Friday, December 28, 2012

Songs of 2012 - Counting Days

You want to make me spin. You want to hold me in.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The AV CLUB gave 'pop-culture gifts' this year. If I had a job there and someone asked me to contribute to their list, I'd say, "Give people Women's Public Strain, now!"

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Monday, December 17, 2012

Songs of 2012 - Walkin' Down My Street

I don't care if you see my cryin' or bleed, I just need you baby.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

James Joyce - A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Stuart Dybek - The Coast of Chicago
Rafael Sanchez Ferlosio - The Adventures of the Ingenious Alfanhui
David Bezmozgis - Natasha
Ernest Hemingway - The Snows of Kilimanjaro
Agota Kristof - The Notebook
Sergio de la Pava - A Naked Singularity
Franz Kafka - The Trial
Alice Munro - Runaway
Christina Stead - The Man Who Loved Children
David Foster Wallace - The Pale King
Jerzy Kosinski - The Painted Bird
John Steinbeck - The Pearl

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Songs of 2012 - Larry Bird

I done three-wheeled and jumped off a diving board

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Songs of 2012 - Kill For Love

A stellar record, but looong. 

Everybody's got a secret to hide

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Songs of 2012 - The Mother We Share

The most joyous song I heard this year. The singer's blessed with a voice that seems effortless.

Into the night for us

Friday, November 30, 2012

Songs of 2012 - Impregnable Question

From this year's finest album, Swing Lo Magellan.

What is mine is yours, in happiness and in strife.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Songs of 2012 - Teenage

Driving late at night, I let you listen to the music you like.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

American Eagle

In January, I crushed it with this post about Disney World. I've entered the travel writing canon. I'm on Frommer's speed dial. I'm doing it again.

Me and Kathy took a lil' trip to Six Flags Great America (formerly Marriott's Great America), and we saw many American treasures there. Gauged teenagers, smooching tweens, the overweight...all were in attendance.

We rode a new ride. It's called X-Flight, but I called it X-Force for most of the morning. Why did I make this error? The answer is because X-Flight is a generic coaster I'm sure will be dropped into every 6F across the country. The "flight" in X-Flight refers to the barely-there theme of supersonic air travel. Small trees and "state of the art" cars allow riders to feel like they're flying their own jet. I felt like I was on a steel roller coaster, which is to say, I didn't feel much, smooth and innocuous as they are these days.

Kathy and I wandered some more–past the juggalos and swaggering youth, past the one menswearer in attendance and past the Armani Exchanger–and we found ourselves deep in County Fair, at the entrance of the American Eagle.

The Eagle holds a special place in my heart. Back when I first started riding thrill rides, the Eagle was still a very serious draw at Great America. My dad lost his wallet while riding it. It was tallest and fastest in the world for 7 years. It greeted all visitors driving in from Chicago on 94. An impressive achievement, but does it hold up?

Of course it does, ya dummy, or why would I write a BLOGSPOT POST about it? The Eagle is one of Six Flags' elder statesman (along with Whizzer, Demon, and The Condor, obviously), and when you're riding upon its track, you will experience something truly special: the past. If only you look into your heart for it!

Because steel roller coasters don't jostle anymore. Because they hold their paint for 20 years. Because they last 30 seconds. Not so for American Eagle. The wear and tear is palpable. Chipping white paint is all around you. You doubt the track's sturdiness. You catch air, which is a phrase young people use to describe the sensation of flying off your seat. Almost everything about the Eagle is antiquated– from the helix, to the racing component, to the American theme. I asked Kathy whether she thought 6F would ever name something "American _____" again, and she said "probably, sure, why not, Pat?" But I have my doubts, as "American ______" is an inherently political name–a statement, even– and from a company that has gone the route of really macho names, like X-Force, Vertical Velocity, and Superman: Ultimate Flight. Besides, "American ______" requires some effort as far as theming goes, and we all know, 6F doesn't go for that. (There's a red, white, and blue spinner in County Fair called Revolution, which sorta contradicts my thesis, ah well).

Now that the Viper's in Southwest Territory, I certainly doubt we'll get another woody.

Visitors will flock to Gurnee forever. Each year, we'll fill in more with our imaginations. Fortunately, In County Fair, on that sweet old grandfather The American Eagle, we don't have to. A theme, thrills, nostalgia, short lines: JAH BLESS the American Eagle. I want to go back! I've bought a Twicket.


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Protest Music

This morning, in light of NATO, NPR's experts talked about their favorite protest songs. One of the old alts mentioned Minor Threat. I'd agree that my favorite protest music–if I have such a thing–falls into the hardcore punk genre and involves little more than that us against everyone mentality. The best bands let the speed and bark do the protesting. People complain when bands don't have that elusive quality immediacy. What is immediacy? It's making music that has to be made. It's feeling like your song can change the world. The best protest music might or might not have engaging lyrics. The best protest music always has immediacy. 

Monday, March 5, 2012


Why do I keep coming back to Pere Ubu's "Breath?" Oh I know, because it's a stellar song performed live for a puzzling, exciting, one-of-a-kind video. Filmed around 1989 for David Sanborn's (seriously) Michelob Presents: Night Music (check out the wiki), Pere Ubu lay waste to the Night Music stage. It's hard to imagine another performance that night, or any other night, coming close. Singer David Thomas's raspy voice greets us after a brief alien introduction, and by the time he sings "down by the sea," he's begun improvising and chirping and hiccuping between lines. His moves are fantastic. I see them in singers like Craig Finn. With hand gestures and verbal pleading, he gets the guitarist to bring it. The guitarist, cool as a cucumber the whole time, is superb. The bassist, wearing the Uncle Jesse haircut that was so popular at the time, sings backups, and allows Thomas to stretch out on "baby, standing at the edge of sorrow" with a harmony that is totally bizarre, but at the same time, right. Pay close attention to the keyboardist. Who even knows what's up with him. If you like to quote lyrics on your AIM profile, let that special someone know how you feel without actually sticking your neck out, take a peak here. One liners galore.

Now I ask you to let your mind wander to the live airing in 1989. Imagine what it would be like to see "Breath" on your television. There's no youtube and little access to home recording, so you cherish these four minutes, not sure if you'll ever see them again.

This blogger knows what's up.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

2012 in review: music

I give up. I said I'd stay on top of new album releases, but I can't. Uncle! 

Cliche #325: "There's too much new music nowadays."
I can't say I disagree. After one month of this cockamamie experiment, I've heard enough crap to tide me over for all of 2012. And I listened to mostly 'good' stuff! If I went full-tilt, I'd be a withered olive by now. So it's over. I'm done. Stop releasing bad music indiesphere. Stop releasing bad demos hardcoresphere.

Only two records worth mentioning from January 2012: the new Cloud Nothings and the new GBV. With these, at least, it seems like something's at stake.

And now, because I seldom use this blog as a vehicle for shay-talking, my 2 worst albums of the year.

Lana Del Rey - Born to Die

Craig Finn - Clear Heart Full Eyes

I began writing my reasons, but there are just so many, and the internet's full of bad vibes, so here's the summary. LDR: you hate your audience. You're a corporate monkey. Craig Finn: get off autopilot. You should know better.

See you all in 2013.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The five best rides at Walt Disney World

When the print division of my Cat Plaza media empire folded, I decided to continue the Cat Plaza journalism tradition as best as possible online. This December, I spent seven days at WDW in Orlando, Florida. While there, as usual, I became interested in the history, politics, and operations of Walt Disney World, which, in my opinion, is the North American tourist destination. I would have included this article in the next zine, but instead, it is presented here for your study and comment.

I will examine each of the five rides through a particular lens. These lenses can be used on really anything in the World. Click through for the list.

Friday, January 13, 2012

James Michener

I finished Chesapeake. Took months but I finally finished it. You see, reading a James Michener novel cover-to-cover is a challenge. Check this picture; dude knew how to research, and it all came out on paper. According to Wiki, he wrote 12-15 hours a day and kept a 'filing system' which had trouble 'keeping up.' Brings to mind a filing robot with telescopic arms overheating during the penning of Mexico.

A Michener novel is the perfect antidote to internet addiction, I swear. All books are, really, but Michener's are particularly good for it. His bricks inhabit your life---your nightstand, bookbag---remind you to put down the laptop and step into another world. That's how it felt for me anyway; ashamed about refreshing facebook and twitter for the third time that hour, I'd retire and knock out a chapter.

For books that are intrinsically concerned with time, Michener's books feel timeless. They put the present on pause, transport you back (corny, I know, bear with me), and allow you to unplug from your hyper-connected life, allow you to care deeply about Hugo Pflaum's quest to confiscate the Turlock's long gun called the Twombly, a gun which annihilates hundreds of ducks/ geese with each shot. Allow you to feel sad when Pentaquod dies, his tribe decimated, the future of Indians in serious trouble. Allow you to bear witness to the lives of Quakers, Catholics, Protestants, slaves, John Calhoun, arsters, and flocks of geese.

Common criticism: underdeveloped characters, formulaic writing, endlessly detailed passages. Readers with these problems have a right to them, but they miss the point. Michener needs to examine the spirit of a place. Always, that is the purpose. I'm now imbued with the spirit of Chesapeake bay; I hunger for schooners, for that a succulent goose in my rotund Winter belly. More importantly, perhaps, I'm hungry to go somewhere else. On my shelf: Texas, Caribbean, The Covenant, and Alaska. Not right now, necessarily, but when I'm editing a tweet for characters or memorizing the tracklist for an inconsequential album, I'll get fed up and return to that beautiful man's world.

PS - People have taken to writing Twitter novels. Only wish Michener could comment. There is no way, not now and not ever, that these can be successful. Give me a fucking break. Half-assed song lyric micro-meta garbage.