Thursday, October 26, 2006

Bastard of the Day

There are bastards, and then there are sick bastards. Ronald Kuch of Saginaw, MI is a prime example of the latter. He was arrested last Friday for having sex with a dog. A dead dog. On the street. Within view of a day care center:
Troopers said a woman from the day care center called for animal control because there was a dead dog near the property that had been hit by a car several days earlier. Before officers could arrive, the man showed up and began engaging in sexual acts with the dog, police said. The animal control officer also reported seeing Kuch involved in the sex act and as he approached him, Kuch shoved him away and ran off.
They caught him, obviously. And yes, the dog had been dead for several days. But wait, it gets even worse. It was his girlfriend's dog. There's a breakup story you don't want to hear. "But you and Ron were such a cute couple. What happened?"

I cannot begin to comprehend what would possess a man to do such a thing. That's just wrong on so many levels. Why on Friday? Did something about the decaying animal make it more apppealing to Kuch after a few days had passed? What about the children? There's a law (at least in Illinois) that worsens penalties for drug crimes committed within so many feet of a school. Maybe there should be one for bestiality near a school or day care center. If you ask your congressman to pass such a law, he'll probably say, "But who would ever do that?" Well, now we know.
The official charge of crimes against nature carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison. If the person is a repeat offender, the maximum is life in prison.
There's a thought. What if he's done this before? For the sake of the animal kingdom, I hope not. Just imagine the warm welcome he'll get in the state pen. "Whatcha in for?"

Sunday, October 22, 2006

So You Wanna Be A Rock & Roll Star by Jacob Slichter

As drummer for Semisonic, Slichter experienced the full range of musical fortunes. The band had one of the biggest singles of 1998 ("Closing Time"), but their career quickly withered when they failed to produce another hit. Anyone who wants to know how the real world of rock & roll works must read this book.

As one would expect, Slichter describes getting a record deal, recording albums, shooting videos, and touring around the world. He also talks about how record label politics can affect a band's chances for success. But So You Wanna Be A Rock & Roll Star is most illuminating when Slichter delves into aspects of the industry that the average fan doesn't think about: groveling for airplay before radio program directors, discovering the critical role of independent promoters (the modern, legal incarnation of payola), and learning how record companies minimize their risk -- practically every dollar spent on the band (including those payments to independent promoters) has to be earned back before the artists get paid a penny.

Slichter captures the exhilaration of being onstage in front of thousands of people along with the excitement of meeting and working with music legends like Carole King and the master of mastering, Bob Clearmountain. His description of touring is brilliantly written as a single day that shifts from venue to venue to illustrate the sameness of the routine. Finally, he recounts the painful unraveling of the band's prospects as their third album, Chemistry, fails to produce a hit.

Ironically, the book's only notable fault echoes Semisonic's -- timing. Much as Semisonic's clever pop rock was out of step with what was being played on the radio in their prime, So You Wanna Be A Rock & Roll Star was published as the Internet was becoming an integral part of music promotion, particularly for new bands (Slichter's mention of the Internet is limited to discussion forums). It's a shame the band and the book didn't come later -- the Internet may have helped the band overcome the "handicap" of not fitting into a radio station format, and the book wouldn't have become instantly dated. Nevertheless, the book is a great description of most of the music industry; it's just missing the Internet element.

Despite that fault, So You Wanna Be A Rock & Roll Star should be a required reality check for anyone who dreams of hitting the rock & roll jackpot.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Christmas Signing

I just scheduled my first Biking Illinois signing for the Christmas season. It's at a bookstore where I've spent many evenings, the Barnes & Noble on Golf Road in Schaumburg. My aunt and uncle live in Streamwood, so I stop at that bookstore on the way home from their house (note: B&N is open later on Sundays than the Borders down the road). It's a "local author night" with many participants, so I won't be giving a presentation, just signing books and talking one-on-one. The event is from 7 PM to 9 PM on Thursday, November 30.

So many authors say this that it's a cliche, but my book really does make a great Christmas gift. If you know someone in Illinois who rides a bicycle, you can't really go wrong with Biking Illinois. Besides, I've been signing books intended as Christmas gifts since August!

By the way, I recently added photos to my Web site from the "Moonshine Run" ride, and I should be adding a couple more rides in the next week. So keep checking BikingIllinois.com -- eventually I'll have photos from every ride there.

Monday, October 02, 2006

What Happened to Contractor Accountability?

This summer when the Kennedy Expressway was being resurfaced, the contractor scraped off the top layer of pavement and left sewer covers sticking up several inches without building small asphalt ramps around them. That makes for a bumpy ride on a city street, but at highway speeds it causes dangerous blowouts. IDOT tow trucks responded to more than 70 calls for tire and wheel damage, and no one knows how many more motorists exited the expressway and sought repairs on their own. Frankly, it is pure luck that someone wasn't killed by an out-of-control vehicle. Today's outrageous follow-up story should be getting lots of attention:
Illinois taxpayers will cover tens of thousands of dollars in repairs to vehicles that sustained tire and wheel damage due to exposed sewer covers during the Kennedy Expressway resurfacing project this summer, state transportation officials say. The decision by the Illinois Department of Transportation takes Plote Construction Inc. off the hook financially, even though IDOT determined that the Chicago-area road-builder was responsible for creating the hazard.
So the contractor was at fault, but we have to pay for their negligence? Surely there must be a good reason. An IDOT spokesman helpfully explained:
Because of the high-profile nature of this case, IDOT wanted to make an extra effort to monitor the [claims] process and make sure everyone gets all their questions answered and gets all the assistance they need.
In other words, "We know the contractor screwed up, but we can't trust them to make it right so we'll just pay for it ourselves." What the hell is going on here? The proper response would have been for IDOT to administer the claims and charge them back to Plote Construction. I can only hope that Plote is penalized in some way, or better yet, barred from any IDOT contracts. Otherwise, this sets an alarming precedent.

Bastard of the Day

I'm a couple of days late, but today's bastard has to be former Florida Congressman Mark Foley. While I feel sorry for the young men who had to endure this creep, I must admit it sets my heart atwitter to see another "family values" Republican publicly humiliated for his hypocritical duplicity.