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YEAR END TOP 10 LISTS AND OTHER STUFF
By Scott Speh
Hola amigos, sorry
I ain't rapped at lately. (© Jim Anchower)
So, yeah, it's been
awhile. Uh, I've been busy. Working, travelling for work, lecturing, lecturing
for work, opening a gallery, travelling for work. And I had all my applications
stripped off my laptop, which technically belongs to SAIC. They had to
install some work-related apps on it. Why all my other shit had to be
stripped, I do not know. This means I didn't have the tools to update
Hot Commodities from the road. Which meant I went out and drank too much
instead of diligently writing for you in my hotel room. Which means I've
gained about 10 pounds this season. Can I put those 10 pounds on my expense
Anyway, I have a
gift for you: my end of the year lists! What, you don't like lists? What
are you, un-American? Some kind of hippie communist? Everyone loves lists.
But first I will fill you in on some new thirst quenching beverages, a
little rock and roll philosophy and some brief art observations.
DRINK 'EM SO YOU DON'T HAVE TO
Surprisingly good! The hint of Vanilla cuts the lighter fluid throat
burn of Classic Coke with a subtle smoothness.
Jack Daniel's Hard Cola: Garbage! The amount of sugar, combined
with the acidity of the cola and the booze, will dissolve your teeth on
contact. I defy anyone to drink more than one. I can't imagine the hangovers
this shit will give ya.
Michelob Ultra: Underwhelming! Savvy marketing, those Michelob
folks are courting the low-carb Atkins diet freaks (Give up carbs - what
about pastry? Seriously, WHAT ABOUT PASTRY? No pie, cake, cinnamon rolls,
donuts, fucking donuts! How can you give up donuts? Wanna lose weight?
Exercise you dope!) Anyway, this lite beer is supposedly the first low-carb
beer with just 2.9 grams of carbs per bottle. Except that Miller Lite
has only 3.1 grams per bottle and costs a dollar-fifty less per sixer.
This I learned (save for the price comparison) on table tent in a bar,
ostensibly advertising Michelob Ultra, comparing the carb content in a
variety of alcoholic beverages. Now that ain't savvy marketing.
Dr. Pepper Red Fusion: Wack! Marketed as an extreme alternative
to Mountain Dew for urban youth, except there's a big problem - it's got
Diet Coke with Lemon: Puckering! Slightly antiseptic taste, but
better than the poison death flavor of regular Diet Coke.
Vanilla Diet Coke: We have a winner! Easily the best diet soda
ever; the vanilla flavor rides high above the aforementioned poison death
rattle of DC. And Diet Cherry Coke is pretty decent too.
I recently emailed a friend with the subject heading "A Sad Day in
Rock" with the message that Run-DMC DJ Jam Master Jay was tragically
gunned down in Queens last night. Pedro's reply:
"Dude, you scared me! DMC ain't rock n roll...live on rock n roll...the
real one bro"
Well, Pedro, that's bullshit. In my book, rock and roll is of all popular
music, from Britney to Metallica to Neil Young to Jay-Z to Night Ranger
to Faith Hill.
It all rocks, it's
This enables me to
enjoy any type of song without regard to any political implications. I
DON'T listen to anything "ironically" -- if I like a song, I
like a song, regardless who performed it. I can enjoy "Sister Christian"
or Celine Dion's "It's all Coming Back to Me" as much as I enjoy
"War Pigs" or "Fight the Power." I hate the fascist
policies of indie rock and punk purism and I ain't down with "keepin'
it real," knowhutimsayin.
And R.I.P. Joe Strummer.
And Robin Crosby, too.
In Its Place
Rebecca Reeves, Molly Carter, Rebecca Rothfus
Ukranian Institute of Modern Art
Ukrainian Village, Chicago
If Rebecca Reeves' work is any window into her personality, then she is
a germ-obsessed control freak. Two tiny dioramas of living spaces present
nondescript furniture in banal décor that are unremarkable until
you notice each item rests within careful notches carved into the floorboards.
These permanent feng-shui sculptures are titled "Everything in its
right place." Two his-and-hers embroidered bath towels encased in
clear acrylic plastic seemed trite on a first look: who really needs the
one-note gender issues found bath towel embroidery art anymore? Except
after seeing her elegant hair shield, which protects flowing locks from
the dirty heathens on the subway, the entombed towels were more about
germaphobia that gender politics.
Gallery 400, University of Illinois-Chicago
West Loop, Chicago
Gallery 400's series "Art on the Edge in Chicago" purports to
show the edgiest, non-commercial fair in Chicago. Except that it's all
installation art, all the time. What is so edgy or uncommercial about
installation? And hasn't installation art become an academic style that
academic spaces are to eager to show to prove their progressive chops?
Don't installation artists show in galleries? I think I just saw a Thomas
Hirschorn show at Barbara Gladstone in Chelsea, which kicked the ass of
every one of Gallery 400's dry offerings. Take Shane Huffman for instance.
His installation looked like every other poetic, pretentious, overly precious
installation ever made. Pretty
excuse me; innovative...uh,
sure. But Rena Leinberger's installation was charming. Or maybe I liked
it because I liked it. You know, that dreaded "taste" thing.
Anyway Leinberger's work does fall right into my wheelhouse of construction
materials, replication and minimalism. Her idea of intervening with the
gallery has been done to death, but so has portrait painting, so whatever.
She cast and replicated doorknobs, light switches, exhaust grates, columns,
heating ducts and other mundane architectural details and re-presented
them alongside the originals. My tastes would've like a more straightforward
simulacra as Leinberger "arts" it up by slyly and playfully
composing with these elements. You find little clumps of door knobs populating
a wall, extruded cast grates sanded down to just a whisper of form, an
extra column or two in the center of the space so that its hard to tell
which one is load-bearing and which is fake. My favorite parts are the
faceplates on the west wall. The galleries original face plates have been
painted over so many times that they look like a child sculpted them out
of play-doh so it's damn near impossible to discern the real from the
fake. One nit-pick, aside from the utter redundancy (hello Rachel Whiteread,
Steven Pippin, Rita McBride, Daniel Buren, Mel Bochner and about a 1000
others) of the project, is the top 1/8 of the wall and the ceiling. In
a game that makes the viewer "reconsider" their surroundings,
more attention should've been paid to the entirety of the space.
Here and Now
Chicago Cultural Center
The Loop, Chicago
I'm not a fan of big group shows, nor am I fan of a lot of these artists
but I have to say I'm glad this show took place. Taking snapshots of a
scene is important and I hope the organizers of Here and Now make this
an annual event or at least a biennial show. If PS 1 can do "Greater
New York" why not "Here and Now"? Evidently this show looks
light years better than a similarly themed show on young Bay Area artists,
which was on view recently at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. I suggest
rotating the curators - bring a mix of insiders like they have now and
outsiders or grad students. Mix it up. Reduce the number of artists and
give them more space - let them show more than one or two pieces. Highlights
here include John Neff's sublime photo and sweaty video, Stan Shellabarger's
endurance, Kirsten Stoltman's ennui and I actually liked Joe Baldwin's
flower painting (I'm like, totally not a fan). And I hate those stupid
cowboy and indian paintings. What is interesting about those things?
West Loop, Chicago
This guy is ripping off motifs made popular in Paul Henry Ramirez paintings.
Stealing in art isn't all that bad but the work has to be good, or at
least interesting. These uber-slick, vacuous abstractions have all the
charm of hotel art. They'd be best put to use as backdrops for a cop show,
something like Miami Vice. But not Miami Vice, because Michael
Mann projects at the very least have solid visual style. Dzine's work
could maybe hang in the bad guy drug dealers pad in some shit-ass show
like FOX's Fastlane, starring Ralph Bellamy and Tiffani Amber-Theissen.
Potshots from NYC
Inka Essenhigh @ 303 Gallery: Essenhigh seems to be channeling
the not-dead-yet spirit of Ralph Steadman in her much less slick than
usual paintings. I don't mean slick in facility but in surface. She's
made the switch from enamel to oil and from flatness to space and perspective.
It's a bad move. Her imagery looks derivative of illustrators like Steadman
and Steven Brodner and of anime. It's less idiosyncratic and less, well,
Delia Brown @ D'Amelio Terras: Brown gets all pastoral, a desperate
move from a desperately shallow LA artist
Mike Kelley @ Metro Pictures: Kelley's work continues to say, "I
hate you people. Go die."
George Condo @ Luhring Augustine: He seems a little desperate too,
as if he's looking over his shoulder at John Currin, worried that his
gig as the "strange figurative painter" might be up.
Karen Davie @ Mary Boone: Pure, dumb decoration but gloriously,
sexily queasy, dumb decoration.
Thomas Hirschorn @ Barbara Gladstone: The king of political installation
art drops a bomb in his NYC gallery debut. It's about reading, self-determination,
time, geopolitics, cruddiness, history, raging hormones and nothing less
than life and death. I loved the fake sticks of dynamite whose fuses lead
to books. Knowledge is power, bro!
Matthew Ritchie @ Andrea Rosen: Better than his last show, but
his brand of constructed reality in these slick paintings looks a little
soulless and less quirky with successive show.
Neil Farber @ Clementine: One of my favorite artists, a fellow
traveler of Marcel Dzama in the Royal Art Lodge out of Canada, I love
his winsome ink and watercolor drawings populated with Draculas, poison,
Furbies, intestines, animals and shelving (I love shelving). He put up
100 simple, direct drawings done in a New Yorker cartoon style of single
frame, often with text. Farber has a deliciously dark worldview in these
at-first-glance playful drawings. In my fave, 2 kids die, got to hell
and then get on famously with the devil, in another claims "It's
scary to be a Dracula."
Here ya go:
2002 YEAR IN REVIEW
This year, I decided to reverse my lists, go in ascending order. Why?
I couldn't decide on the number one single until I actually typed it.
Three were in the running, rattling around my brain like rabid, caged
dogs. I often find myself, knee-jerkily, decrying the lack of good songs
on the radio. Yet at the end of the year, I find a bunch of gems to write
about. One of my problems with radio, especially here in Chicago is that
you rarely hear any music. Ever try to listen to the radio between 4-10pm?
All commercials, all the time.
18. Relative Ways
and You Will Know Us by the Tail of Dead: Take a little early
'90's shoegazer guitar drama, mix in a dose of Sonic Youth noise, dab
with emo vocals, and top off with Blink-182 pop smarts and you'll cook
up the most infectious single on college radio this year.
17. Rainy Dayz - Mary J. Blige with Ja Rule: We are sick of Ja
Rule's sensitive thug collaborations with every R&B diva alive, but
this one is the real deal.
16. You're Missing - Bruce Springsteen: This simple power of documenting
loss is devastating.
15. Sweetness - Jimmy Eat World: A blast of positivity in the mire
of depressing rock radio. A perfect summer rock song to roll down the
windows, drive real fast and sing at the top of your lungs, who cares
who sees you.
14. By the Way - Red Hot Chili Peppers: Probably the perfect Chili
Peppers song, expertly balancing their rock/funk crunch with Anthony's
new found crooning skills. I actually like the melodic passages more than
the big rock noise. Plus the lyrics make absolutely no sense, which is
13. Oh - Sleater-Kinney: Hand-claps and Motown sounds brought to
you by ex-riot grrls from the Pacific Northwest. Will wonders never cease?
12. Get Free - The Vines: A blatant Nirvana rip-off, but so what.
It ripped the roof off and what young man can't honestly relate to this
line: She never loved me, she never loved me, she never loved me, why
11. No more drama - Mary J. Blige: MJB's saying the pain is gone,
ain't it sweet. And she fucking means it, like no one else means it on
the radio. She killed this song at the Grammys. Killed!
10. I Get Wet - Andrew WK: With so many masterpieces off this gem,
it was hard to pick one. The curious title could mean a lot of things
(don't go there) but I think it means he'll go the distance, take the
risk: he'll drench himself for you. Yes, you.
9. Rock Star - NERD: The heaviest song without a guitar this year,
or any year.
8. Cleaning out my closet - Eminem: So he apologizes to his mom
in the chorus and then tells her she will never see Hallie again, Hallie
won't be at her funeral. This Eminem guy is complicated.
7. Hey ma - Cam'ron: So if it were only this easy: Just go up to
a girl, ask her if she drinks and smokes. If she does, then you'll be
knocking boots later. Seriously, the song goes something like this: "I
drink. I drink. I smoke. Me too. We good."
6. Complicated - Avril Lavigne: With one cheesy, banal line in
this hit single, Lavigne touched a nerve: "Why'd ya have to go a
make things so complicated?" Kinda says it all
5. Do You Realize?? - The Flaming Lips: This song is only about
the complete breadth of human experience. Warm, moving, forward thinking
4. You Know You're Right - Nirvana: Every time this came on the
radio, I'd think "This is the best song on the radio" and it's
not even a great Nirvana song. Yet it didn't make my top three. Still,
it was the best song on rock radio, which ain't hard with all the Creed,
Disturbed, Nickleback, and Korn crap out there.
3. Hot in Herre - Nelly: For the longest time I thought this would
be number one, but then Missy and Eminem dropped their bombs. But it was
the perfect summer song. And I did want to take off all my clothes. Luckily
for all of you, I didn't. Well, there was that one time, but we won't
get into that.
2. Work It - Missy Elliot: The weirdest song on the radio was ever-so-nearly
the best song on radio this year. What's with the backward vocal, the
old-school "Hey Ladies" at the very end, the shaving my coocha
line? Missy makes the craziest shit rock.
1. Lose Yourself -- Eminem: Despite its utter ubiquity on every
radio format (driving through Ohio between Columbus and Dayton one night
in October, I heard it on 6 different radio stations. And B96, you can
stop playing this song now. Seriously.), this tightly coiled ball of determination
was undeniable. And it's got a positive message too! Maybe Dick Cheney
can "lose himself in the moment" when he's bombing Iraq.
The worst in pop:
While "Sk8ter Boi" by Avril Lavigne drives me insane, J-Lo's
"Little Jennie from the Block" gets my blood boiling. What a
fraudulent piece of shit! "No matter the rocks that I got, I'm still
li'l Jennie from the block" Puh-lease. How many personal assistants
do you employ? When's the last time you rode the subway? Bought a torta
from the bodega on the corner? Been flipped off by a cabbie? J-lo - you're
a fraud. Yes, Ima hater and I don't care. And Clear Channel. They suck.
The Best Radio
Station: Once and forever, 97X, Bam!, the Future of Rock and
This year, it's all about sincerity.
20. Cee-Lo --
Cee-Lo and His Perfect Imperfections: What a riveting voice, it alternately
swells like an angel and growls like a junkyard dog! Cee-Lo's disc is
messy, oft incomprehensible, and too long but like the title, it is a
19. Dashboard Confessional -- The Places You Fear the Most: This
album hasn't worn well over the course of the year, but the first three
songs are perfect depression music. Sad songs really do say so much.
18. Paul Westerberg-- Mono and Stereo: Not quite a return to Replacements
glory, but those are some serious heights to scale. Nonetheless, a raw
and gritty slab of depth and emotion, this last bastard of rock and roll
keeps it real.
17. Missy Elliot -- Under Construction: Missy and Timbaland are
the most inventive sonic architects working in the mainstream. While quite
as pop savvy as say, the Neptunes, their bubbles, scrapes, robotic beats,
old school shout-outs are fresh and funky. No one looks to the future
without forgetting the past better than Missy. Plus she gets damn dirty.
Not sleazy like L'il Kim or Christina, but celebratory while reveling
in the raunch.
16. Mary J. Blige -- No More Drama: No one does it better. This
r&b diva is the real deal and puts Ashanti, Monica, Brandy and of
course Britney and Christina to major shame.
15. N.E.R.D. -- In Search of
: The dirtiest slab of funk/rock/hip-hop
you'll hear in awhile. Jam-packed with ludicrous scenarios, ideas and
lotharios. With this disc and their utter ubiquity over the airwaves,
NERD made pop radio almost listenable this year.
14. The Donna's - Spend the Night: Some folks actually moan about
the Donna's move to a major label, but it was smart. They need the big
rock, super slick sound major label dollars provide. Every Donnas record
sounds pretty much the same, but here the big rock production takes typical
Donnas songs about drinking and fucking out of a Ramones punk rock vibe
and into hair metal territory. They sound like Ratt in their glory days.
And yes, that's a good thing. There's no heavy metal cover a la Judas
Priest or Motley Crue and that's a minor disappointment.
13. Eminem -- The Eminem Show: Fascinating and perverse, listening
to Em is like watching a train wreck. Plus he's got the maddest skills,
better than Nas, better than Jay-Z, he's the most gifted formal wordsmith
dropping rhymes today, but
this is the last album that Em can legitimately
mine his persona. Let's see a larger worldview bro.
12. Queens of the Stone Age -- Songs for the Deaf: Crunky and crazed,
passionate and would be perfect with some more menacing heavy metal leads.
11. Sleater-Kinney -- One Beat: These literate babes from the Pacific
Northwest continue to get it done
10. Foo Fighters -- One By One: The Foos set the gold standard
for melodic hard rock. Grohl writes perfect hard pop songs in his sleep.
9. Drive by Truckers -- Southern Rock Opera: An encyclopedic sojourn
through southern culture, heard through the majestic rock music of Lynyrd
Skynyrd and their lead singer's complicated relationship with Neil Young
and the South's tortured relationship with George Wallace, Bear Bryant,
racism, love and hate. Great southern-tinged, backyard flavored indie-hard
rock songs too!
8. Wilco -- Yankee Hotel Foxtrot: I initially thought this disc
was good but over-rated. After repeated listens, I admit that Wilco churned
out a masterpiece. Most of the press focuses on the legal wrangling and
while that is interesting back-story, the music is the star. Alternately
mournful and celebratory, Jeff Tweedy and his gang turn the studio out
like the Beatles in their prime and use technology and experimentation
to achieve higher levels of emotional resonance. This ain't higher on
my list coz the rest of these acts just killed this year.
7. Tenacious D - pure humor in rock rarely works but wow, the D
gets it done. How? By rocking your fucking socks off! At first listen
this sounded over-produced. What many others and I loved about the D was
their acoustic metal vibe but the big rock sounds fits perfectly in their
loving parody/homage of Seventies hard rock. "Fuck Her Gently"
is the best hard rock love song since Nirvana's "Love Buzz"
some twelve years ago.
6. The Hives -- Veni Vidi Vicious: Yes this was released two years
ago but no one heard until this year and it ripped the roof off the rock
world. Theirs' was the best live TV performance this year at the MTV music
video awards. In an insulting garage rock medley, MTV had the Hives and
Vines play back to back. After the Hives shredded, lead singer Howlin
Pelle Almquist yelled "We're the Hives. You can turn off your TV
now." Take that you little Aussie bastards!
5. Bruce Springsteen -- The Rising: You probably don't like the
Boss. You are probably a communist and you hate America. Some hacks have
criticized Bruce for not explicitly attacking the powers that be or for
cashing in on tragedy. They're all haters. This album tackles the grand
themes of love, loss and human connections that he's been mining for 20
years. The Rising is a deeply moving document that will endure.
Yes it was born out of the 9-11 tragedies but the raw emotion in songs
like "You're Missing" will haunt and comfort anyone who's lost
a loved one. I'll say it again, sad songs really do say so much. And as
far as the media blitz, well how else is the Boss gonna sell records?
It's not like MTV or active rock radio or top 40 radio will play his stuff
4. Beck -- Sea Change: Another deeply melancholy album. Beck takes
down his freak flag and fingers the wounds of a failed relationship. It
takes a couple of listens to get into it, but it's a damn affecting and
moving album. The sound is subtle electro-folk, as if Nigel Godrich produced
a Gordon Lightfoot album. And sad songs
.you know the rest.
3. The Flaming Lips -- Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots: If George
Martin had produced Kid A instead of Nigel Godrich, it might've
sounded something like this. The Lips take the Radiohead's dystopian future
of alienated androids and warm it up. Hope, soul, love and resolve are
all possibilities in this lush sound cycle. We can beat the robots. We
can learn to love again.
2. Har Mar Superstar -- You Can Feel Me: Har Mar wants to have
sex with you. Right now. Behind that desk. Come over here. Let's do it.
Baby, you know you want it. I'm Har Mar, the fucking greatest! Har Mar,
a chubby, balding, white, hirsute chunk of pure fuck, channels Barry White,
Prince, Humpty Hump, Beastie Boys, Sly Stone, R. Kelly and oddly Eminem
in a seeming over-the-top parody of lover-man soul. But it ain't no parody.
He truly wants to fuck you. He's my new hero. Can't feel him? You can
1. Andrew WK -- I Get Wet: Raw power. Pure fun. No fucking irony.
Bang your head. Scream your lungs out. Drink. Fuck. Fight. Party. 'Nuff
6. Storytelling - Todd Solondez is a dishonest, manipulative, lying
fraud whose movies provoke, anger and yet, entertain.
5. Lovely & Amazing -A narcissistic mom, her two adult daughters
and her adopted young daughter are caught in a self-perpetuating cycle
of self-loathing in this sad/funny little gem.
4. Gangs of New York -- A big, bloody mess of a film that would
actually benefit from another hour (even though it last 3 hours) that
engrosses and enthralls. I would give the lead actor Oscar to Daniel Day-Lewis,
even though he'll probably be nominated for a supporting actor gig. His
accent is uncanny.
3. Far From Heaven - A near perfect film full of pathos and tragedy,
with pitch perfect performances from Julianne Moore, America's best actress,
Dennis Quaid and Dennis Haysbert.
2. Punch Drunk Love - A strange, often nonsensical love story -
I mean really, why would Emily Watson fall for Adam Sandler? -- that still
1. Y Tu Mama Tambien - An intelligent, genuinely sexy teen sex
movie that is alternately about all of contemporary Mexico and grinning
(and fucking) in the face of death.
5. High on Fire (Double Door, Chicago) - Completely ruptured my
eardrums. These loud, sweaty longhairs worship Satan, smoke dope and blow
4. NoahJohn (The Annex, Madison) - Previewed their new album, which
adds big doses of gentle avant-garde noise a la Yo La Tengo to its pastoral
roots rock vibe. Carl Johns' playfulness carried these somber songs until
the encore that tore the roof off with old favorites.
3. Tormentula (The Inferno, Madison) - So the demonic Frau in the
mighty Tormentula went out and got themselves a boy guitarist. While some
may despair that they aren't three metal babes anymore, this move will
take them out of any novelty bin that haters want to stash them in. Why?
Cause this dude is a total rock star. Tormentula's sloppy, drunken shows
at the late, lamented O'Cayz Corral are the stuff of legend, but now they
are a tight, mean, gut-punching machine. When the new axeman launches
a solo, he steps up to the plate, almost literally: he walks into the
spotlight and just shreds. I hope they can escape Madison because they
are ready for the big time.
2. Sonic Youth (Metro, Chicago) - What an utter joy, seeing these
legends play in the tiny confines of the Midwest's best rock club. SY
stuck to mostly their new killer disc and tunes from Sister and
they delivered the goods with a passion that bands half their age can
rarely muster. A rock babe in front of me pogo-ed and teetered along to
every song, screaming as if she was watching the Beatles in 1965. Some
dork in front of her asked her to stop bumping into him. I yelled, "Hey,
this is ROCK AND ROLL, brother, go upstairs with the other record store
1. Andrew WK (Summerfest, Milwaukee) - Under the stars, on Milwaukee's
gleaming lakefront, in a perfect 75 degree summer night, AWK came to party.
And party hard, he did. And so did we. We pumped our fists, banged our
heads, and chanted along with every one of AWK frothy pop metal masterpieces.
My god, I've had few better nights.
Honorable mention: Friends (NBC), The West Wing (NBC), Fox NFL Sunday
(FOX), Six Feet Under (HBO), Malcolm in the Middle (FOX), King of the
10. Scrubs (NBC)- This show is delightful and charming with just
enough cynicism to wash it all down. In the big picture, it's average.
In the world of TV, it's like Shakespeare. This is what most entertainment
should aspire to, a pleasant half-hour of mirth and merriment. Unfortunately
we are surrounded by such dreck that an average show like this makes the
9. That '70's Show (FOX)- This show is much like Scrubs, a pleasant
half hour of supposed 70 anachronisms but the actors are just so damn
lovable that I'll welcome them into my home every Tuesday.
8. South Park (Comedy Central)- These mutherfuckers are still dropping
some mad science.
7. The Daily Show (Comedy Central)- Jon Stewart's winning affability
can cut through all the bullshit without sounding too supercilious.
6. Sex and The City (HBO)- Most intellectuals find this show to
be so much fluff, but I enjoy indulging in its indulgements of the high
life in NYC. This year often hit melancholic notes as Carrie struggled
to make sense of her aging, Miranda coped poorly with single motherhood,
Amanda let down her guard to fall for a snake and Charlotte fell for a
bald guy with a hairy back. Oy vey! And, dream on!
5. 24 (FOX)-- 24 is still gripping! Gripping I tell you! And Kiefer
4. The Simpsons (FOX)- Will always be in my top ten.
3. PTI (ESPN)-- It's funny, irreverent but with smarts (quite unlike
FX's insipid "The Damn Sports Show"), and it tackles issues
that have resonance outside the sports world. The timed format keeps it
zipping along and the jocular banter between hosts and long-time friends
Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon is addictive. PTI is the best sports
show on TV ever!
2. The Sopranos (HBO)- Many so-called fans of the Sopranos bitched
and moaned about the lack of wacking people but I guess they don't understand
narrative, character development and dramatic tension.
1. Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO)- Larry David is an evil, evil man
but goddamn is he funny. This could be the best sitcom ever. And there
are no punchlines, just one painful misunderstanding after another. Larry
is my Caucasian.
worst in TV and Radio:
The utter ubiquity of Sean Salisbury on ESPN's many products: Not only
do we have to endure his blandness and simplistic pronouncements on Sportcenter's
Monday Evening Quarterback, countless point-counterpoint and pretender/contender
segments but also he sits in on the Dan Patrick radio show for three hours
each day. While I like Patrick despite his unctuous name-dropping star-fucking
wannabe persona and have a soft spot for that "friggin genius"
Rob Dibble, I find the show nearly unlistenable due to Salisbury's frequent
interruptions and obvious repackaging of Dan's opinions. I especially
hate when he says shit like "(so-and-so) really showed me something
yesterday." Well Sean, just who the fuck are you? Who anointed you
the expert in all things kosher on the football field? Doesn't the all-sports
network have someone, anyone else that can blather on about football?
Too much Salisbury steak makes me nauseous. In fact, most of ESPN's white
ex-jocks are bland, boring robots: enough with the Trev Alberts, Jay Bilas
and Kirk Herbstreits of the world.
Would someone please tell me why I watch this show? It used to be a fun
guilty pleasure, now it's just stupid. Jen's turned into a spineless jellyfish,
Joey is a joyless harpie, Audrey's all incomprehensible and annoying,
Pacey is a stockbroker - whatever! And Dawson is the world's most prescient
production assistant. Good gawd I hope this is the last season. I'm only
hanging on to see it to the end. Just like you did for 90210, remember?
Yes you do.
Chunky Soup Commercials
Those Chunky soup commercials now feature NFL stars actual moms, rather
than actresses. Would someone please tell them the correct phrase is "We
want to make sure people are eating well" not "eating good."
Regular readers of this column know I'm no grammarian, but still.
Star Wars Commercials
The worst line in any commercial this year: "Yoda man!" from
the Star Wars DVD of Attack of the Clones. What the hell?!
Wrangler Jeans Commercials
And those Wrangler commercials using the Creedance Clearwater Revival
song "Fortunate Son" are highly unfortunate. "Fortunate
Son" is only the most biting class warfare song ever, puh-lease.
I can't believe Fogerty would allow this song to be used for selling jeans.
At this point in late market capitalism I know it's pointless to complain
about ads using great songs
yes it was disconcerting for the Who
to sell anti-establishment songs like "Won't Get Fooled Again"
for car commercials and the Joplin/Mercedes Benz song was wack and Zeppelin,
who have NEVER licensed a song before, not even for movies, rented out
"Rock and Roll," probably the most underrated overheard song
in the rock cannon, to Cadillac, all of all things. Led Zep even turned
down Scorcese to use their music in the movies and Scorcese is the most
adept appropriator of pop music in Hollywood. But I did find those Sony
ads using Marvin Gaye songs wistful, the Nick Drake VW spots are poignant
and I can accept that Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash could use Taco Bell's
. but Wrangler completely misrepresents the intent of CCR's
"Fortunate Son." The commercial uses this phrase "Some
folks were born, made to wear the flag" while showing fresh-faced
white people lounging in Wranglers. Two bars later the actual song goes
It ain't me, it ain't me, I ain't no senator's son, son.
It ain't me, it ain't me; I ain't no fortunate one, no,
You see that song is about rich kids avoiding the Vietnam War not wrapping
oneself in the flag. Um, ouch.
10 (tie). Tim Hawkinson at Ace (HC13)
- One of the few artists to go huge and not lose it.
10 (tie). Ben Stone at Suitable (HC16)
- Chicago's best sculptor
9. Oskar Kokoshka at Neue Gallerie (HC15)
- Sublime collection of psychological portraits of the Viennese elite
in a sublime museum.
8. Demonclownmonkey at Artist Space (HC15)
- Funhouse group show with my favorite video of the year - Karen Leo's
"Himrod Now" featuring a head-to-toe cable knit Bruce Willis
Costume, plus a great installation by David Altmejd, who also had a good
gallery debut at Ten-In-One in November, and weird paintings by Scott
Grodesky. Matthew Ritchie engineered a rare fresh and funky group show.
7. Realm of the Lair at Joymore Gallery, East Humboldt Park, Chicago
The best damn art show I've seen in a long time! Who knew all this sword
and sorcerer stuff was in the ether? You'da thunk that curators Siebren
Versteeg and Ben Stone commissioned a lot of this work, but noooo. All
these artists were doing all this Dungeons and Dragons, Wizards and Warlocks,
battle-ax and moat and castle work independently. Not only do the individual
works rock (or shall I say, slay) but also it all looks good together.
I liked the Versteeg and Stone's installation touches - faux torches illuminating
the dimly lit gallery, Flintstone-esque faux rocks completing the cave-like
shit-ass simulacra, and a bunch of burn-outs playing D&D (excuse me,
Stone, Versteeg, and random artist pals) on Saturdays during the run of
the show. Highlights included Neil Whitacre hilarious and oddly poignant
photos of winter woodland battles between animal pelt clad warriors (or
cavemen) and ice nymphs, Scott & Tyson Reeder with Dave Deany's grand
wizards fronting like the Beastie Boys on a cable access show, Melissa
Oresky's flattened Lee Bontecou compositions that pulsate like 3-D renderings
of the Void, Chris Kehr's toy castle, Frank Pollard's amazing sci-fi,
Mad Max sculptures that could pass for toys in a post-apocalyptic world,
and a killer Geoffrey Todd Smith pastel drawing of a quadra-headed dragon
confronting a conquistador with the title "Yeah, but do you have
four cocks?" I wrote a longer review for Bridge's website (http://www.bridgemagazine.org)
6. Arturo Herrea at Brent Sikkema (HC15)
- A ton of work and it all looked killer.
5. Ellsworth Kelly at the Drawing Center (HC15)
- Scribbles, doodles and scraps never looked so elegant.
4. Gerhard Richter at MOMA (HC13) - An
itinerant inventor of painted forms and a surprisingly influential artist.
I played spot the trend: Bernard Frieze, Albert Oehlen, Struth, Ruff and
Gursky all owe him royalties.
2 (tie). John Neff at Suitable - John Neff shocked the world at
this late fall show at Chicago's premier independent space. Well, he shocked
Chicago. Ok, he shocked the 30 people who care about art in Chicago. How?
Neff showed meticulously crafted and conceived collages, a radical departure
from his photos, videos and installations he's showed the past 5 years.
Neff's calls these works collages or "papers on work" but they
are really paintings. Fluid, fecal browns are splashed amidst lurid pinks.
Pencils, pop cans, images of cloisters are combined with screenprints
of skulls, crossbones and candles on top of aluminum in what seems to
be ruminations of death, love and the need for space and time to think,
ponder and create. Sex and bodily fluids might also be referenced. Neff
provided a key to deciphering the symbols used, which could've used a
key to decipher it as well. But a straightforward listing of this-means-that
and that-means-this would've negated the pleasures into divining what
these treasures mean. These works will reward with long and concentrated
2 (tie). Pedro Velez at TBA and the Bronx River Art Center (HC15):
In the summer of Pedro's discontent (he's moving away folks. Yes, you
finally drove him off), Velez delivers two greatest hits albums: At BRAC
you'd find Heavy Metal Mix Tapes, Cute Girls and a bonus cut: a
kick-ass new work: Untitled Jewish Sculpture, a post-minimalist
wedge cobbled together of found, shitty blue polystyrene topped off with
a large signed photo of Milton Berle. At TBA, we saw Cute Girls, Heavy
Metal Mix Tapes, the Program updated, bunches of curated fliers and
postcards, curated refrigerators and another bonus track: Untitled
Socialist Sculpture featuring the sign of Velez' beloved laundromat,
which was replaced by a Starbucks this fall. Chicago, you will miss him.
If he throws another going-away party, he should sing you all REO Speedwagon's
classic kiss-off song, "It's Time for me to Fly" -
I've been around for you/ I've been up and down for you/ But I just can't
get no relief/ I swallowed my pride for you/ I lived and lied for you/
But you still make me feel like a thief/ You've got me stealing your love
away/ Cause you never give it/ Peeling the years away/ So we can't relive
them/ I make you laugh/ You make me cry/ I think it's time for me to fly.
You won't have Pedro Velez to kick around anymore.
1. Tom Sachs at Bohen Foundation - I'm not a big fan of Tom Sach's
bad boy antics but this show blew me away. I saw it twice on successive
days and stayed about an hour each time. Here's the physical lowdown:
Sachs built a 1/25th scale city, based on the size of toy electric cars.
Tracks for these cars wind throughout the space and the installation.
Every Tuesday through he run of the show, Sachs and his cronies will stage
races. Buildings in the main installation include a replication of a LeCorbusier
housing development (one nit-pick: it seems that every 45-year-old male
artist is interested in modernist architecture. And surveillance. It's
boring. Get over it.) a McDonalds, a ghetto streetscape - replete with
sniper's hideout, and in the basement, another race track. He built a
number of human scaled stations - a grunge simulacrum of a McDonalds kitchen,
a working bar, a working toilet replete with surveillance cameras, DJ's
decks and a Eames chairs replicated out of foamcore. Oh yeah, everything
was meticulously, if grungily built from styrofoam. In the basement you
could watch instructional how-to videos explaining the usage of the McDonalds
stand, or how the buildings were constructed or most hilariously, short
narrative videos of the toy cars circumnavigating the constructed cityscape
set to hardcore rap soundtracks. The whole project is teeming with ideas.
I could go on and on making connections and elucidating each of these
concepts, but instead I'll just list every idea I thought I saw in the
piece. The project is up for awhile so you can go see for yourself. The
Bohen Foundation is on 13th Street in New York City, where Chelsea turns
into the meatpacking district. Here are the ideas, have fun: abject architecture,
dj culture, fast food nation, toys, surveillance, liquor, work, guy stuff,
garages, parking ramps, grunge, construction, orange stripes, destruction,
snipers, organization, instruction, simulacra, pot, low tech, high tech,
guns, fire, gangsta rap, stuff, verisimilitude, the ghetto, the street,
time, toil, process, piss, class, scale, electronics, trash, sarcasm,
forthrightness, high, low, suburbia, cleanliness, order, plumbing, tools,
bodily functions, glue, calibration, chads, modernism, replication, science
I must expose the power structure behind my rankings so Marc Fisher won't
have a hissy-fit. This is the last time I can write about Pedro Velez,
Stan Shellabarger, Kirsten Stoltmann, John Neff and 11 other artists.
Why? I've started a gallery. Kind of. I introduced the project at the
and I'll be showing the first ever exhibit devoted exclusively to Pedro
Velez' painting in my apartment February through May, 2003. You'll be
able to see this work by appointment only. Information is forthcoming.
Here's the skinny
on my gallery thing:
founded in 2002 by Scott Speh, is a portable gallery centered in Chicago
representing 15 artists from across the nation:
(Iowa City) daily paintings seem to arrive straight from the id, combining
cartoonish figures and winsome text with casually sophisticated lush surfaces.
(Baltimore) biomorphic sculptures twist into surprisingly emotive abstractions.
(Milwaukee) is multi-media artist who takes things out of context.
(Madison) makes PLUDD (weird videos, drawings, paintings, and writing).
He is currently interested in beasts and geometric animals and humanoids.
His favorite color is orange.
(Baltimore) is an award-winning gardener whose drawings are populated
by anthropomorphic beings and sensuous botanicals.
(Portland, Maine) works collaboratively within SLOP Brand Art, makes collage
paintings, prints, and digital (and often edible) multiples, exploring
the social role of food and its complicity in cultural homogenization.
is a creative productions group whose one-minute short movies combine
comedy, tragedy and crude special effects in a mind-blowing attempt to
navigate the human condition. Jibangus is currently at work on a full-length
horror film, The Yungling.
(Chicago) multi-media work uses formal, self-reflexive structures to present
social, personal and art historical narratives. His precisely conceived
and realized works are dense, but do not forfeit visual beauty.
applies her study of classification systems and her deep appreciation
for all things gloomy to sculptures paintings and videos in San Francisco.
(Chicago) metaphor-laden endurance performances and installations
address grand themes of love, pain and work with simple, repetitive gestures.
(Chicago) sincere, emotional work (in the form of videos, photos and drawings)
stems from a mutual aversion and attraction to constructed realities of
contemporary life filtered through TV, movies, liquor, boys and pop music.
(Brooklyn) design-oriented work focuses on abstraction within spatial
and material constructs
Aaron Van Dyke
investigates the nature and vast possibilities of photography in St. Paul,
(Chicago) makes "painstakingly slipshod" sculptures and paintings
and explores the possibilities of curating as an art form.
(Brooklyn) is a conceptual artist working within the traditionally craft-oriented
world of artist's books. He also makes assemblages, collages and writes
For more information
on these artists and WESTERN
me at email@example.com
Have a super new
year! Love Scott.
“There's no time for feeling
inferior, standing in front of my mirror”
to this blather
Premium malt beverages, rock and roll, movies, Chicago art, art criticism
A last gasp of art in NYC: grab a beer, this column is long --
My big move to the city of Big Shoulders, Jack Featherly, Su-en Wong,
Andrew WK, Lists, ShitBeGone and tons more....
Early Spring 2002
Lots o'Art: Richter, the Armory Show + tons o' gallery shows: Neo-Grunge
art, Paul Henry Ramirez, Type A and more on J-HOVA.
Valentine's Day 2002
Way too much info on my TV watching habits, plus Danielle Tegeder, Brad
Tucker and art in Boston and much, much more...
Best of 2001
Moulin Rouge, Mulholland Drive, Missy Elliot, Jay-Z, James Ensor, Wayne
Thiebaud, Radiohead, System of a Down redux
Thanksgiving from Hawaii
Serra, Pardo, Katz, Coen Brothers all suck. Grabner, Sienna, Prekop, Jay-Z
Early Fall 2001
The Onion, Rodney Graham, Jim Lambie, Larry King, Music Movie Sundays,
sucking up to Jerry Saltz and stuff...
Early Fall 2001
Skinny actresses, Fall Previews, Hair metal (again), and some other crap...
Chicago Art, Radiohead, Tony Kornheiser, another David E. Kelley rip and
Wane Thiebaud, Printmaking, movies, more summer shows and more...
Summer Shows, Paul McCarthy, Me, My Sister and more...
James Ensor, Ennui, Journey, New Art Examiner and more...
Late Winter 2001
Dawson's Creek, Jessica Stockholder, David Salle, Albums of the Year and
Early Winter 2000
riffs on rock-Roll Singles, the West Wing, Bernard Frieze and more...
The dirt on Damien Hirst, Jibangus, Cable TV and more...
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