Tips for reporters who can’t get Taylor Swift tickets

Taylor Swift tickets are the most in-demand concert tickets in my social circle since 2001 when Radiohead played at Stone Mountain. I’m not comparing their commercial stature – I’m saying my social circle has changed. In 2001 it seemed like all of my friends wanted Radiohead tickets. In 2023 it seems like all of my friends and their kids want Taylor Swift tickets.

When Radiohead played Atlanta in 2001 I was writing Creative Loafing’s entertainment and nightlife column. It was a job that gave me easy access to concert tickets, but in this case demand was higher than supply.

It was still the biggest concert of the summer in the alt-weekly world and I had to cover it, with or without tickets. So I did what any resourceful young reporter in my position would have done, I found a man with the same name as Radiohead’s lead singer and invited him to the Toco Hills Caribou coffee for an interview.

From Creative Loafing, August 2001:

Thom York has no memory of recording Amnesiac. He doesn’t really have much to say about any of Radiohead‘s albums. He does, however, have an important message for fans of the band. He wants you to know that a 30-year mortgage with no prepay penalty is preferable to a 15-year mortgage. That’s because, you can pay a 30-year in 15 years, but you can’t pay a 15-year in 30.

The Thom I spoke to is Thom York, the real estate agent, not Thom Yorke, the singer of Radiohead. Although the band’s Stone Mountain Park concert Monday happened after this newspaper’s publishing deadline, it’s too important to ignore, so I called Thom after I saw one of his signs on someone’s lawn. Thom prefers country music over rock, but when the Radiohead song “High and Dry” played on the stereo of the coffeehouse where we spoke, he liked it.

If I were still a reporter I’d have spent the past couple weeks trying to interview a swift tailor, or perhaps I’d be meeting Conyers, Georgia resident Taylor Sweet at Yankee Candle, where I’d buy her a lavender candle.

Incidentally, Thom is still in real estate if you need a house.

Being right and wrong about Iraq

I thought the Iraq war would be a catastrophe before it started (and wrote that at the time). Instead of feeling correct though, I mostly feel terribly. First, because there’s no pleasure in witnessing catastrophe. I’m a patriotic citizen of the country that’s destroying itself with its hubris, greed, bigotry and stupidity.

Secondly, when I read what I wrote about it 20 years ago I mostly think that by focusing on day-to-day, week-to-week news that I unwittingly obscuring the grand, historic nature of the catastrophe.

Some the jokes were ok though. November 2003:

So, is Iraq like Vietnam? Unfortunately, the answer is yes. Like Vietnam, the war in Iraq is an unprovoked, internationally unpopular one motivated by the ideology of a president whose last name is slang for genitalia, rather than our real defense needs.

Here’s the full essay, from November 2003:

Should gay marriage be legal? Who killed JFK? Will al-Qaeda attack American soil again? Is that really Paris Hilton in the video? These are just some of the big questions occupying American minds and fueling the shouting matches on basic cable news shows. In the past few weeks, another question has joined the list — Is Iraq another Vietnam?

A lot of people who are opposed to the war or think that its going badly are inclined to think yes, Iraq is another Vietnam. Supporters of the war typically think that it isn’t, but even some of them are noticing the parallels. President Bush has yet to directly comment on the debate, but I’m pretty sure that he doesn’t think that Iraq and Vietnam are similar. After all, Iraq is the war he started. Vietnam is the one he dodged.

To understand the debate, you have to know what Vietnam means in the context of the question. Some history — Vietnam is a New Mexico-sized country in Southeast Asia that we fought in during the ’60s and early ’70s to keep it from going Communist. Our attempt to save Vietnam included dropping more bombs on it than we dropped during all of WWII. They weren’t even the precision-guided “smart bombs” that we have today. They were regular-old gravity, wind and momentum-guided dumb bombs. These bombs were so dumb — (Chorus shouts) “How dumb were they?” — they were so dumb that they not only killed Vietnamese civilians by the tens of thousands, but quite a few missed Vietnam altogether and hit neighboring Cambodia and Laos. But hey, better dead than Red, right?

Despite the bombs and, at one point, nearly half a million U.S. soldiers deployed there, we couldn’t stop Vietnam from going Commie. We lost the war, some national dignity, and 58,000 soldiers. Hence “Vietnam” is now shorthand for “long, unpopular, poorly planned, unwinnable war that sharply divides the country, turns allies against us, and is led by an arrogant, inept and dishonest presidential administration.”

So, is Iraq like Vietnam? Unfortunately, the answer is yes. Like Vietnam, the war in Iraq is an unprovoked, internationally unpopular one motivated by the ideology of a president whose last name is slang for genitalia, rather than our real defense needs. Vietnam didn’t threaten us per se. It was a hot corner of the bigger Cold War and President Johnson wanted to fight there. Iraq didn’t threaten us. It did however stand in the way of President Bush’s desire to remake the Middle East into an American-friendly gas pump.

Also like Vietnam, the Iraq war was sold to Americans with a lie. In 1964, President Johnson got Congress to give him carte blanche to fight the Vietnam War by claiming that Communist North Vietnam attacked a U.S. naval vessel off the Vietnamese coast in the Gulf of Tonkin. Taped conversations prove that Johnson didn’t really believe the attacks had occurred. He used the alleged attack as a means to obtain war powers from Congress. Iraq’s Gulf of Tonkin-like lie was the false claim that Iraq posed a WMD threat to the United States or that it was somehow involved in the 9-11 attacks.

Like the Johnson White House during Vietnam, the Bush White House keeps spinning the war positively to suit its domestic political needs. The White House relentlessly asserts that the war is going great, while actively suppressing bad or sad news — such as preventing the media from photographing the coffins of dead returning soldiers. Like the “Pentagon Papers” leaked during Vietnam that told Americans what the government really thought of the war, it’s only through leaks that we’re finding out what the Bush administration thinks of this war (example: the leaked October memo in which Rumsfeld calls the Iraq war “a long, hard slog” and admitted that he has no way of knowing whether we’re winning or losing the War On Terror .)

Like the Johnson folk, the Bush people went into Iraq believing that American military might trumped all other considerations. Our inability to quell Iraqi resistance proves otherwise. We can win the military battles, but we’re losing Iraqi hearts and minds, just like in Vietnam.

And no, I will not e-mail you the Paris Hilton video.

Categorized as Words

How I’d Fix Atlanta

An essay I wrote about Atlanta last year:

How I’d Fix Atlanta: More Atlanta
Andisheh Nouraee

Twelve years ago, Atlanta Magazine asked me to write some pithy advice to then-incoming ATL Mayor Kasim Reed. If I’d known then what I know now, I could’ve offered suggestions such as “never tweet,” or perhaps “send regular ‘don’t do crimes’ reminders to everyone in your office.”

Instead, I suggested Reed come out and say that the BeltLine would never be the transit project its inventor Ryan Gravel intended. Indeed, the one its civic boosters said it would be. That it was instead destined to be a great linear park, and nothing more.

Twelve years later, the only mass transit on the BeltLine is people violating the “one rider at a time” rule on rental scooters. I was right. But I also think I missed the point entirely.

Read the rest at Austin L. Ray and, more importantly, subscribe to his free newsletter for great essays from great Atlanta writers and thinkers like King Williams, Sonam Vashi, Jewel Wicker, Thomas Wheatley, Darin Givens, Muriel Vega, Sarah Lawrence, Gray Chapman and of course, Austin L. Ray.

Big Dugnutt Energy

I visited Ashley Furniture today and noticed the names they give to their couches, chairs and tables sound like they came from the people who named the players in the video game Fighting Baseball – very similar to real names, but joyously just short of the mark.


Fighting Baseball:

Here’s Ashley Furniture, which I compiled into a video.

Categorized as Words

Godless tornadoes

The other day I was next to one of Decatur, Georgia’s outdoor warning sirens when it delivered its monthly test wail. I’ve heard it many times before (approximately monthly, in fact) but I’d never been so close to it while it was going off.

It’s very loud. So loud that for a minute I stopped what I was doing and thought about them.

Grosvenor Elementary School in Bethesda, Maryland, where I went to kindergarten, had such a siren in its parking lot. It wasn’t a tornado siren though. It was an air raid siren. That’s what all of those sirens are.

My elementary school years were mid-late Cold War, and we were an ICBM’s throw from the U.S. Capitol, White House and Pentagon. So we had drills. Not duck-and-cover. More like a mellow fire drill, but the fire was Marxism-Leninism.

I recall when the siren was tested we’d gather and sit criss-cross applesauce*. I imagine many of us plugged our ears. I plugged mine the other day. Those things are loud.

My kids don’t know them as air raid sirens. We call them tornado sirens. Our town’s sirens, and probably your town’s sirens, are maintained via a grant from the federal government. The alarm hardware we built for the Cold War turned out to be more durable than the Soviet Union though. Rather than tear the sirens down and turning them into freedom funnels, we kept them and rebranded them. As tornado sirens.

The idea that tornadoes and Communists are co-equal threats to the American Way of Life isn’t recent. It was part of the popular discourse as early as 1979, coincidentally the year I was in kindergarten.

In an episode of the WKRP in Cincinnati, a sitcom about a struggling radio station, the hapless-but-self-serious news reporter Les Nessman panics because he doesn’t have a contingency plan for going on-air to talk about tornadoes. He does however, have a script for a Soviet invasion. At the station manager’s suggestion, Les repurposes his Soviet-invasion contingency plan for the tornado.

10 or so years later, hundreds of American municipalities pulled a Les Nessman, repurposing our nation’s air raid sirens to defend us against Communism’s windy cousin.

(*For those who haven’t been around kids since being casually racist in schools started going out of fashion, it’s the sitting Style Formerly Known as Indian.)

Categorized as Words

Whoomp, it is everywhere

Whoomp, there it is. Uf, ahí está. Ouf, ça y est. Puh, da ist es. Boh, eccolo. Угу, вот оно. Uff, oto jest. Hoppsan, där är den. Whoomp, ibi est. Uau, iată. Уф, еве го. Ουφ, ορίστε. Whoomp, tá sé. Aupa, hor dago. Whoomp, na de i de. 우와, 저기 있네. 哎呀,就是这样。Whoomp, hiyo hapo. ، یہ وہاں ہے. Woomp. Kai, akwai shi. Whoop, itu dia. おっと、そこです。وهاووومب ، ها هو. İşte burada. Hum, jen ĝi. Yaitu Begitu.

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WQXI Solid Gold Atlanta time capsule

I found this in my in-laws’ basement. It’s a 2-LP, genre-agnostic compilation released by WQXI 790AM radio (still on-air today as Atlanta Radio Korea). It used to be sports talk and way before that it was a hugely popular top 40 that put out compilation LPs. No year is printed on it, but the songs on it I know suggest to me it’s 1970 or so.

It’s a fun time capsule: of the Atlanta skyline, old top 40 radio’s catholic approach to playlists, hair cuts, white supremacy, and the city’s media culture.

Unlike 2022’s iconic Downtown view (typically taken from the east – think Walking Dead), this 1970 view is taken from the south (think driving to Downtown from the airport). The image appears to be taken from the air, just across the highway from Georgia State stadium (formerly Turner Field).

The back cover shows Atlanta Stadium (later called Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, now the apartments and parking next to Georgia State stadium). Tasked with finding an image for this LP that screamed “Atlanta” to 1970 record-buying Atlantans, it’s interesting they went with a stadium. It was a bigger deal to have a pro sports stadium then.

Inside the gatefold is a yearbook of the station’s DJs, and a collage of snapshots that includes photos of Tiny Tim and Donovan. I assume they’re from station promo visits. The Donovan station visit might have been to promote his October 1969 concert in Atlanta. Donovan was also promoting, though maybe not intentionally, the popularity of the name girl name Jennifer. One of his hits at the time was “Jennifer Juniper”. Jennifer began its 15 year reign as the most popular baby girl name in Georgia the year after Donovan’s visit. If you’re a Georgia Gen-Xer named Jennifer, this LP sleeves offers you a faint whiff of the soil from which our bumper crop of Gen-X Jennifers grew.

I don’t recognize any of the DJs, all of whom appear to be white except for maybe George Strait (it’s hard to tell in the sketch, and no he’s not that George Strait). The station played black artists. It just didn’t appear to employ very many black people.

Despite the station’s seeming willingness to play anything that was a hit, few of the songs here ended up being top tier oldies radio staples. “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” is the biggest song here by far, and Kenny Rogers is the only artist here who became/remained a big star. “The Letter” was sung by Alex Chilton, who later was in Big Star, but was never a big star.

WQXI is said to have been the inspiration for the WKRP In Cincinnati. Perhaps the helicopter they took the photos from is the one they dropped the turkeys from.

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