One bike advocate said Universal executives told him they feared that people would use the path to lob unsolicited screenplays onto the studio's nearby production lot -- something that apparently happens at other spots when a Universal film scores big at the box office.Well, at least I've never heard that excuse before.
Friday, February 29, 2008
For the past few days, "We Got To Have Peace" has been going through my head
And the people in our neighborhoodNo record collection is complete without at least a best-of collection from Mayfield. Other songs you may have heard include "Move On Up," "Future Shock," "Pusherman," "Kung Fu," and from the Impressions, "People Get Ready" and "Amen." The Very Best of Curtis Mayfield is a great place to start with his solo material, while the 2-disc The Anthology 1961-1977 has mostly Impressions songs (surprisingly omiting "We Got To Have Peace"). "We Got To Have Peace" originally appeared on Roots (no connection with the novel and TV miniseries), and Superfly was Mayfield's most popular album, hitting number one on the Billboard charts.
They would if they only could
Meet and shake the other's hand
Work together for the good of the land
Give us all an equal chance
It could be such a sweet romance
And the soldiers who are dead and gone
If only we could bring back one
He'd say, "We got to have peace
To keep the world alive
And war to cease"
We got to have joy
True in our hearts
With strength we can't destroy
In the aftermath of the NIU shooting, he saw a showboating opportunity and declared that Cole Hall, where the shooting occurred, will be torn down.* It will cost 40 million nonexistent dollars (in bonds**) that could be better spent in 40 million ways, but then Blagojevich wouldn't get to play the hero. I'll bet he records the evening news just to watch himself.
A thoughtful Tribune editorial suggests that the university and the state take a little time to think about what to do about Cole Hall rather than impulsively plow it under. On Eric Zorn's blog, "Patrick" suggested a memorial scholarship as a better tribute to the dead than a razed building, and there are other possibilities, too. But Blagojevich does everything on impulse, usually pandering to emotions or a particular voting bloc.
I'm not necessarily interested in saving Cole Hall, just looking at all options with some distance from the heat of current events. Heck, they could plow all of DeKalb back into cornfields and it would probably be an improvement. Except the Paperback Grotto. Just leave the venerable adult bookstore standing in the middle of a field, maybe with a historical marker for the city. Porn in the corn.
* That NIU approached the governor with the idea first doesn't change anything. It was a sure bet on their part that Blagojevich would take the ball and run with it.
** To honor the dead, Illinois taxpayers will contribute for decades until those bonds are retired.
As a bicycling advocate, I have always preached this:
If we cyclists want equal rights on the streets, we must take responsibility for our actions in traffic and follow the same "rules of the road" that motorists should. A bike race on city streets without traffic control is no more responsible than an illegal auto race (with apologies to Brock Yates and Burt Reynolds). While I feel sympathy for the family and friends of the victim, this was an avoidable death. And the often hostile "debate" it has fostered has done little to improve the image or safety of cyclists on Chicago streets.
Monday, February 25, 2008
I agree with many of Marty Kaplan's thoughts about Nader's candidacy:
Nader's ideas aren't bad; I agree with many of them. Like Kaplan, I wish we could debate Nader's "issues like single-payer health insurance, labor law reform, Pentagon waste, corporate crime, 'the illegal occupation of Palestine,' and impeachment."
But despite Nader's wishful thinking, we don't have a parliamentary system. Any votes he attracts will be drained from the Democratic nominee and conceivably cost an Electoral College victory; they will not result in a new government being forced to enter into a coalition with his supporters. Nor, I think, will his presence in the race reframe the issues, refocus the choices, or push the envelope of the campaign...
What troubles me, though, and what his bid throws a spotlight on, is how hard it is for anyone in America to shape the national conversation on anything. One way or another, it takes big money -- the fortune to run for office, the cash to buy full-page ads in newspapers, the bankroll to own a network, the marketing budget to create a celebrity's star power.
But Barack Obama reminded me that Nader went a little too far in 2000: "He thought that there was no difference between Al Gore and George Bush, and eight years later I think people realize that Ralph did not know what he was talking about."
Had I been blogging in 2000, I don't think I would have called Nader a bastard before the election. Gore seemed likely to win anyway, so I didn't mind Nader and the Greens trying to draw attention to some issues. I could not imagine there were enough dolts in the United States to elect someone as obviously unqualified as George W. Bush. Of course, I was wrong.
Being much more politically involved and astute now, I don't want to see a replay of 2000 this November. That's why I'm calling Nader a bastard at the first opportunity. And if he doesn't go away, I'll probably do it again.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
- I Am America (And So Can You!) by Stephen Colbert - In my virtually cable-free existence, I have seen just enough of Colbert's Comedy Central TV show to know the character that he portrays: an egotistical, smart-aleck, right-wing blowhard. This hilarious book is written from that character's perspective. It is unique in the way Colbert makes use of so many publishing gimmicks. For example, the cover bears an immodest silver emblem representing "The Stephen T. Colbert Award for Literary Excellence." Margin comments maintain a constant dialogue with the main text. Footnotes, graphs, charts, illustrations, and even stickers are sprinkled throughout. There is even a bookmark ribbon! These features make the book not only funny, but also a lot of fun to read. I tend to wait for paperback editions, but this hardcover is worth having.
- Git-R-Done by Larry the Cable Guy - I gave this one a chance because it was in the bargain bin. Larry can be funny, but I wasn't sure how this would translate to paper, and I wasn't sure I could take 260 pages of him. Even my brother, who really likes Larry, saw this book on my table and made a dismissive statement. Well, one day while he was painting my back stoop, I read a few chapters aloud and he changed his mind. Yes, Git-R-Done is surprisingly entertaining. My wife was grossed out a few times, but overall it's funny stuff. My only complaint is that it could use tighter editing. A few chapters drag on, so 220 pages might have been better.
- Dirty Jokes and Beer by Drew Carey - This is a classic of sorts, being a 10-year-old New York Times Bestseller, but I found a stray copy in the bargain bin recently. I think Carey's TV show was successful because he was just an ordinary guy, and that's how this book comes across -- except dirtier as promised in the title. It's like knocking back a few drinks and shooting the bull with Drew. Most chapters are short and punched up with a lot of laughs. In the first section, each chapter begins with one of Carey's favorite dirty jokes, and these are worth memorizing. One of the longer chapters hilariously describes how network censors force TV writers to tone down sex and drug references in their scripts. I didn't expect much from Carey's short stories, which fill the last 100 pages, but they were pretty amusing albeit sometimes disturbing.
All three books also serve as irreverent autobiographies, but naturally, anything in a humorous book should be taken with a grain of salt. If you like the character portrayed by Colbert or Larry, you'll like their books. If you like Carey and don't mind lewdness, you'll like his book, too. If you don't know any of these guys, take a chance on Colbert's book, which is all around the most entertaining and (relatively) least offensive.
Friday, February 22, 2008
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Even though their Web site shows a delivery area that includes our house, someone called me five minutes after I ordered and claimed, "We never go west of Western." I argued that their Web site says they do (it clearly shows that they deliver to California, four blocks west of Western). He said, "Sorry, we're way too busy tonight to make any exceptions." Damn it, I'm not asking for an exception. I checked your delivery area before I called. Why bother publishing a delivery area if it's wrong?
Pizzeria Aroma, you stink. You will never get another chance to get my business, you bastards.
UPDATE 02/26/2008 - They charged my credit card, too! I called them and fortunately they remembered my situation and said they'd credit my account.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Celebrating the Semicolon in a Most Unlikely Location
It was nearly hidden on a New York City Transit public service placard exhorting subway riders not to leave their newspaper behind when they get off the train.
“Please put it in a trash can,” riders are reminded. After which Neil Neches, an erudite writer in the transit agency’s marketing and service information department, inserted a semicolon. The rest of the sentence reads, “that’s good news for everyone.”
Semicolon sightings in the city are unusual, period, much less in exhortations drafted by committees of civil servants. In literature and journalism, not to mention in advertising, the semicolon has been largely jettisoned as a pretentious anachronism.
This is not a criticism of the semicolon, of course; I happen to love semicolons. That's why I hate to see one celebrated as a rarity. Alas, as the article notes, my own profession is partly to blame. As a copywriter, I tend to use spaced em dashes (-- or —) too often instead.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Before I gush about a book, I usually check out the negative reviews on Amazon.com to see if I'm totally off-base. Most of the bad reviews of Deep Survival come from people who just don't get it. Some expected a how-to book or a simple collection of survival stories. Others whined that Gonzales writes about himself too much even though he makes it pretty clear in the prologue that he will. His personal stories are brief, and they usually illustrate how even someone who should know better can make mistakes. A few say the book isn't scientific enough, but it clearly is written for a popular audience. Gonzales cites enough sources to satisfy anyone who wants to delve deeper into a particular subject.
One of the themes of this book is that survival isn't only about wilderness survival; it is essential in all aspects of life, such as surviving financial setbacks, the loss of a loved one, divorce, or any other disappointment. Indeed, I found many parallels between the survivors in this book and Lance Armstrong's survival of cancer. For that reason, I would recommend Deep Survival to anyone and everyone. Reading it won't make you a survivor, but it will put you on the right track.
Monday, February 18, 2008
You can even vote for your favorite from this intriguing list on their Web site. I suppose I'm biased because I've read extensively about the subject, but I chose "Provide access to clean water" as the most important. The two most popular so far, "Make solar energy economical" and "Provide energy from fusion," were my second and third choices. To me, the bottom line is that water is essential to human existence whereas energy is not (although, theoretically, finding a way to generate cheap, abundant energy would make water solutions such as desalination plants more feasible).
Alas, most Americans still have their heads in the sand regarding water issues. A report from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography last week said that there's a 50-50 chance Lake Mead will be dry in 13 years, putting the millions of people in Las Vegas and southern California in jeopardy. And they used "conservative estimates of the situation," so things might be even worse. Of course, drought conditions continue in the traditionally moist Southeast, too. My cousin who lives near Atlanta claims the water is "fine" -- she's one of the many Americans who won't believe there's a problem until the kitchen tap literally runs dry. Check out this map, updated weekly, to see how much of the United States is short of water. Even if your state is fine now, what will happen when the Southwest dries up? Will California, Nevada, and Arizona try to get your water? Then realize that the United States is much better off than many populous nations in Africa and Asia, and you will begin to see the imminent global water crisis.
Most of the other engineering challenges pale in comparison to clean water and cheap energy. Secure cyberspace? Advance personalized learning? Enhance virtual reality? Those would be nice, sure, but our continued existence doesn't depend on them.
Sunday, February 10, 2008
CLARENDON HILLS - Two men who missed their Metra stop in a western suburb Saturday opened the doors of the train they were riding in and jumped, injuring themselves.What were they thinking? Must have been a couple of punk kids, right? Nope. These guys were 56 and 68 years old! Then the question becomes how, as in, how have people this stupid lived for so many decades? More incredibly, while I wouldn't rule out alcohol completely, it was 11 AM so they were probably sober.
But here's the kicker. I've been on that particular train before (10:30 AM BNSF, Chicago Union Station to Aurora). It is a local train, which means it stops at almost every station. The stations on the BNSF are so close together that the train rarely gets up to speed before hitting the brakes for the next stop. These guys were found four blocks west of the Clarendon Hills station. But the next stop, Westmont, is only 1.1 miles west of Clarendon Hills. If these guys were fit enough to jump out of a moving train, surely they could have walked 1.1 miles back to Clarendon Hills from Westmont!
Saturday, February 09, 2008
After a titillating prologue, Working Stiff nearly grinds to a halt. The author takes us back to his boring, virgin university days in London, and then he describes how he met an American girl and eventually moved to New York City. I suppose this is intended to show how dramatically his life changed after he started writing his column, but I would rather memoirists stick to the interesting parts of their lives and leave out the filler.
The book finally gathers momentum when Stoddard wins a contest to score with a sex columnist. She helps him get a job at Nerve.com, and eventually he is tapped to write an experiential column about unusual sexual activities. This is clearly the meat of the book; anyone who picks up Working Stiff wants to read some kinky stories. And some of his encounters are pretty wild, the kind of stuff I've never even thought of fantasizing about. Unfortunately, the author wastes many pages on other aspects of living in New York City -- this book is as much a love letter to the city as it is the tale of an "accidental sexpert" -- and the book suffers for it. Although some of the stories about crappy apartments in dicey neighborhoods are amusing, they are not nearly as interesting as his occupational experiences.
A sample of Stoddard's column is included in the "P.S." section (bonus material included in the paperback edition). The "lab report" format of "I Did It for Science" is fitting but hokey; I prefer the author's narrative (though he doesn't describe this particular encounter in the book). The other "P.S." material is banal or redundant.
Sometimes Working Stiff is spot-on and hilarious, but it lags a bit too much. To enjoy this book, skip pages 6-56, and be prepared to skim whenever it gets boring. Some books leave you begging for more, but Working Stiff would have been better with 80-100 fewer pages.
There is a yellow labrador beneath all that orange. Yes, she looks ridiculous, but oddly enough, she seems to go along with whatever goofy costumes my mom puts on her. My mom sends us pictures of Molly dressed for every occasion... Except she thought I didn't care about the Illini in the Rose Bowl so she didn't send this one.
Yet on New Year's Day, I watched the Fighing Illini get trounced by the USC Trojans. While it is true that I don't watch much sports anymore, my mom forgot a few things:
- I attended the University of Illinois prenatally, politely waiting until after final exams to put her into labor. So I've been associated with the school since before I was born. Then we lived in Champaign for the first three years of my life.
- The last Illini Rose Bowl appearance, when I watched them get crushed by that other damned southern California team, UCLA, was one of the top five sporting events of my youth. Leading off 1984, that game should have steeled me for the disappointment that lay ahead in October, when the Cubs choked in the National League Championship Series after winning the first two games (at least the 1985 Bears followed through and won Super Bowl XX).
- In 1992, I almost went to the U. of I. for an MBA until I decided I'd rather make money than stay in school. I received my acceptance letter the day after I decided not to go. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made, but that still makes the school either my "almost mater" or "alma not-er" (I can't decide which term I like better).
Friday, February 08, 2008
On the other hand, I like the first sentence of your "Bootlegging H2O" entry:
We don't go through a lot of bottled water at the Zorns, really -- Chicago tap water is plenty potable, just not particularly portable.Nice alliteration. Alas, the right wingers had a field day commenting on that post with their peculiar belief that "liberals" are supposed to love all taxes and pay them with glee. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised anymore.
* The Google search includes some other uses of dibs, but the majority of the results relate to this topic.
Wednesday, February 06, 2008
- Outside our local polling place... Two gray-haired women were walking past the campaign sign-saturated street corner, and one said to the other with a laugh, "You don't see any Clinton signs around here!" Obama took almost 73% of the vote in Chicago.
- Voting mid-day with no waiting is one of the best perks of working from home.
- I didn't vote in the most hotly contested local race, State's Attorney. I couldn't make up my mind so I skipped it with the intention of going back to it. But by the time I finished, I forgot about it. Oops!
- On the way home from voting, I was discussing Mayor Daley's endorsement of Obama with my wife, a police officer for 11 years. I said, "Of course, he endorsed Obama. If you have a local guy with a shot at the presidency, how could you not support him?"
"Oh yeah, I guess he'd make sure we get taken care of," she said. "I hadn't thought of that."
I looked at her incredulously. "Really, you never thought of that? Geez, no wonder you never get promoted!" A Chicago police officer should always be conscious of clout.
Aside from Obama, almost everyone I voted for lost. All the incumbents I opposed held their positions. I picked the three Sierra Club selections for the Metro Water Reclamation District, but even in that eight-way race for three spots, the best I did was fourth with Mariyana Spyropoulos. The one incumbent I cared about, Judge Laura Bertucci Smith, finished third out of five. She was the only candidate from any race who bothered to knock on our door this winter, even though our neighborhood lies across the river from the rest of her subcircuit (my wife doesn't like it when I call her "the babe judge," but she is attractive).
- Getting election results online is unnecessarily complicated. Chicago has an election Web site, but so does Cook County. For countywide offices, one must add the city's numbers to the county's numbers (which are only for the suburbs). Even more confusing are races like Laura Bertucci Smith's Sixth Judicial Subcircuit of Cook County. One might think that since the judgeship is a county position, the results would be on the county site. Actually, since this subcircuit is wholly within Chicago, results are only on the city's site. The Chicago Tribune doesn't help matters by directing people to the county's site "for more information" about countywide races without mentioning the city's site. Since the Tribune didn't put out consolidated totals for the Metro Water Reclamation District, I had to add up numbers from both sites for all eight candidates to figure out who won.
- Finally, to anyone who might say this was "only a primary," I say, "You're not from here, are you?" The overwhelming majority of city and county offices are held by Democrats, so on the local level, the Democratic primary is more important than the general election.
Monday, February 04, 2008
Brown was always a welcome presence on the Touring list, whether for his detailed knowledge of bicycles or his sense of humor evident in annual April Fool's Day products such as the Real MAN saddle made of granite. How many bike mechanics are listed on Wikipedia? There might be someone out there who knows more about bicycles, but I doubt there is anyone who has shared so much of that knowledge freely with others.
Thanks to her dilly-dallying, we missed the first quarter, but I was pleased to find an empty table at the restaurant with good TV sight lines. We ate dinner, had a few drinks, and watched the rest of the game. My reluctant wife was glad she came because she liked the commercials. I was glad because, unlike most Super Bowls I've seen, it was a helluva game. Plus, since the restaurant had fewer people than they expected, we scored lots of swag, including three T-shirts, a bottle opener, and some Bud Bowl beads. As the snow began to fall outside, we were glad we had chosen the neighborhood joint -- I'd rather not be on the road after the game with three inches of snow and a bunch of drunks.
I wasn't heavily invested in either team, but I wanted the Giants to win since they were underdogs (with apologies to Jen Garrett, the only Patriots fan I know). The entire game was very close -- each team always within a touchdown of the other -- and the suspense was palpable on every play. The three lead changes during the fourth quarter set a Super Bowl record. When the Patriots went ahead with less than three minutes remaining, I wondered whether the Giants could respond. They did, yet the Patriots still had time to take a few shots at the end zone. The game was riveting right down to the second-to-last second. With one second left, hordes of people from both teams ran onto the field thinking the game was over. They had to be chased off so that the Giants could down the ball. It was a goofy finish to a spectacular game.
Friday, February 01, 2008
I was impressed with Bill Richardson's broad, balanced credentials, but he's long gone. I was impressed with Dennis Kucinich's staunch progressivism (besides, he was our best hope for a really hot First Lady), but he never had a prayer. I was impressed with John Edwards' populist position against corporatism and his willingness to discuss class (America's 800-pound gorilla), but damnit, he's gone, as well. <insert rant about our broken primary system here>
Now the race is down to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Unlike a lot of men, I don't have anything personal against Hillary (and as a First Lady, she was much more interesting than Stepford Laura). But Bill had a problem (I'm not talking about infidelity), and by all accounts, Hillary shares it: triangulation, a willingness to move toward the right to win votes. Bill sold out the Democratic Party's traditional core values with initiatives like welfare reform and NAFTA. Hillary is likely to do more of the same, but after the destruction wrought upon our nation by the current administration, we need something more than centrist triangulation. I am also disturbed by the dynastic implications -- including George H.W.'s tenure as VP, there has been a Bush or a Clinton in the White House since I was 10 years old!
So that leaves Obama. I think he is our best shot at real change. We need somebody to set this ship back on course. We need somebody to shake things up because this is not the America we want or deserve. Obama has the ability to stir up the people, and Americans need some stirring these days. I hate to invoke JFK, but remember how he called Americans to service? Bush's election and especially his re-election show that too many Americans have become apathetic. If any candidate can re-engage Americans with their country, Obama can.