Saturday, October 25, 2008

Wassup, Indeed.

In a culture of premature, forced nostalgia, I'm actually happy to see these guys again:

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

So Much For Killing That "Elitist" Tag...

Sometimes I'm embarrassed to be liberal. The point is to articulately promote a free exchange of ideas, people. We can't have it both ways. The "Bush = Hitler" boneheads claim another victory for the barely informed.

Chicago Radio Spotlight (9/20/08)

Chicago radio legend Rick Kaempfer was kind enough to profile me HERE

Monday, October 20, 2008

"He Said, 'Trane Did It'. That Was All I Needed To Hear"

In the mid-80's, the late, great, Warren Zevon was asked to record a jazz song called, "You Don't Know What Love Is", for a film soundtrack. Being a rock and roll songwriter of the grittiest stripe, he declined. But he also respected his predecessors. Once he was told that no less than John Coltrane had covered the song, he reconsidered on the spot. I've found myself in a similar situation. I'm a die-hard rock and roll guy who needed little convincing to accept a new job. I'm taking time off from being in the spotlight and joining the sales team at 95.5 WNUA. It's Chicago's smooth jazz station and I've been a closet fan for a long time. I was gone from Chicago for eleven years, on the air in other cities. Any time I came home, I would get in a cab and ask the driver to put on WNUA. I never got home as much as I wanted to and it always embodied the sound of the city to me. Every other town has a rock station, a "Kiss" station, country, NPR, whatever. You can't hear WNUA anywhere else, nor a reasonable facsimile that comes close. It will definitely be a change of pace (I've gone 37 years never having an office job), but I'm looking forward to trying something new. Sales is all personality, and I think I've established in 15 years of performing that I'm not lacking in that area. We shall see.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Hallow, Is Anyone Home?

It's Halloween time again, and every year the Jesus fans try to sink their humorless fangs into the neck of our oldest childhood tradition. These days, a number of school boards across the country have completely foregone Halloween activities, in deference to shaky parents worried that the day glorifies the Devil, paganism, and witchcraft. Not sure why that's a problem.

Let's examine. The Devil? Really? I'm pretty sure the last time Halloween was used to glorify the Devil was 1645. Right around the time we were drilling holes in someone's head to let the "bad humours" escape. So, onto witches. If you do your homework, you notice that pagans and witches worship the Earth, and promote a balance in nature. OOOH. Scary. Of course, judging from most conservatives' views on the environment, I'm pretty sure concern for nature makes you a terrorist. Or a faggot. I always forget which.

The whole flap over Halloween illustrates that one of the biggest flaws of organized religion is no sense of irony- namely, that all Hallow's Eve began as a Christian holiday. How did kids dressed as cartoon characters become the dominion of Satan? Forget killing cats in your black mascara and Cradle Of Filth t-shirts, goth posers. We all know nothing summons the prince of darkness faster than tiny humans decked out as Tinkerbell and Spider-Man. Does anyone really believe that 'Ol Scratch is kicking back in hell the other 364 days of the year, like an infernal Santa, waiting for the one night he can unleash his unholy wrath by making sure my yard is toilet papered? Terror, thy name is Charmin!

Some parents believe that Halloween puts kids in harm's way. I guess, even in a recession, job-seekers are still taking time to put safety pins and razor blades into apples. (By the way, a pot of dubloons to the first person who can name ONE person to ever put a pin in a piece of candy. Ever.) The most dangerous thing I ever got in my bag was Bit-O-Honey. Those things will yank out half your jaw.

You know what scares me at Halloween? Anyone in high school who still goes trick-or-treating. I stopped going door-to-door when I was 13. You know why? Because it's for kids, jackass. There's something inherently uncool about stalking the night wearing your brother's bongwater-stained bedsheet with two eyeholes cut out of it. Here's the rule: If you have a driver's license, you're out of the trick-or-treating game. Take that Hot Topic paycheck, haul your ass to Target, and buy a bag of Snickers. Leave Halloween to the kids. (I mean the actual ones, not the parents who take all this "devil" stuff so literally.) It's time for parents to take the pitchfork out of their asses and let their little maniacs have some fun.

Religulous, Heal Thyself

I've always been a fan of Bill Maher. When I started doing standup in the early 90's, we crossed paths at the old Chicago Improv. (By "crossed paths", I mean he was the headliner and I accosted him at the bar, hoping to get advice on how to hone my comedy skills.) In 2001, I beat out 400 other people for the "citizen panelist" spot on Politically Incorrect, by taking the position that white people appropriating black hip-hop culture was detrimental to both groups. That round-table with Maher in Pittsburgh would be the closest I got to beaming across America, as he got shit-canned by ABC for his 9/11 remarks shortly thereafter. To this day, I blame Al-Qaida for postponing my television career.

I just saw Religulous, his tongue-in-cheek documentary about how crazy he thinks religion is. He's a longtime defender of atheism and he harbors no illusions about presenting a fair and balanced panorama of the subject, so the editing is looser than Jamie-Lynn Spears. As a result, most of his interview subjects are crying foul over the final product, but that's showbiz. Despite his claim that he merely approaches religion with intellectual curiosity, Maher's incessant mockery of religious certitude seems to betray that. Hey, I'm as lapsed a Catholic as they come, but I'm still on the fence. I share his wonder and awe that billions of otherwise rational, intelligent human beings still put stock in "the talking snake", but isn't atheism unjustified certitude of the opposite kind? That makes it just another religion, and its adherents the very kinds of fundamentalists that the film dismisses. Surely, that irony is part of the comedy gambit. Watching him try to get the Jesus/Xenu/Muhammed/etc-freaks to simply say, "I don't know" is an amusing effort in futility.

Still, a great movie. Worth your inflated city amusement tax.

FCC Monkey Do - 7/24/08 (reprint)

The FCC got bitch-slapped this week by an appeals court who threw out the $500,000 fine against CBS for the half-second we saw Janet Jackson's boobie in the 2004 Super Bowl, the event that launched a thousand broadcast indecency complaints. The court said that the FCC is just making up rules as they go along, while the government said they were sad for America's families. I am too, but for a different reason. See, the FCC is all about the free market when it comes to a couple of media companies buying the other 200, but they forget all about the free market when it comes to you and I- tax-paying adults making personal decisions as to how we choose to be entertained. The FCC said that America was offended by Janet Jackson's mocha jug playing peek-a-boo; I was offended that they cut away so fast. Everybody uses "what about the children?" as a reason for censoring things they don't like, oblivious to the fact that kids don't vote- adults do. It's ironic that a group so committed to stripping the airwaves of anything sexual gets such a huge boner from using radio and TV stations like ATMs.

In the years since Miss Jackson's mammary mishap, the FCC reached the illogical conclusion that the greatest threat to our national security was disc jockeys playing fart noises, and proceeded to treat the first amendment like a hacky-sack at a Jack Johnson show. Meanwhile, Oprah's doing segments on how to spice up your love life by having sex in "the bad place" (and I don't mean Cleveland). But she's a billionaire and you're not. See, we all know this isn't about morality- it's about money. Rush Limbaugh just signed a $300 million deal and his comments on race make Don Imus look like Nelson Mandela. Working for the FCC has to blow, so you can see why they're trying to put their fist in everyone's fun pie.

Speaking of which, Janet Jackson has a new CD out. With a First Amendment victory under our belts, maybe we could all pitch in and convince her to whip the other one out this year.

O Cover, Where Art Thou?

One of the biggest strengths any city has is its art- specifically, its local music scene- and Chicago music fans need to start putting their money where their mouths are. I just read an article that numerous clubs in the Chicago area have stopped booking live bands. The reason being that patrons balked at the five dollars being charged at the door. Seems a lot of bars had been charging no cover but, economic times being what they are, were now asking patrons to fork over a Lincoln. The result was that "fans" of local music cried foul, convinced that this meager contribution to an artist's time and talent was the straw not only breaking the proverbial camel's back, but also its wallet as well. Evidently, the same people willing to pay 75 dollars to watch the Dave Matthews Band do twenty versions of the same song were a bit miffed at being asked to help fund local music. Clearly this was undermining their usual position of standing motionless, swigging rotgut PBRs. Granted, with gas close to five bucks a pop and a gallon of milk not far behind, you can't begrudge people for going all Monty Burns with their wallets but I reject the notion that the burden of proof is solely on those of us presenting the music.

My point to the fans is- it's easy to "support" something when you don't actually have to do anything about it. It's cheap and you can maintain the illusion of street cred, whatever the hell that is. But bands make their mark (and their meager earnings) on the strength of their live shows, and when you're playing to four people, that's tough to do. Posting to a band's Facebook page doesn't cut it, either. You may actually have to get your ass up, grab a friend, walk down the street, and pay five bucks (still a bargain) to see a band. Anyone grousing about the state of local music need only look in their nearest mirror to find the culprit. The music business has never been more cutthroat than it is now, so it falls to us to support local bands from a wide variety of styles. Now, the fact that some of the biggest draws in this town are cover bands speaks nauseating volumes, and- as the law of averages dictates- plenty of local bands suck. Sometimes you're underground for a reason. Nevertheless, my suggestion is to spend a few bucks to see some original music cranked out nightly by Chicagoans. You may make some band's night- and possibly, their future.

And for those of you IN a band, you may want to book some strip club gigs. No one's tight-fisted with their money there.

Red Bullshit - 5/29/08 (reprint)

Energy drinks are a multi-million dollar market, and despite the fact that they're clearly the product of a loving and benevolent god, they're often linked to things like abnormal heart rhythms and nausea. Well, a new study this week says that energy drinks could also be considered a "gateway" substance, and excessive consumption is a predictor of risky behavior among teens. As you might expect, parents are racked with confusion because teenagers are usually so buttoned-up otherwise! This study specifically concluded that energy drinks can lead to violence, substance abuse, and unprotected sex. If I remember anything from biology (other than I wanted to nail Mrs. Basile), it's that hormones are the original energy drink. Before Red Bull, American teenagers weren't exactly holed up in their rooms studying the New Testament, fighting the constant demon tingling in their loins. Risky behavior is part and parcel of being a teenager. Hell, I'm 36 and I drink enough tequila and Red Bull on a regular basis to make a bobcat's heart explode. Back in the day, we only had Zima and Mountain Dew. Kids were sugar crashing left and right; my algebra class looked like the last scene of Reservoir Dogs and all it led to was more Zima and Mountain Dew.

Now energy drinks are aiding and abetting risky behaviors? Probably not. Ever heard the phrase, "You know, I never thought of going bareback in a Pride Parade port-a-john until I downed a half a case of Monster!" Probably not. Has anyone ever heard of an honor student who was found lying naked and bloody on a pile of empty Full Throttle cans? Probably not. "Now that I'm all full of Rockstar, I'm gonna get in my car. And I'm NOT gonna wear my seatbelt. AND I'm gonna go through the iPass Lane. And I don't even HAVE iPass!" No, it's essentially another ploy to make things tougher for teenagers. If the worst thing your kid is doing is popping a couple of cans of Red Bull before history class, you're the luckiest parent in the world. So when your kid gets home from school today, give them a big hug. Because you never know when their organs will explode.

Crotchless Mom Jeans - 5/1/08 (reprint)

Rumor has it Christina Aguilera is concerned that being a new mom may diminish her sex appeal as a pop star. Yeah…and? This isn't exactly new information. That's the purchase you make when you trade superstardom for a family- the fans don't care so much about getting in your pants anymore when those pants have an elastic waistband. Besides, you don't really want to be competing with these hood rats on the radio anymore, do you? Let's cast our minds back to the old Christina: a few years ago, she had hair extensions that made Beyonce look like Joan Jett; she was all into weird piercings, so every magazine interview included a roll call of the latest LA scumbag to attack her crotch with a hole punch; every CD put out was "da bomb", and she talked about how she didn't date white guys because her men had to have "the flava". Except that she's from Pittsburgh, the whitest city in the Northern Hemisphere, where the only "flavas" are the 31 that Baskin-Robbins serve up. Hey, XTina- remember that Rolling Stone cover shot where you were naked, except for the guitar covering you up? You had about as much business holding a guitar as I do holding a football- if you don't know how to use it, put it down.

I know sex sells in pop music and you feel less empowered by it, now that you have a kid- but going back to being a fake skank isn't the path to the top of the charts. Especially when a world full of faux lesbians and photo-op nip slips really needs more real skanks. You should embrace motherhood, cuz you're wearing it pretty well. Hole up in your mansion with that hedgehog-lookin', "how the hell did her get HER?" husband of yours, and play with your baby. Try to reclaim the glory days, and you'll find yourself flashing your va-jay out of car windows, blinding passersby with the aforementioned metal collection. Frankly, I'd rather hear you sing.

Proposition 9 From Outer Space - 4/24/08 (reprint)

For a culture that seems to prize fame above all else, we sure get snippy when celebrities talk politics. The fans turn a deaf ear, whining that entertainers should keep their political opinions to themselves. I've never understood this. Just because people know your face from a CD cover or movie poster, doesn't mean you have any fewer rights to speak your mind. Movie stars pay taxes, too (Well, unless you're Wesley Snipes. Guess you can't always bet on black...) Besides, I would think civilians and celebrities would make natural allies in the political arena, since large portions of both groups are so painfully ill-informed. In 2004, George Bush got his second term because voters said they'd rather have a beer with him than John Kerry- how's that beer tasting, by the way? I hope that people are genuine when they say that this election will be a turning point. You know we're fed up with the status quo, when we're willing to support someone clearly smarter than we are.

People say politics is private. Really? I didn't see anyone screaming for Britney Spears' privacy when her hoo-hah said hello from the backseat of a towncar. Our love/hate relationship with celebrities and politics seems contingent on whether or not we can feel smarter than them. When Heidi & Spencer from The Hills weigh in on who they're voting for, no one bats an eye- because they're morons. But when politically well-informed A-listers like Tom Hanks or Ben Affleck speak on the subject, everyone gets their flag undies in a twist. It's said that "politics is showbiz for ugly people", and we've been treating our politicians like celebrities. As long as we can feel higher on the intellectual food chain, they're just the candidate for us.

This time, when it comes to picking a President, pick the person who makes you feel just a little bit dumb. We'll always have Paris Hilton to keep us in the Einstein club.

Lame Against The Machine - 3/26/08 (reprint)

We should offer congratulations to a group calling themselves "Catholic Schoolgirls Against The War" for showing future activists how NOT to stage a protest. You decided that the best way to make your displeasure with the war known was to scream trite political slogans and squirt fake blood on parishoners at Holy Name Cathedral on Easter Sunday! Now, you won’t find a Catholic more lapsed than I am - when I went to Easter Mass with my parents this past Sunday, I was worried that the holy water would start boiling when I put my finger in it. But even I realize that a church is the last place you’re gonna find a sympathetic ear for some half-assed performance art piece, masquerading as a political demonstration. Because let’s be real- that’s all it was. A group of students who make the cast of Napoleon Dynamite look like Calvin Klein models, doing far more harm than good to the image of anti-war protestors. Here’s a little clue for you brainiacs: when the majority of the country is against the war, you’re no longer an aggrieved minority just trying to get your voices heard- you’re a bunch of bored dicks with too much time on your hands. What’s the matter- The Arcade Fire not on tour right now? Taking a break from World of Warcraft?

See, the true spirit of protest is to engage people in conversation and force some debate in the hope of affecting real change. "Catholic School Girls Against The War"? Even your name evokes images of a bad improv troupe. I’m surprised you didn’t ask the congregation for suggestions. In fact, I’m more pissed that you’ve stained my memories of catholic school girls. Those little ladies and their knee-high socks have kept my spank bank running strong since the fifth grade. God bless the good work they're doing.

I hope the diocese drops the charges because you’re not worth their time or resources. You didn’t really do anything more than freak some old rich people out. But don’t cast yourself as brave martyrs to the cause, who were silenced by The Man. You want to impress me, go pull that shit in a mosque. Until then, leave the protesting to people with an actual message. Or at least to people who are familiar with shampoo.

They Both Had A Hell Of An Hourly Rate - 3/13/08 (reprint)

Eliot Spitzer is having a tough week. It’s gotta be a real kick in the balls to go from being one of the golden boys in modern politics to getting nailed by the very laws you use to prosecute other people. From first to worst in a DAY. You said you hoped to be the first Jewish president, now you’ll be lucky to stay out of jail. On the one hand, I commend you on your ingenuity, but there’s gotta be an easier way to get out of being married. Hookers from a website? How did you see that going unnoticed? My grandmother has email, for god’s sake. It’s not exactly witchcraft. That’s the trouble with you dudes who grow up rich- you don’t understand how things work. It doesn’t even occur to you that you’re not bulletproof.

So who are the real victims here? Your wife? Hey, she should be thanking her lucky stars that you’re a Democrat. At least you got caught with a woman. The people of New York? Their new governor is the first black man to run the state. Cool. But he’s also legally blind. So I guess the only hooker you have to worry about him getting is one who really likes German shepherds. No, the real victim in all of this is the call girl, Ashley Dupre. She’s a budding musician who says the "music is inside her". I assume during the times that you weren’t. Which, on a side note- you get a knuckle bump from me, my man. What you severely lacked in judgment, you made up for in good taste. Unbelievably hot, this one. Usually, when you government types are caught with a hooker, she looks like my high school shop teacher in drag.

But Ashley Dupre has worldwide notoriety now. She’s the Monica Lewinsky of the MySpace generation. All she wanted was to use the gorgeous junk that God gave her to make some dough, and now all her friends know that she paid for singing lessons by letting pasty bald dudes get on top twice a week. So buck up, little camper. Things will turn around. They say it’s darkest before the dawn, especially when Dawn is charging five grand an hour.