Tuesday, December 27, 2011
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
- Canadian: Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver, Winnipeg
- Eastern: Boston, Buffalo, Carolina, New Jersey, NY Islanders, NY Rangers, Philly, Washington
- Central/South: Chicago, Columbus, Detroit, Florida, Nashville, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Tampa Bay
- Western: Anaheim, Colorado, Dallas, Los Angeles, Minnesota, Phoenix, San Jose
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Some music critics argue that 1985 was the year new wave died. If that's the case, than 1986 was the funeral; synthesizers were so prominent in the mainstream that the old guard were clearly followers, left to their wits alone in a pool of inorganic sound. If the pop music of the time didn't whet your appetite, '86 was also the year college rock truly flowered; memorable albums by The Smiths, R.E.M. and Sonic Youth preceded and indirectly mentored the '90s alternative scene. This was also a strong year for metal, with several headbanging acts releasing their career- and genre-defining masterworks; it was also the advent of their goofy kid brother "hair metal," as hairspray-and-bourbon acts like Poison and Motley Crue first came to prominence. If that wasn't your jam, free jazz, rap, and roots country all had a strong year as well. In short 1986 was thoroughly eclectic, a bigger cornucopia of sound than most years in the "Greed is good" decade.
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
- the opening credits to a forgotten "Saved by the Bell" spinoff.
- a generic postcard that you send to a relative you can barely tolerate.
- the design on a nightshirt that your grandma would wear... if she wears a nightie.
- Gloria Estefan's tour bus, circa 1992.
- the poor man's Red Lobster.
- a new exhibit at Seaworld, just before PETA catches wind and protests outside the park.
- a suburban white guy trying in vain to impress a Latino co-worker.
- Jeffrey Loria's hubris (natch).
- a misguided attempt at filling a void in Miami's heart since the Dolphins and Panthers suck and the Heat won't play again until 2012 at the earliest.
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
To anyone wondering if former Gov. Sarah Palin will enter the presidential race, I think you have your answer. The multitude of much-hyped "major speeches" that Palin has given have been little more than the same homespun anti-Obama rhetoric that she's been peddling since the '08 election. She gives her audience everything they want... except to announce her candidacy for president. The ultimate reason why Palin hasn't thrown her hat in the rang --and probably won't-- is because of Michele Bachmann. That's not to say two women can't vie for the same party's candidacy, it's just that their platforms are too similar. (The fact that Bachmann is starting to physically mimic Palin is purely coincidental.)
Sadly, this is not where the parallels end. Both women are sound-byte magnets, have love-it-or-leave-it personas, and both are wilting (wilted?) under the scrutiny of the media. Without beating a dead horse, I have always believed that a leftist media conspiracy is pure hooey; while it is highly difficult for a reporter to demonstrate complete objectivity, the perlustration flies both ways. The only difference is, conservatives complain about being treated unfairly in a louder, more strident fashion than liberals. In the right's eyes, the slightest aside is lethal, as evidenced by this recent "misquote." The recent dustup involving a seemingly unflattering photo on the cover of Newsweek begat a partisan optical illusion: some see Bachmann as the latest scapegoat by a secretive yet opaque clique bent on undermining her every move; others see a woman that just doesn't photograph well.
In a race as contested as the 2012 GOP presidential nomination, every candidate's worst enemy is themselves. On one hand, any false move can be an opponent's goldmine. On the other hand, you have to find a way to stand out in a crowded race. Rep. Bachmann's recent appearance on Jay Leno straddled that line, though the actual impact won't be felt until Iowa and/or New Hampshire. The X-factor is perspective; her supporters and defenders will say Bachmann did fine; the rest of the population saw a presidential contender bomb on network television. Either way, nothing happened on "The Tonight Show" that will alter anyone's opinion of the petite Minnesotan. She's already "convicted" in the public's eyes.
Next Week: the year in music, 1966.
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
A decade on, the greatest question of all is whether or not America is safer. A recent article in Slate suggests yes, our armed forces have adapted quite well to our new, terrorist-conscious mindset. Even though bin Laden is dead and al Qaida is becoming the Woolworth's of terrorist organizations, it would be highly arrogant to suggest that what happened ten years ago was an isolated incident. We have every right to stay on our toes. From a defense standpoint, Donald Rumsfeld's juggling act has become Robert Gates' semi-miraculous triumph. We may still be struggling in Afghanistan, but we're on better footing than five years ago. (That's not to say I'm not giving our troops a big chunk of the credit, though.)
Regardless, the face of extremism may be dead but the soul lives on. Whether the families and friends of the victims of the attacks have truly found closure, we'll never know. Conspiracy theories about the attacks still crawl around the internet, growing more tasteless and ridiculous with each passing day. No matter how you personally acknowledge this tragic milestone this coming Sunday will be a day of remembering, not forgetting. These horrible, selfish acts were perpetrated by a small cluster of people who vehemently hated anyone whose beliefs were not their own. Our best retaliation is to mourn together. We are more than our differences.
Meanwhile, on a far lighter note...
This year I was hoping write 32 haikus to match my baseball preview from five months ago, but my 40-hour-a-week temp job has whittled my free time down to a minimum. With that said, here are my 2011 NFL predictions in a nutshell:
NFC North: Green Bay (11-5)
NFC East: Philadelphia (12-4)
NFC South: New Orleans (11-5)
NFC West: St. Louis (9-7)
NFC Wild Cards: Atlanta (10-6), Detroit (9-7)
AFC North: Pittsburgh (12-4)
AFC East: New England (11-5)
AFC South: Indianapolis (10-6)
AFC West: San Diego (10-6)
AFC Wild Cards: NY Jets (11-5), Baltimore (10-6)
Most Improved Team: Detroit. A string of solid drafts has given the once-woeful Lions the stealthiest defense (at least, on paper) in the NFC. The ultimate X-factor is whether Matthew Stafford can stay healthy.
Most Likely to Freefall: Seattle. An otherwise solid O-line will come to realize that Tarvaris Jackson just isn't worth protecting. Plus, the pass defense can't cover on the blitz if they tried.
Owner of Next Year's First Overall Draft Pick: Cincinnati Bengals (2-14)
Super Bowl XLVI: Eagles 24, Steelers 17
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Next month, a documentary called "1991: The Year Punk Broke" will open in limited release in theaters across the country. This is not a new documentary by any means; in fact, it was first released in 1992 and is just now arriving on DVD. The movie itself is a crucial time capsule that inadvertantly caught a watershed moment in pop culture. What was originally supposed to spotlight Sonic Youth --an already well-established indie rock group-- performing live on tour gave equal attention to their various opening acts, including a young, fledging Seattle trio named Nirvana. Neither of these two bands nor did the director and producers of this movie know what was about to hit them.
People best remember 1991 as the year grunge (really a descendent of punk) hit the mainstream, but in reality the tidal change didn't really occur until the tail end of the year. Whatever musical trends were raging in 1989 and 1990 were still in vogue; there was a sense of complacency and sameness to Top 40 radio, at least until October or November of that year. One could even argue that nearly every #1 hit from that year was basically a variation on the same cheesy power ballad, regardless of the gender, race, or creed of the artist. Grunge was a game-changer, the new direction mainstream music needed at that time. Even though it's connection to straight up rock n' roll is fairly loose, it made a whole genre relevant again. Nirvana was the primary agitator of this new movement, and though they were the most infamous act in the bunch, bands like Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Smashing Pumpkins, and Alice in Chains owe their careers to Kurt Cobain's unlikely watershed moment. After this point, alternative rock was rock.
Even though I turned seven years old in '91, one might wonder what I would have put on a mixtape that year. This should give you a hint:
1. Nevermind, Nirvana. Some artists capture the zeitgeist; others are ensnared against their will. Nirvana straddled that line, jumping to a major label for their second album while also honing and mastering the fuzzbox fire of their 1989 debut Bleach. Where their metal contemporaries howled with the depth of a birdbath --especially in an era where cheesy, halfhearted ballads guaranteed record sales-- Kurt Cobain's music and lyrics are raw, evocative, and above all honest. Twenty years ago Nevermind was life-changing, but now its life-affirming, and perhaps for the better.
2. Ten, Pearl Jam. Rising from the ashes of Mother Love Bone (see my 1990 list for more details) and almost named for a basketball player (see my Mookie blog from four months ago), Ten plays second fiddle to Kurt & Co. in many critics' minds but deserves acclaim as a masterpiece in its own right. If Nirvana cracked the windshield, than Eddie Vedder and the boys smashed the whole damn window. Where Nirvana looked inward, PJ saw the world as their oyster, fusing social commentary into Vedder's raspy growl and Mike McCready's Hendrix-style guitar riffs. Conceived in tragedy, Ten rises above and never looks back.
3. The Low End Theory, A Tribe Called Quest. Grunge gets all the press, but 1991 was also a watershed year for hip-hop. Taking a cue from De La Soul's jazzy beats and literate lyrics, ATCQ shies away from hardcore rap and the growing gangsta movement for something more cerebral and philosophical. Put together, Q-Tip and Phife Dawg are absolutely sublime; they don't battle each other with rhymes so much as they debate. The heart is in the groove, and on The Low End Theory, the heart could fill up a whole room.
4. Loveless, My Bloody Valentine
5. Badmotorfinger, Soundgarden
6. Blue Lines, Massive Attack
7. Blood Sugar Sex Magik, Red Hot Chili Peppers
8. Bandwagonesque, Teenage Fanclub
9. Achtung Baby, U2
10. Metallica (a/k/a The Black Album), Metallica. Leaping into the mainstream for their fifth album, The Black Album has a divisive place in the band's oeurve; either this is where you discovered Metallica or gave up on them. Following the production issues of ...And Justice For All, you can't blame the boys for trying a simpler approach, while at the same time giving death metal some mainstream credibility. It's hard to deny that this is a great disc, even if left turns like "The Unforgiven" and "Nothing Else Matters" foreshadow later indulgences.
Honorable Mentions: Use Your Illusion I, Guns n' Roses; My Brain Hurts, Screeching Weasel; Temple of the Dog, Temple of the Dog.
"Siva," Smashing Pumpkins
"Shiny Happy People," R.E.M.
"Right Here Right Now," Jesus Jones
"I Touch Myself," Divinyls
"Tom's Diner," DMA feat. Suzanne Vega
"Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)," C+C Music Factory
"Summertime," The Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff
"Bring The Noise," Anthrax feat. Chuck D
"Civil War," Guns n' Roses
1. "Smells Like Teen Spirit," Nirvana. The best song from the best album of the '90s also begat arguably the most compelling video of the grunge era. It's more than an anthem, "Teen Spirit" is a call to arms. Get lost, popular kids; the freaks have taken over.
2. "Losing My Religion," R.E.M. With a premise based on Gabriel Garcia Marquez' short story "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" and a hook built upon a mandolin riff, this beautiful clip is another pleasant surprise in a year chock-full of unexpected delights. Somehow, this never screams "pretentious."
3. "Justify My Love," Madonna. Madge channels Fellini in this erotic, banned-from-MTV video. I think Wayne Campbell and Garth Alger put it best: "man, check out the package on THAT guy."
4. "Enter Sandman," Metallica. Finding that rare balance between critical acclaim and commercial success, this dreamlike escape perfectly matches Lars and James' nightmarish vision.
5. "Into The Great Wide Open," Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. One of first "all-star" videos with any semblance of plot, Johnny Depp, Faye Dunaway, and a pre-"Friends" Matt LeBlanc overshadow a chameleon-like Petty in a story about the pitfalls of instant fame.
Honorable Mention: "Black or White," Michael Jackson; "Been Caught Stealing," Jane's Addiction.
Finally, this week I received a new laptop (a Toshiba Intel, to be exact) and to mark the occasion I finally made a great leap forward in the social networking world. You can now find me on Twitter at #heystu818 and on Skype at heystu17. (I assume most of you have already added me on Facebook or found this blog via Zuckerman's website, so that goes without saying.)
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
My previous statement may seem biased, but I have a hard time taking candidates seriously when they use their religious beliefs for political gain. I have just as much skepticism towards Perry's bible-toting and Bachmann's denial of gay rights as I do Jesse Jackson and the Rainbow PUSH Coalition. The authors of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights sought to create a country where no faith trumped any other, and while it is noble to hold strong Christian values, their strictness applies only to a strident minority of Americans. This is not how the phrase "God above nation" is supposed to work. As it stands, I predict the GOP nomination will be a three-way race; Romney's mainstream conservatism will be pitted against Ron Paul's en vogue libertarianism and Bachmann's Tea Party traditionalism. For all his fervor, Perry entered the race too late to make a true difference; he's just shaking up the pot, telling angry conservatives what they want to hear, and feeding off the frontrunners. There's nothing to worry about... for now.
+ At long last, the 2011 Beloit College mindset list --which I blogged about two months ago-- has been released. When I wrote "my" list, I had totally forgotten that this year's incoming college freshmen have never ordered from the Sears catalog, and that Kim Jong Il has always been taunting the United States. Here's the link: http://www.beloit.edu/mindset/2015/
+ Being an Illinoisan, I did not feel nor was I affected by the 5.8 earthquake in northeast Virginia, though I know a few people out here that did feel a faint tremor. Were any of you shaken by the quake?
+ Fielders Update: after a temporary panic, the troubled Lake County ballclub shut down for a week or so, than began a new, revised schedule that gives them more home games (thus, less money spent on airfare). Considering that the Fielders are the only team in the NABL that plays in this region of the continent --three teams play in Canada, one in Honolulu-- and their obvious money woes, the future of the organization beyond 2011 is still in doubt. More details as they arise.
Next week: the year in music, 1991.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
This coming Thursday, I turn 27 years old. It’s not really an official milestone by any means, unless you consider that to be one’s unendorsed entry into your late 20s. (Longtime readers may have noticed that my attempts to be introspective can be quite stilted, so bear with me.)
As a classic rock nerd in high school, turning 27 means outliving a fair percentage of the artists I grew up listening to. In a weird sort of way, I looked up to Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Brian Jones, and Jimi Hendrix; in the next few months, I will surpass them one by one. Even artists I discovered in early adulthood have been affected by “The 27 Club”: blues legend Robert Johnson, Chris Bell of Big Star, Pigpen McKernen of The Grateful Dead, Mia Zapata of The Gits. The fact that Amy Winehouse died last month at the same age of the aforementioned rock legends temporarily put me on edge, if only because the troubled “Rehab” singer graduated from high school one year before I did. Until her sad yet foreseeable demise, my reference point was Kurt Cobain, 17 years my senior but a tormented guiding spirit to an entire generation.
If I sound ghoulish, it’s only because the 27 Club marks the last vestiges of pure, unbridled youth and our surrender to adulthood… or so it seems. We’re now four or five years removed from college; nobody is holding our hand anymore. We never got see Janis Joplin with cellulite or Kurt Cobain with male pattern baldness, and for karmic reasons maybe we should happy that we didn’t. They lived their short lives in excess and paid dearly for it. Of the names I mentioned above, only Pigpen died of natural causes. The responsibilities of adulthood are not pretty, but they’re inevitable.
With my 27th birthday this week, I am marking a second moment of transition. On Sunday night I had my last class performance at iO Chicago, the climax of a 16-month journey into the basic concepts and assumed structures of long-form improv. My seven-week run with Ladies & Lumberjacks (our chosen team name, long story) is something that I am immensely proud of, and I will miss working with my friends and peers very dearly. We worked exclusively together for four months —the duration of the last level is twice as long as the others— and we formed a very tight bond, not unlike brothers and sisters. Between losing my job and dealing with a terminally ill parent last summer, improv became my reason to wake up in the morning. To say the experience was fun is an understatement; iO was a liberating thrill ride and the most consistent morale booster I’ve ever had.
With that said, I am segueing myself into the next chapter of my improv career at the Second City Conservatory. As I mentioned last week, I have orientation on the 28th and my first class is Labor Day weekend. Like iO and the Second City basic improv program before that, I will share a class with 15-odd complete strangers with similar interests and we will grow to become a cohesive unit, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to take the ride. Fittingly enough the conservatory program runs for exactly one year, and if all goes right my graduation will coincide with my 28th birthday next August. My job situation is still in limbo, but my confidence overall is in resurgence. This will be my year, and for the first time in a long while I’ll be pulling the reins.