Thursday, September 30, 2004

Stoner Conversations For Non-Stoners

Some of the deep thinking happening at work these days:

If a practicing Jew is bitten by and becomes a vampire, do crucifixes affect him? Or would be in the best interest of a vampire hunter to carry a star of David, as well?

What if the sired vampire were a practicing Muslim? Seeing as how Muslims consider Allah to be a moon god, that would mean that the moon is good to a vampires' inherent evil nature. So can a Muslim vampire only feed during waning moons and turn to dust if exposed to a full moon?

What if the vampire in question were a polytheist, like a Hindu or Buddhist? What religious icons would affect them? Do they feed based on the caste system?

Finally, what if the vampire in question were an atheist in life? I would think that they would be the most powerful vampires because they were non-believers and even if they were proven wrong they might be stubborn in their insistence that God and Satan don't exist and would kill and feed indiscriminately anyway.

I wonder if Jack Handy ever wondered about this?

John Kerry Should Play Dirty Pool Starting This Evening:

If John Kerry even wants to come within sniffing distance of the Presidency he needs to place the President's testicles in a kung-fu grip starting this evening with the debate. Sources within the Kerry camp say that he's viewing Bush as the most challenging debater in his professional career.

It's a wise train of thought: ten years ago experts thought Bush had no chance in his Texas gubernatorial debates against then-incumbent Ann Richards. Bush's folksy populism and monomaniacal sticking to message throughout the debate more that negated Richards' wit and ability to think on her feet.

Bush's main attribute as a debater is his ability to lower expectations. We know the basics- he was an average student at Yale and Harvard Business School; he has no intellectual curiosity whatsoever; he's dogmatic in his belief that his policies are the right policies for America. Those perceptions hide a shrewd mind and a restless perfectionist who will have practiced his debate style to a high gloss by the time they take the stage this evening. People expect Bush to be a stammering idiot. Hopefully Kerry is able to put Bush on the defensive at some point during the debate.

If he doesn't, the South will have indeed risen again.

But I'm Talking About- SHUT YOUR MOUTH:

This essay I found through Salon absolutely frightens me. It also hits close to home as a veteran of the first Gulf War. The author- a 20 year Army veteran- is now facing charges of "disloyalty to the armed forces during time of war" and a 20-year prison term for speaking out.

All commissioned and non-commissioned officers take the same oath to "protect, uphold, and defend the Constitution of the United States." I took that oath seriously when I was in uniform, to the point of speaking my mind whenever I didn't agree with an order. My first four years of service it was actually encouraged.

The men and women of the armed forces largely cede their rights under the Constitution in order to protect it. However, there is still some protection, and this is a free speech issue. And never let it be said that you cannot speak your mind. That is the first tenet of a democracy.

Liquor In The Front...

Tuesday I attended a wine and liquor show at Navy Pier, mainly to re-establish contact with liquor company marketing reps I had met over the past year, planting seeds for doing some partnerships at work next year. It was an such an expansive show that I could not adequately hit all the wine tables during the show's four-hour time frame. Still, after spending the first ninety minutes accomplishing my main objective, I tore into the wine tables with a vengeance.

The wine companies alone took up the entire grand ballroom, while the spirits companies had their own separate roomoutside the ballroom. There was a noticeable difference in atmosphere between the two rooms. The wine exhibition was more elegant and subdued. A jazz combo played safe selections in the background as vendors peppered customers with discussions of their respective wine's characteristics that fell somewhere between poetry and pretension:

"You'll notice that this wine is made from the Italian insolia grape, which is a clean tasting, well-rounded grape with a subtle finish like the end of a peaceful dream."

This went on at every table. Customers were handed a notebook containing the list of wine vendors, their selections, and a notes section to jot down a particular wine's favorable characteristics. I was only able to hit a fraction of the over one hundred tables present in the time I had, but I gave it the standard college try. Within minutes of finishing my business I had settled into a routine of wine inspection that followed the "lather, rinse, repeat" method- inspect color and legs, check nose, sample palate, spit and savor finish, repeat. By the time I left Navy Pier my mouth felt like I licked an acre of heavy shag carpet, but I felt like I had visited and been kicked out of Eden.

Contrast that to the spirits room, where the atmosphere was one of arrested development. House music blaring in the background, I felt like I was trapped in a neverland of hot waitresses and club drugs:

"If you mix a splash of ornage juice in this you won't even know you're drinking tequila!! Hee hee!"

The spirit distributors were forcing the mix of sex and liquor down our throats, emphasizing that if Absolut Raspberri was prominently displayed at a bar it would make you virile, popular, and rich. Jameson's and ginger ale was being toted about as an aphrodisiac, and the skirt on the trade show model carting around Bushmill's Irish Cream seemed to get shorter as the day progressed.

I made my way home around seven that night with some takeout from Gio's on 28th and Lowe. It was Chicken Marsala. This time I savored the wine.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Radnom Thought on The Weekend: Is Chicago a "Coast City?"

And if so, which coast?

- I biked to Ping Tom Memorial Park in Chinatown Friday Night to see Redmoon Theater's latest production "Sink, Sank, Sunk" and was absolutely blown away. I don't think any words I can write would adequately describe what I saw, so I'll let this review from Hedy Weiss in today's Sun-Times do the talking instead. Ignoring her comparing of the park's pagoda as a stand-in for the Summer Palace of Beijing (such hyperbole) she nails everything that was beyond sweet about the play, especially the flaming curtain of stars at the end that was hanging off the 18th Street Bridge.

- The Hideout Block Party was a blast on Saturday. I think half of my Friendster list was in attendance. Actually that isn't such a surprise; half of that half was playing on stage that day. It was my first chance to see Manishevitz and Baby Teeth in action, and they didn't disappoint. My unrequited lover Kelly Hogan and the Wooden Leg had a small warm-up for their two night recording stand at the Hideout later this week. Lots of beer was consumed, but it was Goose Island "312 Urban Wheat ale" and done so in moderation.

- I had a doppelganger working the Goose Island table Saturday. If I wore a mustache and carried thirty more pounds we could have been twins. I had my doubts when told of the doppelganger until someone from Goose Island walked up to me asking for a keg of Honker's Ale for backstage, then looked at me and realized she wanted the doppelganger. Fucking surreal.

- Later in the evening, while crowdwatching, a friend of mine and I spotted a girl wearing a threadbare t-shirt, no bra, and her nipple piercings were evident from under the t-shirt. This is the conversation that followed:

Him: "Man, there's just no modesty these days among the hipsters."

Me: "You know. I wonder if we could hang refrigerator magnets on her nipples."

Him: "You think so?"

Me: "Why not? Those piercings are probably made of surgical steel. A magnet should stick to them."

Him: "We could just toss small round magnets at her breasts from here and see if they stick. Like Batman tosses a tracer at a getaway car."

Me: "Or get a small horseshoe magnet and draw her boobies forward from her body."

Him: "That's sick."

Me: "We could get some iron shavings and use her chest as a Woolly Willy."

And that's when I had to talk myself from walking to Home Depot to buy some magnets.

- Anyone who's been to the Hideout has seen Joe Foster. You may not know the name, but you recognize the face. A big older gentleman in his mid-fifties, Joe has been a bouncer for decades. Joe was the one who taught a young Mr. T how to handle himself as a doorman when Mr. T was just a loud, crazy black man with a mohawk. Anyhoo, Joe is also evidence that it's who you know that matters. I walked up to him Saturday just to say hello and within seconds had access to both the VIP garden and backstage. That must've gotten Joe started because within an hour I saw way more yellow "VIP" wristbands than had been originally intended floating around and Joe was relieved of his doorman duties. It was pretty sweet.

- Hipsters never age, even as we do. They also seem to never bathe, are notoriously cheap, and wear thrift store clothing off the rack. Someone recently suggested to me that HotHouse should market itself to "the hipster audience." I disagreed, saying that we need to attract the poseurs instead. They're more than willing to shell out some cash to be seen at all the homogenized "in" spots around town.

Those are the types of people who are going to spend four dollars on a Miller Lite.

- I'd like to get a couple of people together and create a column that dissects the writing of the Sun-Times' Jay Mariotti for the lazy, hastily composed drivel that it truly is. I'd like to do in the same manner that Neil Steinberg used to poke fun at Bob Greene all those years ago in the Reader. For over a year "Bob Watch" was required reading.

- Also required reading in the pages of the Reader these days: Liz Armstrong's "Chicago Antisocial" column. It's one of the new tweaks of their new redesign and is quickly becoming a guilty pleasure. She turns her poison pen on both hipsters and poseurs with equal venom, and the results are amazing. It's similar in tone to Tricia Romano's "Fly Life" column in the Village Voice. Armstrong's skewering of the Vacant fashion line in last week's column was particulary memorable.

- Overall, I enjoy the Reader's redesign. They've added minor tweaks while preserving the familiar layout of the paper. It wasn't a drastic redesign like Newcity's a few years back, which seemed to throw out all the rules of newpaper layout and many of the rules of good writing. One of the masterstrokes is placing Michael Miner's "Hot Type" column and "The Straight Dope" on the same two page layout. Now I no longer pass up Cecil adams to get to my journalism gossip.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Simon Says: "Cross This Intersection Now!"

So I was biking into downtown yesterday heading to work. Before that I was taking care of some personal matters which took me away from my normal route through Chinatown. So I found myself in rush-hour Halsted Street traffic trying to negotiate trucks and road rage.

I turned on Harrison and was timing the trafic lights perfectly until I reached State Street. While waiting for the signal to proceed I took a glance at the crosswalk sign. I was shocked at what I saw.

These crosswalk signs have countdown timers now. At seven seconds before the light turns red pedestrians now get a five second countdown, then the big orange hand stops flashing when the light turns yellow, giving cars wanting to make left turns two seconds to do so. My first thought after, "Oh, that's neat" and "Should make the intersection safer with the new dorm building open for students" was how Orwellian the sign felt. It's as though you're being given five seconds to cross the intersection before you're left behind with "the terrorists."

I then spent the next half-hour with George Bush's voice in my head telling me that "the terrorists hate our freedom." Of course he coouldn't pronounce "Terrorists" correctly; it came out sounding like "turrists." He tends to have trouble pronouncing words with more than three syllables. For that matter, so do most neo-conservative hawks. But I'm off point now.

This countdown timer also chafes me as condescending. I don't like to be told to do anything, especially when I'm reminded to do so and I already know that someting needs doing. Besides, pedestrians have the right of way on a green light. I'm not one of those assholes who waits until the caution light flares up to cross Congress Parkway, but I will take my time if I started on the green.

After this, what will be next? Will we have nice soothing tones telling us to slow down and come to a halt as the light is turning red?

Saturday, September 11, 2004

It's like Rip Van Winkle, really.

First things first:

The Jukebox: Van Halen (the Sammy Hagar version): "Runaround."

Reading: The Land Where The Blues Began by Alan Lomax

It's been an eventful two weeks to cap off a surreal summer. I was added last-minute to attend a sponsorship seminar for work last week. The seminar confrimed my suspicions that our approach to selling marketing sponsorships is completely bass-ackwards. Still, I'm nothing if not plucky, and this festival we've booked in November seriously needs something to relieve the costs, so I've been a phone-call-making fool the past week. It's also nice to have the seminar under my belt as it's another resume point for prospective employers.

I've been keeping my apartment tidy the past week. My old roommate Sue came by with an impromptu breakfast as a bribe to watch her dog while she went camping over Labor Day. As she sat on the filthy carpet in my living room I felt so embarrassed that I could keep my apartment in this condition. So after she left I went into Catholic guilt mode and cleaned the entire apartment. It's been spotless ever since. The cleaning finally forced me to address the situation of my butcher block. I picked it up at a small hardware store for a song a few months back and sanded it down to the natural grain with the intention of turning it into a table. I shelved that idea since I discovered how much hardware stores were charging to fabricate legs for the table. So it's been laid up in my kitchen oiled and ready for use or legs ever since. I've finally decided to buy a small island table for my kitchen and cut the butcher block into smaller cutting boards. That way it won't be a waste of good butcher block.

The major change in my life I'm still not ready to write about; I want to make certain that I tell all my friends personally before posting it here for someone who came across this via Google to read. I will say that it brings my life full circle to a place where I expected to be at this point in my life. Those people I have told have been very supportive and for that I thank them dearly. I guess that I'm at a point in my life emotionally and mentally to tackle what's ahead and hopefully those friends of mine who are having life issues of their own can look to me as a positive example for themselves.

And no, I didn't accept Jesus as my saviour again.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Random Thoughts From Tuesday Night's RNC

Yeah, I watched it. I had to kill some time before the season premiere of "Scrubs" aired, and "One Tree Hill" was a re-run. Boy, is that Chad Michael Murray a little wooden boy or what?

I like the disingenious strategy of using powerful, moderate-leaning speakers (Guiliani, McCain, Schwartzenegger) to try to pull the focus away from the radical conservatives who've hijakced the GOP for thirty years and towards its more moderate-leaning rank-and-file, effectively showcasing Dubya as "one of them." The center of the strategy was the Gubernator's keynote speech Tuesday night. Arnold Schwartzenegger's speech was a tour de force that didn't mention the emphasized the immigrant dream of America as the Land of Opportunity, offered a real-life example of that dream to minorities and immigrants, and fried off enough high-wattage celebrity bling bling that it made for a perfect counter to Barack Obama's keynote address in Boston at the Dem's convention last month. Too bad that every time Governor Schwartzenegger paused for applause the cameras (at least those of PBS) panned to some intolerant hayseed with muttonchops in the audience who was probably thinking, "Hey! Why is Conan the Barbarian up there?" Schwartzenegger's truly sincere speech was blunted by the unintentional irony of the crowd to whom he was speaking.

Laura Bush's speech also was intended to soften the President's image in the eyes of viewers and undecided voters across the country. The First Lady effectively cast her husband as a "common man" and "compassionate", with enough real-life examples of people they've met in the past four years to force the image home. I had a hard time taking my focus away from Laura Bush's eyes. It could be her makeup, but they slant upward like a feline. I get the assumption that, much like her mother-in-law, she's the one member in her household you don't want to piss off with cheap shots of her family.

Speaking of which, I couldn't pass this up. Sandwiched between Governor Schwartzenegger and the First Lady were the Bush twins. This was done to cater to the horny frat boys and also to lower the bar for Laura Bush's speech. Personally I don't think that whoever wrote this speech expected the twins to dig such a deep hole for their mother, but that's what happens when you throw two novices out there.

They achieved both of those goals. The following is a transcript of the Bush Twins address with my thoughts in red. Their goal was to introduce the President, who was addressing the convention via satellite from the campaign trail and stared at the camera like a doofus the entire time. Credit for the transcript goes to to e-media and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer for the transcript:

JENNA BUSH: It's great to be here. We love Arnold. Isn't he awesome?

I bet he’d be totally down for some Irish Car Bombs at Beauty Bar!!

Thanks to him, if one of us ever decides to marry a Democrat from the Kennedy family who's also filthy rich, nobody can complain, except maybe our grandmother, Barbara. And if she doesn't like it, we can wait till she’s dead would definitely hear about it.

We already know she doesn't like some of our clothes, our music, or most of the TV shows we watch.
Gammie, we love you dearly, but you're just not very hip.

I question the hipness quotient of calling your grandmother “Gammie.”

She thinks "Sex and the City" is something married people do, but never talk about.

What did she just say about “Gammie” not being “hip?”

We spent the last four years trying to stay out of the spotlight. Sometimes (translation: “When we were sober.”), we did a little better job than others.

We kept trying to explain to my dad that when we are young and irresponsible as he was well into his thirties, well, we're young and irresponsible and the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

BARBARA BUSH: Jenna and I are really not very bright? political, but we love our dad too much to stand back and watch from the sidelines. Besides, we’re easier on the eyes than Dad and don’t have that clueless look in his eyes. We realized that this would be his last campaign, and we were shoehorned into helping out wanted to be a part of it. Besides, since we've graduated from college, we're looking around for something to do for the next few years. Like get into all the cool clubs in Manhattan without a fake i.d. Kind of like dad.

JENNA: Our parents have always encouraged us to use the family name at every possible convenience be independent and dream big. We've spent a lot of time at Mexican-themed bars drinking $3 margarita pitchers when not at the White House, so when we showed up the first day my mouth tasted like a chimney, we thought we had it all figured out. But apparently my dad already has a chief of staff, named Andy.

BARBARA: When your dad's a Republican and you go to Yale, you learn you’re in with the in crowd to stand up for yourself. I knew I wasn't quite ready to be president, but number two sounded pretty good especially with the poached eggs and English muffin. Who is this man they call Dick Cheney and why is he talking down to my dad if my dad’s the President?

JENNA: I think I know a lot about campaigns because I’ve worn down the will of many a bouncer. After all, my grandfather and my dad have both run for president although my dad didn’t really win, so I put myself in charge of strategy and drinking games. Then I got an angry call from some guy named Karl.

BARBARA: We knew we had something to offer. I mean, we've traveled the world; we've studied abroad. But when we started coming home with foreign policy advise and bruises on our legs, Dad made us call Condi, his other wife.

JENNA: Not to be deterred big ups for using the large word there, we thought surely there's a place for strong willed, opinionated women in communications if not the Republican Party. And next thing we know, Karen's back.

BARBARA: So we decided the best thing we could do here tonight would be to introduce somebody we know and love and not embarrass the family with tacky clothing, bad jokes, and sleepwalking through a speech on national television. Oops!

JENNA: You know all those times when you're growing up and your parents embarrass you? Well, this is payback time on live TV. You ain’t kidding, sweetheart!

BARBARA: Take this. I know it's hard to believe, but our parents' favorite term of endearment for each other is actually Bushy. Wow! Dubya and Laura like the “untamed prairie” look. And we had a hamster, too. Let's just say ours didn't make it. And they’re into kinky sex play. Eeewww!

JENNA: But, contrary to what you might read in the papers, our parents are actually kind of cool. Just ask Gammie. They do know the difference between mono and Bono, since I was sick with mono a lot from all those high school makeout parties. When we tell them we're going to see Outkast, they know it's a band and not a bunch of misfits but we don’t tell them they’re colored people. And if we really beg them, they'll even shake it like a Polaroid picture. I don’t even want to entertain the vision of George Bush shaking it like a Polaroid picture. Although I could see Laura Bush being more of a Big Boi fan than Andre 3000.

BARBARA: So, OK, maybe they have learned a little pop culture from us but not much- we are Texans, after all, but we've learned a lot more from them about what matters in life, about unconditional love, about focus and discipline. And this speech could have sorely used more focus and discipline. They taught us the importance of a good sense of humor, of being open-minded and treating everyone with respect.
And we learned the true value of honesty and integrity. And how it’s all bullshit.

JENNA: When you grow up as the daughters of George and Laura Bush, you develop a special appreciation for how blessed we are ain’t that the truth to live in this great country. We are so proud to be here tonight to introduce someone who read us bedtime stories because they were within his reading level, picked us up in car pool and gave us our first beer, made us our favorite peanut butter and jelly sandwiches because he wasn’t trusted with sharp objects around the house and cheered for us when we scored a goal, even when it was for the wrong team. And this speech could have people lining up to register as Democrats.

BARBARA: Someone who told us we actually looked cute in braces, always welcomed our friends with pony kegs and was there waiting when we came home at curfew to show us the proper way to sneak in the house so we didn’t wake up Mom.

JENNA: Ladies and gentlemen, one of the two most loving, thoughtful people we know. Is Carrie Bradshaw here? OMG, OMG!! This is so unbelievable!!

BARBARA: Your president- the Supreme Court said so; neener neener- and our dad, George W. Bush.