A Painting

I was about 750 words into a hilarious screed mocking the new Gallagher twitter account. Gallagher has been ridiculed in recent years for aging into an unhinged, resentful racist, most recently on Marc Maron’s WTF Podcast. Lo and behold though, the account turned out to be a fake, rendering my post pointless. Instead, here is some art, crafted lovingly by yours truly, in Microsoft Paint. It was made for my friend Michelle and it is my interpretation of the movie St. Elmo’s Fire. Enjoy.

Premarital Sax in Lavendar

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My Kinda Town

So I have not posted on this thing in awhile, after explicitly promising the contrary. One reason is that I am lazy, another is that I have been writing some very fine articles for the illustrious gapersblock.com. As previously indicated on everywhere from my Twitter account to speaking with me in public for five seconds, I have given up on the Chicago Cubs as my ulcer-inducing baseball team of choice and have taken my interests south to equally shitty (this year, anyway) White Sox. It has been an odd and difficult journey, betraying my family and rooting for my sworn enemies. The upside of which, aside from not having to care about what happens to the Cubs and subsequently no longer having my little heart broken, is having enough people in the city care enough about my crosstown sojourn to warrant a weekly piece at a very excellent Chicago based website. They even gave me a sweet logo.

If you are interested in said pieces, here they are in chronological order:

http://gapersblock.com/tailgate/2010/04/the-turncoat.php

http://gapersblock.com/tailgate/2010/04/during-the-summer-of-1969.php

http://gapersblock.com/tailgate/2010/05/an-open-letter-to-the-chicago-white-sox.php

http://gapersblock.com/tailgate/2010/05/my-new-friends.php

There is also one coming very soon about how Ozzie Guillen is awesome. Bear with me.

The experience of writing in a more professional setting than this blog has made it clear to me that I enjoy writing so much, I should probably try to move beyond just ripping on the Cubs every week. So when my sports editor was looking for someone to write about the recent hullabaloo in Wrigleyville, I jumped all over it. A man cannot live on Cubs disses alone.

You might find it surprising that someone who has spent the last month and a half crafting diatribes about how inane Cubs culture is would suddenly leap to the defense of the businesses surrounding Wrigley Field. The truth is though, if there is anything I hate more than the shitty baseball the Cubs put on display 162 times a year, it is seeing the city I love (Chicago) being slowly converted into the city I hate (Schaumburg – or any other strip mall based town for that matter). So while I tried my hardest to see both sides of the issue and resisted falling prey to the “Wrigleyville is our most precious  commodity” mentality, I eventually came to find the whole ordeal to be pretty disheartening. I will of course get into all that when I finish my piece for Gapers Block. I have something else I would like to address here, something that requires a more personal rant not suitable for a respectable website.

As part of my serious writing duties, I spent a good amount of time in each of the locales slated for destruction should Alderman Tunney get his way. The goal of course was to not only take in the the current state of Wrigleyville culture, culture that is being threatened by a brand new Best Buy and a super awesome hotel, but to also speak with the people that would be affected by the development – the owners, the bartenders and waitresses and the fans and customers who frequent the establishments.  For the most part, this was a very pleasant experience. I got to meet some very charming young ladies in town from Minnesota to try out for a musical, an awesome and personally familiar father/son duo who loved baseball, and some very passionate locals who very much love the Cubs and their surrounding neighborhood. In essence, I met some very awesome Midwesterners – the kind of people who made me proud to hail from this area when I was living out East.

Not all was rosy in Wrigleyville, unfortunately. There was an alarming number of people who were afraid to give me their opinion. It was one thing having a bartender spill her heart out under the condition I didn’t use her name. It was another having a bartender quickly tell me she hated the idea and then running away after making me promise I wouldn’t print anything she said. The number of people I met tonight who were afraid to simply speak their minds about their jobs being eliminated was concerning to say the least. Does Alderman Tunney stalk the streets bagging dissenters a la Creedy in V for Vendetta? What the hell was everyone so scared about? Clearly these people knew their jobs would be in more jeopardy should they not speak up, right? Right?

The worst of this came from the night manager of the Goose Island brewpub on Clark St. Not only did the dumb ass assure me that his restaurant would be fine since they had a lease through 2015 (never mind that Imrov Olympic has a lease though 2022 and is easily the most outspoken party in this whole mess) but he also refused to have any discussion on the matter and certainly didn’t want to give his name. He then sheepishly asked me not to talk to any of the other customers. He pointed out that some girls were in his bar with a petition a couple weeks ago in regards to the Toyota sign controversy, and just like he told them, I could do whatever I wanted outside his bar, but please leave the customers alone.

Let us analyse exactly what this jackass was requesting for just a moment:

1) Speaking up against the inevitable  bulldozing of the establishment in which I work is too controversial. Please refrain from doing so.

2) Please do not discuss this with any of the patrons of the bar. Clearly having a discussion, in a bar, about things about to happen to the neighborhood would be very upsetting for the people who will most likely be drinking elsewhere in a year or so.

3) The discussion you are trying to have is frightening enough. Clearly Goose Island inc. instills such a level of cowardice in its employees that asking you directly to not ruffle any feathers with your development questions causes me too much anxiety. This makes directly asking you to leave nearly impossible for me. I will resort to an analogy about some girls and a petition. I will sit here quietly praying to my god that you quickly leave on your own accord, lest I shit my pants.

Is this where we are at as a society? That having discourse in a bar is too controversial? To be quite honest, maybe that entire block does deserve to be demolished if discussing its fate is too much for anyone who frequents the area to handle. What is the point of salvaging a bar where trading ideas is discouraged? Fuck it, knock it down. Build a Best Buy. That Goose Island manager would probably look great in a blue polo and khakis, quietly asking people to not discuss the latest Austin Powers DVD.

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Indians At Sox 4/7

(Author’s Note: I was born a Cubs fan, I remained such for 30 years. In 2010 I jeopardized being ostracized from my family of patently insane Cubs fans and said, “No more!” 2010 begins my journey as a fan of the Chicago team that knows how to play the sport of baseball, the Chicago White Sox.)

After a picture perfect opening day, you would have thought you were in a different city on Wednesday. The warm weather and enthusiasm seemed to be sucked out of the air at The Cell last night as the Sox fell 5 to 3 to the Cleveland Indians. The first night game of 2010 was marred by cold, wet conditions, off pitching and a lack of bats.

Pitching was a thorn in the Sox side for most of the game. While the game was far from a blowout, there was little to no dominance on the mound. After raising hopes for the Southside after ending 2009 with three sharp starts, Peavy entered the new season with shaky control and often fell behind in the count. Though he did have five strikeouts, he also gave up three earned runs and beaned a pair of batters. The bullpen further added to the Sox struggles, with Randy Williams getting into trouble early in the 7th and Tony Pena allowing a double to Matt LaPorta allowing the go-ahead run to score. The run and the loss were charged to Williams. Among the five pitchers to take the mound Wednesday, only Thorton managed to leave without giving up a hit. Seven of the ten hits were given up by Peavy. Ouch.

Offense for the Sox was the sole product of Paul Konerko. After a sac fly in the first, Paulie crushed a two run shot to center field in the 3rd inning. It was one of two hits for the Sox.  He is on pace to hit 162 home runs by the end of the season. Statistical variance is not expected. The only other hit came from A.J. Pierzynski in the 9th. (Hey, where was Kerry Wood? Oh. That’s familiar.)

Aside from a stellar grab by Alexi Ramirex in the 7th, the defense also left a little to be desired. A missed grab by Pierre in the 4th could have been an early game changer had the catch been made, but instead started the bleeding in what became the Indians most successful inning.

Obviously, with 160 (160! What the hell is wrong with this sport?) games left on the season, it is a little early to let any of this bother us. Yes, Pierre would do well to learn that he is not back in Chicago to play for the Cubs and isn’t shooting for most outs during this tenure here, but that will come in time I am sure. It would have also been nice to see some offensive production from someone besides the slowest guy on the team and a visit from Peavy circa fall ’09. But, it’s baseball. A lot can still happen and this team still looks like one of the strongest in the AL despite the loss.  If I were still Cubs fan, tonight would have shaken me a little. Those days are behind me though, and I still hold a lot of optimism for 2010.

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A Few Problems I Currently Have With the Hit TV Show “Lost”

I have been a “Lost” fanatic since the Season 3 premiere. There was just something about polar bears, DHARMA hatches, the numbers, and Paulo and Nikki  that grabbed my imagination and wouldn’t let go.  After seeing the first episode of the season, with the Other’s perspective of the crash of flight 815 from their vantage point in DHARMA-burg, I wanted to watch every episode I could and quickly did so. I borrowed the DVDs from a friend and pissed away a couple of weekends while I ravenously consumed episode after episode after episode.

This show was awesome! It was like the X Men by way of Dante Alighieri. You had all these pretty-well-developed-for-prime-time characters with all their crazy dysfunctions! You had mistrust and power struggles! You had an eerie transmission from a foaming at the mouth French lady! You had the foaming at the mouth French lady herself! You had the Others and their cool whisper language! You had the smoke monster! Most of all, you had what seemed to be a cohesive and original story developing that would – despite doubts some people had – someday come to a definite conclusion.

That last claim might seem ballsy to detractors of the show. In fact, I am confident naysayers would dismiss any notion that the writers of the show aren’t flying by the seat of their pants, because I am friends with a few who guffaw at any attempt to explain the last five and a half years of plot twists, “ham handed philosophical references” (to quote one such friend) and theories about where the story is going. Are they right to do so? I would say probably, that’s pretty much what this post is about, but I am getting ahead of myself.

I have been, until recently, a pretty strong defender of the idea that the writers of Lost knew exactly what they are doing and they are all going to blow our freakin’ minds by the summer of 2010. Who could blame me? What did people who didn’t actually watch the show know about it? Nothing, that’s what. They were just jealous that I watched something awesome on television while they were stuck going out to bars and having fun. Plus, I as well as other people had made predictions about the show that had come true. The writers had left clues for their clever little fans and we had been validated from time to time by guessing correctly. “Don’t worry,” I would reassure myself anytime the writers jerked off an occasional Paulo and Nikki or Lo Pan story, “this is all going to end with a mind-blowing conclusion. It will be worth it.”

Now however, we are nearing the end. There are now just eight episodes left of Lost and I am no longer as confident as I used to be. Some of the biggest, most compelling mysteries on the show have been revealed. The problem is, the answers we were given were often lame, contradictory or just raise further questions at a time when things should be winding down. So, here are some problems I currently have with Lost.

OBLIGATORY SPOILER WARNING – MANY SPOILERS AHEAD. IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN EVERY EPISODE BUT MAY STILL DO SO SOMEDAY, YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED: CHOPPER SICS BALLS!

1) The Richard back story is pretty weak. Richard Alpert has long been one of my favorite characters on the show. Even when the rest of the Others were acting like a pack of murdering crazies, Richard always had a relaxed, wise vibe that suggested to the audience that there was more going on. Of all the characters that ever alluded to knowing about Jacob, he was the one made Jacob seem worth knowing about. He was the first character we saw go freely to and from the island with the submarine. Then, holy smokes, the bomb was dropped that he doesn’t age! He doesn’t age!? Awesome!

The longer they let this mystery stew in our heads, the more hyperbolic our own assumptions about just how long this guy has been around would naturally grow. Juliet would often shoot the audience that annoying smirk of hers and say things like, “Oh, he’s old.” OK, cool! He’s old. Since this is a sci-fi show about a magical island that cures people with electromagnets that can destroy the world, just how old is he? I would imagine it would have to be a pretty far-fetched answer. Hundreds of years? THOUSANDS? Plus, isn’t the island littered with gobs of Egyptian imagery? Maybe he’s ancient! And that might explain the eyeliner…

"Smirk."

Nope. He’s not ancient. Nor is Richard Albert Egyptian. He is from 1860s Spain. That’s it. One of the biggest build ups on the show, and we’re given a conclusion that is far lamer than any of us imagined. 1860s Spain? Where is mysticism in that? Why not 1920s Long Island or 1890s Iowa? Our imaginations had run wild for three years now, and all we get is second-rate Ponce de Leon.

While we’re on the subject, what’s the deal with Richard’s accent, or lack-thereof? He went from barely any English in 1867 to completely fluent in the language with no discernible cultural definitions by as early as 1954? I know Jin has miraculously picked up the language over the last few years, as he spoke zero English in the first episode and is now just as fluent as everyone else, but he still has a Korean accent. Maybe the island, in addition to curing cancer and paraplegia, also works as a magical speech pathologist.

"Hey, don't worry about it; I found a copy of some Rosetta Stone software in one of the hatches."

2) Jacob exists – and he is a giant douche! Ah, the elusive Jacob. One of the biggest carrots ever dangled in front of a TV audience: who is Jacob? What is his purpose? Is he the Island’s Jim Jones, bending the will of a murdering cult for some personal goal? Is he a savior, using the island’s magic healing powers for a greater good? Is he a tired old ghost in a cabin? Maybe he is just an ancient dickhead who is desperate to prove a philosophical point to his equally ancient fishing buddy.

For a very long time, we, the Lost audience, have been given clues about Jacob. He is the guy that tells the Others what to do. OK, cool. Very few ever get to meet him. Alright, makes sense. He has a list, and some of the people from 815 are on it, others are not. Awesome, there might be a story arc here. He might be a ghost in a cabin. Erm, what? Actually he’s not, Ben was making that up. OK. But then again, he really is. Maybe? I dunno. Fuck it. He lives in that four-toed statue Sayid saw once. Why not.

But why? What is he doing? Why does he have a list? Why does he summon people to the island? Why are people so willing to give their lives for this guy? In the same episode it was revealed that Richard is just a sad old Spaniard, it was also revealed that the reason everything has been happening, the weirdo cults, the constant barrage of people to this secret island, Paulo and Nikki, the eternal struggle between good and evil, black stones and white stones, is that Jacob and his nemesis, the salt and pepper haired smoke monster man, have a strong philosophical disagreement.

Guy in Black Shirt thinks people are corruptible and evil. Guy in White Shirt thinks otherwise. How can we settle this? By forcing people to come to a horrifying island and letting them go to war over why they’re here in the first place, obviously. Who cares if they disappear from their families and always eventually end up murdered? Jacob has a point to make. Somehow, he is the good guy of the two.

Maybe Rocks, Paper, Scissors would have been better than ruining innocent lives for millennia. Maybe.

3) The island’s purpose. In addition to Jacob, the nature of the Island itself has been the focus of much speculation over the years. It has a giant electromagnet inside that turns the sky purple and can destroy the entire planet if not cared for properly. It can travel through time and space if you turn a plastic wheel in its core. If you leave the island via the plastic wheel, you get pooped out in Tunisia. It can cure cancer. It can give the wheel-chair ridden the ability to walk and hike and discover DHARMA hatches. It kills pregnant women. It has polar bears and a smoke monster. Clearly, the island is the center piece of this science fiction cornucopia. Why then, does it exist?

Apparently, Guy in Black is also the smoke monster. The smoke monster is evil incarnate. The smoke monster wishes to leave the island so he can wreak havoc elsewhere, presumably because humanity is inherently good, as long as you keep it away from terrible, prime-time CGI. The island is the smoke monster’s containment unit. It holds him in, away from the rest of the world.

That means essentially the island has same function as that red furnace ghost container thing in the Ghost Busters’ basement. Awesome.

It's probably best if we keep this guy away from the island.

4) The moral ambiguity of Charles Widmore. One of the things that made the remake of Battlestar Gallactica one of the most outrageously overrated shows of all time (bring it nerds, I will cut you), was the complete lack of a moral compass for one of the main characters, Lee Adama. From episode to episode the character would go flying from outraged rebel, risking it all to prove an ethical point to die-hard patriot shooting down opposition to the cause. It, among many other things, really made me hate watching the show.

It would seem we have now reached the same point with Lost and Charles Widmore. He has gone from evil, exploitative capitalist murderer hellbent on capturing the island for his own personal gain, to leader of the others, exiled by the ever manipulative Ben Linus to apparent savior with plans to conquer the smoke monster. At one point, it really seemed the writers wanted this guy to be the show’s main antagonist, but now they must feel that Smoky is more interesting. I suppose it’s fine that they take liberties with the characters, but every time Whidmore shows up, he seems like a completely different guy on a completely different team. Maybe they’re just messing with us, maybe they forgot who he even is.

I don't care what side he's on, you're probably still not getting any.

“Lost” has surprised me in the past. The middle of Season 3 was often sluggish, seemingly pointless and peppered with Paulo and Nikki. Then it ended with one of the most kick ass finales ever. There are still 8 episodes to go, and that’s plenty of time to build momentum. They could still somehow pull this all together and make one history’s greatest TV shows. It’s still possible, but given that the revelations presented in the last couple of months have been tepid and less than we’ve expected this whole time, confidence is not high. Have the writers had an idea all along? Is this coming to a solid ending that will tie the whole series together? Will it blow our skulls to pieces? Or are they going George Lucas on us and letting their kids call the shots at this point? We’ll all find out soon, and the size of the collective groan let out by viewers at the end of this spring will indicate just how bad it was.

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Oh That’s Right, I Started a Blog.

Apparently my New Years resolution was to start a new hobby and then immediately quit doing it, because I started this blog four months ago and then left it to rot out in the internet like mediocre Chinese food in the back of the fridge. To wit – this blog now smells awful and I should probably throw it away. I won’t though, because I am a vain bastard. So vain in fact, that I was reminded this thing existed when moments ago I was admiring my Twitter profile. Yeah, I do that compulsively from time to time, so what?

Since I have not been updating this thing regularly, he is a series of crash updates that should have happened but didn’t because I am lazy:

1/22/10 – I’ll miss you Conan. Way to end the show on a classy high note. Fuck you, Leno.

1/23/10 – Today I celebrated my birthday at Rosa’s Blues Lounge. During the band’s break, a woman with flaming red curly hair, fake freckles and a cowboy hat walked on stage and presented the bar with a ten minute rendition of  “Oh! Susanna” with just her warbled voice and her harmonica. She was most likely high on several drugs, and it was the first time I had ever had a birthday celebration presented by David Lynch. Seriously. It went on for ten minutes! Look at the clock. Ten minutes from now, imagine you had just been listening to a song made popular during the Gold Rush performed by a street crazy and accompanied by off-key harmonica solos the entire time. Happy Birthday!

2/9/10 – Awesome! Google Buzz was unveiled! This will most likely replace Twitter, Facebook, and fossil fuels before the end of next week! I am pretty good at predicting technological trends and I have a great feeling about this. No way will it sit unused by everyone, begging for you to play with it like an abandoned, primary colored puppy.

2/13/10 – For the first time in my life, I paid “market price” for a meal. Apparently, the market in question is located in a future world where inflation is rampant and lobsters are on the brink of extinction.

3/18/10 – It’s March Madness! I don’t care about basketball, I hate college sports and I have never filled out a bracket in my life, but motherfucking GEORGETOWN is going ALL THE WAY! Wooooooo!

3/20/10 – I can bench my weight now. Pretty soon I will be able to throw the elderly into the sun.

3/23/10 – Let’s hear it for mildly effective, fairly uncontroversial health care reform! Let’s also hear it for over-dramatic anguish and hilariously unfounded doomsday predictions from my right-wing friends on Facebook!

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Hey, why not kick things off with a music review…

…of my favorite album from when I was 13, Megadeth’s Rust in Peace?

"Totally awesome."

Megadeth has always been an odd band. For one, they decided that the most metal thing they could do is neglect the letter “A” when it is silent for phonetic spelling is both crushing and brutal.  For another, the band itself has largely remained a vanity project of only remaining founding member/walking inferiority complex, Dave Mustaine as other members tend not to stick around too long. In the surest sign that he is a man who does not work well with others, Dave Mustaine launched his career by getting kicked out the biggest metal act to date, Metallica. After being deemed “Too Big an Asshole for Even Lars Ulrich,” Mustaine took his heroine addiction and the riffs he wrote for Kill ‘em All and started his own venture.

Maybe as a result of being influenced by west coast punk, or maybe as an attempt to distance himself from his former band, Dave Mustaine used Megadeth as a platform to flaunt his own vague sense of political awareness. Granted the lyrics of his debut album focused more on lustful  gas station mechanics and bounty hunters with a high sense of self-efficacy, Megadeth’s sophomore effort, Peace Sells… but Who’s Buying was the birth of a band obsessed with being distrustful of politicians, nuclear war and bullet belts. As the be-mulletted youngster in the following video will tell you at 2:27, “This is the news!”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6KDO_yCYcuU

Two sets of drummers and guitarists later (again, difficult to work with is how Dave rolls), Rust in Peace is the magnum opus of Mustaine’s pseudo politcal soap-boxing. Make no mistake, Rust is one of the finest heavy metal albums to date. It is the album to which all other Megadeth albums have been compared to since and it showcased some of the tightest and most precise chops to ever grace a recording. This is largely due to the personnel drafted for MegaDave circa 1990, drummer Nick Menza and the Übermensch of shedding metal guitarists, Marty Fucking Friedman. Musically, there are few better albums in world of Heavy Metal. Lyrically though, is another story.

It has been roughly 18 years since I first listened to Rust in Peace, and to this date I can still not tell you, dear reader, what in the hell the title track, “Holy Wars… The Punishment Due” is about. I have always assumed is in some way related to conflict in the Mideast, but Wikipedia just informed that is actually two songs.  The first of which is based on Northern Ireland, the second on the comic book character, The Punisher. I find this first bit surprising as Mustaine clearly uses Israel as his example in the song, but maybe “being bad at Geography” is just another kooky character flaw. Maybe it’s why they kicked him out of Metallica.

Lars Ulrich: “OK guys, things are heating up. There is a club manager in Glasgow that is interested in seeing Metallica. I say we go for it”

Dave Mustaine: “THAT’S IN IDAHO!”

LU: “You’re fired.”

As for the second half of the song, I suppose the first two verses do make sense if referenced to The Punisher, but I am still at a loss as to what this batshit insane assemblage of words is about:

Fill the cracks in, with judicial granite

Because I don’t say it, don’t mean I ain’t
thinking it
Next thing you know, they’ll take my thoughts away
I know what I said, now I must scream of the overdose
And the lack of mercy killings.

If you were to take the above verse and show it to someone unfamiliar with it and ask, “Are these song lyrics or something an inmate scrawled on his rubber wall with a crayon made of his own feces?,” I am guessing the mode response would be the latter.  I read a lot of comics at the same time I was reveling in this music, and I don’t ever remember Frank Castle being a paranoid crazy, terrified of thought police. He was a blood thirsty psychopathic vigilantly sure, but The Punisher I am familiar with would have done better with an anger management class, not the antipsychotics Dave Mustaine so obviously needs.

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Lucky You!

This is probably the best day of your life. It is a day so awesome it will overshadow all eggnog scotch Franzia fueled revery in the days to come. After what you experience today, you will forget how to love again. It is a day so impactful, you will name your kid after it. You will save newspapers from the year of our lord December, 22nd 2009, because that is the day I started blogging.

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