Friday, August 30, 2013

Inside the musical revolution.

My creative director Dave turned me onto this '60s documentary delving into the rock and/or roll revolution, narrated by ... Leonard Bernstein!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Maybe you should take a moment to selfie-reflect before twerking all over "news."

Verbatim screengrab of yesterday's Chicago Tribune, though I blocked out the advertising.

The problem with the instant dissemination of information through countless channels to a kajillion people is that often this information is wrong* or the opinions surrounding are half thought out and reactionary instead of trying to make sense of anything.** This week has seen lot of this sort of activity—hilariously simultaneously parodied and captured 100% accurately by Scott—and it's got me thinking we should impost a moratorium on reactions of at least a few hours if not a full day. Think of how less cluttered, more thought-out and wonderful world this would be!***

*See "selfie" and "tweak" in the Oxford English Dictionary. Oh wait, YOU CAN'T BECAUSE THEY'RE NOT IN THERE.

**Even I am guilty of this at times and need to better follow my own advice in those cases, but take for for instance the Miley Cyrus thing from a few days ago and notice I waited until the next day to parse it out and write anything about it because I thought raw indignation and bandwagon-jumping did no one any good.

***My biggest beef is with all the media outlets that are getting things more and more wrong because they want to be the first to comment or break a story and get those page views and "damn, we'll just correct it later if it's wrong, what matters right now is the traffic.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The heat wave that wasn't.

Hey everybody, did you hear Chicago was in the middle of a heat wave! It's been trumpeted from the mountaintops (read: area newscasts) since last week and oooooh is it a scorcher! It last exactly two days and—outside an at times uncomfortable humidity yesterday—it wasn't much of a heat wave! In fact I made it to and from work every day without looking like I had just taken a shower. In a real and genuine heat wave would have been impossible.

The only thing the local media git right is that summer isn't over ... yet.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Tank Girl: The Movie.

Guess what I'm watching right now? I am SO glad I got into the comics years before they made a movie, otherwise I'd have a completely different nickname.

Though I still maintain Lori and Naomi make a mighty fine Tank Girl and Jet Girl. It's not their fault the script (and effects) were just, well, not good.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Save Miley? She hardly needs saving.

Photo from Miley Cyrus' Facebook page
I saw Miley Cyrus' performance on the Video Music Awards* last night and while everyone else thinks the girl's either lost it or flopped horribly I think she did exactly what she expected to do: be ridiculous. Her whole thing right now is "just be Miley" and Miley is still a kooky teenager. I'm not convinced she was trying to push any boundaries last night; I'm pretty sure she just wanted to be goofy and succeeded.

While some of the folks sharing the stage with her were trying to be "sexy" it appears Cyrus just decided to throw that option out the window, thus making every other person on that stage look fake, plastic and practiced. Look, she completely emasculated Robin Thicke, first by taking a subservient position and making it look ridiculous and then proceeding to basically goose the guy in front of millions of viewers, and I thought that was hilarious.

On top of that, Cyrus' performance made Lady GaGa look positively staid. That takes a lot of chutzpah to pull off.

So go ahead and act shocked and mutter to yourself and that jazz, but for my money Cyrus was the only thing even close to punk and / or rock and / or roll on last night's broadcast.

*Let's even ask the existential question circling whether this show should even exist or not, given that MTV stopped playing music videos long ago.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Dreams are real.

GalPal sent this to me earlier today and I only just now had a chance to watch it. Enjoy. Happy Friday!

Thursday, August 22, 2013


I used to hate emoticons. Despised them. Railed against them. Avoided them at all costs. But over the past few years they began to creep into my emails and texts. I realized that many folks I had professional relationships with utilized them to try and offset writing that came across as, um, angry. It was a passive-aggressive thing and it irked me, but I realized that if I insisted on not using emoticons many of my own writing might be misinterpreted.

"But you're a writer. If you're misinterpreted isn't that a fault of your writing?"

Well, yes. Unless people aren't reading what you write. When I compose emails, and even texts, I try and be very precise and sometimes that means painting nuance into the message. But many folks don't read everything you write and many don't make it past the first sentence or two, so in order to offset behavior I couldn't dictate I began to speak in the patois of the professional class: short emails with emoticons.

My current gigs—9-to-5 and side—are populated by close readers but I still throw emoticons into my writing. (And let's not even get into the emoji discussion.) In my opinion they've just become part of our shared language in electronic writing. I use them earnestly and honestly: when I put a smiley face at the end of a sentence it's not passive-aggressive, it just means I'm smiling as I write it and mean well.

What has this tough me? Once I said I would "never" use emoticons and now I do and don't feel badly about it. The overall lesson is to not dictate your own future behavior with any air of finality* because opinions change as we grow. Thus endeth the Mr. Rogers lesson for today.

*Except for my "no high-fives" rule. That one's sticking. Maybe.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Learn how to animate from a master.

In high school my friend Mike Weber and I had grand plans for animating a movie—probably in a sci-fi fantasy vein—but we never got further than character design. The idea of hand-drawing all those cels, because of course that was my job while Mike would handle the camera work, was just too daunting. Perhaps if we'd seen this movie we'd have approached it differently and actually gotten something done!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Spread out the joy.

See? You gotta relax!
While last weekend was a blast it showed me the danger of scheduling too much stuff too close to each other. In the past this was never an issue but I'm reaching the point where I need a day or two to myself (actually ourselves is more precise since it includes my time to just chill with GalPal. But we're learning! We had considered having a barbecue next weekend to take advantage of some other neighborhood events transpiring over the weekend. Then we remembered we had already committed to attending the Burlington 6th Anniversary Party, so that meant if we still wanted to have a soiree at our place it would be pushed to Sunday and probably mean we'd have little time to prepare.

How mundane is this retelling?

But that's kind of my point. Sometimes mundane is good. I'm finally starting to understand I can't experience everything all of the time, so in order to really appreciate everything I do experience I now need some occasional downtime.

The funny thing is I know this but have to periodically remind myself that it's still a truth I need to adhere to. Rationally you know a diet of ice cream* isn't going to do you any favors but that doesn't mean that, left to your own devices, you would eat nothing but ice cream—until you finally ate so much ice cream it makes you sick. 

I'm older now but when I was younger I could eat a lot more ice cream before I got sick. Sometimes I forget that age brings some limitations. So now I try to keep the notion of spreading out the joy top of mind so I don't overdo it. Based on last weekend this is still a work in progress but adjusting next weekend's plans well ahead of time shows that some of this lesson might actually be making it into my thick skull before I overdo it.

*Technically Little Debbie's Swiss Cake Rolls would be a more apropos treat if we're talking about my own tendency to overindulge, but ice cream is more universally understandable so I'm going with that.

Monday, August 19, 2013

A nigh perfect weekend.

GalPal is stoked!
Our weekend was bookended by trips to Parson's Chicken & Fish—a Chicago joint that has really found its stride and is everything ambience-wise Big Star ended up failing at—so it begin and ended on high notes. In-between those visits we fit in visits to some of the final games of the Kup Softball League (where local media teams from various publications compete against each other), beers and esoterica from Mirabell (now a joint GalPal wants to return to in order to sample their food menu), burgers at Revolution Brewery … oh, and seats behind the visitor dugout at a Cubs vs. Cardinals baseball game.

Yeah, not a bad weekend at all.

Friday, August 16, 2013

I got my mind on my music, my music on my mind.

Other local fans of music! Photo by me.
I'm listening to Any Kind right now, a local band I never would have heard of were it not for one of my Chicagoist music writers. And I wrote a piece earlier today on Hard Kiss, another local band I only discovered because they're playing with a friend's band tonight and offer their album as a free download. In fact quite a few of my recent local band crushes have been via newer music writers with more time to dig around the scene than I do these days.

 Actually, one of the best things about surrounding yourself with local music lovers is constantly discovering new gems in your backyard. Chicago's scene is vast and deep and I think it's terrific there are always new bands to get excited about. I'm glad I don't know every single one out there already because then I wouldn't get to enjoy the feel of discovery when someone turns me onto yet another excellent find.

 Some people find a constant stream of new music overwhelming, but I never get tired of it.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Katy Perry totally ripped off Waltham

Tell me I'm wrong.

Waltham's video from February of this year:

Versus Katy Perry's JUST RELEASED video:


On (my) writing.

My editor at work.**
I write pretty quickly. I didn't realize this until Gal Pal commented on it while I was enjoying the Summer of Tankboy™ and she was on vacation from work one day and witnessed me as I sat down to write a review. "Do you really just sit down and start writing?" she said, "I usually have to organize what I'm going to say before I say it."

I do organize what I'm going to say, but it's usually all in my head up until the time I actually start writing, so it just pours out of me. Even if I haven't done it consciously, my brain has already connected with my subconscious to hammer out at least the outline of what I'm going to write. And then it just comes out.

Am I lucky? Am I just wired that way? After so many years is it just so much personal training and rigor that it's just become second nature?* Was I just born to write? Am I in a constant state of synthesis that's converting stimuli into a waiting pool of reserve copy? Who knows?

I'm not going to complain about it.

* It ain't that one. I've always written rather quickly.

** The results of Pickle the Kitten's edits to my work. A deft hand indeed.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Chicago music scene and what is on the rise and what is on the decline and what it means to write about something critically.

Archie Powell & the Exports, just a rock band in Chicago
There has been much discussion recently about Chicago's music scene and what bands are worthy of being called "the best"* and whether rock and/or roll is dormant while hip-hop is ascendant and all that goo-rah. Last night GalPal and I were discussing it and she posited you can't tell what bands will break big until years later, to which I replied that you arguably could to some extent—we all knew The Smashing Pumpkins were AN IMPORTANT BAND even before Gish came out—but her point was made that history is the arbiter that defines the victors in that arena.

So our conversation then centered on the fallacy that Chicago rap is in a golden age popularity-wise while Chicago rock has fallen into a slumber and fallowed. My Chicagoist colleague Jon already put together a nice playlist of Chicago rock that's on the rise and I think it proves quite nicely that the scene is alive and well and thriving. Is it blowing up the blogosphere? Perhaps not, but in the case of 99.9% of younger bands I would say this is a good thing that leads to deeper development and maturity of music instead of burning out an unproven group under the magnesium flare that is the aughts version of fame.

Chance the Rapper
I won't argue that the hip-hop scene is turning out some great music, but I'm not seeing the maturity develop there. Chief Keef flared and failed (not that I was ever sold on his talents in the first place, but many others were), when was the last time you heard anything from Freddie Gibbs and even Chance the Rapper—an astounding new talent**is already showing signs he's read too much of his own hype (and that usually leads to a creative spiral). And whatever happened to Kid Sister?

Even the local DJ scene is showing signs of strain as promoters have over saturated the market and the club scene has slowed down considerably in relation to just five years ago.

So not only do I disagree with Ernest Wilkins' claim that "there isn’t currently a new crop of rock bands coming out of Chicago," I would argue that the Chicago rock scene is unusually healthy and growing ever stronger in an organic fashion. I also think it's incredibly varied with strong offerings from just about every corner—metal, pop, country, indie, blah de blah de blah—many of whom play on bills beside each other, in my mind a further testament to the health and vitality of the scene.

In the end I think that the lists and observations that have come under fire have done so for the simple reason that the writers of those pieces weren't occupying a critical and balanced perspective; they were only writing from their own experience. And while that's well and fine I think it also displays quite neatly the difference between a=n actual critic and a web personality with a pulpit.

* I won't even directly comment on Angela Hazen's list since I think her biography does a good job of saying all that needs to be said on that subject.
Angela Hazen lives in Oak Park, IL. She has worked as a model in Chicago and studied broadcast journalism at Columbia College Chicago. She has traveled to Europe on several occasions, and keeps her readers up to date with local and international style, shopping, fashion and beauty trends. Her work can be found at
** Download Acid Rap NOW. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Nine Inch Nails at Lollapalooza and the march of the ageless.

A photo I took of Nine Inch Nails in 2008
I was trying to figure out just why so many teenagers and twenty-somethings approached the Nine Inch Nails set at Lollapalooza with such fervor. Surely the band had been famous long enough to have been leached of an actual emotional resonance with kids who only knew Trent Reznor's sound as pop music and not that of a tortured outsider screaming outside of the mainstream walls.* How could this possibly mean something to this new generation?

Then I thought about the fact that Pretty Hate Machine is two decades old and what kind of music did I listen to as a teenager looking to unleash my own feelings of alienation? Who were my primary go-to bands? David Bowie, Pink Floyd and The Who; all three of those bands helped me survive the terrible teens. And yes, I liked contemporary acts (especially when I discovered a little band named Jane's Addiction who had just released their debut and sounded like everything I had in my head and didn't know it) but the ones that stuck around the longest were all, yup, two decades plus into their (mostly over at that time) careers.** Which basically means it's time for me to face the inevitable, and that is that most of the bands I count as contemporaries as far as my teenage years and early twenties are now, irrefutably, classic rock.

You would think that makes me feel old, but it actually fills me with genuine happiness. You see, it proves that good music is truly timeless and can elicit fresh emotions from a brand new audience long after its creation. And that's what I saw happening during the Nine Inch Nails set at Lollapalooza.

Long live rock.

I could, and may, do a whole piece on just how revolutionary Nine Inch Nails was when they came onto the scene. The Industrial genre was fully formed, but something about Reznor's ability to take savagery and machines and add funk and melody set him apart from everyone. It's not an exaggeration to say his was a visionary voice in its ability to synthesize all his various influences—internal and external—and create bona fide pop songs that sounded like nothing else out there at the time. of course this aside basically answers my primary question in the piece above at a more basic level than my 35,000 foot observation.

** The Who hadn't reunited after the unfortunate Kenney Jones phase of their career. Pink Floyd was in the midst of a million internal lawsuits. David Bowie was on licking his sounds and had turned to Tin Machine in the aftermath of his Glass Spider fiasco. So what I'm saying is that aside from Bowie—and I am one of the few that genuinely loved Tin Machine—none of my holy trio were particularly timely.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Good Times were had by all.

Some friends of mine have a party at their family's house every summer. I missed the last few years but heard that this year's shindig might be the final one so I made a last minute decision to rent a car and head up there with GalPal. And I am so glad I did because it was wonderful seeing old friends—some whom I haven't even had a real conversation with in over a decade—and just simply have a good time. I'm not always the best at keeping in touch with people so events like this, ones I admit I probably skip more often than I should, are important to me.

I am so glad I decided to go.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Closing out week one.

The first week at a new job is always interesting, primarily because you don't have much to do but dive in and learn about the accounts you'll be working on while observing the people around you. In the past there have been jobs where I was just dumped into the middle of whatever was going on in a sink or swim fashion, but in the long run that doesn't really set anyone—the business or the new hire—up for success. So as I learn and I observe I grow ever more happy that this particular 9-to-5 and I found each other because we seem perfectly suited for each other. Everyone here works incredibly hard, but they're not overworked, and from what I've seen so far everyone really cares how everyone else is doing, from the executive level on down to the interns. 

The BEST part though? I'm already Mayor of the joint on Foursquare. Woo hoo!

P.S. They're still hiring for a few positions, both creative and account, so shoot me a message and I'll send you the listings. I would definitely endorse working here.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Nine years ago my dad had to leave.

My little brother mentioned that today marked the ninth anniversary since my dad passed away so I dug though my old posts to see how I was doing at that time. In retrospect my initial thoughts on him passing hold up just as stingily today as they did then. Also, Jesus Christ, has it really been nine years already? It doesn't seem that long ago.

 I hope I'm still making him proud of me.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

First day of school!

I started my new 9-to-5 today and I couldn't be more excited. The day began with the usual angst over what to wear to make that first impression to the office at large to that slight panic when you realize you have no idea what to do that subsides once you remember the last time you had a first day on a new job and the same thing happened only to lead into one of the most valuable phases of your professional career. By 5 p.m. all of those first-day-jitters had dispersed and were replaced with the certainty I was in the right place and the excitement of what is ahead of me!

Monday, August 05, 2013

Lollapalooza ... it's a wrap!

Two Door Cinema Club at Lollapalooza. Photo by me.

We're exhausted. Three—well four if you count the fact everything for me started Thursday—straight days of non-stop music and late night events has me tuckered out! Oddly my personal highlights all occurred after the daytime activities with an amazing Thermals show in a tiny club on Friday, a set by Salt-N-Pepa at a party Saturday and getting to see the final (ever) Postal Service show on Sunday.

Here's the full rundown by me and the other writers bold enough to tackle the fest with me!

Lollapalooza Day One: Yup, It's Massive

Lollapalooza Day Two: The Highs And The Lows

Lollapalooza Day Three: Everything Must End

And here, for your viewing pleasure, a video I shot (and got permission to post) of The Postal Service performing the last song they will every play live.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Lollapalooza: Here we go!

I ran into this guy at a past Lollapalooza. Great shirt, dude!
Going to Lollapalooza? Here's everything you need to know.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

How we met.

GalPal and I don't have an anniversary per se, since our getting together took a while, but we tend to use Lollapalooza as our focal point since it was that weekend that we just realized it was inevitable that we would be together. However we DO know the exact day we actually met in person since Jessica Hopper was there to chronicle the whole thing.

Wow, can you believe that was five years ago?

Lollapalooza day two previews!

Photo by me
Looking for stuff to do at Lolla this weekend on Saturday? I've got your hook-up.