Sunday, 21 March 2004

Evanescence — Why all the fuss?

It is amazing how many awards one can win by writing one song!

When the album 'Fallen' by Evanescence appeared in my local music shop, I listened to it instantly. Something, the name, the cover intrigued me. But like with so many other albums, only a couple of songs caught my ear, so I did not want to waste my money on it. Life is too short — and my music collection already far too big — for so-so music.

But now, a few months later, it seems like I bump into the band (not literally) and its music constantly. For example when I was in Vejle for a conference a few weeks ago and got to my hotel room, switched on the television (by curiousity as I don't have one at home myself) and stumbled over the totally rubbish programme 'Danish Music Awards'. Evanescence again. The band was given the award for best foreign album or something. [But did, understandably, not show up!]

Back in Luxembourg where I live, I therefore took the opportunity to borrow 'Fallen' from the Record Club, as it had after all been re-intriguing me.

But what IS the fuss?! The only special thing about Evanescence's music is lead singeress Amy Lee's voice. It is emotional and kinda sexy, and she sings pretty well. But after two songs (no, not half a CD, but two songs!) I was tired of it. The voice, the music... Evanescence.

It IS amazing... this band has written one song — the hit 'Bring Me To Life', which I in fact find a pretty good piece of nu-rock — and then made it into an album by copying it 8 times and adding the two obligatory ballads. Which are not particularly inspired either. So much for shooting stars.

And for that they get overloaded with awards. I don't get it. Evanescence basically sounds like an aftermath of Linkin Park, only with a female singer. Writes one song. Records it ninefold. And sell zillions.

I do not get it.

So no, I will not buy 'Fallen'. But if you want to contibute to their in my opinion undeserved fortune, then I can only recommend you to buy your copy at Tell me if you agree with me or not.

Me, I grant the album two stars out of seven.

So much for shooting stars.

Wednesday, 17 March 2004

[R]êves et réalités sont deux illusions à ne pas confondre.

Alexandre Jardin (dans son roman «Le Zèbre»; Éditons Gallimard, 1988)

Can’t we be smarter?

Now that we are evaluating what we have done, how we have done it and why we did not do what we were supposed to have done, the time has also come for setting new objectives. But will the Commission set an objective for reducing objectives?

It may in any case be too late to rescue the European public service from the tyranny of objectives. The present Commission is often accused of failing to change its institutional culture. However, something did change: Commissioners and Directors-General can now afford to relax central controls, because local managers have learnt to generate their own targets, tick-sheets, action plans and vision statements. Chop off the head of the bureaucratic monster and it will reappear, fearfully multiplied, in a thousand other locations. Staff now desperately need a target for reducing the time spent on paperwork and form-filling.

Objectives are not all bad. But to use objectives as the main tool for performance improvement is an error. As Professor David Marquand puts it in his new book, Decline of the Public: "Audit is an iron cage. Professionals have to adapt their practices to the demands of the audit process […] and little by little, they begin to lose the autonomy that is fundamental to professionalism. The more professionals are audited and controlled, the less professional they are able to be."

This has two results. First, in striving to meet objectives, which were inevitably quantitative in nature, services created new problems for themselves, their staff and their users. Across the Commission, objectives threw up such unintended consequences, which themselves prompted more objectives. Ever greater armies of bureaucrats are required to monitor other employees' work more finely.

The second result was that our biggest weakness was made worse. It is in the nature of administrations that they play things by the book, referring decisions upwards or downwards, protecting their backs. The penalties for unauthorised error are greater than the rewards of inspired success. Objectives and controls make us more risk-averse, less inclined towards the sort of bold innovation and empowerment that Reform has said it seeks to encourage.

Objectives are not wrong in principle. But they have grown like weeds and have often been used not after careful thought about whether they can effectively raise performance, but merely to provide another "Commission acts" headline for the next day's newspapers.

Author: Maria Eduarda de Macedo, President of the European Commission's Local Staff Committee in Luxembourg

Source: CLP Newzzz #9, February 2004

(Adapted from a New Statesman editorial of 16 February 2004)

Tuesday, 16 March 2004

About progressive rock...

It started me thinking ‘What is a proper prog-rock album?’
I thought well, it's basically knowing all the rules of music and breaking them — in a lot of respects.
You've got to know the rules to break them in the first place.
(Rick Wakeman)

Source: Interview conducted on 21 March 2003; Notes From the Edge #275