Thursday, March 27, 2008

Picture of the Day

(Barack Obama in Greensboro, NC, via Reuters, via the Beachwood Reporter)

This is the sort of image and moment that brings tears of ... joy? pride? dare i say hope? to me and hopefully all patriotic Americans. I almost don't want to get all Flickr comment about it, but I wonder if it would look better, be more powerful, if it was cropped so that the people taking their own pictures were cropped out of it. (I'd really like to know what the photographers out there think of that.)

You don't often see pictures that exemplify the "1,000 Words" maxim, but this is one that does, that if you have a heart, and hope, you need not say much about it. That being said, I just feel that were Barack Obama to be elected president, ours would be a country that, once again, people (yeah, like the young man in the photo) would be able to look up to again.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Party Like it's 1985

I wouldn't say I'm his biggest fan, but for a few years now, I have hoped that George Michael would tour again, release some new music and generally not turn into a drug-addled recluse. Well, at least one of those hopes is coming true, since he has announced a U.S. tour this summer, which will bring him to Chicago in July. Again, I'm not an obsessive fan, but I will pay more than I'd pay for an ordinary old concert ticket to see him, since it's been, oh, I don't know, 20 years since he has toured around these parts?

Also on my list of concerts that I am either definitely seeing or hoping to see in the months to come are Yaz at the Chicago Theatre, Duran Duran at the Rosemont Theatre, Cyndi Lauper and the B-52s doing that HRC benefit thing (as well as, I hope, individual, lower-priced shows), and well, there is always the possibility of a Morrissey tour later in the year, now that he has released (yet another) Greatest Hits album. And who knows who the White Sox will get to play at their '80s night game this summer and what we will see at the Whole Foods Flavor Fest this year, as well (last year it was Naked Eyes and A Flock of Seagulls, the year before it was the Fixx). When you throw into the mix the only other show I've seen this year has been two-thirds of The Jam at the Abbey Pub, it's like I've gotten into my Delorean and have gone back in time, music-wise. Now, if Bananarama were to announce a reunion tour, I'd go completely mad.

"Just Chillin'"

Maybe it is because I write a column on media and societal portrayals of Italian-Americans for the monthly Fra Noi, that I may be a little more attuned to (or overly sensitive about) things like this, but I had my ire raised Tuesday by what I saw as a sly racial slap at Barack Obama on CNN.

The network touted "exclusive" video of Barack Obama ... sitting on an outdoor lounge chair, in shorts, T-shirt and baseball cap, talking on a cell phone. The person behind the camera for that shot obviously was some distance away. The news reader billed this as "a rare" glimpse of the presidential candidate taking a break from the campaign trail.

This bothered me on a couple fronts. First of all, shooting a faraway video of a presidential candidate with his feet up, chatting on a phone is not an "exclusive." An invasion of privacy, perhaps, but certainly no "exclusive." And secondly, the video caption, which was repeated by the anchor, "Just Chillin'," would likely not have been used to describe John McCain or Hillary Clinton putting their feet up and chatting on a phone.

Even sadder is that very likely there were people at other networks who were pissed that CNN got this video, and they didn't. This is just one symptom of the obsessive insanity of the 24/7 media these days. It seems that no matter how insignificant or ridiculous the item, if one outlet has something, be it video or some stupid, un-newsworthy story, their competition goes nuts believing they have got to get it, as well.

Besides the racially charged caption, the Obama video seems to me no different than those videos you see of mad, rabid packs of paparazzi hounding Brittney Spears at the gas station. There is no need for it, it dumbs down all of us and it is terribly invasive of what one can expect to enjoy as a reasonable degree of privacy.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Nice Tattoos, Becks ...

Anderson Cooper and David Beckham, together at last. Interesting that Coop noticed that Beckham had a new tattoo. Just how well does he know Beckham's tattoos?

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Change the Message

pretty effective. ellen tells her audience about a 13-year-old boy who was killed because he was gay (13 years old!) and we see a prime example of what she is talking about in a clip from conan's show, featuring his guest, "comedian" harland williams. kudos to ellen, jeers to conan for not immediately repudiating that jackass guest of his.

[thanks to towleroad]

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Shame on you, Gerry!

I was so disappointed to hear that former Vice Presidential Candidate Geraldine Ferraro has said that Sen. Barack Obama would not be a serious candidate for President were he a white man, that I had to look it up. Sadly, she really did say it. 

Via CBS News's Web site, here's what she said:
"If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. And if he was a woman (of any color) he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is."

Excuse me, Gerry, but how else would a former Goldwater volunteer who had lived in New York state all of a matter of months have gotten to become a serious candidate, and subsequently get elected, one of New York's two U.S. Senators, had she not been married to a U.S. President? And how many U.S. Senators (not named Kennedy) who have served less than one and a-half terms have been able to run a serious race for President if they were not named Clinton? And how many candidates for President would still be in the race even after they have lost a dozen consecutive primaries/caucuses and have no mathematical chance to win their party's nomination? 

The Clintons and their supporters have run a campaign that's been mean-spirited and self-centered that has preyed upon people's fears rather than their hopes, and now they're just plain desperate.

Shame on them all.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Imploding Planet

When I was in my club-going 20s, I never really went to neo, a new wave/alternative club in Lincoln Park. I went there once, when I was 21, while I was still a relatively new reporter on the school paper at UIC. A few of us did a bar/club roundup for an issue of the paper, and we hit oh, about a half-dozen bars/clubs in the same night, and neo was one of them. I remember that I wasn't terribly impressed with the place and either that time or sometime after it, on another crazy night out with other drunken malcontents, I wound up there again and at some point a few of us sat on the floor to show our displeasure with the song selection.

My place, my home away from home in my late teens and early 20s was Medusa's, the infamous Lakeview  juice bar/club where all sorts of mis-shapes -- goths, punks, mods, new romantics, or a mix of some or all of the above, gathered on friday and saturday nights, until the alderman and a few homeowners joined to shut the place down. 

I didn't exactly grow out of the new wave stuff, it's more that I found other, newer, fresher stuff to listen to, like electronic things, dance music and loads of what could be called 'chill out' sounds. I hadn't much thought of the music I listened to and collected and which defined me for a handful of years much in my 20s, until, in 2001 and 2002, while working at a stressful and remarkably unsatisfying job at Reed Business Information's Home Books, I decided to check out "Planet Earth," an 80s night at neo. I had gone to Planet Earth, which is DJ Dave Roberts' regular Thursday night 80s party that started out at Club 950, another Lincoln Park bar, maybe a year or two before that, when it was at Spin on Halsted, and it was nice enough, but I didn't know anyone there and I was generally uncomfortable hanging at a club where I didn't know anyone, so I didn't really feel compelled to go back. 

But when I checked out Planet Earth at neo, I was in a different place psychologically, dissatisfied with work and the corporate environment, not quite finding myself personally, and thinking about things along the lines of 'what am I doing,' and 'what do I really want to do?'  I was also swinging a little to the left politically and the punk/new wave thing fueled that. I was afraid of going to an '80s night, since I had been at one or two at some incredibly cheesy bars, and while I heard music I once loved, it just wasn't the same.

But that wasn't the case when I first walked into neo that night some seven years ago. In a sense, it was like stepping back in time, to 1987 or 1988. I heard Smiths and Depeche Mode and Yaz and Joy Division, etc., there were people who were dressed like they meant it, there were goths and mods and freaks of all stripes, and like the punks that I fell in with when I was in college, there were some wonderful, kind and welcoming people there, some of whom I still hang out with sometimes and who I had hoped would be my friends for the long haul. 

I became something of a regular at Planet Earth. My picture appeared in their ads when neo still placed ads in nightspots magazine. When I was laid off from Reed in 2003, Planet Earth became even more of a refuge for me (even if I couldn't spend as much on drinks. But I could stay out later). My weekly visits turned into monthly visits, due to a combination of once again becoming employed full-time, then having two jobs, then three, then getting involved in a relationship, which staying out all night isn't too healthy for, then my visits became even more rare. For awhile, after working the 4p.m. to 12 a.m. shift, I'd stop in at Another Planet, Dave's Tuesday night at neo, which was sort of a Planet Earth lite, more laidback and relaxed and not as crowded, and I'll always be grateful for the times he allowed me to be one of the DJs at the annual Morrissey/Smiths night there. But he stopped doing the Tuesday night gig and it just wasn't worth going there after that.

Well, now it won't be worth going to neo on Thursdays, either, since Dave Roberts has quit the Thursday night gig there. I don't know exactly everything that went into this development, but apparently there were some irreconcilable creative differences between him and the neo management. 

A big part of what makes a club worth going to is not merely the music, but the vibe that the people there create and the people that they bring in. Dave, along with Kristine, made Thursday nights at neo more than a club night -- for some of us, they made it our home away from home. A welcoming, loving place where, when we heard the music that meant so much to us 15 or 20 years ago, we felt at least that much younger. 

I'll miss the familiarity of neo, the big dancefloor, and the carpeted benches that made a semi-circle around it. I regret that there wasn't a big send-off, but I know that there will be another, perhaps better, home for Planet Earth soon. I know wherever Dave and Kristine bring Planet Earth next, it'll have a great vibe to it because they will have more control, and I know that the people who come out every week to see them, hear the music and dance like it's 1980-something matter a great deal to them. Consequently, those of us who have been lucky enough to have been part of Planet Earth adore Dave and Kristine. Until Planet Earth re-emerges elsewhere, I'll still be able to find them on Friday nights at the Holiday Club -- same music, some of the same crowd, not much of a dance floor, but yummy bar food and good company. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Sobering Thoughts

Not that I was un-sober late last night after just a couple beer-garitas, but I thought with the light of day I should clarify some of my feelings toward Hillary and Bill as far as this election goes. 

In brief, every time Hillary speaks, it is like nails on a chalkboard for me. And it's not that she is a woman -- I could listen to Nancy Pelosi or Jan Schakowsky speak at length, as I have, when they've been on CSPAN or local TV. The biggest things about Hillary, as it boils down to how I feel is that 1) she plagiarizes and takes ideas from others and 2) she sounds as though she doesn't have a sincere bone in her body -- no matter what she is saying, she always finds a way to denigrate someone else and get back to her tried and tired "message." 

Last night, for instance, as she was basking in her first primary victory in the past 12, she spoke only of herself, whereas Obama, in his gracious concession speech, spoke more of the American people (while also drawing very important similarities between Clinton and McCain). It's as if she could hardly wait to get through the obligatory part of her speech where she thanks voters and family, to once again speak of how speeches don't bring about change, "experience" does. Then she goes back to her "3 a.m." phone commercial in saying that when that phone rings in the White House at 3 a.m., the American people want someone who has oh, what is it -- picked up a phone before in the White House? She just could not tear herself away from the commercial which played to people's fears instead of their hopes. 

And, as someone who supported the candidacy of John Edwards, it infuriates me that Hillary has of late picked up his talking points, criticizing NAFTA and corporations whose executives make tens of millions of dollars while their employees have to scrape the bottom of their barrels to find money to pay for healthcare and tuition and rent. 

I was skeptical of Obama for quite a while, and rightfully so, since he is a freshman senator who really didn't distinguish himself in the Illinois legislature. His association with Rezko doesn't bother me as much as his 'present' votes on potentially controversial measures. But when I listen to him speak, he not only gives me hope that this country can be better, can be more tolerant, can be actually United and that the rest of the planet will once again look to us as a beacon of hope and democracy, but he makes me want to be a better person, a smarter person, a more compassionate person. As a Democrat, when I hear Hillary, the feeling I come away with is 'let's get back at the Republicans and take what's ours.' When I hear Obama, the feeling I get is that we can still change the world, and our country, for the better -- we can still do some good in the world, and this is our chance.  

Dear HIllary:

You're an asshole.

HRC on 4 March 2008:
"When that phone rings in the White House at 3 o'clock in the morning, it's no time for speeches or on-the-job training."

Like I said, what a classless asshole.