Wednesday, November 22, 2006

R.E.M.

I spent this morning gathering CDs for an impromptu roadtrip. I asked my wife if she had any requests.

Jokingly, she said, "Korn.... and what's that other band I have that you think sucks? Tool?"

I shot back, "Every CD you had before you met me sucks."

"But I had some R.E.M. CDs..."

"Okay, so you had a few R.E.M. albums and Appetite For Destruction, but other than that..." She also tried to get rid of those R.E.M. CDs -- the only reason we still have them is because I wanted to get rid of my vinyl copies.

Speaking of R.E.M., I have been enjoying the heck out of the recently released collection from their early years on I.R.S., And I Feel Fine. Ah, the good old days when Michael Stipe wasn't so damn weird. He even had a head full of hair. Best of all, that period ends before Green, which includes my least favorite R.E.M. song, "Stand." "Stand" makes "Shiny Happy People" sound deep, and it must have disgusted Sly Stone that it shares a title with one of his best songs.

The first time I listened to And I Feel Fine was on a midnight grocery run. I ended up driving all over the North Side until the first disc was finished. I was tempted to play the second, but it was already 2 AM so I went home.

Although R.E.M. made a couple of great albums after the I.R.S. days, I completely lost interest in the band when they released Monster. I'm still not sure why since I liked its predecessor, Automatic For The People. I guess their time for me had passed. Some bands are like that -- vitally important during a certain period of one's life, then cast aside. And I Feel Fine is a celebration of the years when R.E.M. mattered to me.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Catching Up on Biking Illinois

First, don't forget my upcoming signing at Barnes & Noble in Schaumburg on Thursday, November 30 at 7 PM. I have posted a flyer and a press release for the event, which includes other local authors covering a broad range of topics. I hope my northwest suburban friends and relatives will help spread the word!

It's been a while since I looked up Biking Illinois on Google. Here are a few of the new links I found:

  • Alice at Gaper's Block reviewed my book along with several other Illinois titles, including the venerable Off The Beaten Path.
  • My local bookstore, The Book Cellar, has been very supportive. They added Biking Illinois to their Web page of Chicago books.
  • My list of the best places to ride in Chicagoland besides the lakefront (North Branch Trail, Des Plaines River Trail (Lake County), Waterfall Glen, Fox River Trail, Moraine Hills, Illinois & Michigan Canal State Trail, Busse Woods, Illinois Prairie Path, Salt Creek Trail) is still on the Chicago Tribune's Web site.
  • I enjoy seeing my book listed by libraries. I've lost track of which ones I've mentioned, but at least a dozen from all over the state come up on Google. It looks like the Chicago Public Library purchased quite a few copies! At this moment there are six copies checked out throughout the city, including one of the three carried by my local Sulzer Regional Library. My hometown Oswego Public Library has it, too.

Finally, I should mention that I switched to a new version of Blogger this weekend (coincidentally along with Internet Exploder 7.0), so now you can read all of my entries about Biking Illinois by clicking on the "Biking Illinois" label.

Bastard of the Day

As a criminal goofball Reaganite, Ollie North may seem like an obvious BotD candidate. But his recent "campaign appearance" in Nicaragua clinches it for him. Latin American history teacher/author Greg Grandin notes the irony of North's words:
The ex-Marine colonel told Nicaraguans that they had "suffered enough from the influence of outsiders" -- a remark meant to criticize Hugo Chávez's support for Ortega but that some, considering North's role in running the covert operation that illegally funded the anti-Sandinista Contras in the 1980s, must have mistaken for a confession.
Indeed, Latin America has suffered from the influence of outsiders ever since President James Monroe told Europeans to stay out of "our" hemisphere, especially after Teddy Roosevelt came along with his big stick. North's little scheme was only a brief --albeit shameful -- chapter in our Latin American meddling. For any American to fly down to Nicaragua and make a statement like that to the people takes chutzpah; for North to do it makes him a bastard.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Bastard of the Day

I haven't said much about President Bush recently. Call it bullshit fatigue -- the guy just wears me out. But his ludicrous campaign speeches lately have once again earned him the esteemed title of Bastard of the Day. Robert Parry describes and debunks a typical campaign stop with Bush preaching to the choir, as he always does (the opposition is weeded out by his handlers, another shining example of the freedom he espouses):

"In this new kind of war, we must be willing to question the enemy when we pick them up on the battlefield," Bush told a crowd in Sellersburg, Indiana, on Oct. 28, as if in the old kinds of wars, captured enemy troops weren't questioned. (They were questioned, but U.S. policy strictly forbade torturing or otherwise abusing them.)

Then, referring to the capture of alleged 9/11 conspirator Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Bush said, "when we captured him, I said to the Central Intelligence Agency, why don't we find out what he knows in order to be able to protect America from another attack" -- as if CIA officers wouldn't have thought of that on their own.

Bush contrasted his eminently reasonable suggestions with crazy positions that he attributed to the Democrats, whom he claimed opposed detaining, questioning, trying and spying on terrorists.

"When it came time on whether to allow the Central Intelligence Agency to continue to detain and question terrorists, almost 80 percent of the House Democrats voted against it," Bush said, as the crowd booed the Democrats.

"When it came time to vote on whether the NSA [National Security Agency] should continue to monitor terrorist communications through the Terrorist Surveillance Program, almost 90 percent of House Democrats voted against it.

...(omitted call-and-response with crowd)...

But Bush knows the Democrats are not opposed to eavesdropping on terrorists, or detaining terrorists, or questioning terrorists, or bringing terrorists to trial.

What Democrats -- and many conservatives -- object to are Bush's methods: his tolerance of torture and other abusive interrogation techniques; his abrogation of habeas corpus rights to a fair trial; and his violation of constitutional safeguards and existing law, such as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act which already gives the President broad powers to engage in electronic spying inside the United States, albeit with the approval of a special court.

The entire article is worth reading. I can only hope Americans will pull their heads out of their arses long enough to make the right decisions at the polls today. We've got to get those Repubastards out of power, and taking Congress back from them is the first step.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Bastard of the Day

Today's bastard is the woman who reads TV ads for the National Republican Congressional Committee. Here in Chicagoland, her ads attack Melissa Bean and Tammy Duckworth. There seems to be at least one during every commercial break. While both parties employ ad readers with similar tonal qualities, the difference is that the Republican speaker punctuates each sentence with an obnoxious quiver of self-righteous indignation, as if she's so horrified by these radical women that she's about to burst into tears of woe for our wayward Congress (for what it's worth, neither Democratic candidate seems particularly radical to me). At one point I wanted to hunt down that bastardess and strangle her to death. I have since moderated my view -- I would merely rip out her larynx.

I've reached the point where I hardly care who wins on November 7 (especially since I can't vote for Bean or Duckworth anyway -- my congressional district is safely in the hands of Rahm Emanuel). I'll just be happy that I won't have to listen to those negative political ads anymore. Alas, 2008 is just around the corner, and I can only hope Chicago's mayoral election next year doesn't employ the same annoying tactics.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

"Flat as a Tire?" Ouch!

I got my first negative review on Amazon recently. Damn, is my writing really that terrible? The press has been positive, and I've talked to people at signing events who enjoy Biking Illinois: 60 Great Road Trips and Trail Rides. That's why the virulent skewering from "BikeBuff" surprises me. A few things about the review hint that it might be a personal attack, but regardless, my book looks pretty awful with only one good review at Amazon to counter it.

I won't respond directly, but I'd like to remind everyone that there are plenty of great road rides in my book, too -- rides you won't find anywhere else (everyone asks me about the trails, but the roads took much more research). Also, no one should expect my bike path descriptions to be as detailed as those in Jim Hochgesang's excellent county books -- Biking Illinois covers the whole state, for goodness' sake!

I think Amazon customers deserve more than two reviews of my book. If you've read Biking Illinois, please write your own review at Amazon.com, good or bad. Thanks.

UPDATE 02/14/2007 - I don't know when it happened, but I noticed today that the negative review has been removed from Amazon.