Friday, December 01, 2006

Snow Day

What a way to start December, with inches and inches of fluffy white powder and coffee in bed. Tricia got a Snow Day to boot.

In other news: Chris Ware is on the cover of the New Yorker in a BIG way. The weekly magazine put out four different covers all by Mr. Ware and there's an online piece called Leftovers and an audio interview, check it out. It was only a matter of time before the New Yorker celebrated Ware's work in this manner what with the mag's Peter Schjeldahl proclaiming Chris Ware's book Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth to be the apex of the genre. Mr. Schjeldahl compares Ware's graphics to Belgian comic book artist Hergé who did the TinTin series mid-twentieth century. I was a big TinTin fan growing up and I still own all the TinTin books. The graphic similarities did appeal to me at first but Chris Ware's melancholy stories are nothing like TinTin's fantastical adventures.

*graphic courtesy of Chicago Public Radio

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

History Lesson

I did my part for humanabees on Nonalignment this week. I have more to say here but I haven't had the time.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Joe Mathlete's Dog and Titty

I don't know Joe Mathlete just some of his friends but I stumbled on his sites the other day and they made me laugh. In one he explains "Today's Marmaduke." In another he draws a nipple on Ziggy's nose (this site is apparently discontinued). The critic in me wants to say why not explain Marmaduke a bit more existentially and so get to its paramount importance faster.

For example...Joe's explanation of this Marmaduke is as follows:

Marmaduke, whose perceptions regarding Meat Mart's importance to the community are skewed at best, is defending the store against potential thieves despite protests from an employee.

Nothing wrong with that but mind you I for one don't believe that Marmaduke is concerned about the community one heck. I'd explain it so:

The gullible butcher, betrayed by positivism once again, confuses Marmaduke's territorialism as guardianship; just as slightly less than half the people of this country view our leader's actions as being in their best interests.

As for drawing a nipple on Ziggy's nose, which I am all for, why not broaden the range a bit? The world is blessed with a wide variety of papilla and accompanying aerola. While Ziggy, an existential stand-in for Jesus, is never changing doth his nipple need share his fate?

New Track du Jour

Artist: Brillo
Track: Whole Heart
Location: Sunken Monastery (Chicago,IL)
Date: 11-20-2006
Comment: Three years ago, two good friends had a baby born with Down Syndrome. It was very sad at first for everybody and scary because the boy was born with a hole in his heart. I was in a depression at the time myself and I usually sit down to write a song when I'm down. I had some familiarity with Down Syndrome though because Tricia's uncle -who is very sweet- also has DS. This is what I wrote and it's sappy ass has never seen the light of day until now. Lyrics follow:

I love your mom and dad
Two kind friends I have
and I want to meet you soon with my whole heart
tender in the things they do
I'm sure they love you too
and you'll want to love them back with your whole heart
your whole heart

I was saddened by the news
strangely not for you
it was for my own heart
still inside
you have the things that others need
kind words from family
and folks around who want the best start for you

I can give you this lullaby
you can have that part of me
you were denied
a hole must not run through it
to be empty inside
just remember this and it's alright
it's alright

Sadly enough, and this needs to be remedied soon, I have never met him.

track du jour

Sunday, November 12, 2006

(Part IV) A Conversation with a Houston Institute: Mark Lacy

It's funny you mention Lewis and Clark. Tricia and I took a trip across the Northwest this Summer and hit on a lot of LC landmarks. I read that at the 100th anniversary Exposition, the advertisement for a Filipino exhibit said "come see the dog eaters." I bet there weren't many people at the exposition that realized the odd humor in that statement. The Lewis and Clark group ate a lot of dog when they hit the West Coast. They passed on fresh salmon because the dried stuff made them sick. They bought dogs from the locals and it may surprise people to know that a heck of a lot of folks were hanging out around the mouth of the Columbia River before the Americans showed up.

I'm planning to join you this Summer at camp if you have a counselor vacancy. I wish you'd do something like that in the winter. It would be great to get to the Southwest in February or March.

Well Mark, we've touched on a lot of stuff but it's just the tip of the iceberg. Houston folks should get involved with your organization. How can they contribute?

That's a very important question. Not just for Houston Institute for Culture, but for all people and organizations that are trying to implement proactive solutions for the future. I think we need visionary people who see past the ongoing crises and truly intend to change the world to become involved. There isn't any shortage of ability, but there is a shortage of people who think they can make a difference or even see the relationship of problems around them to their own lives.

I understand the activist experience, chasing after one injustice after another, but I think it is important to approach the multitude of issues more proactively. It's a great design of people who make self-serving policies to always have others reacting to the problems they create, rather than working toward better futures.

I always describe the organization as one that is more concerned with the ability of the forest to grow rather than the many views about what the trees should look like or how they should be managed. Those are issues for people who have the luxury of having a forest. So we are a grass roots organization in several senses, in that we know it is critical to work on the limited sources of many problems, and we won't fall victim to the notion that social innovation is limited to business and community leaders recognizing the necessary role of businesses in providing greater support to communities due to the imbalances they have created, but that people in communities should be more conscious of which businesses they support and more empowered to make important changes to the world just by the impact they have in their locality. And we are highly idealistic in thinking about what truly is the middle rather than the divided sides of policies and the tremendous imbalances of wealth and equality.

On a more practical level, we need people who can help with fundraising because we do want to offer great service projects to help children develop their ideas, like Camp Dos Cabezas and Camp Chaco, and digital storytelling classes in schools and native communities, and some redevelopment projects in the near future for young minds in the border colonias and in New Orleans.

Strangely, we need more of what successful businesses have: committed, talented people who don't quit until they accomplish what they set out to accomplish. But we need them to understand that the rewards are different. And they don't have to be in Houston; they can be anywhere in the world.

More to come, more fotos more q's for Mark Lacy.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

(Part III) A Conversation with a Houston Institute: Mark Lacy

What brought you to Houston, Mark, and why did you stay?

I moved to Houston in the mid eighties for college and the first thing I liked about it was the freeways and glass buildings, and the warehouses and the underground clubs, once I found them. I came from a small town in Oklahoma with little to do and I felt like everyone I knew was very narrow minded. In Houston I lived in the suburbs, but soon moved inside the loop, where I lived with different bands and hippies, activists, drag queens, and finally the UH dorms, where I met the weirdest people of all. I also met a lot of international people.

I liked being part of a music scene that could think critically, however collectively or individually. But, in addition to hardcore and alternative music scene that followed it, I liked the zydeco, Tejano and polka bands. I always went to the International Festival and the Urban Animals? joust. I couldn?t believe all this was in one place. I was always interested to visit friends who moved away to New York and San Francisco, and soon I'll be your houseguest in Chicago. The reason I stayed in Houston, though, is because I like to travel so much. It is the hub of an interesting region, with very distinctive places in all directions, but it is a really great place to travel from, even escape from at times. I can get to all the places in the southwest that I like by making a scenic one or two day drive. I can fly to New York City or Mexico City at a pretty reasonable price. I can take a bus right out of downtown and end up in San Miguel.

From the organization perspective, there is real opportunity for research projects and need for service projects five hours in any direction. All those places, New Orleans, Fredericksburg, Galveston, Natchitoches, the Rio Grande Valley, San Antonio, even Austin, are much more distinctive than Houston, but they have and have had great influence on H-town, and vice versa.

I can see how the five lane freeways and the Big Sky reflecting off those glass buildings would be attractive to you, especially coming from a small Oklahoma town. I wasn't quite as thrilled when we moved to Houston but I was coming from the Middle East and before that from a section of Queens, New York that is considered to be the most diverse neighborhood in the world. I thought Houston was hickish - but after the first flash flood I was hooked. Canoeing in the streets is something I hadn't seen any place else. It's a big city too, you've got access to just about everything you need.

Mark, you started out in Houston, as a photographer, shooting at the clubs. You hung around with the punks and new wavers. You were close with Adam Sherburne, hanging out with Until December before they moved to San Fran. I recall you once hauled Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers from Houston to Florida in the back of a pick up truck. What was it about that scene that hooked you? And why did you move on?

I specifically left the new wave types behind in Enid, Oklahoma. Some of them were very conflicted about their desire to be different, yet accepted, especially in their small town political views that came from lack of exposure to the world. I saw the hickishness you describe too, when I moved to Houston. I had lived in Dallas with a sort of sophisticated hickishness, but Houston and the industrial east side had real working class hicks. I wanted to know why. It looked to me like high profits and greater mechanization were leaving many out of work and then the Klan would show up and convince poor working class whites that black people were taking their jobs. It happened that way to the Vietnamese refugees who settled in coastal Texas communities and Mexican Americans as they became more integrated into the mass workforce.

I actually started out as a photographer for the John Brown Anti-Klan Committee and then started photographing in punk clubs when I figured out where to go and met the promoters. Of course there weren't really supposed to be promoters of anarchy, but there were also factory-printed anarchy t-shirts on people in the audiences, and other influences to threaten the DIY spirit of independent music. I was able to see through the nonsense and rhetoric, and support the bands and messages that I believed in. Bands like X called for examination of the divergent rich and poor. I caught the end of the heyday of party bands like the Big Boys, but I'm glad I saw them. And then there were bands like Black Flag that were sort of interested in the psychology of humans, but what they gave you on stage was an explosion of energyand contentiousness that really suited teenagers in transition, on their way to do things in life that they don't really want to do. There was some real blatant short-sightedness and stupidity too. I usually called my photo series Texas Hardcore: The Dis-Integration of
Music, because that is what I felt the bands and fans were doing in those days, resisting the narrowing of popular channels for communication.

Actually, I didn't know Adam Sherburne well in that Until December phase. I don't think he knew himself well then either. They went off the San Francisco for a record contract and became a dance club phenomenon. I knew him when his Houston band was The Usuals and you could find them most any night in a Houston pub putting on some of the greatest shows Houston has ever seen. Their songs were very eye-opening for me, even though I understood pretty complex things for a teenager. The Until December period was lost on me, but I know it
had to do with the challenges everyone faces to work and survive in much less ideal conditions than what you believe in. When he became a founder of Consolidated and dealt with important issues in an innovative way, I knew it was more in line with what he was about. Adam Sherburne was much more street-wise than me when I first showed up in Houston and he was a big influence on my ability to survive here and really get something out of it as a member of that indefinable class of idealistic youth.

There weren't so many demands and expectations in music then. Those things just weren't available, but more people could be involved. It was a time when you could be the one to drive David Hinds down the street to get something to eat, or the promoter called you up because JFA was broken down fifteen miles outside of Houston.

I think the Red Hot Chili Peppers may have been the last of that kind of experience for me. Punk was much more diverse in terms of sound than people realize, but everyone involved was ready for a change. Funk played by grungy white kids in Texas was really taking off. As a touring act, the Red Hot Chili Peppers in the first three or four albums were not to be missed. I saw them all over the country. But I had a particular experience talking with Anthony Keidis about the death of Hillel Slovak after a show at Janus Landing in St Petersburg, Florida that really made me feel like, in addition to the terrible tragedy, that music fans and musicians were on different paths.

I never really left my interest in music behind. For a period of time I traveled more than I went to see live shows, but I was lucky to live at the De Schmog house where we had music most every weekday night, and your club dates, and street parties. I started working full time about that time. There's nothing like that to ruin your fun. I've stayed close to the New Orleans music scene and in Texas I see all the zydeco bands I can. I'm a big fan of all-a-y'all up there in Chicago, but it seems like you come here on holidays when I go to Mexico. And I will travel a few states away to see Corey Harris or Galactic, because I am pretty effectively a southerner. The last real stupid thing I did was drive from Copper Canyon to New Orleans to see Quintron play on New Year's Eve. I know now better than I did years ago to support all kinds of international artists and I attend festivals from Shiner, Texas to Queens, New York. There is definitely more to do than I can possibly find time for.

Musicians are often way ahead of their fan base aren't they? Perhaps it has to do with the influence of travel and new ideas that the artist experiences. On the other hand, particularly with older musicians travel doesn't lead so much to new experiences as to an insular monotony - a suburban existence on wheels. Don't you think? (Editor's Note: Don't I sound like a complete doofus here?)

In 1994, immediately following my graduation from UoH, you and I embarked on a trip to Copper Canyon in Chihuahua, Mexico with a small group of friends. We planned a two day trip crossing the canyon from one small village to another. We had only topographical maps to guide us. We got lost and the two day trip turned into five. Our water ran out and our water purification system broke. By the end of the trip we weren't eating because we didn't want to get thirsty. We sucked on grapefruit that we plucked from trees and the acid made us sick. At one point when I was investigating a possible trail (which turned out to be a goat path) I ended up sliding down the side of a cliff and I really felt like I could have died there. We were ready to turn back (though we weren't too sure we knew how to do even that) when we met a lone hunter with a sickle who convinced us, even though we could only understand half of his Spanish, that we were close and the way was bajo bajo muy facile. We ended up in a near empty village on Christmas Day. One small family was left at the village while the rest of the folk went to a slightly larger village to celebrate. Luckily the woman had a key to the town store and we each sucked down like five Fantas. Troy Black was wearing duct tape because his shoes worn down to nothing. The woman made us Christmas dinner. That experience is one of the few things in my life that can be weighed against the thrill of playing a show. SO I empathize with your passion for nature travel. The study of nature is a big part of your life. How does that fit in with your passion for culture?

I guess I had graduated from college just a few years earlier, so I already knew not to follow goat trails.

I can't say I really study nature, other than with my camera. I always look at nature as places where people live. One of the most interesting things I've ever heard was by a Native American at a conference on the anniversary of the Lewis and Clark expedition, who raised a point that there are no words in native languages for "wilderness." It is a European perspective that something not developed for whatever purposes is wilderness. And I read a book that intrigued me called The American Replacement of Nature by William Irwin Thompson. So I've even considered nature from a social and political perspective. I guess because inevitably humans deal with it, and then they change it or they abuse it. You might think the dust bowl is what happened to people, but really, people are what happened to the Great Plains and the dust bowl is what they got. And they got it for their policies. So now we get the effects of global warming for our policies.

I'm sure that musicians develop great ideas from broad experiences of traveling, but I don't know what makes them carry on with enthusiasm, or take long breaks from music. I think I approached photography with the intensity that most musicians approach their creative work, but lately I haven't been as inspired to photograph. I just returned from San Francisco, Oakland, Berkley and Yosemite National Park. I carried
a camera with me everywhere, even up to the back side of Half Dome, but I never once got it out. That's not to say that anything has become more trivial to me. In fact, I am more deeply involved. One thing I've been doing is looking at what others look at. And I think I'm in danger of getting hooked on the very simple way of looking at things that is common of people who sit on porches in the mountains and people who practice eastern religions.

I really like taking our camp kids to the Chiricahua Mountains. They see things in nature and understand things that I miss. They use their imaginations to give personas to the rocks, or even act out their impressions of the trees. And they always see our problems as being about distance, not about our differences. When one child saw how close Juarez is to El Paso she informed us, that is where immigrants should cross.

This Lacy photo is entitled Pocahontas. More to come!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

(Part II) A Conversation with a Houston Institute: Mark Lacy

Let's start with the upcoming roll out of What is the significance of this event?, which is called Texas Community Advocate, is part of an initiative for localism. I was thinking about the issues of local business, arts, and media pretty seriously while living on Lexington Street. I've studied the economics of broad ownership versus limited ownership since then and wanted to incorporate that into the mission of Houston Institute for Culture, because of the cultural and social benefits of diversity in business ownership, arts and media. Today, in addition to a cultural literacy mission, the organization is emphasizing a social innovation mission. Problems we hear about today are serious and complex, but at the root of many of them is limited distribution of wealth and ideas, and the lack of opportunity that results. Growing numbers of working poor feel they have little opportunity for self determination and their possibilities are limited. People can gain control in their communities simply by being more supportive of the businesses and arts in their communities. The Texas Community Advocate website will show people in Texas communities how diversity of interests and greater circulation of money in the community will raise standards in the community and eventually produce a similar effect in neighboring communities that currently may not have much local ownership, producing safer and more satisfying environments. Another modern reality that necessitates thinking about localism is energy. People need to buy locally produced agriculture in local markets for a range of environmental reasons and cost-effectiveness, as well as reduced conflict in foreign lands over energy and labor.

So while you are broadening your scope of influence, the message remains Think Locally and Independently. I was just reading an article in this week's New Yorker that deals with these issues with a focus on water management. There's an effort in India to get farmers to diversify from the main two crops rice and wheat which take tremendous amounts of water. It's actually amazing how simple some of the solutions are but they aren't being acted on. For example, in India if the existing piping system was corrected (meaning fix the leaks) and the initiative to collect rainwater was broadened (which is a fairly inexpensive and straight forward task),they would pretty much solve their water problems. Instead they drain aquifers and are slated to build more than a thousands dams in the next ten years. I can just picture the advocates for the sensible solutions that are ignored pulling their hairs out in frustration. The cause is noble but what is it exactly that you intend to do to accomplish your objectives? And what tangible goals have you set for the short term, intermediate and long range future?

Many people are looking at local solutions to many problems. And people know of many sensible solutions, yet the same mistakes keep being repeated. I believe it is because of the economic imbalances, where local civic leaders look to one big investor or big government agency to come and solve their problems, rather than looking at community solutions. I call it the "home run solution" syndrome, where a city council imagines all of its problems will be solved if the town can lure a big company to bring jobs, or have a successful sports team, or attract tourism by creating a park or festival. Income for communities has come to be thought of in the same way it is to individuals; that is: money is earned and money is spent, but in a community, the success of it is based on how many times people in the community transact the money. Too many communities don't circulate wealth; it comes and it goes. For a town like Schulenburg, the money that goes to a business owner in Houston, or a bank in New York, may be circulated more times in that community, meaning it is not only accumulated in a distant place, but each dollar may benefit that community several more times on average than the community where it came from. And then, to make matters worse, it seems the more wealth is concentrated, the more difficult it is for individuals or recessing small town governments to even have the resources to solve problems or provide for the needs of the community.

Communities throughout the history of the world have always existed on the market, where people use their productivity and creativity to gain the things they need or want, and the benevolence of members of the community to help those that fall behind or face serious hardships, but today it seems people who are in positions of influence have made it an all or nothing debate: all capitalism, or all welfare. They have people convinced that anything a local government does for its citizens should be private or otherwise we are in danger of becoming a communist nation. The problem is that as a few achieve astronomical standards of wealth, there is a greater need to provide for people who cannot afford food or medicine. You can move poverty around and relegate greater numbers of working poor to places outside of gated communities, but eventually the most successful people and businesses have to strive for greater social responsibility or their own quality of life will fail. I think everyone would rather see broad opportunity come back to communities across the nation and continent than bankrupt governments trying to figure out how to convince the wealthy to be more charitable.

As for goals, there is no way that our small organization can change the habits of people in all of Texas or even in Houston. We have to influence the consciousness of a few people in many communities, who in turn influence more people in their communities. The key is getting the message to people by email, Internet, public service messages on radio, and maybe even television at some point. We need many more people to feel responsible and advocate for positive changes in their own communities. The success will be based on how many people recognize the importance of improving their local economies and how many magnify the effort by speaking with others, forming local associations, or posting fliers.

It isn't a political activity to encourage people to support local businesses; in fact all politicians regardless of party affiliation should be encouraging their communities to do this if they really care. So we should not experience much resistance to delivering the message. Small market radio stations should see the value of offering the public service messages. Musicians and artists should very clearly see the value of communities that are interested to support diverse interests in their local communities. And many communities still have efforts to keep the Main Street businesses alive. So, our goal is to deliver the messages and the tools to share them. We will work on it for two years in Texas with English language materials and then include Spanish language materials, though Spanish-speaking communities are still very good about supporting local businesses. We will work to make it a national campaign with the website once we gain more experience on the state level.

Your original group, the Houston Institute for Culture, organizes concerts workshops and an annual camp for inner-city youth. Will Texas Community Advocate do likewise or is it strictly about promoting the idea of local focus? And why doesn't it seem (to me anyway) incongruous that while HIC/TCA promotes localism, you are also very much about international cultural awareness?

Several people have suggested to me that we should be building two separate organizations. Houston Institute for Culture is very much about pluralism and internationalism, while Texas Community Advocate (which will ideally be operated one day by a group within HIFC that is a center for localism) is about local economics and community action. I just think we have to define an institute for culture better, as well as what is meant by “for culture.” Culture is the way we understand our lives and the influences on our lives. Of course people often think it is limited to leisure activities. But a broad definition includes formal education, family history, media influences, economic situation, everything really. Commuters and people who work in corporate environments are part of cultures with learned behaviors. Examining our condition and taking a proactive approach to making a better life, however they see that, is important for every person. So we have a variety of educational projects, service projects and research projects. Educational projects tend to be the events we offer; some are arts related, while others are focused on social issues. Service projects are somewhat reactionary. Last year I took a few volunteers to New Orleans to help paint schools and clean up neighborhoods. We had previously been there (before Hurricane Katrina) conducting research about the Mardi Gras Indians, and the Sicilian influence in the traditions of New Orleans and the Houston area. Whether it’s Reynosa, Galveston, Fredericksburg, or Lafayette, the research always leads to the need for communities, regardless of their international origins, to have their own cultural identities and opportunities for local ownership. It makes sense that the service projects should be more proactive in those areas.

Some people in Houston are the owners of national and international companies, bringing great wealth to the area, but the city truly benefits from tremendous broad interests because of its diverse ethnic and international populations. Without the broad social and economic activity created by so many varied interest populations, this would not be a good place to live. Some places in Houston are terribly bland and uninteresting, but nearby there are usually vibrant communities with reasons to keep going forward. Most people don’t think about the value of traditions unless they think about being without them. One professor working on futuristic technologies described space travel with such exuberance, but somehow I thought of all these people dressed in uniforms, facing forward in their airline seats, and I had to ask him if he though there would be ballet folklorico in space. It hadn’t occurred to him. I never look forward to things being the same wherever I go as they are where I came from, but Americans have achieved this with overwhelming results, whether they are the owners or the ones who determine what color to paint walls in franchises all across America, or just the customers who like things that way.

A society with diverse interests is important for all kinds of quality of life reasons. One of those is economic diversity and opportunity. On the local level, diverse interests are important for economic possibilities. People in one community may be interested to support a variety of furniture stores selling Southwest furniture, Japanese furniture, American Colonial, Postmodern, Antique, and so on, resulting in fairly broad economic activity. But the community will not benefit as much if all its interests are found in one store, or if limited ownership from outside the community caters to very limited interests. This is true of music and art, as well as everything found everyday in the home or workplace.

It is a funny paradox today because there are many sources for broad interests and yet American interests have been so streamlined. I think it is only because people are creative and prone to be bored that many independent artists and businesses survive, even if it is getting more difficult.

More to come! More photos more talk. All photos associated with this series are Mark's and under his full ownership.

Monday, November 06, 2006

A Conversation with a Houston Institute: Mark Lacy

Mark Lacy is a long time friend who has been doing some amazing things in H-town for a couple of few decades now. Mr. Lacy challenges the sum up. Most people can be announced with a single defining quality - say "activist,""artist,""teacher," or "naturalist." Mark's all four and I'm leaving out the good stuff. He's also a photographer*, a former DJ, a back country traveler, a sociologist, a cultural leader and a Proud Okie. He's also a former roommate. We met on Lexington in the early nineties while attending the University of Houston where Mark occasionally teaches these days. Our house did unofficial UoH dormer duty for many years. Rooms were obtained word of mouth with a tendency to pull from UoH's theatrical community. I liken the early years at 2140 to Gilligan's Island with me as Gilligan of course, Mark as the Professor, and two girls Vanessa and Jeane as Mary Ann and the Glamorous Movie Star. The house eventually devolved into the de Schmog House with Mark and I the only survivors. Mark finally moved to an apartment on Lexington and remained there for several years after I moved away but we remain good friends. We've done several trips together to: Mamou, LA for 9 AM Mardi Gras, Guanajuato, Mexico by way of the "local" bus, Lake Powell, Utah where we camped in narrow ravines, and La Barranca del Cobre which remains the greatest outdoor experience of my life. Next month Mark's group, the Houston Institute for Culture, rolls out a new website that promises to broaden their influence beyond Harris County to the Panhandle, the Rio Grande, the Red and the Sabine. Almost in tandem they introduce a digital story telling project. This all sounds very interesting. Let's chat with Mark Lacy, unkay?

What will follow over the next few days is an email interview we conducted throughout October.
*The Lacy image at bottom is of Adam Sherburne performing in the early 80's with his Houston band the Usuals. Adam went on to San Fran with Until December and later put together his most memorable project Consolidated. Mark and Adam were close during Adam's Houston phase.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Joe Ryan's Singer Songwriter Night at Bernice's

Joe Ryan put together a line up of singer songer writers for this Saturday night at Bernice's. I've got a slot. 45 minutes is a lot of space to fill so I'm bringing up Mr. Erin Edmister. Show starts at 8. I'm on at 9.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Nonalignment Pact: Music in 7 Days from 7 Writers

Ramon Medina has aligned seven folks who in one way or another contribute(d) to the Houston music scene. Houston may be the pivot point yet the group is scattered across many time zones. The goal is to produce one music review a day with each volunteer assigned a day of the week. I'm proud to be a part of this project and a little bit daunted by the task.

Even though I've been making music for almost twenty years, other than this blog I've never sought out a music writing endeavor. I had opportunities in Houston when de Schmog was at the top of its game. However I firmly believed that writing for the local music press while contributing to the local music scene was not appropriate. Besides back then you had the Public News which wasn't living up to its potential and then the Houston Press, a cookie-cutter paper that didn't even offer a good pay check to make up for its banality (there's no money in making music why should there be in writing about it?). I did do some writing for the Daily Cougar. It was tougher than I thought, back to being daunted.

Anyway I'm looking forward to it. The folks involved have eclectic tastes and offbeat personalities so something good should come of it. For my part I plan on focusing on the Midwest since that's where I'm at. I hope to have contributions from regional musicians and from my friends back home.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Garden of the Dead

A Message from the Mekong Smith Foundation:

You are invited to our Garden of the Dead Sunday October 22nd from 2 pm until after nightfalls. All are welcome to honor the dead in our garden during the reception, or bring/install a piece before the event. Some of the artists contributing are Al Scum, Kilian Sweeney, Tricia Moreau Sweeney, Lisa Yu, Carl Virgo, Jacob Smith and a lot of maybes. If you are a potential maybe, you may as well contribute at the time of the occasion. We hope you can make it and bread of the dead will be available to entice you to come. This event also coincides with the 18th street: Pilsen Open Studios event, see link for more information about that -

Looking forward to seeing you,
Jacob, Lisa and Paloma

Ps And if you want to spend the whole weekend in the south, stop by to see Church Bus play at Bernice's 3238 S. Halsted St 312-326-9460 at 10pm Saturday night.

S-s-s-southsiders! Saturday Night!

Friday, October 13, 2006

It's Friday the 13th Ya Spooks.

That means we're playing out in the cold tonight at the Underscene. Come out! Bring warm clothes.

In other news:

It snowed yesterday in Chicago. Ain't that something?

Kathleen Judge, once interviewed here, answers three questions from John Hospodka.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


churchbus rings in the new season Friday the 13th -11PM- at OVERLOOKED AT UNDERSCENE. We're on when the art's off...

Overlooked no more!

Come on down to the dripping, dusty layer of Chicago that is UNDERSCENE. Our boys from "This Will Be Our Last Song" are back to blow our minds Friday night, or stop by Saturday for an afternoon stroll.

2215 S. UNION (at Cermak Ave.) in Pilsen, Chicago.*
OPENING: Friday October 13, 7 to 11 p.m.
Saturday October 14, 2 to 6 p.m.

Participating artists:

Peter Buczynski
Heather Burkart (
Justin Goh
Kimberly Grove
Lunarburn Studios (
Katherine Perryman (
Reno (

*Located off Cermak near S. Halsted, under 90/94; free parking is available on the west side of building along Union; open studios and group show are on the 3rd floor.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

New Track du Jour

Artist: The Oilers
Track: Party Starter
Location: RBI Studio (Houston, TX)
Date: 10-03-2006
Comment: I was going through some unlabeled CD's tonight and I came across this forgotten Oilers track. The Oilers was a short lived project of mine with Johnathan (bass) and my brother Christian (drums) from de Schmog and also featuring Jeff Nunnally of Sprawl on keys and Brad "the Breeze" Moore on vocals. This song was a shout out to the Houston Inner Loop Night Life. It's got references to Club Safe Parking, the Lexington Scene and early morning migas, mmmmm. Now it is a shout out to the Breeze - here's to hoping his wrist heals fast. This is part of the non-linear Lexington Street Series. Oh and this isn't the actual song name. I can't remember what we called this song but the first line is "Let's get this party started early 'cause I have to work tomorrow."

click below to listen (requires FLASH)...
track du jour

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Lots Going On This Weekend

Tonight I'll be at the Gage Gallery at Roosevelt University 18 S. Michigan Ave. looking at Tricia's work. In conjunction with winning the ILNMWA grant, Tricia was given the capacious Three Questions treatment from John Hospodka in this week's Gapers Block. Check it out.

Tomorrow night (Friday the 6th) we're going up to Props Theater to see Brian Torrey Scott's Year part of the All-Things-Beckett Rhinoceros Theater Festival.

Saturday night I have the privilege of playing bass for Hotel Brotherhood for their last concert before the Cashiola brothers set sail for different shores. Ross is heading to Marfa, Texas to work for the Donald Judd Chinati Foundation. Joe is off for Hollywood, baby. I'll miss them guys - they are a great source of inspiration and creativity. The show at the Hideout with Low Skies will most certainly be a blast. Also playing keys with Hotel Brotherhood for this event, Jim Dorling of Town And Country.

Finally Sunday Graham Reynolds' Golden Arm Trio plays the Reversible Eye Gallery. I'm guessing that this show will start at 7 PM like most Eye events. Graham Reynolds recently scored the music for Richard Linklater's film A Scanner Darkly based on a book by Bladerunner author Philip K. Dick.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

JW Apple Jr. - he was my man

One of the great journalists of our time passed away today in Washington. Mr. J W Apple Jr. was a man who knew how to live. He was known for his political correspondence but in his later years, given a lot of leeway at the Times due to his superiority in almost every aspect of his profession, Johnny Apple wrote more and more about what he wanted to write about instead of what the headlines dictated -that's my man! That meant more (as the Times put it) "bourbon and bacon, potatoes and tomatoes, langoustines and mangosteens, barbecue and Bouillabaisse, New Orleans and New Zealand."

I can respect a man who keeps a personal pepper mill in his ready-go bag.

The New York Times obit is the one to read. The Times also has a tribute video on the frontpage of their site.

Good-bye Johnny.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Tooting Tricia's Horn

My better half and best friend Tricia Moreau Sweeney just won the annual ILNMWA grant. Her work will be showing at the Gage Gallery at Roosevelt University 18 S. Michigan Ave. There will be an Awards Ceremony and Silent Auction Thursday from 5-8 PM. Her work will be on view through December 1st. Tricia and Kathy Richland Pick were selected for this award amongst hundreds of applicants by the sole juror Karen Irvine, the curator of the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago.

I can't tell you how proud I am of Tricia now and always. We traveled extensively this Summer taking hundreds of digital photographs across the Pacific Northwest. I have been sorting through these photos recently selecting the best. It is a difficult process and I find myself amazed by Tricia's eye time and time again.

Kathy Richland Pick was in the Masters program with Tricia at UIC. I saw her work there and found it to be exceptional. Both artists truly deserved this award.

Thursday, September 28, 2006


If you're feeling spunky Monday night come out to the Bad Dog Tavern for churchbus and Hotel Brotherhood (minus one brother). It's a free show and you can laugh at us shaking the dust out of our throats and off our guitars. This is churchbus' first show since June 3rd!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Bring on The Rage! One for Justin

Mr. Crane recently helped BMW get the word out that investing in one of their cars is as sound an opportunity as adding to your 401(k) or your IRA. I am grateful. In fact when I shelled out almost a grand for repairs on my own German-made vehicle just earlier this week, Mr. Crane's post allowed me to do it with confidence.

In return I give you this gem recently erected at the southeastern gateway to Chicago's West Side, an impoverished Black neighborhood notorious for drug and domestic violence. Why just a year or so back, the Chicago Police Department installed Robocop-like video cameras on the very same street in an effort to reduce drug crimes and to stop the neighborhood kids from hosting impromptu gin & juice parties in the public parks, parties that often turned into bang bang shoot 'em up mayhem. That makes this Roosevelt Avenue signage double-plus-good.

Rage! It's what this vulnerable young lady offers you. Bring it on. Rage!!!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

las guitarras rapidamas

In recent years your live music buck gets you more bang in one Chicago summer than anywhere else in North America. You've got the numerous block parties including several that bring in national acts (Taste of Randolph, the Hideout Block Party); there's the stuff going down at Grant Park - Taste of Chicago, the Blues Festival, the Jazz Festival, the Gospel Music Festival, Lollapalooza; then you've got the fantastic new Pritzker Pavilion and the many free concerts it brings in; plus this year the hipsters get three huge festivals with the Pitchfork Media split from Intonation creating two youthful events and the one old-timer hipster event provided by Touch and Go; add on the garage rock extravaganza Chicago BlackOut sponsored by Horizontal Action magazine and the Stars of the Lyric Opera House event then you're really leaving nobody out. The only trouble is everybody knows it, which means for all of these events you battle the crowd and the summer heat. That's why my current favorite music festival of the season is the Chicago World Music Festival winding down right now.

Instead of crowding a bazillion great bands into one tiny weekend at one venue like the circus trick some of these other festivals have become, the WMF spreads its events across the city and over more than a week plus many of the events are absolutely free. Now I know you might be thinking, "yeah but it's still World Music." Don't worry the good folks at the Chicago Cultural Affairs department are savvy enough to recognize the difference between "World Music" the Peter Gabriel-esque genre and "World Music" the idea of bring musicians from around the world together. They do this cleverly, not by focusing on traditional folky music of bygone eras but by finding active musicians playing for whatever contemporary reason they might have. They also do a great job of mixing things up so that Brazilian ex-pat fans of Otto get an education in Cambodian pop music LA style from Dengue Fever whether they want it or not.

One group appearing numerous times at the WMF this year (and that certainly isn't a folk music museum piece) is the Mexican duo of Rodrigo and Gabriela. These two met as teens in Mexico City where they formed a thrash metal band, Terra Acida. When that band proved incapabable of providing them a living income, they split for Europe and developed a percussive acoustic style all their own which reflects equally their Mexican and Metallica influences. They're on tour and if they come to your town I highly recommend you check them out. If they're not coming to your town you can still watch the video on the front page of their website cleverly viewed through the eye of the serpent. Foc!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Last LATEST Show - an inside review

It was a fine send off for ol' Bob Taylor Sunday night. The bands played great. The crowd was full of friends. The bartenders were kept busy. Thanks all for coming out. [[sniff]]

Pictures below by Tricia

Headache City's Dave Head

Ha ha Cameron and Carol like Pabst

Headache City's Lisa Roe (she like Pabst too so duz that big scary guy behind her)

Submarine Races!


Our Beautiful Peepul

Bob attempts to stare down an unaware Philip Montoro

El Goodo Audio in the House (them likes Pabst)

Pabst Liking THE LATEST

Lead Guitarists Rock! Don't We Now???

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Sunday - the last of THE LATEST Chicago Edition

THE LATEST leaves you in style Sunday night at Cal's sharing the bill with two Chicago class acts Sh*t Sandwich Records artists Headache City and In the Red Records artists Submarine Races. This isn't necessarily the last of THE LATEST as Bob Taylor may keep the name (fittingly) for his pursuits in Austin. So let's just say this is the last of the Chicago edition and wish Bob well in his southern adventures.

The show starts at 9pm and you ought to be there then or be very square. It's gonna be fun, lemme tell you.

A big thanks goes out to Nadine for putting this show together. Nadine is the best friend a band could have. Give her a big hug Sunday night.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Optiganally Yours

I unwittingly had a late night dinner with somebody I've long wanted to meet. You see, when I first moved to Chicago five years ago the Lozenge crew turned me on to a hilarious video by a San Diego outfit called Optiganally Yours which featured Rob Crow now of Pinback. We laughed so hard at this video we almost collectively pissed ourselves. Anyway, after the festival last night we went out with our weekend house guests, fellow former-Houstonians Ann Panopio and her friend Aaron. We hooked up with Rob Crow, a guy performing with the Blackheart Procession and some other friends. I sat next to Rob and watched him order an incredible amount of food which he generously shared with everyone. It was one of the most refreshingly funny conversations I have had in a long time. Not just with Rob either, the whole table was hilarious. I didn't even know at the time who I was eating with. It's a good thing I didn't say anything derogatory about today's TnG events either since both Pinback and the Blackheart Procession played.

Anyway, without further ado here's Optiganally Yours homemade video Mr. Wilson (probably done in the mid-90's but I'm not sure). I remember we watched this on video. I'm glad somebody took the time to transfer this to the net.

Touch and Go - the Saturday Review

For a club that's site usually matches its name, the Hideout location amply provided for this ambitious and successful event - it was said that over 6600 people were in attendance.

For a day that's weather constantly threatened to worsen but never did, its heavy grey sky perfectly complimented the music - not to mention the audience's hair which I saw a lot more of than I've ever seen before at a punk event (intruder hair coming out of noses, ears and the backs of shirts).

For musicians who never considered themselves professional and for the most part were attempting to summon much younger versions of themselves, the bands were dedicated and energized - and they delivered.

For a leader who always put the bands first and has eschewed the limelight throughout Touch and Go's existence, Corey Rusk stayed in form - always up front, anonymous in the audience, enjoying the bands.

Scratch Acid could not have been blessed with a more solid rhythm section - when they started in '82 how could they have known Rey Washam would remain, his forlorn humility aside, one of the most solid rock drummers of the 20th century (and into the next)? Of course, they also have one of the great punk frontmen. David Yow appeared to be fatigued; his voice was hoarse and he gave the crowd at least one what-the-hell-am-I-doing-here glazed over look but he still delivered. The old crowd sedate and polite, could obviously relate. Finally towards the end of the set, a tired punker was hoisted up above the crowd and tossed a few feet over. People clapped appreciating the effort.

A short way into Big Black's set, Steve Albini said "I know what you're thinking. 'That's it? What's the big deal?' Well, this was cool in the 80's." The event in general was kind of like that.

The stuff Touch and Go has put out by and large was never meant to please a large assembly, not a large American assembly anyway. The locale with its faded black and grey tones against the back drop of Chicago's Fleet Management Center on a paved industrial parking lot looked like an Eastern Block rock concert more than anything else. Ex drummer Katrin Bornfeld's heartfelt rendition of a Hungarian folk song and her collaboration with Chicago's most famous living socialist immigrant, Jon Langford, certainly justifies that comparison. At one point I told Tricia that I wanted to ask one of the old punkers if they could ever recall an event like this. She didn't understand what I meant and as I explained I realized I didn't really understand what I meant. I said that I couldn't recall this many people gathered for underground music. She said "do you mean like the Pitchfork Festival?" I said that's not the same. She said "do you mean like the 25th Anniversary Touch and Go Festival?" Yeah that's right, there's never been anything like the 25th Anniversary Touch and Go Festival and there never will again.

*the Hideout 10th Anniversary Block Party/TouchandGo Festival schedule art hosted by the Hideout. The artist is Kathleen Judge interviewed here.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Thorsday's show - a review

In the words of Thor - "We live to Rock."

In the words of Zolar X - "Don't Ever Quit. Don't Give up the Ship."

In the words of Butthead - "That was the coolest thing I've ever seen."

Thursday, September 07, 2006

This Week's Big Event - hmmm what could that be?

I first heard of Touch and Go Records when I went up to Sound Exchange, er, Record Exchange on Westheimer in the early 90's with a handful of de Schmog singles. I asked Dorothy what I could do about getting the disks out. de Schmog wasn't exactly looking for a label - for one thing we couldn't tour and for another we were gung ho about the whole DIY thing, but some distribution would be nice. Dorothy immediatly brought up Touch and Go. Then she wrote down Corey's contact info. I think I sent some disks (we quickly ran out anyway) but the conversation got me to look closer at what they were doing in Chicago (I know I was slow to come around). Wowee they were putting out some good stuff. I actually already owned a few Touch and Go releases, including "The Greatest Gift" a Scratch Acid anthology. Anyway the point is that for such a small scale homey operation, Corey's reach was far and wide and he earned a good deal of respect from countless numbers of scenester types from small label operators to musicians to fans. I hope this weekend's festival makes him proud. I'll be there for killer Saturday: holy shit Scratch Acid, Killdozer, Big Black and my favorite Welsh ex-pats Jon Langford and Sally Timms (not that you can go a weekend in this town without seeing one of those two somewhere).

In other going's on...

I'll be at JuniorTown's opening this Friday playing a little acoustic music with churchbus trumpeteer Chris Erin. Here's the info (should be good!)

1255 W.18th





Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Thors Day

On the rabid advice of Ramon Medina (and in part thanks to his excellent photography). I shall be heading to the Note tomorrow to catch Zolar X and Thor. As if I needed any more convincing than Ramon's post-show-post, the most Skynrd-y Velcro Lewis and His 100 Proof band open.

I saw Velcro and Co. at Cal's Fest a few weeks back and was very happy to see them in top form, particularly since their original drummer Bill Roe quit playing with them just as he joined THE LATEST. As good as Bill is, Velcro replacement drummer Hawk Colman is a perfect fit.

Unfortunately I probably won't get to see Velcro play as I have rehearsal and it being a four band line-up I highly doubt I'll get there in time.

Also on the bill, from San Fransico's Tenderloin district, Triclops!.

Monday, September 04, 2006


Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter, was killed in what would normally be a freakish accident. Considering the personality involved, "death by stingray" isn't so surprising as sad as it is. He was only 44 years old. What makes it freakish to me is the popularity it has brought to this blog.

This Site has had 3,766 visits so far today and it is 9:40 AM. The site got twenty new visitors just between 9:37:21 am and 9:39:07 am. The surge in readership is due to a Google Image Search glitch. I link to a Steve Irwin image in a distant post. The image itself doesn't even appear on the blog and I was referring to a character at a bar who looked like Steve Irwin so the post isn't even about him. However a Google Image Search for Steve Irwin links directly to this site for image number 5, a rather appealing shot of the deceased.

This glitch has been going on for a while however not so many people have been looking for a Steve Irwin image up until now. It didn't take long to figure that he was up to some sort of mischief. So I went to the New York Times site and sure enough...

It's only September 4th and this month's bandwidth for is almost maxed out. That's because my blogger profile image is stored on and that image appears on every page of this site. Also another image appears on the page Google accidentally takes image searchers to (oddly enough that image is a show poster for an Australian Rockabilly band, the Red Hot Poker Dots*). I removed these images so as to reduce costs.

Maybe I can recoup the loss in Adsense revenue, hmmmm.

*It's occurred to me that some logic in the google search engine combines the text referring to the Australian band with the show poster image and the Steve Irwin reference causing this problem.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

New Track du Jour

Track: the Whistler
Location: El Goodo Audio (Chicago,IL)
Date: 09-17-2006
Comment: Allow me some self-indulgence. Hell what am I saying, you're gonna have to allow me a lot of self-indulgence if you're looking at this site. Anyway here's one more from THE LATEST's new self-titled release on Bob Taylor's Recent Records. This track features Mike Fitzpatrick on vox. Mike's having his own musical glory dance these days as a main contributer to two hot garage bands here in Chicago, Headache City and Cococoma. But for a little while anyway THE LATEST got him too. Unfortunately we are seeing the last of THE LATEST in this form anyway. Frontman Bob Taylor is leaving for the past and future pastures of Austin Texas this Fall.

THE LATEST plays its last show at Cal's on Sunday September 17th with the most excellent Submarine Races. Come out, it'll be a blast.

Email me if you want a CD - it's really good and I can hook you up.
click below to listen (requires FLASH)...
track du jour

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Hey Chicago! Tonight...

A message from Kris Poulin:

Hello friends,

This time there's a theme: Red.

Camaro Rouge
Love Story in Blood Red
Red Chamber

play this Thursday, August 31st, at Darkroom (2210 W. Chicago) at 9pm.

$7 get you in.

We asking everyone to wear red. Unite in color! Red shirts, red dresses, red pants, red socks, red hats, red shoes, red sunglasses, red gloves, red undies, red eyes. We want to see an entire Darkroom full of red!

We're also hoping that there will be drink specials on red drinks (vodka cranberry, Red Stripe, Bloody Mary, etc.). This is not confirmed, but we're working on it.

Red. Red. Red.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Where are all my black friends?

Fact is I don't have any, not any close black friends. Why? Well it's actually easy to explain I guess. I don't hang out in black neighborhoods or establishments and for that matter not many black people hang out in the places you can normally find me. Civil Rights may have come (and gone) but that didn't really bring us people together. Still I have been influenced strongly by several black individuals and of course Black American Culture has had a big influence on me musically.

Why am I bringing this up? Because we're six months away from Black History Month and if I'm gonna have anything to say about Black Culture, I'm doing it now away from all the hullabaloo. And why might I have anything to say about black culture? Because I keep this stupid site going and it's supposed to be about cultural affairs that inspire me, particularly in the city where I live.

This city happens to be a pivot point of Black American Culture. It's where Blacks came to better themselves from the rural South. It's where Blues was electrified and thrust upon the world. Chicago was Martin Luther King Jr's last home, Malcom X and Fred Hampton's as well. It is home to Jesse Jackson and the Rainbow Coalition, Barrack Obama, Buddy Guy, R Kelly, Ebony and Jet magazines, the Nation of Islam and Oprah - to name a few.

So I'm going to spend a few posts talking about Black Culture from the perspective of a white boy who got his musical start funking up some f*cked up family memories in a band influenced by the urban black-meets-whitey college boy Texas Funk scene. If that doesn't tempt you to stay tuned, how's this? -> My great grandfather designed the first church built specifically for a black congregation in Houston; as a young boy my big black nanny drove a huge 70's Ford LTD's and used snuff; I worked summers under the wing of my own Injun Joe; I once kept Albert Collins' guitar chord from coming unplugged as he waltzed through the crowd in a Texas night club; and a couple of years ago I went on the road as the photographer for the Sears Associate Gospel Choir to the NAACP convention in Milwaukee.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Cheer up Little Indie Rocker. The Bottle tells you it is time for a good chuckle...

This might come as a surprise but Chicago indie rockers have funny bones. At least that's what the Empty Bottle, the brick and mortar determiner of indie hipness in this town, is impressing upon their drones. The butthole is promoting comedy night at Weed's, a Goose Island bar not normally known for laughs.

While Chicago is known for many fine comedy establishments that continue to deliver the goods, none are quite hip enough for the Bottle which is now a "brand" to be exploited establishing hipness far beyond the confines of the well worn Western Avenue night club.

I'd warn you that mixing the weed and the bottle is not a good idea but would you kids listen?

I'm in the corner that says Comedy (with a capital C) certainly needs a good kick in the pants. Just turn to Comedy Central for an hour or watch the disappointing "the Aristocrats" (or anything by the always disappointing Will Ferrell, etc) to find out just how insular, self-congratulatory, immature, and uninspiring Comedy has become. BUT two wrongs don't make a right and mixing this insular self-congratulatory immature and uninspiring indie scene with comedy sounds about as funny as sending Albert Brooks to the Middle East.

The Reader calls it "stand-up for the stand-and-nod" and that about sums it up.

Friday, August 25, 2006

The Return of Brando

Brandon Holbrook - loving husband, father, web guru, and lead guitarist of de Schmog - now has a MySpace page. Holler at him will you? Let him know his presence is felt.

He is doing a noble thing these days, giving de Schmog a MySpace home. Check it out. If you can, please comply with his request for photos and other de Schmog memorabilia.

You see, de Schmog being one of those pre-internet bands, the digital material is just now slowly emerging. With that in mind, we also have an outstanding request for an mp3 version of the Fairy Tale for the free online deSchmogabase. If you can provide that, your deed will be appreciated by tens if not twenties of deLighted fans.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Tonight Marcos Raya Opening Cafe Duvall

Looking for something interesting to do this evening? An Art Opening just around the corner from me looks good. Everybody knows that openings aren't the best time to view art because of the distractions. The distractions on the other hand can be worth the fuss. In this case, the art is housed in a small Tango cafe owned by William Duvall.

Aside from the potential to meet long legged women, there's the chance to rub elbows with Robert Duvall who just happens to be the proprietor's uncle. Incidentally this makes the second establishment in a two block radius of my house to be managed -to some extent- by the relative of a Hollywood star (George Wendt's sister bartends at a nearby Italian restaurant).

You might even get something out of the art since the body of work is small and the space intimate.

More on the artist Marcos Raya (pictured here as Frida Kahlo).

Cafe Duvall
2257 W23rd Place
Chicago, IL 60608

*picture courtesy of

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Headache City on This American Life: Tomorrow

Note from Norah -

Hey everyone! Headache Citywill have a song on NPR's This American Life this Friday! Its our one minute interpretation of the folk song, The Cat Came Back. Please listen! Check out for programming info. Its on at 7 pm here!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Chicago Loop Alliance Loopy Loop the Loop Tours

The Chicago Loop Alliance, basically the Chamber of Commerce for the downtown area, put together a trio of audio tours along with corresponding loop maps that highlight the cultural attractions in Arts, Theater and Landmarks. Friday, Tricia and I did all three tours at once.

It was a beautiful summer day, sunny but not too hot so a perfect day to wander. The tours proved geographically easy to combine but posed a tricky mp3 queuing problem especially since Tricia and I were sharing one player. No matter, there was time between stops (even combining all three tours) for both of us to get the info. Running Time for each spot rarely went over two minutes.

The Chicago Loop Alliance is a business group so unsurprisingly the audio is bland, the information scandal-less and the tempo cheerful. Many of the spots give nothing that PBS-watching Chicagoans don't already know along with vapid quotes like "You know it's Christmas in Chicago when you see the big wreathes around the Lions (in front of the Art Institute) like collars." The Theater Tour is particularly frustrating because in every instance* the listener is acutely aware that being outside is no fun. It's like saying you've been to a city because you had a stop over at the airport.

Still occasionally we were informed and it got us out on a great day and put us into interesting spots where the highlights from the tour were generously accentuated by their locality.

Top Ten List

1. The Public Gardens at the Art Institute - these gardens have been overshadowed by millennium Park since we've been in Chicago.

2. Four Seasons by Marc Chagall. Nice mosaic, don't think I've taken a close look at it before. It attracts French speaking tourists too.

3. The commentary for the Crown Fountain had a nice reference to "a modern day gargoyle."

4. Carbide and Carbon building - always a fun building to gawk at and wander through the black on black lobby (now the Hard Rock Hotel).

5. Baja Fresh - I know it's a chain but it's pretty damn good and where else can you eat cheap and good downtown? Their fresh fish tacos are goooood. (p.s. not on the official tour)

6. Walking through the DuBuffet

7. Finally trying Garrett's cheese popcorn on a tourist tip and being impressed.

8. Being outside and walking around on a really nice day

9. Finally deciding to stop messing around with the stupid mp3 player and just be happy to be alive.

10. Being Alive.

*except perhaps the Chicago Theater just because of the sign. I'd say the Ford Theater too but it's best exteriors features are obscured by obnoxious Wicked signage.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Kashmere High School Band

Thanks to Erin for turning me on to this All Things Considered story written by Austin writer David Brown. I have to admit I was not aware of this Houston phenomenon. If anybody has more info, bring it on.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Hey Chicago, Tres Chicas at Schubas Tonight.

North Carolina's Tres Chicas plays Schubas tonight. These gals sound good. I know Caitlyn Cary from her days scooping ice cream at Dolce Fredo in Houston but you'd likely know her from her hard fiddlin' with Whiskeytown.

If you go bring Caitlyn a bottle of Dewar's for me and a big hug. I'll pay you back.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

where are dem sweeneys?


Hey Chicago! Brazilian Political Physical Therapy Film and Workshop

I don't know exactly what that means either but a good friend is touring the country promoting his film. I've seen the trailer and it looks interesting. If you go, say hello to Nick for me and give him a big squeeze

7/18 Acme Art Works, 1741 N Western Avenue, Chicago, IL 60647,
773.278.7677, 7pm film, 8pm workshop

documentary: Soma: An Anarchist Therapy (DVD shot in Brazil subtitles
in English)
With difficulty walking and half-blinded from torture by the Brazilian
military dictatorship, 79 year old Roberto Freire continues to develop
somatherapy, completing his life's work. Incorporating the ideas of
Wilhelm Reich, the politics of anarchism, and the culture of the
martial art / dance capoeira angola, Soma is used by therapists
organized in anarchist collectives to fight the psychological effects
of authoritarianism.
more info:

Nazis Vs. Zapatistas: The Struggle Against Co-optation
Informed by Zapatista principles, the workshop develops a skill set
for identifying, challenging and defeating the authoritarian tool of
co-optation. Wanting to study fascist and pre-fascist organizing
directly, Nick has been attending conferences, meetings, presentations
and fund-raisers of the far right, including: The Ku Klux Klan, Focus
on the Family / Lovewonout, Republican Party of Texas, Lyndon
LaRouche, The Minutemen, and Tom DeLay. The workshop examines
philosophies, structures and psychology, comparing authoritarian
models to those that are consensual, communitarian or autonomous.
more info:


Friday, July 07, 2006

Sweeney Tracker

The Sweeneys are now in Central Oregon at Rosie's Mountain Coffee House featuring a deli & pastries and FREE INTERNET ACCESS powered by WVI.

New Track du Jour

Artist: Debbie
Track: Crazy
Location: Log Cabin (Joseph, Or)
Date: 07-04-2006
Comment: Tricia and I are on a trip across the Pacific Northwest. We stopped at Wallowa Lake outside Joseph, OR so we could see fireworks that night. Instead we visited with new friends Debbie, Arnitra and Debbie's dog honey. We sang some songs, drank some wine, and talked about all kinds of stuff.

track du jour

Monday, June 26, 2006

North by Northwest

Keep up with the Sweeneys this summer on a photo excursion from the middle to the Northwest and back again.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Meeting Notes

Here are notes I jotted down over the four years and four months I worked at Sears. I left them in B6-256B in case they're helpful to followers.