Saturday, March 25, 2006


• Saw a taping of The Colbert Report. It was our first time at a television taping and not exactly what I expected. We have VIP passes, and while that might sound like it would allow you access to a room of plush couches and red wine, it just ensures better seating. A not-too-funny comic of the look-at-this-guy-where-are-you-from-sir? school of good-natured audience-confrontation warmed up the crowd then Colbert said, "hi" and did the show. Very funny, and Colbert seems to enjoy doing it.

• Had dinner at a place called Hell's Kitchen in, appropriately enough, Hell's Kitchen. It served Nuevo Mexican cuisine and powerful maragaritas. Very nice, but being in the real Hell's Kitchen still weirds me out since it's quite different from the Hell's Kitchen I know from Daredevil.

• Went to tour DC Comics, which has a floor decked out like Gotham and another floor decked out like Metropolis. Most impressive was the archives, a huge, climate-controlled room with every comic DC has ever published in bound volumes. Too bad that room was a look-don't-touch kind of place. Elsewhere, however, Stevie got to turn on the Bat Signal.

• Went to The Onion office and hung out for a while. Unfortunately, most of the people I wanted to see were busy and could only say "hi" for a second (although I did get a round of applause which was touching, honestly.)

• Had Korean barbeque, which was a first for Stevie and me. After much debate and consulting reviews on the Internet, we chose a place based on the use of charcoal grills. I don't really have a point of comparison, but it seemed like a wise choice.
• Went to the top of 30 Rockefeller Plaza to see the city from above. Nice.

Thursday, March 23, 2006


Yes, New York City. Full reports to follow.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Yeah, me neither. But sometimes you find this stuff out anyway. I remember Bree Sharp in part because of the song itself, but mostly because it used to play on a perpetual loop on a Madison movie theater's pre-movie house music, preceded by the announcement, "She's a sexy singer with the secret crush." As my pal Nathan was fond of pointing out, if you're only known for singing about having a crush on someone, can it really be a secret?

It does sound like a good cause, though.
Okay, this was actually from several nights ago. But I've been busy trying to squeeze a five-day week into three days. We leave for New York on Thursday. So, the Arctic Monkeys. Were they good? Yes. Were they as good as the hype? Who is? But they were in very good shape and pretty fun. Some of the songs came alive in ways they don't on the album, although the lyrics were hard to make out (blame the accent, blame the amps, blame the Metro). And the lyrics are a big part of the appeal. "Maudy Bum" is a pretty good song about being a boyfriend that captures, intentionally or not, how boys sometimes just don't understand girls. Stevie and I were both taken with the bassist, a stoic, husky fellow who seemed determine to get the job done with a minimum of fuss while wearing a turned up polo shirt. I think every British-accented person living within 100 miles of Chicago was at the show and excited to be there. Some of the dudes near us kept shouting for "Riot Van" and the band didn't play it. They had to have heard the requests and they only have one album. Were they just being prima donnas or what? And what's with skipping the encore?

I was supposed to interview the band earlier in the day. I turned up in full serious rock journalist gear (blazer, black t-shirt, jeans) only to find that the band wasn't there. Apparently someone, somwhere got the impression that I was meeting them at the airport and riding the bus in. Nope. Nobody told me anyway. Now Marc H. is doing the interview. I was kind of looking forward to it by the end, but it was making me feel old. These guys were eight when I was in England. Oh well, I think I like Art Brut better anyway.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

I've always liked Rilo Kiley but I've never liked anything Rilo Kiley's done as well as I like Jenny Lewis' solo(ish) record with the twin sister gospel duo The Watson Twins, Rabbit Fur Coat.( A note about the twins: They're really twins from Kentucky and, from my perspective in the balcony of Park West, they appear to be about eight feet tall. As my concert-going companion pointed out, it's as if the spooky girls from The Shining grew up to be hot singers. Now that I write that, I'll bet they've heard that a million times.)

But anyway, back to the album and show. It's an album unexpectedly concerned with faith and the show at times felt like a revival meeting, with only a few notes of distancing irony. Lewis has the kind of yearning voice made for country music and I think she's found her level with this material. The band seemed locked into what she was doing and when she held the stage alone for the magic-realist fable of the title track, it was mesmerizing. I think she's catching on, too: The woman in front of me came in a dress like the one Lewis wears on the album cover. Was any of that talent evident when she appeared in Troop Beverly Hills?

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


Tristram Shandy
I'd love to speak definitively and say how this is a really faithful adaptation of Lawrence Sterne's 18th century novel without really being an adaptation at all. That's the right thing to say. But I never finished Tristram Shandy. I wanted to. But it was part of that end-of-grad-school rush for the big exam and, well, you know. Maybe I will now. At any rate, even if you've never read Tristram Shandy at all, it's easy to see how great a movie this is. It's a making-of of a movie that never quite gets made telling a life story that never quite gets told and it's effortlessly clever without ever being painfully clever. Also, Steve Coogan is hilarious, as is co-star Rob Brydon, whom I've never noticed before, even though he was in 24 Hour Party People and is apparently the British TV equivalent of a superstar. Finally, has Michael Winterbottom ever made the same film twice? He could make this one again, if he wanted.

The Maltese Falcon
Not the movie, though that's great, but the book. James Ellroy always directed people who would compare him to Raymond Chandler to Dashiell Hammett and now I get it. This is waste-no-words prose at its finest with an ending that makes the Huston film look cheery, even if it lacks the famous "stuff that dreams are made of" line. Any book that compares its hero to a "blond satan" on the first page knows how to keep readers off their guard. That quote in full: "Samuel Spade's jaw was long and bony, his chin a jutting V under the more flexible V of his mouth. He looked rather pleasantly like a blond satan."

So low in nutrition. So high in calories. So amazing in taste. And they're the official cheese-filled snack of NASCAR. I could eat them any time of day. My new proposed slogan: "Combos: They're not just for truck stops anymore."

Battlestar Galactica
Stevie and I burned through the first season of this show on DVD in a week. I can't recommend it highly enough. In spite of being remarkably true to the concept of the '70s show (apart from an alarming absence of robot dogs), this is an amazingly smart show filled with complex characters, conflicting faiths, and a serious inquiry into what it means to be human. Tonally it's the most 9/11-informed piece of entertainment I've seen this side of The 25th Hour. Everyone makes hard choices with serious consequences and not everyone makes it back alive.
A critique of Indecent Proposal overheard on the train today:

"Whoever made up that movie wasn't married. Or was divorced. The dude... It's not like he was some fat, ugly ass nigga. The dude had game!"

So true.

One of my favorite new(ish) artists—the Moscow-born, classically trained, nightclub-raised Regina Spekto—has posted new songs to her myspace page. Sounds great so far.

Monday, March 13, 2006


In lieu of substantive new content.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

No coffee yet and I was up late trying to do some amateur plumbing on a clogged bathtub (didn't work) so this is probably a little foggy. But, put briefly, I feel sorry for any fans of The New Pornographers or Belle And Sebastian who miss this current tour. I would, and have, paid to see either band individually but there was no way I was going to miss them together. The New Pornographers (Has anyone yet thought of a clever abbreviation of their name? Newpies? Pornos?) opened with a tight set drawn mostly from the new album. I think that's the least of their three and would have liked to hear more from the first album, but it's small complaint on both counts. Neko Case's absence was made up for by, I think, frontman A.C. Newman's cousin, who filled in ably. Also, special guest star Nora O'Connor (a.k.a. "our friend Nora") made a couple of appearances. Nothing in the way of big surprises, but that's not what opening acts do, even those who could headline. If anyone was there just for B&S, I suspect they left with a new band to fill out their playlists.

After a longer-than-usual intermission accompanied, for reasons that escape me, by DJ Danger Mouse's The Gray Album, Belle And Sebastian took the stage and the audience was ready for them. Though they opened with "Expectations," from Tigermilk, this was very much the Life Pursuit Show. In fact, theY only played one song—"Get Me Away From Here I'm Dying"—from If You're Feeling Sinsiter, their best-known album. No complaints. The new material sounded great and the band sounded happy to play it. It was a stark contrast from the last time we saw B&S on the Storytelling tour on the night—we're pretty sure—before Isobel left the band. It was the kind of set that nadirs are made of. Not awful just really uninspired. This was different. If you listened to the first few B&S albums, it was easy to imagine Stuart Murdoch as a sickly recluse with no use for girls and an aversion to eye contact. This band was led by Stuart Murdoch: Jolly, Dancing, Ladies Man. And it worked too.

• In what only looked like shtick, Murdoch responded to an e-mailer's request by pulling the requestee's wife on stage and letting her take the duet part on "Lazy Line Painter Jane." She killed.
• After getting chided by guitarist Stevie Jackson for some impromptu crowd surfing, Murdoch stated it was fun, and everyone should try it. And here's how (not verbatim): "Start a band, put out a couple of critically acclaimed albums. Don't do any press. Release obscure pictures of your friends. Lose a couple of members. Have somethin' of a resurgence." You have to appreciate that candor.
• Stevie Jackson's dapper suit.

A final nice touch: The recorded exit music was Alan Price's great title song from Lindsay Anderson's great movie O, Lucky Man.

Footnote: Outside, I bumped into an old high school friend who was in town to catch this show and tonight's Stereolab show. I remember him when he was a committed metal head. After a quick chat, we steered him to the restaurant where we'd had dinner, a place called Fiesta Mexicana. Our marching band program from my junior year: "La Fiesta Mexicana." He was, oddly enough, the second old marching band pal I ran into this week. although the other one was Internet-only.
Second footnote: Behind me in the guest list line: The always-lovely Sally Timms.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Yep, the Oscars blew it again. I won't go off on a why-Crash-really-isn't-that-good tirade here (although I don't hate it the way some hate it. But to take the edge off, here are a couple of great clips. The first is Oscar nominee Dolly Parton performing with Porter Wagoner (before that all went south) in 1973. I'm not sure if it's shtick or if the performance really falls apart, but it's a pretty fascinating clip.

Next is Johnny Cash in a pair of clips from, I'm guessing, the early-'60s. First up is a pretty lame performance of the theme from Bonanza redeemed by the camera-phobic Luther Perkins' guitar solo. It's followed by short performance of "Five Feet High And Rising" that serves as a reminder of how good Joaquin Phoenix was in that movie. Someone give that man an Oscar some day.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

I went back to Ohio last weekend to visit my parents. And, god bless her, Stevie went with me. (Also along for the ride, at least as far as Eaton, was the rapidly recuperating B.L. Thompson.) The visit was mostly uneventful if, as usual, far too guilt-inducing, but there was a trip to the mall that reminded me that sometimes it's okay to feel like a big city snob. In the span of 45 minutes I saw:

• A heavily pregnant woman who decided that it was still okay to wear her tight, pink, pre-pregnancy pants so long as she kept them unzipped at the waist.
• An obese sexually indeterminate teen, I'd say about 15-years-old, with hair that looked like a '70s shag left to go to seed walk into the food court, put his/her hand to his mouth and throw up then look at his/her mom in confusion as to what to do next.
• A beer-gutted, goateed biker type pushing a stroller and wearing a t-shirt reading "I [Heart] BJ's". I'm guessing the apostrophe was accidental, but it does present some intriguing possibilities.

Then, on the way back, we saw the awesomest of all awesome things at a random gas station in Indiana. This:

And, please note, that's not grain in the image. The van is covered in an Astro-turf like carpeting. Shine on you crazy diamond.

Thursday, March 02, 2006


Found on a blog called Book Of Arse (click image to enlarge):

Of course he or she is right. But I wish I new what specifically we have to answer for.

Whether he's drawing Batman or naked ladies, I love Bruce Timm's stuff. The socks are a lovely touch.

You're The Man Now Dog

See, isn't that better?

Okay, I think things have finally settled down enough for me to get back to this. I've been thinking about posting every day but it's been pretty hectic. Once we got our surgery-stricken pal back home and Stevie and I recovered from our various stomach and respiratory illnesses it was kind of rough catching up with everything. Well, that I working our way through more episodes of Smallville and spending a ridiculous amount of time on that Russian website mentioned on an episode of The Office where you can download MP3s for a few cents. It's real, it's awesome, and it's technically legal.

Anyway... what else is new? One thing I've noticed is that I rarely write about the news and politics here and it's not that I don't think about them. But I think the news and politics are prematurely turning me into one of those old men who thinks the world is going to hell all the time. (What's making me think that?: U.S. diplomats bombed, the inevitable implosion of Iraq, G.W. not asking any questions during the Katrina briefing, South Dakota essentially declaring war on abortion...) Actually, I don't think the world is going to hell. I think it's going to Ave Maria, Florida, a town being built by the former owner of Domino's pizza. No pornography, no birth control... but it will have America's largest crucifix. Don't get me wrong: Worship as you please but this collision of corporate money and imposed morals is what this country is starting to smell like to me. Also, I'm much happier when I get to post pictures of robots and superheroes, but Ave Maria's been on my mind.