Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Beat the Cowbell!

Beat the Cowbell!

And by beat I mean spank (as in "for your birthday, baby!"), and by Cowbell I mean DJ Cowbell a.k.a. Photogal (pictured in the flier below). Her birthday is Saturday, and she has tomorrow off work, so let's get this party started right! We'll be spinning upstairs at Liar's Club after the live This American Life show we're going to ... so expect launch time to be right around 10pm or so.


I'm hoping to turn this into a monthly event so it would mean a lot to me if a whole bunch of folks showed up. It's supposed to be pretty nice all day so get yer ass out and show Tankboy and Photogal a little love. Also, last time I was drinking upstairs, there was dancing on the bar and partial nudity. Of course I had already left before all that happened, but hey!

Wayne Coyne is a natural.

Wayne Coyne is a natural.

Wayne Coyne has contributed a story to NPR's This I Believe series. As one would expect, he is perfectly suited to the format of the series, offering a five-minute story filled with twisted optimism.

On a wintry day, from the comfort of his warm car, Coyne learns a lesson from a couple waiting for the bus, and extrapolates it to encompass his own near-death experience working as a fry cook at a fast-food joint, and discovers that happiness is always within reach, no matter how dire the situation.

You car listen to, or read, the piece here.

Money Music for nothin' ...

Money Music for nothin' ...

First of all, after doing a Technorati search I see that some folks are writing about Tim Fite, but why isn't everyone? None of the sites I read regularly have mentioned him -- and that includes some of the biggies that really should be -- or his newest album, Over The Counter Culture, that he's offering for download, from his site, with his label's approval ABSOLUTELY FREE.

I first learned about Fite through a piece Greg Kot wrote in The Chicago Tribune, and then promptly forgot to download the album. Maybe that's why no one is writing about him. Folks, including me, seem to have rapidly shrinking memories so if we (I) read about something on a Sunday that isn't available for download until a Tuesday, we (I) might forget to do so.

Luckily, I was listening to the Sound Opinions podcast on the way home yesterday and they open the show with a chat with Tim Fite about the album and why he decided to release it for free digitally even though he's already signed to a well-regarded label. His reasoning was solid: how can you record an album lambasting consumer culture and the rot it's developing from within our society, and then expect people to contribute to that consumerism buy paying for the music?

Don't jump to conclusions and think that Fite is saying all music should always be free, even though he does admit that would be nice. At the moment there still isn't a truly foolproof model in place to support artists in such a way so that we can enjoy their output totally without any sort of financial exchange. However, in this case, the message of the music seems to have had a powerful hand in at least dictating the manner in which the music couldn't be delivered, so I applaud Fite for making that distinction.

And what about the album itself? It's damn good. Mainstream hip-hop may be strangling itself with gold chains and suffocating under piles of puffy fur coats, but Fite displays originality that continues to remind everyone that the underground is still bubbling with fresh talent.

Has indie-rock jumped the shark?

Has indie-rock jumped the shark?

I've noticed recently that just about every new band that is hyped up recently on most blogs and in the music press has been making just about zero impression on me. I thought it was just another manifestation of the inevitable ebb and flow of acts coupled with the inevitable burnout of everyone trying to "discover" someone new, and was willing to write off my own ennui as just another symptom of the grand cycle of music. But then I read something Paul wrote and (while simultaneously wishing he'd write for a wider audience more often) it alerted me to the fact that I was not alone. He said:

I don't know if I'm just getting bored with the typical sound so prevalent in indie rock these days or what, but all the best songs this year (so far) have been straight up pop singles. I'm pretty sure I'm not embracing them in any "ironic" way either—they're just better and probably less sonically calculated than what the indiekid bloggers have anointed as genius.

I countered with a pithy quip in an "indie bloggers killed the radio star" vein, but Paul countered that -- while bloggers shoulder a portion of the blame for giving mediocre artists so much goddamn exposure -- the music itself has done gone flaccid. And you know what? For the most part he's right. Christina Aguilera is a hell of a lot more fun, and aurally rewarding, to listen to than Margot & the Nuclear So and So's.

Most artists are adhering to a few select templates for indie rock success and the end result is a whole bunch of music that is just as bland and faceless as anything you'll find on corporate radio. So it's not surprising that a lot of this stuff is now finding it's way to corporate radio.

There is lots of music coming out now that I enjoy, and a lot of it is not indie rock. Even JB commented a few weeks ago that she's noticed my DJ sets have slowly been moving towards the realm of the electronic and dancey and further from the rockin' and rollin'. The rock and/or roll is still there, but there is a whole bunch more synth / bass / fucked-up beat-stylee pop-lock-and-roll finding its way into my sets. When she said that I immediately realized she was right, and I immediately hearkened back to the last time this sort of shift made itself apparent in my DJ sets, and that time was 1996/1997, which was not so coincidentally the same time as Big Beat and drum-n-bass and all that other bang-bang-boogie stuff started to creep onto the indie rock radar.

Alternative was mainstream, indie rock bands were being called up from the Minors before they had fully developed and the true innovation was happening in unexpected places. So maybe when guitars have forsaken us (or at least less thrilling) we turn to the dance floor to save our souls all over again?

I don't know. I'm not really offering any answers here. This is just and instance where a quick observation by a friend blossomed into an online discourse which then led to further private (well, private in that this portion of the dialogue is one-sided (for now)) reflection and deeper questioning of the subject in hand. And I'm glad that happened, because it reminded me that I've experienced this situation in the past and things did indeed get better.

There's always beauty to be found, sometimes you just have to look away from where you're used to seeing it and open yourself up to sources from which you would least expect beauty to make itself known.

And that is why I'm excited about the new Avril Lavigne album, and less than pumped for the new Peter Bjorn and John.


This initial discussion was sparked by a few of the following tracks.

MP3: Good Charlotte "The River"
MP3: Joss Stone "Put Your Hands On Me" (via Fluxblog)
MP3: Sophie Ellis-Bextor "Catch You"
MP3: Fall Out Boy "This Ain't A Scene, It's An Arms Race (Kanye Remix)"

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Opening oneself to changing perspectives.

Opening oneself to changing perspectives.

Roger Waters, in his career as a solo artist, has not always been easy to love as a songwriter. Aw, who am I kidding? It's almost a chore to be a fan of his. In Pink Floyd, he dragged the rest of the band kicking and screaming into darker recesses of his psyche, but at least the presence of a few other guys served to soften the acidic cynicism.

I am one of those folks in the minority that absolutely loves The Pros And Cons Of Hitch Hiking. I think it has to do with the fact that I "got" the concept from the get-go, and I was exposed to it at a time when my own inner narrative often blocked out the realities of the world around me. Let's call it my period of intense navel-gazing, also known as "being the average teenager."

Then came Radio K.A.O.S. I loved into the glossiness of the disc (it was the '80s and heavily processed noise was still sort of novel tom me, cut me some slack) but didn't really like the choppiness of the "storyline." Sure, reading xeroxed copies of Brain Damage helped me pick apart the code, and the release of that mini-video displaying key songs theatrically gave me something the bite into, but the disc was best experienced by me as ear candy. At the time. Of all his solo discs, this one has aged most poorly. I would recommend hunting down the bootlegged version of the disc, Project K.A.O.S., and substitute that for the actual released version as far as critiquing Waters' solo output. It includes a couple vinyl b-sides (that I actually still own) -- that were actually superior to most of what appeared on the album -- alongside some outtakes to construct a far more satisfying listening experience.

And then I waited years. And years. Ans years and years and years for a follow-up. Finally, in my sophomore year of college, Amused To Death came out.

I've gotta admit, this one landed on my ears like a lead zeppelin. I did not dig it. I thought it was slow, and plodding, and O-L-D. I hit that painful wall of believing that someone I once admired had lost it and was washed up. I sold the CD for cigarette money a few weeks later.

Now it's over a decade later and I found myself actually giving Amused To Death another listen shortly after reading that Pink Floyd biography a while ago. And you know what? It's aged well. It's still a dark monolithic listening experience, and it's still not what I consider Waters' strongest work, but it really does sound much better now. I don't know if it's because I'm older and more patient, or if the slower pace and subtle chord selection just resonates more clearly now, or if maybe I just didn't have the tools or the desire to enjoy the disc the first time around. I suspect all of that came into play one way or another. Whatever the reason, I've found that I'm enjoying an album I once really disliked.

There's an important lesson here, and it's one I've always tried to keep in the back of my head. One should always be willing to give something a second chance. Our tastes change, our perspectives shift and refocus, and sounds / people / events that once were sour may become sweet with age and a different viewpoint.

It's funny, because I think it's particularly pertinent to use Roger Waters to illustrate this lesson. Waters is a man famous for his acidic views of humanity and his cynical opinion of our future, yet age has allowed him to pen the occasional melody that reaches out for the hope he now carries that man will come to his senses, and that our future is not steeped in certain disaster. The bitterness still hangs at the back of Waters' throat, but there is a sweetness in his delivery that wouldn't be present if the man still practiced the immutable mindset and unmovable opinions of an angry adolescent.

No opinion should ever be final. To adopt such an attitude is to cheat oneself out of any possibility of future growth.

MP3: Roger Waters "4.50 AM (Go Fishing)"
MP3: Roger Waters "The Tide Is Turning"
MP3: Roger Waters "The Bravery Of Being Out Of Range"

Monday, February 26, 2007

Limos, Zombies, and the Oscars.

It was a surprising weekend.

Saturday night we celebrated JB's birthday by shoving twenty or so folks into an Escalade stretch limo (utterly ridic) and heading out to a suburban tiki bar to get well and good girl drink drunk. I know I had some pretty good conversations earlier in the evening, but I warrant I'm not the only one who only sort of vaguely remembers the later hours. Upon our return to the city I uncharacteristically had a good idea and headed home while the rest of the revelers headed out to the evening. It is this move, and this move alone, I credit with the result that the following day I was not crippled by a massive hangover.

Still, if one must drink girlie, fruity drinks, I can not recommend the Zombie highly enough.

Even more surprising than the amount of rum I ingested Saturday night? Last night's Oscar winners. I can't remember an Academy Awards in recent memory during which almost all the conventional wisdom picks lost and underdogs won again and again. The ceremony itself was pretty boring -- I'm told I slept through the third quarter of the telecast -- but that was to be expected. Ellen Degenres did a fine job hosting, since her personality is such that she can be a teensy bit sarcastic and pull it off with charm, but she really shouldn't have brought out that gospel group during her monologue since it effectively brought things to stand-still.

Here are a few observations culled from the hours I was actually awake and paying attention.

  • Jack Nicholson shocked the world by finally shaving his head, transforming him into a dangerously attractive shark of a man instead of the wild-haired grinning cartoon he customarily appears as.

  • The look of Peter O'Toole's face, the honest to God, "I can't believe I didn't win" moment of slack-jawed yokelism, and the simultaneous realization that the man probably had no idea who Forrest Whitaker was? Priceless.

  • Ibid for Eddie Murphy.

  • Who was the mugging skeleton lady next to Clint Eastwood? She scared me.

  • That Apple iPhone ad got really old, really quickly.

  • The guy who won for best short film gave a great speech. Short, concise, informative, and moving. It also made me really want to see West Bank Story.

  • Helen Mirren is still frickin' hot.

  • While I personally did not think Peter O'Toole deserved to win an Oscar for his current film in order to reward him for every other time he was nominated but didn't win, I had no problem watching Martin Scorcese reap a similar reward.

  • I really have to see Pan's Labyrinth.

  • Ellen's funniest line? The Judy Dench knee surgery / eye-lift joke. Her worst move of the night? The up and down the aisle improv tomfoolery fell flat ever time.

  • The funniest moment of the whole evening, hands-down? Al Gore's faux-Presidential announcement that was cut off by the orchestra in the inimitable "you've gone over time" style. Why can't he run for president? I mean, he already won once ...

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The return of the Saturday Shot(s).

The return of the Saturday Shot(s).

Heather Stumpf was a waitress at The Pontiac (well, actually, maybe she still is) so I've seen her out and about over the years. What I didn't know was that she is a particularly gifted photographer. Funny how little we can know people that we constantly run into, huh? Anyway, she appears to be trying to launch herself as a fashion / live / band / pro photog and, after seeing some of her work, I can't see why she wouldn't do well at it.

Here are four of my favorite shots. Take a gander at even more eye candy over at her Flickr page, heatherstumpfphotography. As always click on the images for larger views.

These first two are the photos that initially caught my eye. The dude being mauled by the Sexy Santa's Wives is my friend Casey. I think I like these so much because they really showcase the goofy wild man usually hiding under his usually composed exterior.



This next one is of Bible Of The Devil. if you've ever seen them, the dudes never stop moving, but somehow Stumpf caught Mark (the singer / guitarist) literally in the eye of the storm. There's a weird mixture of calm and impending calamity that really make this photo appealing.


This final shot is of Skeleton Witch, a band I've never even heard of, much less seen live. But just look at that photo; doesn't it make you WANT to see them?


It just hit me after looking at those first three photos, that one of the reasons I like Stumpf's style so much is because she has the power to make me view familiar people and settings in a new way. isn't that one of the things art is supposed to do?

Friday, February 23, 2007

What can I say? I like the song.

What can I say? I like the song.

This was actually the one track I played at the Chicagoist CTRL-ALT-Rock show (even more so than the dubious Doobies selected to torture Mr. Smith) I was afraid would turn the crows against me and lead to a lynching.

Also, until Ms. Clarkson comes out with something new I need a pop princess to lean on.

Gwennie, chocohalism, and Danza.

Gwennie, chocohalism, and Danza.

Last night was terrific and I had a great time. And I got a Gwen Stefani limited edition chocolate bar from Julia! Plus, I got to hear some crusty ol' puink dude actually say the phrase, after I played the seong, "Dude, I can't beleiver I knew all the words to 'Rainbow Connection.'"

I think I'll let that statement stand for itself.

Oh yeah, and this:


Have a good weekend, kids.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Desperately Seeking Sinners

Desperately Seeking Sinners*


TONIGHT!
Thursday Feb 22
at
Liar's Club

DJs June Cleavage, Amber Waves
and DJ Tankboy.

9pm until 2am

New tunes,
old tunes,
me tunes,
you tunes.

PLEASE NOTE: There's no Drop, Rock, and/or Roll at The Continental this month due to February's 28 measly days ... so this is the last party I'm spinning at before March! Don't miss it!

*This headline is only really funny, I guess, if you're Christian and get the whole Lent thing and how I'm sort of, but maybe not truly successfully, cross referencing it with Madonna (via ref to a movie whose best thing was an abundance of Rosanna Arquette**) and that whole suberverting Christian signifiers thing she had going.

**Great, now I've got Rosanna Arquette on the mind. See?


__________

The virtue of simplicity.

Life is a mighty complicated thing, and folks like me have a way of making it even more complicated than it needs to be. Recently, though, I've been trying to take a page from the Harold and Maude guide to life and have tried to appreciate the things I have while more clearly defining the goals I haven't attained yet. It's awfully easy to get bogged down in every day minutiae and the drama of simply interacting with other human beings, but I'm beginning to realize that it's just as easy to navigate those particulars without losing sight of the grander scheme of things.

In other words, you still have to sweat the small stuff, but you shouldn't let the small stuff dominate your life. For fear of sounding like a complete pansy, it's a beautiful world out there and often I (we) forget to appreciate that obvious truth.

Cat Stevens, take it away.

MP3: Cat Stevens "If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out"

__________

A palate cleanser.


I was about to pen something snide and slightly macho right here, in order to deflect the sort of mushy honesty in the middle section above. But, hell, why not let it stand as it is? Sometimes it's not such a terribly bad thing to admit that Tankboy is human. Or silly enough to occasionally refer to himself in the third person, in yet another subtle attempt (heretofore unknown even to him until this actual moment) of distancing himself from from the particular nugget of honesty above above, for fear that it comes off as too trite and high school composition book-ish. But, so what if it does?

Let it go and roll, Tankboy, let it roll.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Deadly Sting?

Deadly Sting?

Now that I've actually had some time to process the confirmation of the whole Police reunion, I'm beginning to notice some worrisome signs. While their performance of "Roxanne" was tight at The Grammys, it's jazz-lite rework is pulled directly out of Sting's solo tour set-list. While the chummy commentary track between Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers on the Everyone Stares DVD shows those two have probably long buried the hatchet, it appears Sting still holds the power to screw the whole thing up. This view is compounded by rumors that the band is already not getting along. Could this go the same way as the Van Halen 2007 reunion tour that imploded before it ever happened? Will I actually get a chance to see them play in Chicago? And when I do see them, will it be worth it?

The last question must be raised since many critics are already lambasting the band for such an obvious cash-in nostalgia tour in the face of no new output. I admit that when it comes to most groups I am firmly in that camp, but I find The Police to be the exception to the rule. Yes, the tour will make those three men A LOT of money, but it will also give people like me, who loved the band as a kid but (primarily because I was living in south, south, SOUTH Texas at the time, where no one toured) never got a chance to see them play? And also keep in mind that The Police are one of those few bands who quit in their prime, whose members went on to three very successful solo careers in various musical fields, who are still musical masters of their craft, and are still around to reform the original line-up.

Sp Stewart and Andy, please put up with Gordon just long enough to play Chicago, okay? I really want to hear "So Lonely" played live, just don't let Sting jazz it all up or slow it down, okay?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Regarding eternal commitment.

Regarding eternal commitment.

Photogal and I would like to share this article with all of our friends and family that keep pestering us with the whole "When are you two going to just grow up and settle down and get married?" thing.

Well, boys and girls, since people living as a couple in unwed bliss now outnumber those that have tied the knot, we think that (for the present) we are quite happy in the majority side of the statistic.

__________

Busy little beaver.

No, I'm not talking about BritBrit.

(Sorry, couldn't resist.)

I've been a' writin' about all kinds o' musically—

(No. I can't just jump in after that B. Spears ref. Her skankiness has infected my brain. I need a mental tonic. Here. Here's a photo of Avril Lavigne, another post-teen popster who seems to have successfully become the anti-Britney. By the way, have you heard her new single? So sweet it makes my teeth hurt in all the right ways. Okay, that's better ... let's try this again.)

I've been a' writin' about all kinds o' musically related type stuff. Like how great the new Bobby Conn album is and how much I love recently discovered Chicago rock and/or roll gems The Safes. Also, this week I recommend a few shows definitely worth checking out (personal highlights that I'll probably be too busy to see: The Ettes and The Never/Annuals gig).

I also have reached out to the people hoping for a little guidance in my decision to, or not to, attend SXSW next month. Weigh in if you feel you have something to say on the subject.

Last week also saw me indulge in an unusually emotional outburst vis a vis a few bad apples in the local scene. Luckily Josh put it all in perspective for me and made me laugh.

And all of this doesn't even touch all the behind the scenes stuff as I work on my new DJ residencies, help Photogal out with the house in Michigan (despite managing to get her Jeep stuck in a snowdrift (I couldn't see where the driveway was!)), watch an obscene amount of DVDs while stuffing my brain with back issues of The New Yorker and The Atlantic all in an effort to stay ahead of the curve of both serious news and pop culture artifice, and finalize a few kick ass rock and/or roll bills I'm staging in the next two months.

I'm so freakin' busy I've only been out socially one night a week for the past three weeks. What the fuck?!

This week I'm shootin' for two, maybe three nights out on the town. I'm going to be a wild man! However, if I can only make it out once, it'll be Thursday when I spin as the guest of both June Cleavage and Amber Waves at Liar's Club. Since there's no Drop, Rock, and/or Roll this month (due to February's shortened 28 days) this may well be your last chance to dancey-dance to my selections until March. And that's a long ways away!

Wait, didn't this start as a writerly recap of my previous week's output? How exactly did it descend into an orgy of self-promotion tinged with a titch of "poor busy little Tankboy"-ness?

Hm. Moving along ...
__________

The following is presented alongside a preemptive apology to my largely Conservative immediate family.


Dearest mother and brothers, while I do not believes the below does classifies your thinking (entirely), I think it does mostly explain the behavior and actions and gullibility of large swathes of U.S.A. citizens. Plus, the below is very funny. (As usual, click the image to enlarge for easier readability.)


Comic via Salon
More Tom Tomorrow stuff here


__________

What? You're still here?

Okay then, enjoy this Tuesday tune as your reward for sticking with me this long. I'm feeling a bit, um, bouncy. It could be the coffee. Then again it could be super-Swede (and super cutie) Robyn. I hear her 2005 Robyn disc is finally coming out in the U.K., even though we Yanks are still left without any access to her music outside of expensive imports. Anyway, since there's been a few years between the original release and the new re-issue, Robyn has, of course, recorded new tunes. Last year's "With Every Heartbeat" single with Andreas Kleerup was a personal highlight for me and I'm happy to see it included on the new track listing. But that tune is available all over the place so I hope you'll enjoy these two remixes of the track instead. The first, by the Meatboys, retains the ethereal pump of the original, while the second, by Punks Jump Up, injects a little more boomp into the bottom line.

MP3: Robyn "With Every Heartbeat (Meatboys Remix)
MP3: Robyn "With Every Heartbeat (Punks Jump Up Remix)

Monday, February 19, 2007

Suspend your preconceptions.

Suspend your preconceptions.

From time to time I like to champion podcasts flying under the radar, but this week I think I want to mention one, that's already pretty popular amongst a certain segment of the population, that I have personally just discovered.

To begin with, anyone that hasn't caught the Battlestar Galactica bug is really, really missing out. I held out for the first two years, content with my cheesy memories of the original series while scoffing at the notion of allowing myself to get caught up in what was probably a modern sci-fi soap retread in the mold of the last few Star Trek franchises. (For the record, I never did really get into Star Trek.)

Well, now I'm kicking myself because each week Battlestar Galactica is the most consistently well-scripted and thought provoking hour on television. Don't let the space ships fool you as it definitely transcends the boundaries of simply being a "genre" show.

I have now discovered that the Battlestar Galactica crew also does a weekly podcast, structured as a commentary track to loosely fit each episode, that sheds even more light on what's going on while being a refreshingly frank self-critique of each episode. It's nice when the brain behind the show is candid enough to admit that some episodes have weak spots, or that certain characters and groups we meet were originally meant for more until the story started to shift organically and phased them out.

If you have to start on a single podcast though, and have been watching the show, I urge you to download The Battlestar Roundtable from late last year in which a number of the actors and creative minds behind the show get together, drink, and dish about the show and its creative process for three hours. (You can get it by doing the old left-click save-as here, or peruse it among this season's archives on the show's website.)

Also, I have discovered who one of the cyclons is that they haven't shown yet. Look ... it's a shocker!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Six down, forty-six to go.

Six down, forty-six to go.

Now, Discover Your Strengths
by Marcus Buckingham & Donald O. Clifton


I had to read this for work. It's one of those business-minded self-help books that are supposed to help you unleash your potential and all that stuff. Like most other books in this genre, I personally felt it's message could have easily been delivered via a short essay, so much of its content came across as redundant padding.

The ultimate message was that successful people capitalize on their natural talents and develop them into strengths. What revolutionary thinking! The secondary message seemed to be a set-up to entice the reader to enroll in further StrengthFinder programs for further guidance. This was not exactly a surprise either.

Luckily I work for a company that does not blindly buy into simple messaging, so we altered its usage accordingly and used some of the basic concepts as tools for discovery rather than as bible verses to be followed exactly. Plus, it gave us a common vocabulary for discussion, and that was helpful. Even if "Intellection" isn't a word.

Anyway, for the curious, here's the thumbnail view of my top five strengths -- and to be honest they seem reasonably accurate -- according to the program's StrengthFinder questionnaire:

Input
People strong in the Input theme have a craving to know more. Often they like to collect and archive all kinds of information.

Intellection

People strong in the Intellection theme are characterized by their intellectual activity. They are introspective and appreciate intellectual discussions.

Relator
People who are strong in the Relator theme enjoy close relationships with others. They find deep satisfaction in working hard with friends to achieve a goal.

Strategic

People strong in the Strategic theme create alternative ways to proceed. Faced with any given scenario, they can quickly spot the relevant patterns and issues.

Responsibility
People strong in the Responsibility theme take psychological ownership of what they say they will do. They are committed to stable values such as honesty and loyalty.

Friday, February 16, 2007

On flaming skulls and Nicolas Cage's hairline.

On flaming skulls and Nicolas Cage's hairline.

Do you want to know the biggest question stuck in my head after the free screening of Ghost Rider we attended last night? What the hell was that woman behind me eating throughout the entire movie? It sounded like she was digging through a garbage bag, foraging for snacks, throughout the entire movie. And when she wasn't stuffing her face she was talking. The movie was free, but that doesn't mean everyone gets to check their manners at the door.

My second biggest question was actually echoed by Photogal about twenty minutes into the movie when she asked, "Didn't Nicolas Cage used to be balding pretty badly? Where did all that hair come from?"

The fact that these were the two biggest questions of the evening should immediately tell you something about the movie, huh? Let's just say we were both glad we saw it for free.

Photogal loves motorcycles and horses (duh) and Ghost Rider was one of the comics I enjoyed as a real tiny tot (even if I don't remember the plot lines at all anymore sine I think the only reason I ever read it was because of the pictures of massive choppers and a flaming skeleton in a leather suit) so it was inevitable that we would see the flick eventually. We were just lucky that one of the riding clubs she knows had a bunch of passes to a preview screening so that meant we didn't have to wait for it to come out on DVD.

The movie does look cool, even if come of the computer generated animation comes off as a little hokey. There is a fair amount of camp throughout the proceedings, and I thought that was appropriate. The only problem was that quite a bit of the audience obviously expected a dark, scary film, and there responses bore their dissatisfaction with the movie as it progressed.

I think Photogal put it best when she said, "My favorite parts where when he was riding the motorcycle up and down the building and doing all sorts of crazy stuff. And the horse bit. But if you're going to ask "why" those things are occurring then you're not going to enjoy it."

I thought the movie felt incomplete. It's formulaic. It's a tad hokey. But it's also reasonably entertaining and I think a lot of the credit to that is due to three main factors: Nic Cage's acting, some pretty subtle and some pretty over the top CG effects, and the ever expanding roll* of Eva Mendes' breasts coupled with the auxiliary role* of her ever shrinking shirts.

So, in the paean of comic book based movies I'd rate this a moderate success, maybe a step below Hellboy but a couple rungs above Daredevil.

*Both spellings are intentional, thank you.

UPDATE: donewaiting's awesome new film critic J. Caleb Mozzocco (we've officiallly gone multimedia over there!) did an excellent review of the film right here.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

A solid argument against procrastination.

Paul turned me on to the new album from The Hedrons. He's always turning me onto good bands, but for some reason it took me a while to get around to actually checking out this particular recommendation of his.

My mistake.

To be honest there's nothing groundbreaking at all about the music these four lasses from Glasgow are generating a raucous mess of noise that sneers madly through laughing teeth. There's something very old-school "alternative" (Can something only a little over a decade old really be "old school?" Probably.) about their sound that just appeals to me. The Hedrons would have fit in perfectly with my CD collection back when I was buying scads of stuff by Elastica, Belly, Boss Hog, and The Muffs. They're a little cartoonish at times (the drummer calls herself "soup" fer chrissakes) but they're also a nice shot in the arm of buoyantly grimy fun.

As of now, it looks as if they're debut, One More Won't Kill Us, is only coming out in the States as an import, so here's a track off it to help you decide if you wanna shell out the big bucks now, or wait until it pops up on iTunes (which i'mguessing will be soon since they're singles are already available via that outlet) or some domestic indie picks 'em up.

MP3: The Hedrons "Couldn't Leave Her Alone"

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Two media quickies.

Hot off the presses!

  • FOX News is launching their answer to The Daily Show. I have to admit, the opening Barack Obama joke is pretty funny. It pretty much goes downhill from there. The primary problem with the idea of a FOX News response to The Daily Show? Jon Stewart points out the idiots on both sides of the aisle, while I suspect the FOX News folks willprobably be directing the vast majority of their jabs towards those damn pinko centrist liberals a.k.a. them Democrats.

  • The Chicago Tribune decides to go the FOX News route and try to scare the hell out of everyone with their top headline in today's issue: Radioactive, unprotected: A 'dirty bomb' nightmare. The story then goes on to talk about the difficulties of securing Soviet-era nuclear materials. Yes, it's true that issue is a concern, but William Langewiesche dealt with it far more realistically and even-handedly in his Atlantic article "How to Get a Nuclear Bomb" a few months ago.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Celebrating the love.

Tankboy is no fan of Valentine's Day. Sure, I like giving a card to my mom, and having a nice dinner with Photogal, and having an excuse to chow down on lots of chocolate. What I don't like is being told by greeting card companies that there is a specific day I should celebrate love and relationships. (Well, I guess with the addition of the most bogus of holidays, Sweetest Day, there are now two.) I mean, shouldn't one be celebrating their relationship with their loved one each and every single day? And why in God's name would you want to create a day that's going to make some single folks miserable? It just seems so misguided.

But none of this is news, right? Everyone has griped about just this subject a million times before, so my adding fuel to the fire is pretty pointless.

Instead I'll just pass along this cover of Liz Phair's "Fuck And Run" by Cassettes Won't Listen as my own Valentine to each and every one of you. None of us is truly alone. Just remember that.

MP3: Cassettes Won't Listen "Fuck And Run"

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Now, why didn't I think of that?!

Sometimes I come across a blog that introduces me to an idea so awesome I am super-pissed I didn't think of it myself. So kudos to Jason Hare for thinking up the "Lost Soundtrack Classics" concept, wherein he and a pal dissect the tunes that made everyone's cinematic experience that much more rockin'. The first tune discussed? Joe Esposito's "You're The Best" from The Karate Kid. Download the tune below and then read all about it here.

MP3: Joe Esposito "You're The Best"

You know what, I suddenly feel the need to live my next three minutes or so in a training montage ...

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Some quick thoughts on a few upcoming local record releases.

All of these artists will warrant further discussion on either Chicagoist or donewaiting as the actual release dates and/or release shows approach, but here's a sneak peek into some early impressions.

ANDREW BIRD: I have never understood why people went ga-ga for this guy. I've always found him pleasant enough, but was never really knocked out by his music. His new disc, Armchair Apocrypha, doesn't really change that situation at all, but I can say it's my favorite album of his thus far.

BOBBY CONN: Okay, I've always been nuts about Bobby Conn, and his new disc, King For A Day, also does nothing to change that situation. It's more of the same, and with Conn "the same" consists of '70s influenced big-top, glammed up, rock and/or roll with lyrics so acidic they melt the air between his tongue and your ear. Hey, that's good! I think I'm using that line in my full review ...

THE SAFES: These brothers (literally: brothers) have been under my radar and I can not figure out how the hell I missed them! The manic Townsend/Moon Who-stylee pop-rock on Well, Well, Well is just barely kept from going nuclear by this terrific trio. These guys really should be getting all the attention that has thus far (unfairly) heaped upon The Redwalls.

NARRATOR: These cats sound like they grew up loving the hell out of Fugazi and most of the other Dischord groups. Guess what? So did I. All That To The Wall is populated by songs that sound like they're trying to outrun themselves, and listening to it makes me totally bummed I missed them a few weeks ago when they played with Oxford Collapse.

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Enough already!

Time for work. Hopefully my words, tunes, and the overwhelming presence of kitten pictures, has helped get your day off to a good start.

See you tomorrow, same Tank-time, same Tank-channel.

Okay, okay ... one more picture ...


Hi Pickle!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

When snow storms attack!

Every single time the Chicago local weather people all start to get hibbity-gibbity about an impending snow storm, the actual results are almost all less than, far less than, predicted. Almost every time I've gone to bed after a newscast promising "crippling" conditions the next morning, I invariably wake up the next morning to a ligh dusting, clear roads, and chatter about how "the storm really dropped its intensity before hitting us."

Of course, every once in a while, my use of "invariably" is exposed as incorrect.

this morning we actually do seem primed to get a big ol' weather smack down ... right on through the morning rush hour. I am so glad I no longer work in a far North suburb since that drive would just be hellacious. My commute to Oak Park will probably be far more painful than usual today, but at least it's not Lake Forest, right? (At least that's what I'll be muttering under my breath as people crawl along in front of me, gawk at accidents, and generally forget what little driving skills they ever had in the face of so much white stuff blanketing their surroundings.

My primary worry concerns the fact Photogal took the day off today to meet up with some folks at the Michigan farm house to investigate some issues with the heating system out there. If the snow is this bad here, I can only imagine what her drive North will be like. And Photogal is not the sort to be dissuaded by something as minor as a snow storm that brings half a state to its knees. Not when she's got a Jeep!

So, if you live in the area, drive slowly, stay safe, and for God's sake, stay home if at all possible. When travel time are already pushing an hour for distances that usually report in at fifteen minutes this early in the day, you know it's going to be rough going, so if folks can stay off the road that do not HAVE to travel, it's safer for everyone.

And yes Photogal, I'm looking at you.

(I mean, it's natural to wory and not want your significant other driving a couple hundred miles in the weather, right? I'm not being a worrywart or a wuss or anything like that, right?)

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Semi-spoiler alert for 24 and Heroes.

I don't give away and real specifics, bout if you like watching your shows with absolutely zero knowledge of what went on, skip on down to the next section.

One's is a little old, one is brand new. Photogal and I enjoyed the double-dose of 24 last night, so much so we wish that was its weekly format, but we did have one major complaint amidst an otherwise fun two hours. How long is it going to take CTU before they start covering basements when setting up perimeters around buildings? Considering how many baddies have escaped via that route, into the sewer system (including Jack(!)) you think they would have learned their lesson by now. And, also, just how many helicopters are flying in L.A. that the FAA (and, um, the Federal agents that MUST have been stationed less than a quarter mile from wherever it was Fayed got picked up by his magical helicopter) wouldn't notice an unauthorized chopper taking off and flying within the city's airspace.

And Heroes. I'm still a week behind but the reveal of Claire's REAL dad was one of those moments that makes me love television. It caught me totally off-guard and wonderfully blindsided me without being at all implausible. Unlike the fleet of rogue helicopters in 24.


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NO Rock and/or Roll Tuesdays at Pontiac tonight!

As a matter of fact, no Rock and/or Roll Tuesdays at Pontiac at all anymore!

We at Tankboy Industries are currently in the process of building a couple monthly events around the city to supplant the void as we vacate our long-standing Tuesday residency. It's been a blast, but we needed to shake things up a bit. After 7+ years of DJing various residencies, thus locking us into one location or another at least once a week, we need a rejuvenating shot.

Look for us to be teaming up with some old friends at new locations, as well as scheduling appearances in venues / bars / clubs we've all grown to love.

Don't feel like we're abandoning you to fend for yourselves on Tuesdays; view it as our commitment to keep things as fresh and fun for you (and us) as possible!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Join the cause.

Click on the picture if you don't already know what I mean.

Five down, forty-seven to go.

Television Without Pity:
752 Things We Love to Hate (and Hate to Love) About TV
by Tara Ariano and Sarah D. Bunting


This book was a chore.

After about fifty pages I came to the stunning realization that almost all television critics* now write in the same hyper style that's a mixture of schoolyard cattiness crossed with ├╝ber-pop culture savvy. And you know what? It gets tiring. The little jokes are funny the first dozen or so times, but over 752 subjects they get less and less funny.

The book is a spin-off of the author's own successful Television Without Pity website, and is obviously a distillation of the snark authors Tara Ariano and Sarah Bunting distribute via that forum to an adoring audience. So that explains the short attention span-friendly entries and the habit the authors have of dishing out their judgments without much reasoning beyond repeating "haaaaaaate!" or "shut up!" as a form of criticism. I mean, that's not criticism and it only serves to propagate the myth that if you're adept at cleverly turning a phrase or can write with enough sass then your points can be taken as valid media criticism.**

Television Without Pity
also makes an argument against mining popular websites for printed material since it really emphasizes why some things work best in small chunks, devoured in four-minute increments during one coffee-break. What is also makes an argument against, unfortunately, is the validity of most online criticism since I decided to check out the site in conjunction with the book in hopes of finding something more worthy in the author's vaunted show recaps. I guess I was thinking that a distillation of snark (i.e. the printed book) can at times lose the charm of the original source material (i.e. the website) but I found this to sadly not be the case.

The only upswing? The book did bring back some fond memories of Melrose Place, so I guess it has that going for it.

*And yes, I mean for MSM critics to be included in this observation as well. Maybe it's because the medium provokes one to write about visual images as "comfort food" or to include one's personal feelings vis-a-vis being slighted on the playground by the popular clique in eight grade, but I can assure you one can write about television without falling back on those tropes that seem to have invaded and established themselves as valid points of reference when discussing television. Let me state here that while I don't mind reading things viewed through those filters on a personal blog, I don't think they have any place in newspapers, magazines, or media websites. It just comes off as lazy and self-indulgent.

**One of the primary arguments I have heard for this viewpoint has been that television critics of today are only reacting to the medium about which they are writing. And they are writing for an audience that not only cares about such things but would prefer it's delivered in funny little chunks and nuggets. To that I saw, fair enough. But don't call it criticism and don't pretend your writing is really meaningful beyond simple entertainment. Also, call that writing what it is, commentary, and leave criticism out of this.

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On the media, super quick, Grammy edition.

  • After seeing The Police run rings around "Roxanne" last night, even Photogal is psyched about their (not yet officially announced) reunion tour.

  • Um, The Dixie Chicks were the big winners of the night? What?

  • OKGo? Ok, NO! Those outfits ...

  • Hey Tony Bennet, next time how about not leaving your blind, co-winner behind, you Target-shilling dick.

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On the media, super quick, wherein the media are assholes.

Okay this last one isn't about the Grammys, it's about a horrific car accident in the Chicago area this weekend, and a move by the press I just can't get off my mind. We were watching the news yesterday and they were interviewing the father of one of the girls who was just killed and I hit me: Who the fuck would want to talk to the media hours after their daughter's death? I'm not judging, but I sure as hell know that I wouldn't be letting a team of reporters into my kitchen to share my thoughts with them.

I guess I'm used to seeing neighbors, and "aunts" and folks like that who seem eager to track down the media and get some air time, but this one stunned me. Personally, I blame the media. There is no way any parent can be thinking clearly through that sort of grief, and I think it's the media's responsibility to not take advantage of people like that for the mere sake of an "exclusive."

Fuckers, leave the poor man alone.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

The (affordable) price of convenience.

I love the fact I can download Heroes from iTunes and catch up on episodes while running errands with Photogal. That's just too awesome.

And yes, I know you can watch the eps for free online, but I'm willing to pay two bucks to not be tethered in from on my computer.

It doesn't ease my frustration that the networks decided to schedule to only two shows I really watch anymore on the same night, at the same time, but it does make it less disastrous.

(And don't tell me to get a DVR, I'm not buying one just because of a single scheduling conflict.)

And, now I can start exploring all those emails I've been getting from Primatech Paper.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Barack-star supernova.

People are going fucking bonkers about Obama making his announcement for the presidential bid this weekend.

He won't win the nom, but he'll make an awesome VP on the ticket. And then, assuming his running mate doesn't totally fuck it all up, he'll be President 8 years after that.

I haven't written about him here because, well, there's enough being written about the guy that I didn't really feel the need to add to it here. People seem to get annoyed when I point out that Obama isn't REALLY viable, but I think it's just pretty obvious when you look at it realistically.

The Daily Show pokes fun, but I think the whole "Obamania" concept is very real, and affects only a certain segment of the populace. Most people I know, including me, just happen to be the demographic smack-dab in the middle of his sights.

I keep saying I would love for the guy to run for higher office, but I'm a realist and realize that as it stands he's heavy on ideals and pretty low on practicality. Plus, the dude wheels and deals just as much as any other senator but people keep giving him a free pass for some reason. Vote for change, but don't vote for same-old politics described as change in a suit of charm.
About Thursday night.

CTRL-ALT-ROCK v2.0. Wow. That's it. Just, wow.

Thank you everyone. It was awesome. Even if a cop did have to tell my cabbie to shut the fuck up and just take me home.

It's a long story.

These two photos by Caroline sort of tell the whole story, though.


$1 indeed.


That's how we treat deserters in this man's army!

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On a Friday night.

I supposedly drum for America's #1 Sweetheart, even though we have yet to actually practice together, and I have yet to reclaim my snare from the dude who's had it for the last four years, and I haven't been behind a kit since that party at Rudy's a year and a half ago. The main reason this hasn't occured is because Kip got drawn into ex-Rockit Girl Gina Crosely's new band, The Viv Savages, with her husband John and drummer Chad Romanaski (ex-Sarge, current-Dials). Am I uspet? hellz no! Not after hearing what they're been putting together.

Synthesis is a good word for what's going on in this band. I can hear smidges and tidbits from every band each player has been in, and when it all comes together the sum is truly more powerful than its parts. You can hear a bunch of rough mixes of tumes they're working on at their MySpace page, but i'm going to post their track "Friday Nigts" here. Why? Because I show up in the lyrics and I'm all flattered and such.

MP3:
The Viv Savages "Friday Night"

Thursday, February 08, 2007

CTRL-ALT-ROCK v2.0 is tonight!

Oh wow. This is going to be so much fun. The first CTRL-ALT-ROCK was a huge success so version 2 had to be bigger and better, naturally. But I think we've outdone ourselves. Chicagoist has profiled all four of the bands performing:


We'll be giving away lots of Chicagoist swag, we've lined up a killer beer special, and early birds will get the extra bonus of free booze while it lasts, so make sure you get there right when the doors open at 8:00pm! We'll also have giveaways from local bands whose shows Chicagoist is co-sponsoring in the near future. Sounds before, after, and between the bands will be provided by myself and a couple of the other Chicagoist writers flexing their DJ skills. Or at least their talents at solid song selection.

On top of it all? Click on the image below and print out the flier for two bucks off admission!


And Bill, if you're real nice I might even play that new Maximo Park single!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Heaven, indeed.

I don't often do this, but ... I'm actually posting a track I just got from a publicist. Why? Because the sunny, breezy, dance-pop contained within this M4A is just what my people need to hear on a freezing, blustery, miserable day like today. The band is Hail Social, their forthcoming album is called Modern Love And Death and I think I really like 'em. Listen to some more tracks here and throw the goodness below on your iPod to welcome in the inner warmth.

M4A: Hail Social "Heaven"
The Police?!?!?!?!?!?!

Playing Wrigley? Maybe? That would be SO much better than Soldier Field.
An interesting alternative (and in this context that means "mainstream") look at the halftime show.

I'm noticing that while Prince has been loudly applauded by most of the press, media / music critics, the online community, and me; the average joe / jane (i.e. almost everyone I've encountered "on the street" since Sunday) seems less than impressed by his halftime performance. The impression I get is that most watchers don't really care how musically exciting a halftime show is; they tune in for explosions, mass choreography, garish and obvious covers and / or general song selections, and boobies. So I'm betting that means next year we can probably look forward to another "classic rock" act teaming up with a "cross-over" country star and four-thousand scantily clad female back-up dancers. How incredibly boring.

Bummer.

Prince related: Gina made the point yesterday that she thought Prince was lip-synching and that nothing was live due to the driving rain and the corresponding threat of electrocution. I've been told that Prince was able to play and sing using a wireless system. Since nothing was actually plugged in he didn't have to worry about the whole grounding / possible electrocution issue. Still confused? This breaks it down better than I do. And this message board goes a long way towards explaining why I only heard vocals, guitar and cymbals ... seems like someone forgot to turn up the actual backing track for most of the performance!

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This is your spider. This is your spider on drugs.

Photogal sent me this video a while ago and I think it's incredibly educational so I'd like to share it with you.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Bad, bad news for Microsoft.

Vista may not work with iTunes! That is SO not good. Why would you roll out a new operating system and exclude the biggest ... oh, that's right, I forgot about Zune.

Regardless, it's a dumb mistake.
The color of sound.

In The New Yorker a few weeks ago there was an interesting article by Eric Konigsberg on the industry of color and how choices about forthcoming trends are made. One segment stood out rather prominently to me, although it didn't catch my attention so much for its information on color as it did trigger an inner flash of recognition.
Most scholars of color theory acknowledge that although our color likes and dislikes may have some innate basis ... they are also subject to manipulation. "It's easy to come up with really obvious colors that you know people will like because they've always liked them," [Leslie] Harrington [a color consultant who helps manufacturers determine the palette of their products and packages] said. "But it's much better if you can come up with something subtle and sophisticated—you know, like the orange that somebody who's not an orange person likes?"

That sounds to me to be an awful lot like my philosophy on DJing. from time to time I catch some flack for not lugging around crates of records, or even books of CDs, anymore since that challenges what some view to be a DJs penance for playing their music and expecting people to listen. But, and I've stated this before, I still approach the whole experience based on disc jockeying. yes I can beat match, and I stand in awe of folks that are turntablists that can cut and re-cut a song in a live setting until it sounds like something entirely new, but to me the most important skill a DJ can posses is the selection of just the right song for just the right moment.

Now, the way this all clicks into the quote above should be fairly obvious by now. the easy part of DJing is picking the tunes you know everyone will love. Sure, this helps an evening along, and everyone will probably have a blast, but will they remember the evening as a singular event afterwards? Probably not.

No, to me the real skill is playing the songs people either forgot they loved, or the tracks that they've never heard before but can't live without once they've been exposed to them. It's finding the orange that someone who's not an orange person is going to like.

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Sound colored in.

The above thoughts on DJing are especially appropriate today, since this evening I return to The Pontiac with a guest, DJ June Cleavage, whose DJing philosophy is rather similar to mine. It's also fitting that it's -2° F outside, since the first time she spun with me it was the middle of summer and the inside of The Pontiac was roughly 117° F!

So let's try to fill the place up with folks and achieve a temperature somewhere comfortably between those two extremes. "Rock and/or Roll Tuesdays" only occur every other week now, and due to the short month of February there will be no "Drop, Rock, and/or Roll" at The Continental until March, so you've got to get in your doses of DJ Tankboy and friends when you can.

So suck it it, bundle up, and come on out tonight!

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Teevee notes.

No spoilers here, but last night's 24 renewed my faith in the series. Psychologically taut and expertly paced, they really got their rhythm back after a few place-holding episodes. I actually did the stereotypical "covering one's mouth in shock" at multiple points of the evening.

Plus, bonus points to Photogal for totally calling the twist in the final five minutes a FULL WEEK AGO! Way to decipher those clues, hon!

I also finally was able to take in The Sarah Silverman Program, and to all the critics who have been panning it I have one simple question: Are we all watching the same show? Because the program I saw was hilarious. It was so funny Photogal was laughing, and she laughs at just about nothing. Yes, much of the humor is mean, but goddamn if it isn't effective.

The only thing I'll grant the naysayers is that there are perhaps one or two too many "doodie" jokes, but if that's all I've got to put up with in 22-minutes of almost non-stop comedic gold, then I'll totally let the doodie slip.

Totally let the doodie slip? Maybe that was a poor choice of words.

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I'm no fan of Spin, but I'm a fan of these bands, so ... VOTE!

Both Office and Bound Stems (pictured to the right) are on competitive brackets for Spin's Artist Of The Year (based on bands picked as "Artist Of The Day" on their site in 2006) and it's no secret both are local favorites of mine. So, if you feel inclined, head on over there and register your vote for both (vote for Office here and vote for Bound Stems here) bands so they can move onward and upward to the next round.

My history with Office goes waaaaaay back, so I've decided to post the track that inspired me to do my first show with them a few years ago. It's an older one off their The Ice Tea Boys and the Lemonade Girls disc, titled "Plus/Minus Fairytale." It's a little rougher than their later work, but it has this total charm that instantly won me over. Enjoy.

MP3: Office "Plus/Minus Fairytale"
M4A: Office "Plus/Minus Fairytale"