Archive for January, 2010

All in a day’s work…

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

Working at the Lakeview Polar Bear Plunge for The Weather Channel.

I can also be seen working here (photo 5).

The goat days.

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

It seems our neighborhood longs for the it’s past, gritty days when prostitutes, junkies, and criminals roomed the intersection of Milwaukee, North, and Damen. Hmm. Personally, I applaud the lack of such folks but could do without a bank on every corner. But that’s just me.

Curious about the title of this post? Here’s a clue.

Seriously?

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

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Strip by Carl Skanberg

Despite the fact that White Sox slugger (and one day Hall of Famer) Jim Thome wanted to return to the South Side, manager Ozzie Guillen opted against the idea, and now Thome has signed with… the Twinkies! And for a mere 1.5 million dollars! Ah, the truth is sad and hurtful. No more joking, “Thome wants a homey!”. All I can say is, Ozzie I hope you know what you are doing. And, Jim, I’m sorry to see you go. It was always a thrill to see you smack that ball around The Cell. I wish you all the best of luck at Target.

Follow the story from the fanatics.

Below, Thome’s lone homer prevails the Sox over the Twins and into the American League Division Series against the Rays in 2008:

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Check it out.

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

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The day isn’t quite complete without visiting one of my favorite blogs on the web, If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger, There’d Be a Whole Lot of Dead Copycats !

Especially, check out the feature Before and After.

Jury Duty

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

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Some of you might recall a few posts ago that right before the Christmas break, I received a jury duty notice from the City of Chicago. All these years of livin’ and this was the first time I had ever been asked to do my civic duty. Since I was only a standby juror, I had to call a number the day before in order to find out if my service, in fact, was needed. Since I was working on a shoot, Apryl made the call for me and texted me back the news: Only standby jurors with last names beginning with F to H. I just missed out.

However, the Chicagoist wasn’t as “lucky”?

Musical Confessions – Part 1

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

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Last week, while Apryl and I were watching The Wedding Singer (the first time for me), there was a scene at a bar where Bruce Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart” is heard on the soundtrack. While the scene was playing out, I admitted to Apryl that the Boss’ first major hit was one of my favorite songs of all time. While I’m not a massive Boss fan (I never even got into the Born to Run album!), Springsteen did have a run of albums that I deem as essential: Darkness on the Edge of Town, The River, and Nebraska. And “Hungry Heart,” originally written for The Ramones, has always been a favorite, a perfect rock/pop song that I could listen to over and over, without ever growing tired of it. How many others songs about dead beat dads rock this hard?

So, this all got me to thinking of other music confessions I have yet to make wide known:

Other favorite songs of all-time:
The Band – The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down
(I prefer The Last Waltz version but this cover is also pretty amazing!)
The Beach Boys – I Get Around
Shelby Bryant – The Walk
Sam Cooke – A Change Is Going To Come
Sam Cooke and the Stirrers – The Last Mile of the Way
Desmond Dekker – Israelites
Harry Nilsson – Everybody’s Talkin’
Otis Redding – These Arms of Mine
Red House Painters – Michael
The Ronettes – Be My Baby
Santo and Johnny – Tear Drop

First concert:
It was either Hall and Oates or Billy Ocean. Both at Mud Island.

Favorite album:
Leonard Cohen – I’m Your Man

Favorite country album:
Kris Kristofferson – Me and Bobby McGee

Favorite guitar solo:
Duane Allman and Eric Clapton on Layla

Favorite singer:
Roy Orbison

Song I’ve listened to the most times in a row
Probably, Bob Dylan and the Band’s This Wheel’s On Fire from The Basement Tapes.

Favorite Bob Dylan song:
Easy. Lay Lady Lay.

Favorite The Beatles song:
Happiness Is a Warm Gun

Favorite The Rolling Stones song:
I Am Waiting

Favorite Led Zeppelin song:
When the Levee Breaks

Favorite The Who song:
Too many. But this is a good one.

Favorite U2 song:
Stay (Faraway, So Close!)

Favorite live albums:
The Allman Brothers – At Fillmore East
Sam Cooke – Live at the Harlem Square Club, 1963
Grateful Dead – Live at Cornell University (Unreleased)
Jimi Hendrix – Band of Gypsys
The Kinks – Everybody’s In Show-Biz
Charles Mingus – Mingus at Antibes
Nirvana – MTV Unplugged in New York
Otis Redding – Live at the Whisky a Go Go, Vol. 2
Panda Bear – Live at ZDB, Lisbon, Portugal
Pink Floyd – Ummagumma
The Rolling Stones – Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out!
Talking Heads – The Name of This Band Is Talking Heads
Various Artists – Fillmore: The Last Days
Various Artists – Woodstock (soundtrack)
The Velvet Underground – 1969: The Velvet Underground Live
The Who – Live at Leeds (Original short version)

Still one of my favorite sentiments form a song:
“Don’t dream it, be it.” Rose Tint My World from The Rocky Horror Picture Show

– Have I mentioned that I’ve recently become a Deadhead. More on that later…

Are you ready for some MORE football?

Saturday, January 16th, 2010

ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL?!?!

Well, apparently, “some” is the operative word here. In a recent article published in the Wall Street Journal, a study discovered that during a typical NFL game, only 11 minutes are actually devoted to footage of the playing on the field. It seems 58.5% of the footage is of players just “standing around”. How is this possible? Check out the chart, which compares four NFL games broadcasted by CBS, NBC, FOX, and ESPN.

Below, Standing Around Football:

Jay.

Friday, January 15th, 2010

I didn’t know Jay Reatard. Never even met him.

But his passing on Wednesday was definitely felt by me and countless others in the music community. When I was hosting the Memphis Beat on WEVL, I spun many a Lost Sounds (Jay’s band with Alicja Trout) record as well as his various other side projects and even the occasional revisiting of his teenage band, The Reatards (“Loretta,” anyone?). On The Music Lovers, where I focused more on mainstream acts, Jay still got many plays since his solo career pushed itself beyond the local scene and into the musical scene at large. Two years ago, Jay’s single “I’m Watching You” reached Number 21 on The Music Lovers’ Best Songs of 2008. And this past year, I went back and forth between Jay’s “It Ain’t Gonna Save Me” and Nathan Williams’ Wavves “So Bored,” which is funny since the two artists had a well publicized feud that ended with Jay’s backing band leaving Jay and joining up with the Wavves. Drama. Jay’s life seemed to have many moments of drama, as his erratic behavior was often reported as being childish and arrogant. Still, I doubt that was who Jay was 24/7.

Jay was also a success. In fact, I would say he was one of the biggest names to ever come out of the indie/alternative/punk (whatever you want to call it) scene in Memphis. Even bigger than The Oblivians , Reigning Sound, and The Grifters. When MTV’s Five Dollar Cover came out I was surprised that Jay wasn’t featured on it. But, the truth is, Jay was already too big. When Jay signed with the major label Matador, his older fans started to whine that he was selling out. And when his punk records became more and more pop sounding, some of those fans jumped ship. (This criticism of his developing sound seemed strange to me since his music always had a melodic undertone.) Whatever old fans he might have been losing, though, he was gaining new ones daily.

The thing about Jay’s success is that he earned it. When I saw the reports of his death, I was first surprised to learn that he was only 29 because it seemed like he had been around forever. Which I guess he really had, starting his recording career at the age of 15. Not only did Jay have the experience, but he was an extremely hard worker. The man was recording so feverishly that you would think that he knew his days were numbered. And as an artist, Jay was clearly going somewhere with his music, evolving a new sound for himself with each record. It’s a shame that we’ll never know how it all turned out.

Below, Jay performing at the Pitchfork Music Festival in 2008:

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Little Vic

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

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I never knew Vic Chesnutt. But I did meet him. First, …

Vic Chesnutt is dead. How sad it is to finally write that. He passed away this past Christmas after a failed suicide attempt, in which, he slipped into a coma and never came out of. For those who are unfamiliar with the man, Vic was an amazing literary author masquerading as a singer/songwriter. He was born in Jacksonville, Florida but is more associated with Athens, Georgia, where he moved a few years after becoming partially paralyzed in car accident. Constrained to a wheelchair and having limited use of his forearms, Vic was able to strum a guitar and began performing carefully crafted songs around the local bar scene. Discovered by R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe, Vic was brought into the studio where out flowed a vast amount of material. (Click here for a touching NPR story of Stipe’s recollections with Vic.) Those early albums like Little, Is the Actor Happy?, and Drunk established himself as a masterful storyteller, but it was his more recent releases that I felt the musician became even more giving to the listener, rewarding them with a more intimate and sharing Vic. Vic was never one to shy away from his depression, and even talked openly about his multiple suicide attempts. And while Vic was suffering mentally, he was also suffering physically. There were many stays in the hospital due to the condition of his frail body, and the medical bills were staggering. Even though he had insurance, he still owed close to $70,000 in hospital bills. Fans of the late musician have set up a website accepting donations to help the Chesnutt family financially.

Another reason Chesnutt’s death has affected me so much is that I relate his music to the start of me and Apryl’s relationship. As many of you out there know, Apryl and I met while volunteering at WEVL. When the two of us hit it off during our shift, I knew I wanted to ask her out on a date. Only, I didn’t alert to her that it was, in fact, a date. But I knew that Vic Chesnutt was coming to town, and being a fan, I was definitely checking it out. So I asked her if she would like to join me. It never occurred to me that she might have no idea who Vic Chesnutt was, which was exactly the case. Somehow I just assumed everyone knew about this man. When we got to the Hi Tone, we met up with another couple. My friend told he had spotted Vic earlier that evening having dinner with his wife at India Palace. Some reason I got very excited about the fact that Vic was eating only a few blocks from my apartment. The show was sparsely attended, and only a select few seemed to be there for the music. I believe it was drink special night, and the patrons were very talkative and loud crashing their used bottles into the trash cans. One of the annoying ones happen to be friend of my sister, so I felt brave enough to ask him to keep it down. And perhaps, I was trying to show off in front of my “date”. After the show, I handed Apryl a mix tape, the first in our relationship. On it, my favorite songs from Vic Chesnutt. She still has it today.

Two years later, Vic returned to Memphis with The Undertow Orchestra, a group including David Bazan, Mark Eitzel, and Will Johnson. While that first show we attended was subdue, this performance was extremely lively and entertaining. One of the things that stands out the most from that night is how funny Vic was on stage. Afterward, Apryl and I both agreed that it was one of the best shows we had seen in a long time. Still is. While the Hi Tone was emptying out, I bought a poster for Apryl and had all the members of the band sign it. For some reason, I was the most nervous asking Vic for his autograph, but he was very kind, and simply signed it: Vic.

That poster is now framed and hangs in our hallway.

Even though I listened to him a bit less in recent years, he still managed to impress me immensely. In 2008, I had his song “You Are Never Alone” as my favorite song of the year, on The Music Lovers’ Best of 2008 show. Recently, Chesnutt had been very busy in the recording studio, releasing three albums in the last two years, including two in 2009. One of the most touching of these new songs was “Flirted With You All My Life,” which I included on The Music Lovers’ Best of 2009 show, but found impossible to rank. In the song, Vic relates his close relationship with death throughout his life. The song sadly concludes with Vic expressing:

Oh Death
Oh Death
Oh Death
Clearly, I’m not ready.

He will be missed. He already is.

Taking madness to the next level…

Sunday, January 10th, 2010

And I mean that in the most flattering of ways. Let me explain.

Last year, I mentioned the blog Rogers Park Cheetos. For those who don’t remember (or can’t waste their time following links), Rogers Park Cheetos is a website that obsessively chronicles discarded used Cheetos bags in a North Side Chicago neighborhood. Now, while the blog was started in 2007, there hasn’t been an update since last year, June 21. Which, I suppose, the lack of recent posts could mean that folks are being more conscious of how they handle their trash. More likely, the blogger has grown tired of the burden of the upkeep of a blog. Or perhaps, the blogger has taken up a hobby that doesn’t require having an eagle-eye for neglected Frito-Lay products. Either way, there are plenty of other extremely focused websites out there to fulfill your obsessive tendencies. Below are two of my favorite recent discoveries:

Perry Mason Wiki
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First up is a Wiki site completely devoted to the original lawyer show, Perry Mason which ran on CBS from 1957 – 1966. Sure, through syndication and DVD season box sets, Perry Mason will always with us. But if you want to go even further, then this Wiki is for you. Dive deeper into every aspect of the show including an Actors List, which displays every actor that made an appearance on the show as well as which episodes they appeared in. One list my father would love is the Car List which documents the make and model of every car seen in the first two seasons (more to come, as this feature is a work in progress). However, my favorite aspect of this Wiki page is the detail given to recreate the floor plan of Perry Mason’s office. This page explains the long process of overtaking such a job, which included carefully examining every episode and taking an average account of the office, as in changed slightly through the years. This page actually shows the floor plan and includes stills from the series that show the direction of various views of the office. Truly, amazing.

Next up…

Third and Delaware
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If you around the age of myself than you grew up with the Conner family. I’m talking, of course, about Roseanne which ran on ABC from 1988 – 1997. Unlike the Perry Mason Wiki which showcases multiple aspects of the program, Third and Delaware is merely interested in one thing: fashion. Yep, fashion. This is a very funny, tongue-in-cheek website that “praises” the bold statements made by the Conner family’s attire, compete with their love of flannel, oversize T-shirts, and colorful yet non matching outfits. Truly, a work of madness, Third and Delaware claims to make fashion observations from every single episode. Check it out.

And finally…

Final Girl – 23:45
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Finally, I leave you with one of my favorite horror blogs on the web, Final Girl. While Final Girl is an insightful often hilarious look at the horror genre, it is the the 23:45 that I wish to talk about here. Somewhere along the way, Final Girl blogger Stacie saw to freeze frame whatever horror film she was watching exactly at the 23:45 running time. And then take a still of it. Sometimes, this frozen moment in time shows central characters from the film. Other times, we get a glimpse of a tree. More times than not, whatever ends up being caught at 23:45, seems to be a perfect representation of the feeling of the film. Click here for the complete 23:45 archive.

Enjoy!