Thursday, April 30, 2009

Cleveland Tourism video, take two

Best line - the one about how the river is so polluted, all our fish have AIDS.

There is no swine flu, you dopes.

Or at least not naturally. Whatever you do, don't get the vaccine!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

You Low Life You

For the longest time, I thought Asterisk Gallery was the only art-space in town that best fit my preferences and attitudes about art. Over time, as I got to know the city a little better, I realized that there are a bunch of places that also appeal to me, even if the fit isn't as glove-like as my appreciation of Asterisk's perspective is.

And then Low Life opened and I found my eastside art gallery home. In many ways, Low Life's proprietor, Dave Desimone, has a perspective that matches that of Asterisk operator, Dana Depew, though clearly each guy has their own individuality and unique edge. In fact, I don't know if the two dudes even know each other.

What perspective might that be? Well, check out Low Life's manifesto:

There is a war that is being waged on culture. Big box retail. Warehouse club lifestyle. Does anyone really need 15 pounds of chicken? More isn't always better. Turn off the television. Go see live local music. Read a book. Support the little guy. Don't always super size. VOTE! Do instead of watch. Get out, walk in the woods and reconnect with nature. When is the last time you went to a museum? The mall? Which one do you value more? Why? Avoid chain restaurants. Travel more. Avoid ruts whenever possible. Try talking to total strangers about the things which really matter to them. Exercise daily. Sleep in late sometimes. Read poetry. Really listen. Celebrate diversity. Enjoy art. Live life!

On Saturday, May 2, Low Life's newest show opens. This time the opening begins at 3 PM, which leads me to slightly suspect that the exhibit might be a little more family friendly than the usual edgy approach. In fact, I know it will, because there will be face painters and pinatas and snacks, things that adults (like me, technically) also enjoy, but the kiddies like, too. And now that I see the "Bring Yer Kids" line at the bottom of the promo poster, I'm positive that it is family friendly. So yes, bring yer kids, and bring yourself even if you don't have kids, or like me don't particularly like kids. There'll be beverages, bands, and work by several top local artists. Plus, you can stop and enjoy the growing record store district that Waterloo Rd is becoming and drink some old man beer at the Boardwalk with me!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Mandatory Wednesday Event, West-side edition

Tomorrow is my newest favorite Cleveland event - Fourth Wall film night at Visible Voice. For those of you unaware of this awesome monthly event, the last Wednesday of every month two filmsters, Lawrence Daniel Caswell & Joe Yachanin, gather a crowd of folks in the Visible Voice attic screening room to show strange films from the forgotten (and sometimes only somewhat forgotten past). So far, in my opinion, the most spectacular of these films has been White Dog, but this month might pose a challenge with the landmark film, Cockfighter, which will show about 8:15. Preceding it will be Woody Allen's Stardust Memories at about 6:15. See below for trailers and clips, and hopefully I'll see you at Visible Voice, the coolest bookstore on the west side!

PS - They serve wine there.

PPS - The films are free.

Challenge Accepted

I hope they allow me to blog from prison. If not, tune back in to this blog in 5-7 years.

Live music week in Collinwood

Some time ago I posted about how we were in the midst of the finest live music week I'd seen since moving to Cleveland. I say "some time ago" because I can't precisely remember when and my VERY quick scan of blog topics over the past few months didn't give me any hints, and I don't feel like looking any harder than that.

Anyway, here we are, on the cusp of another pretty cool week in music.

On Wednesday, Action Painters from good old Brooklyn, NY, are gonna rock the Beachland. These folks are pretty cool, with a nice indie rock sound that isn't too minimalist. I've been digging these guys since the dudes at Citizen Dick blogged about them last month, and was stoked to see them making their way into town. Better yet, they'll be preceded on stage by Good Touch Bad Touch, a pretty fine Cleveland pop rock act that performed admirably as the Kinks last Halloween at the Beachland's bash. (Also, it doesn't hurt that one of the Action Painters, Allison Zatarain, is a serious contender for my indie rock crush of the week. Not only is she cute and a good writer, but her name reminds me of Cajun food, which is totally awesome.)

If the mid-week show thing isn't really your style, well, first you should really stop being so lame, and second, fear not, for the fine folks at Music Saves have a pair of sponsored shows at the Beachland Thursday and Friday. If you show up with cash in hand at the store, you can get advanced tix for a couple/few bucks off the door rate.

Starting things off Thursday is the show I've been most excited for since Dinosaur Jr rolled through Akron: The Pains of Being Pure At Heart/Afternoon Naps show. The Pains have produced one of my top 3 cds of 2009 (along with Sholi and the Abe Vigoda Reviver EP). I just totally love the fuzzed out pop hooks.

Lately, though, I've been looking even more forward to the Afternoon Naps show. Ever since I saw Tom & Leia perform on stage (complete with unicorn portrait) a few weeks back in a barebones set, I've been wanting to see the whole band back on stage. I really dig these guys - along with Unsparing Sea and Trouble Books, I think the Afternoon Naps have some really promising days ahead. You should catch them as many times around town as possible before the masters of the pop universe come and snatch them from us!

Friday the party keeps on going with TWO good shows at the Beachland. Jeremy Jay will be playing in the Tavern, with opening DJ sets from Tim of Muttering Retreats fame (and who I will always remember for his Halloween drumming at the aforementioned bash), while The Thermals play in the Ballroom. Sources at Music Saves have been assuring everyone that yes, Jeremy Jay will finish playing in time to head over to the ballroom to catch the complete Thermals set, so there is no need to worry about picking one over the other.

Best of all, before the shows on Friday, Music Saves will be hosting the first Alley Cat session of the summer at 7, so bring your own beverages and hope for clear skies. If not, bring a poncho you fucking sissy. (Note: that last sentence should only be attributed to me. I imagine, should the folks at Music Saves ever run out of meaningful things to do and get around to reading this blog, they wouldn't be very happy that I said that. They rarely curse and even more rarely call other people sissies. They might make fun of you for trying to trade in a Killers cd for credit - trust me, this is true - but they won't call you a sissy, neither in front of nor behind your back.)

By Saturday, you'll no doubt be in default-drive-to-Waterloo mode, so when you get in your car and find yourself steering onto I-90, don't freak out. Just check out the gallery opening at Low Life at 3 PM and snag some vinyl from Blue Arrow (records) and Shoparooni (toys). On Sunday, if you are still suffering from must-drive-to-Collinwood-itis, you can hit the Beachland. Seriously, this entire week you can have yourself a fine old time and never leave a span of 6 blocks. Well, eventually you'll have to leave, if you want to sleep in a comfortable bed. But you know what I mean.

Check some of this stuff out!

These Cavs are Crazy!

And I'm so happy we still have Delonte.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Browns Draft Advice, Day 2

Ok, Browns - I'm generally and mildly enthusiastic about your efforts yesterday. I do question the wisdom of wasting draft picks on WRs, especially when some solid RBs were on the menu, but whatever. The important point this morning is to trade Braylon and Brady this morning. Send Braylon to the Giants (still) and get either one of the dudes they drafted in the 2nd round. Send Brady fucking anywhere! It'd be supa-dupa sweet if you could send BQ to the Chiefs for the LSU DE they took with the 3rd pick, but that's just a pipe dream.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Draft Day Advice

Not that anyone has asked, but since that never stopped me before, I'd like to offer the Browns some advice.

1) Trade that frat boy Republican douche Brady Quinn. Please!

2) Also trade that whiny prima donna Braylon Edwards. I'm less insistent on this one, though I'd like it nonetheless.

3) Draft a talented center to back up/replace Fraley.

4) Try to get a good veteran linebacker or cornerback in one of the aforementioned trades.

5) Take a gamble on a late-round high-risk/high-reward running back to take a crack at replacing Jamal.

6) Pay whoever that dude with the bad-ass Browns Jeep I sometimes see driving around town a lot of money to drive it on the field during half-time breaks. Or drive it wherever makes most sense. The important part, I think, is in the making of large and repeated payments.

Viva D.A., viva Cleveland, and viva the Browns Mobile!

DC Bound

So I'm definitely gonna be vacating Clevo for at least the middle third of next month, heading down to the nation's capital to do some work.

I've only been to DC 2-3 times and each time have been super busy, so my social knowledge of the town is pretty limited. All I really remember are terrible bars filled with extreme-Warehouse District/post-frat types and beers for $7 on tap. Are there any cool places anyone recommends? I think I'm gonna hit a show at the Black Cat one night, and probably spend some time at the one DC bar I remember liking from my last couple visits (5 years ago now!), Tryst.

Any drink and eat tips you can provide will be most welcome, low and high brow (though mostly low). That's how I've felt like rolling lately, and no other city in the country can bring out my ugly class warrior side like DC can, so I'll probably avoid noshing at places like the Palm or bumping elbows with lobbyists at some glitzy hotel bar.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Where I'll be tomorrow ...

Friday night, Clevo Culture style.

There is a pretty cool twofer, if you are intrigued.

First, check out the show at Artchitecture/William Rupnik Gallery. Andrea Heimer and Arabella Proffer will be the featured artists. I've not seen Heimer's work before, but I totally dug Proffer's show last year (I think?) at Asterisk Gallery, and I hope much of the same work will be in this one. She does a super cool take on fashion and art - imagine historically evolving portraiture combining punk rock ethos with period-accurate aesthetic detail. Super cool. I think I might've said that before. It also helps that her work is also on display at Velvet Tango Room, which is even more superlatively cool.

After that, hightail it over to the CIA for the Cinematheque's showing of a recent Danish film, Just Another Love Story. I first became interested in checking this one out when I saw the director had also been at the helm of another film, Nightwatch. I had that particular Nightwatch confused with a 2004 Russian film of the same name, though, but after reading the reviews and summaries, I decided that didn't mean much and I still wanted to go. Expect a thriller, perhaps to uncomfortable extents, but some style and humor (albeit dark) in the mix.

So there you go - no excuses, no bullshit about how there is nothing going on in Cleveland. Check out the art, rub elbows with some mostly tolerable artist types, drink some Pabst (hooray for PBRs pro-art marketing strategy), then check out one of the finest cultural institution in NEO's film series.

Then log back in and thank me in the comments section...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Oh Kevin Costner, you expensive little minx

So the folks here at CB Enterprises (i.e., me, myself, and I) are big Kevin Costner fans. I'm not being funny, cynical, or ironic - I truly dig the guys work. I love the big blockbusters he did - Waterworld, the Postman, Dances with Wolves, Robin Hood, etc. I love him in JFK, Bull Durham, No Way Out, the Untouchables, even The Bodyguard, and especially Field of Dreams. I love him in Wyatt Earp, Tin Cup, For the Love of the Game, 3000 Miles to Graceland, For the Love of the Game, and even The Upside of Anger. I've even swallowed recent co-star appearances with Jennifer Aniston and Ashton Kutcher (critics should look to these two when they are looking for folks to criticize for their acting chops) in Rumor Has It and The Guardian, respectively. I haven't seen Swing Vote, yet, but I will.

Anyway, all this is to say, I like the guy. And just a few moments ago, I got a random House of Blues email saying that his country band would be in town playing a gig on May 13th. I got excited and thought, "Fuck yeah, I'll go see Kevin Costner sing country-western songs!" - until I saw the ticket price breakdown: $25/$45/$100.

Are you kidding me? Come on - I won't pay $25 to see Wilco play (even back when I could stand the Jeff Tweedy martyr schtick), much less $45 or $100.

So, as much as it pains me to let this opportunity pass by, I think I'm gonna.

That is, unless some enterprising PR staffer for HOB sees this and wants to secure a show/venue review from me in exchange for putting my name on the guest list. I don't want backstage passes - I don't think my man-love for Mr. Costner could handle that - just entrance into the show. If it sweetens the pot, I'll probably spend cash on dinner there...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

I got a bad, bad feeling...

Greetings internet users.

I'm trying to blog as much as possible this week because it is possible, nay probable, that I might not be around after this weekend. Either I won't be or cutie-pie Addicted to Vinyl Matt won't be.

You see, Matthew and I have agreed to be one another's man-date to the second (I think) annual Music Saves Indians game outing. I cannot imagine all 9 innings occuring without some sort of global malevolance taking place.

So, just in case you never hear from me again after Sunday, blame the Vinyl Addict. He'll be the guy blogging through his tears, drowning in grief for the terrible thing he has done. That or I'll be here, sighing with relief while my conscience once again fails to convince me that I really ought to feel bad for whatever it was that happened to Matt.

Just kidding, buddy - I'm sure we'll have a fantastic time, especially after the game when you decide to treat me to dinner at Melt. Speaking of which, I have this coupon ...

July is shaping up to be awesome!

We are barely into the early days of Spring, yet my mid-summer is starting to get jam-packed with some cool ass shit, July especially. In addition to the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago July 17-19 and Smelly Ellie's 7th birthday, the Louisville Lebowski Fest is scheduled for July 10-11. I wanted badly to go last year, but was booked into a week-long speaking engagement and had to pass. Not gonna happen this year, though. Louisville, get the White Russians and bathrobes ready, 'cause here I come!

softly call the muster

Back where I went to grad school, today is a very special - and solemn - day. Seriously.

Today is the day they call the muster. During my time there, I remember this day being a little more quiet and somber than other days, everyone mentally preparing for the evening's event, where the basketball arena would be dark and jam-packed with students and alumni, all gathered to honor their peers that had passed in the previous year. The ceremony was always a wonderful gesture, but when I moved to NEO, I realized that musters took place everywhere. I received an email from a representative of our local alumni group inviting me to a get-together at a local bbq joint, where a room had been rented out and a long table of displaced Texas Aggies were sharing a meal and memories of their time in Aggieland. At the end of it, the chapter president rose, everyone quieted, and the gentleman read aloud the names of all Aggies that had passed away in service of the US military and then Aggie alums from the NEO region. There was a moment of silence and then the fellowship resumed.

Moments like that one play out every year, all over the US. Here is a graphic some dude made up about Aggie Muster sites held a few years back:

They don't just have them in the US, though. A famous, proud, and sorrowful moment in Aggie history was in 1942 in the Phillipines at Corregidor Island, days before the fort there fell to enemy hands. The commanding officer, General George F. Moore, was an Aggie and convened a muster ceremony with all the other Aggie soldiers. An the ensuing battle, every one of those men was either captured or killed. Four years later, however, after the US troops retook the island, a new group of Aggies was there to hold another muster (see below).

Since then, Aggies have mustered just about every single place American troops have been placed in harm's way. That's not an accident, as Aggies are known to be particularly effective and passionate soldiers. General Patton is alleged to have once stated, as testament to the Aggie fighting spirit, "Give me an army of West Point graduates, and I'll win a battle. Give me a handful of Texas Aggies, and I'll win a war."

(Aggie Muster in Korea, 1953)

(Aggie Muster in Afghanistan)

(Aggie Muster in Iraq)

Today is the day the muster for these folks is called. I'm sorry I'll have to miss the dinner, but a recently forwarded email from one of the folks in my group here reminded me of the starkness of the event. I'll be sure to have a moment of silence for all those that have passed, on my own.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Salute to John G.

Last Friday I briefly had the opportunity to crash the John G party at Front Room Gallery. I'd not been to Front Room before, but had heard cool things through the grapevine about the artists they feature and the bands they book. (While I was there, I saw Dan Friel of Brooklyn's awesome Parts and Labor play a pretty amazing set, but missed out on performances by Clan of the Cave Bear and Vigatron.)

The night before, at a Low Life event, I'd briefly met John and heard from a couple of my friends that they were planning to check the show out. So, I thought, what the fuck. Why not. I don't have anywhere to be on Friday till about 10.

I am happy I did. The buildings on Superior where Front Room gallery is located are a story of themselves, with numerous entities from artists workshops to recording studios to independent businesses making use of the massive spaces that formerly housed the industry that temporarily made Cleveland so wealthy. Back, you know, before anyone reading this was born.

But better yet was seeing John G's work blown up and spread throughout the gallery space. By the end of his recent Flyer Month experiment, I knew the guy had some chops and was happy when I bumped into him the other night, so I could tell him how much I dug what he'd been doing. That month, it seemed like everywhere I went I was seeing his posters, from Melt to a cool Beachland Brunch/Music Saves Kevin's birthday diptych, to tons of show advertisements, including a very cool Neko Case flyer. He has also done a bad ass This Moment In Black History poster with a defiant Obama figure surrounded by a horde of zombies or something like zombies that I'd love to find a full-size print of.

John G is more than a drawer of posters, though - his graphic novel work is pretty tight, too, and can be found in the cool ass Shiner serial. (You can probably pick it up at a bunch of places in town, but I've gotten mine at Music Saves.) The show at Front Room really brought to life the complicated staging of his work, with a huge display of draft pencil sketchings next to a wall of his finished products. I'm not sure how long or how often you'll be able to view the work at Front Room, but even if you don't make it in, keep an eye out for show flyers and posters on the tables and walls of the cool places in town - look for the brightly colored, hyper-detailed ones and you'll most likely be spying a John G. contribution.

(Note: Once again, all photos taken with my shoddy iphone camera. The usual disclaimers and passive-aggressive insults apply.)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

I wouldn't be surprised if the CLE+ lames were behind this one ... for real!

This one has been bouncing around Ted Stevens's series of tubes for a while now, but just in case you are the one person yet to see it, check out the infamous "hastily made tourism promo for Cleveland." Or whatever it is called.

And, seriously, who the fuck does still use a payphone?

Fear Not, I have planned out your April social calendar.

By now, with the weather and all the awesome hip shit going down everywhere in Clevo, you gotta be thinking to yourself, what the fuck am I going to do to spice up my life. Well, here it is. Just follow my instructions and you will have a cool ass time the rest of this month.

Sunday, 4/19 - Go see "Bigger Than Life" at the CIA Cinematheque

Monday, 4/20 - Hit up the Cedar-Lee for 3rd Monday specials. Two Lovers, The Class, and The Great Buck Howard are all about to leave the theater (or so the reduced screenings would seem to indicate), but Gomorrah is there and also worth seeing).

Tuesday, 4/21 - OK, I really don't know what to do on a Tuesday. Go out and eat at that cool neighborhood restaurant you heard about the other day. You know the one.

Wednesday, 4/22 - Take a trip to CSU, where you can see Suzuki's Tokyo Drifter at 6 and then get some poetry in your veins at 7:30 - for free!

Thursday, 4/23 - Check out the Royal Bangs show at the Cleveland Matinee location on W. 25th.

Friday, 4/24 - Spend a night taking in art and drinking beer with artsy hipsters at Artchitecture for the Arabella Proffer/Andrea Heimer show.

Saturday, 4/25 - Hit up the Holden Arboretum for some nature action, including guided hikes to some of their best forests. Celebrate Arbor Day right!

Sunday, 4/26 - Go watch the Indians! Nothing beats daytime baseball!

Monday, 4/27 - Ok, I'm stuck again. Go have a couple drinks at that bar you drive by every so often and wonder what it is like inside. Then stop at the grocery store and get some crazy fixings for a homemade pizza.

Tuesday, 4/28 - Aargh - early weekdays are tough! How about you catch up on laundry tonight, but while you do so, read a new book or a favorite one from your forgotten, dusty shelf.

Wednesday, 4/29 - Hit up the Fourth Wall Film Night at Visible Voice. I missed last month but went to the two previous and can vouch that they are showing some of the craziest yet most delightful stuff you can imagine. Grab dinner somewhere in Tremont like Southside or Prosperity beforehand.

Thursday, 4/30 - Go see the Pains of Being Pure at Heart and the Afternoon Naps at the Beachland Tavern!!! If you don't take my advice, at least on this night, you are crazy. Plus, you can get reduced price advanced tix from Music Saves. Do it!

I Heart North Collinwood

North Collinwood is an awesome place. This is not news. Rather, it is news, thanks to the WSJ and local network news programs lately. But I've known about it for a while now, and if I know about something, the lid has been blown for a while.

(Management meeting at Music Saves)

Still, as per usual, the neighborhood was practically convulsing with coolness today. The new Waterloo Cafe began edging its way to openness with a limited menu - still, the toasted pita with cheese and tomato was delicious. Great in/out-stores were going on at Music Saves and Blue Arrow Records. The Beachland rolled out an inaugural lunch menu. Low Life was open, as were the other galleries on the street. Shoparooni had a fucking homemade photo booth for the day, for christ's sake! It was great.

(Crowd shot at Blue Arrow Records - isn't this place awesome looking?!?)

And I bought new cds. Actually, I was pretty restrained, limiting myself to two new purchases and one used one. I snagged the new records by The Thermals and Holy Fuck, and a used copy of Spiritualized's Songs in A & E. I've decided to put myself on a recorded music diet, lately - no more than two new albums and a "little something special" every two weeks. We'll see how long that lasts, though. Past diets have worked about as well for me as new economic plans worked for the Soviets.

(Trouble Books outside Music Saves - their last album is the single best thing I've heard out of Ohio ... ever!)

Anyway, I love that neighborhood and am proud to announce that, as of this morning, I'm gonna move there. I agreed over the phone with my future landlord to sign a lease and will be packing my shit and trucking (or, ideally, paying someone to truck it) over there in late summer. I'm pretty excited about that.

(The Very Knees outside Music Saves. This just looks like rock and roll to me.)

In case you aren't terribly excited about it, that's cool - here are some things you should be excited about. As I spent my day o' music listening to stuff while driving around I've come to the conclusion that the new Abe Vigoda EP is fucking terrific and might rival Sholi's new record as the best single album I've purchased in 2009 (though the new Bishop Allen one is pretty sweet, too). "John Brown" off of Papercuts's Can't Go Back album is the best song I've heard in forever. And Trouble Books are super sweet to see live, even if they are sitting in the shadows on the sidewalk playing with only a sketchy PA and no microphones.

(Prisoners at Blue Arrow Records. They were good.)

Also, sunshine rules. Today's weather almost makes me believe in god. Almost. It does make me glad to be around.

(Note: All photos taken with my shoddy, zoom-less, non-light adjusting cell phone camera. Sorry if you think they suck. Maybe I feel the same was ... about you. Ooooh Burn!)

Fortune Cookie Book Reviews

Over the last couple weeks I've been dealing with this terrible double ear infection drama. It sucks, undeniably, but in a way there has been a weird positive aspect. Because there is all this fluid trapped behind my eardrums, thus making the little bones unable to rattle and thereby fail to send the messages to the nerves that go to the brain like they ordinarily would, I can't hear very well. Like hardly at all. The other day I was at this bougie luncheon, sitting next to one of our few laudable local politicians, and I couldn't hear a thing he was saying. If you speak to me in regular conversational tone, unless it is in a small space and there isn't any other competing sound, I can't make out what you are saying, especially if you are on my left side. At home, when I've watched movies I have my TV volume all the way up. In my car, same thing with the stereo.

(Photo of the merch table at a recent Dinosaur Jr show I probably really shouldn't have attended, all ear things considered.)

I finally got around to going to the doctor a couple days ago and got some antibiotic/steroid thing, but he doesn't seem to think that will fix the problem, so it looks like I'll be hitting up an ear/nose/throat specialist sooner or later for the privilege of having him/her stick a needle in my eardrums and draining the gloop. Awesome.

So, perhaps you are thinking, where is this aforementioned upside, CB? Well, the fact I can't hear shit has really changed the way I interact with my environment. I'm much more in my head (in a good way), I'm much more content to walk around and look at stuff without getting distracted, when I do listen to music, I'm much more interested in really LISTENING to it, and because of this I've found myself turning to more "challenging" records lately, like Yeasayer, Menomena, Sholi, and off-year Prince.

But the best part is that I've been reading A LOT for pleasure lately. Like a book (or two) a day. So, as the title suggests, here are some baby nugget comments about the last few I've digested in the past week or so.

Patrick deWitt - Ablutions: This is an interesting book, or rather an outline of a book, but the whole outline gimmick felt, well, like a gimmick. I mean, by 2009, it just isn't interesting, even to first year grad school po-mo enthusiasts, to do these kind of ham-handed, cutesy "experiments" with narrative. That being said, the narrative you eventually find is intriguing, the anti-heroic nature of the main character compelling, and one is left with greater disdain for the editor that failed to push for a full work than the writer who submitted a partial manuscript.

Larry Doyle - I Love You, Beth Cooper: This is why I shouldn't be allowed to book shop while drunk and on vacation. The jacket clearly says the author is a writer of The Simpsons, so what was I expecting? It reads like a book destined to be a movie that reviewers will pan while disfavorably comparing it to Superbad.

Michael Chabon - The Mystery of Pittsburgh: Chabon's first novel, written during a summer after he moved in with his mom, when he first decided to be a novelist. In a nutshell, this book is valuable for its historical significance if you are Chabon enthusiast or enthralled with that generation of American writers. Otherwise, skip it. Chabon notes he was inspired by Phillip Roth and The Great Gatsby, and it shows, with the pinched rhetoric and lame bourgeois-ness of it all. The book as it is should've been a first draft, as there are uninteresting elements that receive too much attention and potentially very interesting elements that are far too shrouded in the mystery the title hints at. However, I'm judging a mid-career writer for his first book, which by rookie standards was pretty professional. So, by all means, read Chabon, especially Wonder Boys and his essays, and if you fall in love with his work, check out The Mystery of Pittsburgh after you've made it through Kavalier and Clay and the Yiddish Policemen books.

Jeffrey Brown - Clumsy/Unlikely: Only recently have I started to get into graphic novels, and the ones I've liked have been slice of life works about post-college slackers, not the kind that are made into big-budget films that give people seizures. Brown is my favorite, and these two lengthy novels are the first and second in a trilogy I stumbled upon when buying the brief epilogue (the awesomely titled Every Girl Is The End Of The World For Me) at the new record store in Tremont a few months ago. These three books, and I imagine the next one - AEIOU - recount Brown's romantic relationship greatest hits, and start to get a bit repetitive, as Brown is repeatedly scorned, earnest, and cringingly pathetic in a way we all have been and, likely, all will be again, even though thinking of the last time we acted that way still makes us blush with a self-loathing fierceness. So, I'll be getting AEIOU soon, and will probably devour it immediately, but after that I probably won't continue on with any of Brown's other, non-trilogy work.

Bree - was chicken trax amid sparrows tread: Bree is a local poet and quite an impressive indie publisher. I first encountered her when she read one of her own poems and then another of d.a. levy's poems at a levy event held at Art House a few days after I moved her in late summer 2007. I bumped into her a couple of times again, and then discovered her publishing entity, Green Panda Press. I've kept an eye out for new work of hers and, when I saw was chicken trax amid sparrow's tread sitting on the counter at Mac's Backs one day, I snagged it immediately. Her work in it is top-notch and I have a feeling she's gonna break out nationally soon. Part 2, a long poem/movement, is great, simply great. I recently noticed she is organizing an impressive set of events next month that I'm plenty stoked about, especially since Charles Potts, a poet I learned about from a package of volumes Bree once sent me, is on the program.

Simon Sebag Montefiore - Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar: Montefiore's tome is a work of a lifetime, and anyone who wants to know anything about Josef Stalin would be wise to start here. That being said, I have a reasonable amount of knowledge about Koba already, and find myself gravitating more to thematic or period studies of the master evil politician rather than chronological works like this one. Still, this book is without peer in the category it falls.

Arthur Koestler - Darkness at Noon: Thanks to a random recommendation from a friend last fall, I purchased Robert Conquest's brief book-length essay on Stalin and the Kirov murders. It got me back into reading things about this dastardly dude and when I went back to check out the "people who bought this also bought ..." page, I saw references and positive reviews of this Koestler novel. Never is Stalin mentioned in the book, but the metaphorical references are quite obvious. Even after translation, Koestler's ability to put the reader in the protaganist's mind, the administrator's office, the dank cell, the interrogator's boots, is peerless. A must read.

Bryan Murray: Scott Pilgrim, Vol. 4: Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together:

If I had to recommend any of these, I'd say your best bet is Arthur Koestler's book, but only if you already know a bit about Soviet history. Otherwise it'll just seem like a weird, maybe existentialist, prison novel. But if you know what internal Russian politics in the era of Stalin were like, you'll get it and you'll see the book's brilliance. So, check it out. You can get it used lots of places - or stop into Mac's Backs and have Suzanne order you a copy. That way you'll be keeping the cash local. Same goes for Bree's work and the Jeffrey Brown graphic novels. I wouldn't hesitate a moment to recommend either of those authors to even my best-read friends.

Speaking of keeping money local, I'm off to Record Store Day festivities at Music Saves. Maybe I'll brush my teeth first, though. Maybe.


Wow. 400 posts, as of this one. Who'd a thunk it?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

My New Favorite Holiday: Record Store Day

For the longest time, my favorite holiday was Labor Day. My extended family would have a great big cook-out at my grandpa's, there'd be swimming and playing with the cousins and getting those awesome clown cones from Baskin-Robbins from my aunt and watching sports in the den with all the dudes. Eventually, I grew older, the family grew bigger and bigger till the space seemed too cramped, the traditional second-generation squabbles began, and Labor Day lost its luster.

St Patrick's Day became a favorite in college for obvious reasons, but slipped away after a few years for reasons even more obvious. Thanksgiving has always been a top holiday in my book, but the last couple of years I've flown solo and while I still do the traditional dinner, it is just another day.

Not the case with Record Store Day, which I'm about to celebrate for the second time this Saturday, thus making it a tradition where I come from.

For me, Music Saves will be Ground Zero, and it should be for you, too. (Click here for a crazy list of all the stuff going down and coming out at Music Saves that day.) Really, the entire Waterloo neighborhood is gonna have its A game on display, with cool things going on everywhere, from the newly opened Waterloo Cafe (formerly Cafe Marika), a special lunch menu at the Beachland, art-gazing opportunities at ArtsCollinwood, the Annex, Low Life, and Waterloo 7, greater zaniness than usual at Shoparooni, and a set of back-and-forth in/out-stores at Music Saves and neighborhood newcomer Blue Arrow records from 5-8 pm. (Check out this article about the newest spot to get vinyl in town.)

Speaking of Blue Arrow Records, if you haven't stopped by there yet, you ought to. The place is super cool, with a display of records, vintage posters, and cool-ass furniture that should turn the head of everyone in town with bohemian tastes and tight budgets. That is, turn your head if you can take your eyes of the bad-ass floor that owner Pete Gulyas had custom installed (see below). I went in here the other day with my pal Jose for what was supposed to be a decent leisurely stop before I dropped him off at the airport a couple weeks ago - let's just say we finally tore ourselves away from the joint just in time to allow him to barely make his flight. Yeah, the place has that much cool stuff to check out.

Anyway, be a pal and a booster and bring your ass to Waterloo on Saturday. It'll undoubtedly be the coolest thing you do all weekend, and with the deals going on everywhere, you'd be economically irrational not to take advantage. If you go, look for me while you are around - I'll be the guy sitting at the old man bar (Boardwalk) down the block, drinking buck-and-a-quarter Gennee drafts while strategically avoiding a certain local performance. Stop down - you can buy me one!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Munny Mania!

If the end of winter wasn't a big enough deal, the second-annual Munny Design Extravaganza is taking place at Shoparooni this weekend.

I had a total blast making my Munny last year, and this year doing TWO (a regular size one and a mini-Munny) proved very therapeutic. Sure, my artistic skills are utterly atrocious, but the point (for me) is not winning or being great but just having fun. How contemporary public education of me, I know. My only goal is to be able to walk around the shop when I drop my submission off and find just ONE Munny that I think is less good than mine. Last year I tried to do that and failed, but this year I hope that a truly awful artist is out there and itching to beat me in the race to the bottom.

If you are free on Saturday, you should stop in the joint and check out what some really talented people have done. And see if you can find my submissions - they are the ones with gloppy paint and crooked lines.

Check it out!

Yes, We Did!

We made it, folks. Today is the last day of winter (i.e., the day before the Indian's Home Opener). Mother Nature may have sent us out with a couple days of snow flurries this week, but we still persevered.

I can't wait to inaugurate the new season by spending the weekend catching up on the sleep I haven't been able to enjoy the last 2 1/2 months.

Viva Spring!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Culture PSA

Let me tell you something, anonymous reader. This is something your friends, your family, your loved ones, etc., aren't gonna tell you. Mostly because they like you. I am not burdened by that affection, and even if I am, what I'm about to say is still true.

Here it is.

You need some culture. Seriously.

FORTUNATELY, there is a pretty good opportunity to get some this weekend at the coolest gallery in town.

Here's the gallery write-up:

The exhibition “Image and Object” will explore the crossroads of two historically opposite ways of processing reality in art. The current state of discourse allows for image and object to coexist as an ever-shifting mode with multiple faces. Mark Slankard and Irina Koukhanova, both professors at Cleveland State University, will exhibit their respective photographic and sculptural work with possible participation of their colleagues from Youngstown State University. Additional component in the exhibition will be the inclusion of their students’ work addressing photography based on a sculptural object and sculpture incorporating an image as its anchoring point.

And here's the website.

Mapquest the directions, corral your friends, and make it a Tremont night. If you don't, well, I hate your ass face.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Cool-ass local show

Greetings NEO live music fans,

I have just been made aware of what seems to be a pretty great music night coming up later this week.

Cleveland's best new music bloggers are sponsoring a pretty cool show, headlined by Southeast Engine, a band with pretty great and growing buzz. Openers are Dreadful Yawns and The Lighthouse and the Whaler, a pair of bands that have been getting their own positive attention by the publisher/scenester powers that be.

Check out the event at the Beachland on April 9th, or I will hate you forever.