Coming to the James VanOsdol show later this afternoon (5/23): Jenny McCarthy.
She’s an author! Activist! Actress! Model! And, um, this girl:
Jenny and I talk about her work for Generation Rescue, her upcoming Playboy pictorial, how she takes her hot dogs, MTV, and her upcoming NBC shows (that’s plural).
I watched Morgan Spurlock’s new documentary, Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope, Friday night On Demand.
I love the ability to see a movie that’s currently in theaters from the comforting confines of my own home. In fact, I really hope these opportunities become more frequent. Say what you will about the “shared experience” of seeing a movie with hundreds of theater-goers, I’m perfectly content to watch a flick all by my lonesome.
The problem with going to the movies, concerts, or any public event, is that some jackass in the crowd always ruins the experience for me. Take, for example, when I went to see Van Halen at the United Center in February. I was behind a row of fratboys who drove up from Bradley (as was loudly proclaimed many, many times) who couldn’t hold their liquor. When the opening riff of “Unchained” kicked in, the fratboy in front of me yelled to his dumb buddy, “Fuck it, I’m taking my shirt off!” And with that, he proceeded to tear his shirt off, Hulk-style. He high-fived and fist-bumped his way through the rest of the concert, topless and brainless, funded by his parents who are likely none the wiser.
The moviegoing experience can be just as frustrating. Somebody’s always texting, Facebooking, or loudly fake laughing to the point of distraction. On a somewhat-related tangent, the next time you’re at a movie, check out how many people are on their mobile devices rather than communicating with the person next to them. I’m floored by how many couples don’t actually talk with one another, choosing instead to update and tweet statuses and Foursquare locations.
As for the Spurlock movie: I really enjoyed it, but keep in mind that I’m a guy with dozens of longboxes who can happily explain the differences between Neal Adams and Neil Gaiman. I couldn’t directly relate to some of the featured players, who were chosen because of their more intense fandom, but the movie sure felt familiar.
You can keep Back in Black and Highway to Hell; Powerage has always been my AC/DC album of choice.
Showcasing some of Angus Young’s brawnier riffs (“Riff Raff,” “Sin City,” “Down Payment Blues”), Powerage is a tough-as-fuck album, a point made more clear by “What’s Next to the Moon.”
I’m not totally sure the lyrics mean, but I do know that it involves a woman done wrong and Superman.
Because I have absolute control over Off the Record Collection, I don’t have to adhere to a deadline or strict timetable to get it into production. It’s both a luxury and crutch.
Life got in the way of progress this month, and my efforts all but stalled as I was otherwise distracted by family and work commitments (happily distracted, I should note).
While it’s true that I don’t have to worry about a deadline, I feel a bit sheepish about the fact that things haven’t progressed much in the last 30 days (my last blog entry on this topic was from 2/26/11).
Here’s the latest:
My talented cover-artist friend remains committed to creating a cover for the book. Problem is, inspiration hasn’t hit him yet. I’m more than happy to be patient…especially considering my recent pace.
One celebrity has committed to blurbing the book, and I’m still waiting on response from others.
Manuscript and rewrites
I’m never totally happy with anything I write, something that’s especially true with OTRC, a collection of previously-written material. I’ve been fussing with the copy during odd free moments, rewriting some of the contextual
frameworks which set up different stories, pieces, and observations.
My publishing imprint has a starter web page, which is screaming for content. I’ve yet to start mapping out what sorts of things to include there.
to be continued…
We had my parents over for Christmas Eve this year, and I was in charge of the menu. For ease, flavor, and comfort, I chose ribs for the entree.
Specifically, I went with Tyler Florence’s “Ultimate Barbecued Ribs,” which I’d made once before to great success. The complete recipe can be found here.
My gas grill bit the dust this summer, which means I have no choice but to contain all my cooking indoors. Florence’s ribs are as good as oven-cooked ribs can get, and the homemade sauce is better than most of the sauces you’ll find on the shelves of your local Jewel or Trader Joe’s.
Should you try to follow the recipe, know three things:
1. The sauce is sweet, and without kick. If fire is what you’re after, add your standby spices to the round of ingredients that includes the preserves, paprika, etc.
2. Remembering how much I liked the sauce the last time I made it, I decided to make a double batch this time around. A simple doubling of all the ingredients yields the same flavor.
3. Tyler Florence is insane in thinking that the ribs should only cook for two hours. Start checking at two and a half hours, and plan for three.
The only true work in preparing the ribs is creating the sauce, which is simple enough for even the most kitchen-challenged of my friends. The work is justified from the very first step:
Fresh thyme bundled in bacon. Anything wrapped in bacon is a bundle of joy.
Here are the ribs in their pre-sauced, let’s-jump-in-the-oven, naked, glory:
And the finished product:
Within 15 minutes of serving, I walked back to the kitchen with plates of picked-clean bones.
It was a Christmas miracle.
There’s a bookshelf inside my local Metra terminal that’s used for book sharing. The idea’s simple: Read a book, then pass it on.
I’d rifled through the books before and never found anything worth a second glance; Harlequin romance novels, old textbooks, and outdated self-help books half-lined the shelves. Nice idea, just nothing there worth picking up.
As I waited for my train yesterday, I again looked on the shelves. To my surprise, there among the romance novels and Chemistry textbooks, sat one of my favorite books from childhood, “The Illustrated Man” by Ray Bradbury. I hadn’t read it in decades, and the sight of it made me anxious to read those stories again. I grabbed it and headed off to the train platform.
This paperback version is from 1967. The pages are yellowed, but otherwise in fine shape.
When I opened up the cover I saw a handwritten signature. An ink stamp at the bottom of the page read,
FOR YOUR READING PLEASURE
IN REMEMBRANCE OF MY DAD
VINCENT M. LIZZO
“A MAN WHO LOVED CHICAGO
AND ITS CITIZENS”
Someone close to this man, perhaps a son, daughter, spouse, or friend, thought to honor his memory by passing on a book (and I assume there were more than just this one) that he enjoyed.
I hovered over the man’s signature for a while before I dug into the book, as I contemplated a simple fact that we all tend to lose sight of. Once we die, what we accomplished at work or school doesn’t really matter. Vincent M. Lizzo reminded me that making a lasting, positive impact on family and friends is a true measure of success.
I Googled Vincent M. Lizzo and learned that he was a writer, with published articles in both the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Reader.
Most importantly, he was someone who was deeply cared about.
p>The Damned Things didn’t play at Q101′s Twisted 2010 show on Sunday night, due to awful weather which kept 1/3 of the band from being able to make it into Chicago on time.
The rest of the band managed to make it to the House of Blues, and I got to interview them backstage before doors opened to the public. Note that a properly-mixed and shot version of this video, produced by Q101, is expected later this week.
Of particular interest to Anthrax fans is the (brief) discussion of the “Big 4″ tour, which Scott Ian deftly avoided with a smile.
The Damned Things debut, “Ironiclast,” comes out today. Get it. Rock it.
“We’ve Got a Situation Here”
My office held its annual holiday party last night.
start time was a relatively early 6 p.m., which left my friends and I at
a loss for things to do in between the time our office closed and the
party started. Staying at the office wasn’t an option. Our solution?
Go off-campus and bet on the ponies.
Shortly after the office closed, we jumped on the red line and hoofed it
from the Clybourn stop to Mud Bug OTB on Weed Street. Strangely
enough, I think it was my idea to go to the OTB, even though I’d never
before set foot in an OTB facility. Beyond that, I’ve never been much
of a gambler, period. My horse racing history includes less than five
trips to Arlington and one trip to Maywood (which was to hang out with
the Jesus Lizard).
Walking in to the OTB, I expected the air to
be thick with smoke and sweaty desperation. I also assumed that bar
would be lined by guys who looked like Ernest Borgnine on a gin bender.
To my surprise, the facility was much cleaner and more orderly than
what I’d expected. The customers looked non-threatening and were at
least a few bad experiences away from desperate. I wouldn’t say Mud Bug
was comfortable, but it wasn’t sleazy, either.
preferred the OTB environment to the vibe of a casino. I don’t like
the dark, time-stands-still, outside-world-doesn’t-exist, aspect of
places like Harrah’s. When I last set foot in a casino, I quickly felt
isolated and disoriented. Once I perched myself in front of a slot
machine, zipping through credits in a hypnotic state, I was completely
cut off from everything else. There’s nothing truly *fun* about the
casino experience for me, which makes the inevitable losses I incur feel
all the more damaging.
If nothing else, the OTB felt more
connected to the outside world than a casino, and it was definitely a
more social experience. My friends and I dropped anchor at a table
near the windows and ate, drank, and made stupid conversation for a
solid two hours. During that time, we’d occasionally race to the
electronic betting kiosks to recklessly place $2 bets on longshot horses
to place or show. We never put ourselves at risk of traumatizing
financial loss; the gambling was done at a very conservative level, and
was really just a backdrop to our hanging out.
Apparently, there are always races going on somewhere.
I’m pretty sure I bet on a horse race in Costa Rica, and mostly sure I
bet on a few more in California. Closed-circuit monitors line the walls
of Mud Bug, piping in horse races from tracks around the world.
Rather than succumb to sensory overload, we picked a few tracks to zero
in on, and the process became more manageable and fun.
fascinating to watch the hardcore gamblers in the room. They were
easily spotted, based on their beverage of choice: Water. My friends
and I assumed the hardcore group drank water to both avoid
alcohol-fueled bad bets and to keep expenses down while gambling. The
hardcores had their daily sheets splayed across their tables, allowing
them to scrutinize every last detail of every race. There’s a science
to mastering the minutia of details like track type, historical
performance, and jockey stats. As far as I’m concerned, I’m perfectly
happy picking a horse because its name is “Lunar Fleet.”
total, I lost around $30. It’s not like I had $30 to burn, but I’d
budgeted that money for “entertainment expenses,” so the loss was
okay-ish. We had a great time, and more importantly, we didn’t sit
around the office, waiting for the party to start.
I love visiting Channel 9.
Today, I talked with Steve Sanders about an awful lot of concerts happening soon.
Avengers Assemble is my latest obsession. The fan-created web series is a smart, funny, geek-friendly, delight.
Each new episode finds Marvel Comics’ legendary super-team (Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Hulk, Hawkeye, Ms. Marvel) addressing social and political issues in the quote-unquote “real world.” The results are hilarious and totally quotable.
Making the webisodes such a delight is the obvious fact that everyone involved has devoted a great deal of time and attention to the “little things,” from fan-friendly easter eggs to accurate and mostly-plausible costumes.
I’ve been enjoying the Avengers Assemble webisodes so much, I hunted down Brian Godleski (Tony Stark/Iron Man/head writer) for an interview. The complete audio can be streamed below:
I was in New Orleans last week for a quick, 48 hour, trip…
I didn’t see any obvious trace of Katrina-related devastation while I
was there. That wasn’t necessarily surprising; my travels were
limited. I stayed in the French Quarter both nights and only left the
Quarter to make two stops along the St. Charles streetcar route. The
city looked pretty much like I’d remembered it from a trip I took 20
years ago with my father and grandfather.
The difference with
this visit was my knowledge that Katrina had happened. I was aware that
the residents I talked to had been impacted in some way by it. I
assumed that sobering signs of the hurricane’s damage were likely just
out of sight of the streets I walked. I felt good about pumping money
into the local economy, but guilty for being there at the same time,
like I shouldn’t have been there for any reason other than to build a
home or feed a family.
Another feeling that struck me was that I
was largely ignorant of what, exactly, the full scope of Katrina’s
impact was. Yes, I donated money when initial news stories aired in
August, 2005, but I tuned the subsequent details out. Less than a
month after the tragedy, I was absorbed with losing a radio gig, and
couldn’t be bothered to think past my own personal emergency. I treated
the crisis and devastation that came close to wiping one of America’s
most unique and spirited cities off the map as background noise. I
write this with absolute transparency, and not a small amount of
I’m trying to fill in the blanks now. I went to the library this morning and borrowed “Breach of Faith,” a well-reviewed book on the subject. I’ve also made a pledge to myself to be a more aware, more plugged-in, global citizen.
with that, I suspect I’m not the only one who needs to improve his
general awareness of current events and social issues. Let’s all work
on this, okay?
It’s 8:45 on Sunday, 10/31. 15 minutes from now, “The Walking Dead” will
debut on AMC. I’ve got a Fresca and bowl of candy corn at my side,
ready to blog play-by-play style once it starts (published warts and
all, for better or worse).
8:55-I just realized that I get AMC in HD. Hell. Yes. To best prepare
for the series, I’ve been rereading “The Walking Dead” comics from the
beginning. The concepts, stories, and characters Robert Kirkman created
are indelible. I’ve never thought much of the artwork, though.
There it is. Scary child with stuffed animal lunging towards Sheriff
Rick Grimes. And…blam. Welcome to the Walking Dead.
music/montage. Brief in and out. It’s no “True Blood” opener (best
opening ever), but I appreciate that it says what it has to, then gets
out of the way of the show.
looks like we’re flashing back to the pre-zombie age. Sheriffs are
bullshitting in a squad car, eating fast food. See? That’s what life’s
like when zombies aren’t coming to eat our flesh. Totally mundane.
comes the scene that was in the trailer, where the sheriffs create a
roadblock to catch a speeding criminal. I’m totally sick of this scene,
seeing as I watched the trailer overandoverandover again.
is heading towards the light, a flickering light that’s bouncing off a
devoured human corpse on the floor. He’s visibly becoming aware that
things are completely fucked.
cafeteria doors at the end of the hall are spray-painted “Don’t Open
Dead Inside.” Doors are banging, and cadaverous hands are poking their
sunlight. Grimes staggers down the stairwell to find the ground covered
in bodybags; bloodied, flies-circling-around-them, bodybags. The shot
pulls away and bodybags are all we see.
face-to-face with a zombie. This legless sumbitch is enough to inspire
Grimes to steal a kid’s bike and barefoot pedal the fuck out of there.
news for you, pal…your family’s not going to be where you left them.
The bodybags at the hospital and legless zombie should’ve driven that
is chained to a bed, “Misery”-style. The neighbor’s grilling him to
make certain that there’s no chance of suddenly entertaining an undead
Legacy commercial. I remember seeing the original one in theaters. It
was awful. It’ll take a lot to convince me that I should care about
this decades-later sequel.
me feeling kind of bored so far. Not sure if it’s because I chose to
write while it’s happening, or if it’s actually boring.
the cinematography intentionally grainy, or is it my cable connection?
If it’s the former, I hate it. If it’s the latter, fuck you, Comcast.
is getting schooled on the zombiepocalypse. The lesson: “The bites
kill you. The fever burns you out. After a while? You come back.”
mom brings neighbor boy to tears. One lesson’s obvious as she walks up
the front stairs: You can’t come home again.
doorknob is turning, but the zombies can’t get in. Not as
claustrophobic as “I Am Legend” (the book, not the movie), but intense
just went up to bat against a zombie. How about that World Series? I
got bored after the Giants scored two tonight, and shifted my energies
from commercials. Talk between Grimes and the neighbors of going to
Atlanta. I like Atlanta. The store at the Coke museum has a surprising
amount of worthwhile souvenirs.
zombie, by request. I love the gutteral noises they make.
And…blam. Another zombie takes a bullet to the head. I like how all
zombie storytellers agree that it’s the only way to stop a zombie.
Romero should get points on every zombie story ever created since 1969.
sets off on foot as the neighbors stay behind and think sad thoughts
for their zombie mom/spouse. This is the “humanizing” aspect of the
story that critics like. The part I like?
thought it was an hour-long premiere. It’s still going! I’m done.
Maybe watching without distraction will enhance my enjoyment.
Despite an abiding love for sci-fi, horror, and fantasy, I’m indifferent towards Halloween.
Halloween’s a big deal for my kids, so my energy is thrown into
whatever it takes to ensure that they enjoy the day. Costume shopping
weeks in advance, trick-or-treating, pumpkin carving, house decorating: I
make sure that no gravestone is left unturned.
But when it comes
to the idea of cosplaying my way across parties and taverns,
essentially living a more whored-up and absurd New Year’s Eve, I’m out.
Like St. Patrick’s Day, the 4th of July, the night before Thanksgiving,
and New Year’s Eve, Halloween is just another “amateur night.” To be
fair, I’m not a drinker, which makes my enthusiasm for “drinking
holidays” markedly less than that of the general public.
mentioned the “whored-up” aspect of Halloween, and that’s something
that’s all but been institutionalized for the holiday. To that end, I
discovered something hitherto unknown to me when I took my son costume
shopping this year: There’s a costume company called Secret Wishes that
makes “naughty” super-hero costumes. If you’re a woman and absolutely must
dress like a slut on Halloween, the former teenage boy in your life
would surely appreciate that you move away from the “naughty nurse”
cliche and towards the galaxy-saving “naughty Green Lantern”:
Or perhaps “naughty Robin?” Titans together!
Or if you’re a fan of the “Satellite era Justice League,” you really can’t go wrong with the lesser-known, mind-wiping, Zatanna:
Zatanna says “Erohw a ekil sserd.”
I clearly digress.
Halloween gives adults the chance to do beer bongs while dressed like
Snooki and Lady Gaga, it also gives children a perceived free pass for
misanthropy. Every year at my house, the wholesomeness of Disney
princesses and Batmen walking
door-to-door gets overshadowed by surly junior high kids using
pillowcases as trick-or-treat bags, asking for candy and never saying
“thank you.” On a related note: Manners are a lost art, which parents
no longer teach.
When the sun goes down, it’s likely those same
“Scream” mask-wearing, 13 year-old, hoods running through alleys with
cartons of eggs, targeting homes with a ferocity akin to the shelling at
Normandy. Even back in my ill-behaved teen years, I never understood
“egging.” It’s stupid. And stinky. And just plain shitty.
went to an Aldi today (don’t judge; these are awful economic times) and
as I approached the door, I noticed a sign that read, “We do not sell
eggs to minors during the week of Halloween.” The message? If eggs are
outlawed, only outlaws will have eggs. I celebrated the sign as a minor
victory in the war against ovo-vandalism.
Thugs aside, I’m
looking forward to tomorrow because I know how thrilling Halloween is
for my kids. Beyond their general sense of glee, there are two more
things I’m excited about: The series premiere of “The Walking Dead” and…candy corn.
Candy corn is an Autumnal treasure,
taken for granted on a holiday that’s ruled by bite-sized Twix bars and
Kit-Kats. I can eat myself sick on candy corn in less than 30 minutes
time. And I will.
Happy Halloween. I hope your “wacky BP oil spill” costume concept is a big hit!
Last week, my friend Patrick launched his own Kickstarter project to build out and complete a comic book art gallery (brilliantly called “The Rogues Gallery”).
simple reason for the project’s success is that it’s a great idea which
appeals to a talented and passionate community of artists and fans.
Beyond that, Patrick asked for a relatively modest amount, making the
funding all but guaranteed.
I plotted out what I actually needed to take my Kickstarter book
project to completion, I accounted for a lot of big ticket expenses.
(and other) expenses had me estimating my needs at a shocking 17K. I
knew it was a ballsy amount to pitch, so I worked my ass off to raise
awareness and generate interest over those three months. Along those
massive amount, for sure; just not massive enough. At the end of the 90
days, the funding board was wiped clean and I had no finished book to
show for it. I had asked for too much money to fund a fairly niche
book…in a recession. My book strategy of “doing it right” led me to
not doing it at all.
Kickstarter again, I’d use it to launch a project that required
significantly less funding, or I’d at least find a way to better handle
take the time to record a video message for my funding page, rather than
rely on a static picture of, say, Al Jourgensen.
to Patrick and The Rogues Gallery, funding’s already gone $1300 over
the target. In one short week of activity, Patrick has taught me how to
do this right. I’m not ready to test the Chicago Rocked waters again,
but there will be other projects down the road…
Weezer’s new album, “Hurley,” comes out on September 14. Thus far, its release has given us a painful lead single (“Memories,” with cringeworthy lyrics like “playing hackeysack back when Audioslave were still Rage”) and a shitstorm of controversy.
When the album’s cover image was first released, Weezer fans exhaled a collective “WTF?” Depicted on the cover is Jorge Garcia, whose character on the episodic show “Lost” was named…Hurley.
Dumb. Ridiculous. Most wrote the concept off as Weezer thinking they were more clever than they (actually/usually) are.
Furthermore, “Lost” fans couldn’t help but wonder if there wasn’t a better character for Weezer to name their album after. How about, say, Emilie de Ravin’s character, Claire Littleton? I’ve gotta think Weezer’s “Claire” album would, um, shift some units with a cover like this:
Or Weezer’s “Kate” album, featuring Evangeline Lilly?
…you get the idea.
Well, it turns out that putting the guy from “Lost” on the cover was subterfuge; a distraction from the real reason for naming the album “Hurley.” The album was partially bankrolled by surf clothier Hurley, as Brian Bell originally explained in a video interview:
Since that interview, he and the band have gone to great lengths to take those comments back. Those lengths are spelled out on Weezer.com.
“The reason the record is called ‘Hurley’ is because Hurley (Jorge Garcia) is on the cover,” Bell said in his initial retraction. The website recently went on to say, “its (sic) not that hurley and weezer have *nothing* to do with each other – yes the album is going to be carried in PacSun stores which also sell Hurley clothes, and they are doing some new weez clothes, etc. But the point is that Hurley didnt fund the recording nor do they have anything to do with the music.”
Whew. Thanks, Weezer! Because I have shit for brains, I completely believe that there’s no connection whatsoever between the company you have business arrangements with and the name of your new album.
The thing is, I don’t necessarily take issue with the notion of an artist taking cash from a sponsor in order to help make their art a reality. My issue is that Weezer would pretend that Hurley, the company, has no connection to their new album’s title whatsoever. It’s a tough economy. The music industry is in convulsive death throes. I get it. We all need a little extra scratch these days.
And let’s be honest, Weezer isn’t Pearl Jam. I never felt that they had a strict code of artistic integrity that precluded them from jumping into bed with a big-walleted, corporate sugar daddy.
As for what Weezer does in the future, it wouldn’t matter to me if they named their next album Old Navy–just as long as they didn’t put an archival picture of WWII seamen on the cover and insist that it was the reason for the album’s name.
(Below: Weezer’s new single “Memories”)