Thursday, June 22, 2006


If good things come in threes... then I've got a set. (Yes, that's an attempt at a poker reference.)

1. Gina graduates from The French Pastry School tomorrow. 2. My great friends from high school Pete and Hannah got engaged. 3. My little sister and her boyfriend Will got engaged. Whew. 

All excellent. My sister and Will announced their engagement on Sunday at Father's Day brunch, which was attended by us, my parents, and my grandparents. I am so happy for them. The protective older brother in me knows that my sister has found a truly fantastic person who respects her and loves her the way a spouse should. So I don't have to kick some ass. Not that I'm the ass kicking type. Or the type that wins ass kicking contests. I digress.

Tomorrow, Gina will graduate and in two weeks she'll begin a six month stint back at school as an intern. 10 hours a day, 5 days a week. She finished up working for Gary Lee last Friday, so we've officially begun a half year of being a single income family. Okay... now that I've written that sentence, I'll go (as my Grandpa would say) change my shorts.

But I know we'll be okay. We've been planning for this and we do have some options to cushion the impact of going from two earners to one. And having that one earner be a musician. And... another change of shorts.

Maybe the stress of this change has been on my mind lately, but I've been feeling exhausted and worn down. But I am looking forward to playing at Pontiac Cafe tonight as part of MOB Fest. We'll be playing acoustic, with me on acoustic guitar and Barret playing Bodhran and couple of other auxiliary percussion instruments. We've been rehearsing in this configuration for the last couple weeks, and it's been fun to reinvent the tunes in a quieter setting.

The show tonight is free and we play at 9:00. More info at our website. Now... I gotta head out to Target and pick up a couple of things for the weekend. Including some new shorts.


Tuesday, June 20, 2006

"I am your Father"

So I finally bit the bullet and saw the final installment of Star Wars, Episode III - Revenge of the Sith. I know what you're saying: where have you been for the last year? Well... I was avoiding seeing it for a couple of reasons...

First off, I was afraid it would suck. And I've been so disillusioned with the first two episodes, that I figured Episode III would be the nail in the coffin. Second of all, I think it represented the end of an era for me. Is that a little melodramatic? Maybe.

But I think a lot of people use movies, songs, and TV shows as markers in their lives. And an age difference of just a couple of years either way means that you remember different movies, different songs, different cartoons... etc. And for those of us born in the late seventies... well, there was nothing much cooler or bigger than Star Wars.

In fact, Episode IV came out the year I was born and I know I'd seen all three of the original movies by the time Return of the Jedi was released in 1983. And I had all the action figures. And I still think Darth Vader is the best movie villain of all time. I had nightmares about him well into my 20's... I guess he had a pretty deep and lasting impact on my psyche.

So... I think I was a little anxious about closing the most lasting and important chapter of entertainment of my lifetime. And the verdict on Episode III?

I don't want to say it sucked... So I won't. But I had problems with it. Not with the story. I love the way the plot and story of the Episodes I-III was constructed. I love how the Emperor slowly consolidates his power by playing both sides of a manufactured conflict, and manipulates people into giving him more and more power until he's in a position to take control. It really resonates with how figures in history have grabbed power. I liked the tragedy of the fall of the Jedi and how brutal and absolute it was. I liked Obi Wan and Anakin's final battle and the savagery of it.

So what didn't I like? Let me count the things (pushes glasses up in nerdly manner)...

1. The dialogue.

2. The dialogue.

3. The dia- you get the idea. George Lucas is such a hack when it comes to putting exposition in characters mouths. And it kills me. Don't have Yoda tell us he's going into exile. Just go into fucking exile! We know he's going into exile! But Lucas feels the need to pound details into our heads by having characters speak them. Argh. Give the audience some credit.

4. The direction. I can only surmise that when good actors like Samuel Jackson, Ewan McGregor, and Natalie Portman get all mumble-mouthed and robotic that it has something to do with the direction. Thanks again George Lucas. Why didn't he let someone else direct?

5. The special effects. They were good but overused. The movie felt two dimensional. There was no, ZERO, dirt. Compare it to original three Episodes, or better yet, The Lord of the Rings.

6. Darth Vader's "Nooooooooooooo" at the end of the movie. Oh. My. God. I've seen less contrived staging at junior high school plays. Broke the momentum of the last 30 minutes of the movie. Ruined it.

All that being said, there are some nice resolutions which set up Episodes IV - VI and make them even more poignant then they were when they originally came out. I like the fact that everyone mourns Anakin's transformation into Darth Vader because he's supposed to be the "Chosen One" who brings balance to the force, but he does eventually fulfill that prophecy by destroying the Emperor in Jedi. I like how the conditions at the beginning of Episode IV really speak to 18 years of Empire rule... technology and order are breaking down, things are really in disarray. Good stuff.

So... sigh... I guess that's it for Star Wars for me. Seeing Episode III also seemed pertinent in light of Father's Day... as Anakin/Darth and Luke have one of the most storied father-son relationships in history, right up there with Laius and Oedipus. Of course my dad is like the anti-Darth Vader. In that he's not trying to kill me. Although he probably felt like it a few times when I was in high school (and there were times I probably deserved to be killed).

But in all seriousness, I couldn't ask for a better father. I can only hope to be for my children something like the mentor and friend that my dad has been for me. Now I better go sharpen my lightsaber skills. And that's not a euphemism.


Friday, June 16, 2006


You ever get to Friday and feel like you've been holding your breath all week? Yeah, me too. As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, I just have this feeling like something is about to happen. Something big.

This weekend? A lot of good things going on this weekend... but I think it's coming in the next few weeks. Hmmmm. Stay tuned.


Monday, June 12, 2006

Once in a Lifetime

Every once in a while, I have to put on the "big suit" and ask... How did I get here?

Some notable examples:

Spring of 1997, with Ben and Greg at a party in the backwoods of Kentucky with a group of kids we just met. Owner of the house was 18. Crowd was surprising diverse. There were shotguns and oreos. I brought the house down with renditions of Scuttle Buttin by SRV and (a heavy favorite) Sweet Home Alabama.

Spring of 1997, with Colin, just obliterated at 1:00 in the afternoon on an Amtrak train between Chicago and Ann Arbor, having beers with ex-Steeler CB Harvey Clayton.

Summer of 1997, with Ben and Dave, walking down State Street in Madison, shirtless, with water pistols in our belts. Being accosted by a bachelorette party. You can only imagine. It was eXcellent. 

Spring of 1998, with Ben, at a disco bowl in San Francisco after seeing Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, stoned to b'jeezus. Hadn't showered in 7 days. I bowled 110 in the first 5 frames, but couldn't break 200.

Fall of 2003, with a host of friends, sweating at a Russian Bath House in New York. Very strange. 

And add to that list, going to the Windy City Rollers bout in Cicero this weekend. We went to support the Hell's Belles and cheer on our friend Belinda Scarlisle. And it was pretty awesome. Those chicks are tough as hell. Tons of hits. Great, capacity crowd. I don't completely understand the rules but... it did not detract from enjoying the event.

Unfortunately, the Belles lost to the The Fury. There's a bout every month, and I would imagine that we'll be return spectators.

And you may find yourself, at a Roller Derby in Cicero...


Thursday, June 08, 2006

J. Gump

Yeah, yeah, I know. See... I had a post for Tuesday... and then I accidentally erased it and got frustrated and didn't write another one. Take that, technology. I sure showed you.

I'll sum the erased post up like this: While you're busy making plans, shit happens. I think I was quoting some amalgam of John Lennon and Forrest Gump. Anyway, we played in Chicago on Friday and up in Madison Saturday. Both shows were okay, but I thought the Madison show had better sound and I think playing in different cities gives us a new energy and a new approach which translates to better shows.

Getting out on the road is so good for us, musically, as performers, and just interpersonally. There's something about getting up and playing in front of a room of mostly unfamiliar faces... I think I could do it every night. Actually, I know I could do it every night. Which is in the plans for the fall.

Of course, you know what happens while you're busy making plans...


Thursday, June 01, 2006


I think I'm attempting some sort of pun on the word apocalypse (and no, I didn't watch the Spelling Bee), but I can't be sure.

You see, I'm at the end of the week, staring down a loaded weekend. There are good parts (two BRB shows, a birthday party) and not so good parts (work all day tomorrow, teach Saturday). And then there's the fact that I took my nightly Ambian about 45 minutes ago, which means... Morpheus is banging on my door like an angry creditor.

So before I give in to the inevitable, it bears mentioning that my plans to do some acoustic recordings of both BRB material and solo stuff are taking flight. I've got the man for the job and an approximate time frame. What I'm struggling with now is picking the material. I've got 14 to 15 tunes. In a perfect world, we'd do them all. But we don't have the time or the money.

So the next week will be about sorting through the songs, prioritizing, etc. Maybe even writing a new tune or two just for fun...

Such as: Skyscrapers of My Heart Woke from a dream where I was trying to get to you And save you from the next attack I've been knocked down and fixed so many times before I gave up awhile back While I'm sleeping They're all leaving me gone Another day has gone and left us in its wake Another week is in the past And as the waters fill the spaces in my chest I know these times will never last While I'm sleeping They're all leaving me gone