Thursday, August 28, 2014

My Billy Corgan Ravinia Setlist (Part One)


I pride myself on being headstrong, stubborn, and perhaps a bit narcissistic on certain parts of my life.  One of those is that I can say I've been a long time Smashing Pumpkins fan (fan since 1992).  I was listening to Gish and the Lull EP when they first came out (even though I hated it all at the time). In fact, it took the Siamese Dream record to seduce me to the dark side.  Hummer is my favorite song off that record and a close contender for favorite of all time (we've got Drown, Marquis In Spades,  and Bury Me in the running as well).  The groove in the song forced me to have to go revisit Gish for which is still my favorite SP record to date.

Through the years, Billy has continued to challenge me as a fan.  Adore came out and was an awesome record even if it didn't have Jimmy Chamberlin in the fold.  The songwriting came through on that record.  Then Machina-era records were released with interesting songs and a challenging, half-finished concept attached to them for which honestly I couldn't really wrap my brain around.  I just accepted I was too dumb to appreciate Billy's brilliance in this and hopefully he would publish just the the fawk that concept really was (to this date, I still don't know what he was trying to do.  Perhaps the Machine reissue will solve that riddle for me).  The songs were much bigger and lyrically tougher to decipher than previous efforts.  Radio and MTV had turned against the band starting with Adore and stopped playing the new stuff in heavy rotation (yes, new stuff was being played but not nearly at the level Today, Disarm, or even Tonight, Tonight was).  Fans started turning against the band as well as they wanted more of 1992-94 than 1998-2000.  By 2001, being a fan of the band meant either you liked "old Pumpkins" or being a fool for liking "anything beyond Mellon Collie".
Then SPv1 broke up.  It was a good ending to an era of me dumping so much time and effort into proving to everybody I was the biggest fan (for which I wasn't).  I then watched the rise and fall of Zwan, which honestly should've been the next Pumpkins record.  Then lackluster solo releases from Billy, James (who released a solo record during the Mellon Collie era) and Jimmy were released and I even supported them by seeing them on tour.  The whole time I was yearning for a new Pumpkins record.

Pumpkins Alive!

When the Pumpkins reformed in 2007, I was very optimistic.  Yes, it wasn't the original line-up but I had already come to terms with the fact that we had a rotating rhythm section with D'Arcy Wretzky having already been fired (or left the band depending on who you ask) after the recording of Machina and Jimmy having been fired during the Mellon Collie tour thus giving me exposure to Matt Walker and Kenny Aronoff as touring drummers.  I was also quite aware of the musical contributions from D'Arcy and James on the other recordings and could live with the new album being a Billy/Jimmy record.  When Zeitgeist was released, I had a really difficult time digesting it.  Yes, it was rawk with fantastic drumming and soaring solos, but it was missing a bit of "soul"; I just chalked that up to a number of factors:
  • Billy, Jimmy, and I have aged.  We're no longer the people we were back in 2000.  Life experience and growth had occurred so we were all trying to reconcile our historical experiences of what The Smashing Pumpkins meant to us then with what was being produced now.
  • I REALLY wanted SPv1 back together to satisfy my youthful cravings.  Believe it or not, I was ok with everyone moving on with a new line-up.  I figured that if Billy and Jimmy were happy, their music would reflect it for the better.
Again, I was being challenged to accept new music along with the circumstances behind the making of it.  It took me until 2009-2010 to truly understand the brilliance of that Zeitgeist record.  I had a attended the shows where Billy's rants and antics alienated the old school "fans" as well as alienated his own bandmates at times.  The thing I respected the most was his willingness to pursue his passion.  He'd rather fall on the sword of trying something new and failing versus turning into an oldies act and capitalizing on the past.   I finally reestablished a visceral link between me and Billy as I was and still am going through the same artistic struggle as he is.  I feel a kinship with him in being hated for just trying to do art and be happy with what I'm doing.

Tears In The Ocean

When the Teargarden by Kaleidyscope and Oceania projects took shape, I had to accept my favorite drummer of all time was out of the band and replaced with a 17 year old kid.  Ouch.  Another challenge, Billy? Fine. I'll roll with it.  I accepted that Billy was a one-man-band at this point and was carrying the name on his shoulders without his right hand man.  OK.  I said to myself, "Let's see where he'll take it.  He did it well with Adore.  Perhaps he's got something even bigger than that."  The results were over-promising and under-delivery.

The Teargarden project sounded too good to be true.  Billy had spoken a lot about grandiose projects in the past so I knew when he said it'd be 44 songs released one at a time for free that the project would not be completed.  The songs weren't strong enough to stand alone or even together (except maybe Freak), but they weren't weak enough for me to totally abandon them either.  When Oceania came out, it was a very strong effort.  It was promising to listen to.  Having locked in guitarist and Jeff Shroeder along with Mike Byrne on drums for quite some time and treating them with respect as full band members and allowing them to record their own parts really elevated the SP game.  The "soul" in the band had been found.  No, it wasn't SPv1 but at least there was a vehicle here for Billy to pursue his quest on rocking people with new music.   But this ride wouldn't last forever.

The Smashing Darkness

All of a sudden, SP goes dark after their extensive tour, Billy starts up Madame Zuzu's Tea Shop, gets heavily involved in getting Resistance Pro wrestling off the ground, continues work on reissuing old SP records, puts out some independent solo instrumental recordings, and makes occasional appearances here and there discussing the state of rock, the state of the SP, the state of the music industry, and the state of the state (the Alex Jones interviews are hilarious to watch).  I'm cool withe all of this.  Billy can't be SP 24/7 and needs to recharge his creative outlet.  However, it does challenge me a bit to "keep the faith" that the next Pumpkins effort is going to be good.

We then get news that Billy's working with Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee on two future SP records Monuments to an Elegy and Day for Night. AGAIN WITH A DRUMMER CHANGE BILLY?!  Ok.  Again, I'm cool with it.  I was never a big Mike Byrne fan anyway.  I felt like he butchered a lot of what Jimmy would do.  Don't get me wrong.  He's an awesome drummer and can play circles around me but I just never felt the "groove" with him.  Also, we start hearing the Jeff is the only guy left in the band other than Billy.  OK.  Fawk it.  It is what it is.  I was never a huge James fan anyway.  Billy did a fantastic job documenting the album progress on the SP website and that gives me hope that not all is lost with the Smashing Pumpkins.


So, we're now up-to-date with my fandom and are facing down the road of Billy playing a "solo-ish" set of music at Ravinia.  Billy puts out a call to everyone to write a 20 song set that we would love to see him play at Ravinia spanning his entire career.  There were no promises he would use your set if you won the contest, but I decided to submit the following songs:
  • To Sheila (Adore)
  • Pox (American Gothic E.P.)
  • Of A Broken Heart (Mary Star of The Sea)
  • Muzzle (Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness)
  • Bye June (Lull E.P.)
  • Pale Horse (Oceania)
  • Widow Wake My Mind (Teargarden By Kaleidyscope)
  • Today (Siamese Dream)
  • Ugly (Aeroplane Flies High)
  • Smiley (John Peel Sessions/Gish era)
  • Let Me Give The World To You (Machina II)
  • Glynis (No Alternative/Siamese Dream era)
  • Try, Try, Try (Machina)
  • That's the Way My Love Is (Zeitgeist)
  • Rhinoceros (Gish)
  • Mayonaise (Siamese Dream)
  • 1979 (Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness)
  • Starla (Pisces Iscariot)
  • Drown (Singles soundtrack/Siamese Dream era)
  • Tonight, Tonight (Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness)

I'll list out why I picked these songs in my next blog.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


I've been working on editing three different video projects each shot with three HD cameras.  It takes A LOT of time and patience to make the cuts.  I'm so geeked when I get to the show I'm shooting, set them up, and know magic will be captured.  What I dread is having to share it with others because I have the capability to turn it into something more artistic and higher quality.  Why do I choose to do this to myself?

I ain't gonna lie.  I hate the work involved but love the result...

Monday, August 25, 2014

Sweet And Short (or "Write Cot Damn It!")

I read a blog from improv guru Mick Napier saying:

"4. Write. For absolutely no fucking reason, write."

That's what I'm doing.  I'm horrible about setting time apart to write.  You would think that with all of the talk I do about using improv to write down sketches and make scripted work I would do this more often.  The truth is I'm afraid to write things down because the finality of it makes it subject for judgement.  I know it's not truly "final"; I can always go back and revise.  I guess the word I'm looking for is "concrete".  Once it's on paper, it means that there was true intention and thought behind what words made it from my brain into word processor into computer via the ink through the printer and onto the page.

Twitter and Facebook ahve eaten away at my ability/want to put together something long-form.  So, I'm going to allow Mick's words seep into my routine and force myself to write.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Never Cool, Ain't Awesome - The NCAA

I am an not an athlete.  I don't play football, baseball, basketball, soccer, softball, gymnastics, track & field, nor volleyball.   I don't even like watching these sports (except NASCAR....Rest In Peace #3...). I hate college sports especially.  I hate watching how amateurish their playing is (better than me but not as good as the pros).  I hate how people get so gaga stupid over these sports especially during the month of March.  So much of it doesn't do anything for betterment of man.  Yes, some people may strive to be better - be it personally, physically, or spiritually.  Yes, it's fun to live vicariously through those than can do amazing things.  I just don't think losing my mind ever time "my team" hits the field or court is something worthwhile.

I listened to this documentary piece on Bob Edward's Weekend Saturday where they featured a piece entitled Dropping the Ball: The Shady Side of Big-Time College Sports regarding the corruption of the NCAA - the collegiate body that governs most University sports.  I just watched Schooled: The Price of College Sports on Netflix that was a fantastic supplement to that radio program.  It sickened me to hear how students are being screwed by a system that was rigged to make it virtually impossible for them to achieve the compensation they originally were promised - a full ride to work towards an education.  Here are the most egregiously troublesome policies as a whole collegiate sports programs across the country employ:

  •  It's no secret these students don't get paid.  The guise however is that they do this keep the players "amatuers" all the while everyone around them is getting paid professional salaries by businesses, donors, and media outlets.  The people playing do not get a cut of any of the monies being thrown around.  There's an anecdote in the documentary where a student had to call his coach and beg him for some food otherwise he would "have to do something stupid" just to eat.  The coach bought him and his players 40 tacos; even that "act of kindness" is technically illegal under NCAA regulations.  It's considered a "gift" and thus could "sway" a player to play for the "wrong reasons".

  • Students are effectively indentured servants.  They supply labor to a University, receive no monetary compensation, and receive room & board all the while they are promised the hard work they put in will culminate in an education.  More on that in the next one.

  • Students are working anywhere from 40-60 hours a week on their sports training.  A majority of them are pretty much absent the month of March due to their sports obligations.  How can they be expected to carry a full work load of courses to work towards a degree all the while expected to be productive on the field.  I guess is they don't sleep, they can handle 12-15 hours of courses, tests, studying, and homework on top of a regular work week. 

  • Special BS courses are made for student athletes that can't handle a regular workload in order to keep them eligible for play.  These "paper courses" don't meet regularly for the term, don't have tests, and merely require a paper to be turned in at the end of the course which gets graded A or B a majority of the time.  What kind of an education is this?

  • There is a minority of students that are admitted to the college woefully under-qualified to be participating in collegiate studies.  Both pieces speak on having to tutor athletes that can't read, write, do simple math, or have the ability to pay attention for long periods of time.  All that is expected of them is to perform at their sport and bring in the money. I found this disheartening as there are probably students more qualified academically to enter college being denied entry to make room for these athletes who at the end of their run will amount to very little out in the real world.
  • Students are effectively signed to one year contracts where the sports department has final say so as to whether or not that student can return the next season.  If you don't produce, conduct yourself on the field, there's no way you can achieve off the field.
The good news is that NCAA is being challenged to FINALLY allow some concessions in the form compensation for the players.  The most awesome piece of news I heard recently is how students at Northwestern University have taken the first step to unionizing the players to collectively bargain with the NCAA & University.  At the moment, they're not out to "get paid" but rather protect themselves from the incredible demands that are placed upon them to just to keep themselves eligible for their scholarships.  Everyone is against these players from coaches to deans to fans.  The sport and money is more important to them than the welfare of the plays.  What a shame.

Watch the documentary online and let me know what you think about this. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

CNN - Conjecture, Not News

From -

"Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, a Boeing 777 on the way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, simply vanished from the sky on March 8. In the two weeks since, the mystery of what happened to its 227 passengers and 12 crew members has set off a frenzy of speculation and conspiracy theory hatching..."


I am by no means am a resource when it comes to mass media criticism.  I don't have cable nor even terrestrial TV in my home. I stream everything and read different blogs and websites to get my news.  As a kid, I used to think having 24-hour news channels was such a cool thing.  If you want to watch the news and know what's going on, just turn it on the TV and get what you need to know within 30 minutes.  I couldn't get that with my major 3 networks. I had to wait until 5, 6 or 10 PM CT to get my news

As our society has become more and more demanding of immediacy, news channels have had to turn to different tactics to keep viewership levels up and keep people interested in coming back.  One of those is to make the mundane seem exciting regardless of the consequences.  That's exactly what CNN has done with this plane that has gone missing on the other side of the world.

CNN has done non-stop coverage of the event.  If I were in the news reporting business, this is an incredibly sexy news story; by sexy, I mean perfect - tragedy, death, destruction, human emotion, technological failure, mayhem - everything a sycophant news agency would want to report on.  I am not saying that I get off on stories like these; I am merely stating that news people do because its what the entire American news reporting infrastructure is based on.  I'm not knocking CNN for taking the story because if I were them, I would cover it.  However, I am knocking them for reporting on it for 14 days straight...

...because beyond effectively Day 2, there's nothing new to report.


Here's what we haven't known since Day 2:
  • Where the plane is.
  • Why the plan disappeared.
  • Whether or not the plane crashed.
  • If if did crash, where the flight recorders are.
  • If it didn't crash, where the plane landed.
  • Who was involve din the disappearance.
  • Whether or not government agencies involved in the search and rescue operations are sharing everything they know.  
  • Whether or not the information being gathered is accurate.
If you look at that short list of things we don't know, you would think, "Wow. There's a lot we don't know.  Let's wait to see if they find something and then report it."  Nope. Not CNN.  They've been doing the following ad naseum, 24X7:
  • Covering this story while disregarding more recent, fact-filled news such as the crisis in Crimea, earthquakes hitting California, North Korean missile launches, etc.
  • Bringing on "experts" in related fields to give their opinions on what could've, should've, would've happened given an arbitrary list of scenarios.  They basically sit on a panel to guess and speculate what could have happened.
  • Until recently, they were labeling everything as "breaking news".  I think they've started seeing enough negative reaction that today they dropped that moniker.  They still report on the place like they doing previously but now they're no longer calling it "breaking news" (it's kinda hard to call it breaking news after let's say Day 3 or 4 when they have nothing new to report).
  • Acting as if any and every piece of news is important enough to spend hours rehashing the same information .  Recently they found unidentified objects floating in the water from satellite imagery that are large enough to maybe be parts of the plane.  What they don't stress very often is the fact that the imagery is at least 2-4 days old which means the information is no longer accurate.  It's automatically asking for conjecture to be made to be acted upon.  However, CNN reports on it as if they are close to cracking the case wide open.
  • Asking a lot of rhetorical questions such as "How is it possible something so big can just....disappear?!" or "With all of the technology we have where we can send men to the moon and guide drones remotely, why is the technology on the plane so antiquated?" 
Why is CNN, which I thought was supposed to be a news network, spending an extraordinary amount of time on this?  It's not that the story doesn't deserve any time but based on my won non-scientific, anecdotal watching of the channel, they spend roughly 30-45 seconds out of every hour on a different news story but then immediately jump back to some bullsh*t plane-related story where the would've/should've/could'ves return.   What is the endgame here with CNN doing this?

I realize that all of the 24X7 American news channels are doing the same but CNN seems to be the worst.  By being so flagrant with their shoddy reporting, they've diminished any real credibility as a news organization.  They're basically the TMZ of news porn.  I don't go to TMZ to get news that matters about celebrities.  I go there to be entertained and that is exactly what CNN is doing.  Why?!!

I feel trapped now.  What am I supposed to watch and where am I supposed to get my news?  Should I just stop watching American news all together?  Are the alternatives much better?  If you've got some help in that arena, please comment below and let me know.