Friday, May 23, 2008

Vice Presidential Dating Game

Senator John McCain is going to have a barbeque at his Arizona ranch this weekend, to which he has invited three men -- Mitt Romney, Fla. Gov. Charlie Crist and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal -- who also are possible vice presidential running mates. What is this -- "The Bachelor: Presidential Nominee Edition"? What, is Jindal going to come on to McCain by tantalizing him with the prospect of attracting young and minority voters, then Romney will be all teary-eyed, crying that John has no idea how he and Mitt are meant to be? Is that what this has come down to? Will drinks be thrown at each other poolside? Will McCain ask Crist, "So, you don't hang out with any pastors, do you?" Let the grilling begin... 

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Welcome Back, Pudge

Way back in my youth, I was probably equally devoted to the Chicago Cubs and the Chicago White Sox. The Cubs had yet to disappoint me so often I would leave them behind forever and I never quite expected much from the Sox, who even then had the more interesting history, park, neighborhood around the park and fans. But the tide began to turn when the Sox acquired catcher Carlton Fisk, the guy best known at that point for his home run in the 1975 World Series that was accompanied by his jumping down the first base line, waving his arms as if to will the ball to stay fair. It was a pretty big deal back then. Fisk was one of the few true superstars in baseball and no Chicago team had ever gone out and scored as big in the free agent market like this before. 

Part of my excitement was due to my attraction to anything of the Boston region, due to my pretty tenuous family ties to the area, but it didn't take long for me to become a genuine fan of Fisk's because of the way he played the game; his quiet intensity. He was team leader, he hit plenty of home runs and he excelled defensively. He seemed to embody a way of playing baseball that echoes William H. Macy's comment about how to act: "Show up on time, wipe your feet off at the door, and go to work." The only thing you could add to this was that Fisk not only did all the above, but he did it as well as any other player in the game. One famous incident that sums up both how he played and how he respected the game came when the Soxwere playing the Yankees and superstar multi-sport personality Deion Sanders lazily did not run out a ground ball. Fisk loudly scolded "Neon Deion," further endearing him to the hearts of Sox fans everywhere.

Though he played more years and more games for the White Sox -- 12 seasons -- than for the Red Sox -- about 10 seasons -- when Fisk was inducted into the Hall of Fame a few years back, he unsurprisingly chose to wear a Red Sox cap. This might have been because of the way he was treated by White Sox management in his waning days as a player and afterward. Only about a week after he set the major league record in 1993 for games caught, he was unceremoniously cut from the team, while they were on the road, in Cleveland. Adding insult to injury, when Pudge stopped by the team clubhouse that fall to wish his old teammates good luck during the playoffs, he was tossed out by White Sox security.  

But now he has been welcomed back into the fold, in much the same way, it seems, like the Chicago Blackhawks have welcomed back players like Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita, to be "ambassadors" for that hockey team. The White Sox held a "Welcome Back Carlton Fisk" night tonight, with a video retrospective of his career shown on the Jumbotron and on the telecast, before the game between the Sox and Cleveland Indians. Fisk spoke briefly to the crowd, and he said he was looking forward to representing the Sox in whatever way he can going forward. He was joined by a few of his old teammates (the group did not include guys like Greg Luzinski or Tom Seaver, which would have been cool), as well. In one respect it could just be a copycat marketing ploy by the Sox to get fans excited and to try to establish a connection that for some reason doesn't much exist with their ex-players. Or the organization could sincerely wish to bury the hatchet, admit their mistakes and give Pudge his due. I'll believe it's the latter -- Fisk deserves as much.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

More Profiles in Courage

The Chicago Tribune's Eric Zorn on the California Supreme Court ruling:

Good news for gays; bad news for Dems
"So the California Supreme Court today overturned the Golden State's ban on gay marriage.

I'm all for full marriage rights and I believe that they will inevitably be granted in all 50 states.

But this is not an issue that the Democrats want on the front burner during this campaign season any more than they wanted it on the front burner four years ago when it seemed to motivate social conservatives to come out and vote.

Gay marriage isn't yet favored by a majority of Americans (see recent polls where support for gay marriage runs from 24 to 46 percent)."

That's his argument -- "I'm all for gay marriage, but if the Right Wing Wacko Religious Freaks come out, hold their noses and vote for McCain this November and the Democrats lose what should be a slam dunk for them, it's the gays' fault." 

Eric, you are a timid, unprincipled, spineless idiot. Are we -- all Americans, no matter what your sexual leanings -- supposed to wait for a public opinion poll to hit the 50.1 percent mark to make this. or anything, the right thing? Is that when you will crawl out of your safe, majority-approved hole and dare to say, "it's time"? You know what, though, your support, your OK, your approval isn't needed. You're pretty much irrelevant, and when the "inevitable" does occur, you will be forgotten, Mr. Nobody.


Friday, May 16, 2008

With Friends Like These ...

The California Supreme Court Thursday ruled that according to the state's Constitution, same sex couples cannot be denied the right to marriage. The arguments for and against the decision are predictable, in that gays and lesbians in California, and perhaps the rest of the nation, now have some degree of acknowledgment that they are human beings with the same inalienable rights as anyone else, and those who are against equal marriage rights will rail against "activist judges" and whatnot, and will simply redouble their efforts to somehow knock equal marriage off the books in California, as well as dig in and do whatever they can to prevent it from ever happening in the other 48 states (Massachusetts excluded for the time-being).

One arena, however, where the reaction is a surprise is among certain "liberals" and "progressives." A prime example of supposed liberals ready to throw the gays under the bus should the Democratic party blow another presidential election this year is The New Republic's Josh Patashnik.

Writing in TNR's blog "The Plank," Patashnik, a "not that there's anything wrong with that" sort of liberal, opens his ridiculously uninformed post by sighing, "Another Year, Another Gay Marriage Ruling." As if to say, "ho hum, big deal, yadda yadda yadda, there goes the annual gay parade again."  

Essentially, what Patashnik, who quickly tries to dispel any notion that he is not enlightened by stating, "as a Californian, I'm quite pleased that my state now recognizes gay marriages," believes, is that this is a matter that should not have been decided by the court, but by voters. Does this not sound like the argument that people like George W. Bush, John McCain, et al, say when talking about "gay marriage"? (Oh, and by the way, Josh, it's not "gay  marriage." It's just, plain, "marriage." There is no such thing as "black marriage," "atheist marriage," "elderly marriage," or anything like that. It's just marriage.) The Republicans and others against equal marriage twist and shout about "activist judges." But these Supreme Court judges were elected by the voters! This is why, in a republic such as ours, we elect people to serve us in the courts and legislatures -- to represent the people who elected them to serve, and the judges in California have done just that.

I paraphrase here, but the argument among these types seems to be, "Can't you just wait until the old people who hate gays die off and the enlightened population votes to make 'gay marriage' legal?" This is really easy to say -- if you're not gay or lesbian and if you already have the option of marriage (as well as the associated health care and tax benefits) available to you. Why do they even dare to suggest this? What are they afraid of? Could it be ...  

Patashnik, as well as some of the folks who have commented on his column, also are already polluting the waters of defeat by suggesting this could fuel the energies of otherwise uninterested and nearly defeated Republicans, evangelicals and other social regressives by propelling them into the streets and voting booths this year, leading, eventually, to a Republican presidential victory in November.  

Ah, so there we are. These spineless, frightened "liberals" are so insecure and unsure of the ability of a Democrat to win presidential election in November that they have already started to blame the gays for the loss. Stop the presses, we need to add a new chapter to "Profiles in Courage." 

Patashnik's defeatism is astounding. Throughout his piece he is of the opinion that (and I paraphrase again) "it'll all be voted down anyway" or "the evil conservatives and god-believers will just get angry and try even harder to deny you what you want." You know what, Josh, they hate us now, they hated us for awhile, and marriage or no marriage, they're gonna hate us for some time to come. Have you seen any of those stories from places like Pennsylvania and West Virginia about the Democratic primaries, and how people shout things like, "Hang that darkie from a tree!" and they believe that, according to the Bible, when a Muslim -- they're talking about Obama here -- becomes president of the United States, the world will end in an apocalyptic war? This, a good 150 years after slavery was ended and blacks were freed. But there are white people who still hate them, who will still vote against them, and who are only stopped from hurting them, killing them, or denying them a job or a home because of their color because there are laws against such things. (That's right, ours is a society based on law, not voter referendum.) 

Aside from those misgivings, Patashnik also believes that this judicial action just won't feel right to anyone who wants equal marriage. He says, "My fear is that judicial involvement here will always taint a victory that might otherwise have been achieved through democratic means." That's the way to stand up for what's right, Josh! Hooray for you! Just imagine if President Lincoln had told the nation that he believed slavery was wrong, but he didn't want to taint the freedom of African-Americans by getting the executive or judicial branches involved, so the repeal of slavery should just be left up to voters in each of the states. And when did the big national referendum on Black-White and Christian-Jew marriages take place? Must have been before I was born -- I don't remember that. Of course people like him can say "just wait" -- because they don't have to!

No doubt Patashnik, who says he's soooo happy that California now has "gay marriage" on the books also claims some "gay friends," but my, what a timid friend he must be.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Bursting Into Bloggerdom!

Only a matter of weeks after I launched it, this humble little and often aesthetically messy blog is now part of a big-time blog network. Yesterday I received notice from BlogBurst that shoelessjames has been accepted into their realm. What is BlogBurst? Well, it is, to quote them, "a news service bringing quality blogs onto highly-trafficked, high-brand mainstream publisher sites like the Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, USA Today and"

(Unfortunately they left out the Chicago Sun-Times, but that's almost understandable considering it's a penny stock company at this point.) 

Is this crazy, or what? I have no idea what their criteria are for judging what a quality blog is, but somehow I must have passed their tests or gotten under their radar somehow and slipped in. It is ironic, I think, that my chosen profession at this point and for the past couple decades, is what many are calling a dying industry, i.e., the printed news, and the news sources (like the Post, Chronicle and Sun-Times) are scurrying about like deckhands on a sinking ship looking for any bit of something that will float to grab on to in the hopes they can stay afloat for a while until they figure out how to survive. So if I can help to bolster one of those floating scraps of the ship, well, so be it. If however, this turns out to be the engine that makes someone, somewhere, read what I've said and offer me a chance to join an even bigger or well-known network to shout my opinions and odd musings, well, that would be even better.

Not that BlogBurst is all that, though. I've noticed that in stories on the sun-times web site, at least, the BlogBurst posts that appear as "related stories" often have nothing to do with the news story they are tagged onto. For instance, it's not uncommon for the Sun Times News Group to do a story about a fatal car crash and the BlogBurst "related stories" referenced will be about a baseball player who has the same surname as the crash victim being sent down to the minors, or if, say, a Toyota Prius was involved in the crash, one of the BlogBurst links will be to a story on an auto site on how to shop for a Hybrid automobile. 

Even more absurd is that 90 percent of the blogs I have bloglisted are better written and researched that this humble blog (I'm just dripping with humility, aren't I?), so this just reinforces the fact that there are no qualifications or prerequisites at all for blogging, and one need not even know what one is talking about to blog, but hopefully I can attain a certain degree of quality of writing and still entertain and amuse (and maybe inform, if I may be so presumptuous) anyone who drops in to read, and maybe, just maybe, I'll attain maybe just a small, teeny tiny, degree of recognition somewhere (hey, it's not like I write for the money!). 

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Take the CTA -- Please!

My love/hate relationship with the city of Chicago is kind of a roller coaster ride. For instance, take the CTA -- please! (If you get that you are reallly old or you are such a show people geek.)

Saturday afternoon/evening I went downtown to see the John Turturro-produced documentary "Beyond Wiseguys" at the Gene Siskel Center. Since the Red Line trains were not stopping at their usual stops downtown, I walked past my local station and to a bus stop, where I got an express bus downtown. Even though I live just about two miles south of the city's northern border, by the time the bus ("with more frequent service!" the CTA claims) got to my stop,and even though it was one of those double-long, stretchy in the middle buses, every seat was filled. OK, no great disappointment there, but since I was standing (on the 'turntable' in the middle, where the bus swings when it turns) and the bus driver was comfortably seated, the fact that I was hanging on for dear life and he barreled down Lake Shore Drive was not a concern of his. I got off about a half-mile early so I could get my bearings straight before settling in to the movie.

But that wasn't the worst part of it. On the way back, I decide to walk up north a bit, to Division Street, where I could pick up a Clark Street bus, which would take me to about a block from my building and since it was a long ride, I'd be able to do a bit of reading. Well, even though the Clark/Division Red Line station was closed, the CTA hadn't added any buses to the Clark or Broadway routes, to pick up the additional riders they'd get because there really was no rapid transit alternatives listed on the sign that said 'this station closed.' 
After watching two Broadway buses turn onto Clark from Division, at which point they head north for the most part, on the same route as the Clark Street bus, I decided to jump on a Broadway bus, since the crowd had grown to about 11 people waiting for the Clark Street bus in the 15 minutes I was there.

I got to that bus stop about 8 p.m. I got home about 9:30 p.m. Normally, it would a 30-40 minute ride. But about six blocks into my ride, the driver of the Broadway bus put on his hazard lights and settled in for about five changes of the traffic lights. It was not until one rider (no, not me) shouted, "hey, is there something wrong with the bus?" that he mumbled something like "ahead of schedule, have to wait three minutes..." We waited about 10 minutes there, during which time one young white man (I only mention his color in order to try  to point out how ridiculous he looked and acted) confronted the driver, went back to his seat, then got into a nasty, foul-mouthed argument with his female companion. And the bus still WOULD NOT MOVE. 

OK, so then we get moving, not too fast, of course, and when we get to Diversey, where the Broadway bus takes a soft right to go up Broadway and where Clark Street-bound traffic takes a soft left, to continue to go up Clark, my driver, the driver of the BROADWAY bus, goes up Clark Street! Then, then, without saying anything to the passengers, apologizing, etc., he flags down a Clark Street bus, and asks the driver of that bus how he would get back on to Broadway! Is this one of the new part-time drivers the CTA has hired at one of their recent job fairs? Incredible. He keeps driving up Clark, and when we get to Halsted, about four blocks up, I get off and run to catch that Clark Street bus. Of course I have to stand until the bus gets to about Irving, about two miles from home for me, so it's pointless by then to take out one of the books/magazines I brought with to read. I just listen to my ipod, look out the window and fume. 

To top it all off, when I get off the Clark Street bus, about 90 minutes after I first arrived at that bus stop at Division Street, another Clark Street bus was behind it less than a block away, about one-eighth full. 

World Class City, my ass.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Crain's Boobs

Every week I get a Crain's Chicago Business "10 Things to Do This Weekend" e-mail. The 10 things often includes things like opera and art gallery openings, concerts at Ravinia, parades, family-oriented events in the park, etc. The list is a mix of the upscale and the urban/suburban, but never too edgy or urban. I remember a couple/few years back, one of the events they listed was the annual Gay and Lesbian Pride Parade in Chicago, and they got at least angry e-mail from a subscriber. The lists sometimes include interesting events, but get kind of dull, as inoffensive and playing it safe editorial can be, at times.  

Sometime you can play it too safe. In the most recent "10 Things" e-mail from Crain's, they listed an event that both is for a good cause and sounds like fun, the Beverly Breast Cancer Walk, an event that will be held this weekend on the South Side of Chicago, to raise funds for breast cancer awareness and research. Along with the 3-mile walk, there will be a bake sale. Here is how the ever-careful Crain's described it:

"Some potentially X-rated cupcakes will be out for all to see (and eat) during the D-CUPS BAKE SALE at the Beverly Walk Against Breast Cancer on Mother's Day. The sale, which features cupcakes decorated like women's breasts (both clothed and not), will raise funds for the Little Company of Mary Hospital Breast Health Center."

Just how are cupcakes that resemble "women's breasts" (as opposed to men's breasts) "potentially X-rated"? Is it offensive and X-Rated because the cupcakes look like breasts? Are breasts inherently "X-rated"? What kind of a person would see a cupcake that looked like a breast and say, "My God, this is offensive and X-rated! I am appalled! This is sick!" Men, likely. Uncomfortable men. And scaredy-cat writers. Jeez, Crain's, if you're so afraid of the reaction from your readers that you stick a "potentially X-rated" disclaimer on an item about what seems like a fun way to raise awareness of an important health matter, then why bother at all? 

This wouldn't happen in Italy, though. There, Sicily, specifically, a custard tart known as Seni di Vergine, or Virgin's Breasts, are a well-known and well-loved treat. Here (no, not here, there, on top; I still haven't figured out how to place photos in a post, obviously) is a picture (warning, this is "potentially X-rated"), the only thing missing from this image would be a cherry on top.

Anyway, if you'd like to contribute to this naughty, dirty effort, the cupcake sale will be held at 96th Street and Longwood Drive on May 11, from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. 

Holland Days

This past weekend we drove around the southern bend of Lake Michigan and up to Holland, Mich. for the Tulip Time Festival and the Tulip Time 5K run. As you can see from the photo, I collapsed after I crossed the finish line, onto a bed of the town's signature flower. 

After a harrowing five and a-half hour drive through a torrential rain and a 30-minute stop in Michigan for road construction, we arrived at the DoubleTree in Holland about four hours before we were to wake up for the race. So pretty much I got the same amount of sleep as I usually get on a Friday night. As for the run itself, I had my best time ever (well, of the three timed races I have run in so far), coming in at 35:09, mainly because Stephen ran with me and wouldn't let me stop to walk. Yeah, I was heaving air at the end, but I wasn't nearly as bad off as the 9-year-old boy who threw up as soon as he crossed the finish line (he did however tell his buddy and an adult who was telling him to suck it up and stand up that he had some sort of Reese's candy as his pre-race snack -- apparently they don't have bagels in that part of Michigan). 

After about a 12-minute nap at the hotel, we hit the town for lunch and general touristy walking around. I torpedoed whatever health benefits came from the run by filling two plates with salmon and steamed veggies at a German-themed restaurant, then with a small ice cream at Ben & Jerry's (I'd never actually been at a Ben & Jerry's ice cream parlor, so I allowed myself to indulge a bit). It was nice to wait out the rain at an independent coffee shop, but the town was teeming with tourists (as if we weren't) and it's pretty much a one-industry town, and the industry is playing to the whole Dutch thing and thereby drawing tourists in. A lot of little galleries, fudge shops, 'resort'-type clothing stores, etc. Not that it's a bad place, there's just not a whole lot to do there. It was nice to get lost on the way out of town, where we found the semi-gated area, with houses that looked as though they belonged in Glencoe or Winnetka. What wasn't so fun was getting lost on the South Side of Chicago a couple hours later after I lost US 41. I have never been happier to see the Midway Plaisance at the University of Chicago campus.