Tuesday, August 29, 2006


1. Shriek: An Afterword by Jeff Vandermeer - A new novel set in the city of Ambergris that tells the tale of Duncan and Janice Shriek while weaving in and out of the history of Ambergris itself. Full of fungus and great writing and two narrative voices {Duncan's in parentheses like these}. Well worth your time.

2. Bottle Rocket - I love Wes Andersen movies, yet I'd never seen his debut (and the debut of the Wilson brothers) until now. It has the requisite odd characters and romance and cool dialogue (it overlaps quite a bit in this film). I liked it quite a bit and you can see where the brilliance of "Rushmore" comes from.

3. HBO season finales - On "Entourage," Vince is pissed, Ari scrambles, Drama is calm. Can't wait to see the next 8 episodes when "The Sopranos" comes back in March. And on "Deadwood," the violence isn't huge but it is just as devastating to a number of the characters. Only 4 more hours ever of this show? Say it ain't so!

4. JLA #1 - Brad Meltzer delivers on the promise of his zero issue. Red Tornado, Black Lightning, Vixen, and Deadman all make appearance amongst the better-known heroes. Can't wait to see where this goes.

5. Batman #656 - Batman vs. ninja Man-Bats! A great metafictional use of 60s style sound effects! Bats comes face to face with his...son?!? Grant Morrison is brilliant and Andy Kubert is great on the art - more please!

The main goal of my "Year of 35" was to do all those things I'd meant to and hadn't tried. Obviously, the music aspect has been going quite well and I'm very happy with it. Music wasn't the ultimate goal, though. I also wanted to start writing and I haven't done that at all, outside of the blog. So, I want to start focusing on the creative writing without giving up the blog completely. I've decided that I'll do a shift in format, stealing from Entertainment Weekly's "Must List" (which I've done before) and from Ken Tucker's EW online column, "Five Reasons to Live." I'm going to do "My List" entries wherein I highlight 5 things that I've been digging. This will keep my entries shorter and will still allow me to talk about all the pop culture I love. There's no schedule for this either - when I have 5 things, I'll do a post. I'm not saying it will always be this way or that I won't throw in a longer post here and there but for the near future anyway, this will be the norm. Hope you enjoy it and keep on reading!

Sunday, August 27, 2006


I've been in a period of shuffling through iTunes for at least a month now. I do it not only for the thrill of the unknown but also to see those play counts rising. As a person who loves statistics (yes, I know it's sad - blame years of baseball), I like seeing how long since a song was played and keep trying to see if more of my songs will get into the top 25 played. Yes, I share our iTunes (and the iPod) with my wife and son, which means I have to wade through Veggie Tales and Disney and The Cranberries and Black Eyed Peas and more to get to my songs. Anyway, I've really lost the thread of my most recent album downloads this way so I thought I'd go back to straight up listening for a while. But before I do, here's a standard 10 song shuffle (though I'm only going to count songs that I've put in) with the current play count noted for posterity...

1. Violin for Mom/Kathleen Edwards (6) - Pretty much what the title indicates...about 40 seconds worth of violin from her early EP Building 55.

2. Somewhere Else/Kathleen Edwards (4) - A song from her most recent album, Back to Me. A slower burn with some great horns.

3. Please Please Please/Fiona Apple (7) - This is from the Jon Brion-produced version of Extraordinary Machine. The songs sound pretty close on both versions but I tend to like the Brion one better.

4. Checkout Blues/Eels (3) - One of the lesser songs from the double album Blinking Lights and Other Revelations, though still a solid song.

5. Candy Cane Crawl/Twilight Singers (6) A really moody piece from their 2006 album Powder Burns. The "slow down/lean in" part with backup female singer and multiple singers later on is great.

6. Streetlights/Josh Rouse (6) - This is a live acoustic performance from France and a song from Nashville. Rouse is one of my favorite singer/songwriters and tremendously underrated.

7. Too Far Apart/Wilco (6) - My favorite band. This is the closer to their debut album, A.M., which is my least favorite album of theirs. Doesn't mean it's not good, though. This tune is a bit of a shuffle with some nice guitar work.

8. The Man Who Doesn't Know How to Smile/Josh Rouse (5) - A sweet duet between Rouse and the woman he followed to Spain from his 2006 album, Subtitulo. Love it when the full drums kick in.

9. Archaeopteryx/The Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers (5) - "My bones are hollow and I have wings behind my shoulders/But I've made my home here on solid soil so I won't fall too far below." Yeah. Great track from The Mother of Love Emulates the Shapes of Cynthia. This band is the real deal.

10. Stars Fell on Alabama/Mountain Goats (11) - Nice little bass line and shuffly groove here. Any song with the phrase "and the kudzu grew" works for me. This is from Nine Black Poppies and was downloaded from somewhere.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

52.14 - 52.16

The most recent three issues of 52 have focused largely on events in Khandaq and Metropolis. In #14, Renee Montoya and The Question take their trip to Khandaq to investigate possible links with Intergang. They discover dead bodies and empty boxes of rat poison before being arrested for the murders. #15 details their abuse and subsequent escape from prison and #16 has them searching for a killer at the wedding of Black Adam and Isis, the other main focus of the issue. We see Black Adam nervous about the wedding and some fun interaction with Captain Marvel. In fact, the whole Marvel Family is in attendance: Mary Marvel wants to make sure Isis isn't being duped by her soon-to-be husband; Captain Marvel, Jr. and Talky Tawny are on security detail; and Uncle Dudley tries ordering food. Scenes of the wedding are intercut with Montoya and The Question trying to avert disaster - they do, but at a price.

Back in Metropolis (in #14), Steel has completed new armor for his niece but has not seen her; she is firmly in Luthor's camp. #15 has a despondent and out-of-control Booster Gold trying to do something to put himself back in the good graces of the citizens. Skeets finds something in the historical records and Booster runs off to save the day...however, he doesn't do a very good job of it and Supernova arrives to save the day. They have a confrontation before Skeets informs Booster that the danger is not over. He attempts to save everyone and does, yet pays the ultimate price.

We also see more of Will Magnus. He tries to get his Metal Men to work again and it's not going too well. The government wants to be involved but he refuses. Magnus goes to visit T.O. Morrow but the latter has vanished from his cell but not before leaving Magnus the secret to artificial life. Magnus is then able to get Mercury to work properly.

And finally, our intrepid lost-in-space heroes are finally ready to get off the planet where time seems to work differently. By the looks of things, we'll see more on this next week with the return of Lobo.

Solid stories with some subplots coming to an end only to open up new ones. Solid art by Dale Eaglesham/Art Thibert; Shawn Moll/Tom Nguyen; and Joe Bennett/Ruy Jose. Still liking the series and now I'm all caught up in talking about it, so look for issue by issue discussions from here on out. Maybe.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


How in the world did I forget to mention The Hold Steady in my fall music post yesterday? Wow.

I went out and picked up Veronica Mars Season 2 on DVD yesterday; I like the show and want to get caught up so I can watch new episodes as they air this season. Watched the first episode last night and I thought it was a bit too ambitious (multiple time frames; a fake out on the cliffhanger season one ending; trying to be a bit too cute with who her boyfriend is; and setting up a number of mysteries right off the bat) though still plenty entertaining (a reference to Encyclopedia Brown; Veronica's relationships with her dad and Wallace; the appearance of smokin' hot Charisma Carpenter in a teeny bikini). Anyway, I was going to watch the second ep at lunch today and after a few minutes the picture broke up into pixelated hell. I took out the disc and tried again with the same result. I found my receipt and went to Best Buy to exchange it for a new copy - and they were all out! Now I have to wait for Saturday and the earliest to be able to continue watching. Sigh.

I'd planned on doing more entries today but I allowed myself to get sidetracked with:

A) Errands for Jill
B) A trip to Barnes & Noble
C) Hanging out with my friends at the hospital and holding Chase for the first time
D) New comics
E) Rockstar: Supernova
F) Baseball
G) A huge storm that dumped giant chunks of hail
H) Checking in at the Y
I) All of the above

You guessed it!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


Our good friends Tammy and Craig Snyder had a baby boy this afternoon. His name is Chase and he is doing quite well. We are very excited and happy for them and look forward to getting to know Chase. Yay!

I've been behind on my movie watching ever since I joined the pop culture parade. When I was a teenager, you had to drive 30 miles to the nearest theater and while I did see quite a bit, I missed a lot too. That was rectified somewhat in college, where I would sometimes take in 3 movies on a weekend. Jill and I used to see movies fairly often, though that changed once Grant was born. Now I'm lucky if I see a half dozen in the theater each year. Sure, there's DVD but I don't always take the time to watch; I put a priority on all those great TV shows on DVD. Anyway, with my couple weeks off I've decided to try and catch up on things I've missed...

So, "Sin City." I read the comic book series, of course, though I lost a bit of interest the further it went. Or maybe that was just me losing some interest in comics back then. In either case, I drug my heels quite a bit in seeing this adaptation. Robert Rodriguez convinced creator Frank Miller that they could do a true adaptation and have a movie that looks very similar to the comic. He was right.

There are many shots in the movie that I remember from reading the comic; both are in black and white with spots of color and occasional sillhouettes. They movie really is visually stunning and I'm not talking about all the bare actress bodies. And the actors really do look like they came straight out of the comic - the makeup job on Mickey Rourke as Marv is outstanding.

The dialogue is also straight out of the comic and that doesn't translate nearly as well. Lots of repetition and terse hard-boiled dialgoue that can sound very silly coming out of the mouths of living, breathing people. The violence also is a bit ludricous for the same reason; it reminded me of certain parts of "Kill Bill."

On the whole, though, I enjoyed the movie. The movie really works for me when Mickey Rourke is on the screen as Marv, killing in the name of his lost love Goldie (a hooker who gave him the night of his life). And yes, that's the most cartoony section of the movie, so go figure.

Today is the start of the fall music season. Yes, it's still summer but with my wife back in school for a week and son starting tomorrow, it feels like fall around the Steiner house. There are a bunch of new releases from artist I like to help keep me going as the weather starts to catch up with the season...

Mounatin Goats (today!)
Eric Bachmann (of Crooked Fingers and Archers of Loaf - also today!)
M. Ward
Bob Dylan
The Black Keys
Ben Kweller
Pernice Brothers
Golden Smog EP
My Morning Jacket live

...and more that I can't remember or don't even know about yet. And that doesn't include all the new bands yet to discover as well. I love music.

Monday, August 21, 2006

52.1 - 52.13

I started posting about DC's ongoing weekly series, 52, back in May, promising to look at each issue as it came out. Oops. Well, the series hit its quarter mark a couple weeks ago so I thought I'd jump back into some commentary...

For those of you who don't want to find the old posts, here's a quick recap of what brought the comic about: At the end of the big crossover series Infinite Crisis, the "big 3" of the DC Universe (Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman) leave the scene for various reasons. All DC titles start with storylines beginning "One Year Later" immediately following the end of IC; 52 tells the story of what happened during that missing year. Each issue covers a week of that year. It is written by Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Geoff Johns, and Mark Waid and drawn by a revolving cast of artist, though always with layouts by Keith Giffen and covers by J.G. Jones. Got it? Good.

There are many storylines weaving throughout this series, some of which I have found more interesting than others. At the top of the list for me is The Question and Renee Montoya investigating Intergang, a nefarious group that is up to...something. While the investigation aspect is appealing (they've tangled with several unique bad guys and have discovered the existence of a Batwoman), I enjoy their story as much for their interaction. The Question is an all-time favorite character (ever since his ongoing series by Denny O'Neil and Denys Cowan back in the 80s) and the tone here is just right. Montoya is equally intrigued by him, when he doesn't want to punch him in the face. I would love to read a buddy comic with these two. Anyway, by the time #13 rolls around they decide they need to head to Khandaq for more answers.

That decision will put them in the same area as another featured player, Black Adam. He's been portrayed as both villain and hero over the years and sometimes he's both rolled into one. In early issues of 52, he was maniacal in his wanting to "protect" his people from other super-powered idiots even going so far as to rip a villain in half. Recently, though, he has come under the influence of a woman who had been presented to him by Intergang emmisaries; she is getting him to see that he can use his power to actually change the world for the better. In #12, he takes her to the Rock of Eternity (where Captain Marvel appears to be losing his mind a bit) and offers her the powers of a goddess. She accepts and becomes Isis. This turn has me much more interested in this storyline.

Another pair of characters being dealt with are John Henry Irons (Steel) and his niece Natasha. He takes away her armor in the first issue and they squabble over the course of the next few issues, while he is also dealing with Lex Luthor in a variety of ways. Luthor has found a way to trigger the metagene in people (a concept first introduced waaaay back in a DC crossover event that I've forgotten the name of, alas) and has somehow done it to Irons as well; his skin is turning to steel, eliminating the need for his armor. Natasha is given that metagene, which leads to a huge confrontation between the two that she wins.

Booster Gold, meanwhile, is having some confrontations of his own. At first he is using his knowledge of the past (in the form of his robot companion Skeets; both are from the 25th century) to thwart villains and make a name for himself, which in turn garners him endorsments deals and riches (resetting the character to his original form). Problems arise when Skeets's knowledge turns out to be wrong and he eventually resorts to paying an actor to play a villain he defeats. Eventually he is found out and his fortunes take a quick downturn.

Finally, we see the ongoing travails of Ralph Dibny, who used to be known as Elongated Man. His wife was murdered during the series Identity Crisis (precursor to Infinite Crisis) and he is to the point of suicide. He learns of a cult devoted to the belief that they can resurrect the dead and his search to learn more about them forms the backdrop for much of this first quarter. Along the way he runs into Booster Gold and Green Arrow, among others. Things reach a head in #13, where he has his friends (Green Arrow, Green Lantern, Metamorpho, and Zauriel) covertly attend a ceremony to try and raise his wife from the dead; he wants their opinion on whether it can be done. They reach the conclusion the whole thing is a fake and process to break up the proceedings, though along the way Ralph becomes a believer and disappears completely in the aftermath.

That's not all either. There are the visits between mad scientists Will Magnus (creator of The Metal Men) and T.O. Morrow (creator of Red Tornado and more of a villain) which are smart and funny and filled with intriguing hints of what may be going on. There are the trio of heroes (Animal Man, Adam Strange, and Starfire) stranded on a faraway planet with an unusual presence. There are the cryptic messages at Rip Hunter's secret lair that seem to deal directly with the title of the series. There's the glimpse of new Chinese heroes, The Great Ten. There's the recovery of a another group of heroes who were lost in space. And there's the mystery of the newest hero in Metropolis, Supernova.

Issues #2 through #11 also featured a backup story titled "The History of the DC Universe." That history is a muddled mess with all the various crossovers and retcons over the last two decades and this story does nothing to make it clear. Starting with #12, two page origin stories have begun appearing. They are all written by Mark Waid and drawn by a variety of artists (one per hero). They are not essential but at least a decent diversion.

Obviously, I've been reading these issues as they've come out week by week. Reading them that way my enjoyment of the series would rise and fall depending on which storylines were being covered. But as I skimmed over the first 13 issues in preparation for this post, I found a whole that was even strong than the individual parts. Sure, the time frame seems a bit wonky as weeks go by without updates on certain storylines but it's an ambitious storyline. I like the idea of this series and the execution has been very good. You can guess at which writer has written which part but it is fairly seemless. The art has been solid too, thanks to Giffen giving consistent layouts. Joe Bennett took pencilling duties on 5 of the first 6 issues and several other artist have done mutiple turns (Chris Batista, Eddy Barrows, Todd Nauck). And the covers have been outstanding, with Jones outdoing himself almost every issue - my favorite so far has been #9, with Devilance the Pursuer menacing our three stranded heroes. Each issue has some taglines at the bottom as well - my favorite is #10's "You'll believe a man can fall" on a cover featuring Clark Kent plummeting towards the streets (yes, Superman may not be around but Clark definitely is a part of this series). So far, 52 has been worth the time and the $2.50 spent each week. Of course, I've been following DC Comics since I was 10. Your mileage may vary.

As promised, I bought the second Jack Spratt mystery in hardcover (that's The Fourth Bear by Jasper Fforde) early last week and finished it on Friday. It's stuffed with all of the usual Fforde ingredients - wordplay, outlandish characters and plots (competitive cucumber growing plays a major role here), silliness and seriousness (well, a little), the knowledge that it is a story, and fun (to name a few). If you like that sort of thing, it's good. If not? I don't know...you'll probably throw it away in disgust. I prefer his Thursday Next series (and the great news at the back of this book is that she returns in The War of the Words next summer), though not by much. The next book in the series will be The Last Great Tortoise Race and I'm looking forward to it.

That's advice given in a song called "Honest" from the new Long Winters album, Putting the Days to Bed. It's too late for me, though, cause I love John Roderick. I love him for his literate pop songs and I'm not ashamed to admit it. My feelings started growing with 2003's When I Pretend to Fall and last fall's EP, Ultimatum. The new record is my latest obsession. Come for the great pop/rock tunes and stay for the incredible words...

"Unkind girlish walk/Like a deed to the world without the talk/As you wade through the crows/I sit next to you, the seat's still warm" - "Pushover"

"If you're my anchor/then I'm throwing you over the side" - "Hindsight"

"Crave translates into slave" - "Ultimatum"

"Your magic beans mean at least you'll have one giant friend!" - "Clouds"

I could go on, of course, and most of the songs have a couple lines like that. Then there's the danceable groove and guitar of "Fire Island, AK" and the flat out rock of "(It's A) Departure" and the pop beauty of "Honest."

What I'm really saying is that you need this record. This record should be blasting out of every car as summer mellows into fall. It's top ten of the year all the way, probably top five. Go get it and enjoy.

P.S. You can also download a podcast from KEXP featuring almost an hour of songs and chat with the band. Go through iTunes and look up KEXP's live podcasts or just go to their website. It's free!

Friday, August 18, 2006


I have sad news to report - my friend Mike, known around the blogosphere as Little Toy Robot, has passed away. I learned about it this afternoon from his friend Lady Crumpet and I'm still in shock. I sent him an e-mail about an hour before I heard the news - The Long Winters are playing a $10 show in Chicago on Oct. 6 and I figured we could go and see it. We'd only been together face-to-face once, when he came along to see my brother perform in the Chicago Sketch Festival, but were talking about trying to get together more often. He was going to come and see the band last weekend but was unable to get someone to cover for him at work so he could get into Indiana in time. I liked his blog from the get-go and I liked him. I can't believe he's gone - he will be missed.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


I came across another movie that falls into this category while flipping around the HBO channels today when I was eating my lunch (Honey Bunches of Oats, yeah!) - "Wayne's World." It falls into the catergory of only watching for 10 or 15 minutes, especially if it's close to the Garth/"Foxy Lady" or "Bohemian Rhapsody" scenes. Or the end of the movie. It's not exactly a comedy classic but the original release caught me at the right time (I was 21 and a big fan of that particular cast of "SNL" and the Wayne's World skits on the show...the one with Madonna is a classic) and the things I enjoyed about it back then are things I can still enjoy now, whether I still find them funny or just have nostalgia for finding them funny, if you know what I mean. Party on!

Update: In the comments of the first installment of this scintillating series, my brother challenged me to watch "Rudy" and not cry at the end. Well, Jill and I caught the movie about a half hour in last week and decided to stick with it. Wow, what a bad movie. Sean Astin's character, the titular Rudy, really seems like he has mental problems. He's driven but he's not very bright about it. Sure, it's kinda cool to see him achieve his dream but no tears in sight for me. Sorry, Theron.

Sunday, August 13, 2006


My new eMusic download period starts on Tuesday, so I should mention what I picked up on the last go-around. I've been listening to iTunes on shuffle for a couple weeks so I haven't really heard these pickups as much as I usual do, so I can't comment a whole lot on specifics.

Spoon/Soft Effects - This EP was just rereleased along with Telephono by Merge Records. I have a copy of that album and Series of Sneaks thanks to some guy in Iowa, so I just grabbed the songs I hadn't heard yet. It's more goodness from a band that just keeps rising up my list of bands I love. And if you don't have either of these, go buy the reissue. Now.

The Drams/Jubilee Dive - This is the band that rose from the ashes of Slobberbone; Brent Best is the man behind the mic once again. The Drams fall more into a pop/rock vein than the country/rock of Slobberbone and it's a bit more polished. That's not to say there aren't good songs here because there are. I'm still trying to sort through this one, so I'll leave it at that.

The Format/Dog Problems - I'd never heard of this band until I saw their name pop up on eMusic's chart of popular downloads. I investigated them further and saw a lot of good reviews - I'm always up for good power pop. Here's the thing, though...I don't know that I would classify them as power pop. A couple songs, yes. But on the whole? I'd call them pop music in the best sense - solid lyrics and songcraft with all sorts of instrumentation. A really nice find.

Harvey Danger/Little By Little bonus disc - This album just got reissued as well and it deserves a wider audience. If I had heard it in 2005, it would be right up at the top of my best-of list (hmm, maybe I should do a post about that). They swapped in a song called "Picture, Picture" and sent "Incommunicado" to the bonus disc along with some b-sides and writing snippets. I grabbed what I didn't have and it's all good. Still, the original album is perfection to me.

Yup, it's that time of year here at the Steiner household. Jill's first day is tomorrow, with students coming back on Tuesday. Grant starts next week Wednesday. This week is the last week of the second summer session at the Y, after which I will have three weeks off. I'm looking forward to being at home alone for most of that time...it's not that I don't love my family but it will be nice to have some freedom. I expect to get quite a bit of work done on new songs and hope to start the next phase of "The Year of 35" and starting working on some fiction. And yes, I'll read and catch up on DVD viewing and will probably spend too much time online. I gotta be me.

Mid-August also means the baseball season is heading into the final stretch. I haven't been able to watch the White Sox as much this summer but I've still been keeping close track. They weren't a fun team to catch for a couple innings for most of July but they have been coming around of late. Today they go for a sweep of the Tigers, which would leave them only 5 1/2 games back in the AL Central. I want the division - heck with the wild card! After that comes 4 games with the Royals. And football season is right around the corner too.

I've been in a terrible sleep pattern the past week plus; I get insomnia on occasion (think I may have mentioned this before). This time around I've not only been unable to sleep but I've had dreams full of anxiety and have woken up in the middle of the night on a regular basis. One of the anxiety dreams had me worried after I stole someone's identity and used it to get a credit card (guess Talk Talk left more of an impression than I even thought!). To balance that out, though, I had a dream were I was hanging with The Hold Steady and trying to articulate why I love them so much (guess I'm more excited for their new album, Boys and Girls in America, than I even knew - Oct. 3!).

Last night the cycle was broken and I had a great night's sleep. I feel really good today. Which means finishing my progress reports feels like less of a chore and I'm looking forward to the week ahead. And that makes me feel even better.

Saturday, August 12, 2006


One of the many albums I bought in 2005 was John Vanderslice's Pixel Revolt. I had picked up his previous album, Cellar Door, when I visited my brother in March 2004 and had liked the music quite a bit but was bothered by the lyrics at times. Not sure I could explain why, really. Some listens I thought they were great...others not so much. Anyway, I'd heard good buzz on the new album last year and thought he was worth another try. I listened to it a couple times and filed it away. Seemed more of the same. I was wrong.

I pulled it out in June, during a search for something I hadn't listened to in a while. This time I was hooked immediately and I could not figure out what my problem had been. Were I to go back and do my best of 2005 list again, this would definitely be on it and in a very high slot (as would the albums from My Morning Jacket and The National and Tapes 'n Tapes).

There are several songs here that should have been on my best of 2005 mix. I love the moody tones of "Continuation," a song about a serial killer and the detective out to track him down but you're not really sure who is who. "Exodus Damage" is a gorgeous pop song about the fears and anxieties of 9/11. "Trace Manual" also deals with the fallout from the day and "Radiant with Terror" adapts lyrics from a Robert Lowell poem set to a stuttering, ominous beat. Vanderslice knows his way around a melody and the songs always have interesting bits weaving in and out of the mix.

I highly recommend this album and will not let his next record pass me by. No way.

On Aug. 3, G's Livid Penny played its second show. We were back at The Strike Zone where we had won a battle of the bands two weeks before. This time we played with two other bands, both of whom were battling (since we had already qualified for the finals, we were not eligible). We ended up getting there early and hung around playing pool and such, so our energy taking the stage was a bit lower than usual. We started out pretty well with a brand-new one, "TV Crush." It features some killer John Bonham-like drumming by Tom and some funked out bass by Graham with me singing dumb lyrics about loving Alyssa Milano and Jennifer Aniston. We didn't end it that well, which turned out to be a theme for the night. We were just a little off, though some songs went off without a hitch. Graham lost a guitar string in "Tempo" and I futzed up parts of a few songs. Still, our audience enjoyed it.

This Thursday saw us right back at The Strike Zone; this time for the battle of the band finals. We were one of 11 bands vying for the $300 prize for winning it all. Our slot was second-to-last at 10:30 (though it turned out one band couldn't make their earlier slot and went on very late). We got there around 9:00 and heard a couple bands play before it was time to load on our equipment. We'd practiced earlier that evening and had a setlist firmly in mind. We started with "Tempo," which hadn't gone well either of our first two performances. This time we nailed it and set the tone for the rest of the set - "Give Yourself," "Woke Up," "Song for a Day," "Jews and Gypsies," "Liquor Sink," and "Poor." Not only did we hear positive feedback from our family and friends but we also had comments by other listeners, who were very enthusiastic about our sound; no one else was playing keys or a harmonica. In the end, we tied for 3rd place. Not bad at all. It was only our third show after all.

Last night we played in DeMotte, which is where I grew up. We were one of several bands playing in the upper floor of a professional building...not the best setup for sound quality. Most of the bands were heavier, so we were definitely different once again. The kids in the audience seemed to appreciate what we were doing and those who came specifically to hear us thought we did well. We just made up our setlist on the fly and that was fine - our energy was there and we were pretty tight.

In the next few weeks we'll start working on some new songs and will hopefully be able to record an EP. As of now our next scheduled show is Sept. 2 and we have another one Sept. 15. We're still having fun and are happy with how it's all going.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


Some patterns are doomed to be repeated, in stories and in real life. Take my reading relationship with Jasper Fforde. I bought his debut novel, The Eyre Affair, in paperback a few years ago after learning about the conceit behind his Thursday Next series. I liked it quite a bit and proceeded to buy the next three novels in hardback. So, last summer brings the arrival of a new Fforde book, The Big Over Easy, the first in a new series. Do I buy it? No, I wait until last week and buy the brand-new paperback edition. True to form, I liked it and I'm going to have to buy the next one in hardcover (which has now been published).

The series focuses on Detective Inspector Jack Spratt and the Nursery Crimes division. It's a world where cops not only have to solve crimes but publish their stories in "Amazing Crime Stories" or similar (lesser) magazines. Spratt is not in that club; he also has to deal with Friedland Chymes, the star of the Reading police scene. Spratt and his team are investigating the death of Humpty Dumpty and things are not what they seem. Add aliens, giant beanstalks, dueling foot care companies, a god, a mansion built by Dr. Caligari, and a whole parade of nursery rhyme characters to the mix and you get one entertaining book full of puns, jokes, allusions, and fun. Plus the murder mystery. Recommended.

I also picked up Fables: Arabian Nights (and Days), the seventh volume of the Vertigo comics series. This time around the residents of Fabletown are brought into contact with the Arabian fables and the first half of the volume is taken up with that culture clash and the problems of a d'jinn. We also see developments between Prince Charming and Beauty, learn Boy Blue's fate, and lots more. The second part of the volume is a two-part story detailing the brewing love between two wooden soldiers in the Adversary's kingdom who wish to become flesh so they can consumate their love. Their wish comes at a price, however.

This series has quietly become one of my favorites, in large part due to Mark Buckingham's art. He uses page borders to help set the scene, as well as small drawings at the top of the page to do the same. It's somewhat akin to how they would use the individual character logos in Justice League of America or Legion of Super-Heroes. The writing is good too, obviously, with plenty of ongoing plots and character moments. But Bucky's work truly makes it fun.

Finally, I picked up the first issue of the new volume of Castle Waiting. Linda Medley self-published this series a number of years ago (followed by a stint at Jeff Smith's Cartoon Books) and it was a favorite of mine. It has been on hiatus for quite a few years and I no longer have those issues. Fantagraphics has stepped in and is now publishing not only this new series but a collection of the series up to this point (which I have not yet picked up). Anyway, the new issue reprints the final two of the previously published series (they were left out of the collection), plus a new story. The charm of this series lies not in any fast-paced plotting but in the characters living in a castle that has been abandoned by its royalty as well as Medley's wonderful cartoony style. Yeah, I know I'm not describing this well enough. It's fun and funny and interesting and a joy to look at while you read. What more can you want in a comic book?

Sunday, August 06, 2006


I watched Wilco at Lollapalooza via the webcast earlier tonight, saving "Deadwood" and "Entourage" for tomorrow. I can't pass up a chance to see my favorite band in action; I've only seen them in person once (that needs to change on their next big tour). They played a mixture of songs from the last three records, plus four new songs. Of those, I really liked "Walken" and "Let's Fight," though I enjoyed the other two as well. Jeff Tweedy started talking about the reason why they are back in Chicago before he got sidetracked by security hauling someone away...I assume he was going to say they're finishing recording the next album. Which means it will probably be early 2007 before we see it. I can't wait.

Saturday, August 05, 2006


When I'm flipping around on the TV, there are certain movies I come across that I have to stop and watch. Sometimes I'll hang around for 10 or 15 minutes; sometimes I'll sit and watch the rest of the film. Tonight I ran across a movie on one of the HBO channels that fell into the later category - "Field of Dreams."

It doesn't matter how many times I've seen it or how well I know the whole movie (and yes, I know a lot of the dialogue by heart...not that I could quote it to you if we were talking but I know it as the movie is rolling), I have to stop and watch. It's that combination of baseball, a fantasy element, and the emotional story of a son trying to connect with his deceased father. I love it. And yes, I cry every time. Not just at the very end either. Doc Graham's sacrifice gets me too. Then there's the game of catch at the end. Makes me think of my dad every time and becomes even more poignant the older he gets (though he still plays in a softball league at the age of 64). This year Grant expressed an interest in playing baseball, which made me very happy. He and I have played catch together too. Today he turned 9 years old and will start 3rd grade in a few weeks. Time keeps on moving...

Anyway, I love my father and I love my son and I love "Field of Dreams" too. Even if it makes me cry.

Friday, August 04, 2006


Two big happenings in Chicago this weekend, neither of which I am attending. Sure, time and money (and interest) factor in but tomorrow is Grant's 9th birthday and I just don't want to miss an occasion like that. Luckily, the internet is there to make me feel like I'm not missing a thing.

I've been checking out the Lollapalooza webcast off and on today. The Raconteurs played a great set and as I'm typing this Ryan Adams has just started. I've fallen out of touch with Adams but I'm going to listen to/watch some of his set. I do like "Cold Mountain," the opener. Wilco goes on Sunday night at 8:30...I may have to watch "Deadwood" on demand.

This weekend also has Wizard World Chicago going on. I used to be a regular at the Chicago comics convention, even before Wizard World took it over. I haven't been going on a regular basis for 5 or 6 years now. It's just a big crowded mess and doesn't really appeal to me. Plus, I can keep up with all the news at Newsarama and/or Comic Book Resources. Trust me, I used to have to wait until I got home to find out what "happened" at the con anyway.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


I finished T.C. Boyle's latest, Talk Talk, this afternoon. I liked the book quite a bit; in fact, it may be right up there with The Tortilla Curtain as my favorite of his novels. The themes of identity and communication were handled in a variety of ways and the writing was outstanding as usual. I've heard talk of readers being dissatisfied with the ending but I didn't have that problem at all - I was expecting something it to be something other than it was. A resolution, a realization. Recommended.

I'm in one of those periods where I've been starting posts and then erasing them. I don't feel my communication skills are at their highest at the moment. It also seems I don't have that drive to post as much when the band is active with practice or shows. We practiced Monday and play tomorrow, so that could explain the restlessness.

Anyway, I've now read 20 books and have just under 5 months to read 20 more to reach my goal. I've got a book ready to go; we'll see how long it takes.