Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Less Talk More Rock

Is it just me or is there a ton of great artists releasing new albums this year? To prove my point, here a few upcoming records that I have a feeling MPF will be talking about in the best of 2008...

Artist: Gary Louris
Album: Vagabonds
Release Date: February 19, 2008

Artist: Kathleen Edwards
Album: Asking for Flowers
Release Date: March 4, 2008

Artist: R.E.M.
Album: Accelerate
Release Date: April 1, 2008

Artist: Old 97's
Album: TBD
Release Date: late spring/early summer

Artist: Scott Miller and the Commonwealth
Album: TBD
Release Date: Hopefully this year... Scott is apparently writing/recording the album now

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

College Rock Band From Georgia Schedules Chicago Show

News item: R.E.M., a shimmery alt-rock quartet trio from Athens, Geo., has announced a summer tour that includes a stop in fair Chicago. The band recently released Reckoning, the followup to their well-received major label debut Murmur.

For TM, here is video of the band, sans drummer Bill Berry, playing with Muppets. At least Stipe and Mills look like they're trying. Peter Buck looks perpetually annoyed, like MPF does whenever a child or a dog approaches: "Get the hell away from me, leave me alone, I'm just trying to play this damn banjo without your interference." * And the Kate Pierson muppet looks like she's alternately having an epileptic seizure or trying to toss off her bouffant wig.

PS: Thanks to Chicagoist for pointing this out by originally posting the video.

PPS: Wimmer, a U2 fan, says the new album is great. So that's high praise.

* MPF generally doesn't say this last part to children and dogs. I did notice on second viewing that Buck does smile occasionally, but I still don't think he means it.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Product Review: Miller Chill

One of the world's best breweries, Miller Brewing Co. in Wisconsin, recently introduced a new beer called Miller Chill. Served in a green bottle, it is marketed as "inspired by a Mexican recipe" (straight from the label) and "brewed with a hint of lime and a pinch of salt to provide a truly refreshing beer experience." (straight from the website linked above)

So they're trying to make a margarita beer. And why not? Beer itself hasn't changed in about 700 years, and Miller is in constant competition with Anheuser Busch (I don't care about the spelling or hyphenation, those damn St. Louis bastards) to come up with the next great product that will increase market share by a sliver.

Enough about the background. I've been curious about this new beer that might taste like tequila, but never curious enough to buy. I figured it'd be something best purchased at a bar, so that if you hate it, you're not stuck with a five-pack sitting in your fridge.

I ignored that gut instinct yesterday, when we were at the Southport Jewel. Since TM was making a fantastic Mexican dish called Cheesy Pedro, I decided to try the Chill.

It took me until the first sip to realize I didn't like it. It took until the second sip to realize why.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, I present my 1000-word review of Miller Chill:

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Basketball Team Supplants Zach Johnson as Drake’s Leading Sports Story

2007 Masters Champ: “What the Hell?!?”

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- Zach Johnson thought he had a good thing going.

The Drake University graduate worked his way up through golf’s minor leagues to earn a spot on the PGA Tour. And in 2007 he acquired one of sport’s classic emblems of success: the green jacket for winning the Masters Tournament.

But even better, he was guaranteed years of adulation from his athletics-poor alma mater.

That’s because Johnson went to Drake, a school mostly known for hosting a track and field meet and being mistaken for Duke University. With a reputation like that, Johnson figured he would be the toast of the school for years to come.

"This should get me some love from my college, right, Phil?"
"Well, yeah, what else do they have there besides Coach K?"

But that was before the amazing resurgence of the men’s basketball team, which has replaced the golfer as Drake’s pre-eminent example of athletics success to the nation.

“What the hell, man?” Johnson, 31, said recently from a Tour stop in Calilfornia. “Drake’s never been known for anything in sports. They had that one team make the Final Four back in the 60’s. That was it! There was that chick who didn’t touch home plate in the Olympics, but they went on to win the gold medal, so it didn’t really matter.

“Then I come along, win the Masters. Jim Nantz says ‘Drake University’ about 100 times…my mom taped it and has watched it about that many times, so I know.

“It’s not like we have football, or anything. I figured I would be THE Drake story. This isn’t Texas or UCLA or whatever, where a new sports hero comes along every few months. Or so I thought!”

The basketball team plodded to decades of mediocrity under the likes of Rudy Washington, Kurt Kanaskie and Dr. Tom Davis, the winningest coach in University of Iowa history before an unceremonious firing by then-AD Bob Bowlsby. But something must have been happening at the Knapp Center, because in the first year under Dr. Tom’s son and handpicked successor Keno Davis, Drake has a 16-1 record, 7-0 in whichever minor conference they play in. The Bulldogs’ win over Illinois State last night puts them on the precipice of the Top 25—nationally!—for the first time since before Johnson was born.

Drake Head Coach Keno Davis: "That's right, Zach, you're Number Two around here now."

“It’s just not fair,” said Johnson, whose official PGA biography describes him as a “huge Iowa Hawkeye football and basketball fan.” * “I really thought the afterglow would last a bit longer than ten months. I’m not rooting against them … I wish them all the best, really.

“But just for the record, do you know how damn hard it is to win the Masters? And a Drake guy did it. That should be a big deal, you know, for a while.”

Drake University plays Creighton in men’s basketball on Tuesday in Omaha.

* Editor’s Note: I’m going to back Zach on this one. When you grow up 25 minutes away from a Big Ten university, in a state with no pro sports, it becomes a lifelong devotion, a part of your identity. Don’t blame the guy for not being a "huge Drake sports fan." There is no such thing.

After Attending Michigan Basketball Game, Terrelle Pryor Picks OSU

Stud Recruit: Losing to This Iowa Team is Unacceptable

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) -- This year’s top football recruit, Terrelle Pryor of Pennsylvania, made his official campus visit to the University of Michigan this weekend. He watched last night’s Iowa-Michigan basketball game as part of the recruitment effort, but the result was not what Wolverine officials wanted: on the court or in the stands.

“I’m not coming to Michigan,” the super-recruit announced. “Nope. Sorry. This weekend was supposed to convince me that Michigan is where I want to spend my college days. Well, I want to be around winners. Did you see that game? That’s not winners.”

The star quarterback attended the game with friend/mentor/role model for potential failure Charlie Batch, who knows a little something about not living up to expectations in the Mitten State. Batch pointed out that Pryor won’t be expected to play basketball, but Pryor responded that that the 2007-08 Iowa basketball team’s conference run was predicted to be “an 18-game stretch of futility never before seen in program history.”

“Seriously, man. Iowa. Iowa! They were playing at home against a school that lost to Drake. If they wanted me that bad, they could have at least won the game. Whatever. I’m going to Ohio State. They may lose in the national championship game every year, but at least they get there.”

"Do I really want to wear this shitty yellow shirt for 4 years?"

(If you haven’t heard of Terrelle Pryor, you almost certainly have heard of Jimmy Clausen, last year’s No. 1 recruit. Just think of Clausen, minus the spiky haircut and Hummer limo, plus black and speedy. Also, he’s not coming to Notre Dame, so there’s not as much reason to follow his every move.)

As hyped as he is, Pryor would be only the fourth-most hyped Pryor of the past 50 years, including comedian Richard, rookie sensation Mark and unacceptable legal intrusion restraint. And even if he turns into the Rick Mirer of this generation, he still won’t be the most disappointing Terrelle, and nowhere near the most annoying Terrelle (with or without the extra “le”).

New Michigan Coach Richard “Dick” Rodriguez was disappointed in the news. “We really expected to put our best foot forward as part of Terrelle’s campus visit,” said Rodriquez, who five months ago signed a contract to be head coach of West Virginia’s football team through the year 2013.

“I guess this kid just wasn’t ready to make a commitment.”

Monday, January 07, 2008


BEST DAY: This one is a slam dunk: Feb. 10. Got married to Tina.

WORST DAY: April 16, watching the Virginia Tech shooting unfold.

BEST/WORST DAYS: Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, moving from New York City to Chicago.

BEST NEWS STORY INVOLVING A CAT: Oscar the Cat lives in the hospice unit of a nursing home in Providence, R.I. Oscar has the uncanny ability to tell when a patient is about to die, and sits on the bed with the person until the moment of death.

Read the original essay from the New England Journal of Medicine here, and a nice article from the Boston Globe here.

BEST SONG: The one I’ll remember is “Golden State” by John Doe, with its echoing refrain of “walk away, walk away.”

BEST ALBUM: Wilco’s “Sky Blue Sky” is a meaningful, challenging record. Runners-up: Neil Young’s “Live at Massey Hall” (recorded in 1971) and Dolly Varden’s “The Panic Bell.”

BEST SHOW (THEATRE): Patty Griffin at the Beacon Theatre (April 19).

Bonus video: Patty Griffin playing "No Bad News" off the new record.

BEST SHOW (OTHER): The Hold Steady at the Prospect Park Bandshell (Aug. 6).

BEST ARTIST: Patty Griffin amazed me, with a warm and career-advancing record (“Children Running Through”), two magical shows (the Beacon and Sept. 20 at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park) and a jukebox musical of her songs (“10 Million Miles,” Atlantic Theater Co.).

It was Patty's year.

BEST AD: Miller High Life’s truck driver who enforces the High Life.

"Eleven-fifty for a hamburger? Y'all must be crazy." Watch him in action here.

WORST AD: (tie) I don’t hate kids, but kids were responsible for these awful ads: the “it’s the meers” girl and the “Verizon Fios tech” boy.

SADDEST ADVERTISING DEVELOPMENT: Dunkin’ Donuts inexplicably used two malevolent forces in their ads this year: Rachael Ray and the New York Yankees.

BEST INSURANCE SPOKESTHING WORTHY OF ITS OWN ABC SITCOM: The Aflac duck. Runner up: the scruffy Allstate football fans.

Sorry ABC, this was a horrible idea.

BEST CAREER MOVE: Leaving ABC News in New York for Tribune Interactive in Chicago.

BEST MOVIE: “Knocked Up”

BEST MUSICAL: “Spring Awakening” (Feb. 14 at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre)

BEST OPENING ACT: Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles (July 28, for Kelly Willis)

BEST RADIO STATION: WFUV-FM: it’s XRT without commercials.

BEST VENUE: Beacon Theatre, New York.

BEST DINING EXPERIENCE: Boma, an African restaurant at Walt Disney World (March 24).

PHRASE THAT EVERYONE MUST STOP USING NOW: “Blank is the new blank.” Black is still black, and everything else is still whatever it was before. (I'm not the only who noticed this:

BEST ND GAME: Only saw one, so by default it was the Air Force game (Nov. 10).

BEST BASEBALL GAME: In a matchup of conflicting rooting interests, the Cubs and Mets were tied in the ninth inning, when a Jose Reyes single and THREE STRAIGHT WALKS gave the home team a 5-4 victory (May 14 at Shea Stadium).


BEST BUMPER STICKER SENTIMENT: “I never thought I’d miss Nixon.” Seen on a T-shirt of a older woman outside the Fareway (Upper West Side, Manhattan).

BEST QUOTE: "We always remember where we came from and that's made us earnest and honest. So many people move here (New York City) from Ohio or Iowa and immediately become Yankee fans, and that just sucks." –Tad Kubler, guitarist for the Hold Steady, Aug. 6 in amNY.

An excuse to run another Hold Steady picture. Kubler is on the far left.

BEST TV SHOW: “Grey’s Anatomy” has gotten whinier and less compelling, but it’s still better than 99% of the crap on TV.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT (SPORTS): Notre Dame football. Runners–up: the Mets collapse in the regular season, the Bears in the regular season, the Cubs in the postseason.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT (MUSIC): Son Volt live. The new lineup was flat, out of sync, and even less inspiring than regular Volt. Let’s hope Jay Farrar rediscovers the joy soon.

2007 was a year of change: new job, new apartment, new marital status, and old/new city. Best wishes and God Bless for a happy, healthy 2008!