Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Hello, creative folks and friends:

Once again my top fave five of 2009 for books, movies, and music.


Books (fiction):

Sudden Fiction (Various) Anthology of great short shorts. This is the fiction writer’s version of poetry. Sure some of them are gimmicky, but I don’t mind the occasional card trick.

Kill Your Friends (John Niven) Dark, dark satire on the music industry in the 90’s. Hookers and blow and laugh out loud funny. Seriously. Snot flew.

Coming Through Slaughter (Michael Ondaatje) Dense and loose and jumps around like good jazz. Even if you only catch every fifth note, you’ll catch the beauty. Reminded me of Cormac MaCarthy’s Blood Meridian. It rewards close reading. I plan to make my way through his backlist (though probably skipping The English Patient).

Last Evenings on Earth (Roberto BolaƱo) Great short stories. Especially for creative types.

Jelly Roll (Kevin Young) Jazzy, earthy poetry. I even read some of them outloud. I never do that.

Revolutionary Road (Richard Yates) Haven’t seen the movie. Don’t want to see the movie. But hardly a few pages didn’t go by where I tagged, flagged or marked a line, or paragraph. Brutally insightful into relationships and the ability to manipulate others and ourselves. I even wrote a paper on it.

Okay that was 6. It was a good year. Interesting to note that 3 of my favorite reads were required reading in my MFA program. Those cats know their stuff.


Synechode, NY – Easily dismissed as pretentious, but I found it to be a commentary on artistic pretension and filled with much black humor. It lingered with me weeks after I saw it. A lot of people got lost in the Rubic’s Cube of it all, but I think I have the simple answer for it. “Courage in art, but not life.” Feel free to email after you’ve seen it. (simply a man trying to impress a girl.)

Star Trek – Brought out the kid in me. (yeah, Bana is no Khan, and there was some silliness, but at a certain point I didn’t care.) I have since watched this on DVD three times. Love it. Cannot wait for the next one.

The Hurt Locker – Wow.

The Fantastic Mr. Fox - Wes Anderson without being too obtuse. Funny, witty, wry and endearing. Will probably buy it. Nothing like the charm of real stop-motion. This one I think will continue to gain an audience as word of mouth from everyone who sees it seems to be quite taken with it.

Man on Wire – Who knew a story about a high-wire walker could be so profound and beautiful? (This won the Oscar last year for Documentary, but I’m a bit behind.)

Official Rejection – A great indie doc on getting an indie film through the indie film festival. Disclaimer: I know the writer/producers/director. I met them on the circuit when they were shooting all their experiences. I was out with Hard Scrambled, they were out with Ten 'Til Noon. Paul crashed with us while suffering through the Chicago Indie Fest. I had to have a few stiff drinks while watching this. It was like watching an alternate reality homemovie of my own experiences. I have a two second cameo... barkeep!

Best Live Music Show:

The Hoyle Brothers – True honky tonk country. Covers and originals. They place Happy Hour every Friday at the Empty Bottle from 5:30 – 7:30. I always being my Texas friends and they always give a seal of approval. And you can request songs they don’t play and they’ll give it a go. “Streets of Bakerfields” for example. Twice. Nice guys too.

Springsteen – The Boss. As good as advertised.

The Guggenheim Grotto – It boasts the band’s same signature mix of timeless, multi-instrumental pop/folk, but offers a greater maturity and a higher sense of self-consciousness while delving into more sampling and electronic techniques. – Nic Harcourt.

The first song they sang was just vocals and a ukulele (which I guess you can get away with if you’re Irish) and won the crowd over immediately. I listen to this smart, haunting music all the time. Great live, and good background, but the lyrics are intelligent and catchy. Listen closely. Another great opening act discovery at FitzGerald’s in Berwyn.

The Tillers – A twentysomething trio. One mic and old timey/bluegrass music. They were nervous as this was their first gig in the Chicago area., so they churned through their songs and at the ½ hour mark asked the soundman how much time they had. Answer 20 more minutes. You should have seen them relax. Even told a story or two about their new VW bus called Gus and then they jammed the rest of the way through their set. Great guys. Great music. (Later I was told they had to beg for the gig—I’m sure they’ll be back. Crowd loved them.). Yet another great opening act discovery at FitzGerald’s in Berwyn.

And finally…

The Flaming Lips. Floor seats (standing, who sits at a Lips show?). Another transformative experience. I usually just sit back at shows and take in all the music, but this one I got lost in and I’m not just talking about the copious amounts of confetti. My cheeks hurt from smiling so much. You just can’t watch a Lips show passively. Especially on the floor. You gotta love a band whose first song is about two scientist racing for a cure and staged with all the wonderfulness and joy and theatrics of other bands’ finales. Joy over anger. Oh Yoshimi...

HONORABLE MENTION: Queensryche: met the band backstage with Carrie Hill (whose wily ways got us backstage passes). And through some quirk of conversation, Geoff Tate believes I have fathered both of Carrie’s daughters. We sealed the deal with a fist bump (Geoff and I). Awe. Some.

Thanks for reading. Happy New Year.