Saturday, April 28, 2007

Five For Ten

I am totally jazzed to be interviewed by Beth from Cup of Coffey. As a fellow college radio alumni, I feel a connection to the music addiction it instilled in both of us. I've never given up my ravenous appetite for alternative/indie music and Beth must know that given the heavy hand of music questions she's dealt me.

What's your theme song?
You know, I think theme songs can change during the course of one's life. I think in the past I might have said either "Cynical Girl" by Marshall Crenshaw or "American Dream" by Love and Rockets. These days it's all about what do I really want from this life? What am I still passionate about? Have I compromised any of my dreams? I think some of these wonderings are explored quite nicely by Jeff Pezzati of The Bomb in the song 1000 Tons of Ice. This song is about second chances at dreams, something Jeff knows a lot about.

What are your five favorite albums and why?
You know, I think I've answered derivatives of this question before or maybe even this exact question, but like the theme song or any favorites list, I think my answers change over time. There are always a few that I think will live there forever, but some cycle in and out of this list.
1. Hunky Dory-David Bowie
This one is always at the top of the list. I will listen here. I will listen there. I will listen everywhere. This album displays the flexibility of David Bowie's voice and writing style. Bowie has several different variations of tone and delivery and deftly moves through all of them on Hunky Dory. Additionally, my love for Bowie includes his ability to write lyrics that sprawl from nods to Nietzsche to simple lines about his son. The music on this album flexes from one of my all-time favorite silly diddys "Kooks" to the hard rocking "Queen Bitch."
2.Seventh Dream of Teenage Heaven-Love and Rockets
I guess this one is at number two because of its importance in my life. This is my college awakening album. I was already well immersed in the alternative scene at this point, but this was the album that struck a chord somewhere inside me. I have always joked that I have a Bauhaus brain trapped in a Go-Go's body. Seventh Dream of Teenage Heaven slithers around in the darkness in a most gloriously beautiful way.
3.Throb Throb-Naked Raygun

Not as experimental as the preceding Basement Screams EP but still more experimental than many, Throb Throb is a post-punk touchstone. Gritty, grinding guitar pushed aloft by great sing-along choruses and you have the beginning of the Naked Raygun formula. They stood out from your average neighborhood post-punk outfit with their rolling rhythms and their toying with various genres of music, usually evident in their song structure. This is fun smart punk/post-punk.
4.London Calling-The Clash
I don't know what I thought I was going to hear the first time I heard this album from start to finish. For sure, I thought it would sound much more aggressive than it does in many places. What I realized is that the punk cred that The Clash carried was captured in more than just guitars and drums. Their cred came from their social and political commentary that fills this album. The icing on the cake is that The Clash are one of the most versatile bands with regard to songwriting ability. They stand alone as far as I am concerned.
5.Quadrophenia-The Who
Before I became an alternachick, I was simply a rock chick. I spent my youth cutting my teeth on the classics. I quickly became especially drawn to The Who. They were a little more anti-establishment than other bands. In Quadrophenia, I found the story of someone questioning their life, wondering who they were. To this day, I have a hard time listening to just part of Quadrophenia. I want to listen to it from start to finish. Musically, I think it contains some of The Who's best material. I can't pick a favorite track because in my mind it exists as a whole. If Pete Townshend set forth to write a rock opera, I believe he succeeded.

If you could play on stage with one band, who would it be?
This is an easy one for me. Either Naked Raygun or The Bomb. I love their music and they are my friends (and I already know almost all of the words!) I've seen these two bands more than any others in my life and feel a deep connection to my local heroes.

What's the best concert you ever saw?

This is a hard one. I've seen so many concerts in my life and so many have been amazing for different reasons. I'm going to say seeing Love and Rockets on the Seventh Dream Tour at St. Andrew's Hall in Detroit. Love and Rockets were unlike anything I had ever seen before. I'd seen everything from huge arena shows to local punk shows at VFW's. Love and Rockets came on in a mist of fog and a blaze of strobes and completely sober I had an experience that was totally intoxicating. They were all so intense and I can't begin to tell you what Daniel Ash and his guitar do for me (distortion is the way to my heart). Their music went so far inside my head that night that I really have never been the same.

Why did you pick a Southern College? What did you like the best/least about the South?
I started undergrad at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. While I loved my friends there, I had a really hard time with a lot of the hypocritical Christian students there. They'd tell me I was a heathen and then have drunken bashes that rivaled Roman orgies and head off to church in the morning throwing beer cans out of their car as they left. I had already started working at the campus radio station and went to the IBS (Intercollegiate Broadcasting Society) convention in NYC Spring of my junior year. While I was there, I met a ton of people from WUSC, the University of South Carolina radio station. I found out that they had one of the top college radio stations in the country at the time. A couple of weeks later, I went with my family to visit my grandparents in Charlotte, North Carolina (the Southern connection). I took a couple of days and went to go visit USC. I loved it. I was ready for a change and so I transferred the following fall. I don't regret a second of it. I needed a change and I ended up being Program Manager at WUSC and had a wonderful two years there. The thing I liked best about the South, particularly where I lived was the nearness of the coast. I loved heading out to the Isle of Palms on the weekend with our crew and hanging on the beach drinking lime daiquiris and eating fresh from the ocean shrimp and crab. I also loved spring down there. It's just so beautiful with all of the flowering plants. What I liked least about the South were the large quantity of racist individuals and the cockroaches. Damn, those things get big down there!

Anyone who would like to be interviewed, just leave a comment. I'd be happy to pry your secrets out of you!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Here They Come Again

I have to wonder if Friday night is the last night I will ever see my beloved Naked Raygun live again. Have they come out of retirement for good or are they just here for a victory lap? Either way, I'll be there one more time on Friday night, this time at the House of Blues.

My hope for them is that Jeff's voice will hold out, as it crumbled during their last outing due to illness. I want to hear the mighty Raygun roar one more time. I want to hear them rip straight through "Knock Me Down" and "Metastasis." I want to hear the crowd singing all the whoa-hey-ho's. I want to see a mass of devoted followers scrambling for free shit. I want to see and hear my guys at least one more time.

I am guardedly optimistic about the evening. Sweetness and one of her friends are coming with us. I want them to love it as much as I do, even though I know that is impossible. These are the anthems of my youth, of my rebellion, not theirs. They'll have their own. I sometimes feel like I wish we could do the stupid Freaky Friday trick and switch bodies for one day so that she could feel all that I feel when I listen to Naked Raygun. Well, hell, now I've ventured into Disney territory. That's just sad.

I love this band. I guess it's past of what makes me, well, me. Can I mosh just a little bit?

Stratford Upon Cat Heads

A big Happy Birthday to William Shakespeare. It is fortuitous that on Thursday I will be joining Lulu and our friends Jane and Steve to enjoy Troilus and Cressida at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. This is our third and final play of the season and I am already looking forward to next season.

I have odd fond memories of reading a lot of Shakespeare in college. As an English major, I was required at the University of South Carolina to take both a course on his comedies and his tragedies. Due to scheduling issues, I ended up taking both of them in one semester. I loved it. In fact, it was probably one of my favorite semesters in undergrad. I was living in an apartment on my own and basically spent almost every evening curled up on my sofa reading Shakespeare. How bad could that be? I had two brilliant professors for the courses as well and wish I could go back and thank them for their insight and enthusiasm.

So, Happy Birthday to the Bard! I often wonder if he realized how influential his work would become and how his stories of love and betrayal, human introspection and comic wit would cross cultural and temporal boundaries. Bravo! And now, for your entertainment...Cat Head Theater. Come on, this had to be a little silly, right?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Seven Songs or What Puts the Spring in Tenacious S's Step

OK, so I wasn't officially tagged, but after going through a rough time with school, I've crawled out of my hole and am enjoying life again. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and I am dancing again. I realized this when I was driving the middle school kids to school the other day. One of my seven came on and I could not sit still. That's a very good thing.

I'm Not Down-The Clash
Just listen to the rhythm in this one. I dare you to sit still! The older I get, the more I appreciate the true genius of The Clash. They were musically versatile, writing songs that covered so many different styles. Lyrically, pretty in your face punk, but also just great commentators on the condition of living. London Calling might be the second album I'd grab if the house was on fire.

Small Talk-The Ponys
I'm a girl who likes a little distortion with her coffee. Swirling guitars and hollow echoey vocals on this one make my head buzz just right. Who needs drugs? Just turn up the stereo.

Somebody to Love-Queen
I have to thank *gasp* Panic! At the Disco for reigniting my love of Queen. They did a respectable version of Killer Queen when I saw them with Sweetness this past winter. Truth be told, of all the groups out there, they probably come closest to matching Queen's drama level. Growing up, Queen was probably in my Top 5 bands. For some reason I have really strong memories of laying out on the raft at the lake in Wisconsin with my crappy old Walkman clone feeling Freddie's pain and joy, my emotions cresting and falling with his vocal delivery, my head filled with the operatic beauty that was Queen.

Black and White Town-The Doves
This is one of my roll the windows down songs. Can you tell I listen a lot in the car? Can't explain why this sounds like a warm sunny day with the breeze blowing through my hair. Music is so visceral for me.

Read My Mind-The Killers
Have you listened to Sam's Town, their latest effort? I may have lost all of my sensibilities, but I really think it is one of the most cohesive pieces of music out there right now. I think they pushed themselves to grow and came up with an album that is going to stand the test of time. Then again, I may have gone mad. Sweetness loves this band and therefore we listen to it a lot in the *shock* car. I have been held captive and forced to listen to Sam's Town start to finish on multiple occasions and I have to say, it has been a pleasant surprise. Read My Mind showcases all that makes The Killers their own brand of music. They have managed to borrow from the past, but twist it enough that it is fresh and unique. Come on, I lived through the '80's. They have synthesizers, kids. Used properly they are fabulous. Used improperly, well, it can be dorks with keytars. The Killers have a very shiny metallic studded looking synthesizer. I'm calling it cool.

That's Just What You Are-Aimee Mann
I am so glad she has managed to make a career for herself after 'Til Tuesday. I think she is one of the most talented songwriters out there. Period. Her vocal range is something to be awed by as well.

(I'm) Stranded-The Saints
I've always got some straight up punk tune tripping around in the back of my brain. The Saints managed to make some great melodic driving music. I classify this as beach music in my world. Granted, it's a beach where people are probably sweltering in leather jackets, but they remind me a bit of the vibe The Ramones had going. The Ramones are beach music, right?

So, now do you understand the picture at the top? I've got the windows rolled down and I am in full Spring Fever. Woof!

I'm tagging our new friend, Julia!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Meme Above All Memes

What was the first recorded music you bought?

My mom took my brother and I to Turn-Style and we were each allowed to spend some of our gift money on an album. We were given the choice between The Beatles and The Beach Boys. Because they had a recent surge in popularity, I bought The Beach Boys Endless Summer. Hey, my choices were limited. My next purchase, I believe, was Boston. Rock!

What was the last music you bought?

The Ponys-Turn the Lights Out. They are a local group and I had seen them "simulcast" during Lollapalooza a couple of years ago and liked them. I haven't had time to listen to it yet. I'll let you know if it lives up to my expectations.

What was the first "professional" music show you ever went to?

The first show I was allowed to see was Rush. It was at the Chicago Amphitheater, which was in a gritty part of town. My parents really didn't want me to go, but they had promised and let me. They shouldn't have! My date (and our driver) dropped acid at the show and got lost in a bad place to get lost. The cops led us back to the highway, but I was still driven home by a tripping seventeen year old. Good Lord, how am I still alive?

I had the jersey version of this shirt. I wore a lot of tight jeans and eyeliner. I used to scare Lulu.

What was the last?

Big shock, I saw The Bomb a few weeks ago. It was one of their better shows and it was at The Abbey, which is an old favorite haunt of mine. Me, Lulu, beer and cute Irish boys we were crushing on. Ah, youth.

What's your "desert island" album?

David Bowie-Hunky Dory
The Thin White Duke reigns supreme and this particular album exposes a vulnerable side of him, I think, along with some serious rocking tunes as well. Variety is the spice of life.

What's your favorite album/song title? (the *title* , not the actual album or song).

Favorite song title might be Shoplifters of the World Unite by The Smiths. Favorite album title is one I recently saw and it kind of cracked me up, Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven by a band called godspeed you! black emperor. Don't ask. I just liked the visual it put in my head.

What's your favourite album art (include an image of it if you can)?

Technically, this is an EP, but it has the most psychedelic groovy illustrations ever. Plus, it always reminded me a bit of Monty Python, which is never a bad thing. It's the Dukes of Stratosphear-25 O'Clock

Ideal choice for a karaoke song?

Tempted-The Squeeze
I know all the words to this song and cannot resist belting it out badly EVERY time I hear it.

Song you don't like that WILL NOT LEAVE YOUR HEAD if you hear it.

I get shivers down my spine typing this because I know I will be stuck with the hell that is My Humps by The Black Eyed Peas for the next several hours. Honestly, lady lumps? I think that is the worst lyric EVER.

Which is cooler? -- Vinyl? CD? Cassette? 8-track?

Vinyl, duh. I get euphoric just thinking about it. The smell, the feel of the edge of an LP between my fingers as I cued it up at the radio station, the pop of the needle hitting the surface, the hiss between tracks, liner notes and lyrics, cover art that looked like art because it was big enough to notice the details and the rich sound that came from vinyl. Why, God, why did you take this gift from us?

I'd like to tag Echo (if he ever surfaces again) and his nemesis Grant Miller.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Welcome to My World

Imagine being diagnosed with cancer. Now, imagine that once the doctor delivered the diagnosis he turned around and said, "Well, as I see it, there are a bunch of different things we can do to help get you healthy. I'm going to give you a list. Go home, do some research, and then when you decide which treatment you'd like to proceed with, try and find someone who specializes in that treatment. Oh, and your insurance probably won't cover most of it. Oh, and there's a waiting list for most of the good specialists. Good luck!" In essence, this is what parents are told when their children receive a diagnosis of autism. There is no consensus on treatment and there is no real network of providers, except for a few cutting edge programs in the world. Personally, I can't even begin to imagine the confusion and fear that most of the parents face as they begin their journey down the road of autism treatment. I am impressed every day at how dedicated some of these parents are in finding the best care they can for their children.

I rarely speak of my occupation as I am bound by so many ethical constraints. But, as some of you know, I am a case manager for a behavioral consultation firm and I provide home-based educational services for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). April is Autism Awareness month and I felt it was time for me to speak a bit about these children that I have come to know and love through my work. Since Autism now affects 1:150 children born, chances are you've heard of Autism or have read reports about Autism or know someone with Autism. I won't go into great detail about the disorder itself other than it primarily affects social, language and play skills in children. What I do want to talk about is the fact that considering the high prevalence rate, diagnosis and treatment are in what is essentially the Stone Ages. While there is no known cause or cure at this time, there are several therapies that have been proven to be effective in reducing some of the symptoms. What is confounding to me, is the difficulty that parents have finding valid information about treatment. I am not exactly sure what has to happen to change this scenario, but I know something needs to happen.

I also know that time is of the essence for treatment. Ideally, children should engage in intensive treatment up until approximately age seven, when the neural connections become less plastic. All of this leads to an epidemic headed for our school systems. Underfunded to begin with, schools struggle to provide appropriate services due to the high cost of intensive services. Families struggle with the high costs as well, as much of the private treatment isn't covered by insurance. The bottom line is that with intensive services delivered in the early learning years, lifetime cost of services decreases exponentially. For now, the system is broken and we all are going to be faced with paying for this epidemic in one way or another.

This is my life's work, my passion and my pleasure. Like any job, there are ups and downs, but on the whole, I couldn't be happier with my job. Really, it's the kids. So many people have the misconceived notion that children with autism are incapable of forming meaningful relationships. While the work to develop a relationship is a little more arduous, the payoff is well worth the effort. Recently, one of the most moving moments I had at work was with one of my little guys who doesn't have much language. He is accustomed to pulling us around to get to an object he desires. While I knew he really enjoyed our play time, he had never really asked for it. I was sitting at the table tabulating some data and I felt this little hand on my shoulder pulling me around. As I turned, he got the biggest grin on his face and yelled, "Tickle me!" Now for some of you, this isn't a profound experience. For me, I knew that this meant so many wonderful things were coming. He had learned that his words got him what he wanted and he had learned that people are fun. To me, that's worth it all.

These kids are a part of me. I understand them even when they can't talk to me. In some ways, I feel like I speak another language. I've learned to catch the most fleeting glance. I've learned the hidden secrets of tantrums. I've learned that sometimes they can't look at me and listen at the same time. Most of all, I've learned that just when you think you've run out of patience, there's always a little more.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Blind Leading the Blind

Last night I purchased my first ever baseball mitt. Not for my son. For me. Mr. Ten S has a lot of travel booked in the coming weeks and I have been tagged with the responsibility of getting Bink to practice and games and playing some catch with him.

Now what you need to know is that when I was young, girls were not allowed to play Little League, so I have zero real baseball experience. I used to play Chicago ball on the street corner a lot with the neighborhood kids, but you don't need a mitt for that. In short, I have never really had to use a mitt in my life. I'm a little concerned. Those dang little baseballs are hard as rocks too.

So, how the heck do I help my son learn how to play a game that I can't play myself? My assets are that I actually can hit pretty well and know all of the rules, but my deficits are throwing and catching. I bought the kid some books and a DVD to help explain the mechanics of throwing, catching and hitting, but I think live practice is best. This is going to be a comedy in three acts.

Fortunately, it looks like tonight's practice is going to be snowed out, but that means he's going to need even more help next week. The first night of practice was difficult for him. He's in Middle League now, and it is a little more serious. There are kids on his team that are very good players. I think he saw them and got scared. Scared that he wouldn't be good enough to be on the team. Bink loves baseball. Mostly he loves running in the field and playing in the dirt, but he loves it. He watches it on TV, he goes to games and he just plain loves the game. Our family is not rich in athletic talent, so Bink is not necessarily a gifted player. I think we'd all settle this year for average. So I guess he and I will fumble our way through this. I'm hoping most of the laughing will be directed at me. I'm a far better sport about things like that. I figure if neither of us ends up with a black eye or knocked out teeth, we'll have been successful.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Just Take Me Away Now

Some people might define crazy or reckless behavior as engaging in illegal or dangerous activities. In my world, reckless behavior is defined by my decision to go full-time again this quarter. Despite the fact that I have told everyone that I was going to cut back to part-time, I've changed my mind.

I've been experiencing small panic attacks centered around the length of time it will take me to finish, which means the length of time until I have a little more control in my job. Last quarter was admittedly the most painful of my long and illustrious academic career to date, but just like childbirth, the pain is vanishing in my memory and the pride of having completed it has taken over. I am a glutton for punishment.

I promise that I will try not to whine like a big baby every time I feel myself going under. Actually, I looked at the syllabus for the two courses I am enrolled in and they both look much more managable than either of my last two courses. Maybe I'm fooling myself, but I think it won't be too painful. Besides, always remember that I live in a constant state of competition, both with myself and anything that looks to be a good fight. Feel free to occasionally offer to take me out for drinks if I become too irrational. I got a lot of mileage out of a couple of Zombies and some good conversation.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Free Kitten to Good Home

Ah, spring. The robins have returned, the grass is greening up, the weather is warming, and ................Edward is shedding like a banshee. Not that I know for sure that banshees shed, but if they did, I imagine it would be similar to the fur storm going on at our house right now. A sure sign of spring at our house is the lovely layer of white fluff that covers every surface.

So, bright girl that I am, I decided to brush Ed today, so as to lower his chances of coughing up an enormous hairball or two due to his incessant licking. I brushed and brushed and brushed him. He wasn't very happy about the whole ordeal and swatted at me a couple of times and was generally grumpy throughout the process. But the sense of victory that I felt was overwhelming when I realized that the volume of fur I brushed off of him was roughly the size of a large kitten. So, if anyone would like a ragdoll kitten, I have enough fur to get you started at least. Internal organs might be a bit tricky.