Saturday, June 30, 2007

Why I love Gordon Ramsay

This guy is one of my heroes. I aspire to be half the badass he is.

Monday, June 25, 2007

HBO is really screwing the pooch.

Deadwood: Cancelled
Carnivale: Cancelled
Rome: Cancelled
Sopranos: (shiver) Yeah, let's not talk about that
Lucky Louie: Cancelled
The Comeback: Cancelled


The Wire: On typical 2-3 year hiatus.
John From Cincinatti: Greenlit, somehow.
Big Love: Soldiering on, pointlessly.
Entourage: A tiny 30 minute pinprick of talent all alone in a world of suck
Extras: British people are just not that funny to me

Seriously, HBO... Flight of the Conchords? What the fuck? We gave up Deadwood and Rome, hell, we gave up Carnivale for this shit? You've got to be kidding me. Unless Ian McShane suddenly makes an appearance in John from Cincinatti, I think you can consider my subscription cancelled. I can fucking RENT Entourage and Big Love, but unless there's a show I've just "gotta see" on Sunday night, I see no point in continuing this abusive relationship. David Milch is looking a whole hell of a lot like David Chase right about now. What sort of lightning bolt of bad taste hit him that he would give up probably the best show that has ever been on television, one even to eclipse Sopranos and Six Feet Under, in favor of a badly-written, badly-acted bullshit college fiction class lesson about surfer dudes and "aliens".

So I google "John from Cincinnati" and I get a whole bunch of hits talking about how HBO is deleting the threads on the message boards where people talk about how awful the show is.

Some things I know and some things I don't, HBO. I know that Deadwood was perfect and John From Cincinnati blows.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The new Kelly Clarkson

Anybody who watched American Idol this season saw the new dark-haired, slightly heavier Kelly Clarkson. I think it's a much better, more grown up look for her, and when she belted out "Up To The Mountain" with Jeff Beck on guitar I couldn't have cared less what she looked like. She reminds me of a prettier Janis Joplin or a not-so-drugged-out Grace Slick.


Fans of Star Wars will enjoy this:

Basically a 9 and a half minute long lightsaber battle by two star wars dorks that has stunts better than or as good as the ones in the movies.

Hilarious prank on a Telemarketer

Want to laugh for about five minutes straight? Click here:

Paul and Jake and I were doing this a decade ago...

/Extra points for Mavis Staples at the beginning of this clip. Her new album is terrific.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Seven reasons I no longer hate the Beatles.

I used to detest the Beatles intensely, mostly because I wasn't exposed to the best they had to offer. After listening to some of their better work like the White Album, I can finally say I understand and like them now. In case you were wondering, I still think Sgt. Pepper's sucks balls. But there are some tunes that really made me a believer. They are, in no particular order:

1: "Helter Skelter" Yow, this tune just oozes rock and roll glory. Replete with fantastic, underemphasized guitar riffs, "Helter Skelter" would be right at home in any mix of the best 60's music.

2: "Don't Let Me Down" Depressing, thoughtful, beautiful. Terrific guitar line.

3: "Happiness is a Warm Gun" Strange and wonderful. Mother superior jumped the gun, indeed.

4: "Working Class Hero" Not really a Beatles tune as much as a Lennon one, but still is just as hard hitting today as it was then.

5: "I'm So Tired" Works itself up over time, and ends up with a bigger bang than most Beatles tunes.

6: "Come Together" Cool was never this cool.

7: "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" Nice background music for writing. Keeps the senses on edge.

Monday, June 18, 2007

As if on cue, from my previous post, a thirty-something father and his 5-7 year old boy jumped out in the middle of traffic this morning and I missed hitting them by about a foot and a half. They were right in the middle of a block and didn't stop when they saw me coming. I screeched to a halt with them dead-center in front of my bumper. I was too stunned to roll down the window and yell at the guy, and he waved at me, oblivious, as if to say thanks for not crippling me and my son. Once I see the cops stop a single dangerous idiot like this, I will happily deal with the speed-traps without complaint. Until then, I can rest easy knowing that their focus is definately NOT on safety or fixing chronic traffic problems.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Traffic Safety School

So pretty much everyone knows at this point that I got pulled over in May along Sheridan road by the cemetery for speeding while trying to pass a guy and make a right hand turn. You've heard me bitch and whine about how the cops stake out that area relentlessly now, and even how Evanston is starting to become a police-infested Nanny-State.

Well, today I went to Traffic Safety School.

I was expecting a License To Drive-esque snarkfest with someone like Ben Stein as the dour instructor and some hilarious 80's video footage similar to the American Red Cross video for CPR class. I took notes while in the class, trying to approach it from a sociological perspective. Here's what I came up with.

The class is comprised of 23 people. The class is 12 men and 11 women, so there appears to be no gender bias. The median age is approximately 40, with only a couple of us younger than 30 or older than 50. It was interesting to note that there were 6 Asians, and 6 people of undetermined Eastern European ethnic origin. There are a couple of vaguely Hispanic but clearly Americanized persons in the class. There are no African Americans. Despite the fact that there are no blacks in the class whatsoever, it does appear that more than half of the attendees are of minority ethnic background. Read whatever the hell you want into this, but I think it may have more to do with some of the middle-aged asian women either not having access to the online version of the Traffic School, or not (as in the case of the E. Europeans) possibly having the language skills to get through an english text version of it. Helpfully, in terms of sociological analysis that is, the instructor went around the room and had us say our first names and what we were given tickets for. It is interesting to note that this class is not a punative one, and may be taken solely for the insurance premium reduction benefits. Every participant in the class had recieved a traffic ticket, however, and the breakdown was as follows:

1 Failure to yelid right of way.
1 Going through a red light.
1 Failure to come to a complete stop at a stop sign (wheels still moving).
1 "Excessive lane-changing." (What?)
19 Speeding tickets.

Clearly speeding was the overwhelming reason for being ticketed, with only one or two of the violations for doing anything patently unsafe or potentially harmful. Two of the violations, one for failure to come to a complete stop, and excessive lane changing, are laughably unfair. I used to be openly ridiculed when I came to Chicago because the "complete stop at a stop sign" rule is universally ignored here. And regardless of what scenarios you can imagine in your head, I don't remember anything in the Illinois Rules of the Road that says there are limits on how often or how rapidly you may change lanes. And 19 speeding tickets. Hmmm... Anyone who considers this whole thing to be more than primarily a revenue stream for Chicago, or possibly a way for the city to impose a back-door tax on suburban commuters, is either stupid or lying to themselves.

My classmates, if you can call them that, are exactly the sort of people I would expect to see in traffic school. Behind every one of them I can see the BMW's, Audis, Volvos, Mercedes, Lexuses, etc, that the covetous young cops from southern and western Chicago can't afford, in a neighborhood nicer than their families will ever live in. One middle aged man, closely cropped hair on his balding head, is wearing a wireless Bluetooth cellphone earpiece. The instructor, a good natured woman named Pam, enters, and the first thing she does is make him remove the Bluetooth. I like her instantly.

The class is surprisingly relevant. Instead of 1980's footage of "Room To Live" about the jaws of life or people with mullets getting into beer-related auto fatalities, the video material consists of specific, local traffic congestion problems with footage of actual places in Chicago. There is an extended analysis of the fatal car crash that killed Princess Diana of Wales, which I found not only interesting, but relatively current and not at all pandering to the lowest common denominator. The material we read was formulaic (ie: the SIX MOST COMMON DRIVER MISTAKES), but it did pay at least some lip service to the idea, for instance, that commercial truck drivers and school busses pose a significant threat to road safety by virtue of their size and lack of manuverability. Personally, I think that other things are worse, so I decided to make up my own list. So here we go:


1: Busses that abruptly change lanes. I see this happen more frequently than I like to think about both on the expressways and along major traffic arteries like Sheridan Road. Often, these are the two-stage busses that are like one bus connected to another with an accordion pivot point in the middle. These things are easily 60-75 feet long, and are too wide for most city streets, which means they take up more than a lane in general anyway. The drivers of these lumbering monstrosities like to pull away from a bus stop and cut directly into the left hand lane, potentially swiping any of the smaller automobiles off the road or into the left lane's oncoming traffic. This is scary as hell if it has happened to you, and you know deep down that the CTA will fight tooth and nail if you attempt to sue them or get restitution for your totaled car when it is clearly their fault. I think drivers caught doing this even once should have their CDL's pulled permanently.

2: Bicycle riders. I hear the groan already from health nuts and environmentalists, but the reality is that for every inch of street in Chicago there is another inch of perfectly good and largely unused sidewalk. Chicago, like much of the US, was not designed to be bicycle friendly, and having bicyclists (and I do realize that this is the law and not always their choice) pretend to be motor vehicles is not only dangerous, it's plainly stupid from a logistical traffic standpoint as well. Whenever there are unusual slowdowns on Sheridan road when the lights are green, 9 times out of 10 it's because there's a cyclist smack dab in the middle of a traffic lane. If you are a cyclist, I want to take this opportunity to grind this into your thick skull: YOU ARE NOT AN AUTOMOBILE. GET OUT OF THE FUCKING ROAD. And as if this weren't enough, people who insist on riding in the street generally fail to obey traffic signals. Every time I see a cyclist split lanes during rush hour or zip through a red light or stop sign without even hesitating, I say a silent prayer that some righteous instrument of God in a Humvee accidentally rolls right over them. I don't want to hit one myself, in fact that's one of my big fears as a driver, but I would LOVE to see someone else hit one.

3: Mail trucks and Medi-Cars that treat the right hand lane like a parking lot. This one is just an absolute no-brainer. Many of the main traffic arteries in Chicago are only two lanes in each direction anyway, and during rush hour there are almost always large commercial vans, 5 ton trucks, and delivery vehicles parked IN THE MIDDLE OF TRAFFIC in the right hand lane. As though just by putting their flashers on the right lane suddenly becomes OK to just park in for minutes at a time during the busiest rush-hour traffic. These people should have their CDLs pulled as well. There is no excuse for this stupidity. I realize that there are allowances that have to be made for emergency vehicles, but we're just talking about the private medi-cars that Aunt Maude at the nursing home takes to get her dialysis, and USPS trucks with drivers who are too lazy to park at the rear entrance. When a four lane artery becomes effectively two lanes that thousands of cars, busses, and trucks must get through, traffic accidents occur. Get the goddamned trucks off of the street. And this counts double for the 18-wheelers that park in front of Treasure Island for a half an hour to unload, taking up not only the entire right hand lane of the street, but some of the left as well, forcing cars to veer into the oncoming lanes to proceed.

4: Improperly timed traffic lights. I make a right hand turn every day at a green turn arrow onto Fullerton that EVERY TIME dumps me directly into a stale green and yellow light. What the hell is this all about? This pattern encourages, ALL DAY LONG, drivers to try and make the corner and beat the yellow light. Why the arrow at all if it's just going to dump you into a standstill? If you're the first person at the intersection, and you know it's coming, you can safely make the turn and make it under the green light to your right. If you don't, you're put into the sort of chancey situation that can cause accidents. I'm guessing most people don't.

5: Badly apportioned speed limits. No one, and I mean literally no one, travels at only 40 miles per hour on Lake Shore Drive. Yet by some idiotic choice the speed limit signs insist that that is the maximum safe speed. I would say the MINIMUM safe speed, to avoid causing traffic accidents, is 40mph (given of course open road, in rush hour no one can go faster than 20 anyway). Also there is a segment, where I happened to get my ticket, next to a cemetery where there are no crosswalks, no intersections, no lights, no pedestrian traffic, no houses, nothing to suggest a lower speed limit is necessary. In fact, it is one of the only reliably quick segments of my daily commute where you can pass slow or daydreaming drivers. Well, the speed limit through there is 25 miles per hour now. This is absolutely fucking retarded. My car, even if you don't hit the gas, will IDLE faster than that. I literally have to ride the brake during that stretch to make sure I don't exceed 25 miles per hour. Because the cops that should be clearing the right hand lane on Sheridan road? They're staking out this spot like crazy almost every day for the easy speeding ticket. Way to grab the low-hanging fruit guys.

6: Few left turn arrows. There are not nearly enough of these on the major arteries of the city. What you end up with is endless frustration when the right hand lane is clogged with busses, bicycles, mail trucks, semis, and other various douchebags, and in the left lane even a single person turning left at a no-arrow light can create minutes worth of delays and road rage. Stupid and obvious problem with a simple fix. Get on it, Chicago.

7: Pedestrians who cross the street against the "Don't Walk" sign, in between traffic stopped at a light, or right in the middle of oncoming traffic. These people are morons who deserve to be hit and crippled, but should at least get a ticket. Perk up a little bit, CPD, and start ticketing some of THESE assholes.

You'll notice that not one of these things pertains to actual Chicago motorists. Now, I'm not one of these people that thinks that everyone on the road inherently "knows how to drive." There are certainly things like people passing on the right hand side at a stop light that irritate the fuck out of me, people who play Jousting when someone is driving too slow, or even an occasional scary drunk driver. But to be honest with you, these things happen to me once or twice a year, versus the EVERY DAY occurence of the things I listed above. I guarantee you if the Chicago police made an effort to even change three of the seven I listed above, you'd see better, safer traffic in the city.

Sopranos Finale

You know, I realize now that the show is over that I will never be able to look at the word Soprano again without imagining the "r" as a pistol.

I've held off commenting here on the finale, even though people have been asking me at work about it for days. I read something that said David Chase seemed to be saying: You want Tony whacked? YOU write that ending. Imagine me saying this in a bitchy, petulant auteur voice.

To that I respond: Fuck you, David Chase. You started this whole thing. I didn't write the characters into existence, craft one of the best televisions shows in the history of the medium, change what people thought quality TV WAS, and then phone in the last three seasons and fizzle out with an eye-rolling, pooch-screwing cliffhanger ending. Don't blame your lack of imagination, inability to embrace the boundaries of the genre you chose, and unwillingness to fight for something lastingly-profound in your work on me or on the public's desire to want closure from your story arc.

Stories with a beginning, middle, and end aren't a creation of post-Baby-Boomer comsumer culture, they're an expectation that has been around as long as Western Civilization. What could have been part of the canon of entertainment culture forever is now just an embarrassing footnote about what NOT to do with your creative work. They teach you not to do shit like this to your audience in the first ten minutes of INTRODUCTORY writing classes.

Never mind this foreshadowed "fade to black whack" ending that everyone is whining about, I'm going to pretend that the Sopranos ended after season three when Jackie Junior got shot or season four when Adriana was driven into the woods. I like to think of Uncle Junior/Corrado singing an Italian song at a family gathering rather than rotting away a mindless radish from Alzheimers that no longer recognizes his own family. I like to think of Meadow as a struggling and partially aware mob daughter rather than a stuck-up, oblivious Beamer-driving lawyer. The only character that improved this season was AJ, and I would almost have settled for having the entire thing told from his point of view.

Ah, David Chase. Try, just try, to do anything else with your career after this pathetic and disappointing cop-out. After years... that's YEARS... of foreshadowing and subtle nods to the other canonical mob-fiction, there's nothing to show for it except this meaningless, masturbatory, furrowed-eyebrow of a finale. I feel very similar to Chase now as I did toward Stephen King when he utterly ruined The Dark Tower:

Nice job, dipshit.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Memories are Better than Life

"Memories are better than life. Nothing I'm part of is good until later. I love what time does. I make decisions on the basis of sensing what will produce the best memory."

-From "Go Now" by Richard Hell

Saturday, June 09, 2007

In the place where sci-fi dorkdom and cliche internet memes collide, some pretty funny shit is born.

I could almost...

A) Barf.
B) Jump for joy!
C) Believe in the strength of a rational Judiciary again.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

My Friends

I was eating lunch today with some co-workers and we started talking about dreams for some reason, and we took turns describing what we most frequently dream about. Some people dreamed of the classic Freudian things like falling and flying and being chased by scary men, other dreamed of weird intersecting paths with random people. I didn't share my dreams at this particular conversation because I think the whole idea of sharing dreams in conversation is the equivalent of a non-political fillibuster. If I had shared, however, I would have said that for the most part I dream about my friends. Mostly about the times we've hung out or had fun together, good (and sometimes bad) things that have happened in their company. I do not, as a rule, dream often. When I do, though, it is typically about them and what they might be doing with their lives or what it might be like to be around them today. As you will see below, I have not seen some of them in several years, but I still think frequently about them and wonder if they are happy, healthy, and in the company of friends of their own. I talk to some of them online from time to time, and a couple I have managed to hang out with in the not too distant past. Without further ado, I give you: my friends.

Jeramy Gee

Known since: 1998
Last seen in person: July 2005
Most fun friend memories: Too numerous to count. Probably toss-up between my bachelor party/wedding week, old days on SLU crew team, or playing guitar our Junior year.

DJ Reid

Known since: 1999
Last seen in person: October 2006
Most fun friend memories: Working on the Mustang together. Dancing at my sister's wedding with Beth, him, and Jeramy Gee. Brawling on the floor of the Underground for no apparent reason.

Sara Lepine

Known since: 1992
Last seen in person: August 2006
Most fun friend memories: Endless sociopolitical debates. Most elaborate pregnancy-related April Fool's Joke I ever fell for. Singing/dancing together in school-related groups for years.

Paul Hughes

Known since: 1986
Last seen in person: October 2006
Most fun friend memories: Most un-hick bonfire parties Evans Mills, NY has ever (and will ever) see. Reading brilliant sci-fi novel by him, when he was in 11th grade in high school. Staying with him at SLU when I was still in high school, getting to experience college life a little before actually going there. Publishing books together. And of course the 2001 Spring Break in Panama City Beach.

Jeff Dorman

Known since: 1999
Last seen in person: March 2002
Most fun friend memories: Borrwing a shitload of money from him to buy Sergi's pizza rolls at 3AM. Playing StarCraft. Using his dorm room as a living room my senior year. Cooking food in the hall lounge. Having him be more or less the only responsible member of our entire floor at SLU. Massive winter 2000 snowball fight. Him basically kicking all our asses at paintball like a Terminator let loose in a squirtgun fight.

Austin Oie

Known since: December 2004
Last seen in person: April 2007
Most fun friend memories: Lauging at work-related insanity. Hearing him call me a douchebag in his Indian voice. Playing video games during lunch breaks. Him saying: "Shut up, you assholes." to get the attention of a room full of physicians and medical staff before reading their daily schedules.

Glen Marshall
(No picture available)
Known since: December 2001
Last seen in person: June 2006
Most fun friend memories: Drinking beer and chowing nachos at Chili's. Listening to stories about Cuban insurgency in Panama in the 70's and 80's. Having him sneak up behind me while I was talking to patients or other medical staff and pretend to "kill" me with a plastic butterknife.

Crystal Stone

Known since: February 1998
Last seen in person: October 2001
Most fun friend memories: Driving her 5.0 Turbo convertible Mustang with the top down in October. Playing guitar and eating pizza/wings. Her helping me get out of upstate NY and getting me my first real job and apartment.

Dan Fleming

Known since: 1982 (probably longer, but I was 4 in 1982, and that's when I remember starting to play with him as children)
Last seen in person: March 2001
Most fun friend memories: Too numerous to count. Guns/toys when we were little, learning to read together, camping, working for the village of Evans Mills when we were teenagers and drinking beer/smoking cigars. Hanging out in college and going on a legendary Spring Break in 2001.

Dion Davis

Known since: 1997
Last seen in person: May 2001
Most fun friend memories: Getting absurdly drunk our first weekend at SLU and stumbling home in the snow. This scenario repeated itself many, MANY times throughout the SLU years. Playing Tekken 3 for what must have been hundreds of hours. Him being probably the most all-around likeable guy I've met to this day.

Frank Arquitt

Known since: 1993
Last seen in person: June 1997
Most fun friend memories: Cross country running. Chasing girls when we were in high school. Jumping the tracks in Philly in his old Mustang.

So there they are. I would have included my wife as well, but technically I think Spouse is in a different league from Friend. You'll notice that the mean number of months knowing these people is 140 (11.5 years), and the mean number of months it has been since I've seen them is 41.9 (3.5 years). This puts me at a somewhat deppressing average of having not seen the average friend on this list for over a third of the time we've been friends. Not to mention that three and a half years is a long fucking time to be without the companionship and happiness that friends bring to your life. Only three people on that list have I seen in the last year, and only one did I spend more than 24 hours with. So I dream about them, and the time when I might get to see them again. I miss you guys.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Friendship-ending offences

I got a bullitin posted by one of my former MySpace "friends" that was some horrid internet meme called "mommy" that was supposedly a first-person narrative by an unborn fetus AS it was getting aborted. This, to me, is a friendship-ending offence, on myspace or anywhere else. Regardless of what I might think about abortion, this little monologue is exactly the sort of thing that people with agendas use to abuse the internet and its users. I am a parent of a six month old child. I do not need any more reasons to lie awake at night and stare at the ceiling. Take your idiotic heart-string tugging agenda and cram it up your ass right along with Jesus Take The Wheel.

Ugh. Some people are just disgusting.

200th Post!

200th post! Woo Hoo!

Zombie Shelter

This is why I love