Tuesday, December 31, 2013

So long 2013. And good riddance. Bring on 2014!

2013 was a lousy year. Wait, let me rephrase that; 2013 was a mostly lousy year. I should have known things were looking bleak when Betty the Beagle passed away rather suddenly within the first seven days of the new year. It pretty much went downhill after that. It's ironic that I probably hit the lowest point of the year smack dab at its central point, during my birthday on June 30. At the same time while that day was filled with worry about the future as I leapt into the unknown, it was also a day filled with promise. And from that point on 2013 gradually got better and better, for the most part. There were still rough patches—and god bless GalPal for sticking with me through the last 365 days because it wasn't easy—but as I stand at the door to 2014 I can say with certainty that this is already shaping up to be a great year. And I'm not just saying that because 2013 blew.

Though, before I make it sound like I've just come through a year of darkness, I want to emphasize that it was really the first half that was the hardest. And even that had incredible moments, like standing on top of mountains interviewing once and future Olympians and filming them doing the amazing things they can do. And while there were other moments of incredible stress and pressure I came out the other side confident in my skills and occasionally marveling at what I was capable of. 2013 was hard, but it did make me an incredibly wronger person.

And like I said, the second half went from hopeful to downright awesome. I am at a terrific place both personally and professionally and I think everything's set to become even more terrific in the next twelve months.

And I sincerely hope you feel that way too.

Huey Lewis explains 'American Psycho.'

It appears this came out months ago so I have no idea how I never saw it and no one ever forwarded it to me, so maybe you missed it to!

Monday, December 30, 2013

The best doesn't always win.

I was talking with GalPal's dad over the holiday and the conversation steered towards Apple and their triumph over other brands through smart marketing and slowly positioning themselves as the cool brand everyone has to have. He mused that now Apple's reached this apex they were in danger of turning into Microsoft as far as constant upgrades to software—not all of them welcome—and a general trend to keep you tethered within their system. And, he noticed, it all tied back to Apple's slow but steadily successful marketing push. At this point is it even fair to say Apple is "better" than their competitors? Or has their system become so ingrained in the general media consciousness that they just win by default?*

I didn't get a chance to say it at the time but it also really reminded me that this paradigm is as old as Tesla versus Edison: the superior product doesn't always win but the best sales pitch always does. In Apple's case I think at one point they actually had both those factors working for them, which is why they ended up beating the Goliath's that surrounded them, but I'm beginning to think that over time David's feet have slowly turned into clay.**

*If you question this remember that if you are reading this you are probably someone that runs in the same general demographic, at least technologically, that I do and that our perception about what is "universal" is heavily skewed and not at all in touch with what the general populace is probably using or aware of.

**Mix those metaphors!

Friday, December 27, 2013

'Community' is almost back!

GalPal and I have been fans of Community since day one, and stuck with it even when things got a little shaky (though I don't think last season was that bad). It's back next week and the promos have been ramping up! If you want a clue as to how they're setting up the season now that series creator Dan harmon is back in the driver's seat, this little animated short should help you out.

If you, like me, find the Mad Men "next episode" promos absolutely hilarious, this should make you laugh.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The warm fuzzies you get seeing GalPal looking adorable with this Gingerbread Kid is, believe it or not, the way I feel towards American Airlines this morning.

I know it's after Christmas but I just love that picture above so much. GalPal looks like adorable holiday spirit personified. And now I'm already back in Chicago after an ungodly early flight in an airport woefully unprepared for holiday travelers—though I admit when I got to Lambert–St. Louis International Airport and saw the HUUUUUUGE line to security after a few brief chats with the people around me we all thought the same thing; we would be the only ones crazy enough to fly so early on the day after Christmas. Not so! Regardless I made my flight with literally seconds to spare. And I'm thankful I did; there is NOTHING to do in that airport besides drink and since I was going straight to work that wouldn't have ben an option and I would've been bored off my ass.

The one bright spot of this morning's stressful travel belongs to whoever was running American Airlines' Twitter handle. Not only did they reach out with kind words of encouragement while I was stuck in the security line—not that it actually did anything but it was nice to know someone else was awake and wishing me the best—they then went the extra mile and noticed I had two AAdvantage numbers and offered to merge them so I wouldn't lose any of my miles.* That definitely brightened my day since, on top of relatively frequent travel anyway, I accumulated quite a few miles when traveling on all those video shoots of Olympic hopefuls earlier this year!

Honestly, sometimes the little things, that one extra nice gesture, can really make a complete difference in one's day. I need to remember that as far as guiding my own actions.

*Long story, but I couldn't seem to find my old account and figured it had somehow been deleted so when I had to travel a few months ago I created a new one figuring I'd just start gathering miles all over again. But no! My old account still existed and now the two have become one. Huzzah!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Catsmas!

GalPal's family insists all their cats get into the holiday spirit.
Hope your day has been as lovely as ours.

And I hope you, unlike me, doesn't have to work tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

'Twas the night before Christmas.

And I ain't doing a damn thing other than enjoying good company and perhaps imbibing a spirit or twelve. I hope you are doing the same!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Friday, December 20, 2013

Holly jolly Friday.

We're in the midst of a move in our office—to bigger digs!—so the last few days have seen those of us still here basically living a nomadic lifestyle. And it's actually been kind of fun. The work hasn't slowed down, in fact it's only grown heavier as everyone tries to cross t's and dot i's before the holidays, but since no one really has a home base the in-person collaboration has increased and its been lovely. The 9-to-5 is already a pretty collaborative space, but when you have no space of your own it's wild how quickly that cause the whole room to become a thriving community hive.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Strugglin' with that year end list...

Usually I take great joy in putting together a list of my favorite 20 albums at the end of each year. And yes I wait until the end—especially now—since you never know what might come out in the month of December; a time when most other publications have already long ago published their own lists. Which, an aside, seriously?! I know it's an arms race to get your list up first, but the days after Thanksgiving, when many lists were released this year is too early. Add to that the fact that most are formed by committee and you end up with things that give you an idea of what was most written about in regards to each publication's particular audience but you don't get good recommendations with heart. That tend to come from the music writers who put together their own lists. Writer like, O.K., me.

So many lists this year, even personal ones, go on and on about what a great year it was for music. To this claim I say, "Whaaaaa-?!" It was a year for huge disappointments from people that should have delivered better and underwhelming albums from underground artists who had credit heaped upon them because people still want heroes. But it was not a great year for music.

Was there good music? Hell yes. But I'll be honest, this may be the first time I cut my list from 20 to 10 because I'm not sure there are more albums than that able to hold my attention for the whole year. And I think that's one point of these lists. It's not just music you could appreciate upon hearing it for the first or second time. It's music you still love after hearing it over and over and over and over and over again.

So I'm struggling. Usually I try to name what knocked me out off the top of my head before revisiting my library to refresh my memory and fins something I listened to rabidly months ago to give it a few re-listens to make sure it still holds up. So far I can count the number of bands that leap immediately to the top of my head on one hand.

So no, this year was not an embarrassment of riches in the music world. It was just another year that saw the musical landscape become even more flooded with lots of bands that are really pretty god but quite definitely not great. At least to my ears.

But I haven't lost hope because there were a couple greats in there too.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

When you go to a place legendary for long waits and there's no line, that makes for a happy Honey Butter Fried Chicken-filled belly

Delicious, delicious Honey Butter Fried Chicken.
Hey, another bit about food! At least this is a food I'm well equipped to write about because fried chicken may just be my favorite food ever. Well, next to Texas brisket. It's up there though! Honey Butter Fried Chicken opened in Chicago recently and have been getting major kudos, which has lead to long lines and wait times, so we took our time after it opened before finally making it over to the joint tonight. They debone their chicken, so I was intrigued to try that out.

The ambience is rural roadhouse chic. Tables lined up next to each other, you orderer at the register and then sit while waiting for food. The cocktails are a bit pricey for little return on actual flavor so next time I think I'll either just go for a beer or stick with good ol' just plain water. The wait between ordering and eating was about 15 minutes, so if that's how long it takes to get food when the joint is nearly empty I can only imagine what kind of wait their is to get your meal when the place is hopping.

On my end, the meal didn't disappoint. I ate two chicken breasts and was stuffed. The breading is slightly spicy and they serve the chicken with honey butter that you're urged to put on the chicken to eat. I tried it both ways and thought the flavor of each piece was enough on its own o apply butter at your discretion. For me it was a nice option but didn't really add anything to the chicken's flavor. I did taste delicious on their cornbread muffins though! So apply liberally to those, should you try the place out. GalPal tried some of their hot sauce on her chicken near the end of the meal and lamented not utilizing it before her tummy was full because she thought that condiment did add an extra layer of yum to the chicken. She also tried their Schmaltz smashed potatoes with chicken gravy but gave that side the thumbs-down. Stick with the chicken plates.

We drove by on our way home an hour or so after we left and saw their was a line stretching to the door and every table was filled, so my guess is that if you want to get in and out you should eat their before 7 or 7:30 p.m., otherwise make sure you bring along a good conversationalist or have a bunch of reading to catch up on. We'll be back, even if there is a wait, because the food was worth it. It wasn't so amazing we'll be there more than a handful of times a year, but it is tasty enough for us to trek out to its not-so-easy-to-reach-by-public-transportation location that handful of times!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Sausage date!

Yum. Delicious.
GalPal and I went on a unique date Sunday night; I took her to a private class for the two of us at Chop Shop on how to make sausage from scratch. We made a bunch of it and then sat down to a romantic dinner to eat some of what we made. It was excellent. OUr guide through the process was this guy named Mike and he was terrific; knowledgable, an excellent teacher and a funny dude. We also met the main man of the joint Mario and he was a total pleasure to talk to as well.

While we were in the kitchen we saw a bunch of their food being made and my mouth was absolutely watering. The joint also has a functioning butcher counter and they're opening a live venue in the back.

We'll definitely be back for more meals, to buy some meat to make at home and to catch some live music.

Monday, December 16, 2013


It's the weather. It has to be. For the last few years I've been the type of guy who is up and at 'em at 5:30 a.m. with a literal spring in his step. Even on three or four hours of sleep. But the last few weeks it's been incredibly difficult to get going in the morning.

If it didn't sound so lame I'd say my get up and go got up and went. But I don't think that's entirely accurate. I think the grey, cold freeze of the last few weeks has just sapped the life out of me (and from what I can tell, quite a few others) so either the weather will improve* or I'll just adapt.** I just can't remember previous winters knocking me out quite this much.

* It won't.
** I will.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Beauty and the Bea(s)t.

Photo by Tasya Menaker
Captured at the Metro / Smart Bar holiday party. GalPal is doing her darndest to do the heavy lifting and make me look good. The highlight of the evening was—I kid you not—the DJ set by the owner of the venue's daughter. She slayed.

Holiday party time! Excellent!

This time of year always feels like an endurance course. You can't go nuts at parties before your official company party*, but that doesn't mean you're not required to attend many soirees with excellent gastronomical choices and libations before then. At this point there are nights where GalPal and I are triple booked.

Happy holidaze.

*Which, lord, that's not to say you should.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A friend of mine just got an awesome job!

Look at how excited Pickle and I am?

Trust me, that's Pickle's "I'm so excited and I just can't hide it" face.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Ice ice baby.

We in the Midwest are a hardy lot. Also crazy. At least that's obvious every time I visited a warmer locale in the months between November and May. But today is threat-level 10, red alert red alert, Hoth cold.

So if you are living anywhere else, be thankful your fingers aren't in danger of falling off just because you walked outside for ten minutes without gloves.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Happy birthday to one of my favorite people in the world!

GalPal turns another year older today! Wish her a happy birthday!

I am so thankful she puts up with me year in and year out and allows me to be part of her life. Happy birthday!

Friday, December 06, 2013

Sing along with Star Wars

This starts off lame, but then gets pretty funny. If you don't love it by the end of the first guitar solo, though, just walk away.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

On "best of" lists and making them and talking about them and responding to the responses to them.

The Wrens playing Schubas, one of our choices for best music venues in Chicago. Photo by me.
At Chicagoist we do a "best of" list at least weekly, and I always look forward to them for the conversation they generate and the new things they expose me to. This week it was "Best Music Venues" so I was in charge of rounding it up. The writers came up with a great list that had real breadth and depth so I couldn't be more proud of what we produced. In the introduction I underscored how great our music scene is and that these were our favorites and that, yes, of course we would leave stuff out or maybe not include your favorite, or your favorite. It seems like there was a LOT of chatter around it—I missed a lot since I don't monitor the Facebook page or Twitter feed for the site that often (that's the purview of the E-in-C and full-time AE)—so I'm stoked that we touched nerves both good and bad.

If a venue isn't on the list that doesn't mean it's not great or that none of the writers liked it, it just means it didn't rank at the personal top for any of the contributors. Some places we didn't list are awesome places to see shows but are weaker on the booking front, others were outside Chicago, and others are still establishing themselves and could very well become a standout music venue. 

Some people would argue a best of list should be an objective thing that dispassionately selects its subjects and I would agree that in some cases that's true. I think the Michelin Guide probably falls into this category. But music, and especially one's preferred environment for experiencing it, is such a subjective thing, so I think our "best of" list stands on that foundation. And honestly I find those kinds of list a lot more compelling since they come from a deeper place in the writer and that buzz often comes through in their writing that supports their selection. That's awesome.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Get into the holiday mood with The Dandy Warhols.

Zia wants you to sing along with the band. Photo by me.
It's after Thanksgiving which means it's officially not only O.K. but pretty much mandatory to get into the holiday spirit. The Dandy Warhols are willing to help you out with free downloads of some holiday tunes played through their distinctive filter! Give 'em a listen and if you like 'em, download 'em and play them as needed when you need a dose of holiday cheer.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Travel times may fluctuate with career choices.

Chicago traffic in 1909, photo by Frank M. Hallenbeck
I've had all kinds of commutes throughout my life. Everything from working somewhere that was a 15-minute walk away to a job that had me in the car 3+ hours a day in bumper-to-bumper traffic. These all have their pluses and minuses. For instance, that long drive is the thing that got me into podcasts in the early aughts (though I can't imagine how I didn't go insane not being able to listen to them at 2X speed!). And the 15-minute walk meant I was almost always late because I'd misjudge when I had to leave. Luckily it was a recording studio and punctuality wasn't all that important since there was someone there pretty much 24 hours a day in one of the music rooms. When I got my first job in the loop five years ago I was stoked because I could finally just take a train to work, allowing me to sell my car and go fully urban. Plus I love being able to read or zone put on the train. And with my current commute I get to choose between taking two train or a bus and a train and the time between my front door and my chair at my desk is even shorter now!

The only way I could beat this is if I worked at home and my commute was between my bed and my office desk 30 feet away. But that would suck because who wants to work from home?!

Monday, December 02, 2013

Thankful, I am.

I was grumbling earlier today about a standing meeting my 9-to-5 has every Monday at 8:30 a.m. The meeting is always informative and interesting, to be fair, but it's so early! And then I realized that was really the only gripe I had about my 9-to-5. Of course that mad me realize what a non-gripe that was and I further reflected on just how thankful I am for how the last year went. I won't lie and say it was an easy year—for a large amount of time I was under enormous stress—but without this year I wouldn't be where I am now; happy, supported and feeling fulfilled.

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to GalPal, who stuck by me even through periods of me being nigh intolerable. And I owe thanks to co-workers both past and present, because it was only because of the teams of people I worked with that I was able to accomplish great things, deliver some amazing work, and travel down the path that eventually brought me to where I am now.

It's been a wild ride in a year that seemed to last a decade—at times stretching on into forever with not nearly enough time to accomplish everything I needed or wanted to—but it's all accumulated into a collection of moments whose result is my own inner happiness.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Wait, what day is it?

I just spent all of today thinking it's Saturday and tomorrow's Sunday when in fact it's Friday and tomorrow's Saturday. Holidays can really screw with your internal clock. For once, this was in a good way!

Thursday, November 28, 2013


Photo by GalPal. Yum!
This year everyone in my family pitched in for the Thanksgiving meal and the results were delicious. Oh, and it was truly a lovely family gathering.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Boo to you, Christkindlmarket!

Every year the Chicago Christkindlmarket has these cute little mugs in the shape of boots and galPal and I have made it a yearly tradition to get there early and get a pair for ourselves before they run out (because they always run out). It's our special little thing that sort of kicks off the holiday season.

This year the organizers suddenly decided to ditch the boot and go with a new mug. It's horrendous. I mean, the boots weren't exactly painted beautifully but you could overlook that fact because you were drinking out of teeny tiny boot! It was cute! This thing is just plan ugly.

Upon learning the news, GalPal and I were thrown into a tailspin.


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Kimye vs. Frangen.

You've seen the Kanye West and Kim Kardashian original version of the video for West's "Bound 2" and you've seen the James Franco and Seth Rogen spoof of said video, but you havn't seen them together … until now. 

There's debate over whether West's original is meant to be serious or if itself is already taking the piss out of over the top romantic imagery in a music video, but given his recent track record of displaying zero irony in his more grandiose statements, I'm gonna say I don't really agree with that reading. What I can agree with is that, whether he meant it or not, West's video is funnier than the Franco / Rogen parody.

Craft brewed Bud?

Friday I was all about chicken and farm fresh meals, and today it's beer. Fret not, I'm not turning into a foodie, this just happens to be circumstance. Or maybe the national food stuffing your face day of Thanksgiving is acting like a small sun pulling unexpected food-related pieces out of me and into its orbit. Come to think of it I also just wrote a piece abut my favorite comfort food in Chicago that will be like on Chicagoist later today, so maybe there is something to that theory!

Photo by GalPal
Budweiser sent GalPal some of their Project 12 beers a while ago and instead of just drinking them and sharing her own opinion she threw an impromptu tasting in her office at lunch time to try out three of the brewer's new "craft beer line" offerings. It's a good read and a refreshing way to review something, in my opinion. GalPal and I had our own Project 12 tasting session late Saturday night—the next morning our kitchen looked like we had a party with a dozen people in it since all our pint glasses were out since we used them to taste the samples, leading me to think we really need to buy some smaller glasses—and Batch 43229: The Beechwood Bock was my favorite, surprisingly. Usually I like my beers crisp and clean tasting—I'm not a huge fan of hops despite most craft brewers throwing those into the mix in outrageous amounts—but this brew had a darker and smokier taste that appealed to the more bourbon-happy portion of my palate.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The show review that isn't really a full show review but instead a couple brief observations collected best I could.

This lovely picture of Sky Ferreira at the 2013 P4K Music Fest taken by Samantha Abernethy
I'd love to review the Sky Ferreira show at The Vic last weekend but I can't since I could only pay attention to about 1/3 of it due to a very inebriated and extremely friendly gentleman who attempted to keep up an ongoing conversation with me during her entire set. I can say that she's already turned her emotional live set fem P4K Music Fest last summer into more of a finely tuned machine of a pop show now. She's lost a bit of the "aw shucks" you like me, but that does open up the game for a bit of additional confident swagger on Ferreira's part. It was a solid set, based on the snippets I enjoyed without interruption.

Smith Westerns played after her and despite headlining in their hometown did a pretty good job of greatly thinning out the crowd at The Vic a scan two songs into their set. I left after three. Over time their already pretty vanilla songs fem their last two albums have grown ever thinner in their pleasures, and the band's live set has done the same. That's too bad.

I didn't shoot the show—I'm never certain whether The Vic will have a barrier—but Prefix has some nice galleries for you to peruse.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Farm Fresh Feastin' in Chicago.

GalPal and I enjoy some farm Fresh Feastin'. Photo by Caroline Dixey Photography.
Earlier this week Bolthouse Farms and Thrillist (no relation to my own -ist) hosted a private Farm Fresh Fest at Carriage House in Chicago, and GalPal and I were one of the lucky ones to get invited to it. She's a more adventurous eater than me, though I can find just about anything to eat on any menu no matter how limited it might be*, so between the two of us we could provide a pretty honest appraisal of how the meal hit two very different palates. Cocktails were crafted with Bolthouse carrot juice, and while carrots ain't my thing GalPal thought the concoctions were pretty delicious, so yay for that.

The meal came in three courses, all overseen by Chef Mark Steuer, and the first was all GalPal since it had zero appeal for my particular taste buds. This was totally O.K. with her because the fried green tomatoes that came to our table absolutely knocked her out and my turning them down simply meant all the more for her to eat!

Oh that chicken. Photo by Caroline Dixey Photography.
Course number two had a fried chicken thigh topped with a honey and sweet potato hot sauce that it clearly didn't need since the thigh itself was absolutely delicious with a breading that had a pleasant kick to it the left the lips a little tingly and my stomach pretty happy. GalPal let me eat most of hers too as she dug into the shrimp and grits that rounded out the course. Her sacrifice was greatly appreciated on the chicken front, especially since she thought it was just as delicious as I did.

The third course had a crispy pork shoulder that, while not quite as great as the chicken, was still pretty outstanding. And it came with a low country boil that GalPal deemed rather tasty saw ell. For a picky eater like me facing a menu with limited options I was getting pretty stuffed by this point! They closed out the meal with carrot cake but I had to pass due to the aforementioned meeting of my gastric limit.

We get invites to these sorts of things all the time and I rarely agree to go, but I've gotta admit if Bolthouse Farms, Thrillest or Carriage house invite me to an event any of them in involved in I'll be saying yes as quickly as possible. It was truly a lovely evening.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Back in the saddle.

It's always weird to wake up in a city across the country and then find yourself sitting at your desk in your office in Chicago just a few hours later.

Weird times, man. WE'RE LIVING IN THE FUTURE!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

On the set.

Hanging out in an incredible house in Dallas with terrific talent and an awesome crew. Intense; in a good way. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

In transit.

My view of coming in to Dallas was very fluffy.

Monday, November 18, 2013


It's gonna be a crazy week. When this morning feels like it happened a month ago, you know you've been busy.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Friendly reminder about the return of DJ Tankboy (and other awesome stuff tonight).

Tonight The Dead On release their debut CD at Ultra Lounge and they have kindly asked me to join the bill that includes the amazing Ladies & Gentlemen and another band with whom I'm unfamiliar but am sure must be of high caliber to be included in this evening's festivities.

The night has suddenly gained even ore weight since we just learned it is the last night Ultra Lounge will be open so this will be it's final show, ever.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

There is no such thing as an excess of INXS.

What a babe, huh?
I have the entire INXS catalog on ye olde tankPHONE and this morning at the gym I queued up the first album and never bothered to hit stop. I'm on Welcome To Wherever You Are right now and my only regret is that there are only a handful of songs left before I hit the end of the Michael Hutchence era output.

On the bright side I rediscovered just how badass this song was, proving they could still pen a scorcher even in the latter post-superstar portion of their career.

Jam on it.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Who's super duper mega wocka-wocka deluxe edition of 'Tommy' is out.

I'm actually planning on writing the latest expanded of The Who's Tommy up for Chicagoist, but can't figure out if I want to do a stand-alone review or hold it for our gift guide. I'll probably do the later. I got a download of the Super Deluxe Edition sent to me and I actually found it illuminating, something I didn't expect from an album I've heard hundreds of times. If you do get this, I recommend listening to it in the following order: the demos, the remastered album, the live "bootleg." It's striking just how complete Townshend's vision was from his earliest tapes and it's astounding to watch it first get adapted for the record by the full band and then hear it blossom even further as they brought the rock opera on the road. If I had the dough I'd probably splurge and buy a physical copy so I can have the neat book and everything else, but the true gem in this is the multiple versions of the songs I thought I already knew inside and out and mistakenly believed would never have the chance to reveal anything new about themselves to me.

I don't mind being proved wrong.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Sea change.

This time last week I wasn't sure which end was up and today I feel like I'm walking on rainbows. Funny how that works, huh?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Hey, look who got the ol' camera out!

Photo by me.
Shot my first concert in a while and even though it was on a Sunday it was worth it. I've seen, and photographed, Sleigh Bells a bunch of times, and really like their first and third albums, but every time they're played it's been as a duo and it just hasn't been the sonic force I thought it should be. Well, now they're touring with a live band and that has solved that problem rather neatly. It was a really fun show.

Later this week I'll put the full photo set up at Chicagoist.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Organic perpetual motion machine.

I am always in motion. This is something I kind of knew since I'm always drumming, or swaying or nodding or any of a million other things, but a few times in the last weeks it's come out that I am probably abnormally kinetic. I have no idea why, maybe that's why I run a little hot? Is it all the excess energy trying to escape? I was told I look like someone set to explode from all the energy bouncing around within my frame—hopefully they meant that in a kinetic but nonviolent way of reading "explode"—and this was something I, lacking a full length mirror at al times, was completely unaware of.

It's not impatience; I can sit still and focus for hours reviewing documents or developing creative ideas. I do worry it might be read that way during conversation though so I'm actually actively trying to monitor that. But how did I get four decades in without really realizing ashy of this? It's not for lack of self-reflection, that's for sure! It does set comments that have filtered through over the years in a new light and explain why people thought I walked funny (I walk really fast, and must have a gait that reflects that cartoonishly at times) or thought I was nervous in a social setting (I may be initially shy but nervous isn't the word to ascribe me and I usually counter that with bluster shortly after scoping out a situation) or was just annoyed within an inch of their being and on the edge of screaming if my fingers and feet filled out one more drum fill on my desk or steering wheel. And I know there have been times I was DJing where I was jumping up so high my feet almost kicked the mixer across the room. There are a million examples.

So I have a lot of energy. An unusual amount of energy. What does that mean though? Does it explain anything about me? Offer any clues to my personality I maybe overlooked but everyone else sees plainly? 

I don't know. Now excuse me, I have some air drumming to do.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Early warning: the return of DJ Tankboy!

My old DJ pal has a new band—The Dead On—and they are releasing their debut album next week. And it's really good; I've heard it. And I've agreed to DJ the CD release show on Saturday, November 15, thus cementing myself as the real-world Rob Gordon.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

And then there are videos that really make you say hmmm.

This will blow your tiny mind.

You ever encounter a song that perfectly encapsulates your mood at that moment even though it's not lyrically relevant; it just feels like you feel?

That's how this is hitting me right now.

Jump to 1:20 if you want to skip the no-essential book-end dramatic bits that really have nothing to do with anything.

What could be wrong when everything is right?

When we're under great stress, people tend to do things that aren't always good for them or the people around them in an effort to process and / or alleviate that stress. I've seen this happen with many around me and have certainly encountered it in my own life in the past. But how do you explain people that continue that behavior even when the stressful situation is not only resolved but is actually replaced by a perfect situation?

I'm trying to figure that one out.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Whither the pop that really goes POP?

Sky Ferreira has probably written the best of the latest pop albums.
Photo via her Facebook page
Katy Perry's album is abysmal. Lady GaGa's is better but lacks any sense of daring or adventure, causing it to sound already out of date. Miley Cyrus' album is slightly better than that (?!) but is still pretty awful. 

So who is doing well and creating pop music that still pushes boundaries? Lorde is all the rage and set to become this year's Adele. Sky Ferreira has produced an album that far exceeded even my high expectations. And Ellie Goulding is set to become an electro-pop princess. All three of these artists are riding an "us against the Majors" campaign but all three are products of the Major Label system, and none are groundbreaking. They're just writing solid songs, albeit with a little help from their friends.

Lorde and Ferreia have been in the system through most of their teen years and have cannily hooked up with excellent producers. This isn't to say their individual visions aren't impressive, but they're not out-of-nowhere success stories. And Goulding is an old hand at this sort of thing in modern pop years and was lifted to prominence with the help of a bunch of established songwriters and producers (including the legendary Frankmusic). And I have high hopes for Ke$ha's next round of work provided she can actually escape the smothering presence of Dr. Luke (who probably is most responsible for the disaster that is Perry's latest).

Oh, and M.I.A.'s new one is really good but after all the advance sneak peeks at her songs—and her certifiably being a senior citizen in the pop music world—this isn't surprising.

So I think it's safe to say that the superstars are faltering and the up-and-comers are rising. Same as it ever was, only the timetables from great to good to bad have severely shortened. Which also isn't particularly surprising. What is surprising is that none of the folks mentioned above is producing anything that's pushing any new boundaries, and that's a bummer all around.

Monday, November 04, 2013

It's my dad's birthday.

Check out that handsome devil.
My dad passed a way a few years ago, but I still like to mark his birthday.He was born on November 4, 1944 hut I could never remember the year when he was alive, which seems pretty silly when you realize it's just all 4's! How did I not notice that before?

On days I remember significant anniversaries in my dad's life I like to go back and read this piece my brother Sean wrote about him. It's really great.

I share a lot of my dad's qualities—both the good and the bad, that's for sure.

So if you have a moment, feel free to send a toast my dad's way on what would have been his 69th birthday today.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Well, that was fast.

I just realized it's November. Which means 2013 is almost over. For a year that so much happened in, it sure seems to have sped by pretty quickly.

Man, did I go through a lot this year or what?!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween, I ain't feeling you.

This was probably the last really good costume I wore, more than 3 years ago.
Usually I love halloween but this year I'm all meh about it. It could be because we were out of town at a B&B last weekend when most folks went all out and dressed in costume. It could be because in the past I got excited about bands covering other bands on Halloween and then every single fucking bar and club in Chicago jumped on that bandwagon, thus leaching out all the fun. It could just be that I'm no longer single and haven't been in a quite a while so I can't even get excited about girls in cute outfits. And I've never been one to dress in costumes—at least not since maybe the early '80s, so further the meh there. Hell, this years I haven't even gorged on horror movies in the days leading up to Halloween like I have in the past.


This should be the equivalent of adult Christmas for me?! I love Halloween! Wh can't I get excited about it this year. And what can I do to remedy this malady stat!

Until that happens, here's a creepy video David Bowie just released.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

I think you're gonna love Hiawata!

One of my favorite (largely unknown) bands in the world is Norway's Hiawata!, and I was turned on to them years ago by my pal Paul. I reached out to them back then and they were kind enough to send me their album, and a few months later a new single from them arrived in my inbox—for "The Deep End," whose video you may view below—and then after that I never heard anything about them again. Not that it ever occurred to me to, like, google their name or search iTunes for them or anything like that despite their album These Boys And This Band Is All I Know continuing to receive repeated plays on ye olde tankPHONE and DJ sets.

Fast forward to this week and it suddenly occurs to me, hey!, maybe they recorded material after that. And it turns out they have! They've got another few albums, the latest is Backs To The Future, and an EP under their belt, with a new album on the horizon next year AND the singer is in another band called Heyerdahl that just put out an album earlier this year. So today will be spent gorging myself on all of this new music. I think you should download a single they released for free a while ago, give it a listen, and if you dig that and the video above you'll probably want to gorge yourself on the band's whole back catalog as well.

DOWNLOAD: Hiawata! - Suburbs single

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Lou Reed.

Lou Reed at Lollapalooza, photo by me.
I wrote a brief piece on Lou Reed yesterday, and that's all I can really say. What else is there for someone like me to say, really? Especially when so many out there can say it better. Take, for instance, Jim DeRogatis' lovely remembrance of Reed, or Metric singer Emily Haines' thoughts that brought a literal tear to my eye. If you're only going to read two things on Lou, those are the two I would read if I were you.

And lest we forget Lou's crazier moments, here's a duet between him and Pavarotti* my creative director Dave turned me onto.

*I swear at the 1:20 mark Lou is looking at Pavarotti and thinking, "What is he doing to my song?!"

Monday, October 28, 2013

Team Kellogg's 'Start Stories' are live!

Remember when I was flying all over the frozen parts of the U.S. earlier this year. The videos I provided the creative concept for, and acted as creative director during the shoots, are finally live! They were the hardest thing to leave behind when I left my old job but I am SO PROUD of how they turned out.

The team that brought them to completion did a TERRIFIC job.

AND they're connected to a good cause. So go watch them all and get involved. Here's a one of the first ones we got near completion before I left. Sarah is awesome. (Heck, every athlete  met was awesome.)

Friday, October 25, 2013

I miss October.

I date a Saint Louis Cardinals fan. This means that for the last few years my television set has been taken from me in order to air playoff games that seemingly go on forever. I also get sent stuff like this on a regular basis.

Looking forward to December when life returns 100% to normal.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Russell Brand continues to surprise me.

It's easy to just view Russell Brand in light of the characters he plays, especially since they all seem to be tailored to his essential core in some way, but then every time I see him in an actual interview I realize that there are deep layers to this guy. And he's incredibly smart and well spoken. This is what happens when you stop doing drugs and allow your brain to power back up to a velocity that borders on frightening but races along the amazing.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

To be fair, we were discussing some heavy design and copy integration ideas.

Inspired by Hovering Art Directors, I bring you this shot snapped secretly at my job that includes me in a hovering pack of Art (and Writing and Creative) Directors, along with Copywriters and Designers. Everybody's voice gets heard!

Photo credit by the very, very sneaky Ben.
At least my arms look good and muscular! :D

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

They say insanity...

I posted the following on my Tumblr a few days ago:
"They say insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. It is a line that could do well to be plastered over the door to the House chamber." - The shutdown is ending. Here's how.
So O.K., to be fair, that's not exactly a new adage, but I gleefully embraced it in light of the, well, insane political posturing of the last few weeks. What I didn't consider is how my own life reflects that phrase a little more often than I would like.

I've got a handle on almost every facet of my life, but there is one behavioral corner that seems stuck on repeat and I need to pull the plug on that. Often we try and find ways to modify a behavior to solve a problem and I think that maybe the actual solution is to realize the only modification that works is cutting that behavior out entirely.

So, in a really strange way, I have to thank the Republican party for helping me realize this. I guess they've good for something, even if that something is finally illuminating what you shouldn't be doing in the first place.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Monday Monday.

I could really do without Monday this week. 

Nothing personal, Monday. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

What's the deal with the 1975?

I'm being absolutely honest when I say I can't tell if The 1975 will grow into superstars or be a largely forgotten British export six months from now. They write music in the "alternative" vein of many bands just following the Britpop implosion of the late '90s, with big guitars and big choruses all while somehow maintaing an "indie" stance.

The group released a couple promising EPs before finally rolling them all together with a few additional tracks to form their self-title full-length debut in September. The 1975 is an accomplished collection, which is not surprising once you learn the quartet has been playing together for over a decade despite waiting to release any material until relatively recently. The result is music that flies by and feels attractive but you're still not sure what's going on underneath it.

Here, wait, this is one of those times watching a video from the band makes the most sense.

See what I mean? It all fits together so perfectly it's hard to find fault with it, but I've been living with this album for months—listening and re-listening and re-re-listening—and it keeps sliding out of my brain the second it finishes. It's not that the music feels artificial, these are genuinely good songs, but there is a weird transparency to its after-effects. So this makes me especially curious what the band is like live; will all the mental mercury turn into a shiny ball with weight and heft that rolls off the stage to crush the crowd or with the after-effect be just as wispy as experienced at home. 

Only one way to find out, huh? Sadly, I'm going to miss their appearance in Chicago this weekend due to a scheduling conflict so if you get a chance to see them live, or have already, let me know what you think!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

If you're gonna cover "Louie Louie," this is how you do it.

Man, I've got pop culture anniversaries on the mind this week. Yesterday I wrote about Superman turning 75, and today I'm writing about The Kingsmen's "Louie Louie" turning 50. So, "Louie Louie," arguably the first big garage hit, turns 50. To be honest, it feels like it's older than that to me, but it was released in 1963 so there you go. Portland power-poppers The Cry! have recorded a cover of it to celebrate the song's birthday and they somehow managed to recruit original original Kingsmen guitarist Mike Mitchell to join them in the studio and lay down some leads. Pretty neat, huh? Give it a listen and download it if you wanna add it to your collection.

[h/t Power Pop Overdose]

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Superman is 75!

I love that the Fleischer Studios' Superman gets a nice little feature in this video tracing the hero's various incarnations through the last 75 years. Looks like they skipped over John Byrne though! Hmmmmm.

Watch it and then read the full annotations to see what you missed or didn't understand.

Big thanks to Scott for turning me on to this!

Is an open-office plan the best plan? Sometimes.

I've worked in open-plan offices and I've worked in standard cubicle / private office offices and at one time I had a private office all to myself. So I think I can address the issues brought up in Drake Bennet's recent piece "Why We Can't Get Anything Done in an Open-Plan Office." I think it purely depends on the true office culture.

In the past I worked in an office that went from a regular cubicle farm set-up to open-plan and in that case I think in the end it didn't work. The fact that senior leadership that championed the set-up eventually took over conference rooms and converted them into their private offices was pretty telling. And it might be as simple as admitting that such a drastic shift in office culture simply isn't for everyone. I've been in situations where sobbing ensued once people found out they were losing their office. 

My current job has an open-office plan, and they're expanding onto a new floor where that plan will be further refined with the addition of some "quiet rooms" for folks that need to get away for a bit. And it 100% works here, but I think it's important to note that this place has always had an open-office plan. And even more importantly NO one, outside the company's owner, has an office. And even the owner's office has no door. Literally.

Often these open-office plans are implemented to encourage collaboration, but if you're company isn't really dedicated to that mind-set—and many simply pay lip service to it and think that rearranging some chairs and desks will solve all their problems—then it's pointless. And in order to be dedicated to the mind-set a company needs to support it's staff and actually proactively encourage collaboration and creativity. I don't think many places are actually suited to do so, and while "collaboration" and "creativity" are lovely buzzwords C-suite people love to throw around, they need to be more than simply words.

I'm lucky to have found a place when the open-office plan actually accomplishes what it's purported to do, but I don't think it's for everyone. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Spiritualized takes Cut Copy's "Free Your Mind" to the rafters and beyond.

I've been listening to the new Cut Copy for a few days now and am—unsurprisingly—really enjoying it. It's a little darker than their last few albums, I think, but it's still all full of tropical sunshine at the same time. The darkness is more a creeping in at the edges sort of thing. They're been releasing various remixes of the title track and I love the latest coming from Spiritualized. Of course you can count on J. Spacemen uncovering the darker corners of the song and exposing them to the heavens. The result is a nearly unrecognizable alongside the original but the heart beats the same in both.

Listen to the track below and if you like it snag a free download of the tune and tell me what you think.

Monday, October 14, 2013


It's always popular to slam ad agencies and either call them Machiavellian or painfully out of touch or just all around evil (when in fact I would argue that advertising (in ALL of its forms from digital to print to broadcast to purely social (and at this point I consider anyone in marketing—including PR—to be an ad agency in function)) is only as out-of-touch as its client is willing to let them be) but c'mon, some of the most inventive storytelling is coming from agencies, right?

Friday, October 11, 2013

Holy crap, now that's a local music bill!

I was going to write about Welcome To Night Vale and how I can't believe it took me this long to start listening to a series so obviously made for my ears, but that will have to wait since I instead must entreat you to attend this show tonight.
The Noise FM, and The Kickback are two of my newer favorite local bands, and Cowboy Indian Bear's records are good and their live show comes highly recommended by many friends whose opinion I respect. That should be enough for you, but if you need more convincing then may I direct your attention to my full preview of the show.

See you there?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Beware those who shout about the shiny object.

I admire and respect people who test and try out new ways of digital marketing, but i detest those that proclaim new ways of digital marketing as the next big thing everyone should adopt and then keep doing so long after it's obvious that's not ever going to be the case.

Throwing bright shiny things in people's faces—especially those that might actually be uninformed enough in the digital realm (and the numbers that aren't are stunning once you step out of your own little echo chamber)—benefits no one in the end. In fact, I'd argue it hurts things in the long run because when they fail, people trust less and less in digital or social tactics.

I've been involved with digital outreach and conversations since the mid-'90s, so I have a clue when it comes to this, and it angers me when others with similar time in the trenches as me abuse that to try an inflate their own reputations without regard for actually pushing the actual relevance that social tactics should carry. It's irresponsible and I've seen far too many people that are guilty of it in the past few years. Idealism mixed with narcissism is often misconstrued as visionary and that simply leads to disaster, at least for those left in the wake, in my humble opinion.

Whew, that felt good to get off my chest! 

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Spotted in the office.

The real life Leaning Tower of Pizza!

(Guess whose office got treated to a lunch of free pizza? Give up? Mine!)

Monday, October 07, 2013

Where oh where else can I find Tankboy? There he is! And there! And there! And...

Every once in a while I like to remind folks of some of the other places they can find me online. So here's that reminder. I try not to cross post too much (though I admit my Facebook and Twitter tend to have similar content though I tailor it for each embassy every time, but that's because most Facebook friends don't follow my Twitter feed and vice versa). So feel free to check out, subscribe to or interact with me:

Friday, October 04, 2013

In Chicago and wanna see a band on Saturday?

If you're not terrified of a room filled with teenagers, then Mixtapes' all ages show at SubT is the place to be tomorrow (early) evening. If that notion does scare you, here are two other music-related ideas for the weekend.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Play that funky music, Pink Floyd.

"Another Brick In The Wall (Part II)" has been described as Pink Floyd's accidental disco hit. I had no idea someone actually turned it into a real live disco song!

And here's a more recent edit if you don't feel like grooving for 6+ minutes.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Still don't understand the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. ACA a.k.a. Obamacare)? This should clear things up for you.

Easy peasy. It's a law. It passed congressional votes AND Supreme Court scrutiny. So now that The Republicans have failed miserably in their attempts to stop it, not that their attempt yesterday would have even had an effect even had they proved victorious, and now that they've shut down the government while having zero effect on the act going into practice I am hopeful this will finally wake them up from the delusional state the more extreme fringes of the party has been operating under to hold the rest of their party hostage.

Anyway, here's how the ACA works. Not that its opponents want you to now any of this...

You can find even more consumer friendly info about the ACA here.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Hey Tankboy, what did YOU think of the last episode ever of 'Breaking Bad'?

Hey man, I'm just glad we finally found out what happened to Huell!*

Seriously though, I was with Breaking Bad since the very first night the very first episode aired and I found last night's finale to be absolutely perfect. Those who are griping about it not being morally ambiguous enough (?!) confuse me, but everyone's entitled to their opinion. Me? I walked away perfectly happy.

*Also, somewhat seriously, while I can understand the urge to keep the Bad franchise going with a prequel series dedicated to Saul Goodman, I can't help feeling that's fundamentally a bad idea. However I would totally watch Huell's Rules if it actually exited!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Stupid me.

I went to lunch with some co-workers this week and was pretty excited because they were folks I rarely get to work with directly so any chance to catch up (and maybe pick their brains a little) is always appreciated! We went to a place I was also excited to check out. I had looked up their menu ahead of time and was stoked to see it was all comfort food—burgers, rips, and stuff like that—but I didn't read the fine print. It was a totally vegan restaurant. No meat, no dairy, no nothing. I'm a picky eater and can usually find something to eat on the menu but this place was out of even my league. One thing I hate about being a picky eater is people noticing me being a picky eater so I made a self-deprecating (I hope) joke about being "100% the opposite of a vegetarian" and then went ahead and ordered a faux cheese pizza but asked that it come without mushrooms since they are my mortal culinary enemy.

It was right around this point a bee decided to make its way to our table and stay there. I sat stock still as my co-workers swatted at it and it just kept buzzing around the table.

I'm allergic to bees.

So by now I'm starting to look for the hidden camera since I felt like I was in some TV show that takes all of the chinks in your armor and exploits them until you explode and start running around like a mad man. I finally broke and told m table mates of my allergy and they were totally sympathetic. I think the bee was too because tat that point it took off never to return.

My pizza wasn't great, fake cheese does not taste better as it cools, but the company and conversation was terrific. I walked away from the lunch appreciating my co-workers even more as I simultaneously wished I didn't have so many stupid food hang-ups and wasn't allergic to stupid bees.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Dead Gaze makes lively music.

So I get loads of albums daily, and I dutifully file them to the side to listen to when I get a chance. Sometimes that means music can sit there for weeks before i get to it, but I always get to it. And sometimes, every once in a while, I crack open an album that's been in my queue for a while and immediately regret not listening to it sooner. Dead Gaze's Brain Holiday is one of those types of albums. It's not out until October 22, but they are on tour now (though sadly they skipped Chicago) so I'll wait to do a full review on Chicagoist, but you can get a taste of what turned me on some much below via the stream of "Rowdy Jungle" off the forthcoming LP.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Edukator update.

So you know how excited I was to discover the Ultra Sonic Edukators' album for free yesterday? Well, I posted about it on Chicagoist and the singer saw the piece and let me know that he's in a band with some of the other Edukators named Z, while the rhythm section is in another band in Tennessee named Los Colognes (which I kind of knew but didn't know they were still active).

So I'm pleased that my post not only turned other folks onto great music from the past, it also made me aware that the folks I liked were still making music today!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Look what I found! A bunch of music from Ultra Sonic Edukators!

You've probably never heard of them, but outside one other band that played around tow in the late '90s and early '00s, Ultra Sonic Edukators was the closest thing we had to the Blur-zone of Britpop in Chicago. They were a massive outfit filled with characters and wrote what I thought were really great songs, but the city never really embraced them and they went their separate ways years ago. A version of their debut was on iTunes—and has since disappeared—but it was always missing a few songs, so I'm excited to see someone from the band just went ahead and posted an expanded version of Armageddon Is In My Room on bandcamp for free, along with some other tunes attributed to the band. You can stream or download the whole thing below. Grab it and enjoy one of the hidden gems lost in the silt of Chicago music scenes past!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Friday, September 20, 2013

Believe it or not, we won.

So I think something that's been greatly overlooked as our entire culture has skewed in the direction it has is that it's safe to say all of us persecuted severely as nerds in the '70s and '80s did indeed have the last laugh. Everything tangential from that time is now mainstream, and while knuckleheads are omnipresent and will always dominate their ape-ish shere of influence, douchebags are now largely culturally mocked while people like us define future tastes based on our own past influences. 


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

So much to sort through, so many to feel for.

My mom and my Aunt Diane; off to cause trouble, no doubt.
Today would be my Aunt Diane's birthday, if she hadn't lost her battle with cancer a few days ago. Aunt Diane—for some reason I can't separate the title from the name in my head—was also my godmother. She was also the "artist" in my mom's family, and I am reasonably certain that it was her influence—along with my parents' support of their weird kid—that kindled my creativity and set me on the path I ended up traveling down over the last four decades.

Aunt Diane has had cancer off and on for over a decade, so her passing comes with the positive note that she is no longer in pain. I saw my dad fall to cancer in an incredibly short period of time so I can't imagine what it would be like to wage that war for years and years. 

I generally don't deal with death well. I tend to go blank, and whatever emotional response there is—and there always is one—tends to creep up on me and catch me by surprise. I'm sure it's some sort of defense mechanism I unknowingly put in place long ago, so at the moment I don't have any real feelings to sort through as far as my Aunt Diane's actual death. But I am in pain over her family's situation. Within hours of her passing away, her husband—my uncle—got news that his own brother had passed away as well. And my mom had a trip planned to spend time with my Aunt Diane and missed her passing by days; she is still heading down there today to help in whatever capacity she can. Oh, and of course she was my mom's little sister and, I think, her best friend in the whole world so I can't imagine what that's doing to my mom.

And did I mention that just a few days before all of this GalPal's granny passed away too?

It's been a hell of a week.