An Inland Voyage’s Top Music Videos Of 2012

I still love a good music video.

And even though you don’t see many of them on television, the Internet is teeming with them.

These are the videos that represent my favorites of 2012:

1. Todd Terje — Inspector Norse

I just find this video immensely funny. I try to do the majority of my dancing in the privacy of my own home. So I admire this guy’s care-free attitude. Also, you’ve got to be careful with those home recipes! Ha.

2. Grimes — Oblivion

Here is what Claire Boucher aka “Grimes” had to say about this video: “The sports world is so different from what we normally engage with, so it was like this voyeuristic look into a really violent community. Art gives me an outlet where I can be aggressive in a world where I usually can’t be, and part of it was asserting this abstract female power in these male-dominated arenas– the video is somewhat about objectifying men. Not in a disrespectful way, though.”

3. M83 — Wait

This is the final installment in a trilogy of videos done for M83’s double 2011 album, “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming” about a bunch of strange kids. This is my favorite of the collection.

4. Hot Chip — Don’t Deny Your Heart

Good advice. Joyous video.

5. Dinosaur Jr. — Watch the Corners

This stars one of my favorite entertainers, Tim Heidecker, who you will be hearing more about in upcoming year-end lists. He happens to be in the video for my favorite song off the new Dinosaur Jr. album.

6. Twin Shadow — Five Seconds

Silly, yes. But I like the dramatic mood it sets.

7. Orbital — New France

I have a soft spot for animated stuffed animals. I enjoyed this video more than “Ted.”

8, Sufjan Stevens — Mr. Frosty Man

Zombies. Santa Claus. And Mr. Frosty Man? All in claymation? Count me in.

Why Is America So Violent? The Answer May Surprise You

Why is America so violent?

It’s a question that has been asked a lot in recent weeks, and the answers that researchers have come up with may surprise you at first. But when you think about them, they make a lot of sense.

A significant correlation has been found between violence and income inequality, as well as a lack of social capital.

Ichiro Kawachi at the Harvard School of Public Health led a study in 1999 that examined the factors that play into American homicides. The study was published in the journal Social Science and Medicine:

If the level of crime is an indicator of the health of society, then the US provides an illustrative case study as one of the most unhealthy of modern industrialized nations …

Violent crimes (homicide, assault, robbery) were consistently associated with relative deprivation (income inequality) and indicators of low social capital. Among property crimes, burglary was also associated with deprivation and low social capital. Areas with high crime rates tend also to exhibit higher mortality rates from all causes, suggesting that crime and population health share the same social origins. Crime is thus a mirror of the quality of the social environment …

The correlations between income inequality and household poverty rates with homicide were, respectively, 0.74 and 0.53 (P < 0.001 for both). Even after adjusting for poverty, income inequality accounted for 52% of the between-state variance in homicide rates.

Writing for Scientific American earlier this year, Eric Michael Johnson said of the study:

The results were unambiguous: when income inequality was higher, so was the rate of homicide. Income inequality alone explained 74% of the variance in murder rates and half of the aggravated assaults. However, social capital had an even stronger association and, by itself, accounted for 82% of homicides and 61% of assaults. Other factors such as unemployment, poverty, or number of high school graduates were only weakly associated and alcohol consumption had no connection to violent crime at all. A World Bank sponsored study subsequently confirmed these results on income inequality concluding that, worldwide, homicide and the unequal distribution of resources are inextricably tied. (see Figure 2). However, the World Bank study didn’t measure social capital. According to Kawachi it is this factor that should be considered primary; when the ties that bind a community together are severed inequality is allowed to run free, and with deadly consequences.

But what about guns? Multiple studies have shown a direct correlation between the number of guns and the number of homicides. The United States is the most heavily armed country in the world with 90 guns for every 100 citizens. Doesn’t this over-saturation of American firepower explain our exaggerated homicide rate? Maybe not. In a follow-up study in 2001 Kawachi looked specifically at firearm prevalence and social capital among U.S. states. The results showed that when social capital and community involvement declined, gun ownership increased (see Figure 3).

Figure 3. Social Capital and Gun Ownership

Figure 3. Social Capital and Gun Ownership. Between 48 US states, gun ownership increases as community involvement goes down. Reproduced from Hemenway et al. (2001). Click image to enlarge.

Kawachi points out that it is impossible to prove whether one factor caused the other, but the most reasonable interpretation is that people who don’t trust their neighbors are more likely to think guns will provide security. In this way the number of guns and the number of homicides both stem from the same root, suggesting that guns don’t cause murders anymore than cars cause fatal accidents. This was also the conclusion of a policy paper conducted by the London-based Centre for Economic Policy Research in 2005 that found no support for the argument that more guns cause more homicides. “The appearance of such an effect in past research,” wrote the authors, “appears to be the product of methodological flaws.” Unfortunately, gun control may not save us after all.

James Gilligan is one of the foremost experts on violence and America’s violent offenders. In interviews, he has talked about how he treated prison inmates as his teachers, giving him insight into what leads a human to commit a violent act.

Gilligan answers some of the questions you may have after reading the above research. Namely, what does income inequality and lack of social cohesion cause in human beings to trigger violence? The answer is shame and humiliation, according to Gilligan.

He recently did an interview with public radio station WBUR in Boston that digs into this subject. It’s an interesting read:

BOSTON — Many questions remain in the wake of the shooting last Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Among them: What drives someone to commit such a horrific act of violence?

New York University psychiatry professor Dr. James Gilligan, who has studied violence for decades and used to direct mental health services for the Massachusetts prison system, says most people who murder or harm others feel a tremendous sense of humiliation and shame, as well as a sense that they or numb or dead inside.

“They could identify often the period in their life when they felt they had died. And it was a time when they just felt overwhelmingly shamed and humiliated,” Gilligan said. “Sometimes the straw that broke the camel’s back would be a rejection from a school or a girlfriend or whatever, but some blow to self-esteem. Sometimes just being fired from a job, something that made them feel inadequate, or a failure.”

Just about every person experiences some form of rejection or disappointment in his or her life, but people who commit violent acts have other conditions that make them predisposed towards violence.

“One is if the person feels they lack sufficient non-violent means of restoring their self-esteem, that they’ve tried and tried and they feel they’ve just failed and there’s nothing remaining for them,” Gilligan said.

“They can’t love others or themselves,” he added. “All they can do is go to war against the world that they may feel has humiliated them and try to rescue some last gasp of self-esteem.”

The best way to treat people who have these preconditions and might commit violent acts is to build up their self-esteem, Gilligan says.

The real solution however, Gilligan says, is treating violence as a public health issue or as part of preventive medicine.

“In preventive medicine, we learned 150 years ago that cleaning up the water supply and the sewer system was much more effective in preventing epidemics of cholera and other infectious diseases than all the doctors and medicines and hospitals in the world just dealing with people one individual at a time.

“And I say here too, rather than focusing on primarily, say, trying to identify which individuals are maybe most at risk of becoming violent, the more efficient method of reducing the level of violence in our society would be to look at our environment and change it,” Gilligan said.

It’s no easy task. Gilligan said a first step for him would be to ban assault weapons and large capacity magazines. But he said the bigger picture is to tackle socioeconomic issues.

“We do have epidemics of violence when the unemployment rate increases, when economic inequality increases … And these tend to come down when we either ameliorate the effects of unemployment — for example, unemployment insurance — or find ways to protect people from utter humiliation and loss of status,” he said.

He went even further, saying that society as a whole needed to adopt a perspective “that we will not abandon or neglect or ignore anyone, that we will regard ourselves as responsible for the welfare of everybody.”

“I realize this sounds like pie in the sky … But I think it is possible to create a less aggressive and less violent society,” Gilligan said. “It’s just that it’s a matter of generations. It’s not something that happens overnight.”

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you are familiar with my interest in economic inequality and the many problems with which it correlates, ranging from health problems to education woes. Violence is another item on this long list.

Remember, America is one of the most unequal countries among the developed nations. Only three of the 34 members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development have higher economic inequality — Chile, Mexico and Turkey.

Unfortunately, the United States is not addressing this issue at all. Economic inequality is growing worse.

For example, I recently wrote about the growing income inequality in South Dakota.

We ignore these economic issues at our own peril. At the end of the day, they are health and public safety issues.

New Year’s Eve Will Be A Zany Night In Yankton

Z Punching Z

Bob Zany gets schooled by Zan Aufderheide. Both will be in Yankton on New Year’s Eve.

I didn’t know what comedy was until I stumbled upon “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”

It was with Monty Python that I felt I found my sense of humor. Everything before that was bland in comparison.

I remember that after becoming familiar with the Pythons and the other British comedies I found on PBS like “Are You Being Served,” “The Young Ones” or “Alexei Sayle’s Stuff,” I didn’t watch many American sitcoms anymore. I just didn’t think they were funny. Maybe all that British comedy made me develop a stiff upper lip — or perhaps I just became a British snob.

It wasn’t until later that I found where many of the greatest American comics were hiding. It was on premium cable, which I didn’t have at the time. I still rank Bill Hicks as my favorite stand-up comedian of all time. He may not have been one of Plato’s philosopher kings, but he was definitely a philosopher comedian who used laughter as a way to expand people’s minds. I feel Doug Stanhope is on that same wavelength.

But all this chatter about comedy is really just a lead up to why I’m really excited about New Year’s Eve. I will be seeing Bob Zany, a guy who has been doing comedy for more than 30 years. He is a professional and a true entertainer.

Along with him will be Zan Aufderheide, a very intelligent up-and-coming female comedian from Indianapolis.

I had the pleasure of visiting with both of them last week for a story that appeared in the Press & Dakotan Friday. As we all know, Yankton doesn’t get many comedians, so when this caliber of talent comes to town we need to take advantage of it. Sure, it may end in tears, but at least they will be tears of laughter. What better way to start the year?

Here is a link to my story. I may be biased, but I think it’s a good way to get to know the people behind the comedy. It also has all the requisite show information.

Curious what you are in for if you go to Minervas Monday?

Kevin Nealon (yes, THAT Kevin Nealon) had Zany on his show. (Warning, there is some mature content.)

And here is a clip of Aufderheide. (Warning: She is very energetic and will probably make you want a cup of coffee because you feel so lethargic in comparison.)

The End Really Is Near: N.D. Is Fastest-Growing State

Like most everyone, I’ve been scoffing at the idea that the world is ending this month.

It’s mostly just a good reason to throw a party — and a lot of bars/clubs seem to be taking advantage of that. “End of the World” parties seem to be just as popular as holiday parties this year.

Well, I’m starting to think that all of this is not a joke. Maybe the end really is fast approaching.

Take a look at this disturbing press release I got today from the U.S. Census Bureau:

“North Dakota’s total population climbed by 2.17 percent between July 1, 2011, and July 1, 2012. This is the fastest growth of any state, and nearly three times faster than the nation as a whole, according to Census Bureau state population estimates released today.”

Apparently, the influx into Hell has already begun!

OK, I kid.

But did any of us ever expect to see a day when North Dakota was the fastest-growing state in the nation? I probably would have bet on the world ending before I placed my money on that scenario transpiring. What a difference an oil boom can make.

Heck, some people are probably equally as disturbed to see South Dakota came in 10th place with 1.19 percent population growth between July 2011 and July 2012.

I’m just saying, you may want to party extra hard at your “End of the World” celebration. The end really may be near.

Oh, and if you’re interested, here is the rest of the Census Bureau release:

“The Census Bureau produces population estimates each year, allowing our nation, states and communities to gauge our growth and demographic composition. The population estimates use administrative data to estimate population change between census years, using the decennial census count as a starting point. Estimates are used by local governments to locate services and by the private sector to locate businesses.

Following North Dakota in terms of percent increase over the same period were the District of Columbia (2.15 percent), Texas (1.67 percent), Wyoming (1.60 percent), Utah (1.45 percent) and Nevada (1.43 percent). North Dakota ranked only 37th in growth between the 2000 and 2010 censuses and climbed to sixth between 2010 and 2011. Each of the 10 fastest-growing states were in the South or West with the exception of North Dakota and South Dakota.

The United States as a whole saw its population increase by 2.3 million from 2011 to 2012, to 313.9 million, for a growth rate of 0.75 percent. Texas gained more people than any other state in the year ending July 1 (427,400), followed by California (357,500), Florida (235,300), Georgia (107,500) and North Carolina (101,000). These five states combined accounted for more than half of the nation’s total population growth. In addition to 50 states and the District of Columbia, the release also includes estimates for Puerto Rico.

California remained the most populous state, with a July 1 population of 38.0 million. Rounding out the top five states were Texas (26.1 million), New York (19.6 million), Florida (19.3 million) and Illinois (12.9 million).

The only two states to lose population between July 1, 2011, and July 1, 2012, were Rhode Island (-354 or -0.03 percent) and Vermont (-581 or -0.09 percent).”

Does America Begin And End With The Right To Bear Arms?

Does America begin and end with the right to bear arms?

I don’t think so. To argue that it does demonstrates a lack of knowledge about American history. It also ignores the many instances where this nation’s citizens have expanded their freedoms through non-violent means. You would really have to reach to make the argument that the government caved to those demands because of the fear of an armed citizenry. Frankly, I think those who focus so much on the Second Amendment haven’t really thought about what makes a society like ours work.

However, I know people who will make the argument that the Second Amendment is indeed the most fundamental element of our democracy. I’ve had those conversations.

The Founding Fathers were on the same page as me, I think.

Adam Winkler, author of “Gunfight: The Battle Over The Right To Bear Arms In America,” recently wrote about this at The Atlantic in the article, “The Secret History of Guns“:

The Founding Fathers instituted gun laws so intrusive that, were they running for office today, the NRA would not endorse them. While they did not care to completely disarm the citizenry, the founding generation denied gun ownership to many people: not only slaves and free blacks, but law-abiding white men who refused to swear loyalty to the Revolution.

For those men who were allowed to own guns, the Founders had their own version of the “individual mandate” that has proved so controversial in President Obama’s health-care-reform law: they required the purchase of guns. A 1792 federal law mandated every eligible man to purchase a military-style gun and ammunition for his service in the citizen militia. Such men had to report for frequent musters—where their guns would be inspected and, yes, registered on public rolls.

At the New York Times, Firmin DeBrabander, an associate professor of philosophy at the Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, reflects on just what a heavily armed society can do to civil society. His arguments certainly resonate with me. It is definitely worth reading the whole article, but I’ll pull out some excerpts for your consideration:

As N.R.A. president Wayne LaPierre expressed in a recent statement on the organization’s Web site, more guns equal more safety, by their account. A favorite gun rights saying is “an armed society is a polite society.” If we allow ever more people to be armed, at any time, in any place, this will provide a powerful deterrent to potential criminals. Or if more citizens were armed — like principals and teachers in the classroom, for example — they could halt senseless shootings ahead of time, or at least early on, and save society a lot of heartache and bloodshed.

As ever more people are armed in public, however — even brandishing weapons on the street — this is no longer recognizable as a civil society. Freedom is vanished at that point.

And yet, gun rights advocates famously maintain that individual gun ownership, even of high caliber weapons, is the defining mark of our freedom as such, and the ultimate guarantee of our enduring liberty. Deeper reflection on their argument exposes basic fallacies.


Guns pose a monumental challenge to freedom, and particular, the liberty that is the hallmark of any democracy worthy of the name — that is, freedom of speech. Guns do communicate, after all, but in a way that is contrary to free speech aspirations: for, guns chasten speech.

This becomes clear if only you pry a little more deeply into the N.R.A.’s logic behind an armed society. An armed society is polite, by their thinking, precisely because guns would compel everyone to tamp down eccentric behavior, and refrain from actions that might seem threatening. The suggestion is that guns liberally interspersed throughout society would cause us all to walk gingerly — not make any sudden, unexpected moves — and watch what we say, how we act, whom we might offend.

As our Constitution provides, however, liberty entails precisely the freedom to be reckless, within limits, also the freedom to insult and offend as the case may be. The Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld our right to experiment in offensive language and ideas, and in some cases, offensive action and speech. Such experimentation is inherent to our freedom as such. But guns by their nature do not mix with this experiment — they don’t mix with taking offense. They are combustible ingredients in assembly and speech.

I often think of the armed protestor who showed up to one of the famously raucous town hall hearings on Obamacare in the summer of 2009. The media was very worked up over this man, who bore a sign that invoked a famous quote of Thomas Jefferson, accusing the president of tyranny. But no one engaged him at the protest; no one dared approach him even, for discussion or debate — though this was a town hall meeting, intended for just such purposes. Such is the effect of guns on speech — and assembly. Like it or not, they transform the bearer, and end the conversation in some fundamental way. They announce that the conversation is not completely unbounded, unfettered and free; there is or can be a limit to negotiation and debate — definitively.


Gun rights advocates also argue that guns provide the ultimate insurance of our freedom, in so far as they are the final deterrent against encroaching centralized government, and an executive branch run amok with power. Any suggestion of limiting guns rights is greeted by ominous warnings that this is a move of expansive, would-be despotic government. It has been the means by which gun rights advocates withstand even the most seemingly rational gun control measures. An assault weapons ban, smaller ammunition clips for guns, longer background checks on gun purchases — these are all measures centralized government wants, they claim, in order to exert control over us, and ultimately impose its arbitrary will. I have often suspected, however, that contrary to holding centralized authority in check, broad individual gun ownership gives the powers-that-be exactly what they want.

After all, a population of privately armed citizens is one that is increasingly fragmented, and vulnerable as a result. Private gun ownership invites retreat into extreme individualism — I heard numerous calls for homeschooling in the wake of the Newtown shootings — and nourishes the illusion that I can be my own police, or military, as the case may be.


Our gun culture promotes a fatal slide into extreme individualism. It fosters a society of atomistic individuals, isolated before power — and one another — and in the aftermath of shootings such as at Newtown, paralyzed with fear. That is not freedom, but quite its opposite. And as the Occupy movement makes clear, also the demonstrators that precipitated regime change in Egypt and Myanmar last year, assembled masses don’t require guns to exercise and secure their freedom, and wield world-changing political force. Arendt and Foucault reveal that power does not lie in armed individuals, but in assembly — and everything conducive to that.

Or is increased gun ownership a symptom of increasing individualism and the crumbling of the fabric of society? There are arguments to be made for both perspectives, I think. In any case, this research done at the Harvard Injury Control Research Center shows the correlation between gun ownership and negative community relations:

We analyzed whether perceptions of safety might be affected if more people in a community acquired firearms, using data from a national random-digit-dial survey of adults conducted under the auspices of HICRC.  By a margin of more than 3 to 1, Americans would feel less safe, not safer, as others in their community acquire guns. Among women, but not among men, those who have been threatened with a gun are particularly likely to feel less safe.

Hemenway, David; Solnick, Sara J; Azrael, Deborah R.  Firearms and community feelings of safety. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology. 1995; 86:121-132.

Miller, Matthew; Azrael, Deborah; Hemenway, David. Community firearms and community fear. Epidemiology. 2000; 11:709-714.

There is more:

Increased gun carrying reduces community feeling of safety.
This paper uses data from two national random-digit-dial surveys to examine public attitudes about gun carrying. By a margin of 5 to 1, Americans feel less safe rather than more safe as more people in their community begin to carry guns.  By margins of at least 9 to 1, Americans do not believe that regular citizens should be allowed to bring their guns into restaurants, college campuses, sports stadium, bars, hospitals or government buildings.

Hemenway, David; Azrael, Deborah; Miller, Matthew.  U.S. national attitudes concerning gun carrying.  Injury Prevention.  2001; 7:282-285.

Among the other findings of the HICRC researchers are:

Guns are not used millions of times each year in self-defense;

Most purported self-defense gun uses are gun uses in escalating arguments and are both socially undesirable and illegal;

Firearms are used far more often to intimidate than in self-defense;

Guns in the home are used more often to intimidate intimates than to thwart crime;

Adolescents are far more likely to be threatened with a gun than to use one in self-defense;

Criminals who are shot are typically the victims of crime; and

Few criminals are shot by decent law abiding citizens.

A researcher at the HICRC also found this:

Gun advocates claim mass-casualty events are mitigated and deterred with three policies: (a) permissive gun laws, (b) widespread gun ownership, (c) and encouragement of armed civilians who can intercept shooters. They cite Switzerland and Israel as exemplars. We evaluate these claims with analysis of International Crime Victimization Survey (ICVS) data and translation of laws and original source material. Swiss and Israeli laws limit firearm ownership and require permit renewal one to four times annually. ICVS analysis finds the United States has more firearms per capita and per household than either country. Switzerland and Israel curtail off-duty soldiers’ firearm access to prevent firearm deaths. Suicide among soldiers decreased by 40 per cent after the Israeli army’s 2006 reforms. Compared with the United States, Switzerland and Israel have lower gun ownership and stricter gun laws, and their policies discourage personal gun ownership.

The author of the paper just did a fascinating interview with the Washington Post that elaborates on her findings.

At the end of the day, do guns only provide us a small — perhaps even false — sense of security while actually undermining the ideals that many Americans would associate with a free and democratic society? It’s something worth contemplating. Guns are not going to go away. The Second Amendment is not going to be repealed. So it’s important that we learn better ways to live with guns.

Otherwise, we just continue to die with them. Observe this news:

From 2001 to 2010, about 270,000 people were shot and killed in the U.S., the Los Angeles Times reported. These figures include homicides, accidents and suicides. But homicides alone put the U.S. in league with countries such as Mexico and Colombia, according to United Nations data.

“This is a country riddled with multiple gun tragedies,” said Robert Sampson, a Harvard University sociologist who studies crime and its effects on cities and neighborhoods. “There is the sudden and concentrated tragedy of Newtown, but there is also this ongoing, steady slow drip of tragedies in so many communities that don’t share the spotlight. America’s gun violence problem, as I see it, is a problem of both steady violence and mass shootings.”

In the 1960s, gun violence in the U.S. began to climb precipitously across the country, peaking in crack-ravaged cities in the late-1980s and early-1990s. After that, U.S. gun deaths began to slide. But that slope is part of a larger global decline, leaving the U.S. with few peers in gun violence.

“The other Western countries really saw a significant drop-off, making us still very violent in comparison,” said Sampson.

Data compiled by the United Nations’ Office on Drugs and Crime confirms Americans are living with greater risk of gun-related death than are residents of other developed countries. From 2007 to 2009, the U.S. averaged 10,987 homicides per year by firearm, compared with an average of 182 in Germany, 75 in Spain and 47 in the United Kingdom. Mexico averaged 5,980 annual homicides by firearm during the period. Colombia averaged 13,174.

In the U.S., 8,583 of 12,664 murder victims in 2011 were killed by firearms, according to FBI data. California and Texas had the most murders by firearm in 2011, with 1,220 and 699, respectively.

Once again, we are left asking, what makes America so, um, special? I’ll post more on this soon.

‘Perfect Vision’: Icky Blossoms And Trust Live

As you know, I saw The Faint play in Omaha Friday night.

My post about the show, along with some videos I took of The Faint can be found here.

In this post, I want to give some attention to the opening acts.

First off, it was Omaha’s very own rising stars, Icky Blossoms. Spoiler alert: I’m pretty sure this band will rank as my favorite new artist of the year. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to their self-titled debut. It’s perfect dance music with substance a la Ladytron but BETTER — at least, in my opinion.

My favorite track off the album is the sinister, sexy, fun and maybe even profound “Sex to the Devil.” I really love the part where they sing, “You do it like it was 1995.” I don’t know why exactly — perhaps because I was in high school at the time? — but I love to sing along to that line. Maybe you will, too.

And here is their set closer, the transcendent “Perfect Vision”:

If you’d like to check out Icky Blossoms in their full audio glory and not just what I’m able to capture on my cell phone, here is the official video for “Heat Lightning”:

I know much less about Toronto’s Trust, but I am quite interested to see what they do in the future. Their debut album has grown on me a lot.

Here they perform “Bulbform”:

This is the official video for “Sulk”:

Doing The ‘Danse Macabre’ With The Faint

Whenever I’m looking to stay warm on a cold December night, nothing heats things up faster than The Faint.

My brothers and I used to be able to count on a Faint concert almost every holiday season, and it became an annual tradition for us. However, The Faint slowed down and eventually went on hiatus.

With their reformation this year, we were excited to see the old tradition would be revived. On Friday night, they didn’t disappoint.

Two great bands opened for The Faint at Sokol Auditorium in Omaha. One of my favorite new bands this year — and Omaha natives — Icky Blossoms kicked things off with an energetic set that was marred only by a muddy sound mix. Still, their great tunes and energy prevailed, and they were able to jumpstart the crowd.

Next, it was Toronto’s enigmatic electro-goth group Trust. They didn’t have the diversity of the Icky Blossoms set, but the steady beats reminiscent of early Depeche Mode and other dark members of the New Wave hit a sweet spot with me. Robert Alfons’ voice sounds alternatively like a menacing German robot or a creepy lady from a David Lynch film. I mean that as a compliment.

But the stars of the evening were The Faint, who turned the crowd into a pulsating, sweaty mess. From my perch on the balcony, I was able to appreciate just what a frenzy the band created. They opened with “Wet From Birth” gem “Desperate Guys” and played several other popular tracks before embarking on the dark, stylish and — most of all — fun journey through their 2002 classic “Danse Macabre.”

The crowd went wild for every last one of those nine tracks. There is no question the album has stood the test of time.

After about two hours — the longest I ever recall The Faint playing — the concert closed with a rollicking rendition of “Paranoiattack.” I’m not sure the crowd could have handled another song. Did I mention how hot it was in the auditorium? And what a sweaty mess the crowd was?

It was an amazing time. My thanks goes out to The Faint, Icky Blossoms and Trust for what was certainly my concert of the year. Wow.

I captured a couple Faint tracks and will try to get my Icky Blossoms and Trust videos posted later:

Now F***** Pay Me

KillingThemSoftlyIs America one big community where we all work together to achieve the American Dream?

Or is it a large obstacle course where we all do what we can to sabotage one another in pursuit of personal gain?

Let’s forget any sort of middle ground for the moment.

If we had to pick between the two options, I think our answers may depend upon the kind of day we’re having.

But if you’re looking for a polemic to make an argument for the latter, Andrew Dominik’s “Killing Them Softly” does a very good job of it.

Since audiences aren’t exactly flocking to see this film (it had a dud of an opening weekend and many of those who did see it gave it terrible marks), I thought I should place myself among those who praise it.

The film takes place in New Orleans during the 2008 election and the financial meltdown. Speeches by John McCain and Barack Obama are heard on radios throughout the movie.

The story revolves around the mafia cleaning up house after an illegal card game has been knocked over, thus hurting business. Who is going to invest if they don’t feel safe?

Ah, the parallels between crime and the collapse of the financial sector begin to surface …

Many who didn’t like the film as much as me (including my brother), felt its message was stated so obviously on so many occasions as to make it clumsy and an insult to one’s intelligence. I guess it never felt that way to me. I became engrossed by the characters and the politics of the criminal proceedings.

It all culminates in a final exchange between Jackie (Brad Pitt) and his mafia contact (Richard Jenkins). Jackie feels he is being under paid for his services. It’s a brilliant speech, and one I think will be remembered by future film-goers. (If you’d rather wait and see it in the movie, don’t read the following passage taken from Also, it contains explicit language for those who are squeamish about such things.)

Barack Obama (on TV): …to reclaim the American dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth, that, out of many, we are one…
Driver: You hear that line? Line’s for you.
Jackie Cogan: Don’t make me laugh. One people. It’s a myth created by Thomas Jefferson.
Driver: Oh, so now you’re going to have a go at Jefferson, huh?
Jackie Cogan: My friend, Thomas Jefferson is an American saint because he wrote the words ‘All men are created equal’, words he clearly didn’t believe since he allowed his own children to live in slavery. He’s a rich white snob who’s sick of paying taxes to the Brits. So, yeah, he writes some lovely words and aroused the rabble and they went and died for those words while he sat back and drank his wine and fucked his slave girl. This guy wants to tell me we’re living in a community? Don’t make me laugh. I’m living in America, and in America you’re on your own. America’s not a country. It’s just a business. Now fuckin’ pay me.

Whether you agree or not, you’ve got to admit that’s a very provocative way to look at things. Sitting in the theater, I was left in awe as the credits rolled.

David Fear wrote an informative piece about “Killing Them Softly” in Time Out Los Angeles. Here are some excerpts:

“I mean, it is the story of an economic crisis when you think about it,” Dominik claims. “You’ve got this criminal economy that’s supported by gambling and somebody causes this huge failure of confidence. Then it happens a second time—because it never really got taken care of the first time. And now you have a system of checks and balances that’s completely collapsed due to a lack of regulation. So when you look at it that way…” He chuckles again. “The parallels were just too good to ignore. Crime movies are all about capitalism anyway, so this seemed like a good opportunity to make more of a self-conscious crime film.” There’s a pause on the line. “I’m sure some will accuse me of making a pretentious crime film as well. Some have already, actually.” …

Pitt’s weary take on a man who’s just trying to do his job is the dark heart of the film, and it’s his final speech—“America is not a country, it’s a business…now fucking pay me!”—that offers Killing Them Softly’s single most caustic summation of our nation’s dollar-sign mentality. That line isn’t in Higgins’s book, Dominik says. “It comes from my own experience of living in this country over the last eight years,” he admits. “I like dealing with extreme people in my movies, certainly. But you don’t need to be a criminal to realize that the notion of life in America being reduced to one transaction after another has never been more true than it is now.”

I highly recommend “Killing Them Softly” as both a genre film and as a criticism of American capitalism. I can’t wait to see it again to determine if it holds up on a second viewing or whether the messaging does indeed become overbearing.

I hope some of you give it a chance, too. Dominik has done amazing work in his career so far (“Chopper” and “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”), and I want to see more.

The ‘Wait’ Is Over

It’s possible that the music video of the year was released today.

I’m not going to commit to that just yet, but let’s just say that the Creators Project-produced video for M83’s “Wait” is a strong contender.

I would like to give you hope that after all the heavy material I’ve covered on the blog this week this is something to lighten the mood. Except that would be a lie.

This video is all apocalyptic drama and downright ponderous. But it is a thing of absolute beauty. It even has an homage to “2001: A Space Odyssey.” These people know how to flip my switch.

If you haven’t checked out M83’s 2011 double album, “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming,” you are late to the party and need to catch up. It was on my top 10 album list for last year.

“Wait” is the final installment of a trilogy of videos from “Hurry Up” featuring some mighty strange kids. I’ve included all three below.

This is part one:

And part two:

SD Legislator In A Film That Could Win An Oscar In 2013

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess there is only one current South Dakota legislator who is in a film with a shot to win an Oscar next year.

StaceNelsonThat legislator is Rep. Stace Nelson of Fulton.

He took part in the heartbreaking documentary “The Invisible War” directed by Kirby Dick. The film delves into the high rate of sexual assault in the U.S. military – a reality that some have called an “occupational hazard.”

“The Invisible War” is on the shortlist of 15 films from which five final entries will be selected for Oscar consideration.

Nelson was a NCIS investigator who took part in rape and sexual assault investigations. He is consulted as an expert in the film. I want to personally express my gratitude to Nelson for talking about an issue that many would rather ignore – or cover up.

As you will see in the film, sexual assaults destroy lives. It makes people suicidal. It becomes a disease that its victims never seem to entirely overcome.

“The Invisible War” reminds us that we must go beyond patriotic platitudes and demand that our service members be protected from not only foreign enemies, but from those within the military who are predators.

The focus is largely on women victims, but don’t think this is a problem restricted to women. Rapists also target men and, not surprisingly, they are even less likely to report being assaulted than women because of the shame involved.

Here are some shocking stats from Invisible No More, a non-partisan coalition working to end sexual assault within the U.S. military and to help survivors of Military Sexual Assault heal:

Today, a woman serving in Iraq or Afghanistan is more likely to be raped by a fellow service member than to be killed in the line of fire.

The Invisible No More coalition seeks to ensure that the theatrical release of the film The Invisible War serves as a catalyst in creating a movement to cause lasting change in how the military handles sexual assault.  We engage with advocacy organizations, key policymakers, military leaders, and other stakeholders to raise public awarenesscoordinate policy, and energize the grassroots to change military policy and behavior.

While the Department of Defense claims to have a “Zero Tolerance Policy,” the numbers of sexual assault occurrences within the U.S. military have continued to rise.

• Since 2006, more than 95,000 service members have been sexually assaulted in the U.S. military

• More than 86% of service members do not report their assault

• Less than five percent of all sexual assaults are put forward for prosecution, and less than a third of those cases result in imprisonment

Watch the trailer for “The Invisible War” below. This important movie is streaming on Netflix Instant.