Thursday, December 31, 2009

Cubs Sign Marlon Byrd

Woo. Hoo?
I don't really have much to say about this, other than: "It's come to this? This is the major signing we were waiting for?"


This offseason blows.



This was another TMS archive. In hindsight, I'm glad Byrd was signed. I like him. But, in hindsight, I had no idea just how BAD the 2010 Cubs would be.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Pop Culture Gauntlet: Boba Fett vs. Fried Chicken

Man, TMS got weird before it stopped...

Welcome to Pop Culture Gauntlet, where people, places, and things from various subjects face off in a virtual cage match. As part of an ongoing series we will bring you new battles each week between randomly selected items from the Thunder Matt's PCG database. We will provide you with a brief background of both competitors. After reading, you can then vote on your choice in the poll located in the right sidebar column. Monday battles will run until 12am Thursday. Thursday battles will run until 12am Monday. Also we welcome any arguments for either competitor in our comments section. May the best man, thing, or whatever win.

Today's match: Boba Fett vs. Fried Chicken

Boba Fett
The nerd's ultimate idea of cool, Boba Fett is the cleverest, slickest, most dangerous bounty hunter in the Star Wars series. Of course, he does this more or less by the time honored tradition of "not being as dumb as Greedo," an alien so dumb that even after Lucas felt bad enough to go back and spot him a free first shot, managed to miss from 2 feet away. Still, Boba Fett was the only person in the entire Galactic Empire not to notice the huge spaceship that disappeared from view might be floating amongst the ONLY cover within ten light years, so we can definitely give him that. Boba Fett also flew the legitimately badassed Slave-1. Sure it was a weird looking combination of spaceship and hair-dryer, but when you fly in something named Slave-1, no one fucks with you. Except maybe Harriet Tubman.

Like all things awesome about the original Star Wars series, Lucas managed to make Boba Fett lamer than Joe Theismann, circa 1986 during the "new trilogy." Apparently he's a clone of his own "father" Django Reinhardt, along with EVERY SINGLE STORMTROOPER...which means the entire Imperial Army is pretty much a bunch of renowned jazz guitarists. Or something like that, I stopped paying attention halfway through that crapfest.

Strengths: In The Empire Strikes Back, he is easily the most competent employee on the Imperial Payroll. He has a kickass jetpack, a grappling hook, and the stones to stand up to Darth Vader.

Weaknesses: Being accidentally hit on the back by a blind Han Solo will cause his kickass jetpack to malfunction and enable him to be digested over a thousand year period by the Saarlacc. Nice heel, Achilles. His death merited a slide whistle.

Fun Fact: Did you know, per Wikipedia, that the plural of "Saarlacc" is "Saarlacci?" And the plural of "nerd" is "more than one person who knows that."

Fried Chicken
Though one of our bartenders is secretly a vegetarian (guess which one!), the rest of us know that chickens are essentially Food Alive. And everyone knows the best way to serve any food is to bread it and deep fry it. Even things that are counterintuitive, like pickles, okra, or ice cream.

Invented by Jesus shortly after he turned water into beer, fried chicken lay dormant until rediscovered by the American South, especially poor African-Americans, as chickens were the only farm animal slaves were allowed to keep. This led to some rather disgusting racist connections with fried chicken, but let me assure you, as a caucasian southerner, I have eaten more than enough of the stuff to bely any aspersions of that nature.

Strengths: Aside from tasting like awesome lives in your mouth, fried chicken keeps for longer than most dishes, which is another reason it became popular in the pre-refrigeration south. It may well be the perfect picnic food, since you are required by law to eat it with your hands in most states.

Weaknesses: Other than the whole "racism" angle, it looks like fried chicken might not actually be healthy. More on this as it develops.

Fun Fact: Colonel Sanders was named a Kentucky Colonel in 1935, nearly 20 years before KFC was franchised.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Addition by Subtraction

TMS archive #something-or-other

I usually hate that term. But I just had to pop in to say good riddance. According to ESPN Chicago, the Cubs have traded Aaron Miles and Jake Fox for some prospects. It's a Holiday Miracle!

I mean, don't get me wrong, Jake Fox has a decent bat, but he was a worse fielder than this site's namesake.

And more importantly, with this move the 2010 Cubs will be AARON FREE!


2010 update: don't know why I bothered moving this over. Inertia, I guess. At any rate, the 2010 Cubs found plenty of ways to suck without Aarons...

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Wolter's Random Braindump, Vol 40

Some assorted thoughts on this fine Thursday:

Through a combination of extremely bad planning and wretched tiredness, I missed the World Series opener. However, I guessed the outcome solely by noticing the lack of psychotically pro-Yankee facebook status updates from friends of mine who have no business rooting for that team. Nobody's louder than a Yankees fan when they win, and nobody changes the subject faster than a Yankees fan when they lose. I'm hoping for a sweep.

On that note, while I think it's good for the Series to have a villain, there is nothing I want more than for the Cubs to have more 21st century WS wins than the Yankees. Anyone who wishes otherwise is insane at best, and at worst, a traitor to the human race.

I haven't done any sophisticated analysis on the TMS 2009 baseball predictions, but I believe this entry wins the award for Most Completely Correct Prediction in History.

"The 97 mph fastball was long gone, the aura and mystique had faded, and he was fighting to prove his ability to merely contribute. The former Cy Young ace was now a conjurer, a Merlin of the mound, hoping his knowledge, guile, and a little bit of smoke and mirrors was enough to make it back to the Show.

"Sadly, I don't think it was."

"The box score will say Pedro didn't do that badly, giving up one hit, hitting a batter, and striking out one. But great change-up aside, I'd say his tank is empty."

"... I wouldn't be surprised if Sunday was the last day of Pedro Martinez's brilliant baseball career."
This is the exact sort of predictive skill one would expect from a writer for a blog named after future Hall of Famer Matthew Henry Murton.

Sadly, it looks like I'm missing tonight's game due to a prior engagement, but I really hope Pedro sticks it to the Yankees all over again. It would be so very, very sweet.

Part of the bad planning mentioned above was an unscheduled trip to the Apple Store with my fiancee and her mother to help her with a PC-to-Mac switchover. This, in itself isn't hard. I've actually done it twice now. But the Best Buy employee that originally backed up her PC files did a number on it. Let me tell you this: I'm not a computer guy, so I love Macs. I love iPods. I really love my iPhone. But two-and-a-half hours in an Apple Store is a form of almost Lovecraftian horror. Nothing makes sense after about a half-hour, and by the 2nd hour sinister forces beyond your comprehension begin to reveal themselves to you. On the plus side, the wi-fi was free.

I have decided not to include pictures in this blog post. Why? Because I hate you, the reader.

Behind the scenes at TMS, we spend a lot of time deciding to whom we give support, and from whom we take it away. There have been some rumblings that we must no longer support Wanda Sykes (which surprised me, because I didn't even see her name on the TMS Support Whiteboard). Brant Brown has offered the following evidence for the prosecution:
"The promotional spots for her new Saturday night talk show on FOX have become a painful nuisance on our otherwise peaceful Sunday NFL and MLB viewing. What is really expected here? The Wanda Sykes Show will air at 11:00 p.m. Sure it will get a half-hour jump start on Saturday Night Live, but let's be serious: no one watches late night television on Saturdays anymore. Conan is struggling to regain his predecessor's ratings numbers on weeknights, and Leno is living his own Bad Idea Jeans commercial at a "gimme" 10:00 p.m. slot.

"Will people DVR her show and watch it later? C'mon, would you DVR it? Our DVRs as a nation are so backlogged with Top Chef and Ice Road Truckers episodes that we'll never get to Wanda.

"The bottom line is that there is no incentive to watch The Wanda Sykes Show. Don't get us wrong, she's not a hack like George Lopez. It's just that her style of comedy really works when it is untethered, but it will be difficult to translate to network television. While we applaud her good fortune, we can no longer support her entertainment endeavors.
Even playing Devil's Advocate, I can only come up with the following Lionel Hutzian defense:

"Well, she was funny in her segments on Dr. Katz"
Ok, I don't really hate you, the reader. I was just being cranky. I think I need a nap. And some cheap scotch.

Apparently, the Cubs are considering leaving their spring home in Mesa, Arizona if they are not granted new facilities. If so, they would move right near the tip of America's Dong, Florida. Naples, to be precise. While this sort of thing doesn't move me too deeply, it has long been my policy to support the destruction of Florida, and everything it stands for. Except for quality Death Metal and Space Mountain, everything Florida has given to this nation has disappointed me mightily. Wait. Even Space Mountain is kind of blah. Well, at least they have Atheist. I'd rant more about how much Florida sucks politically, but I usually leave our radical liberal agenda to resident TMS Communard, Arcturus.

On a final note: I will be celebrating Halloween this year, the same way I always do - sitting alone in the dark, drinking cheap scotch, and listening to the Misfits. Feel free to do the same.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Hervé Villechaize Named New Cubs Hitting Coach

A filler, no killer from TMS.

He're an image I bet you didn't expect. You're welcome.Well, yesterday was Wednesday, so that can mean only one thing: time for the Cubs to hire a new hitting coach.

We could see it coming. Anemic bats and a lackluster offense piss a fan base off to no end, so Jim Hendry did the one thing a good GM does to revive flagging run production: through a series of intelligent trades and smart free agent signings, he picked up some patient hitters with good power to...even I can't finish this sentence.

No, he did what Jim Hendry does: he changed coaches. Again. And this time, he did it in a spectaculary Hendrian way: a long term contract.

At first I was stunned that Hendry chose Hervé Villechaize for such a demanding position. I mean the man's main claim to fame is playing the lovable Tattoo from television's Fantasy Island, a show I'm pretty sure I watched as a very small child, but have no concrete memories of other than it gave Khan a chance to dress like Sonny Crockett. Of course, I mainly remember him as Nick Nack from the exquisitely awful Roger Moore Bond flick, The Man With the Golden Gun.

And while I'm aware that the entertainment industry has a long tradition of casting little people in major motion pictures (including such luminaries as Billy Bardy, Verne Troyer, Peter Dinklage, and Tom Cruise), baseball hasn't really followed suit (with the notable exceptions of Eddie Gaedel and Mike Fontenot).

I'm sure some think this signing is a tip of the cap to the late, great Bill Veeck, and a belated acknowledgement that the Cubs haven't really been a worthwhile franchise since a Veeck ran the show on the North Side. But I beg to differ.

First, the Cubs aren't so completely awful and low-attended that the fans need distractions to come to the ballpark. Yet. And Villechaize is a native Frenchman. Baseball has long had problems with Francophonic peoples, culminating in the near-30-year flirtation with Montreal baseball, an affair that ended in such an ugly manner than the team ended up moving to Washington, a city whose reputation for baseball suckitude was so widespread that even musical theatre types know it.

No. I know what this move is.

Pure Dada.

The Cubs have tried making coherent plans to win a World Series in the past. Clearly, they aren't good at that. At all.

No, they're shaking things up by challenging the notions of narrative and sense in public discourse. They're tapping into the unconscious, anti-reasoning dark side of human nature and making a comment to the sporting world that chaos and irrationality are the only solution to a rationalistic world that has led to global wars, corporate greed, and the continued existence of Aaron Miles.

And I, for one, salute this new avante-garde team. For too long have Cubs fans tried to make sense of the myriad asinine moves made by assorted front offices. Why not push it all the way, defying all sequential thought and causality? Why not sign a bitter, angry alcoholic, French midget to teach a team of multimillionaire atheletes how to hit?

Whoa. It turns out Villechaize has been dead for 16 years. GENIUS!

My cap is doffed to you, Hendr--what? Hold on a sec.

Oh. My mistake.

Career MINOR league stats: .258 BA/.299 OBP/.341 SLG/.640 OPS. 'Do as I SAY, not as I DO!'
The Cubs actually signed former Texas hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo.

I guess that makes a lot more sense. He's had a hell of a lot more baseball experience. Assuming that the Cubs are planning on moving in the outfield walls, juicing like a Tropicana factory, and swinging for the stars, I support this move wholeheartedly.

So yeah...sorry about wasting your time. I really shouldn't have tried to do cogent analysis when I stopped following baseball in July. Next week, I'll write about Iron Maiden or post-punk or the hilarious results of teen pregnancy.

P.S. - God, I still hate Aaron Miles so much.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The 1979 Files, Volume 3

More TMS archiving, brought to you by Mutual of Omaha.

Has it really been over three weeks since I last spoke on that most glorious of music years, 1979? A quick look at the calendar says yes. But a quick look into my heart says I never really left.1

And so, as promised back in the mythical era of late September, I now return to the Promised Land to bring back a slab of near perfect wax. And as promised, I present to you the Finest Hour from The Only Band That Matters. I present:

The Clash - The Cost of Living E.P.

Perfect. Simply perfect.(A disclaimer: I like the Clash. A lot. A whole lot. As in, I "have a tattoo of Joe Strummer on my right arm" like the Clash. So I have some very strong opinions about them. Some of them are irrational. Deal with it. )

Okay, I'm sure several people probably already assumed the best Clash release came out in 1979. And they assumed it was London Calling. I'm not here to find fault with London Calling. I love that album more than most people love their children. But anything that has a song where Joe Strummer sings about tantric sex (shudder) will never be a perfect album.

But the Cost of Living is.

This is four songs that basically define what made the Clash a great rock band. Their seminal debut is a classic of the time, but the razorwire production and inconsistent songwriting knock it down a peg. The criminally underrated Give 'Em Enough Rope is a classic in the heavy 70s glam guitar tradition (and is not a Heavy Metal album, despite what the lazy music press accuses it of being), but the vocals are too far down in the mix, and side two dips in quality compared to the amazing 1-2-3 punch it opens with. London Calling is a deep and rich album, and gives CoL a run for the money, but falls just short. Sandinista! is a sprawling,2 insane mess. Combat Rock is filler-heavy, and is clearly the sound of a band breaking up. And Cut the Crap? Clearly the work of a madman.

The Cost of Living, however? Perfect. It's a distillation of the Clash in their purest form. And as it's only 4 songs, I can actually do a song-by-song review without spending the rest of my life writing this:

"I Fought the Law" - Opening up the first side with a galloping, unforgettable drum beat courtesy of Topper Headon, wailing guitar, and perfectly spat-out vocals, this track is, without a doubt, the definitive version of the Sonny Curtis classic. Sure, the Bobby Fuller Four version still gets airplay, but everyone who has ever covered it since is basically covering the Clash version. Simply stunning song, absolutely flawless cover, and a great way to start the album. In fact, I would go so far to say this is the single greatest cover of any song in rock history.

"Groovy Times" - The fact that this is the weakest track on the E.P. should show how strong an album this is. A scathing indictment of the depressing state of late 70s Britain, this is an epic track, with a surprisingly deft, understated guitar and harmonica courtesy of "Bob"(actually guitarist Mick) Jones. Bitter lines like "They discovered one black Saturday/the mobs don't march, they run" and a subtle swipe at Elvis Costello (so subtle it was nearly 10 years until I became aware of it) dance across the elegiac music. Again: the weakest song.

"Gates of the West" - Mind-rapingly awesome power pop with a Mick Jones vocal about the band on the brink of actually breaking America, an achievement that 95% of British bands claim not to care about while desperately attempting to do so. Proof that the Clash could have gone down the Cheap Trick/Raspberries/Knack path and still been legendary. When I started collecting Clash bootlegs, I was gutted to learn this was never played live.

"Capital Radio Two" - Holy. Shit. This song smokes more than Dan Ackroyd does in Ghostbusters. The original "Capital Radio," a scathing assault on the government sponsored radio station, was released on a promotional flexi-disc from the NME, which was so sought-after that copies were going for over 40 pounds within a year of realease. To rectify this, the Clash re-recorded it...louder...and with a different arrangement. Beginning with a simple, soft intro, the song kicks into overtime about 30 seconds in, as the entire band smashes into the song like a brick of compressed radness slamming you in the face. And after about a minute and a half of pummeling your senses with Les Pauls and Telecasters, Joe Strummer calls the bands attention and tells them they'll never get on the radio like that. So, "on the count of four...FOUR!" the band breaks into a hilarious parody of disco music, including a lyrical swipe at the Grease soundtrack and screeching falsettos leading to fadeout.

Thus ends the most perfect release in Clash history.3

The Cost of Living is a little tricky to get your hands on in a hard copy these days. If you want to pony up the money for the Singles Box Set, you can have a replica sleeve, but it's pretty much only for hardcore fans. "I Fought the Law" is on the American reissue of the debut, and pretty much every Best of... complilation the Clash have ever released. The remaining songs can all be found on Super Black Market Clash (where I originally heard them in 1993), a compilation that I highly recommend for showing all of the strengths and all of the weaknesses of the Clash on a single disc.

Thanks to iTunes, I rather imagine you could download all of the tracks separately and make your own, though. You really should.

Tune in next time as I somehow use the weakest album from one of my favorite bands to glorify 1979.



1. This is entirely metaphorical. A quick look into my actual heart actually reveals decades of McRib-related arterial plaque.
2. It is mandated that all reviews that reference
Sandinista!
use the term "sprawling."
3. Okay, the original vinyl release, and the Japanese version of the recent Singles box set include the "Cost of Living Advert" track, but that isn't really a song, so much as Joe Strummer talking in a really bad Jamaican accent over music. But you'd have to go out of your way to hear it in that version, so I discount it.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

"Wrigleyville" Bar Project: The Long Room

TMS archive again, folks. Sensing a pattern?

It really is long.With the name Saloon included in our moniker, one could surmise that we here at TMS like to drinky drinky. One that would make such an assumption would be correct, thereby throwing out the whole, 'when you assume you make an 'ass' out of 'u' and 'me' bullshit. We're here to profile some of the local watering holes around Wrigley, so that you aren't the poor sap who gets dragged into going to the Cubby Bear before the game, wherein you are soon left wondering how your life spiraled out of control so quickly. Tommy Buzanis has pledged to help out with this column, as he is no stranger to the bottle, but you can rest assured that those promises are as empty as his shot glass. So here it is, another sporadically timed, mildly entertaining column that you can only find here at the TMS. Actually you can probably find lots of info on Wrigley bars in a much more concise and helpful format, but that's neither here nor there.

Today’s Bar: The Long Room, 1612 W. Irving Park (Look, I don't actually drink in Wrigleyville proper very often folks. You'll have to bear with me).

Website: http://www.longroomchicago.com/

Douchebag Factor (1-10, with 10 being this guy): 2 (it would have been even lower, but there was a really shrill voiced girl that had trouble deciding what beer to get).

Who You’ll See Here: Mostly neighborhood folks. Decent mix of humanity. The Tamale Man.

What to Order: They have a pretty large beer selection here, as well as some decent specials. The prices seem about average-to-low for Chicago on most items. I had a couple of La Fin Du Mondes (one of my favorite beers) at 6 bucks apiece, followed by a Schlitz for 3. The kicker though was closing out with a Laphroaig Islay Malt Scotch for only 8 bucks (which is very decent for ordering that at a bar).

But really, what you need to bring your money for are the TAMALES. More on that later.

If you were to see a celebrity here, it would be: I'm just going to say Harry Dean Stanton. It seems like his kind of place. Not sure why. Just go with it.

Oh, sweet mystery of life, at last I've found you...Summary: The Long Room was a pretty low-key, very relaxed place when I visited it last night. Nice atmosphere, and so unpretentious that Chaim Witz would probably burst into flames if he crossed the threshold.

The bar is aptly named, as it runs narrowly down the length of its building. There is an outdoor porch in the back that I didn't see much of, but I can assume is nice. There's a photobooth in the back if you like wasting money, and a good amount of regular "seating" booths (I hate sitting at regular tables in bars). And get this: it has parking for customers.

Again, there were a lot of beers available (enough that I panicked and went to a go-to beer to start), and what seemed like a pretty good liquor selection as well.

But what makes it for me is that that atmosphere of comfort and relaxation is interrupted every hour by The Tamale Man. I love bars with tamale salesmen coming through. Made fresh in a van parked nearby, these little packets of joy are sold in bunches of six, and man are they worth it. One of the people in our party said they were as good as the tamales his grandmother made, and I guarantee you that they're better than my grandmother ever could have made (however, this is probably because my grandmother probably never saw a tamale in her life).

Really, I'm actually annoyed writing this, because I want more of those tamales. They're like crack, only legal and you don't feel like a dirtbag 15 minutes after trying one at a party out in Goose Creek, South Carolina and STOP LOOKING AT ME!!!!!1

Anyway, good bar, great tamales, parking. Check it out.

Thunder Matt Rating: 5.5 piping hot tamales out of 6.



1. I actually have never smoked crack. That was ACTING!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Mathematical Elimination Fever - CATCH IT!

TMS archive again.

What could have been, Z-stache? What could have been?Well, that was fun, huh?

You didn't have fun this season? Yeah, me neither.

To be honest, I haven't watched a lot of Cubs baseball lately. For the same reason I don't hang around the oncology ward of my local hospital. Tending to the slow wasting away of a reasonably promising team is not my ideal plan to spend the fleeting Chicago summer.

Which is not to say I didn't have nagging fears about this season. After compiling what was probably the best Cubs team of my lifetime in 2008, Hendry did so very little in the offseason. How was I to know that even the little he did was awful?

I'm not going to go into detail about all the wretched ways the 2008 Cubs were dismantled (other than to say that I had no beef with getting rid of DeRosa, provided the Cubs received more than a bucket of goddamn baseballs - which they did not). I'm just going to make a quiet list of the things that annoyed me about this season, with the hope that a few of them could be rectified:

The addition of Aarons to the roster.

The addition of roughly 78 pounds of pot tits to Geovany Soto's frame.

The annual jerk-around deal that doesn't happen. At least this year it was Jake Peavy Watch, and not year three of Brian Roberts Watch.

The fact that I was under the assumption that the DeRosa trade was part of a master plan to trade for someone like Peavy.

The fact that I assumed ANYTHING was actually part of a master plan on anyone's part in the front office.

Aaron Miles.

The loss of franchise face Kerry Wood combined with the meatheads who failed to notice how awful he did in Cleveland. Both a kick to my emotions and my brain.

The way the same meatheads turned on Zambrano, as if this team has another #1 starter.

The ongoing love affair that this fanbase has with mediocre gritlings like Ryan Theriot and Sam Fuld.

Aaron Fucking Miles. Have I mentioned him yet? Or Heilman? What about him?

Kevin Gregg's Extra Chromosome: Closer

The fact that Derrek Lee's production seems to be inversely proportional to the production of his teammates. God, if he played for the Nats this year he'd be hitting .460 with 98 home runs.

Everything about the Milton Bradley debacle. EVERYTHING. Everyone one every side and every statement ever made on it should be scoured out of our collective brains.

The loss of the Z-stache. I'm pretty sure that was the beginning of the end.

Aaron Miles. 'Nuff Said.

I've never looked forward to football and hockey so much in my life.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Want More Freelance Dramaturg?

You got him!

I promise to one day provide real, honest to god Slog-tent sooner or later. I have been plugging away over at Thunder Matt's Saloon, though, so if you need your Wolter fix, remember to check there (usually on Tuesdays).

But until then, have a little Freelance Dramaturg on me...

Ali has a nose, dammit.
As usual, click to enlarge.

Standard Disclaimer No One Believes: though FD bears superficial resemblance to me, he is not me. Nor is FSO meant in any way to represent the always charming and vivacious Alibear. She would have been attentive to a fault if I came home like that. Also, she has a nose, and is drawn a lot better than that in real life.1

Coming soon: The Slog's Album of the Year!2

  1. One of the "rules" I've set for Freelance Dramaturg is that I don't lay these out or sketch them in any way first, so any weird proportion issues or odd panels are explained by that perverse self-discipline.
  2. I swear it's not Damn Right, Rebel Proud again. Honest.

The 1979 Files, Volume 2

More 1979 fun from the defunct Saloon.

TITS!
It's a random Tuesday morning, so that can only mean one thing: the return of my quasi-popular series (well, now that there are two, it's a series) profiling that of forgotten year of majesty, 1979.

Today I will be joined by special guest co-blogger, me at age 13, who will be providing a non-post-punk-fans perspective of this album. Part of the purpose of this will be for me to convince people of the importance of this relatively obscure work. Because at 13, I needed to listen to much better music than I did. So without further ado, we bring you:

The Slits - Cut

Wolter: Thank you for joining us, 13-year old version of me. I know you've had a tough year, what with the hurricane destroying your house, and the Cubs getting knocked out of the playoffs by goddamn Will Cla--but I digress...

RIGHT THERE!13-Year Old Wolter: Excuse me...are those tits on that cover?

W: Yes, but--

13yoW: Wow...right on the cover?

W: Yes, but really that's no big deal. They were making a comment on the commodification of sexuality--

13yoW: Can I look at that again?

W: No. Honestly, the Slits weren't even that attractive. And their lead singer is kinda insane. That's not my point. Cut is a seminal album of the post-punk era. At first dismissed as teenage groupies and hangers-on of the punk scene (with an admittedly amazingly perfect name), the Slits managed to put together one of the more iconic female-led albums of the scene.

Cut is louded with naive (in a good way) guitar play, heavy dub bass, solid drumming (from future Siouxsie & the Banshees drummer Budgie, the only man in the group), and weird-but-engaging vocals. Vocalist Ari Up was singing like Bjork before Bjork knew how to sing like Bjor--

TITS ON THE COVER!13yoW: Whose tits are hers? The middle one?

W: It's not important. What's important here is the sense of genuine female empowerment in these songs. Such classics as "So Tough" and "Instant Hit" provide a strong mockery of some of the more foolish and bravado-laden men in the burgeoning punk scene. They makes the commodified rebellion of Alannis Morrissette seem as contrived as the so-called "Girl Power" of the Spice Girls. And the back-to-back punch of "Spend Spend Spend" and "Shoplifting" present the problem of commodification and a not-quite-tongue-in-cheek solution.

13yoW: So, back to this cover...

W: I'm beginning to think I made a huge mistake. I should have asked 19-Year Old Punk Rock Wolter for his persp--

19-Year Old Punk Rock Wolter: Up yours, sellout. I'm not writing your shitty blog post for you, fatass.

W: Nevermind. Anyway, there are several other standout tracks, like "FM" (which stands for Frequent Mutilations) and "Love and Romance." And, of course, the standout track, "Typical Girls." A wild sleighride of a song, which speeds up, slows down, and rocks hard at every turn, "Typical Girls" is a slam on all of the cultural notions of what women are supposed to be, that asks the question:

Who invented the typical girl?
Who's bringing out the new improved model?
Then gives the chilling conclusion:

And there's another marketing ploy:
Typical girl gets the typical boy!

Which points out we are all forced to play the roles that society assigns us, and the typical boy is no better off, as he will also be caught in the same web with the typical gi--

13yoW: I'd settle for getting caught in a web with any girl at this point.

W: Oh for Christ's sake! Will you--Okay...I probably shouldn't have tried talking about sexuality with a 13-year old. This is bringing back some embarrassing memories.

Okay...moving on...the only flaw I have with this record is the flaw I have with all heavy, dubby music: though I don't think any of the songs are weak, it's hard to listen to in one solid sitting unless one is high enough to drink the beef juice out of a crock pot full of loose meat for sandwiches--

13yoW: What the hell are you talking about?

W: You'll understand when you're older.
At any rate, Cut is a first-rate postpunk album, that has inspired, either directly or indirectly, a large portion of women's independent music in the last quarter century. Whether this is a good or a bad thing is probably up to you to decide.

Oh, and if you decide to get this album, I recommend the version with bonus tracks, so you can hear the pretty cool heavy reggae version of "I Heard It Through the Grapevine."

OH SHIT! THEY'RE COVERED IN MUD? TITS!13yoW: Does it have the same cover?

W: ...Yes.

13yoW: Awesome.

W: Tune in next time, when I focus on the best slab of vinyl The Clash ever made. And it's NOT what you think.

13yoW: How old am I when I finally get this album?

W: Old enough to buy actual porn.

13yoW: Oh. Cool. I guess...

1979 Files Archive:
Entertainment!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Unsticking the Craw

More TMS archival material.

IV. You've Never Heard of the Screamers, Have You?I got a lot of things stuck in my craw this morning, so I'm just going to uncraw the hell out of a couple, folks.

I. I Am Apparently Friends With a Lot of 13-Year-Old Girls

No, not literally. I am not Gary Glitter; step back Chris Hansen. I just noticed yesterday that, judging by Facebook statuses, a lot of my friends, many of whom are my age and older, were filled with outrage that Kanye West interrupted Taylor Swift to praise Beyonce, or something like that at the Video Music Awards. Which means that a lot of my friends, many of whom are married adults with college degrees and young children, are watching the Video Music Awards.

Folks: an overrated pop star insulted another overrated pop star, and a third overrated pop star was involved. Genocide in Darfur never gets this kind of outrage. You are adults. You should really start caring about adult things, which I define as whatever the hell isn't on goddamn MTV.

II. Chicago Sports Fans Are Actually Worse Than 13-Year-Old Girls

I know it's only the lunatic fringe now, but the fact that immediately following Chicago's (non-blowout) loss on Sunday, certain Bears fans were already ready to run Jay Cutler out of town only strengthens my point. I mean, I'm used to my fellow Cubs fans being out on the ledge, but COME ON. Calm down. It was a loss. It was a bad day. Relax. And for God's sake: do not even pretend that Orton is better than Cutler based on one goddamn day. And it will only get worse if they lose another game between now and the Super Bowl.

I have never seen a whinier batch of fembots than the average group of fanatical Chicago sports fans when faced with an unexpected loss. And I know several Morrissey and Cure fans. Every time a highly touted player lets them down, Chicago is flooded with a sentiment of "bring back the mediocre journeyman with grit and hustle and scrap that couldn't win a damn ballgame either!" God, if one of the Cubs slap-hittin' cajuns actually gets traded, prepare for a collective, city wide crying jag.

Note: It is acceptable to be upset about losing Urlacher to an injury. That actually does suck donkey wang - although most of the people hand-wringing about this loss wanted to run him out of town on a rail last season. Crybabies.

III. We Are Creeping Closer To a Police State Again

Read this article, and this follow up.

If you still think Kanye West's behavior is worth wasting your outrage after hearing this story, then you can die in a fire.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

"Wrigleyville" Bar Project: Driftwood

A TMS archive joint.

There are NEVER this many people here.With the name Saloon included in our moniker, one could surmise that we here at TMS like to drinky drinky. One that would make such an assumption would be correct, thereby throwing out the whole, 'when you assume you make an 'ass' out of 'u' and 'me' bullshit. We're here to profile some of the local watering holes around Wrigley, so that you aren't the poor sap who gets dragged into going to the Cubby Bear before the game, wherein you are soon left wondering how your life spiraled out of control so quickly. Tommy Buzanis has pledged to help out with this column, as he is no stranger to the bottle, but you can rest assured that those promises are as empty as his shot glass. So here it is, another sporadically timed, mildly entertaining column that you can only find here at the TMS. Actually you can probably find lots of info on Wrigley bars in a much more concise and helpful format, but that's neither here nor there.

Today’s Bar: Driftwood, 1021 W. Montrose (Okay, fine. This is in Buena Park. Sue me. It's like 4 blocks from my house).

Website: http://www.driftwoodbarchicago.com/

Douchebag Factor: (1-10, with 10 being this guy): Variable, usually between 2-6

Who You’ll See Here: probably between 2-6 other people, a dog or two, and 2-3 junkies spanging on the sidewalk outside.

What to Order: Cheap beer, and a lot of it. I've seen specials on PBR tallboys, Hamm's, and Miller High Life when I've been there. Though I've heard you can get yerself a pretty stiff likker-drink if you'd like.

If you were to see a celebrity here, it would be: I dunno. Somebody that no one would recognize anyway, like a character actor. M. Emmet Walsh or D.B. Sweeney, I guess. Possibly Benji.

Summary: The Driftwood is a bar with a serious identity crisis. It looks like it was originally intended to be a reasonably upscale local watering hole, but the corner of Montrose and Broadway is not a reasonably upscale neighborhood (The four corners are: A Jewel, A Check Cashing place, a crappy Chase that used to be an even crappier Wamu, and a construction lot that used to be a tattoo parlor, and will one day be a Target. One day...). It sells shitty canned beer like it wants to be a hipster-centric dive, but the hipsters are all either further north, south, or west of Buena Park. And despite the photos on the website (and the one above), the place is hardly ever crowded (which is fine by me, because I hate other human beings almost as much as I hate Cardinals fans).

What it loses in identity issues, it more than makes up for in cheap prices and closeness to my house. Plus, despite looking like a hotel bar in an 80s movie, it actually feels like a neighborhood place. Assuming your neighborhood is a mix of 20-something recent college grads with no future, 40-something Bears fans with no present, and 30-something Mexican immigrants that don't talk about their past (and really, really, really like to shoot pool). Best of all, it's dog-friendly. Which means if I want to get wasted, but still know that my dog isn't taking a dump on my bed, the option is there. It really is a decent place to relax, have a beer, and watch the game.

Oh, and there's darts. You know. In case you want to play darts.

Thunder Matt Rating: 4 crumpled tall-boys in the construction lot across the street out of a six-pack.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The 1979 Files, Volume 1

Though I have only done like 3 installments of this, this is one of my favorite TMS archival series.

Ah, 1979. I have nothing but the fondest memories of that year. Probably because the only memories I have of that year are vague ones about seeing the Star Wars reissue in the theater and getting a puppy for Christmas. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that 1979 was pretty much the watermark for Music That Is Designed to Make Wolter Happy. Which therefore makes 1979 the Artistic High Mark of Human Culture.

Bear with me on that.

I know you’re going to talk about the prevalence of shitty disco and bad chart music. But know this: since the 60s ended, every year’s top 40 and dance music has been crappy. That’s what top 40 and dance charts are for, and it can be safely ignored. Also, I should cop to the fact that unlike bartender Chip Wesley (who could probably write a top 100 albums for every year TMS has been around), I own maybe 25 albums recorded in the 21st Century. Of which I regularly listen to about 3.

So with this, the first in a potential running series of articles (we’ll see how much steam I have on this) highlighting the achievements of this underrated year, I’ll start with an obvious choice:

Gang of Four – Entertainment

Practically Perfect in Every Way.Leave it four very Caucasian Marxists from Leeds to take funk, remove the sexy from it, add political sloganeering and guitar noise (and just a slice of dub-reggae production), and create a masterpiece of angular, quasi-danceable, post-punk manifestos. This album is the aural equivalent of a slow building mental breakdown, except halfway through the process you realize that going crazy was probably the sanest thing you’ve ever done.

From the plodding, spaciously-claustrophobic opening track (“Ether”) to the final ominous, noise-droned anti-love song (“Anthrax”), which on one channel has Jon King chanting neurotic lyrics about his aversion to love, while on the other channel, guitarist Andy Gill casually and clinically analyzes why bands record shallow songs about love, not a note is wasted. Gill’s scraping guitar often sounds like it’s spilled across Dave Allen and Hugo Burnham’s muscular rhythm section, only to coalesce into a tight, noisy lockstep that shows he knew what he was doing all along.

God, I love this album. Sure, the lyrics are mostly sloganeering, but so are all political songs. The unreconstructed angry leftist in me eats up songs decrying the Great Men Theory of history (“Not Great Men”), Patriotism and Militarism (“Guns Before Butter”), and the commodification and work-induced regimentation of every waking moment of our lives (“Return the Gift,” with the insistent, chilling chant of “Please send me evenings and weekends.”). But the bitter, alienated cynic in me can latch on to the anti-Romanticism of the aforementioned “Anthrax” (a case of which King compares falling in love to catching), and the jaundiced view of sexual relationships found in songs like “Damaged Goods” and “I Found That Essence Rare,” (which reminds us that the bikini is named after an atoll decimated by atomic testing – “She doesn’t think so, but she’s dressed for the H-Bomb.”).

Before you start sneering, “Jeez, Wolter…that sounds really fun. Why don’t I just open a vein instead,” I need to point out that this album rocks. Hard. Sure it’s angular and dissonant, but it’s also danceable and funky as hell (in a funhouse-mirror sort of way). And it has a long reach: Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers has said that hearing Entertainment! changed the way he viewed playing bass guitar, and a slew of the stronger Punk/Hardcore/Independent bands of the past 30 years have followed Go4’s lead, which is especially clear in the way both 80s SoCal stalwarts The Minutemen and 90s post-hardcore legends Fugazi incorporated their guitar vs. rhythm section arrangements. And I’m not even going to spend more than a sentence saying that Franz Ferdinand, Bloc Party, et al, have more or less made careers out of re-hashing Go4 songs, in the same way that Enemies of TMS Oasis have done with the Beatles and their contemporaries.

Top this off with provocative cover art about Cowboys and Indians that can be interpreted as a slam on historical Colonialism, the unspoken media presentation of racial and cultural issues in simplistic terms, or simply emblematic of the album’s relentless assault on the exploitation, commodification, and dehumanization of modern society (repackaged as entertainment, no less), and you have one hell of a party.

If these adjective-vomiting histrionics have somehow inspired you to check out this album, I strongly suggest the Rhino reissue, which has the entire Yellow Ep as well as 4 other bonus tracks (including a surprisingly faithful live cover of “Sweet Jane”) tacked on to the end.

Tune in next time, when I will probably review an album with tits on the cover.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

My Sad Little Life: A Recap

Thunder Matt fun for the whole family!

Market THIS you worthless tick of a man.What's been going on in my brain of late:
Thunder Matt has been DFA'd in Colorado, yet no one will pull the trigger on the AArons here. Hendry, I'm looking in your Huttesque direction.

Apparently Crane Kenney is still going to be president of the Cubs under the Ricketts regime. Meet the New Boss. Literally and With No Exaggeration, Same as the Old Boss.

Despite my best attempts to defend him from the more emotional and strident Cubs fans I know, Milton Bradley insists on being a temperamental prick. At least he's making contact, finally.

Wednesday's 9-4 win has done NOTHING to wash the stain of the 15-6 loss to the Nats on Tuesday. I thought I had given up on this team before, but AAron Heilman coughing up the Grand Slam will go down in the history books as the exact moment I stopped giving a tin shit about the 2009 Cubs. And I'm better for it.

I'm up to page 190 on Mason & Dixon. Some really beautiful writing on the relationship between fathers and sons and the nature of love, longing, grief, and duty. Not nearly enough talking clocks, though.

My fiancee is out of town for four days starting tonight, which means the meals I cook are less in the area of "a small portion of cooked fish and a salad with homemade vinaigrette," and more along the lines of "steak, tater tots, and scotch." It also means I may have a heart attack by Friday.

On the subject of Steak:
A) My cut was pretty cheap, but I marinated the living hell out of it. With coffee. It was pretty decent.
B) I also made gravy. Because I am southern. It was awesome.

I have eaten enough of these to choke a hippo tonight.On the subject of Tater Tots:
A) Much like Wayne Newton with pasta, I always make too much.
B) If you are going to bake them (because, like me, you don't want to start a grease fire in your hovel), for god's sake, broil them for a couple of minutes or they're really just soggy potato lumps.
C) Though they run the risk of moving into Overrated territory, I love that Tater Tots are showing up on a lot of local bar menus. They are great drunk food.

On the subject of Scotch:
A) I like it.
B) A lot.

On the subject of Holy Shit, This Is Rad:
A) Holy shit, this is rad.

Repeated viewings of Bridezillas with said fiancee over the past few weeks (which is doing wonders for my masculinity, let me tell you) have led me to the conclusion that Women Must Be Stopped. Honestly. It seems like half of these cows are only getting married so they can treat their best friends like slaves for a few weeks.

I LOVE HOOLIGANISM! Oi! Oi! Oi!Within hours of declaring that I was arbitrarily supporting West Ham United FC (though not actually watching soccer, as it bores me to tears) for the sole reason that Steve Harris of Iron Maiden is a huge fan, their supporters got into a riot with Millwall supporters. Which delights me to no end, because while I don't really care about soccer, I really love hooliganism.

It turns out none of the things I've had to say have moved me enough to write a full blog entry. So you get these dregs. Hope you're happy.

Oh, and instead of watching the Cubs game tonight, I watched a couple of Simpsons DVDs. It was the most fun I've had during a ballgame all year. I can only assume the fact that my apathy has hit full swing will make the Cubs a team of winners. You're welcome.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

TMS Roundtable: Ghostbusters.

Unsurprisingly, my love of ghostbusters ended up on TMS.

Despite what Chaim says, bustin' makes ME feel good.Or, THIS Is What We Do When We’re Not Writing Blog Posts

I'm actually so furious with the last couple of weeks of Cubdom that I can't think straight about the Cubs. When I learned that AAron Miles' OPS+ is like 20, I had to lay down for a minute. When I learned that even Neifi Perez in 2006 had an OPS+ of 53 I almost punched a hole in the Space-Time continuum to kill Jim Hendry before he was born.

So, I'm having trouble writing about baseball.

Instead, I thought I’d give another, much more lucid account of what goes on when TMS bartenders hang out in the break room (Per TMS Head Bartender Chip Wesley: “Well it's not Cubs-related so I don't see why it wouldn't be suitable for TMS”)

You may or may not know this, but the TMS staff is in constant communication via the miracle of email. That’s how we decide whether or not to endorse players like Randy Wells, or excoriate players like Miles. What follows is a transcript of that conversation, cleaned up ever so slightly (I apologize for the length, but you can always skip the boring comments, just like I do in a real email thread).

To set the scene: a couple of weeks ago, Chaim Witz came out with a shocking statement…

Chaim Witz:
I'll probably catch hell for this, but after watching it last night for the first time in years....while it was by no means terrible, and would certainly qualify as 'mildly amusing', I gotta say:

Overrated: Ghostbusters

Wolter:
Chaim, you couldn't be more wrong on the wrongingest day of your life with an electrified wronging machine.

Lingering Bursitis:
"Pompous PR flack slanders Ghostbusters unprompted; loses cushy job and all credibility regarding movies"

Arcturus:
Chaim: Gotta disagree with you on that one, although to be fair, Wolter and I probably got to experience the movie at a much younger age. Ghostbusters is one of the first movies I remember seeing in the theater.

Chaim Witz:
Defend it for me then. Sure, it's a nice piece of nostalgia, but unlike a movie like Back to the Future, it doesn't hold up to me. The plot is threadbare, even for what it is, it's only intermittently funny (courtesy mostly of Bill Murray) and the special effects are atrocious unless you view them in an 'awww, isn't that cute' way.

*****

Have you guys seen it recently though? Just because it was good when you were a kid doesn't mean it's still good today. There are a lot of 80's movies that are that way.

The only time I LOL'ed was the 'dickless' joke.

*****

Note, I didn't say it was "bad", just overrated. No way is that one of the best movies of the 80's. Dan Akroyd? Just not funny, sorry. Neither is Harold Ramis. If not for Murray (and sadly, Rick Moranis), that movie would be as forgettable as most of my posts.

Brant Brown:
"PR lackey shocked by firing; maintains that 'I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell' is better than 'Ghostbusters'"

The Hundley:
Chaim is guilty of "Pulling a [INSIDE JOKE WITH THE POTENTIAL FOR A LIBEL CHARGE EXCISED]" here. I disregard it all.

Brant Brown:
I have a strong feeling that I would agree with Chaim on Ghostbusters, so I intend to keep it locked away in my memories. I do always remember thinking that the marshmallow man was out of place, even when I was young.

Wolter:
I watch Ghostbusters on a surprisingly regular basis, Chaim. I love it oh-so-very-much.

Arcturus:
I've seen it many times, Chaim, most recently about a month ago, and I still enjoy it immensely. I'm not going to say it's the greatest movie of all time, but I think it’s held up pretty well, special effects aside. Those were good for their time and are now outdated, although I find they have a kind of charm.

I think many of us have gotten spoiled by CGI, but GB has action sequences I can follow without giving myself a headache. I watched the first Transformers movie and everything moves so fucking fast I have problems telling who's fighting who and who's doing what. In GB, when they're shooting the streams at the ghosts, I can actually tell what the hell is going on. I kinda like that.

You're certainly entitled to your opinion, but I love the movie. Bill Murray is the best part of it, but the way the rest of the cast interacts is pretty solid.

Wolter:
I love Aykroyd's pseudoscience. Also, the Moranis Lewis Tuttle party sequence was largely ad-libbed, which is massively impressive.

Arcturus:
Ernie Hudson has probably the most under-appreciated role in that movie. I fucking love Winston.

Wolter:
I think Ghostbusters is probably the movie (outside of maybe the original Star Wars trilogy) that I have quoted the most in my life. It's my Casablanca.

*****

Or, I should say "my Caddyshack?"

Former Bartender Jordi Scrubbings:
I'll admit Ghostbusters is a different movie from a kid to an adult, especially after you experience college. As a kid you are amazed at the idea of catching ghosts and the photon pack, etc. As an adult you get more into the relationships - the Ghostbusters with the college (awkward and forced at best), Peter with Dana (completely unprofessional), and the Ghostbusters with the city. Keep in mind, too, that it followed Caddyshack and was a reunion of some of Second City's greatest alumni. Why it is based in NY and not Chicago is beyond me - maybe as a response to Blues Brothers?

Although random, what I am trying to say is that I still like Ghostbusters. It’s just for different reasons.

The Hundley:
Yeah, after I got to college I said, "That's it; I'm done trying to catch ghosts".

Wolter:
The Hundley just made me laugh out loud. Hard. A coworker just peeked in.

One thing I never noticed as a kid that I do as an adult: everyone smokes like a fucking chimney in that movie.

*****

The reason it's probably not a huge ode to Chicago is that Aykroyd (the main force behind its original creation) was from the Toronto Second City, where Ramis had also done a lot of work. The Firehouse base is based on the Toronto Second City's location, and that scene was very much homage to the early days there.

White Chili:
I still can't wrap my head around Belushi playing the part of Peter.

Wolter:
What about John Candy in the Moranis role? If it weren't for Splash conflicting, it would have happened.

Chaim, you have inadvertently strengthened my resolve to watch Ghostbusters again, post-haste.

Hey, Arcturus. Here's some Ernie Hudson love: a remixed trailer with him as the star of a much darker supernatural thriller:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Olfn5LvcnnY&feature=player_embedded

Jordi Scrubbings:
Interesting for gb1, but I could not see Annie Potts being turned on by a geeky John Candy in gb2. No way.

Actually Candy and Sigourney Weaver is kinda unbelievable as well.

Arcturus:
Murray was perfect for Venkman. I have a hard time seeing Belushi in the part. He's sleazy enough, sure, but Murray makes the part. Dana says he's like a game show host. Murray really makes that aspect of the character shine through.

Loved the Ernie Hudson vid, Wolter. He's one of the best parts of that movie for me, despite the fact that he really has very little to do.

Ghostbusters II is utterly horrible, though. I did just recently watch that on TV the other day and it's godawful.

Wolter:
Ghostbusters II is terrible.

[We talk about other Bill Murray vehicles for a while. But SOMEONE can't let this go.]

Chaim Witz:
Back to Ghostbusters for a sec: Ernie Hudson is under -appreciated? That's because he doesn't come until halfway through the movie, has nothing to do and has maybe 10 lines the whole movie. They might has well have just called him, 'black guy that smokes'.

Wolter, you're right about the smoking. Just chain smoking throughout.

Wolter:
No small roles, Chaim.

Chaim Witz:
Another thing you don't notice as a kid is how basically everything is superficial and they don't even make an attempt to explain anything, save for a few lines of mumbo jumbo spouted off by Aykroyd.

Not that I wanted the movie bogged down with a lot of unnecessary exposition that sucks the fun out of it, but you do notice how they go from Point A to B to C rather quickly, while skipping over how they got to each point.

Trivial qualms I suppose. It was still fun, just not nearly as good as I had hoped it to be.

Wolter:
Man, if they actually tried to explain the Ghost Science, I suspect I would love that movie significantly less.

White Chili:
It's easier to explain using Twinkie logic.

Arcturus:
There is a ton of smoking in the movie.

And who needs scientific explanations for all the crazy shit they do? I don't want it to be like Star Trek, where you've got every nerd under the sun debating on whether or not warp drive is possible.

Egon says, "Hey, there's a good chance we could capture and hold a ghost indefinitely." They have a big red box they put the ghosts in, which works until the EPA shuts off the power. That works pretty good for me because it's basically a comedy and it doesn't really matter how any of it works.

And the Twinkie explanation is fucking brilliant.

Chaim Witz:
Ok, scientific explanations wasn't what I meant. I guess I'm just a sucker for a "plot". We'll just have to agree to disagree. There are a lot of movies I like that I can't really explain why as well.

White Chili:
You're claiming that Ghostbusters suffers because it's not realistic? Really?

Next you're going to say that Chain Reaction was bad.

Arcturus:
It's all right, Chaim. My wife isn't real big on Ghostbusters either. It's one of those movies that I can't seem to help watching if it happens to be on TV. She'll roll her eyes in disgust and just shake her head. I get that a lot.

Chaim Witz:
That's ok. The Burbs is one of my Top 5 movies ever, and I can in no way defend it or even explain why I like it so much. I just do, dammit.

[With that, the talk gradually subsides to other, even less interesting topics, interspersed with randomly inserted barbs about Ghostbusters from Chaim…who is still horribly, horribly wrong.]

Imagine if we harnessed all that time wasting ability for good, instead of evil.

P.S. - Only 30 pages further into Mason & Dixon. Damn you Pynchon.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Pynchon Project: Mason & Dixon

TMS archive.

Pretentious? You bet!Or: Is Pomp Culture Making a Comeback?

Or: The Cubs Are So Wretched, I'm Turning To Literature.

Or: No Seriously, I Hate That Jeff Samardzija Just Started a Game.

Confession Time: I am addicted to Thomas Pynchon books. Utterly, completely addicted. His insane writing style, a mixture of James Joycean wordplay and stream of consciousness, Raymond Chandlerian pulp excess, and Joseph Helleresque paranoia and modernist neuroses really appeals to me on a deep level.

Confession Time, Part II: I am not nearly as addicted to actually finishing those books. Oh, I start them with the best intentions, but my (until recently undiagnosed) severe Adult ADHD has made me set them aside for shinier distractions. The problem with Pynchon is, the longer you set him down, the harder it is to remember just what the hell was going on the last time you held the book in your hands. Couple this with a prose style that often requires the casual reader to stop, go back, and reread a passage to figure out what just happened, and (if you're me), you end up with a lot of dog-eared and bookmarked detritus on the shelves.

Compounding Incident: Pynchon has recently released a new novel, Inherent Vice. From everything I can gather, it's a noir-detective novel dipped in a druggy paranoiac haze of decaying 60s idealism. And I want to read it so very badly.

"But Wolter," says my Better Judgment. "You have a metric ton of unread Pynchon on your shelf. And can you really justify a new purchase when you haven't even gotten your money's worth out of the last few?"

"Shut the hell up," I respond. "If I wanted the opinion of an anthropomorphized abstraction in my psyche, I'd ask my Inner Child."

"MORE DOCTOR SEUSS!"

"See!"

And at this point my reverie devolves into nothing and my bookshelf gathers dust.

Economic Twist: Given the fact that I currently have less than $9 in my checking account right now, it seems much more viable to read what I have, instead of buying more things and not reading them.

The Insane Challenge: In the grand tradition of the TMS Bat Project and Chaim's Mustache Diaries, I am wading in feet first into a project that is no doubt doomed to failure: to read ALL of Pynchon's catalog that I own. All of it. Even the stuff I actually did finish (which includes, oddly enough, Gravity's Rainbow, which ranks up there with Finnegan's Wake on the "so-called classic no one ever actually reads" scale). If I can do that, and live to tell about it, then I will allow myself to invest in Inherent Vice. If I fail, I will be forced to tear the suede patches off my tweed jacket and admit I only have an undergraduate degree. The good news: thanks to the addition of ADHD-inhibiting drugs, I've already made it 117 pages into my first book...

The First Book: Mason & Dixon. The impetus behind this whole project. I picked this up and realized that, though I remembered loving what I had read of this, AND that I had a bookmark halfway through, I couldn't actually remember anything at all about the book.

The Story So Far: It's the late 18th Century, and the Rev'd Wicks Cherrycoke is in Philadelphia, telling his niece and nephew a tale of intrigue about his youth traveling the world (after his exile from England, under pain of losing his inherited income from his father). The tale centers around his travels with Mason & Dixon of the famed line (and one supposes Jars and Cups). Charles Mason is a young widower, a London resident given to melancholy whose favorite pastime is attending public hangings. Jeremiah Dixon is a boisterous, hard drinking apostate Quaker from up north. They travel together on a series of missions of Astronomical import, assailed (up to this point) by a French frigate, nubile underaged Dutch blondes, and an overabundance of mutton-based meals. Along the way, they encounter a Learned dog that gives sage advice, world traveling clocks that (like all acquaintances) spend most of their time discussing the weather, and the seductive charms of the exotic ketchup.

All in all, typical Pynchon. Now let's see if I can make it through this thing. I figure it's the least I can do after making the rest of you read this.

Note: Don't worry, bored reader. I will NOT be writing any other posts about this project, but I will be appending status updates to the end of my other, much more fascinating posts about Iron Maiden, Video Games, and The Brutal Murder I Have Planned for Jeff Samardzija.



2010 Update: I finished it like 8 months later, and totally backed out of doing the rest. Then I bought another Pynchon book which I started and didn't finish. Sigh.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Freelance Dramaturg Returns! Again!

That last post was a real bummer, huh? Cathartic for me, but it can't have been too fun for the rest of you.

Here's something a little more frivolous: a Freelance Dramaturg cartoon I drew last weekend, when I was far too drunk to actually draw well (thank goodness he's easy).

Freelance Cartoonist of Dramaturgs was VERY much in similar cups.

For those "in the know," I'm not actually a fan of Rebecca Gilman1 - so Freelance Dramaturg isn't really just a noseless caricature of The Slogger.

So there.


  1. Theatre Geek Footnote: I think Gilman hides behind shock value and would not be half as critically acclaimed if she were a man writing the same Neo-Websterian Grand Guignol pieces of cod-Mamet. In fact, her writing reminds me of that guy in every first year playwriting class who thinks that staccato dialogue liberally interspersed with "fucks" and "cocksuckers" makes him edgy. But she's the one getting awards and critical acclaim, whereas I haven't even been paid for my writing in almost 9 years, so I'm certainly no judge... Also, I've never even read or seen Spinning Into Butter, which is usually considered her best work. ...Hell, I guess I shouldn't throw stones.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

War Criminal: 2009 Cubs Named Aaron

Some good hate in this TMS archive post.

Responsible for the Armenian Genocide of 1915Ugh. I hate you, 2009 Cubs Named Aaron.

I hate you so much that it’s beginning to impair my judgment.

When I see one of your names in a lineup, or a box score, or on the back of a jersey in the bullpen, I seethe with a rage I used to reserve for Will Ohman. 2009 Cubs Named Aaron, you are worse than tuberculosis, kitten drowning, and a Sex and the City marathon combined. If you had a collective neck, and this neck was lying in front of me, I would step on it and twist. I hope to one day eat a delicious McRib while watching you choke on a tightly compacted ball of cilantro and my own bile.

Aaron Heilman, you aren’t even the closer and you have blown SIX saves. If you aren’t leading the league in that, you’re damn close. And I’m beginning to think that if we called Doug Dascenzo up, he could do better than a WHIP of 1.55. Before you start trying to defend yourself, remember that your league-slightly-below-average ERA+ of 98 certainly does not make up for the fact that your face reminds me of Todd Hollandsworth, whom I have no nostalgia for (though I bet HE wouldn’t shit the bed as badly in leverage situations).

Pol Pot's right hand man.Aaron Miles? I don’t give a crap what Arcturus says, because even he knows the truth. You are a War Criminal. You have never grown on me. Not even in the sense of a fungus. I know I should be all stats-nerdy, but the fact that you are about 2 more bad games away from hitting my weight says all I need to know, you sub-Mendoza water baby.

Is it entirely within the realm of reality for Jim Hendry to find a second baseman that doesn’t meet any of the following 3 criteria?

1. Is too short to ride the Cyclone on Coney Island.
2. Can grow a douchey beard between innings.
3. Sucks.

Because you meet all three, you slap-hitting Travelocity gnome.

Holy crap, I just checked your OPS. I think the damn gnome could have done better than .489. Hell, on further inspection, your career OPS makes me long for the heady days of Neifi Perez. I’m beginning to think Bobby Scales actually SHOULD be up in the Big Show instead of what I can only assume is a Cardinals sleeper agent.

Clearly, the “AA” in “2009 Cubs Named Aaron” is a hint. Ship these fools to the Smokies, and leave them there.

P.S. I’ve got my eye on you, “Aaron” Samardzija.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

My Little Buddy is in a Bad Way

FOOD! I LOVE YOU SO!Serious one again. I hate serious ones.

Far be it from the Slog to only post about those suffering from cancer, but my remaining rat, Dante is on his last legs. He was recently diagnosed with a malignant, aggressive sarcoma. It's been over a year since I lost my last rat, Dante's little brother Wilson, to a sudden respiratory condition, and it hasn't been any easier this time around.

This time around, I refuse to write a post when Dante passes on, though. While he's still here, I'm going to talk about my special little guy, and why he's my favorite pet rat of all time (and I've had eight of them in the last 12 years).

I got Dante (and his brother Wilson) about 2-1/2 years ago (I'm guessing here, my personal sense of time is a little screwy), when Ali and I were in the early stages of dating. Ali had just lost her own rat, Ezzie (short for Esmerelda), to mammary tumors (a common occurence in female rats at a certain age).

As I usually say when faced with an impending rat death, I swore up and down, "I'm never getting another one. Never again. They don't live long enough, and it's just to hard to watch this."

So, of course, we ended up getting two rats within weeks.

The backstory: Ali and I were picking up food and bedding for her chinchilla (we have a lot of animals. A lot) when we happened to go by a cage with 4 male rats frolicking about. They all had really great personalities, and we were hard-pressed to tear ourselves away from the cage.

We left the store, ran a few more errands, and realized we forgot something. We went back to the pet store to discover that two of the rats were gone. We mentioned to an employee that at least the person who bought them knew that rats, who are social mammals, do better in pairs.

A convalescent Dante recovers from surgery. Ignore the feces."Ugh," said the employee. "I hate when people buy the rats here for snake food. They're intelligent animals. It's sick the way people feel the need to feed snakes live food to watch, when you can get them prekilled items, which are healthier and safer anyway."

Ali and I looked at each other. As one mind, we said "we're getting them."

So, we ended up with two rats. We justified our purchase with the statement, "At least they're male. We won't have to worry about mammary tumors" (which are, more or less, breast cancer for rats). We decided that each of us would name one. Ali, named the (much, much) smaller one "Wilson," which I have always assumed was after Dr. James Wilson on House, MD. I named the lumbering, gentle giant Wilson shared a cage with "Dante," after the Medieval poet, not Dante Bichette as some of you no doubt expected.

We lost Wilson last June, but Dante lumbered on, getting fatter, lazier, but friendlier all the while. He is, by a long stretch, the friendliest little (huge) rat I've ever met. He would, if you let him, spend literally hours licking your hands and grooming your nails (rat ways of showing affection). He spent almost any other moment out of his cage engaging in the curious rat behavior known as bruxing, a tooth grinding that is roughly akin to a cat's purr. In fact, I'm going to go out on a limb and say he is the friendliest pet I've ever owned.

And the laziest.

A moment before Dante hotwired Ali's car, no doubt in an attempt to get a McRib at the drive-through.Lord, how he loved to just sit there on your lap, or chest, or shoulder and be petted. Take any other rat I've ever had out of the cage, and within minutes he or she had explored the entire area around, and probably wouldn't sit completely still until every fun thing was exhausted, and it was time to take a nap.

Then there's Dante. I think in the past two years, Dante never went more than two feet away, and inevitably waddled back to his starting point, to be petted and scratched between his shoulder blades (which he adored - I don't think he could reach there, otherwise). He often dozed off while I sat with him watching TV - and I often came close to joining him.

But there is one thing the little guy has shown more love for than sleeping: eating. He could pack it away in better times. Clever little guy that he is, he figured out that if he banged on the roof of his cage in the late evening, it would remind me that it was feeding time...so he started banging earlier and earlier every day. His feeding time started creeping sooner and sooner. By the end, he was usually eating a full two hours earlier than he did at this time last year.

He also took advantage of my ADD-ravaged memory to, on more than one occasion, trick me into feeding him twice in one night. I spent much of the last year complaining bitterly that the rat was going to be softball shaped before much longer.

Better days.Given that he was always a fat, male rat, his current condition is particularly hard for me to bear. He's lost a lot of weight, and has a ghost of his old appetite. His former lumbering gait has turned into a limp (surgery scars and and a series of abcesses near his pelvis, combined with the stunningly fast reappearance of a tumor have rendered his back legs nearly useless). And the ultimate cause of this? A mammary tumor. That's right. The gentle giant of a rat that I used to pretend talked like Barry White ended up having more in common with Quincy Jones. And now he looks small and frail.

I'm going to go home tonight and take him out, let him sit in my lap and give him a scratch between the shoulder blades. Maybe a little baby food will perk his taste buds up a bit. When he passes, which won't be long, you won't hear about it here. I'm going to talk about Ghostbusters or sleazy Glam Punk bands or Stan Lee's progressive views on females next time I log in to blogger. But I had to get this off my chest, and this lunch break seemed the best time.

I love you Dante. And you are the last. This time I mean it.

It's just too hard.

Monday, August 3, 2009

RIP, Billy Lee

http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/2009/aug/02/sun-records-giant-billy-lee-riley-dead-75/

Damn.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Press Release: TMS Was Right To Endorse Wells

More TMS archive folderol.

This just in! ***FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE***

Thunder Matt’s Saloon Was Right To Endorse Wells

Chicago, IL – July 29, 2009

After 8 solid innings of shutout ball, giving up only 6 hits and walking 2, TMS's July 16th endorsement of Randy Wells has thus far proven to be "right on, bitches," in the words of an anonymous TMS staffer.

This staffer then went on to call Wells "Nails. Totally f@cking nails, bro."

Mr. Wells himself remains unavailable for comment, no doubt because he is to busy kicking ass and taking names.

Contact:
Press Secretary
c/o Thunder Matt’s Saloon
Chicago, IL and Parts Unknown
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Monday, July 27, 2009

TMS Beer Project: Hamm's

TMS archive.

Even the can screams 'DRINK ME, IF ONLY TO NOT LOOK AT ME!'With the name Saloon included in our moniker, one could surmise that we here at TMS like to drinky drinky. One that would make such an assumption would be correct, thereby throwing out the whole, 'when you assume you make an 'ass' out of 'u' and 'me' bullshit. We also like to plagiarize each other. In the same vein as the Wrigleyville Bar Project, we are proud to bring you another installment of the TMS Beer Project. The premise is simple: we review beers. Each rating will feature a variety of scores from 1-10 and comments from the bartender. This is a public service damn it. We don't want you to be the sucker who pays $15 for a six pack of some overrated Belgian cat piss. Now, we all drink massive amounts of beer so we know what we speak of. Each of us seem to have a favorite style of beer though. Will we be reviewing macrobrews like Bud and Coors? Oh you bet your Aunt Susie's ass we will. For purposes of this science experiment, and it is in the name of science, those will be the "control" group. Use them as a base line for when we review lesser known imports and microbrews. Without further ado, I bring you our next beer:

Hamm’s

I think Hamm’s deserves a bit of a preamble. This venerable beer (first brewed in 1865, no doubt to celebrate the end of the bloody American Civil War) is in the same family of Cheap American Lager as the more commonly consumed PBR and Old Style, but of late has failed to be fully retrofitted into either the Hipster Community (like the former) or the Chad Community (the latter). Of especial note is the incredibly awesome vintage commercial featuring the Hamm’s Bear, that can be found on youtube:



Apparently, Hamm’s had a heavy sponsorship of Chicago baseball in the 50s and 60s, but as I have only been on this earth for 33 years, and in Chicago for 5, I do not see much evidence of this once mighty footprint.

Brewery: Miller. Which means it now joins High Life as The Only Two Miller Products I Don’t Hate. Seriously, if you’re ever in the Buena Park region and want 3 cans of Miller Lite that my dad left last time he came to town, let me know. The process that made it a Miller product is fairly tortuous: according to Wikipedia, the Minnesota-based Hamm’s family sold the brewery in 1968 to the Hueblein Brewing Company, then a long chain of mergers and purchases pushed its ownership through Olympia (“It’s the Water!”), Pabst (“It’s the Aluminum!”), Stroh’s (“It’s…affordable…”), and finally Miller (“It’s crap!”), which is actually owned by some South Africans now, apparently.

Type: American Pisswater Lager (If you know me, you know I don’t mean that in a bad way)

Receptacle: 12 ounce can. I’m sure you can get it in a bottle as well, but cheap beer belongs in cans, dammit.

Bring this guy back, dammit!Drinkability (1 being Jim Jones' kool-aid, 10 being the nectar of the gods): Ease of drinkability is at least an 8. If you can’t drink this, you are either the lightest lightweight in the history of lightweights or a pretentious ass that only drinks skunky hippie microbrews. However, if drinkability = flavor in your mind, knock this down to about a 5. It’s not unpleasant, but it’s moving into “making love in a canoe” territory.

Heartiness (1 being fresh mountain spring water, 10 being a pureed British steak infected with mad cow disease): 3. Hamm’s is, after all “From the Land of Sky Blue Waters.”

Intoxication (1 being your friend's weird pentecostal grandmother high on Jesus, 10 being Boris Yeltsin on a week long bender in the Crimea): 3. Maybe 4 on an empty stomach. An ABV of 4.73% pretty much means you need to really pound the everloving hell out of these to get too embarrassingly drunk. I downed about 5 of these with a burger and tater tots, and a shot of tequila, and I was fine. And I'm not a remorseless boozing maching like Dave "White Chili" Thomas.

Celebrities You May See Drinking This Brew: Well, I had it at the Holiday Club, so maybe Vince Vaughn. That and old Midwestern guys like Dennis Franz and Dennis Farina. Hell, any ex Chicago cop named Dennis that became an actor.

Affordability ($ being chiclets in Tijuana, $$$$ being diamond encrusted braised lamb shank from a trendy cafe on the Champs d'Elysee): ¢. This is about as cheap as you can get without choosing “American” Beer at Delilah’s on Punk Rock Night.

Overall: 8. But I love cheap, pisswater lager. My tastes in beer are pretty much either “High End Import” or “Under $5 a six pack.” The middle-of-the-road is for dead possums with yellow stripes on their backs. So, buyer beware!