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.

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:

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.