Today has been a mixed bag of fun and garbage

Where I’m Visiting
I write to you from the Cedar Valley Resort in Whalan, Minn., a short seven-hour drive south of my usual digs in Bemidji. I’m here for three days of conferencing goodness as part of the Minnesota Two-Year College Marketing Association; this is really my public debut as the associate director of communications and marketing representing Northwest Technical College. It’s going to be an adjustment to get used to having responsibilities for them. This thing has been fun so far — we had a very good introductory session with the state system’s new vice chancellor for admissions, Mike Dougherty; he’s really charismatic and seems like an awesome guy who knows his stuff, and then we moved into some breakout discussion sessions that I felt really ill-equipped to do much talking at. I have 10 pages of neatly-scribed notes, though, as per my usual conference habit. Another long day tomorrow, then a half-day Friday, and I get to make the trek back home.

The resort we’re at is pretty nice; we’re tucked in a valley by this stream out in the middle of absolute nowhere southeast Minnesota. No cell coverage, etc. But it’s pretty scenic and relaxing. No AC or anything like that, but I’ve got a perfectly nice ceiling fan.

What I’m Listening To
I gave “Born Villain,” the new Marilyn Manson album that I mentioned yesterday, a thorough listen in the car on the way down to this conference today; I may not listen to it as an album again (although I’m sure the tracks will occasionally pop up in random playlists). It just feels colossally boring and uninspired. Basically every song is structured exactly the same — a bass-heavy drum beat with bass over the top, and very little lead guitar, while Manson grunts slowly or whispers lyrics or whatever. “The Gardener” is essentially a spoken-word piece. The pattern changed up a little bit (not much; just a little bit) in the back half of the album, most notably on “Murderers are Getting Prettier Every Day” — and even that devolved into an unintelligible noise-fest about halfway through, but it was still a pretty constant stream of like-sounding, similarly-constructed songs.

The best song on the entire album is a cover of the 1972 Carly Simon hit, “You’re So Vain.” He rocks this song and makes it his own, and it holds up well with the other great covers Manson has done (think “Sweet Dreams,” “Personal Jesus,” and “Tainted Love”) but it’s incredibly disappointing that the highlight of the album is a cover.

Manson has a history of doing clever things with lyrics to twist new meanings into his songs – “mOBSCENE,” for instance, or “(s)AINT” (“hold the ‘s’ because I am an ‘ain’t’ — very clever). There’s some of that in this album – notably in “Pistol Whipped” which includes the lyric “I want to have your ache and beat you too,” a play on “have your cake and eat it too.” It’s overdone in the song, but it’s the kind of wordplay that’s missing from the rest of the album.

Nothing about this album hooked me. The title track, “Born Villain,” holds up well enough on its own, but it just gets lost in a sea of sameness when included in the album as a whole.

If the pattern holds, Marilyn Manson is now due for a very good album in about 2015.

What I’m Watching in June
Nothing, apparently.  I sat in a session at my conference today and followed the onslaught on Twitter — first shock and disbelief, then anger and rage, and finally just rampant disappointment and fear for the future of the brand at the news that Paramount has pushed back the opening of “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” from June 29 until March of 2013 so it can “add 3D for foreign markets.” In other words, Paramount is watching Battleship turn into one of the more hilarious flops of the year (nobody’s talking about John Carter now, that’s how bad it is for Battleship), and some suit panicked and pulled the plug on Retaliation — a movie that to a person G.I. Joe fans have been really, really, really excited about. Now, Hasbro has a toy line launching tomorrow to support the movie, and no movie to support the toy line. Retailers are likely to be extremely livid over this, and the chances of Retaliation figures lasting beyond the first two waves are basically zero. So, since Hasbro pulled the plug on the Renegades cartoon early so it could be retooled to support the movie storyline, G.I. Joe is effectively dead as a property until March. And the extremely positive momentum built up for the movie so far this year, since the unveiling of the first trailer on Machinima and the Super Bowl spot, will be impossible to replicate next year.

Ugly. The odds of me wanting to go see another Paramount release between now and the time that G.I. Joe is actually released are basically zero.

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