Monday, December 31, 2007

Year End Lists are bunk!

I have a hard time remember what went on in January, or what I thought (in the middle of the year) was neat enough to be included on a year-end list. But I'm going to make a game attempt anyway.

Top N (where n = some as yet undefined number of things) Things of 2007.
  1. Two night Hold Steady extravaganza. Exactly what it sounds like. Marcus and I went to go see the Hold Steady in Milwaukee one night, crashed at my friends, made fun of juggaloes, and then went to Madison to see the Hold Steady again. Bonus points for: getting up on stage and dancing the first night, and seeing Craig Finn jogging before the show the second.
  2. Directed a Show. I directed a production of Tom Stoppard's Arcadia for the New Revels Players this year. Something I've wanted to do for some time, so it goes in here as a personal best.
  3. The Weakerthans. Possibly the best 90 minutes of the past 6 months, for serious. Got there just in time for the Weakerthans themselves, and saw them play everything, pretty much. I was running a fever in the car on the way to the show, and by the end of the set, it was done. Magic, I tell you!.
  4. The Baroque Cycle. I love Neal Stephenson. He wrote two of the best SF novels of the 90's (Snow Crash and the Diamond Age) and one of the great-novels-I-have-yet-to-read, The Cryptonomicon. He also wrote a several thousand page group of novels about the period between roughly the Restoration and the Hanoverian Dynasty. It's huge, both in concept and in size, massively immersive, a bit messy, and incredibly fun. It took me basically all summer to read, but man-oh-man, was it worth it.
It's only a 4 item list, I'm afraid. But those were the big ones. If there are any I've missed that you think I should remember, let me know.

Happy New Year.

On Edit:
Duh, LOLcats, and LOLChthulu, and LOLsecretz, and all the other spawn of image macros. Brought so much joy into my life this year. I'm not even lying. I just noticed today that Paris' Airport is called Orly, and it made my heart sing. It was a very good year.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Happy Christmas Eve

For a present, enjoy this greatness I found at Mitch Clem's Blog today.

I'm gonna tear those nachos a new asshole, it's only fair.

Or, waiting for Santa. Allegedly, my mysterious fellow-author is going to post tonight on a subject near and dear to both our hearts. I'll be staying up to hear the hoofbeats on the roof.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Somewhere loving justice shines

Dear Vice Magazine,
I hope your kids hate you. Stop lying to yourselves. You* are going to try and hold on to your youth for as long as possible, and that's fine, but making fun of old people trying to be cool is just a way of storing what our common friends, the hippies, would refer to as "some seriously bad Karma."


*I created a personification of Vice Magazine in my mind. Two of them. Joel and Patricia Vice.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Sorry for all the link-posts.

Life in Rockford tends to revolve around Denny's coffee, cigarettes, and boredom. So, I come home and get online and look for something cool. I've been checking out ffffound for a while now, and really enjoying it, so I'm going to share it.

Sometimes, you just gotta look at something neat.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Jarvis Cocker looks like the 10th Doctor

You know it's true.

He (the 10th Doctor, David Tennant, not Jarvis) is a supporter of Derry City F.C., a team with the wonderful nickname "the Candystripers."

That's enough for tonight. I'll try to blog* interestingly about Rockford over break.

*I actually hate myself a little for using this as a verb.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

DI Roundup, part 2

I'm trying terribly hard not to make this a Paul Schmitt fan column, but the man is made of gold.
Gold whose chemical structure is a continued obsession with our favorite Village Person.

For instance, this week is semester retrospective week, and number two on Our Mr. Schmitt's list of UI's All-Stars is the Chief. Yes, that Chief. Above the US Military (we saw three really neat flyovers*, and, you know, that whole risking life and limb in service to our country thing**). Below Illini football, but that's only to be expected give Rose Bowl Fever.

His All-Stiffs list***? The C-U Senate, most of the upper administration of the University, and the funding committee. After his citation for the funding committee (which was right on) he carps that people complain that he doesn't have his priorities straight. Now, if actually making UIUC livable was his chief (sorry) concern, I'd agree with his bafflement, but as it isn't his Chief concern, I have to say that he doesn't.

*It looked like two by F-16s and one by F-18s. It made my inner 5th grader really happy.
**He puts this below the flyovers. Probably not intentional, but bad form.
***I'd like to rename the "Feast of All Souls, Commemoration for the Faithful Departed" All Stiff's day, but it's probably in bad taste. Also, does anyone know how to enter daggers, double daggers, and all those other great bits of miscellany, so I don't have to use greater and greater strings of asterisks?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

I'm glad it's free.

I mentioned in passing when I was talking about Paul Schmitt last week that there were bigger race issues at U of I than the Chief. Specifically, I think I mentioned the fact that the University is overwhelmingly white and suburban.

Some numbers by way of illustration. 6% of the students at UIUC are black, compared to 15.1% of the population of Illinois. 6% of students are Latino, compared to 14.3% statewide. The only overrepresented non-white group would be Asians, 11.0% of students are Asian, compared to 4.1% statewide. For completeness' sake, non-Hispanic White students make up 76.74% of the University's population*, compared to 65.8% statewide. (Sources: U of I's own Facts 2007: Illinois by the Numbers and the Census Bureau).

So, with the numbers out of the way and hopefully sticking in the back of your mind somewhere, I can tell you what brought this up. A column by an Illinois Student Senate member in the DI, which said, basically, that U of I is hostile towards minority students, and suggested that we make it better. So far, so good. Personally, I'd like to see the University do more to get downstate kids here, too, but that's my ax to grind**. Where she leaves the rails a bit is in first getting overly histrionic, talking about individual acts of hostility***, and then suggesting the university do more to control these, which raises the specter of speech codes, which are beyond worthless.

The problem with discussing racism at UIUC is threefold.
1.) It all comes back to the Chief. The first comment on this column? Mr. Paul D. Schmitt, talking about the author's support for taking the Chief out of homecoming, and citing the well-worn statistic that 70% of campus is pro-Chief. It would be nice to have a discussion where we could talk about race without bringing up our favorite member of the Village people.
2.) Affirmative Action. Probably (just making a back-of-the-envelope guess here) 80% of the comments were about affirmative action, with the attendant cries of "but unqualified blacks and Hispanics are taking away spots from qualified candidates (of any color)"**** and complaints about lowered standards. One poster made a particularly charming comment about "
Let?s not even start on how many scholarships are going to these folks who urinate them down the drain." [sic] It's always a wonderful thing when people get together for a free exchange of ideas, isn't it?
3.)And, because UIUC is so disproportionately Asian, someone is bound to bring up the model minority myth. Several times. In this case, it was formed as "why do you want to sabotage your own race by letting less qualified people in." Especially lovely.

So, that's today's DI roundup. Stay tuned next time, when I remember again why I'm glad it's free.

*This is down from my freshman year, when non-Hispanic Whites made up 79 and a bit percent.
**I couldn't find a by-county or by-region breakdown of enrollment, but I don't see a lot of downstate kids here, and the ones I do know were doing FWS jobs with me.
***Which are unfortunate, and do contribute to a hostile environment, but focusing on them lets people say "oh, some hicks are so rude" and ignore the structural inequalities that are still as strong as ever.
****That one confused me. I mean, most Americans recognize what, 4 races, and two of them are black and Hispanic* so, that seems to me to be a really inept way of saying "taking spots from white people.
* please don't remind me that Hispanic is not a race. It seems to be recognized as such, so I'm treating it as such, kthxbye.

Finals time

So, I have a Latin final on Thursday, and that means I feel like this

The three other people on the planet who like both Latin and Lolcats should find that hilarious.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Christmastown, the settlement of which I am the mayor.

So, it's December, the greater Champaign-Urbana area has had its first dusting of snow, and that means that it's time for eggnog and Christmas music. To that end, I'd like to recommend A John Waters Christmas to everyone. Now, those of you who know John Waters may wonder what he has to do with a holiday celebrating either the birth of our Lord and Savior or the return of the sun. Well, not much actually, but he put together a series of true gems on a CD, wrote some funny liner notes, and shared it with the rest of us. The CD includes the predictable (Alvin & the Chipmunks,Tiny Tim), the odd ("Santa Claus is a Black Man"), and the sublime ("Christmastime is Coming" and "I Wish You a Merry Merry Christmas"). It's a fun time. Fresh Air did an interview with Mr. Waters when this came out, and it's a joy to hear him talk about the songs, and his love of trash. So, put some rum in your eggnog, make a pot of glogg, and have your friends over to listen to this.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

When they make me king

I will change the spelling of "blog" to "blaag." It seems more futuristic that way.

U of I roundup.

If you magically live in both Chambana and a cave, you might be interested to know that the Fighting Illini are going to the Rose Bowl. If you don't live in Chambana, you probably don't care. If you don't live in a cave, you probably already knew.

Now, this is terribly exciting if you follow football, or own more than two items of Illini gear (sad story, I own one, a graduation present). If not, may I suggest an alternative to this Rose Bowl fever.

Illini Hockey.

Seriously, 5$ to get in (last time I checked), the rowdiest fans ever (the infamous Harassing Illini)*, nice breaks between periods where one could, theoretically, seek liquid refreshment elsewhere**, and you know, it's hockey, which is scientifically proven to be 8 times less boring than football***. Seriously, check out a game. It's a good-ass time.

In other news, apparently some other Illini people have blogs. One of these blogs is by a friend of mine. Another causes acute chest pain. Yet another is mostly pictures. My hypothetical readers are all smart people, I'm sure you can tell which is which.

The DI has given the president of "Students for Chief Illiniwek" his own column. This fella, Paul Schmidt, ran for student trustee based solely on saving the Chief. Now, as you see from the linked page with his DI columns, he has other concerns****, and the DI can hire whoever the hell it wants, but giving the head of a campus pressure group, especially a group devoted to such a complete***** non issue, weekly space in the paper rubs me the wrong way.

That's pretty much all I have to report.

*in a stunning, but entertaining, display of bad sportsmanship, I once saw them end a game against Minnesota (6-1 Illinois, I think) with a chant of "bring out the short bus."

**I mention this only for the sake of completeness, and do not condone drinking at the theoretically alcohol-free Ice Arena. But it is theoretically possible. I mean, they have to zamboni all that ice. Those are long breaks.

***Yes, football is boring. I like baseball, which is proverbial for being boring, and I think football is boring. That's how boring it is.

****To recap: the farm column was interesting, his support of a pope who looks to repeal Vatican II is unfortunate, and his labored comparison of George w. Bush and Harry S. Truman is unfortunate and poorly researched.

*****complete, utter, fucking, non-issue. Make Lincoln Hall habitable, make the student health services not suck, get classes down to below 400 students, address the actual racism on campus (admittedly, this may be a bit hard in a school that's overwhelmingly white and suburban, and not actually the administration's fault), do something about how goddamn expensive college is, and then maybe, maybe, worry about the fact that we have (had?) a mascot just this side of the tasteful line from the grinning fella from the Cleveland Indians. But not before.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A question for all the cultural studies people.

So, as I've spent more time on Youtube in the past 3 days than I have in the past 3 years, I'm going to illustrate a question with a pair of videos.

the Weakerthans - the Reasons

Postal Service - We Will Become Silhouettes

So, it seems (not just from these two videos, but also from things like the design of the iPod) that we're cannibalizing the past enthusiastically in these last days, viz, the fake 50's Weakerthans video, with it's choreography and costuming and the 70's Postal Service video. See also fashion - the 80's revivalist trend (tights, jewelry, Christ-awful haircuts) and the continued existence of hippies. In music, even, Belle & Sebastian basically picked up where the 60's left off in pop music, and made the words weirder, and the Killers basically tried becoming an 80's rock band on their last album.

Even when we're not stripping it for parts, it seems like we're living up to the past's expectations. If you read comics from the 80's, dystopian ones*, the youth of the future are depicted wearing tights and mohawks. Well, we covered tights when we talked about 80's revivalists, and I work with grade-schoolers with mohawks. Beyond personal fashion, look at our appliances - the iPod is a space age dream, all white and smooth and plastic. It looks like a TV remote from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Even beyond all the iPod related space-agery, appliances are being made out of brushed metal - another space age shibboleth.

So, basically, does this mean anything? Have we run out of original ideas? Were our forward looking grandfathers right about the future? If we are living in the future, can I have a personal robot?

*The one coming to mind here is Dark Knight Returns, but there are others that escape me at this hour.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Actually, frak it

Let's just declare today music video day.

the Decemberists - Sixteen Military Wives

It pains my in my soul to agree with pitchfork, but I love this video, even if it does look an awful lot like it's shamelessly ripping off Rushmore. If I'd been more on top of things, I'd have gone as the United States from this video for Halloween after it came out.

Kidz Bop - Since U Been Gone.

Also from pitchfork's list, this one is just disturbing. I don't know if it's the walrus drummer, or the chorus of kids, or what, but it just doesn't work.

The Village People - In the Navy

There's gay, and then there's Village People gay. I mean, I know they were constructed by a marketing agency using gay stereotypes and subtexts to tap the newly-out and newly-lucrative gay market, but they're just so gleefully gay, you can't help but smile. Catchy song, though. The funny part is the Navy loaned them a destroyer thinking they were going to make a straight-forward (sorry) recruiting video.

the Smiths - This Charming Man.

Even gayer than "In the Navy."

Jawbreaker - Fireman

I just had to. You people know, or will know, about my feelings for this band.

My Chemical Romance - Helena
MCR disabled embedding for the Helena video, but I just have to say something about it, and that something is "at my funeral, everyone will be required to wear make up, and learn the choreography before there ceremony." Middling song, awesome idea for a send off.

Hold Steady - Chips Ahoy!

I'm posting this instead of "Stuck Between Stations" because that's just a poor excuse for seeing them live, but this is kind of cute.

Cake - Sheep Go to Heaven

For such a cute little cut-paper video, it's really bleak.

the Undertones - Teenage Kicks


The Weakerthans - Psalm for the Elks' Lodge Last Call.

If Canada were really this cute, there'd be no one left in America.

Ted Leo & the Pharmacists - Where have all the Rudeboys gone?

Poor Rudeboy hobos.

And, finally, I leave you with this. Enjoy. Be sure to click through and read the comments.


If this had been the real song, summer as a lifeguard would have been a lot less unbearable.

(Thanks, Sassy)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Late Night Random Thoughts

So, both of my roommates are gone, and that means that my sleep schedule is even more frakked up than normal. As a result, I'm watching MTV2 at 4 in the morning, and sharing my thoughts.

Item: The singer from The Academy Is... looks like a girl. Not a terribly attractive girl, either. A girl with a fairly manly bone structure and a chip on her shoulder.

Item: Those American Apparel swimsuits with the semicircles cut out on the side look good on no person!

Item: Kid Rock has a new music video?

Item: According to Mr. Rock, you have a fire like the devil and you smell like sex. He said it, not me.

Item: Did MTV always show a commercial between each video? Is it a problem with our generation? Or do they just inflict this on insomniacs?

Item: Do you remember when MTV showed cartoons? And will they find something else to waste our time with, so subsequent generations will say "Do you remember when MTV used to show shitty reality dating shows?"

Item: Whatever motherfrakker in Fall Out Boy decided to to make a video about undernourished but still telegenic Ugandan youngsters needs to be beaten about the head and shoulders, at least until he can explain to me what heart-wrenchingly adorable diamond miners going on cute dates in the city and sitting in the grass in full view of a man with an AK-47 has to do with being from the suburbs and producing subpar dance-pop.

Item: According to the ever-informative Wikipedia, Mr. Wentz & Co. are longtime supporters of a charity called Invisible Children, Inc, which campaigns to raise awareness of the plight of child soldiers in Northern Uganda. I apologize for the cheap shot above regarding the video, but stand by my assertion of the subpar nature of their music, and question whether this really is the best way to raise awareness of the situation. But I still congratulate them for trying to raise awareness.

Item: There is no such thing as a bad metal video.

Item: Who the hell is Seether and why should I care? Is looking like a giant douchebag part of the act, or just a bonus for the viewer?

Item: Firefox's spellchecker doesn't recognize the word douchebag.

Item: The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus. Jesus, the names keep getting dumber and the music more insipid. In my day, we had bands with good, solid names, like Braid and Hum and Jawbreaker, who played simple, dignified music that didn't suck. Damn-ass kids.

Item: MTV, why do you make me hate my country?

Item: Vice's stupid-ass internet TV experiment has partnered with MTV? All together now - "Selloutz!"

Item: Making fun of most of these bands isn't even a challenge.

Item: David Letterman is a stand-up guy. For real. Also, go WGA!

Item: Chormeo, even with all your corny-ass computer animation, you are still stuck in the 80's, and I'd like to remind you of the words of St. Craig, "the 80's almost killed me, let's not recall them not so fondly."

Item: There is nothing more pitiful than a band using terrible, stale imagery in their videos. "Oh, his girlfriend left him. Oh, there's a closeup of a turned over chair." Blah.

I'm out. I can't take this anymore.

Friday, November 16, 2007

ya ya hey

So, I missed the Mountain Goats on account of being overworked and sick. I have also spent the past 3 hours drinking and watching this:

Saturday, November 10, 2007

More Reminders

The Mountain Goats will be playing a show at the Canopy Club on Wednesday (Nov. 14) at 8 PM. Tickets are available at the usual places.

I'd also like to remind everyone to look for the Green Street Records comp, which features, among other worthy acts, my friend Jonathon Childers.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Making up for lost time.

So, I lied about posting the review for Atmosphere right after seeing it. We went, caught a bit of the opener, and then saw Slug, Ant, and a live band do a long set that basically made me realize how little Atmosphere I actually know. They played a big ol' chunk of stuff from the new album, two or three songs off of the LPs (none of our favorites) and then mostly things from the EPs. The other thing about seeing Atmosphere is how old the honorable Mr. Daley is, and how much energy he packs into the body of "a skinny guy with a gut and backne." I didn't breathe once during the set.

Also recently saw the Weakerthans at the Metro. Managed to get there barely in time for their set, because of a fun and friendly detour on the way up, and saw the whole hour and a half set. Now, I have wanted to see the Weakerthans since, roughly, my junior year of high school, and I'm pretty sure that I'm not the only person in the audience who'd been waiting that long - they played just a few songs off the new album (including my favorite, "Virtute* the Cat Explains Her Departure") to remind fans that they have, infact, been doing something for the past four years. For the rest of the set, they played a pretty even mix of songs off the other three, including a mini solo set by Mr. Samson ("One Great City" and "My Favorite Chords"). They opened, oddly enough, with "Psalm for the Elk's Lodge Last Call" and closed with "Manifest."

In other news, I was running a fever the entire ride up to the show, and it was gone by the time we left. I credit the band for this.

*pronounced "Vir-chew-tay." I learned this at the show.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Friendly Reminders

Atmosphere is Sunday, at the Canopy. It should be good. CPalmeno saw them at the Pabst in Milwaukee, and said that we were in for a treat, so expect ravings about this late Sunday/Early Monday.

Bonus Lolrocker:

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Nothing to See Here

Seriously, as far as U of I news goes:
  • We're re-hiring Ron Zook. There's a million dollars ($1.305 million, if we're getting technical) well-spent.
  • The DI has a special music poll on "the best rock album of 2007 so far." The results are either terrible or delightful.
  • Urbana's still too dark.
In other news:
  • What the hell is this? (via boingboing)
  • "The controversial call to cut down on beef and serve more of the national symbol on our dinner plates follows a report on curbing greenhouse gas emissions damaging the planet." (via
  • We are your overlords! (God only knows, it's been in my favorites since freshman year)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Weekend Roundup

That's all, folks!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Appropriate and Inappropriate facial hair.

So, There was a Man Man concert here in beautiful Champaign-Urbana last night. It was a good time - loud, fun, lots of dancing - all those things that make for a good live show.

One thing was off kilter, however. Freddie Mercury Mustaches.

This is the last man to actually make the Freddie Mercury Mustache look good - Freddie Mercury.

Now, there's nothing wrong with Facial hair. I've been known to enjoy wearing the occasional beard myself. But, gentlemen, there is appropriate facial hair and inappropriate facial hair.

Amish-style beards are always distinguished. Low maintenance, classy, generally go well with any face. And, they make you look like our greatest president ever.

There's really no way to mess these up. It's a good starter beard.

Now, mutton chops can be a good alternative if you want to set yourself apart from the Amish/Lincoln beard. Be careful, though - if you're not careful about wearing your mutton chops, you will look like a douchebag. The rule here is "go big or go home."

I was going to label stubble as "inappropriate," but then I realized two things. First, I am guilty of that one 90% of the time, and second, two of the world's greatest badasses are known for their stubble.

Now, you can probably get away with wearing other breeds of facial hair. But please, out of respect for our dear, departed Freddie Mercury, leave his mustache alone.