Thursday, May 31, 2007

Random Ten For a Margarita Friday

My son was commmenting last weekend about how fast the year has gone. Here it is, June 1 already!

This is a day teachers alternately love and dread. We love it because it marks the beginning of the end-- we're almost to summer break! On the other hand, the kids know that too, and it gets increasingly more difficult to get any work out of them.

So have a Margarita-- remember, you have my permission. And if your boss says its too early, remember the famous words of my grandmother:

If you drink before noon, you're an alcoholic. If you drink after noon, you're just a drunk.

It's after noon somewhere, right?

1. On the Road Again- Canned Heat
2. Mullet- The Devotchkas
3. In the Evening- Led Zeppelin
4. Sail On Sailor- The Beach Boys
5. Manic Mechanic- ZZ Top
6. Suffagette City- David Bowie
7. Ramblin' Man- The Allman Brothers Band
8. Sneaky Feelings- Elvis Costello
9. Suspect Device- Stiff Little Fingers
10. No Words- Paul McCartney and the Wings

This Is Just Tooooo Cool!

Thanks to Skyler's Dad and Kristi for this one: a site where you can create your own official seal. Here's mine:

My luck was incredible-- the first seal offered was in the Social Realist style, which I love-- my tattoo is even in it.

You can find the link to this on Skylar's Dad's blog.

Guess What-- It Doesn't Work

A few months ago, I was blogging about watching one of my old favorites movies, Dr. Stranglove with my son.

Reading the New York Times yesterday, I was reminded of a scene in the movie. The premise of the movie is that an American General has gone off his rocker due to an, um, "equipment malfunction" and has ordered a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union. Peter Sellers, in one of his three brilliant roles, plays Group Captain Lionel Mandrake, a visiting British officer. Captain Mandrake quickly figures out what is going on and tries to coax the attack recall code out of General Jack D. Ripper, portrayed by Sterling Hayden.

As American forces, who have been ordered to capture Ripper and retrieve the code, close in, Ripper asks Mandrake if he had been tortured after he'd been captured by the Japanese during his World War II service. Mandrake replies that yes, he had. Ripper asks if they got any information out of him, and Mandrake replies that he didn't think they weren't really looking for information-- it was just their idea of a good time.

Guess what? Amnesty International and any other human rights experts could have told BushCo and seven of the eight assholes running for the Republican nomination that torture-- oh, excuse me, "enhanced methods" (even torture has a poltically correct name) do not work. And now, as BushCo gets ready to revise interrogation rules, experts advising the administration are warning that the interrogation methods are "outmoded, amateurish and unreliable".

The article states that the current methods are "a hodgepodge that date from the 1950's, or are modeled on old Soviet practices."

Sure glad we won the Cold War-- so that we can actually become the enemy we feared and loathed.

The article compares the amateurish, ineffectual "enhanced methods" to the sophisticated-- and very successful-- non-violent interrogation methods of modern day veteran homicide detectives and to those who interrogated German and Japanese POW's during World War II.

The article pointed out that the World War II interrogators had graduate degrees in law and philosphy, spoke the language of the interogees flawlessly, and prepared for four to six hours for each hour of interrogation.

A few weeks ago, we were treated to the sorry spectacle of all but one of the morons running for the Republican nomination openly advocating torture-- most notably, former prosecutor Rudolph Guliani. It was grotesque.

Clearly, the advocacy of torture plays to the home crowd. We're angry at the bastards who perpetrated 9/11, yes. We want to strike back, yes. Yet, one of the stated purposes of terror is to get a government to walk away from the rule of law, and start its own campaign of terror-- and torture-- thus undermining its legitimacy and moral high ground. They have succeeded in this.

Not surprisingly, the military has been one of the biggest critics of what has gone on, and has cracked down the hardest on its members it has found guilty of it. They understand that whatever methods you use justifies the enemy using those methods on US forces. And they know that the methods just don't work.

The use of torture has no basis in reality, and no place in the modern world. It's a fantasy that only works on 24 and in B-movies, with evil Gestapo torturers and maniacal Russian secret agents. I doubt that BushCo will listen to that though. But hopefully those who follow will.

It was bad enough to have a B-Movie actor as President. With BushCo we've actually become a B-Movie.

A New Service From Johnny Yen

With the advent of DVD's, treasured classics that have long been out of print are being revived and released. As a service to my fellow bloggers, I will be keeping you apprised of DVD releases that impact our nation and our culture.

With that in mind, I bring good news: the long wait is nearly over. The second season of Gomer Pyle, USMC will be released on DVD on June 26, 2007.

Carry on as you were.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Seventies and Punk Rock

A couple of weeks ago, Danielle tagged me with what I thought was a fun, innocent little meme: picking out five hit songs from the year you turned 18 and writing about my connection to them.

I actually had a little trouble with it: the year I turned 18, 1979, was a really bad year for music. I actually had to expand the meme a little bit in order to find music I liked from that year. I had to include songs that were not on the Billboard charts.

Bubs, one of bloggers I tagged, took another approach-- one I wish I'd thought of. He picked five of the lamest songs from his year and explained that those songs were what made him begin to dress funny and listen to punk rock. There were many of us in that boat. Barbara took an approach that was a little closer to mine-- stretching the meme to find some cool songs. Of course, she had a way cooler year to work with, 1976. Rock music hadn't been driven completely off the airwaves yet by the disco lemmings in 1976.

The whole thing brought me back to a series of conversations I'd had with a couple of barroom buddies I had in the late 1980's.

There is a bar in the Wicker Park neighborhood in Chicago called Danny's that used to be way-cool-- back when Danny himself still owned it. It was decorated in Elvis memorablia, had a member of Naked Raygun as a bartender (John Haggerty) and a jukebox that had Patsy Cline, Motorhead, the Sonics, Dwight Yoakam and Paul Butterfield-- how could you go wrong? And on top of that, $1.25 Leinenkugels?

I got to be buddies with a couple of regulars there, Jamie and Ivan. Over time, we developed a friendly argument about seventies music. I had, at some point, dissed seventies music. Jamie had countered that a lot of good music had come from the seventies: Iggy Pop and David Bowie had done a lot of their best music in that time. He eventually rattled off a bunch of punk or punkish artists that had done great work in the seventies: X, the Buzzcocks, the Dickies, Television, the Ramones, the Dead Boys, Elvis Costello and many others.

This period of music is nicely documented on the fabulous No Thanks! box set, a set I happened to get from my lovely bride our first Christmas together.

In any event, I backed off of that claim, realizing they were right. Eventually we turned to a discussion of local music of the seventies. The mainstream music coming out of Illinois sucked. REO Speedwagon and Styx were stinking up the airwaves. We did have a local punk scene that had thrived, but being under 21 and living in the suburbs, I'd had extremely limited access to it (i.e. zero access). Fortunately, WXRT, then a pretty cool radio station, had a show called "The Big Beat," that played punk and New Wave. They played a lot of the local bands, including a particular favorite of mine, Poison Squirrel. (they're mentioned in this article.)

I told Jamie and Ivan that there had been a Chicago punk band in the late seventies and early eighties that I loved called "Poison Squirrel" and that I'd only gotten to hear them on the airwaves-- I'd never gotten to see them live, unfortunately. Their jaws dropped, and they looked at one another with a look of shock.

Jamie and Ivan, it turned out, had been the bass player and drummer, respectively, for Poison Squirrel.

As you might have guessed, we continued to stay good buddies.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Long National Nightmare Is Almost Over

We're almost there, people-- only two more days left, after today, to "National Mime Month."

Of course, we still have to endure 601 more days of this evil clown...

Given the circumstances, in order to survive, we may have to add some some more drink holidays to our very successful Margarita Fridays for the duration. Any suggestions?

As a public service, I'll volunteer Manhattan Thursdays.

Getting Your Money's Worth

When I was attending Eastern Illinois University in the early and mid 1980's, I took a job in a dorm food service. It was a nice source of income and I ended up making a bunch of new friends through it.

In the summer, there was plenty of work, even though the students were gone. The university got some use out of the dormant student housing by hosting a number of events, including the state high school track championships, Boy's State, summer training for the college football team and the summer training camp for the football Cardinals, who were based in St. Louis back then.

The summer of 1984, I was starting my grad work, attending summer school. I was rooming with my friends Larry and Dobie, who were also working with me in the dorm food services.

Occasionally, our boss lent us to the dorm that the Cardinals were staying in. This was always good news to us; these guys didn't eat the normal dorm fare. They ate prime rib, steaks, crab legs and such every day. When we got called over there to help out, we got to partake in those foods-- a real treat for a bunch of poor college students.

In the evenings, the Cardinal players were allowed to go out to the bars and have a cold one. It was a little surreal, seeing the players mingling with the students. Viewing these guys on a television screen does not convey how damned big these guys are.

Roommate Larry related a little incident he witnessed that summer. He saw a student unwisely start up with some Cardinal player in a bar we were hanging at. The Cardinal player calmly informed the student: "If I get in a fight, I get a $500 fine. If I get in a fight, I'm gonna make sure and get my money's worth."

Not surprisingly, the student backed off.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Never Forget

In 1983, I was a senior in college at Eastern Illinois University, studying Political Science. My younger brother Dean had taken another path. He'd enlisted in the Marines the same year I'd transferred to Eastern, 1981.

In the spring of 1983, he was sent as part of a peace-keeping force to Beirut, Lebanon. It was nerve-wracking for my family. A number of U.S. soldiers were killed by snipers or when errant mortar rounds that the various factions that they were there to separate fired at one another missed and hit their camp.

On October 23, 1983, a truck filled with six tons of explosives crashed into the lobby of the barracks many of the Marines were living in and exploded. The concrete barracks was lifted up in the air and came crashing down on the sleeping Marines, soldiers and sailors.

What followed was the four longest days of my life. Finally, I got a call from my parents-- his girlfriend had called them-- he'd managed to get off a phone call to her to let her know that he was all right. He'd been sleeping in a tent about a mile from the barracks. He was one of the first people to get there and begin digging guys out of the rubble.

In the box I keep old pictures and memories, I have a letter he sent me nearly a year later. I was to discover that I was the only one in the family he talked to or wrote to about his experience. He was, to say the least, shaken by it. He'd had to put guys he'd known into body bags. He'd had to hold guys who were clearly dying and tell them that they were going to be okay in order to comfort them in their last moments.

In the end, there were 241 U.S. soldiers killed that day. Another suicide bomber hit the French barracks at nearly the same time, killing a number of French soldiers.

The guy who went off to Beirut never came back. After serving over ten more years, he was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, mostly relating to that week in Beirut (his service in the first Iraq war, Somalia and peace-keeping in Haiti probably didn't help). The military deemed him 100% disabled. He has struggled in his personal and professional life since then, despite the counseling and college provided by the military. It has adversely affected his relationship with me and every other member of his family, including his own children.

On this holiday, spend some time with your family and friends. Be thankful that they are well. Please, though, take just a moment out of your day to remember those who have paid the price for us to enjoy that.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

A Thinking Blogger Award

I've had a "Thinking Blogger" Award bestowed upon me by one of my favorite bloggers, Samurai Frog! And what's even better, I get to pick five Thinking Bloggers.

The other day, I was looking back at my first blog post and discovered that the first blogger who posted on Here Comes Johnny Yen Again when I first started it last August was Dale. I realize now how lucky I was; Dale sets the blogging bar high. Whether he's telling a story of a horrifying, unwanted Christmas gift, a trip to the opera or about a friend's mother discovering that the previous owner of her newly-purchased condo bought the farm, he's always eloquent, elegant and just damned funny. Dale is a blogger I always look forward to. He also happens to be a very nice guy.

What he doesn't know is that me and all the other bloggers who love "Passion of the Dale" are going to stage a "Wii intervention," as we've noticed the drop-off in his posting since he got his Wii.

Kudos for previous Johnny Yen Thinking Blogger awardee Bubs for bringing his relative Splotchy to us. If Splotchy had only done his brilliant Kafka meets Beatrix Potter spoof The Velveteen Cockroach, he'd already be one of my favorite bloggers. His cicada reports, his Lost spoilers, including a reference to one of the great comedy albums of all time, "The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart," and his homage to Buddy Holly have all served to move him quickly into the "bloggers that Johnny Yen checks first every day" category. Splotchy's one of my Thinking Bloggers.

Another Yen Thinking Blogger Award goes to Kathy. Her ruminations on Rick Bayless, chocolate controversies, the deaths of Chicago Public School students and other subjects always give me food for thought.

Number 4 goes to Dead Spot On The Web. Okay, yes, he's one of my oldest and closest friends, and I risk violating the "friends and families ineligble" codicile in the Awards, but damn, I'm glad he started blogging, and I think a lot of others of you are too. My original rationale for pursuading him to blog-- that he's one of the smartest and funniest people I know, still stands. As Flannery says, he hasn't bored us yet.

And my fifth Thinking Blogger award goes right back to Samurai Frog himself. He's got a number of regular features I really enjoy: The Bible Summarized By a Smartass; his weekly "Throwdown," where he posts 15 observations; the Friday Five. He also has great observations on pop culture and some of the best historical and political posts I've read on the web.

Thanks for all the great reading, all!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Is That All There Is?

One of my favorite bloggers, famed Narcozoologist Bubs, posted yesterday about how the much-ballyhooed cicadas had been big no-shows in his neighorhood. I feel your pain, Bubs. Like Haley's Comet, like Comet Kohoutek, they're just another event of nature that has let me down after decades of waiting.

In 1973, when I was 12, my family moved from the lame Chicago suburb of Streamwood to the even-more-lame Chicago suburb of Western Springs. We arrived just in time to hear my fellow seventh-graders tell epic tales of what they had done to the cicadas that had surfaced en masse in the quiet little suburb just days before our arrival. They had stomped and burned the cicadas. They'd ridden over them on bikes. They'd put cicadas down girls' shirts. They'd whipped cicadas into sidewalks and walls, and had cicada fights.

Aside from thinking that these kids 1. obviously had too much spare time on their hands, and 2. perhaps some deep-set psychological problems, the thought of a bug invasion that was right out of a horror movie fascinated me. I was disappointed to discover that I'd have to wait another 17 years to witness this.

That very same year, the Comet Kohoutek had led me on and disappointed me. Those of you of my general demographic (mid-forties) may remember this. A comet was going to pass by earth that was supposed to be spectacular. It turned out to be a big dud, barely visible even with a telescope. I should have learned my lesson from that.

Maybe it'll be more spectacular when it returns-- 75,000 years from now.

As adulthood arrived, I looked forward to the sure thing-- Haley's Comet. In 1970/71, my little Chicago grade school science nerd buddies and I would get in a lather when we talked about the fly-by of the fabled Haley's Comet that would happen in 1986. Haley's comet had been spectacular every time, and had puncuated history. In 1066, it appeared, brightly visible to the naked eye, and was taken to be a bad omen. And sure enough, English king Harold the II died at the Battle of Hastings. The French took over England, and the Germanic language of the natives began mixing with the French of the conquerors, eventually creating the ferocious non-phonetic, virtually unspellable mish-mash that became the English language. The birth and death of great American author Mark Twain was bracketed by arrivals of Haley's Comet-- spectacular both times.

And what of Haley's Comet in 1986? As Wikipedia puts it:

The 1986 approach was the least favourable for Earth observers of all recorded passages of the comet throughout history: the comet did not achieve the spectacular brightness of some previous approaches, and with increased light pollution from urbanization, many people never saw the comet at all.

Worse, it was virtually invisible in the Northern Hemisphere. Since I had just finished college the year before, and had not a pot to piss in, I was not able to travel to South America or Africa that year, and consequently, I was never able to see Haley's Comet.

If I'm fortunate enough to live to be 99 years old, I might be able to see it again when it passes in 2162. And it'll problably suck that time, too. And by then, I'll be too old and tired to be pissed off about it.

In any event, back to the cicadas. After a 17 year wait, 1990 arrived. And once again, I saw not one friggin' cicada! If my admittedly foggy memory serves me right (that was in the midst of my party years), there was a drought that year, and the cicada onslaught was weak. Or maybe they were just boycotting my neighborhood.

So here we are in 2007. After yet another seventeen year wait, I eagerly awaited the Cicadapalooza. For weeks, the media's been hyping this, warning that it was going to be big this year.

Where. Are. My. Friggin'. Cicadas. ?.. Splotchy got them in droves. There are news reports of cicadas knee-deep in some Chicago suburbs. They've carried off cats, chihuahuas and smaller children in a couple of places. But nary a cicada in my neck of the woods, the north side of Chicago.

So it looks like cicadas will be yet another bitter disappointment of nature in my life. Tonight, in a scene I'm certain will be replicated at the Bubs household, I'll sit on my cicadaless back porch, nursing a drink, as Peggy Lee and I recall life's let-downs. Is that all there is to a cicada invasion? Is that all there, my friend? Then let's keep dancing.

Memorial Day Weekend Random Ten

The countdown to a three day weekend has begun. It looks like the students at the alternative high school I teach at have mostly decided to make it a four day weekend. And I'm cool with that.

According to the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count website, there have now been 3,441 American dead in the Iraq war. Let's not forget that this isn't just a three day weekend-- it's about remembering and honoring those who have given all for us.

Bob Dylan's anti-war classic "Masters of War" popped up, appropriately, on my Friday Random Ten.

Let's bring 'em home.

1. Little Darlin'- Dave Edmunds
2. Keep On Truckin'- Eddie Kendricks
3. Street Fighting Man- Rolling Stones
4. You're So Good To Me- Beach Boys
5. Guinnevere- Crosby, Stills and Nash
6. Pleasant Street- Tim Buckley
7. Masters of War- Bob Dylan
8. Homeless- Curtis Mayfield
9. Smoke On the Water- Pat Boone
10. I Saw the Best Minds of My Generation Rot- The Fugs


1. From the Dave Edmunds box set, which always claws its way to the top of my Friday Random Ten.
2. A solo song from Eddie Kendricks of the Temptations.
3. "What can a poor boy do/But sing in a rock and roll band?"
4. From the Beach Boys' best-of set, Endless Summer, one of my desert island albums.
5. From CSN's eponymous debut album. Okay, I just wanted to say "eponymous."
6. Yesterday, co-worker Sara and I were trying to figure out if Tim Buckley was in the "27 Club"-- rockers who've died at the age of 27-- Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, Brian Jones, Pigpen McKernan (original Grateful Dead keyboardist), Al Wilson (Canned Heat), D. Boon (Minutemen), Jimmy McCullough (Wings) are among them. I looked him up-- Buckley made it to 28. Tragically, his equally talented son Jeff Buckley died in 1997 at the age of 30, when he drowned while swimming in the Mississippi River.
7. I knew the birthday boy would turn up on today's Random Ten! (It was Bob's birthday yesterday)
8. Curtis Mayfield at his best, making a social statement.
9. Yes, that Smoke On the Water. And yes, that Pat Boone. From Boone's hilarious "In a Metal Mood."
10. Natalie mentioned the Holy Modal Rounders a couple of days ago in a wonderful post about Bob, a car that carried not just passengers, but memories. The Rounders were an offshot of The Fugs.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

A Belated Tag Response

It's been a hectic couple of weeks, and I haven't been able to get to Danielle's excellent tag until today-- it required some research and some thinking!

The tag was:

1. Go to
2. Pick the year you turned 18
3. Get yourself nostalgic over the song’s of the year
4. Write something about how the song affected you
5. Pass it on to 5 more friends

I modified the tag just a little-- I looked at some other lists of hits to find songs I loved from that year-- the hit lists of the time were heavy with disco, which I hated.

1. Message In a Bottle- The Police
This is one of the first Police songs I remember ever hearing (I think the very first was "Walking On the Moon"). I dug them, but I think I (and everybody else) was sick of them by 1984 or so. They still sounded fresh in 1979, and I loved this song.

It's funny to think now of poor Sting, all alone and lonely.

2.Let's Go- The Cars
This song will forever be embedded in my head as the song of the summer I graduated high school. You didn't even have to have a radio to hear this song-- it was playing out of car radios, out of windows, in stores. I never managed to get tired of it-- I still love hearing it. And the Vargas album cover didn't hurt either...

3. I Need A Lover (Who Won't Drive Me Crazy)- Johnny Cougar
This was The Artist Currently Known As John Mellencamp's first hit. He was, inexplicably, first promoted as a "glam" artist. This song put the lie to that silliness. He's a midwestern boy, with midwestern values-- our midwestern boy.

And I think we've all felt the sentiment behind this song at some point in our lives.

4. Take the Long Way Home - Supertramp
I liked Supertramp up through the Breakfast In America album. I hated the fatous Logical Song to begin with and hated it even more when it got overplayed. I did like Take the Long Way Home, with it's images of Frost's "road less travelled," and the line:

When you look through the years and see what you could
have been oh, what might have been,
if you'd had more time.

I've always taken the line as an admonition to take the time and do the things you want to do-- not wait until your old and play the "coulda/shoulda/woulda" game. I've tried to live by that code.

5. Promises- Eric Clapton
This sad, pretty, soft little song passed under my radar in 1979, but a few years later I discovered it. It's about a love affair or marriage unraveling. It's got one of my favorite-ever lines, lines that I find so poignant:

I got a problem. Can you relate?
I got a woman calling love hate.
We made a vow wed always be friends.
How could we know that promises end?

There's nothing sadder in the world than two people who once loved one another now hating each other.

Thanks for the tag, Danielle! I'm tagging: Bubs, Barbara, Skyler's Dad, Kristi and Samurai Frog. Feel free to use the modification I used.

And Samurai-- I haven't forgotten your tag! I'm still working on it!

A True Public Servant

One would have thought that a stint in the Navy, keeping the red hordes at bay, would have fulfilled blogger Skyler's Dad's duty to keeping international menaces away from our shores. Admirably, his devotion to public safety has continued unabated, as he recently posted a link to a site that tells you what to do during various attack scenarios.

A couple of my personal favorites:

That closet door in your bedroom leads to the gates of Hell. Don't go there.

If your intended destination is suddenly vaporized, consider pulling over and watching the cool light show.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Follow the Grey-Brick Road...

Last week, Erik had a post about a piece of writing from Chicago author L. Frank Baum that was considerably less whimsical than Baum's usual fare-- it was, astoundlingly, an argument for genocide of Native-Americans. Not what one would expect from the author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the basis for the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz.

On the way to work every day, I pass by the bland townhouse that is now where the house that Baum lived in was when he wrote the book (it's at 1667 N. Humboldt Blvd., for all you Chicagoans).

I've never actually read the book. Like every child in America, I grew up watching the movie on television.

When I was a junior in college, my parents moved to California. There was no big problem with this: they'd given me a car, and I lived in off-campus housing. I enjoyed the fact that it gave me an excuse to go to California over Christmas break.

On Spring breaks, I'd stay at my aunt's apartment, in Chicago's South Side Beverly neighborhood. My aunt was often off with her boyfriend on vacation trips around then, so I usually got the place to myself.

My senior year, she was there for a couple of days of my visit. One afternoon, the movie The Wizard of Oz was playing. She and I sat down to enjoy it.

Toward the end of the movie, something went wrong with the television-- or so I thought. The color disappeared. I got up to try to adjust the set, and my aunt asked me what I was doing. I told her that I was trying to fix the picture-- it had just gone all black and white.

My family did not own a color television until I was in high school, so I had never seen The Wizard of Oz in color before. And so it was at that moment, at the tender age of 22, that I learned that the beginning and end of the movie, where Dorothy is on the farm, is in black and white, while the middle, where Dorothy is in Oz, is in color.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Don't Look Now, But It Ain't You Or Me

Who will work the field with his hands?
Who will put his back to the plough?
Who'll take the mountain and give it to the sea?
Don't look now, it ain't you or me.

Don't Look Now (But It Ain't You Or Me)
Creedence Clearwater Revival

Monday evening, I was watching my son play baseball, when I got a call from Pete, the owner of the restaurant I work at part-time. Ricardo, the lead cook at the restaurant was killed in an automobile accident on Saturday night. His funeral will be this afternoon, and his body will be shipped back to Mexico to be buried in his hometown.

I can't really say Ricardo was a friend. He was, though, more than a co-worker.

A few months ago, my wife was telling me about a conversation she had with her father. My father-in-law had seen celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain's show "Kitchen Confidential," and Bourdain had referred to the camaraderie in the service business, and sharing a drink with your co-workers at the end of a night. There is nothing quite like the intensity of a restaurant or tavern on a rocking night. It is difficult to come down from it. Bourdain talked, my father-in-law had told my wife, about the uniqueness of that experience, sharing a drink and talking at the end of one of those intense evenings. It's hard to describe it to someone who hasn't experienced it. I think that both my father-in-law and my wife felt like they understood me a little better, got a little insight into that part of my life.

Anyone who works in the restaurant business can tell you that in most restaurants there's divide between the kitchen staff and the waitstaff. Our restaurant is no exception. Sometimes there's open hostility. The perception of the kitchen staff is that the (mostly) white waiters are out there making a lot more money than they are with a lot less work. The waiters' incomes are dependent on the kitchen staff doing their jobs competently, and they see themselves at the mercy of resentful, sometimes surly cooks.

At the end of the night, though, that breaks down a bit. Waitstaff and kitchen staff share a drink, talk and wind down from the evening. That was my experience with Ricardo.

The restaurant business has been good to me. The extra income has allowed me to do nice things for my family. It's allowed me to travel and take an occasional vacation. It's allowed me to put extra money away into a retirement account. If my plans work out, it'll allow me to leave teaching and give me an income while I go back to school and change careers.

Ricardo's work was part of that. Without his work, mine wouldn't have happened and wouldn't have been as lucrative. I never forgot that, and never will.

Is This About To Become a Meme?

I stole this from Kristi who stole it from Vikki, who stole it from McSweeney's...

Categories I'm pretty sure I could beat Jeopardy champion Ken Jennings in:

1. Obscure Historical Trivia
2. Obscure Trivia About Chicago
3. Obscure Trivia About Anything
4. Amusing Anecdotes About Johnny Yen's Son Adam
5. Foods To Avoid When You Have Celiac Disease
6. Chinese Buffets On The North Side Of Chicago.
7. Chicago Cub Players and Managers Who Have Turned Out To Be Big Friggin' Disappointments.
8. Illinois Divorce Law
9. Great Chicago Watering Holes of the Eighties and Early Nineties.
10. Stories Involving Johnny Yen, One Or More Of His Friends, A Few Libations And Some Mischief.

Rudy Can Fail

Let me be upfront-- I didn't like Rudy Guliani before 9/11.

I like him even less now.

I have been puzzled by the common wisdom that Guliani handled 9/11 "brilliantly." I'm at a loss to see what he did that was different from what any other mayor would have done-- walk around, looking concerned, then giving a couple of speeches. Hell, even our own excitable Mayor Daley here in Chicago would have done the same thing. Guliani did his job. Wonderful.

A lot of people also give him credit for the turnaround in New York City's crime rate. Yet, that turnaround happened in every major city in the United States. I wonder how much that had to do with the general economic upturn that most economists agree was the result of President Bill Clinton getting the federal deficit under control, freeing up money for investment.

And I'll bet the fact that Congress passed bills that sent a lot of federal money to cities and municipalities to beef up their police forces in terms of numbers and training helped out. There was, of course, money for that, back in those wonderful old days of a budget surplus.

But back to Rudy. Guliani was responsible for a criminal crackdown in New York, that included enforcing jaywalking laws. I wonder how Abner Louima and the family of Amadaou Diallo feel about that crackdown?

How about Rudy's brilliant role as a terrorism fighter?

Gary Hart, on Ariana Huffington's blog, questions this. He questions Rudy's dedication to the "fight against terror" in open letter to Rudy Guliani, wondering where his commitment to it was from January 31, 2001, when the U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century issued its final report warning of the danger of terrorist attacks on American soil, to September 11, 2001, when Rudy gave his brilliant performance.

The first leader of the New York Office of Emergency management, Jerome Hauer, has some criticisms. It seems that since the World Trade Center had already been a terrorist target, and terrorists had publicly vowed that they'd hit it again, he argued for placing it in a location in Brooklyn, away from the World Trade Center.

It didn't seem like placing a huge emergency management center, filled with the computers, communications equipment, emergency generators-- and tanks with thousands and thousands of gallons of diesel fuel needed to run those generators -- right next to an obvious and stated terrorist target would be a good idea.

But Guiliani overruled Hauer and everybody else, and petulantly had the emergency center placed in 7 World Trade Center, right next to the World Trade towers.

On September 11, 2001, not only was that emergency center useless as a result of Guliani's decision, it actually became an additional hazard itself. When the North tower collapsed that day, the antenna sliced through 7 World Trade center, severing diesel fuel lines. 7 World Trade center-- and the emergency center-- had to be evacuated. The diesel fuel burned, creating additional smoke and eventually collapsing 7 World Trade Center.

Rudy tried to play like it had been a consensus, everyone's idea to place the emergency center there. But it wasn't. It was Guliani's idea alone, over the strident advice of Hauer and others.

Mr. Hauer’s memo to First Deputy Mayor Peter J. Powers recommended the MetroTech Center in downtown Brooklyn:

"The building is secure and not as visible a target as buildings in Lower Manhattan."

Fox News, of course, had Guliani claiming that it had been largely on Mr. Hauer's recommendation that the center be placed at the site it ended up being placed at.

Hauer's response:

He’s trying to run on his homeland-security and national-security background, and if you start peeling back the skin on the errors he made when he was mayor, you take away a lot of the basis for his candidacy… I feel sad that he would betray somebody that had served him loyally in the past, and I’m angry, too. But when you get to know Rudy, you know that this is the kind of thing he does. That’s just his personality.

Wow-- there's a candidate I can get behind-- a guy who makes huge errors of ommission and commission that actually interfered with responding to a terror emergency, then tries to run for President on his record as a terror-fighter. That's chutzpah.

I think that some Democrats are fearful of a Guliani run for President, but not this one. In looking at his record, his own arrogance, backstabbing of former aides, and obstinance will sink his run himself.

It's funny, because in writing that, I realize that my favorite President, Bill Clinton, had all those qualities. With some key differences, like the fact that he actually sent the military and intelligence services out to fight Al Queda and Bin Laden, including a large cruise missle strike that barely missed Bin Laden. And of course, helping the economy, fighting crime, etc.

Did you ever think we'd look back nostaligically at the '90's?

In the meantime, we need to figure out who will direct "The Rudy Guliani Story." Fellini is dead, so we need to find another surrealist director.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Look Ma, No Word Verification!

At Coaster Punchman's suggestion, I've tried taking the word verification off of my comments. So far, so good-- no spam.

But just let me see one bit of spam, young man and I'll...

"Iran Protests 'Persepolis' Screening"

Of course they did.

It's an adaptation of a graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi that depicts the excesses of Iran's theocracy. The Iranian government protested that it "presented an unrealistic face of the achievements and results of the glorious Islamic Revolution in some of its parts." Of course it does.

I've got an idea. Let's show it as a double feature with "Schindler's List." They'd really like that, since the Holocaust was faked and all, according to their leader.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

"It's Been A Long Time Since I Rock And Rolled..."

Yesterday, after the game, a bunch of kids and parents went to see one of my son's teammate play at the Abbey Pub in Chicago. He goes to the real "School of Rock," based on the movie. The kids were amazing. Their show featured the songs of Led Zeppelin.

The kids ranged widely in age. One little guy was holding a guitar as big as he was. They sounded better than some grown-up bands I've heard.

They played a range of Zeppelin's material, from the first to the last album-- "Good Times, Bad Times," "The Ocean," "Rock and Roll," and a bunch more-- about 25 songs. And they finished of course, with "Stairway to Heaven."

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Senior League Yankees vs. Senior League Mets, May 19, 2007

My son's baseball team, the Senior League Yankees, evened up their record to 2-2, with a 10-1 victory over the Senior League Mets.

My ex and I caught this little interchange, where our son was consulting with one of his coaches. We laughed about this-- at 13, he's in full teenager mode. He'll listen attentively to his coaches, but not us.

The head coach's son Nick turned in a great pitching perfomance...

...and the Yankees' bats were alive!