Friday, August 28, 2009

Carrie goes to Berlin (a guest blog)

As Sean mentioned in his previous post, he has asked me to do a guest blog about my recent trip to Berlin. Like any dedicated girlfriend would, here I am, telling you dedicated readers about the two weeks I spent in one of my favorite cities. I was in Berlin for the IAAF World Championships for Athletics as part of the Chicago 2016 team, attempting to win votes and hearts. The glamorous work my coworker Lizzie and I did included assembling our booth, hauling boxes, standing in the booth for 13 hours at a time and making hand motions because we don't speak German. Here are some additional highlights and lessons learned from the trip:

1. Traveling in Europe on an expense account is pretty sweet. It sure beats having to pay the exchange rate on your own.

2. The Germans are still dealing with their twisted history and Berlin is full of examples of this ongoing struggle. The Olympic Stadium ("Olympiastadion" for those of us who are fluent), where I spent most of my time, is quite an imposing place. The site of numerous Nazi rallies was also, of course, the site of Jesse Owens' victories in 1936. There are also random memorials all over the city - constant reminders to Berliners.

Small memorial in the Mitte neighborhood

We happened upon this piece of the wall one night

This bombed-out church stands as a reminder - we walked by it daily on our way to the subway

3. My favorite thing about Berlin is the trees. West Berlin is especially rife with tree-lined streets and parks. It is a stark contrast to the West Loop.

Outside my hotel

4. Berlin is a very green city in general. People recycle (25 cents for every returned bottle adds up!), eat local food that is in season and ride bikes everywhere. So I clearly loved it.

a typical bike lane

Tiergarten, Berlin's "Central Park"

Our entry into Tiergarten - beautiful

5. Yoga in another language is a transformative experience. I even learned that "twist" in German means "twist" in English. If you are ever in Berlin, go to this studio (it also happens to be next to a very cute chocolate shop). This will likely be the only time yoga is discussed on this blog, so enjoy it.

Spirt Yoga Berlin

6. Europeans feel differently about nudity than Americans. I couldn't bring myself to take a picture of the man taking an open air shower in the middle of Tiergarten. I did take one of naked men laying out, but I figure this photo is probably all I can get away with on Sean's blog.

5. Usain Bolt is very fast.

7. My favorite part of the competition, and maybe even the trip in general, was the remote-controlled truck sent out to pick up the hammers from the hammer throw. Notice how there is a stuffed bear driving the truck. You know you think it's funny.

He took his job very seriously

A hard worker like this deserves two pictures

8. Watching the events in the stadium was really exciting. The crowd was incredible - they cheered for everyone, regardless of nationality.

The Olympic Stadium has almost 75,000 seats! It was therefore never full

Yelena Isinbayeva missing her third attempt (it was a big deal)

The U.S. women celebrating their 4x400 victory

Men's 4x400m relay - the crowd went nuts (and the U.S. men won)

Men's Marathon

9. The Chicago 2016 booth was cited by many as the best (obvi).

Lizzie on day one - ready for the crowds. We were not ready for the flood of people grabbing everything that was not nailed down

Olympic race walker Gary Morgan shows visitors around our booth

The mascot paid us a visit

So did Edwin Moses and his lovely wife

Overall the trip was wonderful, even though I missed my boyfriend terribly the whole time. Until next time, auf wiedersehen!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

2009 Football Season Preview

A lot of sports columnists do previews about the football season - who will be the winners and losers, who the breakthrough players will be, what coaches will be fired, or who will win the Heisman Trophy. Since we are about to enter my favorite time of year, I thought I would do the same. Except, I'm not going to preview the NFL or college football, but rather my own personal football season....It is time for the 2009 Sean Season Preview:

Ok, let's be honest, that was five (really? five???!!!!!) football seasons ago. Here's what it's looking like for this season:

2008 Season in Review:

The 2008 season had mixed results for Sean. He participated in two flag football leagues and exhibited flashes of his former athletic self, but was simultaneously riddled by a thankless job with no opportunity for advancement. Also, due to the implementation of a new system brought on by a new head coach/serious girlfriend, Sean's Saturday tailgating, previously among the best in the league, suffered. However, the new system paid dividends for Sean in other areas such as overall health, productivity, will to live on Sunday mornings, and general desirability as a human being. Sean finished the 2008 season by watching every bengals game on Sunday at Cleo's while doing the NY Times crossword puzzles in sweatpants and a hoodie.

Key additions: An apartment shared with a girl that treats me well, puts up with my shenanigans, cleans up after me without getting mad that I am a guy and can't help being a slob sometimes, a new and improved job situation, a bike that will get me to and from the bar to watch games even faster, herbs (the legal kind), a wine fridge, sunlight in my apartment, a second in-house television, and a renewed hope for the return of Barry Sanders to the NFL. Disregard the creepiness that could be associated with me tracking a sophomore in high school.

Key losses: Another 0.15 seconds in my 40 yard dash time, the ability to stay out past 1 am, an apartment within walking distance of Cleo's and the Map Room, 15 minutes of daily sportscenter watching that has been supplanted by Matt Lauer having "exclusive interviews" with somebody who is "finally speaking out for the first time," respect or hope for humanity due to aforementioned viewing of the Today show.

Key signings: A one-year extension for my extremely comfortable man couch that reclines and has cup holders.

What to watch for in 2009: Look for Sean to play like a wiley veteran in 2009. His extensive experience with the long football seasons has prepared him to not make rookie mistakes like taking shots in the midst of a long day of drinking or making up drinking games associated with the game in progress (at least not until the playoffs). His training regimen, which has consisted primarily of biking, running, red meat, grilling, and beer this summer, should prepare him well for the rigorous 2009 schedule, which includes an all-day tailgate affair associated with the early season matchup of Ohio St and USC on September 12. The following week Sean faces a huge test on the road at Lake Tahoe for a bachelor party with 15 or so dudes, followed by a Friday night affair at home to see Miike Snow in concert. Next week, Sean faces another difficult road game at the McKibben/Kreter wedding in Annapolis. If Sean makes it through this stretch with liver, pancreas, and dignity still intact, it should be smooth sailing until the buckeyes play Penn State on November 7, which last year derailed the calm, rational behavior that was characteristic of the 2008 Sean season.

Here are the pre-season awards projections:

MVP - My bike

Day Drinking Beer of Choice - Sam Adams Oktoberfest

Best Record of Saturday bar attendance - Graham

Breakout Sports Fan: Carrie (due to lack of a choice)

MVB (Most Valuable Bar) - Beer Bistro

Song of the Day:

Gang Gang Dance - House Jam

A Chicago Tour

So I'm way behind on posts and most of the funny stuff I've seen either went unwritten about, unphotographed or just plain forgotten immediately. Maybe now that Carrie's back from Berlin, I'll get my stuff together. I'm working on getting her to write a guest post so look for that.

I meant to write about this right after it happened so I will now. Two weeks ago my brother Brian and his four kids came to Chicago. This marked the first "big city" trip for the kids so pretty exciting stuff. They got in most of the "must do's" for Chicago including Millenium Park, the Shedd Aquarium, Hancock Tower and yes, even the venus/tourist fly traps at Navy Pier. This is Brian with the second oldest - Erynn.

They also went to American Girl Place (what a dad!). Did you know they cut dolls' hair there? And it costs more than it costs to get my hair cut - $20!!!!! They also have a doll hospital, complete with employees dressed as nurses. Absolutely ridiculous. I was there once at Christmas to get something for Madison (the oldest) but I somehow missed all that stuff because I had on blinders going straight to where I was told the item I needed was so I could get out of there as fast as possible. Why? Because I'm a man! Yeah! Unngghhh! Meat! Fooooooballl!

We ate lots of great and unhealthy food, because unfortunately, all the Chicago staples fall into this vein (hot dogs, deep dish pizza, italian beef, sweet mandy b's cupcakes, etc..). On Saturday, we went to the Field Museum, where I found out what it's like to be a rhino, or a human that's vegan:

And "rhinos like it rough?" What kind of kid's museum is this? On top of that, we went to the beach and saw the air show. It was sensory overload in Chicago. A really great weekend overall. Thanks for coming.

Song of the Day:

James Yuill - This Sweet Love

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Best Weekend of the Year Part 3

Ok for the final part of the trilogy, I will make it short for Sunday. This basically sums up Sunday.

You see, this is what we all felt like when we woke up on Sunday. If you go back to Part I and look at Rule #5, our whole group broke parts a-c so we were pretty much comatose for half of Sunday. So by the time we all got back on the bus to Consciousville and felt like going out in the 95 degree heat again, it was around 4 pm so we missed a good chunk of Sunday (as always). Points to this guy though because he was actually like this on Sunday, not hungover from Saturday. When he eventually sat up, he said "How did I get so f***ed up? Wait, where the hell am I?" Classic. Here was the lineup for the day:

4:30 - 5:30 - Vampire Weekend
5:30 - 6:30 - Cold War Kids
6:30 - 7:30 - Nothing / listening to Snoop Dogg's hypeman in the distance for 45 minutes. If I was less lazy, I would have seen Deerhunter.
7:30-8:15 - Silversun Pickups
8:30 - 9:30 - The Killers

So now back to the more interesting days.....

I mentioned in Part I that I needed to devote some time to Of Montreal. I knew a couple of their songs but I really had no idea how far in outer space these guys are until I saw them live. These displays from the show should give you some idea:

So should their website. Just scroll down then hit up the interview with the lead singer from June 16. Done? Ok. So now that we're clear on that, these guys threw an absolutely phenomenal party. In the midst of all the jaw dropping weirdness going on all around, Of Montreal played great music that constantly slalomed between dance and disco, rock, and the abstract. Graham and I didn't speak for like 20 minutes because of the state of awe we were left in. The crowd was basically split between people like us who had no idea what the hell was going on, and people who were going absolutely bananas, eating up every minute of it. Next time I will be one of the latter. I love these They are 10x better live than you would ever hear on any of their albums. This is an experience to be had if they are ever in your town. Don't miss it.

Now, without further ado, the Lollapalooza awards:

The "Sir Mix a Lot - Put em on the Glass" Best Music Video Completely Unrelated to Lollapalooza Award:
Coolio - Gangsta's Paradise. Yes, that is a picture of the video at the tin lizzie and yes, that's the back of Michelle Pfeiffer's head.

The Milwaukee's Best "D-bag frat boys of the weekend award": the two meatsticks in front of Carrie and I that were slapping each others backs as hard as they could during the Cold War Kids concert. I didn't want to encourage them by taking their photo.

The runners up for same and The "Billy Mays Memorial Oxi-Clean" Poop Stain Award:

"The "Mr. Bartley's 'You Can't Beat Our Meat'" Best T-Shirt Award:

The "Barry Sanders runs into tunnel after touchdown to give handicapped kid the football" I'm a Star but I'm Still Super Cool Award:

Kevin Barnes, lead singer of Of Montreal (of Of...hahaha) throws the guitar in the air a few times in a sweet rockstar move that you hardly ever see anymore, then he hands the guitar to a kid in the front row who wore blue makeup like him and clearly idolizes him. Then, he makes sure the security guard gets the kid out of there with the guitar. What a cool moment. Even better, this was captured on film in very good quality. If you don't want to watch the whole video, start at 3:30 when the inflatable sharks and rafts start going into the crowd and watch for a minute and a half. Really cool.

The "Bill Simmons" Unintentional Comedy Award:

Brandon Flowers of the Killers. The Killers have a song that is really, REALLY stupid called "Bones" I believe. Prior to playing it, he yells out, "Do you want to feeeeeel my boooone?" And he was dead serious. Dead silence. Hilarious. I think the ridiculous lyrics of this song were even funnier.

The "2007 Muse" Band of the Weekend Award - Band of Skulls

The "Karen O" MVP Award - Karen O

The "Busta Rhymes / Fed Ex" Mail-It-In Worst Concert Ever Award: Snoop Doggy Dogg. Low point of the weekend. He was terrible. One story about Snoop though, apparently there is a Celebrity Death Pool floating around somewhere where you vote on the next big celebrity to die. The person who told me about this picked Snoop, whatever that means.

The "Notre Dame" Very Overrated Award - Kings of Leon

The "Lake Superior" Cold Lake to Jump in, even in August Award: Lake Michigan

The "Mr. Mackey" Drugs Are Bad Award" Naked Guy from Friday

The "Cheech and Chong" We've Been High for 72 Straight Hours Award: 150,000 way tie between pretty much everyone (except us).

Thank you and goodnight.....til next year!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Best Weekend of the Year Part 2

So, enter Day 2 of Lollapalooza. It's Saturday, I'm feeling refreshed, ready to go big for what would be my favorite day of the festival.I started off the day at 11:15 for Band of Skulls. There was no way in the world I would miss this. These guys rocked so hard I can't put it into words. In the hyper-produced world we live in today, it's rare to see something this pure come out of a guitar and out of a band as a whole. Afterwards, there were little chunks of brain laying all over the grass because many people who were not mentally prepared to be rocked to their cores first thing in the morning had the misfortune of having their heads exploded by the relentlessly raw rock dished out by Band of Skulls. For that, they get two pictures:

After heading to a party a friend invited me/us to across the street (which was by the way awesome. Thank you if you are reading this), we headed back to catch Miike Snow, another band I did not want to miss. They were even better live than I would have imagined. They needed a spot later in the evening where they could've had a good light show to match the sweet tunes.

2:30 - 3:30 - Atmosphere. Great times. They were really good. The main guy, who raps, is a white dude from Minneapolis.

3:30 - 4:30 - Gomez / Trying to find everyone. I missed Blind Pilot but you can't see everything.

5:30 - 6:15 - Santigold. She was awesome! Her dancers were even cooler. They danced the entire show with sunglasses on and didn't smile once. Loved the throwback 90's style. The craziest part about this show was when Graham and Samantha got up on this huge metal cannister that was looking at the stage to start dancing.


I'm very proud of you Graham for having started this mayhem. This guy on the corner is one slip of the hand away from breaking himself. Amazing. You should have seen the people trampling over each other and shoving each other out of the way to get up on this thing. Once again proof that we are nothing but herd animals.

6:30 - 7:30 - TV on the Radio. Really enjoyed them. Had never seen them live so that was fun.
7:30 - 8:30 - sit down and have some beers
8:30-10:00 - Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Playing before a crowd far bigger than anything they had seen in their lives, Karen O led the Yeah Yeah Yeahs in putting on an appropriately grand performance, starting with her entrance.

This was the second time I've seen them and again, she is absolutely captivating. She is the epitome of lead singer. I am yet to see any one person in my life who holds a crowd like she does. Day 3 / Of Montreal recap / Weekend Awards to come in the third and final installment tomorrow.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Best Weekend of the Year Part 1

I really don't even know how this starts or where it ends but I can promise you that you'll be sick of reading about Lollapalooza well before I'm done blogging about it by the end of this week- I will do my very best to keep it to three posts - one for each day of the festival, and will keep the reviews brief.  I tried to take a picture of every band I saw but some didn't turn out so well so F it.  

Festival Rules:

1) Bring a flask of vodka or rum (mixers are sprite or coke) and water

2) Get ready to be jostled.  Be more patient than normal but not so patient that you let some fratboy asshole who's only there to see snoop dogg push you around.  Stand your ground.  

3) Try to meet friends but don't miss your must-see acts.  If you really love a band, it's every man for himself.  Meet up later to avoid bitterness.  I pulled this twice this weekend - for Band of Skulls and Cold War Kids.  

4) If you're with someone who loves a particular band, don't be an asshole and trash them while they're on stage, thereby distracting your friend.  

5a) Be realistic.  Don't burn yourself out on Friday and Saturday running back and forth and everywhere and miss someone you really like on Sunday.
5b) Don't go out after Lolla and miss someone you really like the next day.  
5c) Don't get blackout during and after Lolla and miss someone you really like the next day.  

6) Make a #2 happen before you leave your house.  No matter what.  

7) Enjoy the people watching

8) Don't follow everyone.  If there's a long line where you are, you're usually missing something.  

9) Drugs are bad...mmmk.  

10) Don't write a blog about Lollapalooza.  That's so typical.  Plus, everyone will judge you about who you saw and didn't see.  

Now, on with the show.....

I put in some work early Friday morning 
and got to the festival at 11:15 am.  This pic is the calm before the storm...literally.  It started raining about a minute later and didn't stop for seven hours.  Good times.  

I went to see Hockey first at 11:30, which I was really excited about.  Excited enough to be in the front row.  They are a really young (like 12 in the case of the lead singer), up and coming band so it was unfortunate that their set got short circuited by power issues.  They were pretty broken up about it but tossed some beers into the crowd, which was cool.

The rest of Friday went like this:

12:30 - Manchester Orchestra.  They were excellent.  Really dug them live.  Knew I would.  

1:00-2:00 - Shelter from the rain.  
2:00-3:00 - White Lies.  A bit morbid but overall good.  Pretty sure they just had the #1 album in the UK.  They have a bright future.  

3:00 - 4:00 - Heartless Bastards.  KC gets a fro-hawk. 

4:30 - 4:45 - Ben Folds.  Extremely disappointing.  His prime was 12 years ago.  Food break. 

5:15 - 6:00 - Fleet Foxes. Probably underrated because they are so soft but really wonderful performance.  Weather was at peak level of miserable here so it was tough to really enjoy.  

6:15 - 7:00 - Thievery Corporation - They really were a corporation.  There were a million people in this band.  Entertaining but not as much as seeing the cops chasing down this naked dude who was dancing around and trying to get up on girls.  My camera magically censored this picture, which I hoped would happen.  

7:00 - 8:00 - Of Montreal - they get their own blog.  That's it.  For real.  Make that four Lollapalooza blogs.  Apparently I am prone to hyperbole AND beating a subject into the ground.  

8:15 - 8:40 - Crookers.  They were fun.  I get bored of DJ sets after two songs though but thanks for Graham for suggesting the pit stop.  

8:45 - 9:15 - Kings of Leon.  Cookie cutter performance.  I didn't sense the inspiration. 

9:25 - 10:00 - Kid Cudi.  He had his moments but I most appreciated the humor.  I appreciate good commentary and I didn't hear good between song commentary from anyone else this weekend so points for that.  

11:00 pm - So tired I can't even stand.  Hit the bed hard.  Some other sights of the day include hula hoop girl and inflatable raft girl ....

Monday, August 3, 2009

Mating Rituals of Homo Sapiens

I made a night of it on Saturday, which is sadly becoming increasingly difficult to make happen.  First, we went to Dahm's to view our notorious appearance on Jerry Springer (see March 3 post).  It just aired last week and it was hilarious.  Very weird to see myself on camera though I must say, especially that camera.  There was actually one really funny moment where Jerry said, "She's taking her shoes off, we know what that means," which, for those who aren't intimate with Jer-Bear like I am, is the indication that this girl is about to come out and they're going to rip each other's hair out.  The camera pans to the crowd and you see me yelling "Yeah!" exuberantly and dropping my fist like Tiger Woods does when he sinks a putt.  I never wanted to hold office anyways.  

Later that evening, I met up with a bunch of former co-workers for our buddy Nick's birthday celebration at a bar downtown.  So I'm having a great time hanging out with everybody and catching up.  At one particular juncture, I'm having a conversation with a friend/former coworker Courtney, and one guy I just met that evening jumps in and puts his arm around me and says "my man, what's up dude?"  I come up with some half-ass response and he goes straight to Courtney and starts trying to strike up conversation.  I see what's happening here.  The old "Use the guy, regardless of how small your connection to him is, to get in to talk to the girl" technique.  Seen it once, seen it a million times.   "Oh hey, didn't see you there.  I was just hanging with my best friend who I don't even know and you happened to be here!  That's crazy!"

Next thing I know, like four more dudes come over and swarm around Courtney.  I've heard about this kind of thing but never really witnessed it in person.  It looked exactly like this clip beginning at the 1:50 mark.  Did I act like this once?  Was I this aggressive?  I don't think so.  I hope not.  Wow.  Guys are ridiculous, aren't we?  Anyways, I stuck around because being that I was overwhelmed by this, I knew it was five times worse for Courtney who was now cornered after running out of room to backpedal.  Eventually, the guys gathered her lack of interest and moved on I think.  That part went something like this.  It was really sad, as a male, to see this all unfold.  I mean the first guy, ok fine, decent move, worth a shot.  But the second through fourth guys, you just make all of you look pathetic by all hovering around one girl.  I mean, she's alright but at the end of the day, she's just another chick at a bar (Sorry Courtney, ego check time after the last two paragraphs!).  

Song of the Day:

Meese - Forward Motion