Derek Shanahan

if you’re having a bad day today, which is probably the case for some chicago peeps because we woke up to pouring rain and long commutes, take solice in the fact that a whole planet had a worse day than you did.

pluto’s always sort of stayed out of the way. never really bothered you or i. probably everyone’s favorite planet until age five or six.

and we kicked it out of the solar system.

okay, to be clear, about 15% of the 2,400 astronomers at the international astronomical union meeting voted to kick pluto to the curb:

The final voting came from about 400 to 500 of the 2,400 astronomers who were registered at the meeting of the International Astronomical in Prague. Many of the astronomers (sic) had already left, thinking there would be nothing but dry resolutions to decide in the union’s final assembly. –

a gathering of astronomers in prague basically just told the smallest kid on the playground to buzz off. buzz of, you’re small, you can go be with the other small things and we’re planning to teach humanity that you don’t belong with the rock we live on.

hopefully you heard ‘gathering of astronomers in prague’ and kind of laughed at how much fun they didn’t have there.

the headlines are mercilous:

Dinky Pluto Loses Its Status As PlanetWashington Post
Pluto becomes one less planet to memorizeReuters

kick a man once he’s down, like i always say.

this is kind of a big thing, because when my kids grow up i’m going to say, ‘when i was in school there were nine planets’ and my kid is going to find that amazing.

and i’m going to have to say it wasn’t my decision.

i guess we can just hope this isn’t an indication of our attitude towards intelligent life elsewhere, if and when we encounter it. seems we’re being a bit arrogant today.

riding the el to work in the morning is not always a fun experience. most of the time that ride depends on two things. who’s driving, and getting a seat.

now once they put this blog up on chicago bloggers, you’ll see that my train stop is going to be listed at the division stop on the blue line. in fact, that will be my stop next month, after i move into my new digs. right now, and for the last two years, i’ve been a brown line rider.

now the brown line is the best line, in my opinion. maybe i don’t appreciate diversity enough, because the brown line doesn’t boast the most diverse bunch of clientele, but i think it’s more the fact that a ride up to the damen stop (where i’m at these days) offers a lot of different options along the way if a stop-off is in order. a beer, dinner, friends, shopping…it’s all possible somewhere between the loop (work) and home (play). and usually the eye candy ‘aint bad.

there’s also a girl i know who lives a few feet from the brown, who won’t be on the blue and that has a sadness to it.

anyway, aside from the homogenous crowd, the other downside to the brown is the people they have in the driver’s seat. today was a perfect example of a train conductor (for lack of a better term) who couldn’t figure out how to stop a train. no big deal if you get yourself a seat…which is usually the case for those of us who live so far up the line. but this morning everyone on the northside left for work together, apparently, and corky the conductor had a heavy brake foot, sending everyone on their feet barreling into one another not once, but at nearly every stop.

i’d really rather not spend my commute bouncing off of other disgruntled train riders.

so here’s to the blue line and it’s (hopefully) smooth operators.


whatever. learn how to operate a damn train.

it honestly can’t be that difficult.

i don’t know how to go about explaining who i am to this blog. and in turn, to its readers; of which there are almost none. starting a blog is hard for me for some reason…i think because i have a hard time just writing and not thinking about who’s reading or what they’ll think.

with that in mind i tracked down a questionnaire i’ve always been a fan of: the one that james lipton of ‘inside the actors studio‘ fame uses at the end of each show to conclude his interviews with accomplished actors and actresses.

1. What is your favorite word?


2. What is your least favorite word?


3. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

when i experience something completely new to me. i get a rush from sensing, experiencing, or understanding something for the very first time.

4. What turns you off?

maliciousness, intellectual arrogance, and excessive make-up.

5. What is your favorite curse word?


6. What sound or noise do you love?

the deep, long breathing of a sleeping lover. and clothes dryers.

7. What sound or noise do you hate?

beeping alarm clocks.

8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

a trend consultant…trend chaser.

9. What profession would you not like to do?

any job with no performance rewards, and the less immediate those rewards, the less likely i’d enjoy it.

10. If you were reincarnated as some other plant or animal, what would it be?

an outside housecat.

11. What is your favourite drug?


12. Who would you like to see on a new banknote?

will ferrell.

13. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

“you had it right. oh, and your family is waiting over there.”

ani difranco is one of those people that sort of stands out for just being human. i think the reason for that is that it’s really hard work to just be human, and when people manage it they deserve a lot of respect. most of us lose touch of our basic nature because we have our lives to live, mouthes to feed, and bills to pay. we take the easy route. cuz it’s easier.

but for fifteen years ani has bulit her own label, pioneered political and public causes, and toured the world tirelessly. she’s the bob marley of feminism, her brand really a movement for balance. on this topic i think she’s maybe three hundred years ahead of her time.

obviously as a musician you have to write catchy and inspiring music to gather a following. the talent is important, but as record executives figured out decades ago, it can’t be manufactured. if it could, the big wigs in the music industry would have manfactured themselves a few more beatles or rolling stones to keep their coffers full and their bentleys polished. instead, they found they had to manufacture other things to keep business predictable, which resulted in huge publicity budgets, reunion tours, awards shows, and things of that nature. it also resulted in a musical landscape awash in no-talent assholes (to borrow a term).

i guess my point is that all that corporate backing has turned the music industry into a deep pool for those that want to swim without a life jacket. ani’s done that, and while her success owes some to her talent, it owes more to her drive, business sense, dedication, and this human quality she brings to her engagements. those engagements include shows, live recordings, public movements, political actions, and charitable projects. her writings and her actions are one in the same…something very rare in musician’s these days…and for that i think she is rewarded with incredibly devoted fans.

since i first became her fan i have bought every album she’s released at full price. she’s one of the only artists i can claim that for, and in the midst of the napster days it was a conscious decision. how often have you really bought music to support the artist? it almost feels like a good deed.

i’ve been using jambase for years now, and as it’s grown and become central to the growing festival and grass roots music movement, it has in my opinion only gotten better. this article on ani, written by longtime fan and journalist monica way, is a welcome surprise to their front page.

last night brady and i went to independent music world series finals (info here) and had a blast. great music, great crowd. great food and drinks, and if you haven’t been to the elbo room there’s nothing like it. it’s actually one of my favorite music venues in chicago. top three at least.

so brady and got ourselves on the VIP list (which was easy and free) and headed downstairs to see what was in store. the elbo room is a two level dive at the corner of lincoln and diversey. the main bar upstairs is more like a waiting room…not much to it. one small bar with some stools, a few booths, and usually a small local crowd.

from there you walk down a steep set of stairs into a dungeon-like basement typically full of the music-flavored people and a larger bar. the bartenders are always friendly, and the small stage has great sound and when i’m there, great bands. it’s definitely the place in chicago i’ve seen the most music that’s completely new to me, prior to walking in. which counts for a lot, because i’ve liked almost all of it.

some day i’ll recount the night i was treated to the band goat motor.

anyway back to last night, where we sat under a low ceiling with brady’s boss andre’ (check out his website and band if you get a chance) and couple of his friends and took in six bands of diverse sound and stage presence.

the two jazzbands, mark o’connor and pete rodriquez quartet had some really talented musicians, but got overshadowed by the stage presence of the other four bands.

rebel’s advocate was a hip hop act from iowa, of all places. one of the two lead men told us that like even he didn’t believe it.

az one was a cross between destiny’s child and swf if a cross between the two can be made. booty shorts, tight shirts, r&b sounds, and lets just say all the men in the room moved right up to the stage. they were sweethearts when we gave them props after the show.

lorenzo was a hard hitting rock band with an inyourface lead singer and a loud, loud sound. these guys had no idea they weren’t playing in front of sixty thousand people…their hair, clothes, attitudes, and groupies all looked pure rockstar.

and then there was dura hale, the eventual winner of the evening and my pick of the litter. apparently the act is only the one guy on vocals (judging from his webpage and album release clips), but from what i saw he needs to reevaluate. along with him was a full band, a record spinning dj who didn’t stop bouncing, and two backup singers. the backups had some serious pipes, kids. the sound was unique. the crowd went nuts. dura laid down rapped lyrics while the band and dj mixed up a cross between hip-hop and alternative rock, and the product was, well, obviously cool because the guy won the competition.

way to go judges. i like when i’m right.

i ducked out of the fray about an hour ago to have a smoke because i fell victim a few years ago to the tobacco companies’ malicious lies about light cigarettes and walking right through the downtown chicago like they don’t know that people around here wear power ties and power suits and power stares is a group of five black men who look like they just got done shooting an andre 3000 video. five dudes all pimped out in bright three-piece suits with top hats and no kidding one of them sporting a cane (for his gangster lean). weirdest thing is not one of them stood a full 5 and half foot tall. maybe it was a too short video?

either way it was gorgeous, because there was no self-awareness about these guys. this is how they roll. and how you should roll. and how i should roll…who am i to preach?

back upstairs the windows rattled today because this town rocks an air-and-water show that draws two million people and it rocks it this weekend. i guess fighter jets and speedboats coming together justifies two mil, but it’s never really been my thing.

the fighter jet practice runs did make me think about the people living in lebanon and israel who hear that shit every day and night but in their case they aren’t thinking the beach will be crowded this weekend with tourists hoping to catch a glimpse of the blue angels or fast boats. they have to think about their children walking around outside and bombs falling on their neighborhoods. they think about god and they probably talk to him regularly. they probably have to speak up at the dinner table because of the ruckus jets with bombs are making outside their homes.

jets with bombs.

makes the air-and-water show seem kind of weak-sauce.

i’m fortunate every so often to have the luxury of leaving the office in the early afternoon to relax at a local pub until someone in the group decides it’s time to get home and grill something. yesterday was one of those days, and our chosen destination turned out to be monk’s pub, on lake street in the loop, where upon walking up to the door you’d think you were entering an old western film or you’d think the odds of the place having closed down since your last visit were much higher than that door in front of you actually opening and revealing a place you’d spend more than five minutes in.

alas you do open the door, and inside is a pretty warm and welcoming hole-in-the-wall pub with deep cherry wood floors and rafters and a long cherrywood bar and wooden booths and basically wood everywhere. it feels like a log cabin, and throw your peanut shells on the ground, not the bar, the bartendress said.

our server was young and friendly but my god her hair. it was huge. it looked at first like unfortunate bedhead, but turned out to be styled in a way to make it as large, fluffy, and odd as possible. the regulars seemed to love her, which i’m sure was largely based on age and the long island ice teas.

we had some bass and some hefeweizen and some peanuts and threw the shells on the floor and headed out, headed home. i caught the brown line barely and road home in the setting sun with belle & sebastian rolling through a set of calm and deliberate tunes about love and waitresses.

the chicago brown line in the early evening is a beautiful trip if the sun is feeling friendly.

okay so why did i write wednesday? i do hope that down the road somewhere that seems sage, or like it happened for a reason.
i’m sorry for screwing up the first post.
i really am.

actually, i really don’t care much.

this blog was started on a wednesday. which is today, and which is the fifteeth of august, which sounds and feels like a nice round date to start a blog.