Tuesday, April 12, 2011 12:57 PM
Even for a music snob, it’s hard to keep up with the constant influx of new bands and their increasingly obscure names. Just sample a few current oddities: Mel Gibson & the Pants, Hunx and His Punx, The Tony Danza Tap Dance Extravaganza, Ramadanman, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., Wolves in the Throne Room, Shabazz Palaces, Yuck. That’s exactly the point of Chicago Tribune’s Mark Caro, who—in an age of 14 million musical acts registered on MySpace—laments the bygone days of simple band names.
“Snowflakes fluttered down, lightning flashed and inspiration for a brilliant new band name struck,” writes Caro, describing a swiftly-dashed rock-epiphany. “Thundersnow.”
Mind you, I don’t actually have a band, but in my rock-geek fantasy life, I’m constantly in search of the perfect band name, so I vetted this one in the commonly accepted 21st century method: I Googled it.
Sure enough, not only is there a Madison, Wis., rock band called Thundersnow on MySpace but also a Rochester, N.Y., metal band named ThunderSnow.
Sigh. This seems to be the case with just about any clever band name you might come up with.
Ever helpful, the snarky folks over at SFWeekly compiled a list of words not to use when brainstorming your band’s new moniker. On the list: magic, crystal, bear, black, and teen.
Bands from a new genre called witch house—a spooky, throbby, sample-heavy variant of electronica—are sidestepping the problem completely. “A growing number of artists” writes Wired’s Angela Watercutter, “have found that by using symbols in their name they can make it to the top of playlists even if they’re not ranked at the top of Google results.” She explains:
Using crazy characters to subvert the music industry isn’t entirely novel. Prince did it when he became . MIA made a similar move by calling her latest album /\/\ /\ Y /\. But the new symbolists, like and , are not only hard for search engines to unearth but also nearly impossible to talk about offline (how do you pronounce “” again?).
Perhaps, though, we’ve entered a new phase of music culture in which getting your name out there isn’t (exactly) the point. “[F]or those in the know, the names create a parallel universe,” writes Watercutter. “On Last.fm stations, MySpace pages, blogs, and Vimeo channels, tracking down one artist can lead to dozens more. It’s a highly engineered musical underground hidden in plain sight.”
Sources: Chicago Tribune, SFWeekly, Wired
Image by kainet, licensed under Creative Commons. (For what it's worth, the pictured band is called Habeus Corpus.)
Wednesday, July 07, 2010 12:37 PM
Take a peek at downtown Chicago’s newest street sculpture nestled in the socket of State and Van Buren streets. "Eye" is a 30-foot-tall fiberglass eyeball on display through the end of October. Sculptor Tony Tasset modeled the piece after his own eye—only it's 1,000 times bigger and infinitely creepier. He spent six months constructing its various parts in Sparta, Wisconsin. Of the building process, Tasset told the Chicago Tribune that “the final step [was] the glossy coat, which makes it really wet and gross and nasty.”
Source: Chicago Tribune
Wednesday, June 02, 2010 3:49 PM
Large, invasive Asian carp are overwhelming the Mississippi River and heading for the Great Lakes—and one way to help stop their spread is to eat them, a host of observers are suggesting. But the American palate is not attuned to carp as a delicacy, and the fish’s PR problems begin with its inelegant, harsh-sounding name. So why not rename it? It worked for orange roughy, which once was known as the slimehead, and “rock salmon,” a.k.a. the spiny dogfish.
Big River magazine, which covers the Upper Mississippi, has had a field day with its carp coverage, which recently included a Name That Carp contest that is now down to its finalists. The common carp is the more established but less aggressive invader, while the silver carp is the gigantic, leaping variety that really has river watchers worried. Here are the suggested names:
winged silver roughy
Entries are closed, but Big River is asking the public to vote on these finalists and will announce the winning names in the July-August issue.
It’s not the only publication with carp on its mind. The Chicago Reader did an entire carp issue that included a ten-chef carp challenge. One chef, Phillip Foss of Lockwood restaurant, took the competition to heart and began putting carp dishes on his menu that attracted favorable attention from the Chicago Tribune and the Wall Street Journal.
But Foss isn’t going along with this renaming business. The Reader notes that “he was excited about selling Asian carp,” but that he wasn’t going to start calling it silverfin, as some boosters already have suggested. “He wasn’t going to sugarcoat it.”
Foss tells the Reader, “This fish has a lot of strikes against it. But this is not a bad-tasting fish. … You want to get it out of the water—why not fish it? Eat it for dinner tonight.”
Sources: Big River, Chicago Reader, Chicago Tribune, Wall Street Journal
Top image by Michael Boyd, www.mboydphoto.com
. Carp dish image courtesy of Phillip Foss from his blog The Pickled Tongue.
Friday, December 12, 2008 12:15 PM
When my mom arrived at work in Chicago on Tuesday morning to news about Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich’s arrest, she immediately picked up the phone and called her sister in Springfield to gush. Finally! The dirty governor was going down. They crossed their fingers that the story would get national play.
Boy has it ever. A good political scandal doesn’t have to work too hard to capture public attention, and in this case, the connection to president-elect Barack Obama gave Blagojevich’s take-down extra currency.
Not surprisingly, the governor’s attempt to auction off Obama’s Senate seat emerged as the dominant storyline in news about his arrest. What has received less attention is a brewing journalistic scandal in the laundry list of complaints against Blagojevich. For anyone concerned with media ethics, it can’t be overlooked.
Clint Hendler at the Columbia Journalism Review has a nice, detailed account of what we know so far about discussions between Blagojevich’s chief of staff, John Harris, and an unknown “financial advisor” to Chicago Tribune owner Sam Zell. The talks in question involve the governor’s request that the paper fire members of its editorial board and editorial page staff, who have published unflattering pieces about him, in exchange for state aid in selling the Chicago Cubs and Wrigley Field, which are owned by the Tribune Company.
Charges against the governor disturbingly indicate that the paper was “very sensitive to the message.” As CJR points out, Zell has a lot of questions to answer if he intends to salvage a smidgeon of his fledgling news organization’s reputation. For instance, “Did the financial advisor make the deal that Harris implied he did?” And a couple of months ago, when the paper almost ran a story about the Blagojevich wiretaps, was Zell involved in its decision not to?
Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker sums up the disgrace of it all nicely:
Apparently, the caveat that one should never do battle with someone who buys ink by the barrel has been rendered meaningless by “financial advisers” in the Tribune Tower, where Zell's yearlong reign of error is leading one of the nation's greatest newspaper companies to ruin.
Image by theogeo, licensed under Creative Commons.
Thursday, October 30, 2008 11:13 AM
The field of institutions and public figures endorsing Barack Obama is getting really crowded, and it’s a motley assortment. Some fairly unlikely personalities are in the tank, including Christopher Buckley, Christopher Hitchens and Colin Powell, as well as conservative publications like the Record.
Spend a few minutes perusing the Wikipedia page listing Obama’s endorsements, and you might visualize a rowdy cocktail party whose guest list includes editors from nearly every major U.S. newspaper (including the Chicago Tribune, marking its first endorsement of a Democratic presidential candidate in its 161-year history); hundreds of current and former governors, mayors, and legislators; CEOs, actors, rock stars, and authors; and even the plumbers’ union (presumably Joe the Plumber was not consulted since, well, he’s not a plumber).
The New Yorker provided a characteristically thorough endorsement of Obama. The New York Times argues for the relevance of newspaper endorsements. And there’s a nifty map illustrating the distribution of this year’s newspaper endorsements and comparing it with 2004’s.
Several cast members of HBO's The Wire are stumping for Obama. (Gbenga Akinnagbe, if he’s half as terrifying as the drug lieutenant he played on the series, will make a very compelling canvasser). An absolutely fabulous coterie of fashion designers has pledged allegiance. And ostensibly apolitical publications have weighed in, most recently the science magazine Seed.
Leading the ironic-endorsement pack is onetime McCain campaign advisor Charles Fried, whose decision to back Obama is partially due to McCain’s “choice of Sarah Palin at a time of deep national crisis” (via Talking Points Memo).
All of which begs the question: Who’s in poor old John McCain’s corner? The list of newspapers endorsing him is considerably shorter than Obama’s. There’s Steve Forbes, of course. And then there’s the small faction of Hollywood conservatives (say it ain’t so, Gary Sinise!).
Image courtesy of Philip (Flip) Kromer, licensed under Creative Commons.
Thursday, September 11, 2008 2:08 PM
When Chicago stand-up comedian and political activist Ken Swanborn died, his family placed a paid death notice in the Chicago Tribune ending with the request “In lieu of flowers, please vote Democratic.” The Tribune quickly removed the line from the obituary before it ran, citing a policy against “discriminatory or offensive” material. Chicago Reader blogger Michael Miner cried foul and was told by a Tribune employee that the deleted line could potentially offend Republican readers. But, Miner points out, what about offending the family who paid to place the announcement?
Is this a denial of free speech or merely a newspaper trying to stay neutral?
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