Monday, May 31, 2010

New Wave for the New Week #68

It's always interesting when foreign bands attempt to sing in English, especially when it's done either phonetically or with only the most minimal grasp of the language. When Dutch band The Nits began recording three decades ago, they made the decision to sing mostly in English in hopes of international fame. One can argue the fame eventually came to them (except here in the US) after many years and a few overhauls in both lineup and sound, but as they started out their command of the language was shaky at best.

In some ways, that added to The Nits' appeal. On their earliest records (Tent, New Flat, and Work), The Nits played a herky-jerky version of skinny-tie New Wave - sort of more European sounding Vapors, or The Knack had they chosen to worship post-Rubber Soul Beatles rather than the 1964 version. Their clipped pronunciations and off-kilter phrasing fit their percolating melodies beautifully, and a number of wonderful singles resulted: "Tent," "The Young Reporter," and "Tutti Ragazzi" are among the best examples of the style.

A change in personnel and a change in the musical landscape started The Nits down a more progressive pop path. The melodic hiccups and abrupt chord changes that had been integral to their sound began to be smoothed out by lush keyboard washes; they became much improved in their English; they began to get international notice. They would eventually have a major European hit in 1987 with "In the Dutch Mountains," but they were still just a bit to continental for American radio tastes.

The Nits have never stopped making music. They are still active today, 31 years after those early singles. That they are little more than a New Wave footnote here in the US is a shame - those early albums are excellent. To give you a taste of what everyone missed back then, this week's NW4NW entry is a clip of The Nits on Dutch TV back in 1980 performing "The Young Reporter."

Sunday, May 30, 2010


CLEARWATER, FL - FEBRUARY 24:  (EDITOR'S NOTE:...Image by Getty Images via @daylife

Settled in last night to watch the Phillies take on the Marlins in the second of a three-game set, hoping to see them build off of the previous night's victory and climb fully out of the slump they've been in since last weekend. With their new ace on the mound, chances seemed good, even though Roy Halladay has met with some rough waters in previous two outings.

I'll admit I was among those who were not happy that the acquisition of Halladay over the off-season meant that the Phillies would give up the amazingly gifted Cliff Lee. I'll also now stand up and say I was wrong - this did turn out to be a pretty sweet deal. Halladay came into the game at 6-3 with 4 complete games and 2 shutouts already under his belt - a remarkable first two months considering we live in the age of the specialized pitcher, and starters are seldom expected to go more than 6 or 7 innings.

With Marlins' star hurler Josh Johnson on the mound for his team, the game had the makings of a classic pitcher's duel from the words "Play ball!" The early innings did not disappoint. In fact, a pretty stellar performance from Johnson was overlooked in the excitement last night.

You see, Johnson was outstanding, but Halladay was perfect.

I had watched only one no-hitter from start to finish before in my 30+ years of baseball fandom, that being Kevin Millwood's gem against the Giants in 2003. But I had never had the experience of watching every pitch of a perfect game as it happened. Considering this was only 20th perfecto thrown in the history of Major League Baseball, it's not an experience that one has many opportunities for!

After the fifth inning, Phillies' announcer Tom McCarthy mentioned that Halladay had retired the first 15 consecutive batters he had faced. That was the first inkling that a no-hit bid was in the works. By the seventh inning, my Twitter feed, which is usually filled with lively conversation during a Phillies game, had gone as quiet as the Phillies' dugout must have seemed to Halladay. If you aren't aware, there are two very strong superstitions in baseball regarding no-hitters in progress: first, the rest of the team stays as far away from the pitcher in the dugout as possible; second (and most important), no one - NO ONE, not player, not manager, not coach, not announcer, not fan - mentions what is happening. Breaking either tradition risks "jinxing" the game. So, even though we all wanted badly to tweet about what we were watching, nobody dared to post a word.

By the time Halladay took the mound for the ninth inning, even the Marlins' fans stood and applauded, realizing they were watching history unfold. And when pinch-hitter Ronny Paulino grounded out to third baseman Juan Castro to end it, Twitter and Facebook both virtually exploded with celebratory posts. One of the neat things about social media is to be able to share a moment like that with literally hundreds of people all across the world.

Marlins' centerfielder Cameron Maybin was certainly not perfect - his misjudgment of a Chase Utley fly ball in the third resulted in a three-base-error that pushed Wilson Valdez across the plate with the game's lone run.

It was a thing of beauty to watch arguably the best right-handed pitcher in the game right now achieve such a pitching feat. I'm so glad I had the chance to see it!

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Friday, May 28, 2010

Final Vinyl, Racks of Wax & Platters that Matter

Saw that Theresa Kereakes over at Punk Turns 30 posted this morning that the fabled Rhino Records is open again, if only briefly, at 1740 Westwood Boulevard in LA.

Rhino the record store, a direct offshoot of Rhino the record label, was neither the first nor the last of the independent records shops, but it certainly set forth many of the ground rules by which such vinyl havens played from the mid-70s on. Being an easterner who has never been farther west than Colorado, I never had the pleasure of shopping at Rhino Records. But, from my earliest days as a discerning record buyer with my own paycheck to spend, I've not only always preferred the indy shops, but often found them to be the only places to track down some of my more obscure want-list items.

There was a time when the record shop was a fixture in every town. Usually housed in narrow, musty storefronts, interiors plastered with flyers for upcoming local concerts and littered with copies of Goldmine, these were nothing like the sterile cookie-cutter mall chain stores or "record departments" in larger stores like Sears or Penny's that stocked only the best-selling records of the moment. These were record shops: slatboard floors and rack after rack after rack of records, often crammed in so tightly you had to pull a fistful or two out before you had enough slack to actually flip through them. Cheap, tinny speakers hung by fraying wire in hidden corners blasted out music that only the coolest of in-crowd seemed to know ("Oh wow, what is that song? Gotta have that record!").

You knew the shop owner by name; he knew you by the music you liked: "Hey, Violent Femmes Guy! I got a record in you need to check out!" He'd pluck some obscure disc from a stash behind the counter, drop the needle, and a minute into it you were sold. Those shop owners knew their regular clientele well, and it paid off. Most shops had the record wall, with insanely-priced, impossibly rare pressings and high-dollar long-out-of-print singles calling to you from well beyond your budget's reach.

You could find anything there. You might try to play Stump the Shopkeep, but he seemed to know every record the moment it came out. Hell, he usually had the pre-release since a week ago Tuesday! And the real joy: if the store didn't have a copy of the record you were looking for, they would order it for you.

Over the past quarter century, thanks to the CD age, the record shop has slowly faded into history, with fewer and fewer towns able to claim a local indy. Those that do have enough of a local crowd of vinyl enthusiasts to keep them afloat treasure their shops. I'm fortunate to live in one of those places. Here in Lancaster, Stan's Record Bar is still tucked into it's Prince Street storefront where it has been since my mom bought Elvis Presley singles there as a kid herself. A half-hour's drive from here is The Record Connection in Ephrata, another long-lived example, although in recent years the vinyl has yielded more and more space to the compact discs. But even these stalwarts of the indy record shop heyday are shadows of they once were.

I wish I were able to get to LA this weekend, just to take that step back in time and set foot in Rhino Records. If you happen to be in that area, stop in for me and let me know what it was like. And wherever you are, if your town or city has an independently own record shop still in business, please patronize it. Spend some time flipping through the crates of albums and boxes of singles. You just may be pleasantly surprised at what you might find.

Monday, May 24, 2010

New Wave for the New Week #67

X-Ray SpexX-Ray Spex via

"Them, they came out with a sound and attitude and a whole energy. It was just not relating to anything around it. Superb." - Johnny Rotten

Strange to see a Johnny Rotten quote in which he is actually praising rather than snarling, but those were his words in the documentary The Punk Years, and the band he was praising was one of the most attention-commanding, discordant, unique bands to come out of the 1977 UK Punk Rock scene.

Marion Elliot and Susan Whitby would form the original nucleus of the band, with Jack Stafford, Paul Dean and BP Hurding rounding out the cast. The girls would change their names, with Whitby assuming the moniker "Lora Logic" and Elliot transforming into "Poly Styrene" (Jack Stafford would also take a new name, "Jak Airport"), and the band was called X-Ray Spex.

In a scene full of dour, grungy, dark-and-dirty styles of dress, X-Ray Spex stood out with their bright neon clothes. With band after band following the basic guitar-bass-drums setup with perhaps occasional keyboards thrown in, Lora Logic's wailing, blurting saxophone gave the Spex quite a unique sound. In a male-dominated genre, X-ray Spex bucked convention by showcasing the then-15-year-old Poly Styrene, wailing her vocals, as Trouser Press once described, "with all the delicacy of a cat in heat," and hardly looking the part of a lead singer with her awkward stage presence and gleaming braces. And when their 1977 debut single "Oh Bondage! Up Yours" hit the record shop shelves, it literally sounded like nothing else before or since.

Lora Logic left after that first single and was replaced with Rudi Thompson, who squawked the sax with only slightly more skill. Their sound intact, several more singles followed: "The Day the World Turned Dayglo," "Identity," and "Germ Free Adolescents" would all turn up on their legendary 1978 album Germ Free Adolescents, counted by many critics as one the best of the lot of early UK punk LPs. A final non-album single, "Highly Inflammable," followed later in the year; virtually everything they released was available on brightly colored vinyl.

Poly Styrene had begun acting more and more strangely, shaving her head and telling magazine writers that their next album would be released on vinyl the same color as the next UFO she saw. By the end of 1978 she was in full nervous breakdown, and the band splintered. After a year or two off, Styrene found peace by joining a Hare Krishna sect, and released a much more mellow solo album, Translucence, in 1980. Six years later, she had left the Hare Krishnas and released Gods and Goddesses, which included the anti-cult single "Trick of the Witch."

Poly disappeared again, re-emerging in 1995 with a reformed version of X-ray Spex and releasing a new album, Conscious Consumer. The album is actually quite good, although nothing like the original Spex.

This week's NW4NW takes us back to 1978 for a clip of the original band (well, post-Lora Logic, but the band who recorded the album anyway) performing "The Day the World Turned Dayglo" on Top of the Pops. The video is not of the greatest quality, but you'll easily be able to see how utterly uncomfortable Poly was on camera. Apparently she never quite got the hang of lip-syncing. Still the song is a classic, and footage of X-Ray Spex isn't always easy to come by. Enjoy!

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Friday, May 21, 2010

Table For One

"They're calling all the shots
They'll call and say they phoned
They'll call us lonely when we're really just alone..."
- "Oblivious" by Aztec Camera

Twitter exchange recently between @blurdmuliebrity and myself:

@blurdmuliebrity: Seeing people eating alone in a restaurant makes my heart hurt.

@berutt: Why? I do it all the time.

@blurdmuliebrity: You can always tell the lonely ones from the nonlonely ones and it's sad.

That got me thinking: which category do I fall into? I don't think of myself as "lonely," but am I? I don't feel lonely, at least no more so than I imagine everyone does at some point or another, but then again...

"Marriage is a Wonderful Institution,
but Who Wants to Live in an Institution?"
- Groucho Marx

Being a 43-year-old, reasonably healthy, heterosexual male who has never been married puts me in a minority, sociologically speaking. Of course, good-intentioned people who believe that no one else could possibly be happy or content with their lives unless they are lived by a certain prescribed set of standards are always quick to ask, "Well, what's wrong with ya?"

The answer: "Nothing."

"Uh-huh," they nod, looking perplexed as they give me the once-over in search of glaring flaws.

It's just that I have no pressing drive to get married just for the sake of being married. Not that I haven't had the opportunities. In fact, there have been points in my life where I thought I found her, but history has shown that had I taken that plunge then, I would likely be just another divorce statistic now. That's not what I want. When and if the right woman comes along, yes, I'd like to marry. To this point in my life, I haven't found her.

Drive, She Said

That I have not yet settled down in some ways parallels another societal anomaly about me: I have never learned to drive. Again, the questions have become routine: "You got some kinda disability? You get into legal trouble that says you can't drive? Wait, you mean you've never had a license?"

Nope, nope, yep.

You think they looked perplexed about the still being single thing? This one really blows people's minds! I have a harder time rationalizing this one, though. Literally, the only thing that keeps from having a driver's license is that in 43 years, I've never gone through the process.

I walk a lot, I arrange for rides with friends or family, I use public transportation. I don't "miss" driving because I've never driven. I save a lot of money that would otherwise go to auto insurance, gas, repairs, upkeep. I've gone this far without driving, what would I need with it now?

It Came in the Mail

Sitting on the far corner of my desk is the invitation to my 25th high school reunion, which will happen this summer. A quarter century. Seems like forever ago, but it also seems like yesterday.

I have not gone to any of the previous reunions, and my rationale has always been the same: "Those who were my friends are still my friends; those who were marginal I could find if I needed to; the rest I didn't like back then and they didn't like me, so why would I want to see them?"

This reunion is a bit different. This reunion is occurring in a post-Facebook world.

When I joined Facebook over a year ago, I was stunned to find the first people reaching out to me were high school classmates - literally, people who I had probably not thought of very much at all since grabbing my diploma and heading off to college. Even more stunning, they were folks who, if they remembered me at all, I would not think would have remembered me fondly.

Almost two-thirds of our graduating class is on Facebook now, and I have connected with many of them. What has amazed me is that some of my classmates who, back then, would scarcely acknowledge I existed, are now among the people I most look forward to interacting with online. I've had to reassess my own judgments and perhaps let go of a grudge or two, and as a result I've found that more than a few of those who I would have put in the "why would I want to see them?" category before have turned into really neat folks.

Of course, not all of them have. It seems every high school class has those who are still living their lives as though we were all still back in school. They never left their cliques, they never expanded their world, they never opened their minds. Their lives apparently peaked when they were 18, and that's the world they want to hold onto. They were snobs, bullies, jerks then, and they remain unchanged.

So, when the question has invariably come up, "You going to the reunion?," I find myself unable to rely on my pat answer. Now there are a group of folks who I would like to see again - those who I have reconnected with online and found common ground today that didn't exist back then. But is my wish to see these folks in person stronger than my distaste for seeing those who judged and tormented me 25 years ago, and are likely to judge and torment me now?

The Demons Inside

Over the years, I have done that same cost-benefit analysis in my mind many times. It certainly is not the reunion which is bringing that out of me. No, this is a battle that wages constantly inside those of us who deal with social anxieties.

Social anxiety can range from mildly annoying to fully debilitating, and while mine fortunately falls toward the less severe end of the spectrum, it's still a formidable demon to fight. People who have never dealt with anyone who battles social anxiety, and who don't deal with it themselves, have no concept of what it does to a person. It is not simple shyness or introversion. It is a real fear, a gripping fear, that stops you from being in even those social situations that you want to take part in.

Some friends invite me out for dinner and drinks, or a group is getting together to go to a concert or to a ballgame. Maybe some friends are having a party and would like me to be there. Whatever the situation, I go through the same process: I happily say yes, I'd love to join in. Then, little by little, the fear starts creeping in. What if I do or say something embarrassing? What if they all laugh at me? What if there are people there I don't know, and they think poorly of me? What if this is all a set up to trap me into some sort of public humiliation? The anxious thoughts spiral out of control like that, each leading to the next more irrational, more frightening thought.

This is where my friend OCD kicks in. I was diagnosed with mild OCD several years back. Again, I'm fortunate that it falls to least severe end of the possible spectrum, but it's there nonetheless. In my case, OCD manifests more in obsession than in compulsion: the racing thoughts with no basis in reality - thoughts that do not bear even the most casual scrutiny, but thoughts that I can't always stop. OCD and social anxiety often go hand-in-hand, with one feeding the other. The physiological response is an adrenaline rush, and that "oh my God" feeling in the pit of the stomach. As I said, it's a very real, gripping fear.

And so, I begin to desperately look for a way to bow out of the invitation. I find myself hoping something comes up - bad weather, illness, whatever - that is just cause for either the event to be canceled or for me to easily say "sorry, can't make it." What is strange about this process is that while I am going through it, it's as if the rational, clear-thinking part of me is watching it happen, fully aware that it is irrational, fully aware that it is an anxiety/OCD response, and yet unable to shut it off.

Sometimes the rational side wins. I literally force myself out the door to whatever the event is. And you know what? Invariably, once I'm there, I find myself having a great time. And why not? I'm with friends taking part in enjoyable activities! If there are new people there, I tend to make new friends. I'm a surprisingly charming person. If they don't like me, that's OK too - their loss. Invariably, when it's over, I can't believe that I ever had an ounce of anxiety going in.

When the anxiety wins, I spend days kicking myself. Why the hell didn't I go? Why did I let that irrational fear paralyze me? Why do I stop myself from being around people?

It Wasn't Always Thus

Those who have known me for a long time know that I did not always suffer these anxieties. Through high school, college, and throughout my twenties, I was an extremely social person. The tiny fourth floor apartment I lived in with a woman I at one point thought I was going to marry was a gathering place, and when the party wasn't there you could bet that I'd be wherever the party was.

I can't tell you exactly how or when it all changed. That's the thing about anxieties - they creep up on you; they build slowly over time. I know that it did change, however, because at some point in my mid-thirties I looked around and said, "Where is everyone?" I had slowly turned myself into a hermit, steadily letting friendships atrophy. (You know, if you turn down or cancel enough invitations, people tend to stop inviting you to hang out with them.) Dating came to a near standstill: it's hard to take a woman out when you yourself are not comfortable going out among people in the first place.

I had become one of those folks who, if I did go out, would be eating dinner alone.

The demon that is anxiety and OCD is a cunning foe, constantly whispering in your ear, forever rationalizing it's existence. It's a siren song that requires constant vigilance to resist. Have you noticed a pattern in the items I've discussed in this piece? My still being a bachelor at age 43? My having never learned to drive? My having never attended one of my high school reunions?

In each case, I have at my disposal a seemingly perfectly plausible rationalization; a ready answer for all the questions that are regularly thrown at me. And, in each case, those "rationalizations" fold under the most casual scrutiny.

The Therapist Behind the Bar

Because the most casual scrutiny reveals the flimsiness of my rationales, I tend not to scrutinize them. When @blurdmuliebrity made her comment, especially about being able to tell the lonely from the nonlonely among those who dine alone, I immediately wondered if she would be able to tell which category I fell into. Then the thought: Do I know which category I fall into?

Naturally, anyone would rather be among those who are alone, which suggests a choice in the matter, than among those who are lonely, which suggests a far worse lot in life. Surely, I'm among the alone, right? I suddenly found in my mind that those rationales were not only subject to casual scrutiny, but that I had put them under a microscope. Flimsy? Hell they're weak as water.

Of course I want a wife! Of course I want someone to share my dinner (and my thoughts and my world) with! You know what stops me from going out and finding her? That damn irrational fear. That fear of being judged, of being set up, of being mocked and embarrassed. Of not being good enough.

Of course I should learn to drive! That in itself would open so many more restaurants to go to where I could share my meal with someone. You know what stops me from doing it? That damn irrational fear. That fear of failing and in turn being judged, mocked and embarrassed. Of not being good enough.

Of course I want to go to my 25th high school reunion! There are people I really want to see again, and to hell with those with whom I will never get along. You know what stops me from going? That damn irrational fear. That fear of being judged, of being set up, of being mocked and embarrassed. Of not being good enough.

I don't think I mentioned yet that @blurdmuliebrity happens to be a bartender, and in that role I have no doubt she's seen her share of the alone - and the lonely - patronizing the establishment where she works. Good bartenders have a sense of their clientele. Good bartenders also happen to be fairly insightful amateur therapists.

A woman I knew several years back and was very fond of was an artist. She made a piece for me that I treasure greatly. It's a simple chunk of rock into which is inscribed the following:

"Man, like every other animal, tends to be passive. Unless goaded by circumstance, scarcely does he take the trouble to reflect upon his condition."

That Twitter exchange from the other night has goaded me into some self-reflection, the way a good therapist would. The writer in me demands that I express that self-reflection in words, and the blogger in me says "Share it!"

So there it is. Now, I have two choices: change, or continue. I don't know yet which path I'm going to take. Change at 43 is tough, but certainly not impossible. Either path I follow, I will continue to fight the demons of anxiety and OCD, so neither will be a cakewalk. Decisions, decisions. I need my strength - maybe a good meal.

Table for one, please.

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Thursday, May 20, 2010


Limited time only...go sign up for Bad Religion's mailing list and get a link to download a free album, 30 Years Live!

It's the band's way of saying "thank you" for 30 years of support. Great music from a great band, and you can't beat FREE! So what are you waiting for?

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Monday, May 17, 2010

New Wave for the New Week #66

For a band that had two well-loved cult hits, very little biographical data is out there concerning Los Angeles New Wavers Burning Sensations.

Formed by Tim McGovern after he left The Motels, Burning Sensations attempted to meld New Wave pop with multi-cultural sensibilities, with mixed results. Their 1982 debut, a four-song EP, put them on the map with the postively joyous "Belly of the Whale" - the first example of their "world-beat new wave" sound clicking on all cylinders. The song is insanely catchy and the video, which received moderate airplay on MTV at the time, puts the whole thing over the top. Fun, funny, danceable, memorable, and should have been a bigger hit than it was. A full self-titled album followed hoping to build off the success of "Belly of the Whale," but nothing else came close.

In 1984, Burning Sensations would pop up on the radar one last time, exiting with almost as big of an impact as they arrived. That year, they contributed a cover of Jonathan Richman's "Pablo Picasso" to the soundtrack of the movie Repo Man; their cover became almost more well-known than the original thanks to the publicity it received by being attached to the film. If there were hopes of this soundtrack appearance leading to a second album, they were never realized. Burning Sensations disappeared.

"Belly of the Whale" remains a classic piece of New Wave bubblegum, and is presented as this week's NW4NW entry. Enjoy!

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Monday, May 10, 2010

New Wave for the New Week #65

Cross the murky, swampy rumble of The Birthday Party with the mutant demi-blues of The Gun Club, add a dash of Henry Rollins' most sinister vocal delivery, a smidgen of Captain Beefheart's most outlandish tendencies, and sprinkle it with twangy surf guitar, and what you would come up with is something that sounds very much like Manchester's Inca Babies.

In the course of their sadly brief (1983 - 1987) existence, Inca Babies delivered four remarkable albums and a handful of equally striking singles ranging from stomping, shrieking aural assaults to unsettling pressure cookers that threaten to explode at any moment, but don't always deliver on that expectation. Theirs was not a happy-go-lucky sound, but neither was it melancholy. It was menacing, threatening, confrontational, yet compelling.

Singles like "The Judge" and "Splatter Ballistics Cop" churned along daring the phonograph needle to hang on for the ride; album tracks like "Plenty More Mutants" were more seductive, throbbing, slow boils that hinted at the danger you might find around every corner if you had guts enough to stick around.

This week's NW4NW entry is of the latter style. The title track from 1987's Opium Den is one of the Inca Babies finest moments. I was thrilled to stumble across this clip quite by accident - I had no idea it even existed before finding it a week or so ago. It has caused the album to receive multiple plays around my household in recent days, and I am happy now to share it with you. Enjoy!

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Thursday, May 6, 2010

Recommended Reading: Chronicling Elizabethtown

We live in an ever-shrinking world. As technology develops and improves, previously impossible gaps in communication and distance are easily spanned. Email and cell-phones have for years made instant connection with people who may be physically thousands of miles away possible; the rise of social networking sites have redefined the way many folks think of "community" to include those who they may never have even met face-to-face, and in some cases perhaps never will.

We also live in a time when local flavor is disappearing in favor of what one friend of mine calls the "generification" of America. Local mom-and-pop corner stores and family-run service businesses are going the way of the dinosaur, replaced by faceless national "superstores." The strip-mall in your town probably looks exactly like - and houses the exact same stores as - the one in my town. As more and more folks tune into 24-hour cable news networks to get their information, local news broadcasts are experiencing sharp ratings declines; as even more abandon traditional media to find out about the world on the Internet, newspapers across the country - especially local community papers - are literally stopping the presses, permanently. The concept of "local" is becoming obsolete.

Don't tell that to Jeff McCloud. In a time when it seems everyone else is only thinking globally, Jeff is acting locally: his blog, Chronicling Elizabethtown, is both a place to preserve the unique local flavor of his town and a hilltop from which to proudly wave its banner and invite others to come see and experience all it has to offer.

The borough of Elizabethtown, PA, sits between Harrisburg and Lancaster. In 1999 McCloud became one of the roughly 12,000 residents of the borough, and was elected to the Borough Council 8 years later. When Elizabethtown's beloved community weekly, The Elizabethtown Chronicle, closed its doors in early 2009, McCloud was determined to see to it that his community not lose its voice altogether. As McCloud wrote in his inaugural post,

"So, here we are, a fabulous community with tons of potential without a newspaper of record, and me, an elected official and a former newspaper reporter (and, for the record, one-time editor of The Elizabethtown Chronicle) and now a public relations professional, wanting to get the news out about my community."

Over the past two years, Chronicling Elizabethtown has become the borough's new voice. Jeff's conversational/journalistic style retains the feeling of a local newspaper without falling into the mundane recitation of facts that often plague such publications. It's as if Jeff were sitting down next to you at the lunch counter and talking about the local events of the day, from the ongoing restoration of the Elizabethtown Train Station to the openings of new businesses to the accomplishments of neighbors.

So, why would I recommend this blog to everyone, especially those who don't live anywhere near Elizabethtown, PA? For one, Chronicling Elizabethtown is a perfect example of how a locality can continue to maintain its integrity and individuality in the face of the world's generification. The more of that local uniqueness we can preserve in communities across the country, the better off we will be. Another reason is the buoyantly positive tone McCloud has given his blog. We are bombarded with so much news about disaster and death and crime, it's refreshing and invigorating to know that someone out there is finding things to celebrate, and demonstrating that one need go no further than his own backyard to find them. There needs to be more of that in this world as well. I would love to see Chronicling Elizabethtown become a template for others to chronicle their own towns.

Jeff was kind enough to answer the Five Questions posed in this series; here are his replies:
What or who inspired you to begin blogging?
JM: It was a combination of being elected to Elizabethtown Borough Council and the demise of the local weekly paper The Elizabethtown Chronicle. I started my blog, Chronicling Elizabethtown, in an attempt to fill the void left by not having a paper there to cover the nitty-gritty details of the community. Having worked as a newspaper reporter for seven years, I write with a news style. Knowing that I am writing as an elected official, I also use my blog as a public relations tool and public information tool for Borough Council and the borough itself.

Is there a story or meaning behind your blog or its name?

JM: The name is a twist on The Elizabethtown Chronicle.

Which post would you choose from your archives if you had to provide only one that best represents what your blog is all about?
JM: I'd have to say that a series of posts from last August, when Elizabethtown had a boil-water advisory, meet this criteria. In the first five months of my blog, I averaged 131 visits; that August, the number shot up to 906. This was because information during that time was not communicated efficiently or effectively, and my blog was one of the few places to get credible information about the water situation.

When you first log on to your computer each day, what is the first site you go to? Why?

JM: I always head to my iGoogle page to check my RSS feeds from news organizations and monitor Twitter with TwitterGadget.

What one other blog would YOU recommend that you read regularly, and why?
JM: I haven't found one blog that I read regularly. I follow links on Twitter that look interesting.
Do take the time to drop in on Jeff at Chronicling Elizabethtown. You'll find a neat little community celebrating their accomplishments, and perhaps you'll even be inspired to begin celebrating your own locality!

My great thanks to Jeff McCloud for taking the time to participate in this series!

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Monday, May 3, 2010

New Wave for the New Week #64

Mental as AnythingMental as Anything via

Virtually every genre of music shares at least one commonality: the break-up song. Depending on the musical style and the personality of the artist, they can range from heartwrenching to hopeful, from revenge-fantasy to prayer for reconciliation, from haunting to maudlin.

And then there is this week's NW4NW entry from Australia's Mental As Anything, the brilliantly titled "If You Leave Me Can I Come Too?"

Coming together in a Sydney art school in the mid '70s, Mental As Anything are about as Aussie as you can get. With their dry and sometimes randy sense of humor, off-kilter melodies and lyrics, and a bit of didgeridoo lowing in the background, Mental As Anything first made waves in their home country with a Top 20 drinking song, "The Nips Are Getting Bigger."

By the time they released their masterpiece in 1981, Mental As Anything had a strong cult following. Their timing was perfect - they were able to ride the wave of Australian bands being embraced by the New Wave (Split Enz, Men At Work, Midnight Oil, etc.), and "If You Leave Me..." saw considerable airplay on MTV and in New Wave clubs both here and in Europe.

After that one cult classic, Mental As Anything seemed to drop off the radar. In actuality, they never stopped making records, and continue to be well-known and loved in their homeland.

This week's NW4NW entry is the clip for that wondrous tale of a doomed relationship and our hero who refuses to let it go. Enjoy "If You Leave Me Can I Come Too?" by Mental As Anything:

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