Monday, November 30, 2009

White House Gate Crashers...

To start with, please don't take me wrong; what these two chuckleheads did is wrong, and shouldn't be condoned or rewarded. That said, I think of them as a couple of nuts, but ultimately (except for the ugly precedent that's been set), harmless.

Do you remember Mathias Rust? He was the (arguably nuts) West German amateur Cessna 172 pilot who landed his plane in Red Square, Moscow, during the height of the cold war. The incident was a great source of embarrassment to the Russian government, and resulted in many top military officials losing their jobs. Maybe we can draw a similar corollary here; the White House gate crashers (and Rust) were wrong, but a) they were ultimately harmless, and b) they performed an accidental public service by pointing out security systems which the general public believed to be impenetrable to be somewhat less protecting of their charges. There should be some significant investigation as to how this even was allowed to occur. The gate crashers essentially, once they spill their guts, should be questioned mercilessly, but I would stop short of prosecution. After all, they did us a favor.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Safes / The Differents at Beat Kitchen, 11/25/09

Wednesday was one of those nights where the world's events fell into place like just so many perfectly laid Tetris pieces. I promised my wife I wouldn't leave until our kids were asleep. I bathed my daughter, got my son cleaned up and PJ'ed, got both to sleep and in their beds, got dinner for my wife and I, then went as fast as I felt I could on the day before Thanksgiving to go from my house in the western suburbs of Chicago to Belmont and Hoyne. I found parking two blocks away, trotted myself to the club, paid my $10 admission, then made it to the back room with two minutes to spare. As I walked in, Frankie O'Malley of the Safes (yeah, the same guy I've known since 1st grade) catches me and we hug; Frankie is still one of the coolest guys I know in the world. I can't even tell you why (well, that's not entirely true; I guess I should say that I can't express it in the short space of this blog). I think one of the things I admire about Frankie (and Lou, who I think is just as cool) is that not only are both incredible musicians / performers / songwriters, that somehow, they find it within themselves to keep on making music, playing shows, and rocking my world. And I know that it isn't the easiest job in the world; they're just particularly good at it.

So Lou and the Differents rip into a great set of both old and new songs, both from their first two and a half albums, but also some newer songs I'd never heard. Old Differents line up was a trio: Lou on guitar, Dan on drums, and whoever they could maneuver into the bass slot (I was thrilled when it was for a while there Michael O'Malley). This time around, the Differents is still Lou and Dan, but also Eric Quinlan on guitars and organ (damn, that boy can play!) and Brian Stout on bass (excellent choice). The quality of tunes was great, and they really ripped them out.

The Safes also put on a great show; for three guys, they really have amazing stores of energy. I've known these guys since they were the Shakes (early '90s), and they have only gone from strength to strength. Wednesday's show was no exception. A phenomenal show from both bands. My apologies to Kim Schaefer and No Enemy; my own personal timetable prevented me from seeing you guys play. But I'm certain you guys had great nights, too.

The photo I used is from Dan Blume, with my gratitude for the kind permission for use of the awesome shot.

Quick Update...

I'm still waiting for the interview with Lou to happen; it's always this weird build-myself-up then be-slightly-bummed-it-didn't-happen cycle before each call. I know it's going to happen; it's just a matter of when. (Update: dude gets a bye; he's got a cold. That's as good an excuse as any, I guess.)

My son is such a trooper. He is really doing light years better than we expected. I mean, he still gets into trouble, still gives us a hard time, but like I said, he'd do that even if he didn't have the hip brace on. These days, it's telling him that he can't (intentionally) crash his wheelchair into the kitchen table, because we're gonna be really angry if he leaves marks. For me, all of this just means being that much more vigilant to listen for him when he needs to be carried somewhere, put from his wheelchair to the couch then back again, etc. I don't begrudge him that one bit, and it's doing wonders for my biceps. Thank God it hasn't dinged out my back.

This has been one really long weekend, if I do say so. Tomorrow is my first day back after having only a one-day workweek. I hope it isn't going to be a killer of a day, but time will tell.

I haven't exactly been the world's most faithful blogger this month, especially since I had all of these grand plans of thirty-posts-in-thirty-days. My highest respect to everyone who finds it within themselves to write something meaningful each and every day because it is their job. I'd be willing to try it, but it certainly isn't as easy as it looks. Ultimately, though, I do think I might be blogging more often beyond this experiment of 30-posts-in-30-days than I was before this month. How often? Who can tell. As always, more to come.

Friday, November 27, 2009


Well, that didn't take long at all now, did it? My wife finally decided to sign up for Facebook today. Immediately, a bunch of people from her past want to be her friend, she gets the hang of it, she complains about the crapload of emails Facebook gives her, and then falls head over heels into an addiction to...

...Wait for it...

Bejeweled Blitz. That's right. Facebook itself has become merely a conduit for her to feed her brand-new Bejeweled addiction.

Leave it to my wife to not do things by halves, LOL.

Coming soon: more about the amazing Differents / Safes show I attended Wednesday night, plus oh yeah, I just finally ordered the final Triple Fast Action CD and Hum's You'd Prefer An Astronaut; my reviews and impressions coming up. And oh yeah, a most excellent Wesley Willis product will be coming out soon, and with luck, I will most definitely be reviewing it for a certain famous online 'zine!!!! Stay tuned, more always to come.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


I just got back from seeing the Safes and the Differents play the Beat Kitchen. What an AWESOME show. It's tres late right now, so I don't want to get too deep into it, but my God, that was a great show. Before I left, I made sure the kids were asleep, got a quick dinner for my wife and I, then high-tailed it to the Beat Kitchen with mere minutes to spare to see both bands I came to see: the Differents and the Safes. And neither band disappointed; both put on excellent sets.


Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!! I"m gonna go get some sleep.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Jack Murphy's Other Day Off

Not much to say; it was a good productive day, I got a lot done. The highlight of the day was my son's follow-up surgical appointment. The orthopedist thought he was doing well. They removed the plaster-cast material off of his hip brace, to allow us to take it off ourselves to give him a proper bath. I have no problem with this, as long as my son doesn't get the idea in his head that he can take the brace off himself. If that happens, the casting material goes back on, simple as that. For a much longer, more detailed account of this morning's appointment, take a quick look at my wife's blog.

Had a couple of interesting quick exchanges with my wife. The first one we talked about the handicapped parking placard that we got on behalf of my son's temporary wheelchair status.

Her: So, have you ever used it without (our son) in the car?
Me: Hell no. That's bad karma.
Her: Me neither.

It's true; once you start using a handicapped spot without having the actual handicapped person in the car, you're just asking for the seagull of karma to take a big ol' crap on your head.

The other exchange came when she was on the front porch, having a smoke. I turned on just the Christmas lights, to show them off. She told me to turn them off. I wanted her to give me her opinion of them, but her objection is that it isn't even Thanksgiving yet. "Besides," she said, "I saw the picture of them on your blog!!" I told her that photo didn't really do them justice.

Tomorrow, back to work for one day (at one of my favorite clients, in Romeoville), then it's off to the Beat Kitchen to see my two most favorite Chicago bands, the Safes and the Differents!! Like I said, look for me; I'll be there with bells on!!!!!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Jack Murphy's Day Off

Today and tomorrow, I took a couple of vacation days; we brought my son back to daycare for his first full day since his surgery. He ended up doing wonderfully, but I took off today and tomorrow just in case he couldn't handle it. So today, I had a day off. I listened to the radio, surfed the internet, did a few small things around the house, and decorated the outside of our house for Christmas while listening to my Small Faces hits CD and This Years Model (Elvis's, not Lou's; I've been listening to a lot of Lou's recently, and hope I get to hear it live and in person on Wednesday). Here's what our house looks like; I'm kind of proud of how it looks!!
Either tonight or tomorrow, I'm going to interview Lou Hallwas of the Differents for a Glorious Noise feature. I know that Lou's a close friend, but I hope he doesn't think I have lame questions. That said, I'm not going to ask him really wacky elaborate questions that are designed TO impress him; stuff like that always falls flat. I'll keep you posted.

Final word: if you're not doing anything this Wednesday, the evening before Thanksgiving, you best find yourself at the Beat Kitchen. The Differents' CD release party is happening, along with the Safes, Kim Schaefer, and No Enemy. It will be the concert of the year, mark my words. You will be sorry you missed it. Hell, I'll be sorry if I miss it!!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

What's Wrong With This Picture?

uick!! A scooby snack to the first person to tell me what's wrong with this famous 45 label. Don't think too hard on it now...

So you're probably there sipping on your coffee reading this post and wondering, "How does such an error pass muster? How can this classic song have its label fall victim to a careless proofreader?" Well, Berry Gordy was always a good businessman, and since Motown was an independent company, they didn't manufacture their own records. The manufacturing was farmed out to multiple pressing plants, who once in a while didn't work in synchro- nicity with each other. Also included here is the more traditional label image, approved by someone who wasn't in such a rush to sell Marvin Gaye's "I Heard It Through the GRAPEvine" to all the teens that basic spell-checking went out the window.

When I found this variation years ago in a thrift store, my mom asked me if the error on the label would make the record more collectible someday. Probably not, because a) its previous owner decided to identify it as hers by writing on the label, b) the playable condition of the record is less than sterling, and c) the record is pretty darn common; it's not exactly an obscure classic from the 13th Floor Elevators. But it's a cool curio from a bygone era.

On an unrelated note...

This song by '60s UK hitmakers The Move is amazing; whoever engineered the bass did an AMAZING job; it's like a Bronto- saurus is actually marching through my basement. Not only that, the song is killer. This song makes it easy to see why Cheap Trick is such a big fan of this group. Roy Wood and Jeff Lynne are alumni of this group; the Move eventually evolved into the Electric Light Orchestra, but please don't hold that against them. "Brontosaurus" is a lumbering ode to a lovely lady, and when it kicks into double-time, they add an excellently scuzzy slide guitar to the end of it. Highly recommended; grab it!!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Fun Stuff In My Collection, pt. 2

While today's item isn't nearly as unique as the Cutting Crew 12" single I profiled, David Bowie's "Blue Jean" single is fun, simply because they pressed it on blue vinyl. That's a cool touch. As well as it being a great song, it's pressed on a fun-colored mini-slab of vinyl. Arguably, this might be considered the last time that he hit the charts with a song that reached across multiple audiences with true pop appeal. He's put out a lot of albums since this, and has chosen a more singular path, challenging himself as well as his audience. But this song... great.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Post-op Update: The First Week Home

My son never ceases to amaze me. He has every reason in the world to NOT be taking things cool. He has to wear a hip brace, can't bear weight on his right leg, can't jump around like a typical 5-year old would. And yet, he seems to be taking all of that in stride. He's just doing his level best to live his life the way he normally would. He loves watching DVDs (we just got him Shrek, and he LOVES it) and playing on the new laptop we got him (it's a lower-end Toshiba, but still faster than our primary computer). This laptop is worth every penny we spent on it, in terms of keeping him entertained.

Today, my wife brought my son to his daycare, and the rapturous reception he got from all of his friends who missed him caught him by surprise, I think. I am thrilled to death that my son seems to be able to make friends and charm people so easily; I always fear the other extreme, tha he'll be ostracized for being different. But today's visit seems to clearly suggest otherwise, and my wife's reports of the genuine outpouring of true caring for my son really warmed my heart.

My wife stayed at home with him this week. Her back is now killing her. My son is 52 pounds under typical circumstances. With this hip brace and the plaster-casting which keeps it "locked", my son is now easily 65-70 pounds. This is not a weight she's used to carrying, and is now paying for it. I suggested some of the painkillers I'd been prescribed when I had a strained back, but she politely deferred. I also think she's going to be happy to get back to work. Next Monday and Tuesday, I get to be the one who brings him to daycare (and pick him up if it ends up being too much too soon). I then work Wednesday at one of my favorite clients, and get the rest of the week off. Boo hoo me, I guess. ;) I hope I get to string up the Christmas lights this week; I'll take a picture and share it with you all once I get them up.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Fun Stuff In My Collection, pt, 1

Believe it or not, there existed a golden time when the music industry as we know it was NOT in dire financial trouble, hemorrhaging money quicker than they can steal it. It was the time of wine and roses, and artists were exploited for every last cent the major labels could get away with. During this time in 1987, Virgin Records, long a stalwart British record label, decided to open up its American affiliate. Virgin had famous signings by that point; the Sex Pistols, XTC, Culture Club, and countless others called it their UK label home. With their purchase of the Charisma label, Virgin UK's catalog grew to encompass Genesis, Peter Gabriel, and Phil Collins (as well as the Monty Python catalog). Virgin Records UK had prior distribution deals with labels such as Atlantic, CBS/Epic, and licensed catalog to Geffen and other labels. But they never had a PRESENCE in the states. This changed, when the US offices formally opened.

The first major release from Virgin US was Cutting Crew's monster #1 single, "(I Just) Died In Your Arms". As a promotional tool for this song, Virgin US pressed up the 12" single in the picture above. This record is actually shaped like a circular saw blade, and it's the weirdest-shaped record I own. Its edges really are sharp, and the warning label is a laugh ("Not to be used as a Frisbee.").

Virgin would ultimately sell its record company to EMI (and remain in the airline industry), Cutting Crew released only one more album before breaking up, and the music industry today is in shambles. But for a brief moment, Virgin US spent silly money to press records in the shape of circular saw blades. You might own a copy of this song yourself. But chances are, I have a cooler copy of it than you do.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


I just caught up with a classmate from grade school, in Park Ridge. I knew he'd been knocking around for a while, really experiencing life from a whole lot of angles. But while I knew him, I myself got along with him well. He was funny; he'd crack me up regularly.

So while I'm browsing my Facebook page, and posting nutty comments here and there, he starts chatting with me. It turns out he has been living in Alaska for the past six years. He started out as a crab fisherman, but is currently a cod fisherman. He works 6-8 months a year, travels for two months of the year, is still single. It really sounds like a fascinating life. I asked him about his crabbing days, and how much of it was what I see on the show the Deadliest Catch. He said that was his life while he was crabbing. He lives on Kodiak, which is the second largest island in the USA.

The thing that he said that really struck me, though, is that he hopes to buy his own 20-acre island in the future. That stunned me; I mean, you hear of millionaires like Richard Branson buying their own islands in the south Pacific, but not so often about someone wanting to buy their own island in the Bering Sea. He genuinely wants this. I asked him about plumbing and sewage; he says you dig a really deep hole. I asked him what about electricity or telecommunications; he is willing to say goodbye to them. That blows my mind. I mean, sure, most TV these days is crap (ever since they took My Name Is Earl off the air...), but for me, there are so many reasons to KEEP electricity. I really applaud everyone in the world who either lives without electricity by circumstance or by choice. He really wants to do this, and I could tell his conviction. God bless him; it's not the life I'd choose, but it's a very valid life choice. He told me most people from his past that he tells this dream to think he's crazy; I told him, "Right, like I'm in any position to judge ANYONE crazy. Talk about the pot and the kettle..."

I really hope he gets his island; I'd love to hear all about it when he does.

The image, by the way, is St. Matthew in Alaska. Image taken by Brad Schram.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

What would we do without our drummers?

Over on Facebook, my buddy Lou Hallwas of the Differents and Penthouse Sweets inadvertently started what's turned out to be a really popular thread; he listed his favorite drummers. This started a bunch of us listing off the drummers we thought reigned supreme. Without further ado, this is the list we came up with:

  • Al Jackson Jr.
  • Dan Garrity
  • Sean O'Malley
  • Loren Guzik
  • Mike Zelenko
  • Steve White,
  • Brad Elvis,
  • Keith Moon,
  • Ringo Star,
  • Kenney Jones
  • Neil Peart
  • Bun E. Carlos...
  • Charlie Watts...
  • Jon Densmore...
  • Mitch Mitchell...
  • Ginger Baker
  • Hal Blaine.
  • John Barbata.
  • Gene Krupa
  • Phil Gould
  • John San Juan
  • Buddy Rich,
  • Neil Peart,
  • John Bonham,
  • Phil Collins,
  • Stewart Copeland,
  • Vinnie Colaiuta,
  • Tony Williams,
  • Joe Morello
  • Steve Jordan
  • Bernard Purdie
  • Jason McGerr
  • steve drozd,
  • topper headon,
  • jabo starks,
  • elvin jones,
  • max roach,
  • art blakey,
  • dj fontana,
  • zigaboo modeliste,
  • benny benjamin,
  • pete Thomas
  • chris gach
  • Steve Gadd
  • Jeff Porcaro
  • Zak Starkey
  • Jim Keltner,
  • Ronnie Tutt
  • Mickey Hart
  • Terry Bozzio
  • Dave Grohl
  • Frankie O’Malley

That said, drummers also make excellent (although I'm sure undeserved) targets for merciless humor. Check out here and here (and, you guessed it, here too) for some really funny drummer joke* websites. (*Drummer jokes are a musician's equivalent to blonde jokes.)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Coming Soon...

I sometimes feel that by blogging everyday with quick-hit "here is my post" entries, I dilute the quality. It is true that by blogging every day, you the reader get a sometimes rather mundane entry. Perhaps it would do better to tell you some of the posts I wish to do once I have a respectable amount of time to do the subject in question justice. To that end, here is a quick list of upcoming (I'm just not sure when they'll come up) posts:
  • A movie review of the Rolling Stones' infamous movie, the banned one
  • A movie review of Tom Waits' lost classic, Big Time
  • A full rave review of one of my favorite albums of all time, Verbow's White Out
  • A quick photo essay of some of the cooler items in my music collection
  • More album reviews of classics you should know about
I write about older albums for a few reasons: I don't always purchase a lot of new CDs. I think that a lot of people out there might not know just how classic something like Verbow's White Out is, and I want to educate you to it. And finally, I think I have something worthwhile to say about these albums, that just might make you think twice and consider finding and buying an album. Besides, I like to write, and with anything, you gotta use it or lose it.

On the personal front...

Today was my first day back at work after my son's surgery. It wasn't the worst in the world to get back into the swing of things: I had to set up a workstation (under less-than-ideal data recovery conditions) or the owner of a marketing agency whose laptop had been stolen. I had to get a software quote for another client. And I started running a common free software inventory program for a law firm client of ours. Same ol' same ol', I guess. The highlight of the evening (aside from spending time with my family, of course) was when I picked up my daughter from the daycare that she and my son go to, two of the little girls who attend with my son asked in all seriousness how my son was doing. These 5-year-old girls really really care about how my son is doing, and even wrote him some get-well-soon cards. That's the sweetest thing, that my son has so many people that he comes in contact with concerned about his well-being. He must be doing something right; it's cool to see that some of the rest of the world agrees with me that he's a great kid. He is coming along well; it appears that possibly the way he is expressing that he's in pain is by becoming restless and rambunctious. Or maybe the restlessness/rambunctiousness is just another manifestation that he's a 5-year-old, and even 5-year-olds with hip issues feel the need to jump around, or at least try to. Little Dude, ya gotta lay off the jumping; it's not good for your hip. There will be more than enough time to jump around once this hip brace is off.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

More Post-op fun...

We've made it through the first weekend. At the beginning of the day, my son was really being difficult to manage, inasmuch as he wanted to keep trying to do things he shouldn't with his right leg, most of them dealing with bearing weight on that hip. But by the end of the day, I think even he finally got it that he shouldn't be doing those things, and he was a bit more conducive to listening to us when we told him not to kneel, not to stand on the right leg when we're trying to assist him with potty, etc.

My daughter has seemingly been amping up the drama and attitude. My theory (and my wife's) is that she is either a) always been this high-maintenance, and we just don't always realize it with JT usually a bit more self-sufficient, or b) she realizes that the dynamic of attention being paid to her has changed for reasons she probably doesn't understand, so therefore she acts out a bit more than normal. Or it's just the terrible twos hitting right on schedule; we didn't get this with my son. Is that because of his spectrum disorder? Who's to know? It just might be the difference between my son and my daughter. Either way, I still love her to pieces, even though she drives me nutso sometimes.

Special thanks to my close friends since high school, for watching my daughter yesterday. And also special thanks to my sister for coming over to help out. Both were really appreciated.

And yes, I'm slightly beating myself up over missing yesterday's post. It's National Blog Post Month, for which the point is to post at least one post per day, and I goofed. So do two posts in one day count? ;)


I forgot yesterday's blog post. More to come, sorry.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Post-op Day 2: Overnight and Home Again

I'll start with the good news: cautiously, I'm gonna say that my son is okay with the hip brace. This boy never ceases to shock me. A band-aid will send him into fits of anxiety, but a rather large, bulky, and constrictive hip brace, he seems to be taking in stride. He more strenuously objected to the I.V. in his arm more than he seems to be with the hip brace. The I.V. came off of him this morning, after he'd kept fluids down successfully. Last night at dinnertime, he did try apple juice, chocolate pudding, and a squeezable yogurt. These came up later that evening, sadly. I wasn't there for the blessed event, but I'm being told it didn't smell so bad, thankfully. This morning's food and drink stayed down.

I managed to get a good enough night of sleep last night at the hospital; my wife got horrible, lousy sleep. Sadly, same old story.

Not long after breakfast, the surgeon came in to see how he was doing, and was thrilled my son was doing as well as he seems to be doing. Fortunately (I think?) for my son, he's figured out how to sleep on his side and belly with this contraption on his hips. He also knows now how to get up on all fours, which is technically weight-bearing. When we showed this to the surgeon, she paused before answering, "Well, we can't stop him from doing everything." Great, here's to hoping he doesn't mess things up in this six-week recovery period.

Overnight, there was a beautiful little 8-month girl who was across the hall from us. She unfortunately cried a few times during the night. Her cries reminded me of (and made me miss) my own two-year old daughter, who was with my folks while we were at the hospital with my son.

My wife and I ordered delivery Italian from a Chicago-based mini-chain we'd eaten at before and liked, but were heart-broken by the food we ate last night. When you splurge for food from a restaurant like that, you're supposed to get somewhat of a special experience. We could've made better at home; it was that anonymous, if not at times bad. So it goes...

We finally made it home, and had a somewhat relaxing afternoon, just my wife, son, and I. We'd bought him his own laptop and a wireless router, to avoid him needing to go upstairs (or more accurately, to be carried upstairs) to browse his Playhouse Disney and Nick Jr. websites. This has so far turned out to be a wonderful move on our part; it keeps him satisfied, allowed us to blog from the hospital, and helps keep him put. And trust me, I think that's going to be the hardest part. He's five; he will get stir crazy, and will want to jump around and be five.

I picked up my daughter from daycare. She had a great day, seemed happy to see her Daddy, and picked up pizzas for us for dinner. Then during dinner, my daughter (who hadn't had a nap today) decided to pull her drama queen routine because she was so tired. She and I had a little decent daddy-daughter time during her bath. I put her to sleep, then went and cuddled with my son, who was waiting for me. After he drifted off to sleep (my wife had long since toddled off to dreamland), I came downstairs to write this blog entry and listen to Toto's first album in simulated surround (it's actually a great album for that!!). Signs look good that things will be back to "normal" in our house, as soon as we all figure out the best rhythms for a five-year-old who is SUPPOSED to have limited mobility (yeah right).

Tomorrow, I get to watch the DVD of Up which came in the mail today; YAY!!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Post-op news...

My son is now out of surgery; I'm sorry I don't have my USB cable with me, and can't show photos, but the short story is that everything went okay. When we got here, he immediately got VERY anxious and wanted to either go into another room and play with trains (who wouldn't?), or just get out of there entirely. He so disliked having the ID bracelet on his wrist that he gnawed off the flimsy piece of plastic; attaboy. We were taken into a pre-op room, where the drama continued. They gave him some anti-anxiety medicine orally, which he promptly spat out. They then gave it via intramuscular injection, and within 3 minutes, he was well on his way to happyland. I asked him, "How old are you?" Sleepily, he said, "Good." Yeah, see ya on the other side. He was so relaxed that he let loose on me; it's almost like he said, "You win this round, but I'll relieve myself on you!!" Cheeky kid. He then went into surgery, and my wife and I got a quick lunch of Italian beef sandwiches in Children's Memorial's cafeteria (it was actually a good sandwich!! I commend them!!). My wife got her sandwich dry; I got mine dipped with giardinera. We then went back up to the waiting room, and my wife nervously fretted typing online while I read my Big Star book and took a quick snooze.

fter an hour and a half, the doctor came back to tell me that everything went really great. The incision they made to cut his groin tendon is about an inch long, on the inside of the right side of his groin. She also did an arthrogram, and was very happy with the current shape of the bone. The bone can take up to two years to re-vascularize (for blood-flow to get back to the top of the bone, to allow the bone to reconstruct itself), and it's key that the bone reform itself spherically and not egg-shaped. By having the brace on, it forces that there is no weight borne on the right hip, and encourages the bone to regrow properly. He woke out of anaesthesia very cranky and groggy, and wanted both the brace off and the I.V. in his left arm. Also, they bound the brace with fiberglass casting material; even if we (his parents) wanted to take it off, we couldn't. We've already had a physical therapy consult; the therapist showed us how we are going to transfer him from bed to wheelchair.

Right now, he is laying in bed watching Meet The Robinsons (did I mention we brought our portable DVD player? Gotta bring some of the comforts of home now, don't we?). He still wants the brace and IV off, but at least now he is calm. I hope we can get through 6 weeks of recovery. At least now we have our son back; we will be able to figure out the rest.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tomorrow... my son's surgery, and I'm still nervous as all hell. Please keep us in your thoughts; my guy goes in around 1:30pm, and after surgery will be our first indication how he will do with the brace. THAT'S the part that is the big variable, to put it mildly.

In the meanwhile, here's a great band still at an arguable peak of their powers:

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

You need to buy these...

I know that for most of you out there, you don't have most of these CDs. So without dwelling on it, here are a clutch of CDs that will automatically make your CD collection that much richer:
  • Joni Mitchell, The Hissing Of Summer Lawns
  • My Bloody Valentine, Loveless
  • Love Nut, Baltimucho
  • Original Soundtrack, The Harder They Come
  • Sugar, Copper Blue
  • Yes, 90125
  • Todd Rundgren, Hermit Of Mink Hollow
  • Pete Townshend, All The Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes
  • Wesley Willis Fiasco, Spookydisharmoniousconflicthellride, and
  • The Differents, Fate's Going On
...which is a preview of an interview I'm going to do. Stay tuned, more info coming....

Monday, November 09, 2009

Rock humor

Stevie Ray Vaughan dies and goes up to rock 'n roll heaven. St. Peter shows him around, and introduces him to Jimi Hendrix. Stevie enthuses, "Mr. Hendrix, I've always been a huge fan of yours, it's an honor to meet you." Jimi says, "Hey man, it's cool. Call me Jimi. Let's jam sometime."

Next, St. Peter brings Stevie to Muddy Waters. Again, Stevie is awestruck. "Mr. Morganfield, I think that you made the most wonderful music in the world." Stevie then bows to Muddy, who gently chides him by saying, "Naw, there's no reason for that. We're both bluesmen. Let's jam sometime." Stevie agrees, and can't wait to gettin' to jammin' with all of his heroes. St. Peter looks on from the side, smiles at Stevie's unabashed fandom, then says, "Come on. I have another person you're going to want to meet."

St. Peter tells Stevie, "I'd like to introduce you to Bono." Confused, but raised to be a polite Texan, Stevie shakes the Irishman's hand, saying, "Bono, I've always really liked your music; it's a pleasure to finally meet you." Bono sort of dismisses him and says, "Yeah, it's a pleasure to meet you too."

After they've walked on a bit, Stevie pulls St. Peter aside. "Now something might have happened between the time my helicopter crashed and now, but the last I remember, Bono was still alive."

St. Peter rolled his eyes, and said, "Yes, that's really God. He just likes to pretend he's Bono."

Sunday, November 08, 2009

This weekend was great

This weekend was really a great weekend. I know that sounds trite and boring, but here's why to me it was great that this weekend itself was wonderful. My son is going in for hip tendon surgery this Thursday, which will lay him up in bed for2 weeks, and a total recovery period of 6-8 weeks with a hip brace which he has to wear at ALL times during that period (and during which no weight can be borne on his hips at all), then wear the brace for an indefinite period overnights after that. A little background: my son is on the autism spectrum, with a high-functioning flavor of it, thank goodness. Sensory issues are frequently hallmarks of autism spectrum disorders; one of the ways it manifests itself in my son's personality is that he doesn't like having to wear even a Band-aid at all. However, he developed a hip disease/condition called Legg-Calve Perthes. The particulars of this condition is that due to lack of blood flow to the top of the ball of where the femur bone fits into your socket, the bone mass of his ball joint has deteriorated. It will naturally grow back, but since his femur has slipped out of the socket, it could grow back less-than-spherically (which would be really bad). The surgery he will have will make sure that his bone goes (and stays) back in the socket, and a tendon will be cut which will restore full range of motion to that hip which has been lost due to this condition. I have faith that the surgery will be without issue, and that it won't be a problem (we're going to Children's Memorial). I am simply scared shitless that the recovery and brace-wearing will be incredibly hard on my son, both physically and psychologically. I am hoping and praying that my mind is overstating things, but this time I'd rather fear the worst and be surprised by the best.

With all that looming ahead, it's great that all of us had such a wonderful weekend before this surgery and recovery period. I'm hoping it won't be forever until we have another great weekend. And I didn't write this post to crassly drum up sympathy for what we're going through; I just wanted to share how and where my mind is / has been / probably will be for a while.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

My Kids Will Rock You!!

My kids are still a little young (my son is 5 1/2, my daughter is 2) to be getting into my music. However, every once in a while, my son has wild ways of letting me know that we do actually have points where our tastes intersect. Apparently, at the daycare center he goes to, someone put Queen's "We Will Rock You" onto a mix CD; whenever it comes up, my son really gets into it. Since this was unbeknownst to me, imagine how shocking it was when I heard him start singing it one day out of nowhere at home. So today while we were running our typical 1,001 Saturday errands, I decided to bring with my copy of Queen's Greatest Hits (the British one with the original cover as seen here, with 17 tracks). I put it on track 16, and watched my son go nuts!! My daughter really loves her brother, and even though she's still learning to talk more or less, she was right there singing along with him. I was even teaching him that he has to slap his knees twice then clap; he was getting into it!! So now I want to get him into some of the other great songs on that CD, like "We Are The Champions", "Flash" (God, does sci-fi camp have any better anthem than this?), and "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" (which appears on another somewhat surprising point of intersection between us, my copy of Chipmunk Punk). And I know he likes Madonna's "Cherish", which is pretty cool for a five-year old. It's still too soon to expect him to dig My Bloody Valentine's "You Made Me Realise", but I'll work him up sloooooowly to that!!

Friday, November 06, 2009

Top Ten Joe Jackson Albums You Should Own

lease don't criticize me too harshly; top ten lists are awesome quick-and-dirty filler posts for someone who is typically crazy-verbose but is trying to post one-a-day posts for a particular month. Besides, they're fun to see where they compare next to the same list you would make for yourself. (And I reserve the right to post twice in one day if the mood so strikes me...)

Joe's got a great catalog, but these stand up as essentials:
  1. Laughter And Lust (1991) -- This was actually my point-of-entry to becoming a fan. While he continues on in the same well-crafted pop vein of his previous Blaze Of Glory, he doesn't need to wed it to a concept like his previous album had. The result are some wonderful songs like "Obvious Song", "Stranger Than Fiction", "It's All Too Much", and even an excellent cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Oh Well". All killer, no filler, and a cool place to start.
  2. I'm The Man (1979) -- For JJ's second album, he avoided the sophomore slump by delivering a set of tunes arguably stronger than those on his debut, Look Sharp. Think about it; how many artists can you think of who follow up their debut with an excellent follow-up IN THE VERY SAME YEAR?? Not a whole lot. Definitely a keeper.
  3. Look Sharp (1979) -- There's a reason his debut album is so damn popular: it's got great, tight pop songs on it. I'm just gonna assume that if someone is so inclined to delve deeper into the catalog of JJ, that this is going to be one of the first CDs they're gonna get. And I say wholeheartedly to run with that assumption; you will be rewarded with a killer batch of songs.
  4. Night & Day (1982) -- This album early on established JJ as a sort of a musical Renaissance man. Gone are the wiry, punchy songs of the first three albums. In its place are jazzy, Latin-inflected, sophisticated, and mature compositions. Most artists take time to build up to masterworks like this album; Joe just seemed to punch out excellent works as if it were of no consequence. Although you probably know the hits off this one, be sure to pay attention to the album cuts like "Another World", "Real Men", and the amazing "A Slow Song". The out-of-print MFSL gold disc has great sound, but the 2-disc Deluxe Edition is going to be a great way to collect a lot of otherwise hard-to-find JJ rarities.
  5. Big World (1986) -- For some ungodly reason, this album has always been hard to find. It wasn't in print very long during its initial release period, and subsequent reissues have been in non-USA territories. If you want JJ at the top of his form, go with this one. Not many of the songs are well-known, but nearly all of them are excellent. (Extended review from me is here.)
  6. Body & Soul (1984) -- Joe recorded this mostly-live-without-an-audience in a gloriously echoey room, lending its wonderful songs a majestic hue.
  7. Volume 4 (2003) -- Joe reunited with the band of his first three albums, and the resultant album sounds as if time hadn't passed. JJ doesn't repeat himself here, yet most of the songs recapture the fire and magic of those initial bursts of energy. Make sure you listen to "Awkward Age", "Chrome", "Love At First Light", and "Still Alive" (which has an embedded reference to Steely Dan's "Barrytown", which I hope is intentional) The tour behind this album was cool as hell, too.
  8. Night Music (1994) -- While I don't recommend this album to neophytes, it is a wonderful, nuanced album full of its own quiet glories. Don't let the bad reviews fool you; this album has some truly great songs, like "The Man Who Wrote Danny Boy", "Ever After", and "Nocturne #1".
  9. Blaze of Glory (1989) -- This is a neat collection of pop songs segueway'ed together into two suites of songs which are loosely autobiographical. Strong points are "Nineteen Forever", "Rant 'n Rave", "Down To London", and "Tomorrow's World".
  10. Night & Day II (2000) -- A worthy sequel to the first one. While the first one is split into "Night Side" and "Day Side", this one is one long suite of individual segued songs. There's a lot of looking back, both musically and lyrically, and it's a wonderful listen. This was another great tour.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

COFFEE MUG REVIEW: The Contigo Autoseal

I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that the Contigo Autoseal travel coffee mug that I purchased from Target for around $20 not less than two months ago is the finest travel coffee mug I have owned. It keeps your drink warm, doesn't spill, is easy to use one-handed while you drive, easy to clean, and a general joy to own. I definitely would recommend it. Plus, Contigo is a Chicago-based company, even though the mugs are manufactured in China.

As a matter of fact, I love this mug so much that I'm gonna buy it twice. D'OH!! Yes, your faithful correspondent was in such a hurry this morning to pack off both kids to day care that I didn't realize that I had left the coffee mug on top of the roof of my car until I reached the first stop sign from my house. Clatter, clunk, CRACK!! The top busted in a bad spot, rendering my beautiful Contigo an expensive dribble cup. So it's back to Target to get me another one. But let me reiterate that it's a worthy purchase!! It just sucks that I need to re-buy it because I'm a big ol' dork.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Shame on you, Maine

Yesterday, 52% of Maine voters struck down pending state legislation which would have allowed for same-sex marriage. This sickens me. The fact of the matter is, one's sexual orientation does not invalidate that person's ability to love deeply, to commit one's entire heart, soul, and life to another person. Being gay is not a choice the same way that choosing to be vegetarian is; it is just who you are. (Think of your eye color; did you have any choice in the matter?) The rhetoric of hate, bigotry, and lies unfortunately prevailed in the decision to repeal the law which would have allowed same-sex marriage. While some people might say that since the margin was so slim can be seen as the turning of the tides, a loss is still a loss. To allow voters to suppress one group of people's rights in this fashion would be akin to allowing voters back in Lincoln's day to repeal the law abolishing slavery. It's the same thing, folks; don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

I honestly think that the huge problem we have to overcome (aside from institutionalized bigotry at the pulpit in way too many organized religions) is the fact that the religious sacrament of marriage, and that ostensibly-religious term "marriage" has unfortunately been secularized in code of law to refer to the legal definition of the relationship between two people. This is unfortunate; many persons who claim to be religious point to the fact that their religion of choice doesn't allow same-sex marriage, so therefore our country shouldn't allow it as well. This mindset flies in the face of our separation of church and state; without that defined separation, the religious group who shouts loudest would create our laws, sometimes at the expense of other people's valid religious beliefs that might run contrary to the prevailing majority. If there were only a way to take away the religious meaning behind the word "marriage", this might not be as hotly contested of a debate. Washington state yesterday did pass an "everything but marriage" bill, thankfully. Each and every state-controlled right that opposite-sex couples enjoy when they get married is now afforded to same-sex couples who want to marry. While this law does not afford all of the federally granted rights of marriage, it is a huge step forward. Shame on Maine for falling for the lies and scare tactics of the campaign against same-sex marriage.

I do believe that ultimately, same-sex marriage will be legal within my lifetime; it's a shame that it is taking so long to overcome people's ignorance and bigotry.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Top Ten Power Pop Classics

The following cuts are quintessential examples of my favorite subgenre of rock 'n roll, Power Pop:
  1. Big Star, "Back Of A Car"
  2. Game Theory, "24"
  3. Matthew Sweet, "I've Been Waiting"
  4. Todd Rundgren, "Couldn't I Just Tell You"
  5. The Who, "Pictures Of Lily"
  6. The Beatles, "Paperback Writer"
  7. Love Nut, "Casualty"
  8. The Safes, "Eternity"
  9. Material Issue, "One Simple Word"
  10. XTC, "Earn Enough For Us"
Now granted, this is by no means a complete list. And ask me again tomorrow, I'd probably swap out a few. But if you've heard even a few of these classics, you might have a fair idea what people mean when they talk about power pop.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Elvis Costello - This Years Model

I mean, c'mon; you need ME to tell you this is one of the finest albums of all time??? And you want me to tell you why?? Well, okay, but honestly, the best way for you to discover is to just buy it yourself; you won't be disappointed. For as many albums as this man has put out, this is still his finest hour. After an excellent debut album (My Aim Is True) recorded with the band that would evolve into Huey Lewis & The News, Elvis found THE band that perfectly matched his musical vision: the Attractions. Bruce Thomas, Steve Nieve, and Pete Thomas not only excel as players, they completely take great material and make it PHENOMENAL. The songs are wiry-yet-literate screeds of anger, sarcasm, neurosis, self-doubt, and rebellion. Elvis didn't beg you to like him; he dared you to not like him. "This Year's Girl", "(I Don't Want To Go To) Chelsea", and yes, even the overplayed "Pump It Up" tumble out of your speakers with a tangle of emotions and imagery. But for me, the finest moment is the closing cut on the US version: "Radio Radio". Issued in the UK as a standalone single, Columbia Records tacked this onto the US version of This Years Model (no apostrophe in the title of the album). I think it's a perfect closer for the disc, and I'm glad that since 1994, all CD versions have included both the UK-only "Chelsea" and "Night Rally" and the US-only "Radio Radio".

Which brings me to the real purpose of this blog post: the differences between the original LP releases in both the UK and the US are striking. In the UK, this was an independent label (Radar) release; in the US, it was released by possibly the biggest label you could be on at the time (Columbia). From what I remember, Columbia felt that they'd be "improving" the album by striking the two songs (according to Elvis, Columbia felt those songs' lyrics were "too English", AARGH!!), and adding "Radio Radio". They were right about the latter point, but I think they did US listeners a huge disservice by waiting until the odds-n-sods collection Taking Liberties to release these two cuts. Put all together, the two track configurations when combined make a most-excellent thirteen track monster.

Not only was the tracklist modified for its US release, so was its cover. For any degradation in quality that they accomplished via track deletion, Columbia scored higher points in my book with the alternate photos that they chose for both the front and back covers of the US version of the LP. On the UK version, Elvis seems to be saying, "Now don't bring your hopes up too high; I've never used this camera before." On the US cover, Elvis is hiding his face partially behind the camera; his eyes are open wide. His face seems to be saying, "I'm as excited as all hell about this; look what I have here!!" Which, upon listening to the album, it seems he had a stunner of an album there.

On the rear cover of the UK album, the band is just lolling about. "Here we are, take us or leave us." On the rear of the US album, it would seem that Elvis is putting the delayed-shot timer of that camera on the front cover to use; he's sprinting to get into the frame, and almost misses being in the shot. It's comical to think that for the camera on the front cover (ironically, an older camera being used for an album called This Years Model), even this year's model still acts quirky. This joke is missed on the UK version of the cover.

Finally, Columbia Records did something truly cool for the label on the first pressing of the album. I can best explain it with photos. The label pictured for My Aim Is True is the standard Columbia Records label which had been in use since the late '60s/early '70s. Take a look at the yellow perimeter print on the label for This Years Model. Too cool.

And one last thing; if you haven't heard this album yet, listen to it. It's a masterpiece.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Visit the Wesley Willis Tower!!

Wesley Willis was a rock 'n roller
He was diagnosed with chronic scizophrenia
He made music with his Casio keyboard, and whupped a llama's ass

Wesley Willis, Wesley Willis
Wesley Willis, Wesley Willis

Rock over London, Rock On Chicago
Touch and Go, serving up Steve Albini records since 1987

There are a whole lot of people who have no idea that in the '90s, the city of Chicago was home to one of the most unique individuals to have ever made alternative rock. Wesley Willis was a chronic schizophrenic street artist; with only magic markers and tag paper, Wesley would make the most intricate renderings of city skylines and urban landscapes. However, Wes had friends who inspired him to indulge his musical "gifts", and gave him access to recording equipment and pointed him in the direction of CD manufacturing. His solo material was simplistic, quirky music. Typically, his songs were merely him narrating in his spoken voice something he'd heard, a person he'd known, a significant event that had happened in his life, or a concert he'd been to. Although most people wouldn't consider his music great by any stretch, I find it fascinating (in small doses). Think about it; here's a guy who was dealt a really bad set of circumstances, and with the help of some friends, made a better life for himself. His music and concerts gave him the chance to travel the U.S., and make friends all over the place. He was even signed to Rick Rubin's American Recordings label for two albums, oddly enough. He had a good working relationship with Jello Biafra, who released many WW albums on his Alternative Tentacles label. Wesley Willis was a tireless self-promoter, and worked hard for all the acclaim that he had. Whenever he met his fans, he'd lightly head-butt you with a "rah!!" I met him three times, and was a recipient of his gracious head-butts. He was a hell of a guy.

For me, Wesley Willis's finest moment was when he was a part of the Wesley Willis Fiasco. Wesley's longtime partner in crime, Dale Meiners, got together some like-minded band members, and put together a hard punk group to supercharge Wesley Willis's lyrics. There was something phenomenal about a guy bellowing over hard punk. Their sole album, Spookydisharmoniousconflicthellride, is a great listen. Unfortunately, the band broke up due to the irregularities of Wesley's moods; like anyone with a mental disability, he had good days and bad days.

There are a whole lot of ways to approach the phenomenon of Wesley Willis's fame. Some cretins superficially laughed at Wesley's disability, as if a person with Down Syndrome were trying to sing Sinatra (the circus freak syndrome, if you will). Others were indignant at the perceived exploitation of someone with an obvious issue, and found the whole idea of his music repugnant. Myself? I really liked his music on its own terms, but more importantly, really rooted for him. I thought it was a great way for him to make himself more well-known, and a way for him to have a better life. I really liked his shamelessness, and his energy was tireless. Please make no mistake; no one was better at exploiting Wesley Willis than the man himself; apparently, he went to each and every record store in Chicago with his bag on his back to sell them his CDs, repeatedly. I still love the WWF stuff.

Unfortunately, Wesley Willis died in 2003 from leukemia. Although he's no longer with us, he should forever be remembered as one of Chicago's treasures. And I think it's a wonderful tribute to him to have renamed the Sears Tower here in Chicago to the Willis Tower in his honor. We really should always call it the Wesley Willis Tower, to drive that point home.