Author Archives: Joe Froemming

I’m a reporter/copy editor for the Bemidji Pioneer. Previously, I worked for the Worthington Daily Globe as a copy editor and before that, I had a brief stint as the Fine Arts Columnist for the St. Cloud Times. I was born and raised in St. Cloud, a graduate of St. Cloud State University and worked in record stores for 10 years before wandering into the world of journalism. I live in Bemidji with my wife Gina and our cat, Mac. All the papers and towns mentioned above are located in Minnesota.

‘Fargo’ Releases A Season 2 Scrap

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Even though it is not set to air until late 2015, the folks behind the FX hit show “Fargo”  gave Entertainment Weekly a peek from a page from a script from the new season that basically nobody has any real context (beyond knowing “Breaking Bad’s” Todd and the Mary Jane from “Spider Man” are in it) in figuring out just what does this scene even mean? It does mention blood, wet blood to be precise, so there is that.

Jesse Plemons and Kristen Dunst play Peggy and Ed Blomquist, who reside in sunny freakishly cold Luverne in southwest Minnesota in 1979, not too far from where I worked for two years. And yes, I do find it odd that this show has taken place in two locations I have either lived in or have lived very close to.

Also odd is that my wife and I were officially married in Sioux Falls, S.D., the city Lou Solverson hinted at in season one as the place he saw some pretty evil stuff go down and thus is one of the locations season two will take place in. So that adds to the whole “Fargo” is eerily following my life for some reason theory.

According to EW, the couple “find themselves caught in an escalating war between a local crime gang and a major Mob syndicate.” I’m guessing that syndicate is probably based in Sioux Falls. Though I’m sure that Fargo syndicate from season one will come into play at some point for the obligatory justification for calling a show “Fargo” that doesn’t even take place in either Fargo or North Dakota.

Noah Hawley, showrunner of the series, told EW “the earlier time period and even more rural setting gives the show an almost Western-like quality.” He also goes on to say “The scope of the storytelling this season is a lot bigger, it has more of an epic feel to it.” Which sounds like this season will be even more ambitious than season one. Which I for one will look forward to.

The Sony, ‘The Interview’ and North Korea Saga Continues

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In a premise that could make up a pretty unbelievable international political thriller, the Sony hack story has continued to ramp up the what the… meter upon the national consciousness by including computers hackers, world leaders, international corporations and the stars of Judd Apatow’s TV cult classic “Freaks and Geeks.”

Last night, the hacker group known as Guardians of Peace thanked Sony for pulling “The Interview,” a film by known political heavyweights James Franco and Seth Rogen where they are tasked with killing Jabba the Hut North Korean President Kim Jong Un. Now, in the spirit of the grade school bully who wants your lunch money everyday for the rest of your life, the group wants Sony to never release the movie in any format. They told Sony “…we want everything related to the movie, including its trailers, as well as its full version, down from any website hosting them immediately.” But, much like trying to get dirty water out of a lake, this may prove to be difficult for Sony.

Since this occurred with the threat of terroristic attacks and the hacks themselves leaked out untold amounts of personal information of Sony employees, President Obama has spoken out on the situation after the FBI determined the hacks came from North Korea. While saying pulling the film was a “mistake” and messing up James Franco’s name in his speech, the president also somewhat conceded the whole ridiculousness of the situation by saying ”the notion that [a satirical comedy film] was a threat to them I think gives you some sense of kind of what regime we’re talking about.”

Sony, for its part, has countered those calling them cowards by explaining the logistics of having a ton of theaters refusing to screen the film left them with limited options. They have also countered much hyped concept of streaming the movie via services like Netflix by saying none of these services have stepped forward with an offer.

All this over a movie from the guys who created “Superbad.” Just keep that in mind as this whole thing continues.

UPDATE: North Korea And ‘The Interview:’ Things Have Gotten Weird

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It has been 10 years since the twisted minds of Trey Parker and Matt Stone (creators of “South Park”) took aim at North Korea’s then-psychopathic leader (dictator) Kim Jong Il and lampooned him in puppet form with “Team America: World Police.” And a lot has changed since then. Apparently North Korea now has the Internet to find out about these things.

North Korea’s new leader apparently doesn’t like being lampooned for American audiences. The recent cyber attacks at Sony Co., which has embarrassed the company with a seemingly never-ending barrage of unflattering in-company emails, allegedly is connected to North Korea. The hacks are allegedly in retaliation toward James Franco’s and Seth Rogan’s comedy “The Interview” in which tabloid journalists are in cahoots with the CIA to assassinate North Korea’s answer to the Pillsbury Doughboy  leader Kim Jong Un, son of film buff/tyrant Kim Jong Il.

On Wednesday, feeling the pressure from theaters that decided to pull the film after the hacking group (ironically named Guardians of Peace) threatened a 9/11-style retaliation for those who dare sit in a movie theater and chuckle at the expense of North Korea’s president — a man known for such sophisticated tastes such as hanging out with Dennis Rodman — Sony decided to pull the release all together for the time being.

What does that mean? At this point, only the folks at Sony know. What I think will happen is that, due to these hackers and the subsequent media frenzy, this film will now be much more popular and make more money than if they hadn’t bothered to bully the company into not releasing it on its intended day in the first place.

So yeah, this whole thing has gotten very weird.

UPDATE: Sony has apparently shelved “The Interview.” In response to this whole fiasco, Alamo Drafthouse announced it was going to screen “Team America” in place of “The Interview.” This has been shutdown by Paramount for undisclosed reasons. Also, everyone from Steve Carell to Mitt Romney have made their feelings known about this situation via Twitter, thus making this the weirdest event in pop culture for 2014.

I’m Old: Green Day Is Heading To The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame

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Each year, just like clockwork, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame announces its new inductees in a conspiracy to make me feel old. Well, maybe not. But ever since the Beastie Boys joined the club made up of the likes of The Eagles and Steely Dan (my dad’s era of music), each year another cold reminder comes along telling me another band I’ve enjoyed over the years has hit the 25 year point of existence, thus reminding me that I’m not a young pup anymore.

And I’m only 33.

Another sting was seeing one of my favorite bands, Nine Inch Nails, on the ballot. NIN was my high school soundtrack (for the record, I was not a moody teen beyond my freshman year). Green Day I really did not get into until “American Idiot,” which was a pretty bold album for a band that had titled their most popular album up to that moment after excrement. But they were wildly popular to the kids around me in those old, now ancient days called the 1990s. A time when indie bands were actually played on the radio. Granted, that window was not open very long, but to think there was a time when Pavement and Sonic Youth were in the same radio and MTV rotation as Nirvana, Weezer and Beck is pretty weird by today’s standards. Well, the concept of MTV playing music videos is so foreign these days, I sound like Abe Simpson describing the days he wore an onion on his belt when I talk about it.

Yet, when I saw Green Day was being inducted, it was another reminder that I’m not getting any younger. That was a band that was new when I was growing up, and not in a little kid sort of way. “Dookie” came out around the time I started getting into what was then called alternative rock (now it’s modern rock, last time I checked). Now the music I grew up with is considered classic rock. And that creeps me out.

On a better note, Lou Reed will finally be inducted as a solo artist. Even though that should have happened a long time ago, it’s still nice to see him getting in as a solo act. Other inductees include Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Bill Withers and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, all solid inductees that do not remind me of the passage of time.

My Top 10 Beach Boys Songs

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This week, the Beach Boys played here in Bemidji. For a preview story, I got to interview longtime Beach Boy Bruce Johnston (he joined in 1965 as Brian Wilson’s stand-in for tours and became a full-time member). In preparation, I listened to a lot of the Beach Boys’ music. And, on Johnston’s advice after the interview, I listened to “Pet Sounds” in mono, because he said that’s the way Brian Wilson heard it while recording the album (he has a hearing problem in one ear).

I have been familiar with a lot of their work, most cliche being I am a huge fan of “Pet Sounds.” I discovered that album at just the right age to appreciate a lot of the more introspective songs. But I also have listened to a lot of their lesser-known albums, such as “Carl And the Passions” and “20-20.” I even listened to their reunion album with Brian Wilson from 2012 (not that great). There is a trove of material there, including solo-works (my personal favorite being Dennis Wilson’s “Pacific Ocean Blue” album).

So in honor of them playing here, and my love of their music, here are my top 10 Beach Boys (including solo-works), with quite a few from “Pet Sounds.” But this is my list, so I’ll do it the way I want.

10. In My Room — This is a nice song about being alone. Growing up, I could relate to the sentiment of this song because I was always kind of an introverted person.

9. That’s Not Me — This is a nice track from “Pet Sounds” that is in a similar vein as “In My Room.” It’s one of those nice confessional songs that I tend to enjoy more of their catalog. The honesty and insecurity in the lyrics hit me at the right age.

8. California Girls — While I enjoy those introspective tracks more, this is one great pop song. Cheesy? Sure, but catchy. Also, one of the best musical intros to a song.

7. Sloop John B. — I first heard this on the “Forrest Gump” soundtrack. It’s catchy, tells a funny story and I will forever have a soft spot for this song.

6. Surfer Girl — I love the melodies on this song. Such a nice, simple song, but really beautifully put together.

5. Heroes and Villains — This is such a cool, and pretty odd song. It hails from the follow-up to “Pet Sounds” that allegedly kind of pushed Brian Wilson over the edge mentally that was “Smile.” That album would not be released for decades, but was on “Smiley Smile.”

4. River Song, Dennis Wilson Solo Song — This is just an amazing song. I first heard it on the 2008 reissue of his solo album, “Pacific Ocean Blue.” It’s one of the few songs in his solo works that sounded like the Beach Boys. His vocals are so different, much rougher than the other members, but I love this song. I also think the Beach Boys performed it on tours in the 70s. Also, it’s one of my favorite vinyl records in my collection.

3. God Only Knows — This is perhaps my favorite vocal arrangement from the band. Carl Wilson had an amazing voice, and the arrangement, musically, is very interesting.

2. Good Vibrations — Perhaps their weirdest hit single, “Good Vibrations” mixed classic Beach Boys hooks with the psychedelic tones of the time. Plus, I think it was one of the first (and very few) songs to use a theremin, which was mostly used for science fiction and horror movies.

1. Wouldn’t It Be Nice — Great intro, great catchy hooks, amazing melodies and I love the lyrics. This, to me, is the greatest Beach Boys song. Everything about it just gels so well.

Some Updates On Season Two Of ‘Fargo’

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With the final season of “Parks and Recreation” coming in January, will we see the man behind Ron Swanson’s mustache, Nick Offerman, heading from Pawnee, Ind., to the brutal winters of southwest Minnesota-South Dakota? That is still in negotiations, but there has been some confirmed actors and actresses that are on board for the second season of “Fargo.”

According to Variety.com, Jesse Plemons and Kristen Dunst have signed on for the 10-episode season that takes place in Sioux Falls, S.D. and the southwest Minnesota town of Luverne that follows a young Lou Solverson (played in season one by Keith Carradine) back from Vietnam around 1979. The story was hinted at many times in the first season, where a crime was so heinous that Lou describes the bodies were “one after another. Probably, if you stacked ‘em high, could’ve climbed to the second floor. Now, I saw something that year I ain’t ever seen, before or since. I’d call it animal. Except animals only kill for food. This was — Sioux Falls.”

Plemons I know from his role as dead-eyed Todd from “Breaking Bad” who was the unlikely foil to Walter White and Jesse Pinkman’s empire in the final seasons. Dunst I’ve known from many films. She “will play Peggy Blomquist, a small-town beautician with big city dreams who is trying to figure out who she really is. Plemons plays her husband, Ed, a butcher’s assistant, who wants to be supportive of his wife’s self-discovery, even if he doesn’t quite understand it,” according to Variety.

Another character returning will be the Duluth Lt. Ben Schmidt, who hinted that he worked with Lou in Sioux Falls to Gus Grimly in the first season.

The second season of “Fargo” is slated to air in late 2015.

‘Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens’ Teaser Released

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This morning I awoke to something awesome: The first trailer for the upcoming seventh installment of the classic film series, “Star Wars.” While not much of the plot is known, from what I’ve seen from the 88-second clip looks promising. We see John Boyega in a Storm Trooper outfit in a desert, Storm Troopers preparing for what looks like war, a Sith with a broadsword-style lightsaber, a new droid that spins to get around and — the Millennium Falcon fighting TIE Fighters.

And what struck me was how exciting this trailer felt. I never felt this kind of excitement for the prequels (mainly because they were horrible). Also, this episode of the series brings back the characters I grew up with.

I’m not going to rehash my criticism of George Lucas’ prequels. I want to visit this film with non-jaded eyes. And I think, with bringing on script writers like Lawrence Kasdan, who worked on “The Empire Strikes Back” script was a wise idea. Also, I noticed no lens flare (at least in this clip), so maybe director J.J. Abrams has learned going overboard with that becomes very distracting.

Anyway, I’m very much looking forward to this.

Album Revisit: U2′s ‘The Joshua Tree’

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This is an installment of a series of blogs where I revisit some classic albums that I  love, used to love or has made an impact on pop culture whether I am familiar with it or not. You can also make suggestions on a classic album, and I may give a whirl and review it.

OK, this time for an album revisit I decided to trek into unfamiliar waters for me. Also, after ripping into U2 a while back, and in light of Bono’s pretty bad accident, I figured I’d give one of their classic albums, “The Joshua Tree,” a listen.

A note, I have heard almost every  U2 album, though not always by choice. I worked with people over the years that loved this band, and would play them a lot, which probably contributed to my intense dislike of the band. And, ironically, the only album of theirs I liked from the start was “Pop,” which almost everyone I knew that was a U2 fan pretty much hated.  

First thing I noticed going in that this album starts off with three off the bands largest singles. “Where The Streets Have No Name,” “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and “With Or Without You” are pretty solid songs to kick off an album. While I’m burnt out on those songs from incessant radio play, I can’t deny that making the start of an album that strong was a good idea. Plus, they are pretty good songs.

Now, the song that follows was somewhat hit. “Bullet The Blue Sky” sounds familiar, because the rhythm sounds eerily like the rhythm from Ted Nugent’s “Stranglehold.” I also recall the nu-metal, rap rock band P.O.D. did a horrible cover of this. But I really enjoy this song. It’s the coolest song by U2 I’ve ever heard.

This is followed by “Running To Stand Still.” I hate this song. It’s title reminds me of a title of a very bad poem written by someone who just read “On The Road” for the first time. It’s boring to me. I’m sure some U2 fan will read that and say “How can he think that?” to which my reply is simply this is not a good nor interesting song to me.

One thing I’ve noticed throughout the album is the Edge’s guitar work (minus “Bullet The Blue Sky,” I’ll concede his work on that was pretty great) sounds like noodling. Like he wants to do some horrible Grateful Dead jam, except he just noodles the same riff over and over with a lot of distortion.

I must say, I just couldn’t muster a lot of interest after the first four songs. Not because these songs are not hits, but they are very boring. It seems, to me, by making the start of the album loaded with fantastic and poppy rock songs and then have it lull into meandering songs that lack any punch ruins it for me. I’m sure the album’s record sales would tell me otherwise, but that’s what I think. But I think if I took the tracks and rearranged them in a playlist on Spotify, I might have enjoyed it more. But not by a whole lot.

To which gets into the element of U2 I do not like. This is a band that, from the start, thinks too highly of themselves. And most of that falls on Bono. His lyrics are not the greatest, but he really seems to think otherwise on the back end of this album. And that really ruins it for me.

My final thoughts would be this was a perfectly fine album that I will probably never listen to it again. That’s because U2 is one of those bands that, try as I might, I just can’t get into. I did not hate it, but I did not really enjoy it.

The Time I Saw Phish On New Year’s Eve, 1999

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Of all the weird concerts I have seen in my life, be it the time my buddy convinced me to see the Insane Clown Posse (it was interesting to say the least, but I still do not like them) to the time when I was working at the Electric Fetus and saw the Meat Puppets play an in-store show literally a couple of feet from me, the oddest adventure in my concert history harks back to December, 1999 when my buddy and myself flew down to Florida and saw jam band Phish play a New Years Eve concert. On a whim.

Now, by this time I had been to two other Phish shows. I loved these concerts, which is kind of weird because I’m totally not a hippie. I enjoy things that hippies despise, like showering and hating the Grateful Dead. But there was something about the shows, and the atmosphere before, during and after that was fun. I think I was one of the only people to go to a Phish show wearing a Tool T-shirt.

At the time, my buddy and I were 18 year old high school seniors. We managed to get round-trip tickets really cheap because everyone was afraid to fly because they thought Y2K would somehow make an airplane stop flying for some reason. He got the tickets for the two-day event from someone he knew and we booked a trip to Florida. This was based on a 10-minute conversation we had the night before about it, so it was almost a completely random thing we decided to do. The concert was five days away.

My buddy and I are somewhere among the 85,000 people in this photo.

Once we got to Orlando, we had no idea how we were going to get to the show — which was in Big Cypress. That’s a solid couple hour drive, but we didn’t have a car. We were 18, had no credit card thus and could not rent a car. That’s how well we planned this trip.

Well, we decided to get on a bus and head in the general direction of Big Cypress (we couldn’t find a bus that would take us there directly). Again, poorly planned. But at the station we met some other people who were also heading to the show, two hippies from San Francisco who were nice. We pooled our resources in some town near Big Cypress on a cab for the rest of the way.

Now, this was the largest concert I’ve ever been to. It was huge, there were 85,000 people there. There were more people at this event than there are people from my home town of St. Cloud, which is about 66,000. And it was fun.

We were running low on funds, so I think we ate only once in those two days. We had a little area camped out, our tent basically being a large blanket with our luggage underneath it. We slept on top of our luggage on top of the blanket. It was such a pathetic sight, and somewhere I still have the photos of our horrible living situation for those two days.

On New Years Eve and into New Years Day, Phish performed for more than seven hours. Did I stay awake that whole seven-plus hours? No I did not. Because as much as I enjoyed the band at the time (my enthusiasm for them did not last long after I turned 21, though occasionally I will throw them on), I do not have the stamina to listen to one band for seven solid hours. I listened to probably five hours (I did fly all the way down there for this), went back to camp and slept (I could still hear the band clearly from my blanket fort thing).

The strangest part now comes into play. The show was over, and we had no idea how we were getting back to Orlando. We did not attempt, in the two days there, to find a ride. I dawned on us when the sun rose that we needed to figure something out. We decided to act like the adults we were, and beg anyone and everyone for a lift.

And we found a ride. From a very nice man from New York who weighed about 350 pounds and was driving a rented compact car. Trust me, I know this sounds almost like a Monty Python skit, but it is true. The guy was heading toward the general direction of Orlando, and with us helping with gas, he agreed to take us. Which made me happy because I hadn’t showered in days, and wanted to get back as quickly as possible.

Unfortunately, what followed was an 18-hour traffic jam, at the concert site. In the baking Florida heat. In a tiny car. It was horrible.

What was interesting about this horrific traffic jam was how quickly some of these peaceful hippie-types became rabid monsters, jacking up prices on bottles of water from $1 to (and I’m not kidding) $10. Their homemade food items also saw a dramatic rise in cost, totally taking advantage of our current supply-and-demand scenario.

Also, I saw a hippie fight. I saw two hippie dudes with dreadlocks start arguing, which developed into yelling, which went further into slapping and crying. And it brought tears to me eyes because of how hard I was laughing. Because this was the crowd that was jacking up their food and water prices. That’s karma, I guess.

After the jam, we bummed around Orlando for another day before flying back to Minnesota. It was perhaps one of the most impulsive things I have done.

The Hit And Miss That Is TV’s ‘Gotham’

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My original intent with the TV series “Gotham” was to to a weekly write-up on each episode. That went down the tubes after the second episode. Then the third was so bad, I nearly gave up on the show. “This is not the Batman show we want,” I told myself in a horrible Gary Oldman-as-Commissioner Gordon impression.”Nor is it the Batman show we need.”

Yet, I found myself, for reasons I couldn’t really explain, tuning in each week. This show started rough, unable to find the balance between the surrealism of the comics, the campiness of the 60s TV series  and the gritty realism of the Nolan trilogy. And it still struggles with that, though not nearly as bad as that Balloon Man episode toward the start of the season. That was just awful.

Then things started getting better. There were two episodes in a row that were good. The first dealt with an early version of the Venom that gave the comic book Bane his strength, and I’m guessing what gave Nolan’s Bane his “Sean Connery sucking helium” voice.

The following episode did something that, at that point, the series had been neglecting: Character development. It was a nice flashback to Det. Harvey Bullock’s early years, where his idealism (much in the same vein as Det. Gordon now) put him at odds with the rest of the police department. It was a good move for a show that, at that point, had been mostly cardboard cutouts of characters. 

This past week’s episode was good, introducing Black Mask’s dad (?) and a future Hush (the latter gets a psychotic beat down from young Bruce Wayne, who will one day grow up and dress like a bat). Also, the fact Alfred not only allowed that to happen, but gave Bruce the weapon to do so, was pretty psychotic. And bad parenting. And it was awesome.

For every step forward, the show seems to take another few steps back. One of my problems is the obnoxiousness of future Riddler, Edward Nygma. I like now they relegate him him to fewer lines and toned down his excruciating love for, you guessed it, riddles. It got to a point every time he was on screen, I sort of blanked out. And when he’s awkwardly hitting on a woman in one of the episodes, I just wished for the character to be cut from the show.

His coffee mug even has a question mark on it. Just painful to watch.

The highlight has been Robin Lord Taylor’s Penguin, which has been the most interesting story lines with the most bearable acting. His plotting and plotting with the two rival crime bosses and being a thorn in the side of Fish Mooney has been the most pleasant experience of this series so far.

My question is how long can they sustain an origins story? Sure, seeing young Bruce Wayne developing his vigilante ways is interesting (also why “Batman Begins” is my favorite Batman movie), but the rate they are dropping characters — we already have Penguin, Riddler, Black Mask (kind of), Catwoman, Poison Ivy, Victor Zsasz, Falcone, Maroni with Harvey Dent coming next week to name a few — eventually people are going to just want a Batman show. Because Batman fighting these characters is much more interesting than Jim Gordon and the Gotham Police Department.

Then there is the talk about introducing Joker. To me, Joker was always a byproduct of Batman. Be it Batman throwing him into a vat of chemicals that disfigures his face  and mind, to the cerebral Nolan take that Joker is the reaction to a man taking the law into his own hands. And to introduce him before there is a Batman would take much better writers than the ones currently penning this series.

Even when it’s at its worst, I watch. Because, even when the writing is bad, the acting is crummy and the plot makes absolutely no sense, it is still fun to watch. I’m invested in this show now, and it seems to be getting better as it learns from its mistakes.