3.29.2004

direction
And hey, I'm spinning records with DJ Yves St. LeRoc at Sonotheque tonight, on Chicago Ave. near Ashland in Chicago, IL.

I've got my work cut out for me having taken on a big freelance assignment that's due in full in three weeks. I'm going to have to spend Saturdays locked in my home office writing just as the weather is making amends for the long winter we endured this year. Memo to self: move to tropical climate. In the meantime, those Fred Perry tennis shorts are gonna have to be patient. But as for weather, I'm looking forward to a week in Antigua in May, snorkeling, relaxing, laying in the sand, soaking up the all-around Caribbean decadence. Whatever gets you through the day, I suppose.

Big ups to Tim Ice for doing the mods on my Vox Cambridge amp. It sounds twice as loud and the tremolo sounds slick and pro too. Also big thanks to all the dudes I emailed with esoteric questions such as "which lead do I cut on the optocoupler? my amp doesn't work!" I probably learned a tidbit about electronics despite the fact that I left the hands-on aspect of the work to the iceman. I'm not stupid, now I'm dying to get home and plug in and put it through some paces.

I opted to see Franz Ferdinand Friday night rather than hit the openings at Three Walls, etc. in part because I had been out drinking at Rodan the night before and didn't want to travel far from home and in part because I had a suspicion that this slightly hyped band (by NME anyway) might be worth it. I lucked out. My ladyfriend and I were both very impressed and thoroughly entertained by the FF set. it wasn't really that crowded and I ran into good ol' Justin C. who's playing in the Panthers now. I've got a review underway of FF that I might post here on with the Modernist. The Reader wanted a thesis and I really didn't have one. Sorry Reader.

Is anyone as impressed with this guy Clark testifying before the 9-11 commission as I am? American hero or just the right guy in the right place for once? Unflappable. I was once offered an internship with the National Whistleblower Center but I opted to go on tour with a rock band instead. What the heck is up with Connie Rice? She can go on TV and spout all sorts of Bush defensive flack but she can't testify before the Congress because of the precendent it might set? Please. I can't wait 'til we throw this sad group of bums out on their right-wing asses.

3.24.2004

listening station:
Neil Young, On the Beach (Reprise)
Sondre Lerche, Two Way Monologue (Astralwerks)
All Night Radio, Spirit Stereo Frequency (Sub Pop)

Last night was a gas, man. I had heard that Logan Square Auditorium was a tough place to play because the stage sound was pretty bogus and the room sound was echoey and hollow. In fact, it wasn't too bad sonically and was really comfortable otherwise. If I noticed anything, it was that the loudest band Electrelane (and they were really loud) sounded the fullest as it's guitar amps were really cranked on stage and therefore didn't get eaten up by the crowd as Ted Leo's and Perfect Panther's did (bands with little amps for rocking clubs). How do I know? I recorded most of the show in stereo to minidisc with help from Dave L. of the Pharmacists. Actually everyone sounded good. I've never done sound (worked the PA) for a big live show (maybe some basement gigs), but I get a bit obsessive about it. After all, it can be the difference between an okay night and a great night out for hundreds of people. LSA is also a great old building with interesting detailing, and unusual urinals. The whole area of Logan Square has amazing architectural detail. I want house now.

So Jason from the Modernist took some photos of the band. It'll be cool to see how they turn out, for me at least. You wanna see too?

Er, yeah. Anyway, I'm reading this shocking (okay, not so shocking really) piece on Salon about how there are all these chemical sites in the US where really nasty potential weapons of mass distruction are leaking. Many of the sites are private chemical labs not too far from residential areas. One of the worst ones was/is called, no joke, Armageddon Chemical where this chemical genius starting mixing flourine with anything else he fancied as some kind of side business. I have yet to finish the article, but this alarming situation calls to mind Superfund sites, and this program that was designed to address the basically 1000s of environmental dumps that the EPA had to clean up. I don't remember the details, but Superfund was a big government buzzword in the late '80s. I'm going to have to track down some stats on how successful it was. Get me the GAO on the phone. I would think it is still going on, unless Bush cut the funding. The Harper's reader in me also wonders if Superfund was a kind of financial boondoggle disguised as an environmental crisis. As in, someone made a ton of money cleaning those sites up. And someone made a ton of money checking to see if they were cleaned up. And on and on. You make the mess, I clean it up, the public pays. We win, they lose. And I'm fairly certain that in most cases the polluters didn't pay, but again I have no facts to support it. What happened to Superfund? Maybe it can swoop in and save us from WOMD in our backyard.

3.22.2004

Activity report:

Gearing up for a couple of really great Perfect Panther gigs with friends' bands (Ted Leo this week and Weird War a couple weeks later). We seem to be playing $10 and up shows lately, but the bills (The Stills, Quasi, etc.) have been really strong, so you can't really complain. At least, I'm not complaining. Perfect Panther's website is still in progress. Until PP get it together, check out the schedule at the Empty Bottle. Hopefully, we will remember to burn some CDRs to sell and bring flyers for our next show.

Over the weekend I did the following things: played guitar, went to IKEA and this gross mall in the suburbs (don't go on a weekend), put up curtains, three loads of laundry, went thrifting with Matt Steinke, rehearsed with Perfect Panther, ate at a mediocre Asian restaurant. I bought a great modern plastic chair at the thrift store, not sure of the designer provenance yet, but will look into it. It's German-made. Oh yeah, it's a kid's chair, which is maybe some kind of subliminal joke on the fact that Kelly and I keep joking around about having kids. It's not happening anytime soon. I also, in one of those magical "no way dude" thrifting moments, picked up another 4-track 1/4" machine, a TEAC 3340-S. It's more old-school than the Tascam 34B I use, but might be really cool once it gets cleaned up. It was a bargain too good to ignore.

Now playing:
Blonde Redhead "Misery is a Butterfly" (4AD)
Franz Ferdinand (Domino)
Mojo Music Guide Vol. 3 "Raw Soul"

3.11.2004

Some dudes I know and their blogs. Actually, I will move these to my new links section.

Miles
Jeff
If I have not been writing so much here, it's that I'm not writing much, it's just that I am not writing much here.

Just as an update, I've been writing quite a bit but mostly editing for Citysearch.com lately. I also did some PR writing for Upshot's retail design group and had an article published in Brandweek magazine. It's not as boring as it sounds. The fun stuff I've been writing is for the Modernist (modern culture, internalism, sex and tasteful naked photos!) and for an upcoming issue of a Chicago-based Stop Smiling magazine. I also do the odd review for RollingStone.com Believe it or not, RS pay quite promptly.

A bedside magazine stack says something about who's in the bed, but I'm not sure what it is. Let's take a look at what's piling up this month and make some snap judgements about my personality and psyche.

So I once again have a subscription to Vanity Fair because I wanted some light reading and actually I'm totally digging it. I enjoyed this article on these kids who remade "Raiders of the Lost Ark" shot by shot on no budget. I guess the video is making the rounds. The new issue of VF has an article about how awesome blogs are and how lame Andrew Sullivan is, so it's right-on really. I don't care as much about Hollywood as VF does, but VF has got Hitchens.

My stack also includes Vice Magazine which initially I hated, then loved, now just read for giggles. Basically the CD reviews are terrible and uninformed and written in snarky one-liner prose that is sometimes clever but usually just snide. Don't trust them at all. The articles, on the other hand, are sometimes really great, provocative and very pointed. I liked the piece by this woman who used to run drugs for Pablo Escobar, for example. And they mock Canada which is always entertaining. It's not serious as a publication but I get some kicks out of it. It's also Free at my neighborhood youth-oriented clothing boutiques. Though I know someone who sued them for changing her article and got tons of money and it doesn't surprise me.

The New Yorker. You can't be a writer and not read it. You're kidding yourself if you ignore it. It's perhaps just a shadow of the pre-Tina Brown New Yorker, but it's influential, usually very well-done and relevant. That said, I hardly ever make it through the fiction. Does short fiction always leave me unimpressed and why? And why do they love Steve Martin's writing? It's not bad, so much as it's just facile.

The Onion. I dig the AV club Q&As.

The latest Eastbay catalog. You can never have too many pairs of trainers and at $35 a pair you won't feel guilty about having new shoes again.

Galactic Zoo Dossier. Steve Krakow's psychedelic compendium. This guy in my neighborhood does this and he is (like me) an obsessive fan of psych rock, prog and mod-psych. He writes this cool little personal bios on each group. Drag City recently published the first few years in book form with a CD sampler.

Various issues of Uncut and Mojo that are months old. I must reload on those now.

Er, yeah. There are a few books too. The Golden Compass is as good as they say and Middlesex starts very slow therefore I have put it aside. I've got some Lester Bangs and some other stuff going for variety.

Okay, back to work, but this time with Mojo radio playing on my headphones.

3.03.2004

Remakes and fakes: the side effects of digital cable.

Maybe I am trying to have it both ways when it comes to retro remakes. Starsky and Hutch (Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson's potentially funny, but possibly disastrous remake of the TV series in movie form) has got me thinking of this on my lunch break. I like Stiller in Flirting with Disaster and Wilson in Bottle Rocket, but is their talent going to do anything for this film? With Hollywood's track record on remakes, I'd probably guess that we are in for a world of pain. '70s culture came back strong if somewhat edited and more cleaned-up than anyone paying attention would have liked in the last ten years and hasn't really gone away. Hollywood's response has been to remake kitschy '70s culture a la Charlie's Angels for the contemporary market, with a combination of clumsy mean-spirited irony, sloppy stylistic update and empty-headed, cynical plotlines. Some remakes have been of critically-lauded films that never had a commercial breakthrough (an awful Get Carter, a passable Solaris) with results tending to edge toward the painful. Some, such as Tim Burton's unnecessary Planet of the Apes, should have come with a warning. This sh*t will piss you off. Trying to think of a remake that Hollywood has pulled-off that hasn't been some combination of torture and cringe will make you crazy. I'm coming up empty right now on that question. Admittedly, these films probably aren't made for me. I do like some Hollywood movies and there have been some amazing films in recent years. But remakes are somewhat different. They are made to build up massive hype with ad campaigns and a complicit film press, open big and quickly be forgotten except as further DVD options. They're usually jammed with stars, slicked up to the point of being weightless, and pushed so hard you can't avoid them. Teenagers see them, people make money. What really do these films do but hammer home that Hollywood is completely lost? There are only a few filmmakers capable of creating anything with any weight that attempts to define our time. '70s remakes tend to fail so fully because they reveal such an absence of anyone having any fun amid the cynicism. Charlie's Angels comes to mind. The original was innocent, dumb, eye-candy TV that was a contradiction that said a lot about the '70s. Were women now liberated and independent, or just so long as they could use their feminine wiles and short shorts to nab the bad guys? Did the sexual revolution apply to women? The Charlies movie was really not the baby of trash TV king Aaron Spelling and therefore lacked his owned unconscious but confused view of female power and sexuality. The movie instead decides that hey, dopey chicks kick ass but they look great. The Charlies movie is sexed up but in such a boring way that it plays like a long commercial. And I can't remember much else about it to finish the punchline. The other thing is that there's a difference in expectations between TV series (low) and movies (high). The TV series (like the SNL character or the Kids in the Hall) doesn't have the same timing when brought to the big screen. The simple, stupid premise of a TV gets drawn out in a film, to the point of being insulting to our intelligence. Anyway, how dare you bank on my memories of crappy pop culture stuff that we all love if we happened to grow up with it? I mean The Wash?!? Alfie? If you don't have the ability to go back in time, just control yourself. Part of me wants to say: Don't make these movies, please. After all (note to filmmakers) THEY ARE ALREADY MADE AND AVAILABLE ON VIDEO.

On the other hand, I sometimes like, even love, music remakes, cover tunes, bands that sound EXACTLY LIKE OTHER BANDS. Why? They are hard to get wrong (when they are right, they are still slightly wrong, but it's kind of okay... it's just music, and it belongs to everyone, eh?) and they aren't meant to supplant the original, so much as pay tribute. At least sometimes. I did just hear a cover of a Bob Dylan song, then a disgusting cover of a Joni Mitchell song on the local dingy commercial alternative station. Both made me wanna wretch. No wonder the White Stripes are huge, they sound like gold compared to that kinda garbage. They play so much crap like that on XRT in Chicago. Remember the year when everyone played "Heroes" by David Bowie. The Wallflowers and Oasis did a version of it. It was a bit annoying, but in a way it was kind of magical. Everyone suddenly saw what an amazing song it was, simply in it's form, not the original presentation, but it was still this Bowiesque artwork seeping into the culture because it was brilliant boundary crossing modern music. Perhaps that is the difference between music covers and these crappy filmic remakes. The song is a form that be endlessly remade in various styles with different singers, production styles, etc. and STILL BE RECOGNIZABLE, therefore having a bit of the integrity of the original. In the end, it is a kind of homage that's foolproof. If you botch it, at least you were just being a fan, not SPENDING MILLIONS OF DOLLARS. With that said, I want to see this remake of Raiders of the Lost Ark that I read about in Vanity Fair. Sounds so obsessive that it's gotta be about love.