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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Really Cool Artist

A person I work with introduced me to Henry Darger a few weeks ago. He was an artist that lived in Chicago from about 1890 till the mid 1970s. He is a great example of the "Outsider Art" genre. He also wrote a book entitled: The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What Is Known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinnian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion, which is over 15,000 pages long. That's right 15,000 pages!!!

Here's a link to some of his paintings, check them out he is a really interesting guy.

I also wonder if you can purchase his book. I can't find it on at all.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

My Favorite Albums of 2011

With 2011 coming to an end and 2012 just around the corner, it is time for me to release my Top 10 Favorite albums list of 2011. Word of warning, this is not a best of list, because it is all-subjective in the end. Not only that, to actually determine whether an album is “truly a best of” I feel that you must allow sometime to pass, maybe a year or two, to properly determine the quality of the work. But that is another topic for another blog. Let us begin.

10. Los Campesinos! – Hello Sadness. If you are looking for a high octane, fast paced album, check out Hello Sadness. Los Campesinos! always deliver albums that sty true to the spirit of punk rock.

9. Tom Waits- Bad As Me. This is Tom Waits’ first album of new material in almost a decade. And it does not disappoint, it is a pretty standard Waits album. It just showcases how great of a songwriter Waits is. I highly recommend the first six songs.

8. Nirvana- Nevermind: The 20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition. No it is not a new album, and I am usually not a fan of “remastered editions”, but this deluxe edition is well worth the money. In addition to the stand-alone album, you get a disc and a half of live tracks, b-sides, demos, and rarities. For me the real highlight is disc 2, which has an absolutely amazing live version of Something in the Way recorded at the BBC.

7. Moby- Destroyed. Over the past few years, I have really become a fan of Moby’s work. I find the music quite complex, but yet simplistic at the same time. Destroyed is no exception. It is a great album to listen to on headphones, in fact that is my preferred way of listening to it. It allows you to hear all of the sounds on the album.

6. The Weeknd- House of Balloons. Released as a free mix cd in the early part of the year, this was the first album I had heard from The Weeknd. And it blew me away. This album highlights the dark side of life such as sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll. And they pair these topics up with some of the dopest beats I have ever heard.

5. The Black Keys- El Camino. The Black Keys continue to blow me away. This is their second album in about 18 months. And it is straight up blues-rock. Heavy guitars and pounding drums, it will get your feet tapping within seconds of hitting the play button.

4. Middle Brother- Middle Brother. Just like El Camino, this album is a guitar heavy album. Pure southern rock/alt country sounds hit the stereo speakers on every track. It really reminds me of the Sun Records sound from the 1950s. Blue Eyes might be my song of the year.

3. Frank Turner- England Keep My Bones. HOLY CRAP!!! Is this a great album. Turner covers a wide range of topics on this album, from friendship to religion, and the power of rock n’ roll. And though I do not agree with everything Turner says on this album, I have nothing but respect for him as an artist. This is a brave album, and will be like a fine wine. As it ages, it will only get better.

2. NewVillager- NewVillager. Boy this is a cool sounding album. I mean it really sounds cool. Produced by a group of artists, the visuals play just as an important role in the music, as the music itself. I highly recommend watching as many of their videos as you possible can.

1. William Elliott Whitmore- Field Songs. I love this album. 9 songs that capture the feeling and struggle of the middle class/ working poor of the United States. The album is breath taking. It is poetic, yet simplistic. A celebration of nature and the human spirit. Whitmore continues to grow and develop as an artist. The way he is developing, I see him becoming the voice of a generation, much like Johnny Cash or Tom Waits. If there is one album you were going to buy this year, you should buy this one.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Legend of Peter's Eve

It all began in the fall of 1993. I was in Mrs. Steinmetz’s 4th grade class. It was there that I learned insects were to be called insects not bugs, that my hands could create a Paper Mache Baltimore Oriole, no matter how hard I tried to sabotage my own creation, and finally that needle pointing was a lot more difficult then it looked. But all of this paled in comparison to the truly important event. My tenth birthday, a milestone of epic proportions. No longer a single digiter, I was going to enter double digits in age.

Legend had it that you were never really the same after you made the plunge. Food didn’t taste the same, you couldn’t watch cartoons anymore, you were expected to act like an adult? But it wasn’t all that bad. Since it was such a big milestone, it meant that you got more presents, better presents. That is why every child in the history of childom took the plunge. And I was no different.

As the calendar changed from November to December, my excitement level grew by leaps and bounds everyday. Each new day brought me a day closer to my destiny. The cake, the attention, and most importantly the presents. It was beginning to be too much for my young mind to handle. The pressure was beginning to get the best of me.

Then it came, December 15th. The day before my birthday. Now as any person can testify too, the day before something you have been really looking forward to, whether it is a family vacation, a break from school, or your birthday, is the LONGEST DAY OF YOUR LIFE! But for a kid, it is even worse. It felt like two whole days put together just to spite me. Was the universe playing some cruel joke on me?

The thought of this brought great fear into my young and impressionable mind. Because this was the longest day in recorded history, would my family and friends somehow forget that tomorrow was my birthday? Yes, yes they would. Panic began to come over me. I could not allow this to happen. I had to think of a way to gently and politely remind everyone that tomorrow was not just any ordinary day. It was a special day, it was my tenth birthday, and we were going to remember it whether they wanted to or not!

Then it happened. I do not remember who I said it too first, or the time of day, but at some point, I blurted it out. TODAY IS PETER’S EVE, I cried. There were blank stares all around. I needed to reason with them. I had to justify my inane rambling. If Christmas could have an eve, if New Year’s could have an eve, why couldn’t I have an eve too? Peter’s Eve, boy did it sound good, it just rolled off the tongue. I was onto something. So for the rest of the day, anyone I met, I had to inform him or her that it was Peter’s Eve.

Much to my surprise it began to catch on. People began wishing me a Happy Peter’s Eve. Friends, teachers, and finally my parents are bought into it. It worked; I had successful created a new Holiday to remind everyone of my birthday. And the rest as they say is history. To this day, I receive messages from people wishing me a Happy Peter’s Eve. So this December 15th, remember to wish you and yours a very Happy Peter’s Eve.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pro-Wrestling & Me

1990 was a special year for me. It was the year I witnessed for the first time professional wrestling in all of its glory. I still remember it; a brand new wrestler by the name of The Undertaker had viciously attacked the Ultimate Warrior and placed in him a casket and locked it. WWF officials and other wrestlers worked against time to save the Ultimate Warrior from this dastardly deed. My love affair with pro-wrestling had begun.

Over time that love affair grew. I bought all of the action figures I could get my hands on, I watched WWF Superstars and WWF Challenge as if my life depended on it, and my family took me to live wrestling events. Growing up most kids were either a football, basketball, or baseball fan. I was neither. I was a pro-wrestling fan and damn proud of it. They were superheroes come to life.

Much to my mother’s dismay, I remained a wrestling fan throughout my teens and into my early twenties. One of the best parts was most of my friends were all pro-wrestling fans too! Ever time we would get together, the conversation would inevitable turn to wrestling, and we would talk about it for hours. I think I lost out on a lot of possible girlfriends because of this.

In 2006 while we were sitting around talking wrestling, an idea was discussed. We all worked at the same radio station, why not create a pro-wrestling talk show. That was the day Rumble Radio was born. Every Tuesday night from 7pm-9pm, the five of us would talk pro-wrestling on the radio in the 3rd largest market in the country. And the show was awesome. Lots of people listened, we worked well together, and we began interviewing some of our wrestling heroes. Names such as Mick Foley, Ted DiBiase, Chris Jericho, and Bret Hart all made their Rumble Radio débuts. It was “the good life”. Unfortunately for me, it was right around this time that my love affair began to sour.

I think back to this time period often, and wonder: “What caused my interest in pro-wresting to wane?” I think there are two reasons. 1) Rumble Radio itself. Yes for me, the Rumble Radio program was one of the causes for me to stop watching pro-wrestling. Our goal with Rumble Radio was to create the most professional and unique sounding pro-wrestling talk show ever. In order to accomplish this goal, we had to do a lot of show prep. Between the five hosts of Rumble Radio, each week each of us had to watch 5 hours of WWE programming (Monday Night Raw, Friday Night Smackdown, and ECW), 2 hours of TNA, 1 hour of Ring of Honors’ show, and since we covered local independent Chicago wrestling federations, attend a live Indy show each weekend, 3-4 hours. In addition we would stay current on the business/rumor side of the wrestling industry with Internet wrestling websites, and finally we would frantically try booking interviews with wrestlers for the program. On average I would guess I watched about 11-14 hours of wrestling per week. This lasted for about 3 years. You could almost say watching wrestling became my job.

Instead of watching wrestling purely for its entertainment factor, I was now a wrestling critic. The slightest mistake would ruin the show for me. If a story line did not unfold the way I thought it should, the show would be ruined for me. I would become upset over the littlest thing. The fun of the wrestling was gone. Instead of losing myself in the story line, I thought I was above the story line. You cannot have an attitude like that, and expect to be a fan for long. I had become my own worst enemy.

2) In 2008 the critically acclaimed film The Wrestler was released. The film stared Mickey Rourke as twenty years past his prime Randy “The Ram” Robinson who is hanging onto his past wrestling glories, because ultimately that is all he has. Early on in the film, Randy suffers a heart attack due to his drug abuse and other pro-wrestling injuries. Additionally he has an estranged daughter, and tries to kindle a love affair with an aging stripper played by the beautiful Marissa Tomei. Without giving the entire plot away it is safe for me to say that it is one of the best movies I have ever seen.

However the film does not showcase the wrestling industry in the most positive light. It brings all of the dangers and pitfalls of the pro-wrestling industry and shoves it right in your face. With the Benoit tragedy fresh in my mind, I found myself questioning the industry I had blindly loved since I was seven. The larger than live superheroes, who had filled my imagination as a child were now very human. In fact they were tragic figures. I found myself asking the question: “Is everyone in the industry doomed to the fate of Randy The Ram?”

Of course not, the movie is a work of fiction. But it did hit close to home. One of the benefits of hosting Rumble Radio was meeting so many wrestlers. Majority were some of the nicest individuals you could ever meet and had their heads screwed on right. But there were a few of them, who I interviewed, who had gone through some rough times, partly due to drugs, much like Randy The Ram. The Wrestler made me realize that even in my twenties, I was still naïve to certain aspects of the real world. Every industry has its own dark side, but somehow it seemed that pro-wrestling’s was a little bit darker. (Maybe it was because I idolized it so growing up.)

So because of this, I decided to take a break from watching pro-wrestling. I thought the time away would repair the relationship. So far, the jury is still out. I do not think I will completely stop watching it. I do catch it from time to time, and I do gather with friends once a year to watch the grand daddy of them all, Wrestlemania. But that childlike love of wrestling I had is gone. I am not sure if it will ever come back, but I am eternally grateful for the countless memories I have because of pro-wrestling.

There are still moments, when I watch wrestling in passing, that I remember the excitement that seven year old me had on that eventful Saturday morning. But maybe John Lennon was right when he said: “The Dream is Over”.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Rag Socks

Fall and winter have always been my two favorite seasons. The leaves changing colors, seeing your breathe in the crisp morning air, or that first snowfall. As long as I can remember I have always been a fan of the fashions that come along with these seasons. Sweaters, scarves, but most importantly rag socks. There is nothing better than putting on those comfy, warm rags socks first thing in the morning. So as the cold weather approaches, do yourself a favor, and pick up a good pair of rag socks to keep your toes warm. Little things like this can make your day a little bit better.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Music for a Raining Day

I find it fun to listen to music that fits the feel of the day. With today being a dreary day, I found myself listening to some mellow tunes. Below are some of the tunes that got me through the day.

William Elliott Whitmore: Lord Only Knows

William Elliott Whitmore: Pine Box

George Harrison: All Things Must Pass

Moby: The Broken Places

Portugal the Man: Everything You See

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Toy Commericals

Halloween has always reminded me of one of my favorite things growing up. The Real Ghostbusters. I was on YouTube the other day and I found these videos. The best part is, I still have most of these toys in my basement.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Part 3: The Best Part of 2004/2005

This reflection on my glory years has made me realize a few simple truths. 1. 2004/2005 had some pretty killer music debut. (Look at Arcade Fire and Bloc Party.) 2. The movies and television were pretty awesome as well. (Look at Sopranos and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.) But the real reason why 2004/2005 were my glory years is because it was during this time that I met my core group of friends. It's very rare to meet a group of people and know immediately that you will be friends with them for the rest of your life. But that is exactly what happened to me.

We have been through some great times, and some horrible times. But there has been one constant for all of us. Each of us knows that the other is there for them. And that is the beauty of it. No matter what happens we have one another’s back. The thing I miss the most from this time period is the fact that I got to see each of them everyday. Nowadays I am not afforded that luxury. However when we do get together, it is a rockin’ good time.

Even though it is a cliche thing to say, there is truth in it. Friendship is one of the most important things an individual needs to have in order to have a complete and happy life. Because of that simple fact cherish them every single day.

(I hope to have a picture forthcoming)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Part 2: The Movies and Television of 2004-2005

I know it has taken me awhile to write here (thank you Grad School), and for that I do apologize. But without any further interruptions, here is my second installment in my series: 2004/2005 “My Glory Years”. Originally I intended to only focus only on movies, but then I realized if I did not include television, I would be neglecting two of my favorite television shows ever, in their prime, and I could not let that stand. So let us dive right into it then.

5. Batman Begins 2005
Before Batman Begins came out, director Christopher Nolan was not a household name, but was a very well respected director. That all began to change with the release of Batman Begins. Now everyone knows that Batman Begins is a very good movie, so I will not bore you with a review of the movie. What I remember most about seeing this movie was just the pure child like excitement my best friend Kevin Kellam and I had for this movie. We followed the production of the film online, but the biggest surprise came at the end, when Lt. Gordon handed Batman the Joker card. Kevin and I looked at each other with this HOLY SHIT expression on our faces. The freak out was on.
Click Here

4. Long Way Round 2004
I will never forget how I was introduced to this wonderful documentary. I was sitting in the old Xavierite office with my friends Gina Pantone and Kevin Shannon, when our boss Rob Quicke entered the office. He told us how he just received a DVD documentary from England that was getting tremendous buzz, and asked if we wanted to watch it. Within the first few minutes we were hooked. Long Way Round tells the story of actors Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman riding their motorcycles from London to New York, and the adventures they encountered along the way. Long Way Round leaves the viewer with this sense of optimism. It is truly heartwarming. It can be difficult to find now, but it is well worth your time.

3. The Sopranos 2005
Season 5. Steve Buscemi. Need I say more?

2. The West Wing 2004-2005
I think The West Wing maybe my favorite show of all time. The ideas that are discussed, the interaction between characters, and the hope that radiates from the show is infectious. It must be mentioned though that at this time The Wing was in the middle of its weakest season, season 5. However towards the end of this time period it rebounded very nicely with the second half of season 6 and the beginning of Matt Santos for President. It is actually very eerie how some of the story lines mentioned during this period on The West Wing begin to mirror the 2008 election between President Obama and Senator John McCain. Below is one of my favorite scenes from season 6.

1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind 2004
I cannot remember a time when a movie left me as speechless like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind did when I saw it for the first time. At its heart, Eternal Sunshine is nothing more than a love story. But the brilliance of the movie is how it is told. (I wish I could tell you more, but if you have not seen the movie, I will spoil the best part by writing further. If you have seen the movie, you know what I am talking about.) In addition the movie is beautiful to look at. Each scene is rich with deep colours and textures, and the acting of Jim Carey and Kate Winslet is impeccable. If you have not seen this film, you owe it to yourself to go and see it immediately. If you have already seen it, let’s go to Montauk.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Side Tracked...Yet Again

I have been side tracked yet again from my blog project on 2004-2005 "The Golden Years". But this time there is a good reason. In my grad school class we recently watched "Waiting for Superman" a very buzzed about documentary about the American public school system and the problems it faces. Watching this documentary really got me upset about a number of issues addressed in the film. Below is my reflection paper on Waiting for Superman which I am handing in this Monday.

A Reflective Look at “Waiting for Superman”

As educators we always need to be looking for ways to improve our teaching techniques. Discussing teaching techniques with colleagues, observing other teachers in their classrooms, or reading educational journal articles can provide you with many useful suggestions and ideas for improvement. One over looked technique that most people would not think of as their first option is watching educational documentaries. Documentaries are effective ways of telling a story to your intended audience and getting them emotional invested in the films outcome. One such documentary that is incredibly effective in getting their audience emotional invested in the story’s outcome, and provides some valid points of improvement for teachers is: Waiting for Superman.

In this documentary, the filmmakers, Davis Guggenheim and Lesley Chilcott explore some of the issues the U.S. public education system is facing and ways in which we as a society can confront these problems. The film also provides a first person narrative of five children affected by the shortcomings of the U.S. public school system. In this reflection I will explore the validity of the filmmaker’s hypotheses’, and whether or not the filmmakers do an affective job of highlighting the problems facing the public school system of the United States with little biases.

The filmmakers of Waiting for Superman are trying to uncover the main problem that has caused the public school system to fail. According data provided in the film, since 1971 reading and math scores have been on a steady decline. This is despite the fact that federal spending on education has increased since 1971. Yet many inner city schools are overcrowded and lack resources. Guggenheim and Chilcott stat that poor schools reverberate back into their local communities, and this is one of the many causes of some communities beginning to fail. Communities with high poverty, and crimes rates, more than likely have failing public schools in their neighborhood. This then leads poorly educated students to have a higher chance of committing crimes and spending some sort of time in prison. However with the passage of the “No Child Left Behind” Act in the early 2000s, the school system was supposed and save our children from these failing schools. So far this has yet to be the case, leaving many schools systems still in complete disarray. This leads Guggenheim and Chilcott to conclude that there must be some other problem that is causing these schools to fail. But what is that problem?

Teacher tenure. According to Guggenheim and Chilcott teacher tenure is one of the major, if not the major cause of our failing public school system. But how can this be, is not teacher tenure not supposed to be a good thing? The film states that since teacher tenure is so easy for teachers to receive, teacher tenure allows bad teachers to remain in the classroom affecting our students learning. The filmmakers then ask a follow-up question, “What made it so easy for teachers to receive teacher tenure?” The answer is, teacher unions. Because of teacher unions, school administrators are handcuffed and not allowed to fire the bad teachers. Instead administrators are force to “trade” their “lemon” teachers to other school districts hoping that the other lemon teacher they will receive in the trade will not be as bad as they one they just shipped away.

Guggenheim and Chilcott conclude that if you really want to improve our public school system, something needs to be done about teacher tenure and teacher unions. Here are some possible solutions. Charter schools. If done properly, charter schools improve test scores in reading and math for students. However charter schools do not change the “big picture of education”. To change the big picture of education we need to find a way to weaken the teacher unions, so that it will be easier for administrators to fire failing teachers, and reward good teachers. Until we confront this problem, our school system will remain in its current state. Terrible and failing our children. Waiting for Superman ends with 2 out of the 5 children showcased getting into charter schools and thus, according to the filmmakers, have a chance of succeeding in life.

There is so much I would like to challenge about this documentary, but I have only five pages to organize my thoughts, so I will only focus on three major issues I disagree with. Waiting for Superman presents some very valid points. Teacher tenure is in need of desperate reform, and does act as a shield for bad teachers to hide behind. The film does an excellent job of showcasing this issue, which I believe the average American would agree with. However teacher tenure is not the singular problem that is destroying our public education system.

Not once did Guggenheim and Chilcott explore the adverse effect of standardized testing as the sole source of evaluation for our students and schools. Yet standardized testing is a policy that “No Child Left Behind” firmly believes in. What about those students who are excellent students, but simply do not test well? Ultimately the only thing a standardized test measures is how well you did on that particular test. Not once is the students’ ability to describe, debate, or discuss the material in a critical thinking exercise given consideration. Standardized tests are a massive problem for our schools because so much of a school’s funding is dependent on how well students do on the test. Thus many teachers simply teach to the test.

Hidden curriculum from a creative and engaging lesson plan is regularly disregard simply because it will not be on the test. How much of adult life and adult decision determined by multiple choice or true/false? Very little, in fact most of life’s major decisions require critical thinking skills, skills which cannot be evaluated on a standardized test.

Secondly Waiting for Superman does not address the high student teacher ratio in many of our inner city schools, or the high teacher turnover rate at these schools. Last spring I had the pleasure of being in class with two young ladies who were teachers in the Chicago Public School system. One of the young ladies was a teacher at a grade school in the Englewood neighborhood. Her class size was 49 students. The number of teaching assists she had, zero. So her classroom ratio of teacher to student was 1:49. Additional her classroom contained many mainstreamed students who were in need of special assistance because of their learning disabilities. Still she is on her own. What is she to do? How can one teacher maintain a quality-learning environment under such conditions? No wonder so many quality teachers only stay in the profession for about five years. They are not given any assistance. We stack the deck against these teachers and students, yet we expect them to do just as well as schools with plenty of resources and small classroom-learning environment.

Finally Guggenheim and Chilcott never explore how teachers are trained. If there are so many bad teachers out there, what is causing this? How are these individuals trained and who trains them? Unfortunately colleges and universities that train teachers are business too. They have operating costs they need to cover in order to function. If they do not meet a certain student number in the program, they then cannot cover operating budgets. I feel that because of this, many individuals are accepted into teaching programs that have no business being in front of a classroom. Also it seems like once a individual graduates with a diploma to be a teacher, that is it they receive no more training, unless they go for a master’s degree. Why can’t there be more training resources made available to teachers? The better trained a teacher is, the better learning environment.

Overall Waiting for Superman highlights some very valid points. However I feel that they are very biased against teachers, with their views on teacher tenure and teacher unions. They assume that most teachers are bad teachers; charter schools are the solution, and that No Child Left Behind is the best education bill adapted because it had bi-partisan support. Which is fine, they are entitled to their opinion, I just happen to feel that they are wrong!

The use of standardized testing, as the sole source of student and school evaluation is wrong. When you enter adulthood, you are faced with many challenges, which requires an individual to use critical thinking skills. Standardized tests do not foster this development. One final point, all throughout the film, the parents were saying that the reason why they want their children to receive a quality education is so that they can get a good job when they grow up. Which is a wonderful goal, but why can’t we encourage our students to do well in school so that they become a virtuous individual? Education can make a better person. They can then use the knowledge they learned to better the world around them. I know this is a very idealized view of what education can accomplish, but if we can have idealized dreams in education, where can we?

Currently our school system is at a crossroads. At some points our society needs to stop playing Russian roulette with the future of our country, and face the difficult challenges that lay ahead if we are to repair our public school system.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Side Tracked

I know I promised that my next few blogs would be focusing on the years of 2004-2005, but I found this video, and I just have to share it. It's William Elliott Whitmore live. It's off of his new album Field Songs, and I absolutely love this song. What a great way to open an album.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Part 1: The Music of 2004/2005

The years of 2004/2005 were a period of musical maturation for me. It was during this period that I transitioned from being a metal head to a fan of indie rock. That is not to say that I still don’t enjoy the musical headbanging of Iron Maiden, System of a Down, or Primus. But below is a listing of 5 albums that came out during this two-year period that had a tremendous impact on my life, and provided me with a soundtrack for the ages.

5. The Garden State Soundtrack (2004): This album is indie rock 101. If you want to know what indie rock is all about, this is the first album you buy. With the variety of artists and the impeccable song selection, the Garden State soundtrack showcases some of the best indie rock artists out there with some of their best songs. This album introduced me to The Shins, Iron & Wine, and reminded me just how amazing Simon and Garfunkel are. If that was not enough, it has one of the best songs of the decade, Frou Frou’s Let Go.

4. System of a Down Memorize/Hypnotize (2005): See I have not totally forsaken my metal roots! This double album release in 2005 kicks some serious butt. One problem I did have with this album was how it was released. In 2005 Memorize was released in the first part of the year and Hypnotize was released at the end of the year. So when you bought Memorize you were listening to an incomplete album, which was very awkward. But now you can listen to them as they were meant to be, back to back. Once again, System of a Down provides you with thought provocating lyrics and their own unique musical style. No other band in the world sounds like System of a Down.

3. Bloc Party Silent Alarm (2005): Listening to this album for the first time, I was struck by how cool Bloc Party sounds. They just have the “it” factor. With drummer Matt Trong’s infectious drumming and singer Kele Okerke distinct singing style, Silent Alarm still sounds fresh. Plus it has one of the best opening track songs I have ever heard in my life with “Like Eating Glass”. Currently Bloc Party is on hiatus, but here’s hoping that this ends soon.

2. Paul McCartney Chaos and Creation in the Backyard (2005): It’s my list so of course The Beatles have to be somewhere on the list. Not including his work with the Beatles, Chaos and Creation in the Backyard is one of the best things Paul McCartney has ever done. It is in my top 3 solo McCartney albums ever produced. (Right next to Ram and Flaming Pie) The songs on this album showcase McCartney’s versatile musical style, and showed the listening public, that even in his mid-60s McCartney can still put out that one great album.

1. The Arcade Fire Funeral (2004): Next to the Beatles and Nirvana, I consider the Arcade Fire one of the greatest bands ever to pick up musical instruments. This was the album that got me out of metal music. One of the great aspects to Funeral is that you can either listen to a single song, or the entire album and get something out of it. I do recommend listening to the entire album for the best possible music experience. There is not a bad track on this album. The Arcade Fire approach their subject matter on this album with such a delicacy that many bands have copied, but few have even come close to what they accomplished on this album. Funeral is a masterpiece. There is not a bad song on the album and this is a must own for any serious music fan!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Peter Kreten: "The Golden Years" Introduction

This past week I had the pleasure of going out to dinner with two of my grammar school classmates. It had been about 15 years since the three of us were in a room together. As we sat, eat, and reminiscent, this sense of adulthood began to overtake me. It’s funny, in my mind I still think of myself as a “student” and not an adult.

This encounter has caused me to think about a multitude of memories over the past few days, my friends in grade school, my high school experiences, college, the white hen, and so much more. No matter how much you yearn for things to stay the same, nothing ever does. Time marches on as it always does.

While all of this was running through my head, a question popped into my mind. If I had to pick a “golden period” of my life, what would it be? Without much hesitation, the years of 2004-2005 entered. So I thought it would be fun with my next few blogs to write about these two years, and why they are the golden period of my life. The focuses of these blogs will be music, movies, friends, and a few surprises along the way.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Paul McCartney Pictures

Caption: My dad and I

Caption: Live and Let Die

Caption: Let It Be

Caption: Paul doing Hello Goodbye

Paul McCartney Review

So I wanted to wait a few days before I wrote this blog post, to properly allow the live musical experience to enter my subconscious and form a cohesive viewpoint. On Sunday July 31st, I had the privilege, and yes I feel privilege is the correct word to use of attending the Paul McCartney concert at Wrigley Field. As many of my friends and associates can attest to, I am a Beatles freak. At my height of Beatles nerdom, you could give me a Beatles song, any song, and I could tell you not only the album it was on, but also it’s track number. Thankfully and there are days when I question this, those days are gone.

So of course I had a wonderful time seeing Sir Paul play all the hits for the second time live. During Get Back, you would have caught me rocking the air guitar and banging my head. However after reflecting on my wonderful evening with my father and sister, the highlight of the show wasn’t just seeing a living legend, playing in the home of my favorite baseball team ever, it was seeing the shear joy on people’s faces during the show.

All throughout the evening, there was this sense of anticipation that was building to an explosion of excitement, which came when McCartney walked across that stage for the first time. Too often our society downplays these moments of pure childlike excitement as either cheesy, immature, or a waste of time It was a wonderful sight that for three hours, the audience in Wrigley Field could forget all of the problems that they faced at home, work, or in their communities, and just enjoy themselves in an unabashed childlike way.

Some danced with their significant other in the aisle, others rocked the air guitar, while others stood silently listening, with a youthful smile on their faces, remembering the good old days.

That night everyone went home happy. McCartney played a set that consisted of nothing but the hits, which allowed everyone, present to enter a Magical Mystery Tour. Which is something we need to do more often, just sit back and enjoy the simple things in life.

(P.S. blogger for some reason won't let me add more pictures, so I will make a post of nothing but pictures.)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Jon Favreau interviews Harrison Ford

I was on one of my favorite websites today, It’s a great website that covers the latest movie news. Today they posted a great series of short videos of Cowboys & Aliens director Jon Favreau interviewing screen legend and star of Cowboys & Aliens Harrison Ford.

If you are a fan of the film making process, you owe it to yourself to check out the series of interviews. One of the subjects Favreau and Ford discuss is the over use of 3D and CGI in today’s movies.

I for one could not agree more with this belief, and I wish that the rest of Hollywood would listen to their short discussion. CGI is not the be all and end all of movie making. (Is that Michael Bay crying in the background?) The most important aspect of filmmaking has always been and always will be the creation of a good story.

Even the best CGI will eventually become dated, and look out of place. But a good story will always remain timeless. The video is below:

Not shooting 3D

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Review of Field Songs. The new William Elliott Whitmore LP

Before I begin this blog post on the new William Elliott Whitmore album “Field Songs”, I feel that I need to put forth a disclaimer. I am a huge William Elliott Whitmore fan, and have been for the past five years. I may have a slightly bias opinion towards him, but you need to trust me on this, the new album is outstanding. You owe it to yourself to listen to it. And now onto our featured blog.

On July 12th, Anti-Records artist and folk rock hero William Elliott Whitmore will release his fifth studio album “Field Songs”. One of the great perks working at a radio station is that I got to hear the album early. This album is a return to his earlier musical styles of bear bones; rough recordings that were featured on his three Southern Records albums, and less like his 2008 debut album with Anti-Records “Animals in the Dark”.

Though the album is relatively short in length, only eight tracks, it is rich in themes and imaging. The album discusses the joys of simple living, country life, tough economic times, and finally taking the world and adversity head on.

The imaging of this album is best exemplified by its opening track “Bury your Burden in the Ground”. This song is a true masterpiece and should be featured heavily at Whitmore concerts from now on. With lyrics of: “Bury your burdens, don’t carry them, just bury them in the ground. If your hurting, don’t worry I’ll try to be around”, Whitmore is encouraging his listener not to run away from their problems, but face them head on. No matter how difficult it may be, because only by confronting them can you find inner peace.

Whitmore continues this introspective theme with the albums first released single “Everything Gets Gone”. What has been a common theme for Whitmore throughout his career is struggling with mortality. Here Whitmore focuses on the fact that even though we humans are here for a short time, the land changes very little. This may be one of his strongest songs on the subject matter.

However the entire album is not introspective like Bury Your Burden or Everything Gets Gone. Field Songs is a heavily paced acoustic guitar love song about the land, farming, and those who first tamed the wild soil. “Let’s do Something Impossible” is probably the weakest song on the album, with kind of a cheesy theme of you can do anything. Never the less it is still a solid song.

As has been stated in his promotional video for the album, Field Songs truly is a love letter to country life, simple living, and blue-collar values. I do not know a better way of summarizing it, other than that. His fans see Whitmore as a voice for those who cannot speak, a modern day storyteller in the vain of Johnny Cash, Woody Guthrie, or Tom Waits, and he lives up to that reputation on this album.

If you have never listened to William Elliott Whitmore, this is a great introduction to him. For long time fans, it is a return to form. In a year of major releases from Radiohead to Lady Gaga to the Foo Fighters, a folk singer from Lee County, Iowa has crafted one of the best albums of 2011.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The New Moby Album

Earlier this week, I was at the station, going through through the mail when I noticed that we had just received the new Moby album: Destroyed. Whenever you get a well known artist's new album or a band you really like, you get this sensation like it is Christmas morning all over again. Now I am a newbie when it comes to Moby but nevertheless I was really excited to find this new album in the mail. (His 2009 release Wait for Me is the album that got me into Moby. It is utterly brilliant. Check it out now!)

This album thus far has not disappointed me. Written while Moby was on the road for his last world tour, it is very heavy on the electronic instrumental tracks. But what surprised me was the vocal tracks are kept to a minimum. There are only about 4 or 5 vocal tracks on an 15 track album. I thought this feature would cause me to get bored with the album, but that never happened. This album took me on a music journey that was quite refreshing to listen too.

If I had to pick one problem with the album, it is that it's appeal will be very limited. (What can I say, once a radio guy, always a radio guy.) There are no "single" tracks on this album. And since it is so heavy on the electronic sound, it will not have a mass appeal to people. I find it that if you don't like electronic music, you do not like it at all.

But if you are looking for album to take a risk on, try Destroyed. I recommend listening to it on headphones for your first listen. When I did that I had a totally different listening experience than when I listened to it on my and cd player.

Here is a link to one of his new tracks called: "The Day"

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Superman: A U.S. Citizen No More?

Recently the Internet has been buzzing about Action Comics #900, in which Superman, the first American superhero may renounce his American citizenship. Read more here In the storyline Superman does this in a response to other countries always thinking of him as an agent of the American government, causing them to be suspicious of his actions. Many commentators have voiced their displeasure over this move by the current writers of Superman, and feel that an essential feature of the character is being taken away.

Personally I feel that as long as a good story is being told, it’s ok to mess with a fictional character’s mythology. Superman has been in constant publication since 1939, and in order to keep the character interesting and fresh, the writers need to shake things up from time to time. There has been some tremendous success in the past in taking such risks, such as The Death of Superman storyline. And there have been some tremendous failures, like when Superman becomes an energy being. Both times garnering mainstream media coverage.

I have been a fan of comics for many years, and in that time I have learned one thing. What is done one week, can easily be undone the next week. If Superman does renounce his citizen, I believe that it will not be for long before we hear of Superman announcing his pride in being an American citizen again. Until then, let’s not over analysis things and sit back and enjoy the story that the writers are creating for its readership.

Friday, March 18, 2011

This looks like a fun movie

When was the last time you saw a movie trailer, and just thought, Wow! That looks really fun. As the writer of the article mentions, it is totally reminiscent of great 1980s movies. I cannot wait to see this film. Super 8 Trailer

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

My Dream Interviews

I was thinking the other day, who would be my dream interview? Very egotistical of me I know, but I have been fortunate during my tenure at my college radio station, both as a student broadcaster and General Manager, to interview some amazing individuals. Ziggy Marley, Ken Casey from the Dropkick Murphys, Mick Foley, Chris Jericho, and Ralph Nader just to name a few; so you cannot blame me for letting my mind wander from time to time. After some thought I came up with three individuals who would be my dream interview, John Lennon, Audrey Hepburn, and Johnny Cash. For those of you who know me these names are pretty obvious, nevertheless allow me to explain.

John Lennon. Lennon has been my hero since grade school. I think because he was the rebel I could never be. The way he carried himself, his sense of humor, or the way he sneered at authority. These characteristics are the complete opposite of my personal characteristics. He did what he pleased.

However what I admired most about him was his tireless efforts for peace. He would discuss peace whenever he could. Even deportations from the United States because of his anti-war views in the early 1970s were not enough to silence him. After winning his immigration battles, he retired from the spot light for five years to raise his son and live an ordinary life. I think that best sums up John Lennon. He was a regular guy.

There are countless stories in the countless Lennon biographies of people meeting John during this period of time, and striking up conversations with him. Lennon himself said, “The best part of New York is that I can go anywhere and no one hassles me.” The tragedy is that on December 8th, 1980 a crazed fan murdered him as he was entering his apartment building. Nevertheless to interview John Lennon would have been amazing. Besides all the reasons mentioned above, he was John Lennon after all, the made who started the greatest rock band of all time and wrote Across the Universe.

Audrey Hepburn
. Director Billy Wilder described Hepburn as: “God kissed her on the cheek and there she was.” I have never heard of an individual being described like this. A special description for a special person. Always polite she would discuss her career in interviews, but her true passion was her work for UNICEF.

For the final years of her life, she made it her mission to help the under privileged children of the world. Using her celebrity, she made Americans aware of the travesties happening in Ethiopia, Somalia, and Vietnam. While being interviewed you got the sense that her work with UNICEF was far more important to her than her movie career. She was the female movie star of the 1950s and 1960s, but that did not matter. The only thing that mattered was the children and the help they needed.

Although taken away too soon, her work continues on through the Audrey Hepburn Children’s Foundation. This foundation founded by her two children and her companion, works with UNICEF on the All Children in School Program. The goal, to educate 150 million children in third world countries, 2/3 of which are female. The best way to end poverty is through education, and the whole aim of this program is that.

Johnny Cash
. There are bad asses, and then there is Johnny Cash. All the bad asses want to be Cash, but will never come close. Cash never cared what others thought of him, he did what he liked. If others liked it great, if not so what. Whether he was speaking about the plight of Native Americans, the needs of the poor or under privileged or his faith, he spoke with conviction. He gave voice to those who were voiceless. Every society needs someone to do this, and for fifty plus years, Cash did just that. There will never be another like him.

Musically no other sounds close. Cash had the perfect blend of country, rockabilly, Gospel, and folk. Along with lyrics that told you a story, Johnny had a career that spanned from the dawn of television to the rise of the Internet. Songs like Ring of Fire, Man in Black, A Boy Named Sue, and Walk The Line are apart of American culture. It is hard to imagine a world without these songs.

The final point I would like to make about Johnny Cash is this, he was such a badass that his life could not be contained by a single autobiography, he need two to tell his life story. Epic.

These three individuals all have something in common. And that is they used their celebrity to help advance a cause that was near and dear to them. Compared to the cause, the successes in their respective fields were secondary. They wanted to help and found a way to do so. They did this with a great humility. Even though they were reach and famous, they all seemed very approachable. There you have it, my dream interviews. I hope you enjoyed the videos I have included with this blog. You have to love digital technology, so interactive.