Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Interruption Of Service
Sorry for being incommunicado. I got sick. Then we hosted someone recovering from surgery. Then Stevie got sick. And now we're both a little bit sick but on the mend. Blogging to resume shortly, I promise.

Thursday, February 16, 2006


Wow, how amazing is this video? Savagely heterosexual Elton John pines for a Russian woman but is kept apart from her by the Iron Curtain. Toward the end, there's a fantasy sequence in which John imagines a better world, one where clashing ideologies doesn't prevent them from bowling together. It's a relic of a much different time for so many reasons.


The Wisconsin Historical Society has a fairly amazing online image archive of, well, historical Wisconsin images. I was on there recently to buy a print for Stevie for Valentine's Day that looks like this:

The Orpheum is, more or less, where we met. We were introduced at a restaurant/bar next door called Nick's but we were both there because it was next door to this theater. At the time it was playing She's All That not The Kind Lady. We were both there to review it for our respective publications: Me for The Onion, she for The Daily Cardinal, the better of UW's student newspapers.

I also, much to my surprise, found this image of a house I used to live in. It was a beautiful place that, in my second-floor unit at least, had fallen into disrepair. (Although, hey, some people love mice. And fleas. And bathtubs filled with mildew.) The house looked more or less the same as it does here when I lived there except half of the right-hand side has been chopped off to make room for a parking lot (on a street where there was always parking). It's a shame, really.

Finally: Monkeys! Dogs! In costumes! This is from a traveling animal act, circa 1970.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


Ahh... This little cowboy has eyes for no one but you. Ain't he sweet? Sentimental aside: Stevie and I got engaged four years ago today, so this otherwise fairly awful holiday has some legitimate meaning for us. I'm still thrilled she said yes. Okay, close bracket on the sentiment. Back to recounting the boring things I do and posting random pictures found on eBay.

As seen on The Beat.

Despite being sick, it was a pretty active weekend. On Friday I watched three movies back to back to back. It's the kind of thing I like to do even when I am capable of moving, but rarely get to do. (Because of, you know, job, wife, friends, obligation, and the innate human impulse to get off one's ass every once in a while.) I started with the Kiyoshi Kurosawa film Pulse, which found its way into my dreams. The Japanese horror cycle seems to have chased itself around until it turned into cliche (witness either version of The Grudge) but this was a reminder of how potent a combination urban isolation, new technology, and old-fashioned ghost stories could be. But it's the slow creep of the apocalypse that really set it apart from me. Thunder Road was next, and while it wasn't really that great a movie, but 90 minutes of Robert Mitchum playing a Tennessee bootlegger is nothing to complain about. Keely Smith co-stars as Mitchum's love interest and sings a song co-written by Mitchum (who also provided the film's story and served as producer.) Finally, The Brothers Grimm. Ouch. That just doesn't work. Also, I like Peter Stormare a lot, but his performance, as an atsa-Italian! soldier may be one of the worst pieces of acting I've ever seen.

Saturday I slept and slept. Then we went to see a comedian named Demetri Martin, who was pretty charming. He occasionally shows up on The Daily Show and used to write for Conan O'Brien. His stand-up leans heavilyon Steven Wright-inspired one-liners (e.g. "My computer beat me at chess last night" (Pause) "But that's okay, I beat it at kickboxing") sometimes with musical accompaniment. The whole low-key spectacle has a handmade quality to it, as if Martin wanted the audience to feel like they were attending the first performance of a beloved kid brother. (Even though he's my age.) It was one of a series of shows intended for a comedy CD. Martin even wore a shirt reading "CD Recording Shirt" for the occasion.

Sunday: More sleep then I did a radio show with Bryce at Radio DePaul. We did a three-hour set of film music. He focused on songs from films; I did score music. It was fun to have an excuse to play Morricone, Goblin, and Tangerine Dream one after the other.

Yesterday I made it back to work and it was good to be back. Last night Stevie and I had Bryce over for dinner. (He'll be staying with us while recuperating from hernia surgery this weekend.) We flipped back and forth between the Olympics and the Westminster dog show, two events I like watching but more as spectacle than sport. I rarely have any idea what sets one ski jump run apart from another or what makes this pug better than that Boston terrier. Highlights: A Chinese figure-skating pair that made an amazing comeback from a terrifying spill to nab the Silver. Also, the pug. That's a damn cute dog.

Today I'm feeling much better, but I've lost my voice. Just so you know.

Saturday, February 11, 2006


I've got a nasty cold that made me miss work yesterday. Sorry for the silence. Posts to resume soon. Robot of the week to resume next week.

Thursday, February 09, 2006


(reposted from The A.V. Club blog)

Okay, full disclosure: I only half-watched this. We had to take a break for Veronica Mars and then I kind of wandered in and out of the room for a while. Awards season fatique has set in early this year and I have to keep in shape for the Oscars. But I'm glad I caught Sly Stone, although the appearance left me a little shaken. The man still knows how to make an entrance, even if he doesn't know how to stick around. That's one of the reasons, Grammy tribute aside, I'm not sure he's ever gotten his full due. No one got it together quite like Sly in his heyday, and only a few have grown bitter and broken quite so publicly. That his appearance was a little terrifying is kind of appropriate. Whatever he does next—and I'm not sure we'll ever see him again—it won't be the extended respect-your-elders goodwill tour of Carlos Santana.

Why is it that only geniuses turn into eccentric recluses? Why not Seal? Or Will.I.Am? It seems like he's been drawn into the respectable-music-industry-circle that allows him to turn up at every awards show like a major artist. No thanks. And no thanks to Maroon 5, either. When Adam Levine shared the stage with Paul McCartney and Jay-Z you could almost feel him sucking the talent off the others.

Album Of The Year: U2? Sure, why not? But didn't that album come out in the late-'90s? The Grammys really should revise their consideration period (which currently ends in September of the previous year.) Just pushing it back two months would solve the problem. No one releases anything in December but plenty of high profile albums come out in October and November. It would be nice not to have the current Grammys turn into a nostalgia trip into the recent past.

Best New Artist: John Legend. That would have been my pick, too, in a pretty thin field. (Am I the only one who's never heard of SugarLand?) I hope he breaks the curse.

The rest is more or less what the Grammys always do: Pick the most obvious choice from a pool of obvious choices. There are a few curveballs. (Slipknot... Grammy winners? Did they show up in costume?) There's a category for Best Rap / Sung Collaboration? But mostly, business as usual. Maybe they can drag our Syd Barrett next year to make it really interesting.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


What I've been digging lately:


I first heard of this film in round-ups of last year's Sundance festival and finally saw it yesterday. It kind of blew me away. It's a film noir set in a high school and while that sounds like it could easily veer into Max Fischer Players territory, it totally doesn't. It's fully commited to getting noir right and steeped in drugged out high school decadence. It's unrepentantly arch with line after line of sharp, writerly dialogue but there's an undertone of sadness to it that really makes it work. And it's got yet another great performance from Joseph Gordon-Levitt (best known as that dude from Third Rock From The Sun. There's a touch of Blue Velvet too. Ooh, and Lukas Haas is in it and he's really creepy and it sometimes feels like Veronica Mars played really dark (although I'm not sure you can get too much darker than tonight's business with the dunking booth.) A can't-miss, and it will be out soon..

Chronicles: Vol. 1 by Bob Dylan
It's so loose and conversational you can almost pretend that he's finally telling the truth about himself for once. Don't be fooled. But don't miss it either. Jumping into five transitional periods of his life, Dylan offers impressionistic acccounts of his early years in New York, his wilderness years in the late-'60s and early-'70s and so forth. My pal Noel referred to it as feeling like the work of an old college friend with a new blog. That's about right.

Cell by Stephen King

I've read King off and on over the years and I can never make up my mind about him. Sometimes I think he's underrated, sometimes overrated. He's got some problems as a writer that have been there from the start and haven't really gone away. But when he's on, he's on and he's really on with this new one, an apocalyptic zombie novel that keeps changing the rules until it finally becomes this dreamlike examination on what it means to be human and whether civilization really all that great. Also, zombies. Always awesome.

Built To Spill's new album You In Reverse

Five years after a mediocre album but, boy, forget all that. This is a fully operational Death Star of an album. I can't wait to see them in April.

The cast:
Yours truly

A cab driver with a difficult-to-place accent

Keith: Hi. 70 E. Lake street, please.
Cab driver: H'okay. How are you today?
K: I'm pretty good. And you?
C: No good. No good. It is empty. It has been empty for months. December. January. February. Empty. All the rich people go away and poor people like us stay and work.
K: Huh.
C: Rich motherfuckers.
K: . . . . .
C: Did you watch the Super Bowl?
K: Yeah. I thought it was pretty good.
C: No. It was shit. They played for shit. Football players today play for shit.
K: Hmm..
[non-descript small talk]
C: Are you from here?
K: No, I'm originally from Ohio. I moved here, oh, about five years ago. I like it here.
C: No. Chicago today is beautiful, loud, ugly. [? —ed.] I've been driving cab for thirty years. Thirty years ago... Hot Chicago nights! You could go in a restaurant and for two dollars you have the best meal you've ever had. A pack of cigarettes, 38 cents. Today it is too expensive.
K: Huh. Yeah.

Thing is, I'm not sure he's wrong. I always feel like I've just missed the cool stuff, like when you see old concert bills where it's every Motown act performing together and the admission is $1.50. Or, here in Chicago, where all the old movie houses (except, god bless it, the Music Box) have given way to sterile multiplexes. I would like to have seen one of those hot Chicago nights he was talking about. Maybe we could have had a delicious $2 meal together.

That URL again:

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Stevie and I spent much of the weekend playing host to a bunch of her college friends and the staff of their website, the ever-growing, always ambitious, long-lived We ended up at one of Chicago's few 23-and-over bars. I guess the idea is to keep out the frat choads, and it seems to have work. I think I'm still two years away from spending that long in a bar again, however. That's when the slow-rolling Chicago smoking ban goes into full effect. I left sounding like a recent tracheotomy patient.

On Sunday Stevie played host to a couple of dozen Flak staffers while a bunch of Chicago A.V. Club types went up to Madison for Chicken Bowl X, the 10th annual Super Bowl party-with-competitive-eating-side-contest hosted by my good friend Stephen Thompson. Much chicken was consumed. although the competition was a good deal less fierce than in the past. It didn't help that one competitor, one of a handful of writers visiting from Television Without Pity, jumped to an early lead, rapidly consuming four breasts and a handful of other pieces. He was even able to take a mid-game nap without a serious challenge.

The spread.

Mr. Thompson, in his element.

An Ingmar Bergman-inspired double-profile of me with Thompson cat Clementine.

That was the weekend. Last night I saw Final Destination 3. Not so good.

Monday, February 06, 2006


In the interest of transparency, I will occasionally be posting traffic reports on this site. Here's the latest, in handy graph form:


Aw, isn't that cute? It's like he's ripping the entrails out of another dog!


(Reposted from The A.V. Club Blog)

I'm guessing that a lot of our readers are familiar with, the independent radio station-turned-Internet radio pioneers. For those who aren't here's a brief primer: Remember in the movie Rain Man when Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise are listening to the radio and Hoffman gets fixated on one station's motto? "Bam! The Future Of Rock And Roll"? It's that one. It's also long been a fantastic place to discover independent and alternative (back when that term meant something) music. Anyway, it seems like it's in trouble.

WOXY stopped broadcasting as a radio station a while back. It was silent for a while then re-emerged on the web with much of the original staff and the same great music. Unfortunately, they seem not to have a lasting business model. When I went to their site today, as I often do, I was greeted with the announcement that they were become a "listener-supported operation." The message is filled with code suggesting it's kind of a desperate measure, unless I'm misreading phrases like "our goal is to keep the ship afloat" and "we need you to come on board."

It's not my place here to plug other businesses here, but WOXY has given so much to me over the years that I'd be remiss if I didn't give something back. I had the good fortune to grow up within its broadcasting range in the pre-Internet days and it's one of the main reasons I got exposed to good music instead of the usual Top 40 pap. They've always operated on a philosophy I've tried to bring to The A.V. Club: People want to find the good stuff. They just need a place to find it. If the station means something to you, or if you need good source for independent music, I invite you to check them out.

Friday, February 03, 2006

The Star Wars prequels have created a whole backstory featuring droid armies to help explain anti-droid prejudice. But in 1980, there was only one really droid bad-ass droid: IG-88. First-seen... okay, only seen in the meeting betwen Darth Vader and the bounty hunters in Empire Strikes Back he looks a little out of place next to Boba Fett and that pig guy (what was his name again?) But what's cooler than a robot toting a big rifle, even if he doesn't really do anything but stand in one place? Okay, lots of stuff, but IG-88 was cool enough to let my 7-year-old imagination run wild back then. And so, I salute him (it?) by positioning him as the second in Candy Cigarettes' ongoing Friday salutes to notable robots.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006


George W. Bush declaring the America must break its addiction to oil? Or the Olsen Twins attending an intervention for meth-addicted Full House star Jodie Sweetin? The world may never know.

Need to see Jennifer Love Hewitt, Katie Holmes, Natalie Portman, or Denise Richards nude? Don't mind if it's only in pastel form? May I direct you to the the work of Ernie Centofanti, pastel artist, female nude fan, self-published novelist, and frequent eBayer. The work of Ms. Hewitt to the right comes from a current eBay auction (at $32 after six bids as I post this), but for the motherlode, go to the site linked above. Where you'll find portraits of X-Files stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson next to animal studies, next to, well, the bizarre:

and the truly distubring:


Two technological innovations met ends this past week, and both did so with little fanfare. One's a footnote, the other an integral part of communication since the 19th century. Let's pause a minute to pour one out for:

The telegram
Western Union discontinued telegram service on January 26th. It happened so quietly that no one noticed. Or, no one apart from people who for some reason still send telegrams. It's weird that this hasn't gotten a lot of coverage. It's not like too many people use telegrams anymore, but think how hugely important they were for years. 145 years to be more exact. The first telegraph, sent by none other than Samuel Morse, was "WHAT HATH GOD WROUGHT?" What was the last? Who knows? Probably something like, "Dude, I'm totally sending you a telegram! STOP Can you believe this shit? STOP"

Sony, in attempt to refocus its company toward ventures that make money, has decided to discontinue Aibo, the robot dog that could, like, totally chase a ball and... well it could chase a ball. Sony has guaranteed seven years of maintenance for current Aibo owners and then, after that... well, you're on your own. I suspect that they'll slow down, stop being quite so playful, and then eventually develop ongoing malfunctions that make their owners question whether or not the kindest thing would be to shut them off forever. Technology is totally better than biology.