Featured Cause: Greenpeace*

January 30, 2006

By Brenda Clemons

In June of 1992, the four members of U2 climbed aboard a Greenpeace ship to protest the Sellafield nuclear reactor—a British reactor whose contaminants are believed to be responsible for numerous health and environmental problems in communities along the Irish Sea. Dressed in radiation suits and wading knee deep through freezing, possibly contaminated water, it was clear what lengths the band and Greenpeace members would go to in order to protest the reactor’s poor safety record and the building of another plant.

Whether it is an end to nuclear threat, the protection of ancient forests and oceans or safe, sustainable trade, Greenpeace uses non-violent, creative confrontation to bring media attention to expose problems and demand solutions.

Greenpeace had its beginnings in 1971 when a small group of activists (including an Olympic athlete, a law student and a U.S. Navy deep sea diver, among others) set sail in a tiny fishing boat in an effort to protest the United States government conducting underground nuclear testing in Amchitka, Alaska. The boat was intercepted before it reached its destination but the flurry of media attention helped put an end to nuclear testing in an area that was later declared a bird sanctuary.

This group of activists became know as Greenpeace when an onlooker gave them the peace sign. Greenpeace became a foundation in 1972 and has since grown internationally with activists in 125 countries and territories. The organization relies on private donations and fundraising events and does not accept money from corporations or governments.

Though a non-violent organization itself, its activists are often met with hostility by local police and governments. Activists are often arrested, prosecuted or even killed.

The organization does offer many less hands-on opportunities to become involved, including e-zines, action forums and blogs. To learn more about Sellafield or other campaigns led by Greenpeace, visit www.greenpeace.org.

Fan’s Perspective: Why Make Two When One Will Do?*

January 23, 2006

By Devlin Smith, Contributing Editor

Last week I caught the new "Original of the Species" video on AOL. The new version comes about a month after the first Catherine Owens-directed video was released.

Version one concentrated on the growth and development of a computer-generated little girl with members of the band thrown in for good measure. Version two concentrates on Bono with a nude expectant mother thrown in for whatever reason.

I’m not a fan of video two. The first video was unique and thought-provoking, taking the main theme of the song (watching kids grow up, particularly Edge’s eldest daughter as she entered her 20s) and fleshing it out. With its focus on Bono and, to a lesser extent, the pregnant model, video two spins off somewhere else completely.

Probably my main issue with the video, though, is that it’s four-and-a-half minutes of Bono and about four seconds of Adam, Edge and Larry. U2 is a band, a "four-legged table," and has always been. For the band to make a video that so completely favors one member over the others just feels wrong.

Sure, U2 has made videos in the past "starring" one member or another. Bono’s face was the main attraction in Phil Joanou’s "One" but the rest of the band got more than a decent amount of screen time. Edge took the lead in "Elevation" but with performance sequences and a U2-saves-the-world plotline playing throughout, the entire band got moments to shine. Larry was the star of "Electrical Storm" but, as with "Elevation," performance sequences brought the entire band into the video. Adam’s yet to get his star turn but that has to be in the works at some point.

With the new "Original of the Species," though, there is no band. Basically, Adam, Edge and Larry got walk-on roles in their own video. After 30 years as a band, that seems incredibly sad.

Fans have already begun speculating as to why this new video is so Bono-centric. Is it to capitalize on the lead singer’s ever increasing stature as an international player now that he’s been named one of Time magazine’s "People of the Year," amongst hordes of other honors? Maybe Bono was the only one who could make the shoot. Whatever the reasons to make this video, the decision, and the logic behind it, was flawed.

So why did U2 bother to make another video for "Original of the Species," especially one that, despite Bono’s dreaminess sans shades, seems completely pointless? MTV and VH1 rarely play videos anymore and when they do, it’s not U2 topping the play list. With the internet and DVDs, diehard fans seem to be the true audience for these little films. While this fan is always excited to see a new U2 video, what I really want to see is U2 in that video.

U2 didn’t show up for the new "Original of the Species" video, Bono and a pregnant model did, and that disappoints me. "Original of the Species" is one of my favorite U2 songs ever and finally experiencing it live in New York City last November was one of the highlights of the Vertigo Tour for me. The first video came close to replicating my feelings for the song but the second one isn’t even in the ballpark.

Introspect: The First One of Your Kind—U2′s OOTS Video*

January 23, 2006

By Debbie Kreuser

"Original of the Species is a very special song for me–it’s a beautiful, melodic journey … it’s about seeing some people who are ashamed of their bodies, in particular teenagers with eating disorders, not feeling comfortable with themselves and their sexuality. I’m just saying to them, you are one of a kind, you are the first one of your kind, you’re an original of the species …. So it’s a ‘be who you are’ and I can’t wait to play it live."

—Bono, from Universal Records’ "Album Comments from the Band"

U2 has claimed that it hasn’t always made the best videos for its songs, yet a few of them are truly memorable for me, like "Stay (Faraway, So Close)," "All I Want is You" and "Sometimes You Can’t Make It on Your Own." Each video is distinctive in its composition, subject matter and presentation. Often, U2′s best videos are those that tell a story. Such is the case with its latest, and perhaps what will arguably turn out to be its greatest video, video one for "Original of the Species."

The music video for OOTS was conceived and directed by Catherine Owens, the woman responsible for many of the beautiful visual concepts and special effects for the band’s current Vertigo Tour and a longtime U2 friend and associate. The concept for the video grew out of an idea that she was originally working on to accompany this song on the Vertigo Tour. As Catherine Owens said in an interview with U2.com on Dec. 22, 2005, "My role begins in pre-production on the visuals. Hearing the album part-way through its recording, picking up on where the band are going with new material, collaborating with the band and show director Willie Williams on new visual concepts …. When U2 are on tour it takes up a lot of my time, this tour more so then others as I have also directed a video for them for the song ‘Original of the Species.’"

To further clarify the origins of this video, Bono mentioned in an interview with MTV’s "TRL" host Damien Fahey last December that the video was originally inspired by the Steven Spielberg’s 2001 film "AI: Artificial Intelligence." Though reception to the film was lukewarm, it deftly explored the search for identity in a world of confusion, when what one thinks is real is actually synthetic. The film’s main character is David (played by Haley Joel Osment), a boy trying to make sense of the world around him with his semi-intelligent teddy bear. One poignant moment in the film comes when David asks his teddy bear if his parents are real, to which Teddy replies, "You ask such silly questions, David. Nobody knows what ‘real’ really means."

Using Bono’s reference to the "AI" movie, it appears then that the OOTS video is about one’s search for meaning in life, a search to find one’s place and purpose in a world where nothing is secure except one’s sense of self. In this exploration to find oneself and, ultimately, to love oneself, OOTS takes us on a visual and emotional journey through exquisite and intimate imagery.

The first thing that struck me about OOTS is the introductory music. The notes chime in a way reminiscent of a baby’s music box, full of innocence and hope. Next, images of conception appear as umbilical cords intertwine together becoming a fetus which transitions into a mother caressing her child.

Next, the image of a young girl appears onscreen seeming to be devoid of emotion, like a blank canvas on which the future will be written. As she turns around, digitally scanned images of the members of U2 begin to appear. The first one we see is Larry Mullen Jr. For me, this was no surprise because the embryo, the very beginning of U2, started with Larry and his bulletin board posting.

Then, the young child begins an incredible transformation. Flowers (what look like irises) begin to encircle her head until she is completely covered with them. Emoting with every fiber of his being, Bono appears and begins to breathe life into the child as she starts to smile and cry. She is becoming fully human.

After showing emotional development, the development of her brain begins. But instead of the traditional names of the various brain lobes, the areas are labeled with phrases reminiscent of ZooTV, like "Stay True," "Let Go," "Love," "Always Free." It’s almost as if U2 is telling us that the heart is more powerful, more of what makes us truly human, than anything else our rational minds can produce.

As Bono removes his shades revealing himself without the pretense of celebrity, the video reaches its pinnacle. Exploding with emotion, scenes of Bono singing interspersed with images of a pregnant woman. It is as if Bono is stressing to us that this child, and by extension every child, is precious and unique and is a life to be valued, a theme that Bono raises in his plugs for the One Campaign during the Vertigo Tour.

Barely able to control the emotions churning inside himself, Bono shows us tattoos cascading down his arm which represent some of the images in this video—a heart, a dove flying free and the word "Mother" surrounded by flowers and vines. This image alludes to the idea that the one who might be most imprinted with the messages in OOTS—be true to yourself, accept yourself as you are, celebrate your uniqueness, etc.—just might be Bono himself. Bono has said that oftentimes the songs that he writes for others he later discovers that he has actually written for himself.

Nearing the end of the video, we see the young girl surrounded by brightly colored butterflies. Her full individuality and uniqueness appear to have blossomed.

As the four scanned heads of U2 circle around the screen, the video closes with one last shot of each member of U2.

Bono has said that he wrote this song (his favorite from "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb") for Edge’s daughter Holly when she was going through a difficult time in her life. In an interview with Q magazine in November 2004, Edge had this to say about OOTS: "The last time I cried I was listening to that song. It was a song that Bono started on the last record about my daughter, Holly. He’s her godfather. The lyric became more universal. About being young and full of doubt about yourself. He probably wouldn’t agree, but I think the song has connotations for Bono, looking back to when he was 20."

Since then, Bono has stated that OOTS is for "all of U2′s girls" (including Edge’s three other daughters, Bono’s two and Larry’s one) but I think the real meaning of OOTS is much greater.

What U2 does in this video is highlight one of the driving forces behind its music—the belief in the sanctity of each human life. We can see this theme in many songs spanning the decades from "Sunday, Bloody Sunday" from 1983′s "War" to "Miracle Drug," also from "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb."

This belief of U2′s is reflected in its longtime support of Amnesty International, one of the few organizations invited to accompany the Vertigo Tour, its historic opposition to political violence and, of course, in Bono’s tireless advocacy to end extreme poverty in Africa through DATA and One. It is reflected in the love and respect that U2 shows its fans and followers as well as in the way the band mates treat each other.

In so many aspects of its conception and delivery, OOTS is really the first one of its kind. It may very well go down in U2 history as the one song and video that most truly encapsulates what U2 stands for—the majesty of the human spirit and the dignity of every human life.

On Jan. 11, 2006, a second version of the OOTS video premiered on AOL. Very similar in concept and design to the preceding video, this version features Bono singing the song by himself, along with images of a woman pregnant with child in the background.

The video is most interesting due to the numerous close-ups of Bono in which we can see his various facial expressions, many of which are reminiscent of Bono’s famous onstage character, MacPhisto. One of the most memorable moments of the video to me was Bono’s playful smile after he sang the lyric, "Some people have way too much confidence."

At the end of the video, the word "Love" is prominently displayed onscreen as if to sum up the whole meaning of OOTS in one word—love. Love for yourself, love for each other, love that can transform the ugly into the beautiful, the transitory into the transcendent and the sinner into the saint. Love that forgives, love that heals, love that elevates our hearts and souls.

A Look At: Damian ‘Jr. Gong’ Marley*

January 16, 2006

By Debbie Kreuser

Of all the opening acts for U2 during the 2005 Vertigo Tour, Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley was one of the more unique and outstanding choices. The youngest son of reggae artist Bob, Damian has been making his own distinctive mix of reggae and hip-hop music for nearly 10 years.

Born on July 21, 1978, Marley is the son of Bob and Cindy Breakspeare, Miss World 1976. Breakspeare, the daughter of a Canadian mother and a Jamaican father, first met Marley in 1975 and briefly lived with him in London from 1976 to 1977.
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A Look At: Institute*

January 9, 2006

By Caroline Eaton

Since 2001′s "Golden State," Gavin Rossdale, former lead singer of ’90s alt-rock group Bush, has largely devoted himself to small parts in independent movies, red carpet strolls with his wife, Gwen Stefani, and subsequent tabloid appearances. But that’s quickly changing.

In 2004, Rossdale co-founded Institute with Chris Traynor (a former touring guitarist with Bush and a member of Helmet) and bassist Cache Tolman (formerly of Rival Schools). Drummer Josh Freese was featured on the recording of the band’s first album, "Distort Yourself" but Charlie Walker (who has worked with local New York bands Split Lip and Chamerlain) has since taken over behind the kit.

[Read more]

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