Thursday, December 28, 2006

The heart of the Bungalow Belt

Christmas in Chicago: My parent's brick bungalow on Melrose Street.
Posted live via cell phone

Reliance Building gave rise to skyscrapers

Christmas in Chicago: The Reliance Building was the first building in the world to have more glass on its exterior than other materials.
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Art and architecture always in full bloom

Christmas in Chicago: The Dubuffet sculpture, State of Illinois Building.
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CTA Blue Line, outbound

Christmas in Chicago: The L at Clark & Lake.
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Luggage sale on Belmont Avenue

Christmas in Chicago: The Northwest Side has the largest concentration of Polish people outside of Warsaw.
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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Waco Brothers live at Schuba's

Chirstmas in Chicago: Jon Langford rocks Shuba's with the Waco Brothers
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Catwoman lamp lights up a Stella

Christmas in Chicago: Stella Artois is only one of 200 beers and 300 whiskies at Delilahas.

Huron & Orleans at noon

Christmas in Chicago: Mr. Beef is a tofu-free zone.
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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Cold steel on air

Christmas in Chicago: "Cloud Gate" by Anish Kapoor in Millenium Park
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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Tidings of strange joy

Last night I was besieged by a series of strange dreams, two of which I actually remember well.

In one, I recall being at a party in a large apartment flat. There were lots of people on many floors, but for some reason the party didn’t feel at all crowded. Perhaps it was early in the evening and just getting started.

I made my way around, gently acknowledging people, all strangers, as I explored the flat. In the frontmost room there were large banks of windows that overlooked the street. I thought it reminiscent of my surrogate grandmother’s apartment—it was familiar in a way, but not the same. In the room was a series of oversized curved leather couches—probably four or five of them—each of which I sat on for a few seconds. I remember feeling like someone was going to kiss me, but there were no people in the immediate room, only the voices and sounds of the party from other rooms.

As I sat pondering kissing—envisioning lips and tongues engaged and entwined—I recognized a voice coming from another room, but I couldn’t place it. Perplexed, I investigated and found a couple singing the John Denver song “Country Roads.” As if that were not enough, the woman of the couple was dragging the man by grabbing the shoulders of his sweater and sliding him along the floor. He was barely mouthing the words to the song and she sang in a quivering, teary voice. They both looked up at me with a look of terror but continued dragging and singing.

Sensing that something was wrong, I asked the woman if she needed help and she nodded yes. I realized that the man appeared to be choking so I stood him up and performed the Heimlich maneuver on him. Twice. On the second thrust a large chunk of unmasticated seafood, followed by a yellow liquid ejected from his mouth. He coughed a bit, turned around and looked at me blankly.
At this point of the dream, I awoke, scratched my head for a second and went to the bathroom to relieve myself.
I’ve always been fascinated by dreams. There seems to be many schools of thought on the functions and meanings of dreams. At one extreme, some scientists explain the existence of dreams as the mind merely keeping itself active while the body rests. At the other end of the spectrum, psychologist see dreams as portals to the unconscious psychic self…revelations of deep personal meaning.

I’m not sure who’s right, but I think even wacky stories can teach us valuable lessons and here are a few I’ve gleaned from this particular dream:

1. If you find yourself inclined to kiss someone at a party, hang out in a room with other people. Even better, hang out near someone who might want to kiss you back. Also, it’s the holidays—mistletoe can’t hurt!

2. If someone you’re with starts choking, having them sing songs will not help the situation, no matter how much said song may remind him or her of home.

3. If you must start a sing-along while someone is choking, at least select an artist whose life didn’t come to a tragic end—adding such darkness will only compound the chokee’s anxiety.

4. Learn the Heimlich maneuver, it saves lives. It’s so easy even I can do it—and have…twice!

5. Eating large quantities of Lucky Charms just before bed may stimulate odd dreams.

6. Chew your food well.

7. Be wary of people who try the Heimlich maneuver on you when you are not chocking. They may be trying to kiss you…or something.

8. If someone saves your life with the Heimlich maneuver, thank them for it.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

PE in no-so-full effect

Chuck D rules while Flav and 'Malibu’s Most Wanted' bite

I can’t even fathom that it’s been nearly 16 years since I last saw Public Enemy—when they played a show in Chicago at the voluminous Aragon Ballroom that ended in a mini riot**. PE is one of those bands that I have in this kind of elliptical orbit whereby I listen to them heavily for a while, then kind of move on for a long period of time, only to revisit them again with some listening density. Given that they’ve recently reemerged in my heavy rotation, I was stoked to see they were playing the Mezzanine last night, a newish (and awesome, intimate) venue in San Francisco.

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Chuck (r) still has the shiver when he delivers. Not so much for Flavor Flav.

Now as back in the day, front man Chuck D—for my money, the all-time quintessential rap voice—delivers the biting cultural and social commentary with the same fire, strength and conviction that has always set the band apart and made them not only a means of entertainment, but a socially important catalyst as well.

Chuck’s voice is the same as it ever was—strong and authoritative—and he tore the house down early on with “Welcome to the Terrordome.”

Unfortunately, that early highlight was more or less the peak of the show. Somewhere on that track or the next one (which kind of melded into one) Chuck’s foil, Flavor Flav joined the stage and began laying down his court jester’s variety of vocalizations…the “boings” and “yeaaah booooyz” and the like. And while a perfect compliment when he’s used like a human sample machine, Flav just looses it when he tries to put a sentence together—which he did more and more of as the night wore on.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate the Flavor—despite him becoming an appallingly bad reality TV show cliché—I think he’s highly entertaining in small doses. But as the show progressed and eventually unvolved into Flav on the stage doing songs from his new solo album, things just started to suck. Like that Oprah magazine where she’s on the cover every month, Flav’s songs are the same way—repetitive ego overkill.

On the whole, however, the show was good—not great—but good. Professor Griff, the redheaded stepchild of the band—was on hand to lend his rhyming to the vocal mix and DJ Lord did a capable job of filling the very big shoes of the long-departed Terminator X, who left the group in 1998. I wasn’t so into the traditional guitar/bass/drums band—called The Banned—whom opened the show on their own and then played on the PE set. Part of what makes Public Enemy’s sound so amazing are the Bomb Squad’s beats and samples that came of age on Fear of a Black Planet and The Enemy Strikes Black. If these sounds were present at all, they were covered up by the heavy-handed band…whose 45 minutes of introductions I could have done without as well.

On the plus side, I have to give props (‘cause that’s what I do for a week or two after going to a hip hop show yo) to the crew that played just before PE, The X Clan. They were old school and dialed tight…and did a really great job of getting the place fired up.

In fact they almost made up for the rejects from Malibu’s Most Wanted who wedged in front of us just as the set began and made complete asses of themselves bouncing, fronting and jerking off for each other. I can’t remember the last time I wanted to hit someone so badly without being directly provoked. GRRR!

** At least that’s what it said in the newspapers the next day. I remember a bunch of people running around after the show, but it was in Uptown late at night and people a certain amount of anarchy was to be expected.

Monday, December 04, 2006

All hail LineRider…the poor man’s PS3

Yeah, you can get your eBay on and spend scads of cash acquiring a Playstation 3 from some scumbag e-scalper...or you can run from store to store, get a wristband, wait in line and get shot at trying to buy one legit. Or you can just say "fuck it" and play the best video game ever online for free—LineRider. (It’s actually the third best videogame ever, behind Toobin’ and Sega Genesis NHLPA Hockey ’93, respectively). Sure, sure, all the new systems have dazzling graphics, but is the gameplay really that great?

Check out the oh-so-simple pleasure of LineRider and prepare to have your elation alternate with confounded frustration as you burn hours and hours trying to land that little sledhead just right.

When you’re done, check this out to see how much you really suck.