Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Musical Notes

Get it? These are my thoughts about music, so they are notes about it. Terrible pun, I'm still laughing.

A. My friend Pat was explaining to me the bands that he would have play at his version of Lollapalooza if anyone ever asked him to put together a festival. It sounded like a cool idea, so I thought I'd give it a try in case any Jane's Addiction lead singers ever need any help with ideas.
1. Wilco: Easy, they're my favorite and they're from Chicago. I think it's a sin they aren't going to be there this year.
2. Spoon: Another softball. This band has been off the radar for a while after the buzz from Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga died down, but I would love to hear some new stuff an see these gents play a big show.
3. Ryan Adams and the Cardinals: I'm calling his bluff here. He said he was done playing for a while, but I don't believe it. I think that his married life and book tour will make him want to get on the road again and what better place than a festival?
4. Fleet Foxes: I like the folk sound that this group from the northwest puts together, and I don't care if it makes some people sleepy. It's good music.
5. Vampire Weekend: The last we heard of these chaps they were playing a new song on Fallon's show and I wasn't a big fan of it. I want to hear more new stuff and I want to see these Ivy Leaguers rock their deck shoes off.
6. Kid Cudi: I'm going to surprise some people with this pick, but every fest needs a little hip hop flavor, and for my money this Cleveland native is the best in the biz.
7. Brian Wilson: That Lucky Old Sun came out not too long ago, and those classic Beach Boys hits would be cool to see from the man himself. Plus, who is expecting Brian Wilson at an indie-music fest?
8. American Football: A reunion of one of 90's indie rock's most influential groups in the area they hail from. It would be epic for those who care. Plus Mike Kinsella could play some Owen songs for everyone at some point during the day too.
9. Death Cab For Cutie: Who doesn't want to see these guys? If Zooey made her way on stage for a song or two that would be sweet too.
10. Limbeck!: What fest of mine would be complete without my favorite band? Plus it might open some people's eyes to one of the most agreeable bands I've ever heard.

B. The Open Door EP is awesome. But if I'm Zooey Deschanel I'm thinking otherwise. Here's the deal, the fledgling indie darling gets engaged to the king of the scene and then he writes a collection of songs all related to an open door: a not-so-subtle metaphor about leaving. Yeah, I'd be upset.
These metaphors about marriage, self-doubt and general worries line the entire short collection. They make up an astounding listen for fans of any level, except that special category Zooey belongs to. If I were her, I'd be on the phone with Matt Ward planning another She & Him release about not putting out, or something passive aggressive like that. Let's hope that she admires the art and holds no grudges.

C. I think there should be a song for the Indians like "Go Cubs Go". It's not fair that they have the market cornered on that.

D. Still looking for best new music this year. Good thing Wilco (The Album) drops soon.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

A Day At Work

The first thing that you notice is the music. Spend more than three minutes inside of your local Menards, and I can guarantee that you will almost certainly question what you are listening to. Most stores will broadcast a light rock, or a country or a pop station, something that most guests (not customers, as I have been reminded several times) will agree on.
I think that whomever chose this particular station believed that they were choosing a generally agreeable station, but I'm not positive that the screening process went very far. The music spans the whole gamut of the late 1960's to the early parts of the new millenium offering country, lite rock, classic rock and songs that make me ask myself, "What the fuck is this?"
In a typical hour the works of such timeless artists as Eddie Money, the Backstreet Boys, George Strait and Carly Simon. That sample is very likely to be heard consecutively because the deejay or computer generated sequence has no idea what a genre is, or how a program could be divided into such rational segments.
The next thing that most customers gifted with eye sight will notice is the rainbow of dayglow colors that adorn almost anything with writing inside the building. From the radioactive green that hangs from the ceilings directing customers to different departments to the royal blue vests emblazoned with highlighter yellow "Menards" worn by all 'team-members.' Each sale is represented by a different color, which means that this week your retinas will burn from the orange sale signs currently posted but in two weeks a nice bright fuchsia could haunt your shopping experience. If your vision hasn't already been impaired by the obnoxious color on display in the store you may be lucky enough to visit during a time when the employees are allowed (by the gracious Menards t-shirt gods) to wear special tee's with the Menards NASCAR printed on it. If a NASCAR t-shirt isn't trashy enough, the car is a mineral-rich urine color bordered by royal blue and blaze orange.
Though most guests will be squinting until they get accustomed to the colors in the store they will be able to find absolutely anything that they could ever need for anything they would ever want to do in any application at Menards. Besides your typical home improvement supplies, all stores now carry such goods as DVD's, small food items (even many sizes of milk) and lawn darts. Why a home improvement store like Menards would carry such items is beyond my knowledge, I suppose it does make shopping easier for the DIYer with no time for other stores, however.
Of course there are parts of the store that are not immediately evident by the average customer such as the joke of a break room that is offered above the hardware section. The mezzanine features quality made plastic furniture that just barely wobbles when you sit on it for the comfort of the hard at work employees to enjoy. On the three bare walls there is a clock and a note reminding employees to clean up after themselves, because a television might suggest that employees should really take a break while on break.
Hand down the best part of the break room is the camaraderie shared by all employees who use it. Aside from the occasional cashier girl clique breaking together or a significant other bringing an employee lunch you can enjoy the company of no one while eating a meal or resting your feet. You may sit directly beside another employee, but after the customary greeting enjoy their silence while you watch the second tick away until you must return to the sales floor.
Of course, I wouldn't say that Menards is a terrible place to work, because it is not. The pay is especially not a bad thing, and you've got to pay the bills somehow. I will also give the company credit for finding managers who really give two shits about what they are doing. It's just part time, so what the hell, I can find ways to make it better I suppose.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I hate the Indians (bullpen)

Cliff Lee has given up 9 earned runs in his last 7 starts, that's 52 innings which comes out to an ERA of 1.21.
Phenomenal. With such stingy pitching he should have 7 wins, right? Wrong. Instead he is exactly 2-3. I don't know how to calculate criminally unsupported starts, but I can tell you that Cliffy has a couple now.
That is not the issue tonight, however. Tonight my ire comes down upon the bullpen who have let me down, and let me down, and let me down and on forever. Eight innings Cliff gave the team tonight, and the offense actually managed to put a five spot on Brian Bannister who has owned them in the past. All Kerry Wood had to do was the job he signed a two-year contract to do: close out the ballgame. But like the rest of his battery mates, he decided to implode and give the damn ballgame away.
After two straight home runs, I couldn't even watch as the Royals proceeded to drive in the final, winning runs.
Since May 6th there have been five moves made involving 15 people. With all these moves perhaps things could change, or maybe it could just make me feel like I wasted money on
I've never been more disappointed in an Indians team before. It might be because I had high hopes for this season based on how poor the end of '07 and all of '08 were. But I don't think anything like this should be occurring.
I have never been one to blame a coach for how the team is playing, but at this point Eric Wedge has to go. Clearly he does not have a handle on this team, and things need to be shaken up.
I've always loved Uncle Eric, but I think tonight was the last straw. If the Indians don't do something as soon as possible, it's going to be too late. That something has to be drastic too, we can't just keep shuffling relievers.
In a division whose leader is two games over .500 and this terrible team only trails by 8.5, there is still time, but, (and I can't stress this enough) things have to change.

New Music

Is it just me, or has this year been particularly lackluster in regards to new music? There have been a few good things to come out in the past five months but the ones that have the most staying power aren't really spectacular.
For instance, the albums that I would call the 'best' so far have been Noble Beast by Andrew Bird and The Hazards of Love by The Decemberists. To be honest, these albums are not great, they are not the best in either artists repertoire and certainly not anything like what we saw in 2008.
Last year brought us Vampire Weekend, Midnight Organ Fight by Frightened Rabbit, Fleet Foxes, Dear Science by TV on the Radio, new Sigur Rós and Death Cab just to name a few. It was a stellar year for indie music, I'm still catching up to it.
This year, however, I feel like the quality of music that has been declared "Best New Music" is not the same. For instance, Pitchfork recommends St. Vincent, Cymbals Eat Guitars, Deerhunter and Animal Collective as the best music that has come out this year. Even Dark Was The Night made their list. I'm sorry, though each of those artists does have some decent tunes, it's not on the same level as what we saw last year, I mean DWTN is a compilation of one-off songs that most of the bands determined not good enough for a full length. Conor Oberst siply re-did an old Bright Eyes song, and though it was good, I don't think that deserves the 'Best New Music' title.
Of course, hindsight is 20-20, and at this time next year I might be proclaiming 2009 the best year ever for music. I hope so, I'd like to get some new tunes spinning soon. Wilco (The Album) is due out in five weeks now, so there is hope (at least for my personal collection). For the time being I'm going to let the needle drop on something from the past.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Holden Caufield

Today, I feel like Holden Caufield.
Everything is going one-hundred miles an hour, in five different directions.
Or maybe I am Andrew Largeman.
While everything else seems to be a blur, I feel like I'm standing still.

This coming of age story has been written countless times before, and I am no different than any of those stories. I don't know how it ends, but I suppose I just need to keep up.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Ever have one of those moments...

when you act like an idiot and say the first thing that comes to mind. Yeah, I did that. I don't mean to be so emo, I just don't quite know how to deal with some things yet. Thanks to some good, kind words words from some better friends I realize that things aren't so bad and maybe I'm not in the worst place ever right now.
So I guess that means that I'm sorry for sounding like such a pathetic train wreck and throwing people under the bus. On to better things.

First Impressions: Wilco (The Album)

Random thoughts about what I've heard/seen:

-The cover art is amazing.
-Wilco (The Song) is just as good as it was on Colbert
-One Wing sounds awesome.
-I'm not sold on Deeper Down.
-Bull Black Nova is different, but it's still Wilco...I don't know yet.
-The duets on You and I and Country Disappeared are really pretty
-You and I reminds me of an old fashioned country song, like Johnny Cash and June Carter, but you know, like Wilco
-Country Disappeared has a Sky Blue Sky chill to it with am AM country vibe
-Solitaire is really stripped down, more so than most songs since A Ghost Is Born
-I'll Fight is fun, that and Solitaire are early favorites off the album
-I'm getting a bit of Summerteeth from Sonny Feeling, it's poppy and twangy
-I changed my mind Sonny Feeling is my favorite off the album at this point
-Everlasting Everything hasn't grown on me yet. I heard Tweedy do it solo in Champaign, but I still need more time with it.
-The album is less like AM than the first track (Wilco [The Song]) led me to believe but it stays away from the Sky Blue Sky slow territory as well (with no disrespect to SBS
-I like the second half of the album more, for the most part

Premature grade: B+/A-
I like it, it goes back to earlier Wilco stuff and presents more of a raw sound than YHF or A Ghost did. I think that the more I listen to it the better it will get.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Restaurant Review

Normal, Il

Grade: A-

For those of you unfamiliar with Destihl the concept is quite simple: high quality beer and food, both handcrafted in-house. It is simple, elegant and wonderfully executed.

I have been to the restaurant on many occasions and being an adventurous soul, tried something different on each visit. On these visits I have had the pleasure of experiencing their kobe beef burger, pancetta and apple pizza, beer braised spare ribs, green chile and cavatappi pasta and the ham and apple sandwich.

The best meal that I have had at the restaurant by far has been the kobe beef burger. Eight ounces of tender, delicious kobe beef topped with crunchy maple jalapeño bacon, white cheddar and bleu cheeses with a side of their espresso chipotle barbecue sauce. If reading that sentence does not make your mouth water you may need to see a doctor. The meat by itself would pass as a delightful entree, but paired with the sweet and spicy bacon and barbecue sauce it becomes something more. The flavors dance across the palate creating a delicate flavor balance that has been masterfully crafted in the kitchens by a chef who clearly takes pride in his or her work.

The fact that the burger was the best meal I have had at Destihl is not meant to take anything away from any of the other meals I have had. The pancetta and apple pizza is another creative flavor combo from the restaurant that works on many levels. The crispy pancetta sprinkled around the pizza offers a good textural contrast to the soft cheese and apple that top the thin brick-oven cooked crust. The apple is mild offering a sweetness to balance the saltiness of the pancetta and the savor of the gouda that adorn the top. The ale onions balance the sweet and savory of the apple and gouda and tie the flavors together.

The beer braised spare ribs are rubbed with a combination of stout and ancho chiles and cooked until the meat is falling of the bones. The flavors are rich and complex, taking barbecue to a completely different level. The espresso chipotle barbecue sauce served on the side adds a little bitterness and a little heat to the already tender and juicy meat. The side of shoestring potatoes compliment the dish well and help to absorb some of the extra sauce.

I was a bit disappointed in the green chile and cavatappi, but only for the sole reason that I had been blown away by everything prior to that. The meal was still very satisfying and good, just a bit under-par in a head-to-head comparison. The meal is served with ancho chicken and black beans in a light cream and corn sauce. The sauce, in my opinion, was very watered down especially since the dish is served as a chili-mac. If the sauce had been thickened the dish as a whole would have been much better, but as is the flavors of the chicken, cheese and vegetables play on the tongue and never overpower, rather create an interesting southwestern flavor.

One of the lunch options that I have sampled is the ham and apple sandwich. I was impressed by the thick cut spiral ham that the chef used. It reminded me of Christmas dinners, it was well cooked, sweet and flavorful, however, more than a third of the ham was comprised of fat. Part of the sandwich was very difficult to chew through because of the high fat content, but it didn't ruin my meal altogether. The ham and apple combination is one of my favorites, the sweetness of the apple really compliment the sweetness of the ham. Topped with my favorite kind of bacon, applewood smoked, and an apple-horseradish mayonnaise I could see the sandwich being one of the best on the menu easily.

The drinks, of course, are another specialty of the restaurant and all of their beers are brewed on site. Being slightly under the age of legal consumption I have not been able to try many of their signature ales, but I hope to have someone else provide some insight in the near future. I have been able to sip on their orange-ginger blossom iced tea, and I can recommend it to anyone looking for a non-alcoholic beverage to compliment their meal.

Overall I give the restaurant an A- because of the little things that have detracted from my overall experience. As a whole the restaurant is one of the top of the line, and certainly the nicest I have visited in Normal. The prices are all moderate and very reasonable for the quality that is offered. Everyone I have gone with has also raved about the restrooms, and after visiting myself I must say I was impressed with their cleanliness and smell, something I normally wouldn't compliment a gentleman's restroom for.

I would recommend that anyone looking for a good meal at a decent price in Normal check out Destihl. With the patio seating available in the summer months, this restaurant is sure to please.


Hello loyal friends or no one at all, I am back from my self-imposed, purposeless writing hiatus. I don't know why I stopped writing so much. I guess I just got bored with everything. It happens. But the good news for you lucky two readers is that I'll be posting more often.
Back here at the dorms everyone is packing up and moving out. Thank god, I have had more than my fair share of this creativity stifling hell hole. I'm ready to move out and move up to my own place and a fresh start.
I need a fresh start. Today is Courtney's birthday and it made me re-evaluate my birthday last year. At the time I was okay with not going out or doing anything really at all, but looking back I'm actually pissed about it. Because all of my friends went out with my ex-girlfriend the night before for her birthday I got shit on. What good friends.
That's where the new start comes in. I practically removed myself from Facebook, so we'll see which of my friends really care about me sometime soon.
Anyway, enough of the personal b.s. I've decided to do some new things with this space. I'm thinking more music, film and food reviews, occasional mind dumps and some witticisms here and there. I hope the one person who reads this enjoys it.