The Smashing Pumpkins, Nine Inch Nails, The Jesus and Mary Chain), has traded in its twee origins for a more throwback '90s alt-rock sound. There’s still a youth-driven urgency to each song, but instead of light, airy pop jangles drenched in sugar, it’s a rich, embellished dense sweetness — like a dark chocolate version of The Smashing Pumpkins.

 POBPAH caters to this change with a surprising amount of ease. Its sound overhaul seems to be a causal change of clothes for the group. Its knack for crafty lyricism stands as catchy as ever, especially with album highlight “Heart in Your Heartbreak,” in which Berman charmingly chants “you were the heart in my heart break / you were the miss in my mistake.” The album peaks with the waterlogged-guitar crooner “My Terrible Friend,” which comes closest to topping “Young Adult Friction” — the standout single from their debut.

The majority of songs holds the same simple ability and effect: they’re catchy and likeable, and they’ll get stuck in your head. However, the actual body of music throughout Belong varies too little; the album shapes into a cloud of songs that remain too similar to one another. While POBPAH’s mastery of pop lyricism anchors the songs into the audiences' head, its music too often lays dormant.

There are plenty of good songs for a schoolgirl's crush mix-tape or a sad indie-intern, but the formula remains too unchanged for the album to grow into the next Siamese Dream.

Joel Samson Berntsen (On Repeat - LCD Soundsystem)