Thursday, June 25, 2009

The day the music died

No, this is not about "American Pie" or the real-life events referenced in the song. Catchy tune, though. Parts, anyway.

Nor is it about Michael Jackson. His death is sad in the way all deaths are sad, but he never really meant anything to me. Call me a liar, contrarian, whatever, but I never really liked his music. Not even Thriller, which even some hipster-turd music snobs claim, either ironically or genuinely, is genius, but I don't see it. Rick James is better than Michael Jackson and Rick James isn't even that good. I'll remember Michael Jackson as a sad and strange tale of American celebrity, but not much else.

No, this is the death of Laid Off Loser. I'm not dead, obviously, but it's the death of the blog. Well, maybe that's too final — let's just say I'm putting it on hiatus. My reasons are many. Here's a few of them.

1. I've been doing a half-assed job with it the last couple of weeks. 

I know it, and I think my small audience knows it, as traffic to the site — never much to brag about in the first place — has dropped dramatically over the past week or so as I write less and less.

I hate doing things half-assed. There's not much middle ground with the way I live my life — when I get into something, I really get into it, and when I'm not into something, I virtually ignore it. Sports, for example. I either fully invest myself in a full season or pay no attention to it. I pretty much ignored the NFL for about five years, but the last two seasons, the Cro-Magnon in me has been hopelessly addicted to it.

But back to the blog. It has become an obligatory part of my day — a chore, really — something I no longer wake up excited about. And most days I post as an afterthought just to get something up before midnight, another thing I feel I have to do before I end my day, and lately my posts have been half-inspired at best. When it gets to that point, when my heart isn't really in it any more, I know it's time to move on. 

2. I'm getting busier in a vocational sense, which is sucking some of the time and energy I once put into the blog.

For the past three months, I've been attempting to build my own business while looking for full-time work that isn't there, and I'm starting to see some forward progress with the venture. I'm still collecting unemployment, and I can't accurately say I'm even part-time self-employed, but a little extra money is coming in nonetheless — all of which I'm dutifully reporting to the Idaho Department of Labor, in case you're reading Mr. Madsen. Money is a stupid game. But in terms of self-preservation, making it — hopefully more of it in the months to come — has become a matter of necessity, and I need to devote more time to the effort with a minimum of distraction.

I don't think I ever truly thought Laid Off Loser would turn into a blogging-for-a-living thing, but I suppose I thought it would do a little better than it did. All told, in donations and ad revenue (the latter of which I have not seen a nickel of), I've pulled in around a hundred bucks and some change. I could have been more overt about that modest Paypal donation button in the top right-hand corner, but that's not my style. I still feel a little dirty about it and the whole Google AdSense thing, but whatever. It is what it is. Everyone has a price.

3. Most blogs have a (short) shelf life. 

If only more people realized that. There's nothing worse than someone, be it a party guest, a fading celebrity or a blogger, who overstays his or her welcome. It gets sad for everyone at a certain point, especially when it involves a clumsy pass or reality TV.

I generally find blogs to be self-serving, and Laid Off Loser is no exception — I wanted people to notice it and shower me with monetary rewards and/or gainful employment. That said, I've also viewed it as a personal journal that the whole world — or at least 38 unique visitors a day — could read. Even if I never write another word here, I'll probably pay the 20 bucks a year to keep the domain and all its gooey innards alive in cyberspace. It'll be fun to see if I can get down to zero visitors some day. Maybe my daughter will get a kick out of reading it 20 years from now. Maybe not. I'm not fooling anyone if I claim that, in the end, this was for anyone but me.

But yeah, blogs come and go, and there's a lot more that should go but never will because people will keep slogging away at it and continue to bore the world with the most trivial details of their day-to-day lives. At a certain point you have to ask yourself what you're offering, and Laid Off Loser — despite pseudo-noble attempts to create a network of the unemployed, occasional insight into economic news and a few mildly entertaining and decently constructed music reviews — wasn't offering much. It's kind of like the "ham sandwich" Tweet — you know the one, "I'm having a ham sandwich." Really, was the ham sandwich that memorable of an experience that you had to tell everyone? As if we care anyway?

I'm sick of hearing myself talk. And if I'm sick of hearing myself talk, I can't imagine how others are feeling. In the beginning, the blog was cathartic, an outlet for all the emotions associated with losing my job. And it was amusing to me as an experiment in self-promotion. I knew exactly what I was doing and what would happen when I sent out that first press release announcing I had started a blog — I got attention. A good deal of it, actually. More that I really expected or deserved. But I proved to myself that my contingency plan, reinventing myself as a no-bullshit PR flak, was a good one.

And I had fun picking on the Idaho Department of Labor. Was I a little hard on them? Probably. But did they deserve it? Absolutely. Even when this is all over and I'm back to full-time employment and a full-time happy face, I'll still speak badly of them. Their problems are fundamental ones that won't ever change, because that's how the government operates — behind the times and moving at a glacial pace to catch up. Kind of like the newspaper industry.

Ugh. So, I think this is the point where I've run out of things to say — off the top of my head, anyway. And we really don't need to belabor this any more or invest additional thought and time trying to make the farewell longer than it needs to be. Goodbyes are awkward, and that's the way this one is feeling. We could spend time trying to make it less awkward, talking until we find that great walk-off zinger hiding in a dank corner of the brain, but then I'm no better than that party guest who refuses to leave before making one last clumsy pass at your sister who's in town for the weekend and would be in bed already were she not waiting for him to leave so she could help clean up.

So, um ... goodbye.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Laid Off Loser Playlist, June 24, 2009

Click on the artist for more information. Click on the album to purchase music.

Laid Off Loser Album of the Day: "Kid A"


Yesterday I woke up sucking a lemon

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Laid Off Loser Playlist, June 23, 2009

Click on the artist for more information. Click on the album to purchase music.

Various Artists - Funk Spectrum III

Laid Off Loser Album of the Day: "The Budos Band EP"

The Budos Band

So, these Budos cats — part of the same funk-soul family as Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, may not work too hard to title their recordings (The Budos Band EP follows The Budos Band and The Budos Band II), but perhaps it's one of those let-the-music-speak-for-itself things. Or maybe they just don't have the energy at the end of the day — three of the members hold down day jobs as school teachers, after all.

In any case, this EP — which culls tracks recorded between the two albums, is an all-too-short gem. If you're a fan of the Budos' buttery analog Afrobeat-inspired funk-soul instrumentals, you'll want to add this to the collection. All but two of the tracks were heretofore unreleased, and you've likely only heard one of the previously released tracks before, that being "Mas O Menos," which inexplicably is included despite appearing on The Budos Band II.

No matter. This EP is all sweet summer sunshine soul, the sort of thing that inspires work-related insubordination, long drives to nowhere, the wearing of guayaberas and mass consumption of spirited beverages beneath cooling fronds.

Hear "The Proposition" by clicking here.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Laid Off Loser Playlist, June 19, 2009

Click on the artist for more information. Click on the album to purchase music.

Vinyl Saturday at the Record Exchange!

I may be jobless, but I can't stay away from the record store, namely my favorite shop on the planet, Boise's Record Exchange.

Tomorrow is Vinyl Saturday, a new monthly event started by the Record Store Day folks offering limited edition vinyl releases exclusive to indie stores. There's some Wilco and Modest Mouse in there, so the gettin' is good. 

Read more about Vinyl Saturday here, and wherever you are, support your local independent record store. They need to eat, too.

Laid Off Loser Album of the Day: "Middle Cyclone"

Neko Case

I like Neko Case, Uncle Steve. Maybe Neko Case doesn't like you.

Nice column on the faces of unemployment in Idaho Business Review ...

... and not just because I was interviewed for it. Robb Hicken takes a look at some of the faces of Boise unemployment, which he believes are overlooked among all the facts and figures flying about.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Laid Off Loser Playlist, June 18, 2009

Click on the artist for more information. Click on the album to purchase music.

Laid Off Loser Album of the Day: "The Kink Kronikles"

New Hampshire, Paris, Now.
Self-medication, hedonism, life.
Time travel, self-made revival.
God save the Kinks.

Unemployment rolls heading in the right direction — for now

The number of people on unemployment insurance dropped for the first time in many moons the first week of June. That's good news, but we're not out of the water yet.


What a sad story, this city. Things are so bad there people don't have easy access to a good grocery store.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Laid Off Loser Playlist, June 17, 2009

Click on the artist for more information. Click on the album to purchase music.

Various Artists - Six-Pork: Dad's Hick Mix, Vol. 6
Harold Budd and Brian Eno - Ambient 2: The Plateaux of Mirror

(If you try clicking Six-Pork, you won't get anywhere. That's a mix CD I made my dad today for Father's Day, the sixth in a series of mixes I started making him about five years ago that feature old school country, alt-country, cow punk, roots rock and assorted rustic weirdness. 

The first CD was called Too Much Pork: Dad's Hick Mix, name so after the Southern Culture on the Skids song "Too Much Pork for Just One Fork." That song in particular was a hit with everyone in my father's sphere of influence who heard it, so moving forward with subsequent mixes I decided to play off the word "pork" in the titles. Because, you know, pork is a funny word, especially when used as a verb, as in, "Last night I porked my girlfriend on the davenport for a change of pace." Pork. Huh huh.

I don't know if this is the best mix in the series — my wife described it as "more bacon-y than porky," which I interpreted as a creative way of saying she didn't like it — but I definitely put the most work into it, whittling down a shortlist of 111 songs to a crisp 23 for the final mix. I spent way too much time on it, but it's a labor of love. That partially explains why I didn't post anything today until 8 p.m.

Dad, if you're reading this, pretend you didn't. And watch the mail.)

Laid Off Loser Album of the Day: "The Soft Parade"

The Doors

Successful hills are here to stay
Everything must be this way
Gentle streets where people play
Welcome to the Soft Parade