Saturday, June 30, 2007

Good News!

Some good news: Shakesville is back on the air-- sort of. They're hanging at their old digs, Shakespeare's Sister for a while, while they move Shakesville to a dedicated server, after the denial-of-service attacks they suffered last week.

Favorite Movies: Casablanca

I was reading a very funny story on Valerie's blog about how a mistaken movie identity played into she and her husband meeting, and it reminded me that movies have been on my mind lately. Samurai Frog recently did his own reviews of the American Film Institute's Top 100 films, and last night, when I picked up a shift at the restaurant, Phil and I were talking about Citizen Kane and other favorite movies. I frequently talk about movies being favorites, and got to thinking about what my top ten movies are.

I'll be posting these over the next few days. I've numbered them, but the are not necessarily in order of preference.

1. Casablanca
With this movie, you have to forget some big plot holes. The biggest one involves this film's MacGuffin, the letters of transit. The letters are "signed by General Degaulle himself" and unquestionable. In 1941, when the movie is set, Degaulle was powerless, living in exile in London. He had no power in the Vichy regime, and had in fact been sentenced to death for "treason" against the Nazi puppets. Nevertheless, the letters of transit serve their purpose handsomely, doing their part, along with the arrival of Ilsa Lund, Rick Blaine's old lover.

Rick, played by Humphrey Bogart, is the American owner of Rick's in Casablanca, which was in Vichy-French controlled Northern Africa. Rick, is bitter and dissolute, due to Ilsa's jilting. This was not always the case-- he'd run guns to the Spanish Republic during the Spanish Civil War and to Ethiopians who fought the Italian fascists. These days, as he says, he sticks his neck out for nobody.

When he comes to possess the aforementioned letters of transit, which are a means of escaping Casablanca, he suddenly becomes the most popular guy in town. As the movie comes to its crescendo, we wonder-- which man will Ilsa end up with? Who will end up with the letters of transit? Will Rick's frozen heart melt?

The cast is amazing-- Bogart and Bergmen, Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, and of course, Claude Rains, who, as Flannery recently pointed out, steals scene after scene-- he gets all the great lines.

A couple of notes: a few years back, I noticed something a little shocking. In the scene in which Ilsa unknowingly walks into Rick's club and recognizes Sam, the piano player, she asks the bartender who the "boy" playing the piano. Sam was portrayed by African-American actor Dooley Wilson. He was born in 1894, so he would have been 48 years old when the movie was released. It's hard to believe that a movie that had an overall liberal outlook had something that racist in it.

Wilson, incidentally, was not able to play the piano.

Conrad Veight, the German-born actor who portrayed the Nazi officer Major Strasser, was, ironically, a staunch anti-Nazi, and married to a Jewish woman. He'd had to leave Germany in 1933 when he discovered that the Gestapo was planning to murder him.

Veight, who had been a major star in Germany (he had appeared in Germany's first talking movie) was the highest-paid actor in the movie. Veight narrowly lost out the role of Dracula to Bela Lugosi in 1933.

Veight died of a heart attack while playing golf with his physician a year after Casablanca's release.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Eight More Things

Amy Guth tagged me with the "Eight Things About Me" meme, so here goes!

1. I like the Mamas and the Papas. Got a problem with that?

2. One of my childhood heroes was New York Yankee slugger Lou Gehrig. I felt like he wasn't appreciated enough because his teammate Babe Ruth got all the press.

3. When I was a kid, my favorite baseball position to play was third base-- probably because Ron Santo, my favorite Cub player, played at this position.

4. I enjoy biographies a lot. On deck for my reading list is a biography of General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., the son of President Teddy Roosevelt. He was the first general ashore on D-Day, despite a bad heart and arthritic knees. If you've ever seen the movie "The Longest Day," his character was played by Henry Fonda. His leadership in the Normandy landing is credited with averting a near disaster, and was cited by General Omar Bradley as the bravest act he'd ever witnessed as a soldier.

5. I'm not a big "car guy," but if someone decided to give me a 1965 Ford Mustang, I wouldn't turn it down...

6. I read newspapers backward-- I read each section from back to the front, going to the beginning of stories that look interesting to me. I have no idea when I started doing this or why.

7. Though I'm a total peacenik, I'm fascinated with the military and miltary history. I particularly enjoy military aviation museums. My son Adam has inherited this trait from me. On Memorial Day, we went to the Chanute Air Museum at the old airbase in Rantoul, Illinois.

8. One of my favorite artists is Jacob Lawrence. His most famous paintings are his "Migration" series, a sixty-painting history of the "Great Migration" of blacks from the American South to Northern cities around the time of World War I. In 1994, the Chicago Historical Society was able to gather up all sixty paintings, which are now in various collections or owned by individuals, in an exhibition. It was one of the coolest experiences of my life.

A Soggy Friday Random Ten

For being on "vacation," I've been awfully busy this week. I've got to go downstairs and take one more crack at cleaning up the flood mess. Thank god it's Friday.

1. Crossroads- Cream
2. Since I Fell For You- Lenny Welch
3. Get Off My Cloud- Rolling Stones
4. That's What Dreams Are Made For- Green On Red
5. Drunken Angel- Lucinda Williams
6. Crippled Inside- John Lennon
7. Borstal Breakout- Sham 69
8. Will To Love- Neil Young
9. Starkville City Jail- Johnny Cash
10. Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart- The Coasters

1. Eric Clapton and company's take on the Robert Johnson classic.
2. A sappy sentimental song? Guilty as charged.
3. "I live in an apartment on the 99th floor of my block" I was wishing that when the basement flooded on Tuesday.
4. Great band from the eighties.
5. Lucinda played this one when Kim and I saw her in April.
6. John Lennon at his wry best.
7. From the "No Thanks" 1970's punk set.
8. From "American Stars and Bars," one of my favorite albums.
9. One of Johnny Cash's funniest songs. From the Live at San Quentin" album.
10. From and R and B collection I bought at Starbucks.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Your Possessions Own You

As I've mentioned before, Tuesday's rainstorm here in Chicago put about a foot and a half of water in our basement.

It cleared out pretty quickly and I was able to go down and assess the damage pretty soon after the rain ended. The damage was miraculously light, considering that I had to tip the dryer over and empty water out of it.

The basement has flooded in the past, so I have nearly everything down there in big Rubbermaid bins. Still, there were a few things I was worried about-- my two electric guitars and my Blood Feast poster.

I cleared out some stuff and got to the guitars. They were in the back of the basement (which is the front of the house), where the water was only 4 or 5 inches deep. They were up on guitar stands, so only a couple of inches were wet. I rinsed the bottoms of the guitars off and set them up to dry.

I had to move some stuff to get to the poster. I'd put it downstairs at Kim's request when she and her daughter moved in here, until my stepdaughter was older-- the poster is pretty gory.

Blood Feast, the subject of the poster, was directed by Herschell Gordon Lewis, and is a classic. The poster was a gift, along with 3 other B-Movie posters from someone over 20 years ago. I had them framed about 16 or 17 years ago. I'm not hung up on material things-- I drive a 13 year old truck, and dress in jeans and t-shirts most of the time. But I do love cool kitschy things, and these are the coolest, kitschiest things I have.

When I put the poster downstairs, I thought I had waterproofed it. I was wrong.

I got it out and saw that the corners of the frame had made small tears in the plastic bags I'd wrapped it in. The bottom 8 or 9 inches of the poster were wet.

I was not happy. I took the poster out of the frame and remembered something.

In 1986, while the Chicago Historical society was undergoing construction for adding to the building when a water main was damaged, causing massive flooding, inundating areas in which historical papers were stored. I remembered reading an article in the Chicago Reader about it-- that it was not water that damaged papers per se, but the mold that attacked the paper quickly after it got wet. If the paper can be dried quickly, the damage is minimal.

I grabbed Kim's hair dryer and went to work. Once the poster was dry, my sense of panic subsided.

The bottom of the poster is wrinkled, but it can be steamed and put on a new board.

After saving the poster, I went downstairs and was amazed at how lucky I was. I salvaged a baby picture of my great-grandmother. Other than that, most everything that got wet was something I didn't mind getting rid of.

One of the things I was most glad was safe was something I'd coincidentally put up on a shelf a week or so ago. It was a Czechoslovakian political poster my late friend Mark had brought back for me on his 1991 trip to Europe; it was from the first free elections Czechoslovakia had after the Berlin Wall came down. He knew I was a political junkie and that it was something I'd treasure as a piece of history. And of course I now also treasure it as a memory of him. I'd taken it down last year when I was painting and hadn't yet hung it back up.

As I cleaned stuff out and up, I got to thinking about our possessions.

When Kim and I met 2 1/2 years ago, one of the things we discovered was a shared love of kitsch, and particularly Airstream Trailers. We decided long ago that one of our goals was to eventually live in an Airstream, travelling around, living light.

Over the last couple of years, then, I've tried to get rid of "stuff." Material things. My target is to whittle down my stuff over the next 20 years or so to where I can fit it in an Airstream. Hell-- I'm even getting rid of my vinyl (don't worry TenS-- all the vinyl was safe in plastic bins, and you still have first dibs on it!).

It made me think about my relationship with my material possessions. And frankly, it made me think of New Orleans, and how it must have been for people after the flood there.

It made me think about what is important, and what I can and cannot live without.

They say that your possessions own you. I laugh when I see a yuppie slow down to creep his $45,000 SUV over a one inch bump in the road. Yet I had a basement filled with stuff I felt I couldn't get rid of-- until it got waterlogged. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

Bubs had a great post recently about letting go of a canoe he'd been working on. He'd made plans to refurbish it, but at some point realized that it was, realistically, never going to happen. He found someone who not only had an appreciation of the uniqueness of the canoe frame, but also had the time and inclination to renovate it, and sold it to him. Sometimes it's liberating to divest ourselves of things.

We gather our things and make our plans. But, to quote the old proverb: "If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans." Nature, fate, chance-- they all conspire to rearrange and even trash our plans.

I remembered my old roommate Chris, when I lived in the Edgewater neighborhood 20 years ago, ribbing me about how few material possessions I had, and kidding me that someday I'd start accumulating them. I laughed at what he said-- I lived light in those days. I could move in one car trip.

I've lived in this apartment nearly 9 years-- longer than I've ever lived anywhere in my life. This is the fourth time the basement has flooded. Each time, I've had to divest myself of possessions. And each time, I've been amazed at how little I missed the things I lost. Maybe someone is trying to tell me something.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Ann Coulter-- The Democrats' Best Friend

Now that the flooded basement is under control, the pantry is painted and Adam's baseball camp is done (Vacation? What vacation?), I've had a chance to catch up on what's going on with the rest of the world.

I was just over at the Tennessee Guerilla Women site watching the Ann Coulter video that I've seen mention of on blogs lately. I'm talking about the Hardball episode in which Elizabeth Edwards, wife of Democratic Presidential hopeful John Edwards called the show and asked Coulter to end the personal attacks, which had, cruelly, included reference to the Edwards' son Wade, who was killed in an automobile accident in 1996.

Predictably, Coulter was an ass. She is the master of what we called, when I taught Language Arts to my old sixth grade students, "loaded" language. She really gets a reaction out of people, whether they love her or hate her.

One of my favorite bloggers, Splotchy, makes a really good point: she only has the power we give her.

Back about ten years ago, I was embroiled in a horrific custody fight with my son's mother. She lied, bullied, manipulated and took advantage of a legal system biased in her favor. It consumed my life-- it was all I could think of and talk about. Then one day, Dave, a friend of a friend, gave me some great advice: don't rent her free space in my head. It was her intent to enrage me, and I was obliging her.

I took his advice and calmed down.

Coulter gets off on the fact that she pisses liberals off. And there's a shrill minority of conservatives who cheer her and her creepy behavior on. But the average conservative wants safe streets, good education, lower taxes and a secure nation.-- pretty much the same as the average liberal. I doubt the average moderate conservative can stomache her or even finds her relevent.

Coulter's behavior is grotesque. It is certain to alienate all but the hardest core whackos-- just the same as this current bunch of buttmunches in office have alienated their moderate core. As far as I'm concerned, let Coulter run her idiotic mouth off. She's the best friend the Democrats have, spurring complacent Democratic voters to get more involved and turning moderates away from the Republicans in droves. I hope she gets even more attention.

I Am Spartacus...

A few days ago, I noticed that I couldn't get through to Shakesville (formerly Shakespeare's Sister), one of my favorite political blogs. I found out the reason.

According to Blue Gal (via Splotchy, Dr. Zaius and Samurai Frog-- thanks guys!) Shakesville has been the target of a denial-of-service attack, presumably from right wing pukes.

We are being called upon to invoke the final scene of the terrific 1960 Stanley Kubrick movie Spartacus. For anyone who hasn't seen the movie (I know most if not all reading this probably have) toward the end, the Romans have defeated the slave rebellion, and are willing to grant amnesty to all the slaves if they will turn over Spartacus. Spartacus is about to turn himself in, when one slave, then another, then dozens, then all of them, one by one rise and declare "I am Spartacus!" It's one of the most powerful scenes ever in a movie.

I am tired of these racist, homophobic, religious-hypocrite jackasses peddling their fear and fascism, which is really window-dressing for a wholesale looting of our country. I am tired of being told that I should be happy that in my country I can dissent, so "shut the f*ck up!" I am tired of the lies, the attacks and let's face it, I'm tired of the bullying, goddammit.

I am Spartacus. I am Shakesville.

The Great Flood

Yesterday, after I picked Adam up from the baseball camp he's been attending this week, I noticed that the sky to the east was getting dark. He and I had lunch, and I dropped him off at my ex's house. By the time I got home, it was raining buckets.

I had a bad feeling about it-- the last time it had rained like this, 5 or 6 years ago, the basement had flooded. Over time, I'd taken precautions against it, and my landlord had had the drainage replaced, at great cost. But when I looked down in the basement, there was over a foot of water in it-- I think it was a foot and a half at its height.

I put on a pair of the boots that my landlord keeps in the landing for such an event, and waded in, clearing the floating stuff that might block the drain. I called my landlord up, letting him know I'd taken care of it; he was stuck on the Edens Expressway, and it took him nearly two hours to get home.

The upgraded drain worked well once the rain stopped. The basement drained out in about an hour.

The losses were a lot less bad than I thought. I've been dragging waterlogged stuff out and cleaning on and off since yesterday, and thinking about my connection to my "stuff." More to follow.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Note to "Fatboy"

Memo to "Fatboy:"
I don't know what it was that possessed you to stick your claw into my sweatjacket, but I guess it's a good thing that I happened to be running out the door to bring Adam to his baseball camp and saw you there-- otherwise who knows how long you would have been stuck there, the same as I did not know how long you'd been stuck there when I found you there.

Just an FYI-- when someone is untangling you from a predicament that your own stupidity got yourself into, it's best not to fight with them. Or give them dirty glares afterward. Remember that I feed you when Kim is out of town.

Johnny Yen

I've Earned Every One of Them...

Saturday, sonny boy and I went to the barber. I had a pleasant suprise-- Manfred, the old owner, was there because the current owner, his friend and former business partner Zlatka was visiting her family in Serbia. It was nice catching up with Manfred, who only works when Zlatka goes on vacation since he retired a few years ago.

Manfred told me about a Carribean cruise he and his wife took and his plans to visit his own family in Germany later this year, while I tried to convince Adam to get his hair cut shorter. He would have nothing of it.

I did the same thing when I was his age.

Later, at home, he walked up to me while I was seated and stated "Man, Dad, that haircut really made a lot of grey hair show!"

Thanks for pointing that out, son. I got it all from raising a teenager.

Monday, June 25, 2007

A Happy Ending

Some great news, if you haven't heard: the court has ruled against Roy Pearson in his ridiculous case against Soo and Jin Chung, owners of a cleaners.

I've posted about it previously here and here. Pearson, to the left in the picture, sued the Chungs for $54 million over a pair of pants that he alleged that they lost. They claimed to have the pants, but kept offering to settle the case for increasing amounts, beginning with the replacement value of the pants and finally offering $12,000.

The judge stated in her ruling:

"A reasonable consumer would not interpret 'Satisfaction Guaranteed' to mean that a merchant is required to satisfy a customer's unreasonable demands"

The judge also ordered Pearson to pay the Chungs for their immediate court costs, $1,000, in dealing with his nuisance suit, and is considering a motion to force Pearson to recompensate the Chungs for the tens of thousands of dollars in attorney fees that they spent fighting his suit.

Couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

A Rich Man's War and a Poor Man's Fight

June 22, 2007, in the front window of a house near the school on Chicago's West Side that I teach at.

Regarding the Cubs/White Sox Series This Weekend...

This isn't directed only at you, Elk...okay, well, mostly you.

And Adam asked me to mention that the Cubs are 36-39 with today's win, and the Sox are 29-43. And that the Cubs were 5-1 against the Sox in the two crosstown series.


Finally someone is getting some cajones and standing up to the Bush administration: my congressman, Rahm Emanuel.

As Dr. Zaius, Tennessee Guerilla Women and others have reported, Vice-Chancellor, er, Vice-President Dick Cheney has essentially declared himself a fourth branch of the government. Zaius' friend Jess Wundrun is even running a contest to name that fourth branch. My suggestion was "The Fourth Reich."

Let me back up a bit. This all started when the National Archives' Information Security Oversight Office, which was created by an executive order (i.e. a presidential legal fiat) to insure that classified information and documents are properly handled by executive branch agencies.

CNN reported that according to William Leonard, director of the oversight office, Cheney informed them it did not meet the definition of an executive branch agency and therefore was exempt from oversight.

You think that is chutzpah? Try this one on for size: according to the CNN article, Cheney then tried to abolish the oversight committee.

I'm just curious on this one-- since he's not, according to himself, within the executive branch, then under whose authority did he plan on abolishing the agency?

Fortunately, a couple of Democrats have finally gotten bold. First, veteran California congressman Henry Waxman, who is chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, sent a letter to Cheney's office questioning both the "both the legality and wisdom of (Cheney's) actions."

What's better, my congressman, Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) has really called him on this. He's planning to to introduce an amendment to the the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill to cut funding for Cheney's office.

My hero.

Emanuel has suggested that since Cheney does not feel he is within the Executive branch of the government, he should not be recieving funding earmarked for the Executive branch.

I was just talking to my son Adam about this all and explaining it, and he asked the logical question-- what does Cheney have to hide? Why is he avoiding oversight?

Gee, I'm wondering, just who was it that gave the original order to "out" Valarie Plame as a CIA agent when her husband refused to provide false data to support an invasion of Iraq?

You may want to go to Mr. Emanuel's House website and email him a "thank you" for what he's done.

And if your congressperson hasn't done this, you may want to go to the House of Representatives website, find your representative (you can do that by zip code in the upper left corner) and let him or her know how you feel.

And in case other Democrats don't also grow cajones and call Cheney out on this, as a public service I'm forwarding a revised "Branches of Government" chart to reflect the new structure of the U.S. government:

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Fave Raves: Let's Rock Again

A couple of months ago, Barbara recommended the documentary Let's Rock Again to me. As is always the case with her musical recommendations, her cinematic recommendations are right on target as well.

The documentary, made by longtime Clash associate Dick Rude, follows Joe Strummer as he tours with the Mescaleroes, a band he formed after an 11 year period of semi-exile from the music business.

Full disclosure: The Clash were my favorite band ever. Never has a band combined great politics with just being a great band so well.

Throughout the movie, I kept thinking about another documentary, Westway to the World, which was also made by another longtime Clash associate, Don Letts. In Westway to the World, Joe expresses regret that he didn't realize how influential the Clash were-- how many lives they changed.

There's a scene in Let's Rock Again in which Joe goes out to the boardwalk in Atlantic City to stump for the Mescaleroes' gig, handing out hand-printed handbills. He talks about how humbling it has been to play empty rooms at times, and how it's been good for him to go from "hero to zero" as he puts it. In one scene, he sits and talks to some fans and talks about his worries for the sales for the second Mescaleroes album-- the first one had not broken even, and he worries that if the second one does not, the label may not be able to justify keeping the Mescaleroes on their roster.

Strummer clearly appreciated things this time around. In another scene, Joe talks about spending three hours after a show talking to people, signing autographs because, as he says, "Everybody's got a story to tell, and you can't hurry it along, can you?"

The movie is interspersed with live footage of the Mescaleroes playing in Tokyo and New Jersey. There's a couple of very moving montages- young people meeting with Joe after both shows. I would have expected everyone to be in their forties, like me. Instead, most are under 30. I realized that with the Mescaleroes, as with the Clash, Strummer's messages about the problems of the world reached out to people. To quote Joe:

"When you change someone's mind or you change someone's life-- that obviously is a great memory."

Watching the documentary, I realized how great the Mescaleroes were, and how vital Strummer was right to the end.

One last thing haunted me: toward the end of the movie, which was filmed shortly before Strummer's untimely death of a heart defect at the age of 50, Joe encourages people to "go out and buy something weird today"-- not to just take the "things that are shoved to you." You have to go out and find these things; he pointed out that the Rolling Stones formed because Keith Richards saw Mick Jagger holding a blues record-- a record no one else knew about. This was ironic for someone who wrote the lyrics:

Danger stranger
You better paint your face
No Elvis, Beatles, or the Rolling Stones
In 1977

He was complex-- a guy who rips on the Stones, yet holds them up as an example of musical greatness brought out by a couple of guys meeting while stepping out of their comfort zones and finding something new. A guy who was the apothesis of punk, but who described himself as a hippy whose values were formed in 1967. A guy who was idealistic, and wanted to change the world by selling records. A guy who was proud of his past work, but not content to rest on his laurels.

I think that Strummer was wary of The Clash and their material becoming nostalgia fodder. But he was also justifiably proud of how well their music has aged, and how their messages are still important. The Mescaleroes did play some Clash-- quite well, in fact. I chuckled rewatching the movie for this post tonight as they played "London's Burning" from the first Clash album, which came out thirty years ago; my 13 year old son had been playing it on his itunes earlier tonight.

Watching this movie, I had an epiphany. Joe talked about people telling him about how the Clash changed their them and their lives. For me, it was different. The Clash didn't so much change me as make me realize I wasn't alone. There were other people who realized that things weren't right, and that you didn't have to conform. Nearly five years after his death, I realize how badly I-- and the world-- miss Joe Strummer. I've mentioned before, in my post about seeing The Stooges in April, how I realized that when I was with punk rockers, I was in my tribe. Though I never met Strummer, his art reached out to me and gave me faith.

This movie is great-- even if you're not a huge Clash fan, you'd enjoy it. Strummer was a very cool guy.

In Joe's spirit, I'm going to make a request of anyone reading this (if you're inclined). Recommend to me (and anyone else reading) a record or song that is not mainstream, that's really grabbed you.

Friday, June 22, 2007

This Wasn't The First Time He Was A Jerk. What A Surprise...

A few days ago, I posted about the antics of Roy Pearson, a judge who is suing Soo and Jin Chung over the alleged loss of a pair of pants at the cleaners they own-- suing them for $54 million.

In looking up for further developments in the case, I came across an interesting fact: that he acted like an ass in his divorce-- dragging the procedings along, attempting to get spousal support, although he was employed as a lawyer, as was his ex-wife. The judge denied him spousal support, and in fact was so aggravated at Pearson's idiotic antics and unnecessary drawing out of the case that he awarded Pearson's ex-wife $12,000 in legal fees.

Here is the appeal in the Virginia Court of Appeals in which the judges ruled for Pearson's ex-wife:

I guess he figured he didn't come out looking like a big enough jerk the first time. He had to take another crack at it.

Just to remind you, you can donate to the Chungs' legal defense fund at:

We Can Dream, Can't We?

Rumor has it that slugger Ken Griffey, Jr. wants to be traded to the Chicago Cubs.

If any of you in the Chicago Cubs' organization is reading this: if you acquire him, I'll think about forgiving you for trading Michael Barrett.

Can't afford him? No problem-- trade Zambrano. And Kerry Woods. And Mark Prior. Freeing up the salary we're paying that much dead wood should be enough.

"Free At Last" Friday Random 10

Since the school I work at started two weeks late, they're also ending late. But it's here at last-- the end of the school year.

The Beach Boys must have paid attention to me yesterday-- they showed up twice on my Random 10.

1. The Warmth of the Sun- The Beach Boys
2. Star- David Bowie
3. Little Miss Can't Be Wrong- The Spin Doctors
4. Little Deuce Coupe- The Beach Boys
5. Highway 61- The Blasters
6. The Sad Sound of the Wind- Jules Shear
7. Five Feet High and Rising- Johnny Cash
8. Bent- Matchbox 20
9. But Not For Me- Elton John
10. Come Anytime- Hoodoo Gurus

1. I know a lot of people think they're not cool, or whitebread or whatever, but Brian Wilson was an amazing songwriter. And I love those harmonies.
2. From "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars," an album that is 35 years old and still sounds great.
3. "I hope them cigarettes are gonna make you cough/I hope you hear this song, and it pisses you off." This song is hilarious.
4. See #1.
5. Originally on The Blasters' first album, now on their Testament box set.
6. This guy's been around forever-- I saw him open for Peter Gabriel at the Uptown Theater in Chicago in 1980 for Peter Gabriel as "Jules and the Polar Bears."
7. From the great Johnny Cash box set.
8. Whatever happened to these guys?
9. A George and Ira Gershwin song-- this version was in "Four Weddings and a Funeral."
10. A great Australian band from the 1980's.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Eight Random Things

Okay, it's the second-to-last day here at the charter school, and virtually no kids showed up, so I have time to catch up on my tags. Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein tagged me with the "Eight Random Things" meme. Here it is:

1. I have to post these rules before I give you the facts.
2. Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
3. People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
4. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names. (You’re not the boss of me!)
5. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

Okay, here goes:

1. I love the Beach Boys' music. Ya got a problem with that?

2. I have very, very bad handwriting. In First Grade, my teacher, Mrs. Griffith, was exasperated with it. Even as I got to fourth grade, I was being given penmanship books meant for younger kids, to no avail. I took to typing all my correspondance many, many years ago. Even I have trouble reading my writing.

My high school friend Lisa Fox suggested that I may be left-handed, and that nobody had figured it out at some point. She may have been correct, but by high school, it was to late to relearn writing.

3. I can recite the alphabet backwards. When I was about 10 or 11 years old, a friend told me that his mother, who was dyslexic, learned the alphabet backwards as part of therapy. I decided to see if I could do it. I did, and can do it to this day. This has not been a skill I thought would ever come to use, but about five years ago, it got me out of a lot of trouble and infuriated Charleston, Illinois' answer to Barney Fife. I will post about it soon.

4. I was at the last Replacements show on July 4, 1991, in Grant Park in downtown Chicago. So were nearly all my friends, along with something like 75,000 other Chicagoans.

I know-- I'm special.

5. I love anchovies. When I roomed with my old buddy Garrett when he moved back to the US from Europe, we used to order double anchovy pizzas. The pizza place always called back just to make sure it wasn't a prank.

6. I once saw a guy get his eye knocked out of the socket in a bar fight. I blogged about it here. It's one of the reason I avoid such unnecessary physical confrontations. Well, most of them.

7. I love broccoli. I eat it nearly every day of my life. Tomatoes, too. Usually with olive oil or hot sauce on them.

And it turns out that all of those things-- along with coffee, tea and red wine-- are among things I love that are turning out to be good for me.

Oh, and naps, too.

8. I inherited a tendency to look a lot younger than I am from my mother. Up until a couple of years ago, I was still getting carded to buy wine and beer. I'm 46 years old.

When I got a traffic ticket at the age of sixteen, I tried to do an end run around my parents-- I knew my father would get furious. I went to court and was told by the judge to bring a parent the next time. I told my mother, who also thought it would be a good idea to hide it from my father. When we went to court for the ticket, I got another tongue-wagging from the judge, who told me he'd told me to bring a parent, not my older sister. My mother, who was about 35 at that point, did look like she was about 25.

And yes, she's still getting mileage out of that story, thirty years later.

I tag anyone who wants to do the meme.

Catching Up With the Tags

Bubs was kind enough to tag me recently with the Big Dumb Meme, a meme that was started by my close personal friend Deadspot, and has been burning up the blogosphere. I'm hoping that Deadspot doesn't let this go to his head, and become one of those out-of-control celebrities. He won't look pretty in rehab. He'll get in trouble for making fun of Lindsay Lohan.

In any event, I actually did this one already, but fortunately I have had no shortage of dumb statements in my life. I also figure that it's okay to add some dumb things said to friends.

Here's the meme, just to remind you:

"For this meme, I'm going to ask you to answer three (hopefully not dumb) questions: What is the dumbest question you ever been asked? Why was it it dumb? And, even though it won't help, because answering a dumb question never does, what's the answer? (Or, as I like to think of them: The Big Dumb Question, The Big Dumb Reason, and The Big Dumb Answer.)"

The other night at the restaurant, I had a customer ask a question that I get occasionally. He ordered a seafood dish we have.

Big dumb question: "Is it fresh or frozen."
Answer: "Um, frozen."
Reason For Dumbness of the Question: This guy was not young-- about sixty-- and should already know that unless you're paying extortionate prices, if you are ordering nearly any fish in the midwestern United States (i.e. not on either coast) it was definitely frozen. The nearest ocean is over 1,000 miles away. Would you want fish that was caught and served, unfrozen in the interim, a couple of days later? The only "fresh, not frozen" seafood served in the Midwest is flown in at enormous cost. Your dinner wouldn't cost just $14.95 if that were the case.

Bubs pointed out that he tagged me because he assumed that as an educator, I had more than my fair share of dumb questions. He was absolutely correct in that assumption.

Dumb question: "Am I passing your class, Mr. Yen?"
Answer: "Um, no, I, uh, don't think so."
Reason for Dumbness of Question: I only have two grades for you in my gradebook-- the two assignments you copied off of someone the two days you showed up this week, which happened to be the last week of the semester.

One of my favorites was when I was a Teaching Assistant while in grad school-- sometimes I had to teach the State and Local Government class, which fulfilled the Constitution requirement. You could always spot the Business Majors (i.e. the "I don't want to learn anything I don't absolutely have to" majors). I got this one a lot.

Question: "Will that be on the test?"
Answer: "Um, it might be."
Reason for Dumbness of Question: While I can't absolutely guarantee that it will be on the test, the fact that the State of Illinois built a large University out in the middle of the cornfields, spent a lot of money paying professors and teaching assistants, devloping a curriculum, building dorms, plus the fact that you or your parents are paying a bunch of tuition for you to attend this institution-- yeah, I'm guessing that there's a chance someone will want you to show that you actually learned something.

No, I'm kidding. I'm actually up here talking about special districting and its effect on tax structures because I really like talking about it.

My friend Jamie sold his townhouse in Elk Grove Village to a couple some years ago. As they closed in on the sale, Jamie was kindly showing them around the house. He brought one of them to his car to show them the garage door opener. He stated the obvious: "You just sit here and hit the button and it opens or closes."

The woman looked at him with puzzlement and asked "Do you mean you have to be sitting in the car for it to work?"

I don't think any explanation is needed on that one.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Why I Usually Have My Digital Camera With Me Nearly All The Time Now...

Last year, I bought a Canon Powershot SD450 digital camera. It has been one of the best purchases I ever made-- not nearly as good as the $20 I spent on a Matches ad a few years back, of course, but it's been great. I have taken over 3500 pictures since I bought it. It's so small that I can throw it in my pocket or my work bag and carry it everywhere.

After missing a couple of great photo ops, I carry it nearly all the time. Here are a couple from yesterday.

Look at the phone number in the back window. I did not flip the image. I'm trying to figure out if:

A. The guy is trying to sell the car, but only to people who are driving away from him-- they can then see it correctly in the rearview mirror.
B. The guy is trying to sell his car to someone with dyslexia.
C. The guy is trying to sell the car to one of his passengers, who can just turn around and see the number.
D. The guy is just butt stupid.

This was in the parking lot at Costco, at one of the entrances. Notice how far up the car is on the island. All four wheels were up in the air. He had to have been really moving to do this.