Friday, April 29, 2005

There's A Frood Who Knows Where His Towel Is

Twenty-two years ago to the day- back when Wrigley Field wasn't the world's largest frat house and beer garden- former Cubs manager Lee Elia exploded after a loss with a tirade that to this day is still jaw-dropping. The rant was recorded by legendary sportscaster and newsman Les Grobstein on a tape recorder the size of the Manhattan phone book.

With The Cubs seemingly on their way to another season of mediocrity, I present to you the Lee Elia Rant (via Cubs Suck!)

"The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy" comes out today and I'm looking more forward to this than "Star Wars Episode III." Douglas Adams was a genius.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Dig The Renovation Around Here

It was time for a change, really. The old look had "He doesn't know what he's doing" written all over it. This new design fits a bit better.

I'll be changing the links around in the upcoming days, so keep an eye peeled here. You never know what I might endorse.

Whatever it is it sure as hell won't be Republican.

Friday, April 22, 2005

If A Tree Falls In The Forest...

Whitley From Ravenswood recently clued me in to the Chicago Media Monitor. It's main focus is on sports talk, but it also covers happenings in other radio, television, and newspapers/magazines.

Recently the webmaster for the site posted an entry titled, "The Anti-Sox: Greg Couch and Jay Mariotti." The post took Couch to task for a poorly written Sun-Times article on the new emphasis on fundamentals espoused by the White Sox under Ozzie Guillen. Couch, whose writing I admire if Whitle From Ravenswood doesn't, took an imflammatory tone toward what is derisively being labled as the "small ball" approach taken by the Sox. More specific, Couch lifted the doomsaying tone of Mariotti.

Shortly thereafter, both columnists e-mailed the webmaster. Couch took his time and wrote a thoughtful e-mail to the webmaster defending his position on the Sunday article. After reading the e-mail, the webmaster offered a public apology on the site.

Mariotti's e-mail was, well, what one familiar with Jay Mariotti would expect. To wit:

"I'm a journalist. You guys are fans. Therefore, I have
credibility and you don't. So why are you writing for
something called a media monitor when you aren't a credible
media person?"

I got to thinking- after my initial reaction of "what an asshole"- what would constitute being a journalist. I wrote for my high school paper and freelance as a music journalist, so I thought I have some expertise on the matter.

A journalist is someone who does research, investigation, checks his facts, and interviews his subjects in order to write an informative story free of bias and personal influence. By this definition Jay Mariotti is not a "journalist." If Mariotti's definition of being a journalist ius that he's published in a newspaper, then Debra Pickett, Paige Wiser, Neil Steinberg, and Richard Roeper are "journalists", as well.

While most of them have journalism experience, they are all "columnists": they all offer their unique perspectives and insight- preferably witty- on the current events of the day, without putting themselves ahead of the story. The Sun-Times' official byline for Mariotti is "sports columnist." Ergo, Mariotti is supposed to offer his own unique perspectives and witty insight on the major sports stories of the day.

Sun-Times readers familiar with Mariotti understand that he quite often he doesn't even meet that definition. Alas, Mariotti is the Bob Greene of local sports columnists, drawing ink-stained water from the same thematic wells long past the point the wells ran dry. Unilke the Baby Richard-era Bob Greene, Mariotti rotates his themes so as not to appear stale and preachy. Mondays can be the day he bitches about the state of baseball: locally or on the national stage. Tuesday he's screaming from his bully pulpit about the evil incarnate of Jerry Reinsdorf. Wednesday it can be an "I told you so" piece about the frugal nature of the Chicago Bears. Thursdays he's complaining that the Illinois basketball team hasn't faced top competition. It's a "lather/rinse/repeat" work ethic applied to newspaper work. There's also speculated self-plagiarism- his annual weigh-ins of Lance Armstrong's Tour de France triumphs immediately come to mind. I distinctly remember the 2002 and 2003 "Go Lance" columns being the same- down to the chants of "dopa"- except for the years.

All the while the focus of the column is Jay Mariotti: middle aged man in tune with the bling bling, "Sportscenter" mentality of today's athlete and defender of the modern sports fan. The answer to all the ills of professional sport in Jay's world is simple: spend money on the product indiscriminately. Throw shit against the wall until something sticks. Most of the time Jay comes across like a middle aged midwestern man trying to explain sex to his eldest son, who just discovered Mommy's "massager" and Dad's treasured cache of Black Tail.

I read Mariotti's columns every day; they're unavoidable, like not turning my head from the grisly bike accident I witnessed at 16th and State Wednesday. It's a momentary distraction to the heartier fare written by Rick Telander- one of the greatest sportswriters of the past fifty years-, Greg Couch, Carol Slezak, and John Jackson. Couch's wonderful expose two years ago on Wrigley Field Premium Ticket Services, a company set up by the Cubs to scalp their own tickets, falls under the definition of being a journalist. Any course on great sportswriting should have Telander's "Heaven Is A Playground" as required reading. These are good journalists and sports columnists: writers who thoughtfully consider their responses when criticized. Mariotti has a reputation as a envious hothead, as evidenced by his long-standig feuds with Jerry Reinsdorf and Sox announcer Hawk Harrelson and his transparent desire to out-Telander Telander: decades before Mariotti was one of the screamers on ESPN's "Around the Horn" Telander was holding court on "The Sportswriters on TV" with Ben Gleason, Bill Jauss, and Ben Bentley

I have a question for Jay Mariotti. To paraphrase his own words: Why are you writing for a respected major metropolitan newspaper when you aren't a credible journalist?

Thursday, April 21, 2005

A Cowboy Riding on A Steel Horse

To paraphrase an old "Hee Haw" skit, "It's been an exasperating week."

I hosted a small get-together at my apartment last weekend. I say small because only a handful of people who confirmed to show up on the evite actually did. Anyway, I tend to over-prepare for these things. So the full menu of salmon horseradish mousse, spinach garlic dip with vegetables and pita, coconut shrimp, strawberries and cream, and roast beef and green onion appetizers was pared down to the mousse, dip/veggies/pita, and roast beef.

Of the twenty-or-so folks who did show up we managed to drink half of the half barrel of Bells Oberon I bought for the party. So it's nice to know that even though we're getting older, my friends can still tear into some free beer.

Monday Night at HotHouse the popular South African singer/guitarist Vusi Mahlasela performed. I missed the last time he was in town; all accounts from people were that he tore the house down. So I was glad to be behind the bar for this one.

The show was amazing; Mahlasela has a beautiul tenor, a clean guitar tone, and his presence on stage kept everyone's attention. However, his singing- if not his songs themselves- were touched with an undercurrent of sadness. Mahlasela has been on the road for the past three months touring solo. His life has been and endless succession of strange hotels, antiseptic airports, and one-off gigs in clubs like HotHouse. The toll of being so far away from home and family are hard for even the strongest of us to bear.

It's one of the economic realities of being a touring musician in America. If he were touring Europe or Africa Mahlasela could command the performance fees necessary to front his full band. But here he has to pare it down in order to make some money. After the concert he came up to me, shook my hand, and offered an apology for "keeping (me) here so late." I assured him that he owed no one any apologies for doing what he loves. I wished that we had started the concert later so people could stay and see him.

Back to the party Saturday: I enjoyed putting it together so much I want to do one in a couple months where we really do get to screen a movie like I originally planned. I have this weekend off so I have plenty of time to rake and clean the backyard. Anything to get Emmy out of the house.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Are All The Dalmations Here Overweight And Fed Table Scraps?

While taking my dog for a leisurely stroll through McGuane Park last night we came across another dalmation struggling with the excess weight that comes from being fed table scraps all day. Ths time the dalmation was being walked by a middle-aged momma's boy with a hairlip and a lisp.


As I trust Emmy she was without a leash and, being a curious dog, trotted to the dalmation; the dogs were separated by the wrought iron fence that surrounds the park's perimeter. After some good natured sniffing and tail-wagging the dogs bared their teeth and started to mark territory. I called Emmy to my side to see if she was alright. Her tail was wagging furiously- she had eveidently enjoyed the encounter.

So did the dalmation, who couldn't stop barking and whose tail was also wagging manically. That was when the momma's boy yanked the leash taut and smacked the dalmation hard on the side.the dalmation cowered and limped away from the fence.

Taken aback I snapped, "Hey! They were just playing." I said.

Momma's Boy adjusted his glasses on his greasy head and said, "Itth'th all phunn and gameth until thomeone maketh blood."

Maketh blood?

Meanwhile I'm thinking that his dalmation is so sedated by table scraps and its own morbid obesity that it's a wonder she could keep up with emmy for the brief time they did bark at each other.

Someone needs to call an intervention to dalmation owners in Bridgeport to shock them into understanding that having an overweight dog is not cool.

I Now Follow A Jewish Harmonica Player

The main reason I bought tickets to Friday Night's Bob Dylan show was that Merle Haggard would be playing. And he did not disappoint. What Michelle and I managed to see of Amos Lee impressed, as well.

But I was blown away by Dylan.

Seriously blown away.

I assumed that Bob would put together a band of players who would do serviceable interpretations of his catalog. What I did not expect was to be rocked from opening note to final curtain. His band had a masterful grasp on multiple American music stylings- blues, folk, jazz, country, hard rock, and Western Swing. When it was over I had a shit-eating grin on my face the entire train ride home. Simply amazing.

I still can't succinctly place what I heard Friday night into words. The closest I think I will come is this: if you want a crash course on late- 20th Century American popular Music, go see Bob Dylan. He'll catch you up in about ninety minutes.

I think he caught Michelle up so much that I hope she does herself a favor and catches Oscar Brown, Jr. at the Hideout this evening.