evilhippo: hippo (29 [omgwtfwasthat])
( Feb. 27th, 2011 05:29 pm)
I was semi-reliably informed today that Chicago is "finally hip". We've pulled up alongside New York City, apparently because in the last ten years or so we've become shinier (in reality, we are shinier because we wanted the Olympics, I think, and it hasn't worn off yet. But that doesn't stop me from enjoying it! I also think Rahm will have to maintain the shine for a little while, at least, or risk looking like a bad mayor). Also we're located on a pretty lake, we've run the midwest out of trees (and parks out of names--we've been numbering them lately), and we finally found a solution to the "no street vendors" issue*.

Aside from my hipster worries about people coming and upsetting the delicate balance of "not terrible" the city has achieved in a the last couple of years... it's kind of right. Since about 2008 we've gone from an odd grey little city with a mob history that suddenly found itself politically relevant to one that suddenly had free concerts nearly every night of the week**, that was courting designers and start-ups, that suddenly has movies and tv shows filmed in it, that was home to recent juggernaut Groupon***... etc etc.****

* Okay, this is seriously the most amusing thing in Chicago right now. We are currently plagued by cupcake trucks. Sometime around August or so, last summer, the city officially approved the sale of "prepackaged" food from trucks on the streets (still no food prep on the go). There'd been one food truck already in the city, that managed to get itself licensed as a restaurant due to a bit of a fluke (really, the best sort), but other than a few illicit outfits that was it for street food in Chicago (and said food truck, All Fired Up, pretty much hit bars after midnight). Now, however, I cannot leave work for lunch without tripping over lines for Flirty Cupcakes or Sprinkles or any number of other recent additions to the cupcake van business. There's also a truck that sells nothing but macaroni and cheese, and one that sells nothing but meatballs. I mean, I know of people that are stunned that we manage to sustain a business that serves nothing but popcorn, but this is a whole new level of food single-mindedness. (And I love it. A part of me wants very, very badly to open a food truck. And, now that I've heard that Kitchen Chicago is how some people do it... I'm very tempted (now that we're equal with NYC) to get up early, make a giant batch of bagels, find someone to make some artisanal cream cheese, package them together, and then sell them off the back of my bike. I mean, really, what is a city without a bagel vendor in the morning? And I'd probably get points for being crazy. (And if I do this soon, people are more likely to notice, since there's only the plague of cupcake vans and a handful of actual food vans in the city right now. This summer, I imagine, will be a different story.) Oh! And one other perk to the food van thing! It's also been picked up by farmers. This morning, I stopped by C & D Farms' van to get some bacon and fresh eggs. It was parked not more than three blocks up the street from me. On one hand: I'm pretty sure you don't get much more ridiculous yuppie-hipster-locavore than that and everyone within 50 yards is probably shaking their heads and rolling their eyes. On the other: The inevitable two dollar surcharge for letting animals roam free goes directly to someone who knows the animals personally (and, also, who remembers her customers and teases me for being able to balance my bike while using both hands to load eggs and bacon into my already-overfull bag. There's something quite nice about that. It reminds me of the farmstands at home, even if it is on four wheels and was driven over from Indiana).******

** Number one reason I am looking forward to it being warm again. There have been rumblings that New Music Mondays and the other free concerts at Millennium Park might be ending this year, and if they do... I am going to be so sad. I'm sure it's not cheap for the city, but it really makes every single thing about the city at least 70% more tolerable. Even if things like the She & Him show last year sometimes make it entirely impossible to find a place to lock your bike up in the loop.

*** Still haven't hired me and are doubtlessly luring more helpless writers into the city, further saturating the market for strange jokes, puns, and general surreal copy. Why must you ruin everything, Groupon?!

**** There's actually a part of me that wonders if I've just figured out how to use the city properly, but that article does seem to present some evidence that it's not just me, and the city was suckier when I first came here back in 2003... I worry when I see articles like this, though, because I'm used to reading them after the fun part is over, and it makes me feel like Chicago is already done being "hip" and by summer we'll be overrun by people who also want to be "hip" (who will then encounter next winter and go home, provided they're not from NYC or something, since at least we're better at dealing with snow). Plus there are still things like this and I mean... Minneapolis, Madison, Cleveland (Heights), but no theatre in Chicago can bother? Psh.

****** Yes, actually, all I really wanted to write about were the food trucks, but I kind of got distracted.
It's after 8, I just got home, I'm tired... but sometimes very random things cheer me up. For example, the last 24 hours of tweets from @MayorEmanuel. It's a touching, surreal story of a vulgar man getting in touch with the city he's trying to win over. (It's a story about hide-and-seek, fermented baby food, a tower of dibs chairs, and the disembodied heart of Studs Turkel.)

Really, it's a good thing most of the other candidates have been kind of unconvincing because the Cult of Rahm produces some very entertaining stuff, and I hope to see it continue. And the best part is that Rahm actually sort of endorses it (and I mean, what else do you do with a reputation like his?) In fact, he offered to donate to the writer's charity of choice if they revealed themselves (most people think it's someone within his campaign, though, so he might just be looking to show them some stabs for making people think he hangs out with a duck).

Definitely the most entertaining local election I've ever been witness to, though. Did I mention one of our candidates calling someone a crackhead? Oh Illinois politics. I ♥ you so.
evilhippo: hippo (67 [icicles])
( Feb. 1st, 2011 08:15 pm)
As a lifelong midwesterner, I'm naturally a skeptic about big snow storms. Everyone is always "Oh! Lots of snow tonight!" "Oh, it's going to be a blizzard." And then in the morning there are three inches or less and it's just mildly inconvenient.

But! Finally, it looks like we have one that's going to live up to the hype. Part of Wrigley Field blew off, there are already two-foot snow drifts in my backyard, you couldn't see three feet out the bus window on the way home... it's pretty awesome.

However, my skeptic's instinct remained in effect in regards to the forecast for "15-20 foot waves"... until recently, when I came across this: "A lakefront flood warning went into effect at 6 p.m. because of the possibility of 25-foot wind-whipped waves crashing through the ice along the shore and washing over Lake Shore Drive."

I already walked almost a mile in this. Someone please remind me that it's a bad idea to walk out to the lake and see. No matter how much I want to. (But seriously, when else am I going to get to see 25-foot waves on Lake Michigan?? I have boots! And a down coat! I can make it, right?)

I also need to stop treating tonight like tomorrow's a snow day. Even though the courts are closed and the Chicago Public Schools are closed and every business in the area is closed, the CTA is still running and it was made clear to me that, if there's a way for me to get to work tomorrow, I'm expected to be there. Sigh. Maybe my doors will freeze closed (and then I'll climb out the window and play--the last blizzard I remember was like, 1993, and it was so much fun. I mean, I was 8, but whatever. It's not like snow is any different now. Even if I'm technically expected to work. If Lake Shore freezes solid because of those waves it's fair to say I can't make it to work, right? Even though it's entirely possible for me to get to work on the train...)

Edit (A few minutes later)... Just went outside and the door froze behind me. Maybe not trying that again. Maybe grabbing a can of lock de-icer and my boots...
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I am absolutely digging this 60-degree weather we're having. Last week (and even this weekend) I thought I was going to have to give up my bike for the winter, and now I've had two absolutely lovely nights of biking home without even needing a jacket. And it's a good thing, too, because otherwise I would be pulling out my hair.

Even the city is giving me advice now:



I spotted that as I was crossing the bridge over the Metra tracks by the Art Institute, and I figured, okay, it's the Blue Cross building, they're probably telling me to quit something. (Yes, despite that seemingly-strategic lamp, it does actually say "QUIT.") Smoking? Eating junk food? But... apparently no. Unless the array of blue lights above it is actually meant to represent a blue Tetris block and it's telling the city to stop playing Tetris?

I'm going to choose to interpret it as a Sign, because today we had two people give their notice, and both of them were of the rare, sane variety, who actually do work. We still haven't replaced people who left in August. I don't think there's a single department in the office that isn't behind right now, and I don't know how they're going to cope with losing two competent, well-adjusted people. (I'm almost certain I'm going to lose all my help, and I would crawl under my desk and cry except there's no room because of all the files at my desk.) I haven't filed something on time in more than a month... and I used to be the only one who was ahead. Now I spend all my time fighting with other legal assistants and attorneys to get their work done and have no time to do anything I'm actually supposed to be doing. Stupid nightmare job.

One positive upshoot of the current situation, though, is that I've been listening to a lot of music lately to drown out Ego Girl, and I recently wore out my crappy old $15 headphones. So today I invested some of my overtime money into a set of actually-good headphones (it actually occurs to me to be embarrassed as to how much I just spent on headphones). But music... guys, music has bass! And dynamics! And... and... I forgot how much I was missing by just listening to things on crappy headphones and crappy laptop speakers. (I thought I wouldn't like in-ear headphones, but it turns out they're not as creepily claustrophobic as noise-cancelling ones and the general effect is that the music is right there and all the outside noises are behind it. I rode past a helicopter on the lakefront tonight and could still hear my music, but I could also hear other cyclists coming up behind me at times when there was no helicopter. Fancy!)
evilhippo: hippo (101 [devious])
( Oct. 25th, 2010 11:02 pm)
Looks like I won't be biking tomorrow.

Bring it, Chicago!

(Actually, maybe I shouldn't say that. But it'll be an adventure, at least.)

And while I'm nattering on about super-local nonsense: someone is selling a loft with a fireman's pole in the West Loop. And considering how tastelessly the rest of that beautiful space seems to be decorated, no wonder they pointed out the fireman's pole (my personal selling-point for a loft) as the main feature. Someone want to loan me about a million dollars so I can get it and fix it up properly?
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It took me two and a half hours to get home from the airport. An entire week of smooth sailing, peaceful if confusing transit, customs, baggage claims, millions of ways for things to go wrong.

I get back to Chicago and it's 80+ degrees out for some inexplicable reason (something I don't really intend to complain about, but is still worth remarking on). I get on the blue line, and suddenly it's packed to the brim with incredibly noisy Polish soccer fans, then a stop later there appears a silver-painted street performer who starts giving some kind of sermon about the evils of homosexuality, then I'm surrounded by Parisian tourists, and the train announcer actually calls soccer football at the transfer to the red line at Jackson. I shake my head, and think "Well hello again to you, Chicago" and head up to my bus stop.

And then I wait for my bus, and wait a bit more, and finally I see it coming, but it blows past our stop. I shout and wave my CTA pass, along with the three or four other people at the stop, but it barrels on past anyway. Whatever. It's not terribly long before another bus shows up. "Very hello, Chicago."

Aaand then there's about 20 minutes of traffic because Chicago will take any excuse to close off Columbus Drive (Chicago marathon tomorrow) and there's a big soccer game on. Then we finally get on Lake Shore and suddenly traffic just stops, because something obviously went very wrong just moments before. We're stuck for maybe 15 minutes while ambulance after ambulance goes by, police show up and alternately block and direct traffic. No one on the bus had seen that many ambulances all going to one accident in a very long time, if ever (I was in the latter category. The worst LSD incident I've seen was an SUV engulfed in flames during college). We eventually surmise that a bus must've been involved, and as we finally get past the accident, the whole population of our bus pressed against the side windows to see what was going on, we see that it is, in fact, an extra-long CTA bus far off the road in some trees.

And that's when I realize that this is the bus that blew past my stop, that I'd yelled at only a few minutes before. The bus I very easily could've been on. Thankfully it doesn't look like it's as bad as it could've been, considering it was a "full" bus (70-80 people). (I originally said no one was seriously injured, but the article has updated since then and that's no longer the case.) And because this is the age of the internet, there is even a video of the bus shortly after the crash. (I guess I should warn you, that video is a bit disturbing to me because I ride this bus EVERY DAY for at least 1/3 of the year, and I still can't think of a good reason for this to have happened and so, as is human nature in regards to the unexplained, it makes me nervous and uncomfortable. But there's nothing graphic to it, other than a very banged up CTA bus and some shaken people.)

Guys, I have NEVER, ever been so happy that a bus didn't stop for me. It's bad enough that my vacation is now punctuated with such a crazy near-miss. Freaking crap. Nothing like narrowly missing being in a bus crash to bring you back down to earth after vacation. Chicago, when I said I love cities that abuse me, I did not want you to get back up to this nonsense as soon as I got back, seriously.

I'm also still starving, which I think I'll realize properly once I stop being nervous and uncomfortable.
evilhippo: hippo (76 [bubble])
( Aug. 26th, 2010 07:57 pm)
In the interest of repairing some of the damage I did with the endless barrage of novella-length comments in the previous entry, some light news today, divided into bite-sized bits:

Dirk Gently! )

Sufjan Stevens! )

Transformers! )

Refrigerator! )
evilhippo: hippo (40 [ellipses])
( Aug. 21st, 2010 02:03 pm)
The details are hazy now, but in my dream last night, the Titanic was a very weighty and important metaphor. Each time I "woke up" it was later in the day (10:37, 11:43, 12:13), and each time I fell asleep again the situation was different, but someone always ended up bringing up something about the Titanic, or something titanic, and it was with great urgency and importance, even though most of the time they couldn't show it, I knew they were trying to communicate something essential to me. When I finally woke up for real, I discovered that it was actually not even 8:00 yet. I still have the vague feeling that "titanic" is very important, but I can't sort out whether it was being used as an adjective or a proper noun.

To whoever is trying to plant ideas in my brain... you're not very good at it yet?

Or I'm just too clever for them. I was sitting behind the courthouse Thursday afternoon, people-watching (the courthouse is fantastic for this. People sometimes show up for court in the most ridiculous things. Snuggies, pants that say "Hello, I am: Wasted"... I recently saw a woman who seemed to have one of those styrofoam-ball and wire solar systems stuck under her shirt, bobbing around her waist, and she was being followed at a respectable distance, but still quite obviously, by a uniformed officer. I was really curious about that one.) But anyway, there's always been a fairly significant contingent of people who are wearing various sports jerseys, and they've always perplexed me, partly because they're standing in a sea of suits and other formal-wear (the same reason the snuggies and awkward pajama pants stand out), but also because they're clearly employees at the courthouse, and it's weird to imagine some part of the courthouse where people just hang around in sports jerseys, especially at a rate so much higher than you see normally. They all carried themselves similarly, they walked out with some obvious purpose, and they all wore the same sort of pants. And then it hit me. The jerseys weren't worn inside the courthouse. They were worn on break so people wouldn't see their police badges. It's so obvious now! Jerseys are innocuous, but easy to put on over a uniform and take off quickly. I wonder if police/security do this outside of Chicago, or even away from the courthouse. It's no wonder, though... around the courthouse in the rabble of lost tourists, people with court dates, and nosy people like me eating their lunch... you don't want to go flashing your badge if you're not on duty. Anyway, I felt rather clever after that. Not too long after I pieced it together, as if to confirm my theory, a squat-ish rounded man with a mustache came out with his jersey still unbuttoned and I could see the glint of his badge. Until he noticed me staring (and probably grinning proudly) and gave me a weird look and hurried away. The amount of time it took me to figure this out is probably downright shameful, but I still feel proud that I figured this out.
evilhippo: hippo (25 [space])
( Jul. 22nd, 2010 09:50 pm)
O, glorious distraction! Who wants to be my personal reference for this? I'm already culling the awful science fiction references from my pitch (those that aren't awful will stay. After all, the application has a Lost reference.) Finally, a job I am qualified for!

Better yet, who wants to loan me a video camera? I don't think my little camera's video mode will really cut it.

(Honestly, if I can secure a video camera I'm kind of serious about this. I think it'd be a hilarious adventure, and totally the sort of thing I could sit around and write about every night. Plus trying to get the month off work right after going to Europe would be an amazing feat of argument. It's such a ridiculous reason to miss work I might actually be able to do it. And if I had to quit, heck, I could live off the $10,000 until I found something else, or finally went to grad school. Regardless, it'd be a story to tell, and I'm all about stories to tell.)
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The last couple of days have been great for city-dwelling tourism. Why? Well, the weather's been fantastic (though hot). And, well, they destroyed part of North Michigan Avenue:

Destruction!

And you know, despite the fact that this is for Transformers 3 and I can't do anything to stop them it's also really, really cool. Parts of lower Michigan are dressed up too (including part of the riverwalk), there's an overturned bus wedged between two buildings on Wacker just west of here, there are several lots full of fake rubble. And they set their base camp up... basically in a hole. It looks like a parking lot there, but it's actually one story down, so it is literally like a zoo. There are people gathered all along the upper railing staring down hoping to get a glimpse of the actors. Yesterday we got to see Patrick Dempsey leave his trailer, get screamed at by countless women, wave, disappear into his trailer again, and then come out and wave and go to the set. How exciting? But really, watching everyone else was amazingly weird. Also, it was worth it for the conversation my friends and I had about ten feet away from the crowd, in which we failed to remember which medical show Patrick Dempsey was on, then, once we figured that out, one of us kept insisting that the "Mc" he was was "McSweeney." From there we were able to segue beautifully into Optimus Prime's insurance claims.) We also ran into some Shia LeBoeuf fangirls underground next to the base camp itself, holding signs. I'm still not entirely sure I won't go back today with a sign that says something like "Love me, Optimus!" so I can stand next to them and alter the creepy factor slightly.

As you can see from the picture, I was able to secure a pretty awesome view thanks to a friend's office. There is also a video of the explosions we witnessed (sadly, we missed the base jumpers off the Trump tower), but it may never see the light of day simply because our unwitting commentary was so embarrassingly nerdy (we didn't know that one us had actually been taping as soon as they started adjusting the cameras. It's five minutes long, includes us failing to name actors properly, and parts of it actually bear comparison with double rainbow). It also may never see light of day because Paramount thinks films of them filming their film are copyright infringement. Regardless, if I get a hold of it, I'll definitely share. If there's one thing that belongs on the internet, it's terrible nerdy commentary. Paired with explosions.

Unfortunately, all this nerdy activity yesterday actually gave me a nightmare last night (either that or it was the migraine I had in the evening...). I dreamed that I was actually watching this movie (which I realize I'm going to have to do now), and after the credits, where things like Iron Man hide the teasers for the sequel, the camera zoomed up into this executive high-rise and slowly the whorp-whorp sound of the TARDIS started (I looked around the theater, put my face in my hands and said "Oh no"), then it appeared and out hopped three poorly-casted American actors who were supposed to be Nine, Rose and Jack (I think Nine was played by Shia LaBoeuf, and his jacket didn't fit at all). Jack took a look around, said "But the Fifth was the Sixth" with a hint of ominous premonition and then it faded to black. Then all the fanboys tried to kill me while explaining why having Doctor Who cross over into the Transformers universe was actually okay and I tried to run away into this epic rainstorm that destroyed most of Kenwood plaza (at which point dream-me went "Oh no, I'd better do my grocery shopping before this gets completely destroyed!" so part of the rest of the dream was me picking up various things I needed from Hyde Park Produce).

Oh right, um... spoilers for Transformers 3. Sorry.
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This note is mostly for [livejournal.com profile] flutingfrenzy (who exists in real actuality and is quite awesome--notably, but not only, for having put up with my "let's wing it!" plan of touring Chicago, which involved walking around for several miles during a torrential downpour):

It was after Lollapalooza, and it was an angry punch. This is what happens with rumours. (Though in hindsight something like that would have been super-nonsensical after the Obama rally.)

Also, there are exactly zero results for "dying inside a bird," let alone "what it's like to die inside of a bird." Without the quotes you get a lot of hits for Silent Hill and emo things, plus something about Dunkin Donuts health violations (for the former) and an NPR article on Big Bird (for the latter). Neither of which I am going to read now, because after managing not to fall asleep on the bus, I think it's time for me to properly fall asleep in my bed.
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Once upon a time I was eating my salad in the lunch room at work, chatting with a few of my work-mates. One of them looked at her phone and went "Oh! Wow, there was a shooting at State and Randolph!"

"Well, that explains all the sirens," I said.

"Yeah. Huh." Things became less clear as she read the report. "So, two people were shot, and one of them was a police officer. Four shots were fired."

"Man, that must've been some serious business," someone else said, approximately.

"No kidding."

A few minutes later, after accusing each other in turn, we finally settled our wild hypotheses on the idea that obviously what must've happened was that a police officer had missed his target, shot his partner, then someone else.

Lo and behold... That's exactly what happened. He shot his partner in the chest.

Where do I line up for the "Let's not fire guns on State Street" club? Because, um... especially in front of Channel 7? Kind of a lot of people there. I figure it's lucky the only two people shot were a police officer in a bullet-proof vest and the actual mugger. Yeesh.
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Number of presidents seen in person (from many feet away): Two.
Previous count, prior to 5:15 tonight: One.

I don't think I can describe how completely and utterly strange it is to be standing on the corner of State and Monroe in downtown Chicago, waiting for my bus, and to see a giant crowd gathered about half a block away, and secret service cars blocking the entire street while a white-haired man emerges from the Palmer House to a great big spontaneous cheer from the surrounding people. And there, in the middle of State Street, stands Bill Clinton, and while people cheer and wave he gets in his secret service SUV and they drive off. I didn't think I lived in a place where there was spontaneous cheering anywhere, for anything, let alone in the middle of State Street during rush hour, for a politician who isn't Barack Obama. At first I saw the flashing lights and thought someone had been hit by a bus (and then, briefly after the cheering, wondered if someone really evil had been hit by a bus).

Also, a note to Bill Clinton: I couldn't see you while you were driving away. I know now that you were sitting on the other side of the SUV, but that's why I looked so hesitant and confused while I was waving at you. I wasn't sure at the moment which SUV I was supposed to be waving at. I hope that doesn't hurt your feelings.
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evilhippo: hippo (25 [space])
( Aug. 5th, 2009 10:55 pm)
I actually left work at 5:30 today... and took a lunch break. (The break was a mistake. I need to replace my cell phone, and ended up ogling the Palm Pre and trying to justify the purchase. It's $200, but it's very pretty and the phone plan itself is only about $30 a month more than mine now, and includes internets. But... yeah. Considering how much more I'll be spending on my apartment, I can't imagine being so weak-willed as to end up with a smartphone at this point. Unless my job strips away the last bit of sanity I have... which, considering I've worked 13 hours of overtime since last Tuesday, is actually kind of possible.)

Lollapalooza is already gumming up traffic downtown, and so I didn't actually get back down to Hyde Park until well after 6 anyway, but, on the plus side, I took the museum bus all the way down to 57th and walked up the lake shore trail, which afforded me a prime view of some kind of boating debacle that required two firetrucks, an ambulance, the coast guard, and a helicopter. I really, really wish I knew what happened. No explosions or fire, though there was a strong burning smell in the air for a little while.

And I made dinner for the first time since like, Pitchfork. Cornmeal-breaded tilapia with mango-pineapple salsa, and some beans from my back porch. It was good, because it was an actual meal, but I really need to figure out how to make fish actually good. It wasn't bad (in fact, it was in the top five fish dishes I've made this year), but I either overcooked it or over-breaded it, because it was far too dry. Someday... someday I will figure this whole cooking thing out. Or at least the part of it that involves preparing fish so it doesn't suck.

And yeah... this entry is kind of entirely pointless, but I'm trying to waste time until the stomping from upstairs stops. Then, I am going to bed so I can joyfully face another day of law-clerking. Woo.
evilhippo: hippo (58 [yip yip])
( Jul. 20th, 2009 08:53 pm)
I think I've recovered enough to write this. I was basically headachey and dead all day today, which is unfair because I even made a special effort yesterday to avoid all the pot and cigarette smoke that'd been giving me headaches the rest of the weekend. Goshdarnit. Anyway! Sunday wasn't quite as epic as Saturday, but it did have its moments.

1:00 (A) The Mae Shi--So, Saturday I was all "You know what's weird? The Bowerbirds being all popular, that's weird!" and then Sunday started with the Mae Shi, who had just broken up/were in the process of breaking up/were basically two separate bands between the start and end of their set. It was pretty boring through the first three songs, and I almost left to listen to Michael Columbia until they pulled out a parachute, threw it into the audience, sang a song, took it back, and then gradually turned into a hip-hop act that was actually very entertaining.

1:45 (C) Frightened Rabbit and (B) Dianogah--The original plan was to check out Frightened Rabbit and then go hang out at Dianogah. I did the opposite. Dianogah was actually quite good, but definitely not the sort of thing you can stand around listening to (it's totally headphones on, spacing-out productively sort of music). Frightened Rabbit was marginally more interesting live, and their Scottish accents and happiness to be there were good enough to keep me from wandering off.

2:30 (A) Blitzen Trapper (maybe 2:40 (B) The Killer Whales?)--So, honestly I don't remember what I did during this set. I think I caught about four Blitzen Trapper songs, and I was kind of nonplussed, so I wandered to the B stage and was even more nonplussed with the Killer Whales. I don't really remember anything they played, and part of this might be that I was under a tree behind the sound tent and the acoustics there were terrible.

3:35 (B) Women--The problem here, really, is that there wasn't much I'd heard of/had an interest in hearing on Sunday morning, so I did a lot of sitting. I'm certain there's a very strong difference between the Killer Whales and Women, but I honestly couldn't tell you. I did get some vegan curry with lots of veggies at this point, though, which was really delicious and came with the most hardcore and biodegradable spork ever. (Btw the food rocked. I also had a really wonderful spinach pie and some iced coffee horchata, and non-dairy ice cream of deliciousness. I mean really, what the heck kind of festival food is that, even? Other than the spinach pie (which had feta in it), I was vegan all weekend and I don't regret it for a moment, except I did kind of want ribs, but Robinson's always smells good.)

4:30 (B) DJ/Rupture--By most accounts, I should regret not going over to see the Thermals, but I heard a bit of their opening and they sounded like everything else (this is also why I didn't go see Fucked Up, but I don't regret that either), so I went over to stage B for DJ/Rupture, and I don't regret it, because every one of us was dancing. I don't think I mentioned my goal of dancing through an entire set at Pitchfork, but this set accomplished it with flying colours, and so I'm happy. I also realized I'm endlessly fascinated by DJing (I was pretty sure of it after hanging out at the techno stage at the festival I went to in Logan Square, but this pretty much cemented it).

5:30 (B) Japandroids--Kind of meh. I stayed for a while just because I was over there. They had a lot of energy, but it really just wasn't my thing, so I went to get ice cream and then wandered around Flatstock. If I wasn't going to Hillside this weekend and spending more money, I think Flatstock would've bankrupted me because oooh so many pretty posters.

6:30 (A) M83--I was going to watch Vivian Girls, but the crowd was just too massive for me to hang around at the B stage when I knew that Grizzly Bear was going to be next. I do regret not seeing them; M83 was good, but not exciting. In hindsight, I probably could've wound my way into a decent-enough spot for Grizzly Bear even if I'd been over at Vivian Girls, but as it was, I got to meet a very nice guy who was sharing his tarp with people and had a nice long sit in the grass.

7:25 (C) Grizzly Bear-- ^_______^ When people toss around the factiod that "Veckatimest is the most collaborative record [of theirs] to date" I want you all to know that it really, actually means something. I think everyone sang lead on something. The only person who wasn't habitually switching instruments was the drummer (and I mean like, switching: guitar to recorder to omnichord, bass to clarinet to flute). Their monitors kept breaking and buzzing and they kept going anyway. And they were fantastic. I love them more than I did before.

8:40 (A) The Flaming Lips-- I suspect Wayne just wasn't that into us until about halfway through the set, after we were done showing our displeasure at his disinterest in whole "Write the Night" idea. Personally, I thought he did much better with the things they hadn't played recently, and I imagine part of why they said they'd do the fan-request thing was that they were under some sort of assumption that Pitchfork-type fans would vote up obscure songs rather than knocking out a greatest-hits list. They're obviously going for a different direction, and man, I mean, I don't blame them. Most of their mainstays are from Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots and The Soft Bulletin, which are, at the least, seven years old. (I actually could've sworn that Yoshimi... came out in 1998/9, along with everything else I loved in high school, but apparently I was off by a bit. Somehow, this makes me feel even older.) Anyway, despite a lukewarm beginning (I think the crowd was tired and wanted more pandering and less showiness, which was silly considering it was the freaking Flaming Lips, and what you get is explosions no matter what) they put on a good show. I kind of wondered how, with all the balloons and confetti, the festival kept its carbon footprint small. I wonder how many green energy credits they had to buy to offset it...

All in all... not quite as solidly amazing as Saturday, but definitely a Sunday well-spent. Even if I was braindead all day today, and probably will only recover in time to die yet again this weekend at Hillside. (Woo!) Now, if only work wasn't in a state that makes me really wish I could come in this weekend and iron out all the little disasters crashing together...

There are also a grand total of three pictures over at my Flickr. There would be more, but I really hate most crowd pictures and every picture of any band looks the same, so you can have balloons, confetti, and sunset instead.
evilhippo: hippo (72 [word])
( Jul. 18th, 2009 10:49 pm)
In contrast with yesterday, today I basically have nothing but nice things to say. And so I will attempt to say them briefly, mostly because I am frak-all tired.

1:00 (A) Cymbals Eat Guitars--I wasn't there for the whole thing, but they were just so adorably nervous. Like they weren't entirely sure why they were invited, or why such a large crowd had shown up so early in the day for them. And they weren't bad, for being music I wouldn't normally listen to.

1:45 (B) The Dutchess & The Duke--Very nice, but pretty typical folk rock band. They appeared to have a band member who played only the tambourine.

2:40 (B) The Antlers--Another band that was adorably into the whole festival thing. The keyboard player stood around during sound check taking pictures of the crowd, and the lead singer constantly thanked us. I think I'll end up liking them in the same way I like Cold War Kids. Quietly, and for their intensity.

3:35 (B) Bowerbirds--Probably the weirdest experience of my day: I was stuck right in front of a bunch of (literally) screaming fangirls. I didn't think the Bowerbirds were at the point yet to have screaming fangirls, but they do, and they know all the words. Also, as soon as they started the press pit filled up with seriously the most photographers I saw all day. It was kind of bittersweet for me, like I was seeing them off. Oh Bowerbirds. I'll forgive you for getting your break and leaving me in the dust, because you all looked seriously happier than when I saw you at Schubas.

4:15 (A) Final Fantasy--Actually my dinner set. I kind of hung back for this and scoped out the food. I'm going to see him in Canada (probably) anyway. What I did catch was pretty cool, though, and I suspect it would've sounded better if I'd been in front of the stage.

5:15 (C) Yeasayer--MADE IT RAIN ON US. But were good enough to make up for it, I think. The only proper dancing I saw today was during this rain. Definitely fun music--not sure I'd listen to it on its own, but definitely fun live.

6:15 (A) Doom--Watched him on the jumbo-tron while camping out a spot for Beirut. Couldn't make out a word he sang. He appeared to be wearing leaves, in addition to his mask. Not the worst rap I've ever heard through a crowd at knee-level, though.

7:35 (C) Beirut-- ^_____^ Also, there was a crowd surfer during "Scenic World," which was pretty hilarious.

8:40 (A) The National--They're so good, I really wish I liked them! As it was, I hung back in the crowd, found a nice spot on the grass, and unwound from the rest of the day. The sunset was pretty. And in the end, I made it out before the biggest part of the crowd pushed onto the CTA, so I didn't have to fight to get onto the train.

All in all, a pretty awesome day, despite the occasional rain. I'm pretty excited for tomorrow. I hope I can manage to wake up for it.
evilhippo: hippo (111 [danger])
( Jul. 17th, 2009 10:10 pm)
First order of business: Chicago weather, freaking warm up! That awful cold drizzle on my way home actually made me glad I was too tired and chilly to stay for all of Built to Spill. I don't like being glad I didn't stay for an entire set!

As for the music... for once, I am going to observe the "if you don't have anything nice to say..." rule. Basically, I went today to get a sense of the place, and because it made sense at the time to get a 3-day pass (and I hoped that maybe Yo La Tengo or Built to Spill would be interesting beyond the one song each I'd heard). Jesus Lizard was one of the most bizarre things I have ever seen on stage, mostly because it was raucous and noisy in an early 90s grunge sort of way, and everyone on stage was greying or grey and the lead singer crowd-surfed and whipped off his shirt to reveal his slight old-man pudge. IT WAS WEIRD. Totally freaking hilarious, to me, standing around squished between all kinds of (slightly less greying) people, some of whom looked like they'd wandered in from a truck stop. You'd think that at a show in the middle of a park, where people basically wander back and forth between stages, you wouldn't be able to tell the demographic shift, but apparently all the plaid, tight-jeaned hipsters hid from Jesus Lizard, and black t-shirt wearing old guys pumping their fists in the air replaced them. (In the end I hung out by the port-a-potties for most of their set, so come to think of it, they scared me away too. But in a totally bemused, I should really call someone and tell them to watch the webcast of these shenanigans sort of way.)

I was glad to see that our little free subset of the Tribune told people they needed to see pretty much everyone I don't care about. (And, given the fact that they gave Torchwood: Children of Earth four out of four stars, I think it's safe to say it's pretty much always an advantage to disagree with the Red Eye.) Mostly I'm just happy that maybe there won't be an unmanageably huge crowd for Beirut if everyone else has been told to see Matt & Kim.

And finally, I know I'm going to want to say this at least fifty more times this weekend, but you have no idea how weird it is to turn around and constantly be running into guys who look just like my father. 1) The 70s are over for a reason, you silly hipsters! 2) Please stop, it freaks me out. 3) That photo was actually in an issue of Easy Rider, which makes me laugh every time I see it. After I finish laughing at how incredibly dorky it is, and how every goshdarn 20-something male in the indie subculture has somehow gravitated to a style my now-retirement-age father sported decades ago. (There's also a photo I've seen at home of him in tight jeans and red converse high-tops, with a worn-out, faded t-shirt. Whyyyyyy, hipsters, whyyy! (Alternately: I was apparently raised by a hipster and a hippie! Whyyy!))
evilhippo: hippo (53 [poke])
( Jun. 27th, 2009 05:35 pm)
[livejournal.com profile] evilhippo has gained Bicycle Repair!
[livejournal.com profile] evilhippo retains the use of 12-year-old Mountain Bike.

Mountain Bike gains:
+ 2 street slicks! Biking in higher gears is now possible!
* Street Slicks unlocks Mechanical Advantage! Nobbly tires no longer hold you back!
+ Pseudo-Hybrid street cred! Old ladies in skirts will no longer be able to pass on the Lakeshore trail!
+ Braking ability! [livejournal.com profile] evilhippo can now stop if there is danger!
+ Vehicular rivalry! It is now possible to feel superior to cars stuck in traffic along longer portions of Lakeshore Drive!

Mountain Bike loses:
- Indoor Fun. Mountain Bike will no longer make a joyful grippy-tires-on-hardwood noise when ridden in the apartment.
- Subtlety. Every bump and pothole on Chicago's addled streets is now magnified. Learn them well, my friend!

(Thank goodness for Blackstone Bicycle Works, which is in fact as cool as the internet makes it seem. And cheap enough that I didn't have any reason to feel guilty about not buying a new bike.)
Tags:
evilhippo: hippo (77 [lightbirds])
( Jun. 22nd, 2009 08:56 pm)
Tonight's Question of the Night:

Is it acceptable to totally trash a band's album, and then turn around and shower them with praise for their live show?

Thankfully this question is mostly moot, because I never got around to posting my absolutely horrible, unhappy thoughts about The Dirty Projectors' Bitte Orca. Well, okay, I was mostly just nonplussed. There is always at least one album every year that everyone else likes, a lot, that I just don't get. It's just... this time around, this album sounds exactly like the album last year that I didn't like that everyone else did. In fact, I'm at least partway convinced that Bitte Orca is a secret follow-up to Vampire Weekend. Down to the vocals (that would be good if they weren't so affected)... only with noisier backup and more girls. So, basically my main gripe about Bitte Orca is that everyone is going "Oh, new! Groundbreaking, different indie rock!" and I'm going "... Are we sure this isn't Vampire Weekend*?"

Anyway! It's probably obvious that I am much more entertained by big ideas, even if they're not executed perfectly (coughHazardsofLovecough). And the Dirty Projectors just... are kind of a medium idea. But here's the thing that makes me a hypocrite.

They rock live.

I am going to hold at least part of this to the magic of the Pritzker Pavilion, because when the sound people nail the sound (which they totally and fatally failed to do for St. Vincent), it's fantastic. But you know what? The Dirty Projectors are tight. To the point that I suspected them of lip syncing (until there were a few hiccups with the percussion, and I had to concede otherwise). It was a good, good show. There were a few weak songs, especially Stillness is the Move. I strongly suspected that this song was ironic, but seeing it performed, it... isn't. They preformed it, really and truly, as a summertime, girl-shouty, Mariah Carey-sounding pop song. And on stage, it looked and sounded a lot like something that would happen at a sleepover karaoke party. (There was a bald guy and his toddler son, though, who zoomed back and forth in front of me during this song, and the kid was pounding on his father's head so happily I couldn't help but enjoy it, too.) Other than that, though, the girls were far, far better than the guy singer. And it was good.

So, here is my prescription: If you're at a festival or something, and the Dirty Projectors are there, see them. Otherwise, if you buy one of their albums, I recommend getting a good set of speakers and about an acre of land. Set the speakers on one end of the yard, turn them up good and loud, and then sit on the other end of the yard. I think the issue I have with Bitte Orca, and their other albums, is that the music needs a lot of space. Not because it's particularly intricate, but because it's thick, and packed into headphones or small speakers it just sounds boring; like Vampire Weekend, but without the aggressive attempts at listenability.

*Obligatory Disclaimer: I don't hate Vampire Weekend. In fact, I liked them enough to legally own their album. I just didn't find it to be anything particularly exciting or fantastic the first time around. Just upbeat and easy to listen to. Also, in order to make Bitte Orca, I think Vampire Weekend would've had to ingest a lot of odd drugs and pretty much ditch the whole accessible music aesthetic.

And Edit: And, despite my complaining, I'm glad this isn't as bad as it could've been. It always throws me when something like that happens to someone I just saw--even if I saw them from a few hundred yards away.
For the first time in just over nine months, I am sunburned. Thankfully, in those nine months I managed to learn that sunscreen is a good idea, so this isn't nearly as bad as last time (in fact, for having been outside from about 10:30 this morning to 7 tonight, I could be far worse-off than a little pinkness and two diagonal still-pale lines down my back where I kept switching my bag around). Today was one of those Chicago days that just shouts "Come outside and play!" and when it does that, you do, because you know it's about to get really oppressively humid in a couple of weeks and the weather won't be fun anymore.

It was blue and sunny and the bike trail was covered in puddles that, apparently, everyone but me avoided (which is silly, because if you're moving fast why wouldn't you want to splash through a puddle? They weren't even particularly dirty). Everyone was out picnicking or running, and it was so picturesque it felt like a movie set, which was a bit unnerving. I blame part of this impression on my morning, which involved people saying hi to me on the street, having a conversation about Infinite Summer with a bookstore clerk, and hitting Hyde Park's one-and-only yuppie grocery store, which grows cleaner and more expensive every time I set foot in it (I only bought cheese, a pineapple, some chicken, and yuppie paper towels). All my morning was missing was a mellow indie-rock soundtrack that included Sufjan Stevens, but I hear it's illegal to ride a bike while you have headphones on, and even if it's not, it's a dumb idea. So my morning was one of those movies a diegetic soundtrack, mostly of car tires and dogs, and one "55th Street. Walk sign. 55th Street. Walk sign."

Fortunately, the movie ground to an abrupt halt once I took my friend to the zoo. I don't think there are many movie conventions that could sustain a constant barrage of things like "Why don't any of the lions have horns?" and "I'm going to yell at that bear until it turns back into an elf." I also would refuse to be in any movie that involved me drinking a 32-ounce "Apocalyptic Ice" Slurpee. Especially since it was purchased from an oddly picturesque, yet internally stereotypical (down to the cashiers) 7-11.

I am going to be so sore tomorrow. Ten-mile bike rides after months of being sedentary are only fun in the few hours afterward, before the pain sets in. Though the sunset on the way back, with random people silhouetted in the blue-screen panorama, was pretty worth it.
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