Category Archives: Chicago

A mildly interesting yard sale

2014-09-30 12.30.53

A couple of weeks ago, I was working in the apartment when I realized that the boxes I have to move around were TOO MANY BOXES. I thought “OK, this is ridiculous. I’ve got so many half-finished projects and bits of things stashed around when I bet other people could do way more fun things with them.”

So, it’s officially Fall Clearance time.

I’ve got prices on a lot of things, but they’re just on there as suggestions. Come poke around in my treasures, if you find them valuable, you go have fun with them.

I haven’t even gotten to the Fractalspin and Zelle inventory yet. I’ll have an official studio sale / sample sale before the end of October.

Yee haw.

Sat. October 4: 10am – 4pm
Sun. October 5: 9am – 4pm
On the 2600 block of Fairfield near California.

Here’s a quirky yard sale that not only has your standard kitchen and home stuff, we’ve also got things to inspire your creativity along with little treasures collected from traveling.


There will be household items and gadgets, Halloween costumes and wigs, audio and computer cables and adapters, coats, little treasures, and fun gifts. We’ve even got a “bowl-of-fruit” original painting, but with a surreal twist. You’ll see.

For the crafters, you’re in for a treat with parts and specialty hand tools, cables, wires, fake flowers, cute little boxes and containers and such. We’ve also got a bunch of blank pleather purses for a fraction of retail that are just begging for something fun to be done to them. Get a jump start on your holiday gifts now!

If you’re into playing with electronics, you’ll find all sorts of random audio adapters, cables, and power cables to help you finish that project you’re stuck on, or it will inspire you to a start a new one. If you’re handy with a soldering iron, you’ll appreciate our collection of cables and parts and grab bags of components like capacitors, diodes, and resistors, too.

Some things of note:

Black PVC Purse Forms
Fake Flowers
Jump rings: 4mm, 5mm
Specialty pliers
Bottles and jars
Little gift boxes

Cat5 Cable
Audio Adapters
Audio Cable
Power Cables, Extension Cords
Wireless Router
CRT TV with RF Modulator, Digital Receiver & Remotes

Halloween Costumes & Wigs
Adult Coats & Jackets
Kid’s T-Shirts
Scarves & Costume Jewelry

Rival Cooktop
Tea Kettle
Cookie sheets
Storage Containers
Glass Mugs

I’ll be at BlueBazaar this Saturday in Pilsen with some nerdy plushies and geeky gifties


Pop-up retail events are super trendy these days, and I’ll be part of one in Pilsen (through Fractalspin) on Saturday just to maintain my credentials.

I kid! It’s actually a craft fair called Blue Bazaar, a fundraiser for a neat entrepreneurial technology-slinging non-profit called Blue 1647. It’s a year-old nonprofit technology innovation center focused on “education, workforce development, business acceleration, and economic development in technology”-related things. What that means is they have classes, office space rental, a incubation program and three (3!!!) 5th generation Makerbot 3D printers, free computer usage for members, classrooms, and office rentals to entrepreneurs and budding organizations to aid in making their visions reality (as if the 3D printer thing wasn’t enough). Also, Harper Reed–who might have helped with a presidential thing a while back–is on the board, which might have helped make me aware of them. Pretty cool, right?

So, the cause is great, and I didn’t have plans that day, and it just so happens I have a bunch of inventory that I’d rather not have to pack when I move to the new place. I’ll put “magic stickers” (some people call them Sale Tags) on some neat things I sell that will give some lucky folks a sizable discount when they walk away with cool things like Circuit Board Luggage Tags, Cable Ties, Microcontroller Cufflinks, Goofy Plush Hearts,Giant Testicles, Magnetic DNA Plushies, and more.

If you’ll be on the South side on Saturday and you’ve had your eye on something, now’s the time to negotiate. Ask away!

Here are some of the other artist / vendors who are exhibiting:

Lucky Skye

No Rush Imagery

Tortoise Belly

Knock Down Barns wooden game

Come out and say hello, and check out neat stuff on a Saturday!

Event Details:
What: Entrepreneur and Innovation Fair
Where: Blue 1647 at 1647 S. Blue Island Ave. Chicago, IL
When: May 17 10AM – 6PM
Cost: Free and Open to the Public

Intercouple domestic nerd-hiliarity, with some Post-It Notes and a Slow Cooker

crockPotProcedures2014-04-26 01.29.07

I gotta say, it’s probably taking title to Soul-Mate Land when one can write a request in PHP for the slow cooker procedure and have it executed flawlessly by the significant other.

^Translation = “If it’s 8:00 am or later AND the onions are caramelized, please turn this thing off. If that’s not true but it’s 9:00 am or later, please turn it off.”

Proof = 2014-04-26 08.55.18

Northern Soul: An influential British musical moment in electronic music culture

“The northern soul scene, to me, was like an eighth wonder of the world. You’re looking at the depressed north of England, where there wasn’t a great deal there apart from steelworks and coalmines. You had people doing this boring repetitive work during the week; and hard work, too. And when they went out on a weekend, they really wanted to go out. Going out until 11 o’clock to the local pub just wasn’t going to be good enough.

When the whole rave thing went ballistic it felt like northern soul twenty years on. Lots of people getting off their heads, dancing to fast music and this love attitude. House is this generation’s version of northern soul…” - Ian Dewhirst, northern soul DJ ~1999 [From Last Night a DJ Saved My Life: The History of the Disc Jockey]

Here's some of the classics to listen to while you read

Northern Soul was a musical movement and underground lifestyle that emerged in the late sixties and thrived into the mid to late seventies. It was born out of the mod scene and focused on the beat-heavy, faster Motown soul sound of American artists, and was particularly defined by the purist, obsessive vinyl-fetishism of its DJs.

While the mods moved onto more fashionable crossover music, with go-go dancers and gimmicks, epitomized by the British tv Show Ready Steady Go!,  the Motown purists split into their own branch that would become Northern Soul, focusing on  authentic, finite set of records released in America in the mid to late sixties. Since there were no new recordings, the scene had a particular momentum unto itself, quite distant from commercial music of the time, and sustained by crate digging for overlooked singles from American acts who aped the Motown sound but failed to achieve any commercial success.

Early Northern Soulies were a musically-conservative offshoot of the Mods

However, while in the leading video “Northern Soul: Keeping the Faith” host Paul Mason thinks the acrobatic spins and drops were from seventies Kung Fu movies, they were mostly likely inspired from visiting American R&B musicians like Jackie Wilson.

Specifically, in this video you can see his back drop, in another his kick and spins. That splits maneuver was probably from himself or one of his contemporaries at live performances–and you have to remember that television broadcasts had to be extremely toned down for their at-home audiences new to the music.

So, Northern Soul adopted these American R&B “cool” dance styles as their own. In this fantastic academic study of the subculture, Birmingham University professor Tim Wall describes the quintessential dance style:

… [T]he dancer ‘glides from side to side’ and ‘predict almost every beat and soul clap’ (1982, 38). The predominant ‘glide’ style is achieved through some core characteristics of posture and movement: rigid upper torso, eyes up and looking forward; weight back and pushing down through the hips on to the heels; moving mostly with feet, with fairly straight legs, to propel oneself across the floor (almost always sideways); arms and hands tend to follow the shifting weight of the dancer, or push against it for expressive counter-point. It is this core competency that signals you as an insider, and not a dance tourist. - “Dancing, Northern Soul Style”

For me, this is one of the mind-blowing moments for me as someone who was a eager participant in late-nineties Chicago warehouse electronic music culture. The little “rave shuffle” was in full effect, albeit often quite bouncier and influenced by hip hop culture, as is reflected in today’s house dancing. And Northern Soul’s “Keep the Faith” rallying cry (appropriated from the black power movement and its upraised fist) was on par with nineties rave-slogan, “PLUR: Peach Love Unity Respect.” Interviews at the start of this dance short convey this similar theme:

Northern Industrial England & Northern Midwest US Cities Parallels (Chicago and Detroit)

Like Northern England, Detroit and Chicago were centers of industry, but where England was white and working class, the Northern US’s cities fascination with soul came from a black perspective. “Nowhere to Run” was filmed in a Detroit Mustang factory, weirdly, and perhaps unintentially saying that people who lived in Detroit were stuck with factory jobs but building machines for freedom for those who could afford them. The Chicago House documentary “Pump up the Volume” provides a fairly thorough early history, and “High Tech Soul” focuses on Detroit techno with an emphasis on direct influencers of the contemporary movement in the city.

Scooters were the vehicle for the Mods, who eyed the Italians as emulate-able because of their fashion discernment, and extended that to American R&B. However, it meant that when the Motown sound became unfashionable, they moved on from it, into the British rock or glam scenes emerging at the time. But the scooter also represented personal freedom in a way that was paralleled by American muscle cars, like the Ford Mustang, with enthusiasts spending time and energy not only working to attain capital to own own, but also personally modify it to represent it as an extension of their personality.

The Mod's obsession with American Soul permeated both north and south England...
...but as the seventies progressed, south England embraced funk while the North stayed conservatively focused on a particular sound rooted in the past

Although the metaphor stretches precipitously thin here, the US and UK both had geographically-related music scenes with their own momentum. It’s hard for a contemporary mind to grasp, but pre-Internet, one’s culture and norms were spread by physical interaction, or by the far slower moving distribution rhythms of print publications.

As Fred Perry’s Soul Boys mini-doc points out, Northern soul dancing remained tied to a faster tempo around 140 BPM, with the emphasis on the 1s and 3s, which you can hear in Northern Soul’s most popular song and later Soft Cell cover in the 80s which you probably have heard: “Tainted Love”

The Northern dance style is faster, comparably stiffer, and a bit more regimented, with flourishes reserved for the breakdowns, and with moves choreographed to the dancer’s memorization of the song. Here’s a playlist I’ve collected with Northern Soul dance moves. It starts with some examples and then I threw in some tutorials for specific moves:

While the soul of the south, influenced by immigrants from the Caribbean islands took on and adopted sounds from its reggae heritage. In “Soul Boys” there’s a more thorough investigation, but the southern soul slows down considerably, with off-beat or snare emphasis with moves, or as mentioned in the documentary, it’s dancing between the beats.

The Fashion of Northern Soul

While it was born out of the Mod scene, the style wavered between long-term athletic comfort, baggy pants, community association, and seventies youth culture with varying degrees of sartorial success. I’ve made a Pinterest board with some of my favorite looks, but with some search engine poking you’ll find quite a few more examples that–while may have been widely adopted–are pretty cringe-worthy. That being said, here are my picks:

Follow Liz McLean Knight’s board Northern Soul Style on Pinterest.

Northern Soul Fashion - Women
Northern Soul Fashion - Men
Northern Soul Dancers - Circle Skirt
Northern Soul Dancers - Men - Seventies

Soul Togetherness: Northern Soul Weekender in Chicago 2014


If you’re curious and Chicago-local, you’ve got a chance to experience the contemporary movement IRL tomorrow. Soul Togetherness 2014 is a rare soul weekender in Chicago with a bunch of events to check out. It runs Friday March 28 – Sunday March 20.

SOUL TOGETHERNESS USA is proud to present our 2nd annual event, featuring an international cast of DJs for a weekend of rare and original vinyl. This year we feature 4 days of events, including 2 nights at The Globe with 2 rooms of music.

Friday & Saturday, March 28 & 29
Rare Soul ‘Nighters
The Globe, 1934 W Irving Park Rd.

Rare Soul DJs in the main room both nights, plus in the second room:

“The Soul of Jamaica Room” featuring rare reggae, rocksteady, ska and Caribbean soul hosted by JAMAICAN OLDIES PRODUCTIONS. 3/28


“The Soul of Latin America Room” featuring rare latin soul, boogaloo and tropical sounds hosted by Chicago favorites SONORAMA. 3/29

Saturday March, 29 (AM)
Empty Bottle-1035 N Western Ave
We will feature our first RECORD FAIR, in collaboration with traveling record show “Beat Swap Meet”

Entrance is Free w/ Canned Good. Canned goods are donated to local homeless shelters.

Soul Togetherness USA “Soulful Chicago Bus Tour”
Sunday, March 30, 2014 from 12:00 PM to 2:00 PM (PDT)
Chicago, IL
The STUSA “Soulful Chicago” tour will feature clubs where the magic happened, studios and labels where that magic was nurtured and captured on vinyl, and the ghosts of music past coming alive to celebrate their influence on the present. From the chamber halls of Seward Park to the walls of 2120 S. Michigan Ave., we tour the street corners where the music was created and the classic landmarks that put faces on names and sounds. Musician and critic James Porter shares it all, along with a soundtrack of classic soul that you may not even know originated in Chicago. As James puts it, “Any town that gave the world Soul Train has definitely got a good thing going on.” This is history you can dance to!The STUSA edition of the tour culminates at the Maria’s alldayer.

Soul Togetherness Facebook
Soul Togetherness Twitter
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[Sat. March 1, 2014] Chiditarod: Checkpoint Shenanigans

Chiditarod is an annual human dogsled shopping cart race/food and donation drive/bar crawl. Over one hundred teams of 5 people each will be gussying up a shopping cart, dressing up in crazy costumes, collecting canned good and money donations (that’s where you come in), and racing around the city like maniacs. The Secret Gentlemen team and I are working with Chiditarod Chicago to raise money to fight hunger in Chicago and have a hell of a lot of fun in the process.

This Saturday morning and afternoon—March 1—a team of ten Secret Gentlemen will be racing, and a team of another 25 will be running one of the race’s checkpoints: Club Foot (1824 W Augusta Blvd, Chicago, IL 60622). I will be DJing from 12:30 – 4:30, and if you stop by and have a drink, the bar will donate a portion of your tab to the cause.

Maybe come by? Good times and shenanigans are a given.

When all is said and done, it’s the year’s biggest one-day donation of food to The Greater Chicago Food Depository, it’s a boon to hungry people throughout Chicago, and it’s a hell of a lot of fun.

Help out with a donation, won’t you? Here’s a link.

Chicago’s Chess Records & Record Row, tastemakers of early pop, rock , soul & R&B

While recovering from a seasonal cold, I found some interesting documentaries on Chess Records and the competing labels at the same time on the near South side of Chicago. Chess Records was responsible for launching hits by Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Etta James, along with bringing blues by Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf into commercial awareness. The movies Cadillac Records (2008) and Who Do You Love (2008) are Hollywood’s version of the history, with Beyonce as Etta James in the former.

Interestingly, Chess was the last name of a Polish immigrant entrepreneur, Leonard, who catered to the immigrant Southern black population and found a common outsider perspective with his clientele.

More on Chess Records and the competing labels within walking distance along South Michigan Avenue is in another documentary aired on PBS in 1997 called Record Row:

I had no idea there was any sort of rivalry between Motown Records and Chicago until I started digging a bit.

New art site! Also, you can support pit bull rescue by buying an art print


I’ve finally gotten together my visual art portfolio site ( and figured it would be great to launch it with a campaign that supports Pit Bull Awareness Month (October).

Buy an art print and support pit bull rescue!
This marker drawing is of Charlotte, an insanely sweet pit bull terrier whom I adopted from Chicagoland Bully Breed Rescue in 2011.

From now until the end of 2013, I will donate 10% of the proceeds from sales of the archival art prints of Charlotte through Society6 to Chicagoland Bully Breed Rescue. [Read More]

{Buy an art print from Society6}

The smallest size (8″ x 10″) starts at just $19, and you can choose from larger sizes as well. We’re getting close to the gifty season, and it would be nice to support an animal welfare group as well as give a fellow animal lover a meaningful gift.

I also make interesting visual art, as it turns out
I realize I’m more well known as a Chicago electronic musician and the impetus behind the online geek-chic boutique, Fractalspin, but I also am a visual artist who formally studied art history. At California Institute of the Arts, I got to refine my work from within a contemporary fine arts perspective, and that’s been a part of what I do ever since. Check it out:

Well, feel free to explore, and you can start a public converstation with me on Google+ Twitter, or Facebook, and if you just want to send a personal message, here’s an easy way to do just that.


Pitchfork (*cough* Chicago), I love you, but you’re bringing me down

1 Kelly Merch 1rkellypictfork2013-crap

“The very mundanity of Kelly’s performance leads to my second, sadder conclusion about his presence at Pitchfork: That the formerly Chicago-now Brooklyn-based brains and businessmen behind the festival and the Webzine, … just don’t think that the music we embrace means anything at all in the real world.

It’s just a cool, digitally stored backing track for your oh-so-hip and groovy lifestyle at home, and every bit the ideal tool in concert for marketing and money-making that we see at the festival’s larger corporate cousin, Lollapalooza.”

Here’s Jim Derogatis’ insightful review of the Pitchfork fest in Chicago, and a critique of the mainstream music industry as well with the whole “irony thing” going on.

Although irony can elicit personal and cultural emotions, it’s a double-edged sword. On some level these ironic musicians and promoters must have some appreciation for the genre–albeit a guilty one–or they would not have spent so much time and energy making it happen.

What’s problematic is that this “irony booking” has a captive audience in a festival like this. But the patrons didn’t buy tickets because they wanted to see R.Kelly–they shelled out the cash to see independent, niche-oriented, genuine musicians on stage in a park, in summer, in Chicago (and because we have actual seasons here, nice weather propels people into doing as much as possible in those few short months).

Inserting R.Kelly as an ironic gesture (complete with off-color buttons for sale, that latently approve of his “misfit” behavior) can become increasingly less ironic over time, as the focus trends towards profit on the highest level instead of showcasing new, innovative music.

Remember the adage “Any PR is good PR?” That’s because the person in question is still getting attention from lots of eyeballs, even if it’s a critical gaze, just by talking about it constantly is giving it a reason to exist (before you cut me off, yes, I am doing this right now, but it’s to prove a point by showing the opposite).

So what’s troublesome is that these grassroots, niche-music communities that started out as genuine artistic and cultural endeavors are targets to be co-opted by corporate / profit-minded interests who are just looking at figures on a spreadsheet and doing some crowd psychology work to get the highest ROI (return on investment–your interest rate, or how much you will make by investing) in an emerging market (meaning low acquisition cost and high future cash returns). Singularly-profit-minded investors who study numbers will swoop in on a potentially profitable situation, no matter what the long-term outcome is on the culture–and therein lies the problem.

We’re facing a similar situation in Chicago, where profit over people and communities are being pushed aside in favor of big business chains who want a piece of the tourist and local market, and forcing cultural attractions into places just to raise property values.

City government ideally should exist as a crowdsourced way of making the city a better place–but chains and outside interests just suck up resources and give them to their shareholders, only tossing a bone here and there to their local communities. I think the miscommunication here is that zoning people, aldermen, and the mayor seem to have it in their head that their constituents will be so much happier with a suburban-model, chain-dominated city.

It couldn’t be further from the truth.

Why do people live in cities? Why do they travel? In both cases it’s because they enjoy a sense of community and uniqueness that you just can’t find anywhere else. Why go on vacation far away from home when you’ll only get the exact same chains serving the exact same burgers, efficiently delivered to all stores to ensure each experience is a clone of any other. “There is no there there,” as Gertrude Stein put it.

“Buy locally,” sustainability, and energy conservation are all on a roll now, and this mentality can also tie into music curation at festivals. Why travel to a far off city when you’re just going to see the same performers in any other city on their tour map?

Perhaps it’s just the nature of the Old Country Buffet smorgasbord model that as a festival becomes increasingly successful, well-established, and ever more commercialized, the ethos upon which it was founded becomes increasingly obscure. The greater meaning, if ever there was one, slips further and further away. Any role that the fest had in both reflecting and stimulating a musical community inevitably erodes. And everything is reduced to mere entertainment.

ALSO: Read another of Jim Derogatis’ pieces on how Mayor Rahm Emmanuel wants to create a “music district” in Uptown… it still hasn’t happened, but it looks like he appears to want to make Chicago into a Disneyland of tourist attractions. Not loving it.

Here is Kermit the Frog’s cover of LCD Soundsystem’s “New York I Love You” which is highly relevant.

“New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down”

New York, I Love You
But you’re bringing me down

New York, I Love You
But you’re bringing me down

Like a rat in a cage
Pulling minimum wage

New York, I Love You
But you’re bringing me down

New York, you’re safer
And you’re wasting my time

Our records all show
You are filthy but fine

But they shuttered your stores
When you opened the doors
To the cops who were bored
Once they’d run out of crime

New York, you’re perfect
Don’t please don’t change a thing

Your mild billionaire mayor’s
Now convinced he’s a king

So the boring collect
I mean all disrespect

In the neighborhood bars
I’d once dreamt I would drink

New York, I Love You
But you’re freaking me out

There’s a ton of the twist
But we’re fresh out of shout

Like a death in the hall
That you hear through your wall

New York, I Love You
But you’re freaking me out

New York, I Love You
But you’re bringing me down

New York, I Love You
But you’re bringing me down

Like a death of the heart
Jesus, where do I start?

But you’re still the one pool
Where I’d happily drown

And oh.. Take me off your mailing list
For kids that think it still exists
Yes, for those who think it still exists

Maybe I’m wrong
And maybe you’re right
Maybe I’m wrong
And myabe you’re right

Maybe you’re right
Maybe I’m wrong
And just maybe you’re right

And Oh..
Maybe mother told you true
And they’re always be something there for you
And you’ll never be alone

But maybe she’s wrong
And maybe I’m right
And just maybe she’s wrong

Maybe she’s wrong
And maybe I’m right
And if so, is there?

Despite having been offered a scholarship to the Joffrey Ballet and majoring in Dance at Sarah Lawrence college, Rahm sure does dance like an awkward white boy, even if he did take his tie off.