Monday, July 30, 2007

Little George Michael Bluth Grows Up

I still miss "Arrested Development" long after it went off the air. It looks like the one cast member who really learned lessons from the show was Michael Cera, who played the awkward, pining-for-his-cousin-in-a-Biblical-way George Michael Bluth.

So, if you haven't watched any of the webisodes of "Clark and Michael" do so. They're seven-to-eleven minutes of pure genius. Watch it only to hear Cera say, while working out, "my body is a tomb."

Then there's this video Cera made last year:

Which is a parody of this real video, sent to an investment banking firm by an ambitious young man as part of a resume. The guy later was revealed to be a major fraud, and a douche:

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Weekend Checklist

La Justicia Negativa
Originally uploaded by bridgeportseasoning.

- Visit Bronzeville Farmers Market (I went where the city's website said it was supposed to be. Apparently Dunbar High School didn't know they were the host.)

- See "The Simpsons Movie" check

- Visit Fiesta del Sol (This evening)

- Prune tomato plants landlord planted, allowing sun to reach dill weed, cilantro, thyme, oregano, and parsley check

- Cut fresh basil I planted, allowing sun to hit the rosemary behind it check, and the kitchen smells so sweet right now.

- Work on rough drafts of this week's planned Chicagoist posts so I can focus on job hunt check

- Finish story for Time Out Chicago ahead of deadline check

- Create list of pitches for Time Out Chicago, Sun-Times, and other possible freelance opportunities check

- Polish resumes check

- Ride fifteen miles on bicycle Actually, I knocked out thirty yesterday. Most of it on Archer, which requires that one puts the thought of death out of his mind.

- Get haircut. (Tuesday)

- Send clips to Mom for her scrapbook (Tomorrow. We always procrastinate with our parents, don't we?)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Green Thumb

Tomatoes, July 2K7
Originally uploaded by bridgeportseasoning.

So around Memorial Day I decided to put the landlord's planters boxes in the backyard to good use, but planting an herb garden, tomatoes, and peppers. Here is the initial results of the tomatoes. I'll be chronicling the gardening experience at Chicagoist for anyone who wants to keep track.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Apparently, It Comes in Waves

The Old Style Sign at Margie's Pub
Originally uploaded by bridgeportseasoning.

Hot on the heels of seeing my work in print in the Sun-Times comes Time Out Chicago's "dive bar" issue.

I'm all over that issue, as well. Check out the cheap beer chart, which shows that I don't just know my highbrow brews.

Overall, it's been a week of major highs and lows. But isn't that life itself?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

"Write About What You Know"

Black Orchid
Originally uploaded by bridgeportseasoning.

So I did. NOw it's your turn to go out and buy a copy of the Sun-Times today, or just read my article on summer beers here.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Make Sexy Time in France

Most of you know that I'm an avid cyclist, so it's no surprise I'm keeping up with the Tour de France and wondering if this year's winner will get stripped for doping.

Then you have moments like this that make it all worthwhile.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Now It's Hitting Me

Originally uploaded by bridgeportseasoning.

Last night's show with Zohar (featuring Erran Baron Cohen) was a great way to close out this chapter of HotHouse, and proved again that it's about the music, stupid. I also gave a little speech to that extent distilling the better passages of what I wrote here yesterday for public consumption, which was received with a mixed reception; there were some pro-Marguerite types in the audience who didn't appreciate some of my words. It's been a year, and I can't fathom the levels of hostility and emotion I feel from others when her name is mentioned. I know that she founded the place and all, but a sign of a good leader is that he or she leaves his charge in a position to succeed after him. and that didn't happen. I've been trying to be the shepherd recently, both at HH and at Chicagoist, and not lash out when incited. But it's hard. And when people started cheering her name last night, all I could think of is how they would react if I stopped the speech and asked them if they had to choose between paying rent and bills or eating over the winter, like some I know had. Would they cheer then?

This morning, it's all about recovery, as the unofficial staff goings away celebrations started last night. I should do laundry, browse job postings on Craigslist and mediabistro, and clean the house. And I probably will. But right now, I just want to breathe. This is my first unplanned Monday night off in close to eight years. I knew that most every Monday I had a standing date with Yoko Noge, one of the most genuine, lovely people to bless my life. That will be missed. Dearly.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Your Memory May Not Keep Me Warm, But It Never Leaves Me Cold

MH and Studs
Originally uploaded by bridgeportseasoning.

In a few hours, my professional obligations to HotHouse will be, for all intents and purposes, finished. Beginning tomorrow I tie up loose ends: bar equipment needs to be inventoried and packed, remaining liquor and supply bills need to be paid, and goodbyes (for now) are said to people I've come to love and respect over the years. My resumes are completed and ready to be dropped like ticker tape all around the city. And I'll be looking to maintain the momentum of new career options and revenue streams that I've worked months to develop.

Right now, though, the only thing I feel is a slight disgust - especially after the actions of some people last Monday night - with how the recent events at HotHouse came to pass, something out of my control that I long resigned myself to witnessing. It was a string of missteps, miscalculations, and errors in judgment.

When people ask me why I stayed at HotHouse for as long as I have, I've always answered (truthfully) that I believe in what the place stands for, even if I didn't necessarily agree with how certain individuals went about achieving those goals. In eight years at HotHouse I've witnessed artists play to adoring crowds leave with a pittance of the door proceeds, their signed contracts either renegotiated on the spot or reneged on; grant money intended for programming go to cover capital expenses; influential people in the arts and business communities given the cold shoulder; questionable accounting practices; bounced checks to vendors, artists, and employees; secrecy over the books; and an almost perverse, hubristic sense of self-entitlement by one person and a close cadre of friends and associates because that one person had the idea to create HotHouse. But I still believe that HotHouse can act as an agent for progressive politics, social justice, fostering positive change, and celebrating the good of humanity through music, culture, and the arts.

Between Marguerite Horberg and the current board of directors, there's more than enough blame to be shared in HotHouse's impending itinerant status. Caught in the middle of the sniping and pointed attacks was the staff that dutifully stayed behind to carry on and try to make something good out of the situation, and mostly because we all believed what I previously wrote about the organization's mission. Once a business manager was hired and started weeding through the tumbleweed that is the HotHouse financials, the gravity of how in the dark Marguerite kept us in the dark regarding the true financial health of the organization chilled us to the bone. Still, we believed that we could right the ship, with crafty booking and increased special events and private rentals. But the hole was too deep for us to lay the groundwork. The full-time office staff stayed until they were told with a nonchalant "sorry, but we're gonna have to lay you off" by the outgoing board president at Christmastime. The rest of us soldiered on in the subsequent, uncertain weeks, unsure if we would make it out of the winter. Many of us, including yours truly, went for months choosing which bills to pay in order to stay afloat. Some of us volunteered our time at HotHouse even after being laid off. None of us lost contact or completely dropped out of sight. We all still chipped in where we could to try to help the organization

It's a small victory that the place stayed open just over a year after Marguerite was removed, which showed to us that it wasn't simply about one person, but the music and mission. Marguerite may have founded the place and been its most visible presence, but its growth and successes were through the hard work and sacrifices of the scores of workers, board members, volunteers, and audiences who passed through the doors over the years. Through the bitter end, the audience has stayed, showing up whenever they know about a show.

The building changed ownership a few months ago, and the desire for the new owner to bring in a tenant who could pay fair market commercial rental value for the space certainly hastened the closing. It's quite possible that Marguerite would have gladly accepted her redefined role in HotHouse overseeing the artistic vision and fundraising, the board would have hired a business manager to keep track of the financials, and this closing still would have happened. It isn't the first time HotHouse has found itself as an itinerant organization, hopefully it will be the last.

Every day that HotHouse exists as an itinerant organization is a day that the cultural fabric of this city suffers. Every moment of energy spent by the board of directors refuting attacks in the media by Marguerite and her small but vocal cult of personality is energy that is better served raising the capital for a new home, or to re-establish ties to the city's arts and music communities, donors and endowments. People who care, truly care, about seeing HotHouse survive need to hold the board of directors to their word that a new home will be found, and soon. Still seething with anger at her ouster, Marguerite is raising funds for a new organization, Partisan Arts International. I think there's room in the city for both, and don't see why both can't coexist, even as rivals.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Same Old Same Old

Yeah, I know. Every time I get on a roll here, something pops up. Now that the news that HotHouse is "relocating" is officially out in the open - among people I knew it was one of the worst kept secrets around - other opportunities have arisen.

On New Year's Day I wrote that this was going to be the "year of the Squeaky Wheel." I call it that because, at the time, I was unsure how much longer HotHouse would stay open. Back in January it was conceivable that the place wouldn't be open past February. It made it past that, thankfully, and just when it seemed as though a corner had been turned, the dead end came out of nowhere. It's ironic that, with all the back-and-forth between Marguerite Horberg and the board (and there's more to all that that I'd love to write about, but because I'm finishing my professional obligations to HotHouse I'll stay quiet for now), the decision to relocate was ultimately made by a property owner who wants to make fair market value on the property. I find it hard to fault anyone for that, although it comes at the expense of an institution that I hold very dear.

However, when one door closes, another opens. In my case, a few may have opened. If you check out the blogroll, you'll see that I've added Centerstage as a place where I write. I always wanted to write, it's just that I didn't always want to be paid for the privilege. Increasing my freelance writing opportunities was a goal I set for myself in the year of the Squeaky Wheel. As the news about HotHouse started to spread, some real good opportunities arose that I don't want to pass by. Good opportunities.

I'm also realizing that all those years of experience behind and running a bar are good resume points. I don't look at tending bar as a bad way to earn a living; it's actually a noble profession. When you become a bar buyer, or a beverage manager, you gain practical experience that can transfer to a career in sales, marketing, or other management opportunities.

I haven't been without a job in eight years. The last time I lost a job, I didn't know how to handle it. This time around I'm aware of my ability, potential, and options. It makes me better prepared for the hunt.