Wednesday, December 23, 2009

It ain't perfect ...

but it's better than nothing, I suppose. And it's better than any plan the Republicants have come up with. A chart on just what sort of effect that the Health Care Reform will have on the nation.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Alcazar - Someday

By Alcazar. Nice rousing anthem if you can stand Euro-pop-disco-y stuff. And the video is certain to make the bigots cringe.

I'm Number 1!

in my fantasy hockey league.

Ah, it's been a tough road these past 11 weeks, especially given that in my six team league (hey, this is the lower 48, so its obviously tough to get more than this many people to take part in such a league), i have suspicions that one guy, the league's 'commissioner,' may own more than one, and possibly as many as three of the teams, but after playing just above .500 a few weeks then pummeling two weaker teams the past couple weeks, my team, "Cold Steel" (yeah, named after a Tricky song), is atop the others, with a winning percentage of .597.

Who's on my team? Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Cristobal Huet, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Kris Versteeg (notice a pattern?), as well as Evgeni Malkin, Nicklas Lidstrom, Mikko Koivu, Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Maxim Afinogenov, Evgeni Nabokov (man, I love hockey player names) and Joe Thornton.

It's not nearly as satisfying as having a winning team in fantasy baseball, where you have 8 or 10 or 12 teams and guys who really want to win, but it's fun to play around with in winter and helps deepens my appreciation of the game of hockey, which I love as much as baseball, as well.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Nothing to Say

As a reporter, there's nothing I hate more than people, especially those who are paid to talk to the media, who say "no comment." I believe in the exchange of information and ideas and that's how the truth is revealed, since so often people want it covered up.

But one area where I think the less said, the better, is the 'comments' section of news articles online. Generally those who comment on news are uninformed, unintelligent, tactless, vulgar and save for when they are working with others to hijack the comments section or promote a particular political point of view, contribute absolutely nothing to the discussion. There are times, though they are extremely few and far between, when someone commenting on a story will offer information valuable to the reporter or law enforcement, but for the most part the comments are useless and obviously are being done while someone is paying the commenter to do work that has nothing to do with the matter they are commenting on.

The latest story that got me annoyed once again about comments and commenters was the feel good story about a young man who won the city of Chicago's annual vehicle sticker art contest. A dozen or so high school students had their designs selected as finalists, and residents could go online to vote for the design they liked best. The story in the Chicago Sun-Times featured a picture of the high school student, smiling, with a poster-sized reproduction of his winning entry. It was an innovative design that featured a portrait of Daniel Burnham and a background of some of the famous urban architect's designs -- altogether a pretty handsome work of art, one which I don't mind at all displaying on the windshield of my car for 12 months.

But not everyone feels that way, at least among those who commented on the winning entry and the young artist, on the Sun-Times' Web site. Some decried the use of a photo-portrait of Burnham in the design, others didn't like that the young man apparently didn't draw it freehand, doing it by computer instead. Others dissed the selection process, saying it was like "American Idol," and that the kid who goes to the biggest school or who has the most friends, is the one who won, and that artistic talent had nothing to do with it. Some others took the opportunity to say that the voting system was rigged so that a certain school or a certain demographic group would win, and of course there were those who took the comment box as their opportunity to let the world know how much they hate Mayor Daley.

But all I could think about was the smiling young man in the Sun-Times photo, and his parents, brothers and sisters, grandparents, even, and how proud they must have been of him and his achievement. Until they dared read the comments posted by the mouth-breathing know-nothings. I truly hope the idiots' comments didn't ruin an otherwise great day for this young man and his family. And I hope that those who saw a comment box as an invitation to crap on this piece of good news coming from the inner city of Chicago aren't always like this, but if they are, that young man, and all of us who cheer good news like his, will realize that at his age he has contributed more than all these commenters combined.

I welcome your comments.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

With Liberty and Justice for Some...

"We had 300 people there, 150 of whom we allowed to testify. We'd still be debating it today, right now, but when I knew the bill had the votes, I pulled the trigger. Yes, I am opposed to the bill at this point in time, but their (Garden State Equality) advocacy has come a long way, and I am quite certain some time in the near future, I believe the tide has turned a little bit, and they will win with their issue. I am still opposed personally because of my religious beliefs as a Roman Catholic, and as senator of the 36th District, which is mostly made up of Irish and Italian Catholics, and Orthodox Jews,"
-- State Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-Wood-Ridge) of New Jersey, passed a marriage equality bill out of committee on Thursday.

Sen. Sarlo, it's nice that you are thinking of the beliefs of your constituents, but you were elected as a representative to a democratic government institution, not as pope, nor as bishop or rabbi. Besides, don't assume that just because a constituent is Irish or Italian and Catholic, that they oppose equal rights. It's a simplistic argument and maybe just a little bit insulting to those populations. God Bless.

Olympic Effort

Throughout the city of Chicago's recent bid to land the 2016 Olympic games, I was pretty ambivalent about it. Some people were absolutely dead-set against it, others brought out the pom poms and were all for it, including Mayor Daley and anyone who did not want to incur his wrath. That was probably a big mistake of his since the opposition to the Olympics in Chicago was as much anti-Daley as it was anti amateur sports festival.

People were upset, and rightly so, about the lack of transparency of the process, about the fee hikes and what they took as the selling of the city (e.g.., the parking meter deal) of Daley to put forth a competitive Olympics bid. People also worried, again, rightly so, about the corruption that just seems to be inherent in this city and how it would manifest itself when it came to hosting the games, building the needed venues, etc. There would likely have been cost overruns, money exchanging hands under the table, deals that would make Salt Lake City look like, well, some sort of holy city, and then there'd be the hassles that regular city residents who wouldn't care either way about the Olympics would have to deal with -- buses and trains that would be even more crowded than normal, migrane-inducing traffic messes, construction projects throughout the metropolitan area, police possibly taken out of the neighborhoods to work at the Olympic sites, etc. And these are all very valid concerns.

Additionally, there are problems in Chicago that need to be fixed instead of throwing an Olympics. Kids and addults aren't safe on the streets or in the schools, the infrastructure is falling apart, the transit system is hobbling along, the schools aren't that great, we're short of a fulll police department by a couple thousand cops, and still, in spite of all that, the mayor and those who worked to bring the Olympics to Chicago deserve a round of applause, if not for the work they did then for at least some of their motives.

This is quite an accomplishment by Daley, to elicit sympathy for him, since he can be altrenately petulant and a bully, especially when he gets all red-faced and shouts at critics or anyone who dares question what he's doing. He loves to try to embarass or scapegoat the media, a favorite whipping dog of his, merely for sking basic questions. But he was right when he asked critics of the plan to get the Olympics, how else they'd make infrastructure improvements, how they get millions and millions of federal dollars, how they'd get tourists to the city from around the globe in the nidst of the worst recession since the Great Depression.

The anti-Olympics crowd made it easier for me to feel some sense of loss when Chicago was quickly knocked out of the running for the Olympics, since they were like a Tea Party bunch -- shouting, screaming, hating, wishing for someone to fail --yet offering no solutions themselves to the many obbbstacles and challenges the city faces. Sure, Daley may have wanted the Olympics as a "legacy" project, and others may have wanted it just so they'd make money off it, but at least he tried. At least they tried. At least those who worked to get the Olympics in Chicago were working for something. What have the "anti" crowd done to the benefit of Chicago?

Yes, there would have been corruption and out of control costs and headaches for the citizens if the city of Chicago had won the 2016 Olympic bid. But things would have gotten built, people would have been put to work, the economic engine would have been humming, the namee "Chicago" would have been on the lips of people across the globe, and man, it could have been one hell of a party.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Zoppe, Part II

Giovanni Zoppe isn’t some idle dreamer, though. He’s been a professional circus performer since he was a child, and a few years ago, he resurrected the Zoppe Family Circus in America, the same circus that his father, Alberto Zoppe, was the star of in Italy, before he came to the U.S. in 1949, lured to this country by Orson Welles, John Ringling North, and an elephant named Mary. The Zoppes may be artists and dreamers, but they are also business managers and problem solvers. To be part of a family circus, you also have to be part engineer, carpenter, truck driver, laborer and accountant.

It was Alberto who, in 1936, invented the four-pole cupola circus tent, which in addition to being more stable and secure than circus tents that had previously been in use, allowed circuses to fit nearly twice as many people in the tents as they had let in before, since the amount of square footage had been doubled by the way Alberto had devised the tents. It is Giovanni who not only takes center stage as Nino the Clown in the Zoppe Family Circus, but who coordinates scheduling with his sisters Tosca and Carla, brothers-in-law Rudy and Jay, half-brother Tino Wallenda Zoppe, and his mother and father, to insure that they, as well as all the hardware -- the tent, the concession stand, the bleachers, and the family’s horses and dogs, all of which is kept at his parents’ home in Arkansas, will be ready to hit the road when they’ve got a gig.

When he is not on the road with the Zoppe Family Circus, Giovanni Zoppe freelances with other circuses or various festivals as either Nino or whatever other character he may be suited for. This spring, for instance, he performed for two weeks in Hawaii, came home to Chicago for a day, and then hit the road for his next job, in Pennsylvania. In Chicago, he has performed at Navy Pier’s “Winter Wonderland,” where he produced a one-man show, “The Night Before Christmas,” in 2002. “It was a chair-stacking act (where his objective was to place an angel atop a Christmas tree) that we built a whole show around.”

He’s also played a scarecrow at the Halloween festival at Daley Plaza, in addition to performing at the Shriner’s Circus at Medinah Temple, before the building was transformed into a Bloomingdale’s furniture store. Elsewhere, he has performed a few times at Carnevale in Venice, as “a horny, drunk monk, an American tourist, the Greek god Mercury, … (and) a minotaur, a Comedia dell’ Arte character.”

While the origins of his family’s circus are in Venice, it is Chicago that has been his muse for the modern-day Zoppe Circus, as well as the winter circus he one day hopes to see in the city. While much of his living comes on the road, it is Chicago that Giovanni Zoppe has made his home; the place where he feels destiny has brought him.

It was while performing as Nino the Clown in 1998 as part of the Shriners Circus at Medinah Temple that Giovanni Zoppe first saw Block 37, and got his epiphany for a winter circus in Chicago. One day when he had some time to fill, Giovanni took a walk around downtown, “and I saw Block 37, and thought, ‘Oh my God!’ I stood there for like 10 minutes and thought, ‘What an amazing place to put my little circus, to put my family’s circus.’”

Even before he set eyes upon Block 37, Giovanni Zoppe says that, “I had already planned on opening my own circus. It may have been a little push from working at Medinah (where his father had performed some 50 years earlier)and the richness of it” that further fueled his dreams.

Besides mentally placing his circus on Block 37 and the German market that would compliment it, Zoppe further has envisioned the ComEd building that looks across Dearborn to Daley Plaza, as a training facility for Circus Arts one day.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Hard Drive Recovery

As I try to get every last bit of life out of my six-year-old imac (which I bought used two years ago), I've been trying to dump stuff from its hard drive onto an external drive and try other tricks to get it to work at an adequate level, until I break down this winter and buy a MacBook Pro. While doing so I re-discovered a story I spent just about an entire summer on in 2004, while I was largely unemployed. I did multiple versions of the story for a local weekly publication, which in the end did not buy it. By that time I was so frustrated I gave up trying to sell it.

It's a neat story, though, about this old-time circus and the dream the guy who runs it now has had to bring it back bigger and even better, by not only traveling all over the country with it but giving it a permanent home, at least in the winter. It's a pretty long story, so I'll have to divide it among a few separate posts (and maybe at some point I'll relate my week of working at the circus during this time).

** The Dreams of a Clown **

Giovanni Zoppe wants to bring “real circus” back to the U.S. and he wants to bring it to downtown Chicago.

by James Scalzitti

About 1998, while taking a walk in downtown Chicago, Giovanni Zoppe saw that vacant plot of land known as Block 37, and he had an epiphany.

He had not yet, as he would do a couple years later, put his family’s nearly 160-year-old circus back on the road, so the thought he had must have seemed even more impossible than it does now.

He saw, at Block 37, the perfect spot for his family’s Venetian-born circus, an accompanying center for the study and practice of the circus arts, and a complimentary European food and gift marketplace. Even wilder? He envisioned this all occurring in the dead of winter.

To the skeptics, he explains, “Every city in Europe has a winter circus.” Zoppe, the 43-year-old owner of the Zoppe Family Circus, a traveling European-style circus that dates back to 1842 in Venice, points out, furthermore, that the trend is catching on in North America, as well. Winter circuses have been successful in New York City, Montreal and Washington State, and if these spots can make a circus in winter work, then why not Chicago?

Besides the argument that circuses are just plain fun, Zoppe and advocates of the winter circus point out that these circuses take spaces that would otherwise lie dormant for a few months and bring families downtown. For those who envision only snow and bone-chilling cold when they think of winter in Chicago, Zoppe says that winter circuses aren’t totally exposed to the elements; they do take place inside tents, and the air is warmed with heaters. And Chicago is no colder than Montreal in winter. “I was in Montreal last Christmas,” Zoppe recalls. “They had a beautiful horse show in a circus tent. It was extremely frozen outside, but it was an amazing show.”

And even if artificial means were not employed in warming the air, people who wanted to see a circus would no doubt still stay in their seats for an hour-and-a-half or so while they were being entertained, since, Zoppe points out, when Block 37 was home to “Skate on State,” the outdoor ice rink drew plenty of people, and the only sort of artificial climate control employed were the coils used to keep the ice from melting when the temperatures got too warm.

“It’s a mentality, I know,” Zoppe says. “Will people go in a tent in winter?’ But it’s heated.” He adds, “Circus people have always figured out a way to make it work. In summer we use air conditioning and in winter we use heaters. When we don’t use them, we don’t need them.”

“In every city in Europe, there’s a winter circus,” he says. “In Europe, they expect a circus to come in wintertime. And he believes that Mayor Richard M. Daley, who is known for importing to Chicago things that he has seen in other cities in his travels abroad, would especially like the idea.

“I believe it’s what Mayor Daley wants in this town,” Zoppe remarked. “Something small, European, and family-friendly. There’s nothing better than a winter circus for the family. Cities like Chicago need something like a circus for children to go to at Christmastime; something besides Santa Claus.” Observing that the city’s downtown is already a destination point for families from throughout the Midwest around the holidays, he adds, “how much more spectacular would it be for Chicago to have a real, authentic European circus in wintertime?”

Aesthetics aside, what about logistics? Zoppe points out that in a space like Block 37, there’d be more than enough room for his circus, in case city planners felt compelled to include some features more likely to generate income, such as concessions. He adds that not only could it co-exist, but that it would be a perfect compliment to the city’s existing winter wonderland in and around Block 37, such as the annual Christkindlmarket a German-themed holiday marketplace. “I can totally see it,” he says, as if there’s a blueprint in his mind that he’s referring to as he speaks. “When I look at Block 37 I see so much potential. It wouldn’t even take up that much room. My circus would be about the same size as ‘Skate on State,’” and there would still be room for the annual Christmas market. If his winter circus were to join the holiday market and holiday decorations and music that floods State Street during the holiday season, it would be the one piece that “would tie everything together.”

Heartless and Cruel

It's one thing to oppose marriage equality and to pledge not to allow it in your state based on whatever twisted logic you have, but to veto a bill that would simply allow someone to bury their longtime partners, as the Gov. of Rhode Island has done, well that's just plain assholery.

Monday, November 9, 2009

What Would Jesus Contribute?

For anyone, any Catholic, specifically, who is not taking any action in their own diocese in the wake of the half-million dollar campaign by the Catholic Diocese of Portland, Maine to bring down marriage equality in that state, take a look at where the Maine Catholics' money came from.

Catholic churches from throughout the country, including New Orleans, Gary, Ind., Rockford and Joliet, Ill., Biloxi, Miss., etc., etc., all gave money to the campaign of hate orchestrated by the Maine Catholics (with a little help from their new Mormon friends). Most gave $1,000, some gave $500, Rockford gave $5,000 (!!!). Apparently these dioceses are swimming in cash since they can afford to send the contributions from their followers to Maine to fund a political operation (are you listening, IRS???) This is infuriating, saddening and despicable. More than a half-million dollars that could have fed the hungry, clothed those without a winter coat, sheltered the homeless, provided counseling to people with a variety of physical and psychological ills and worries was instead funneled into a campaign to repeal marriage equality which was successful but which ultimately will be overturned, either by the voters or the progress of society in general. A half-million dollars. Children in this country are going hungry, adults are out of work, people in hospitals and the elderly who are in nursing homes are alone, and likely these days, as much or probably more than ever in the history of this country, people are talking to God, wondering what will happen next, where they can turn, how they can possibly hope for something better, and what is the Church's answer? To pour $554,000 into a campaign to repeal marriage equality. How sad.

This is not my Church, anymore.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Mod alla Italiana

The following was printed in the November 2009 issue of Fra Noi. I encourage all of you to pick up a copy of the monthly Italian American news-magazine at your local deli, specialty shop, newsstand.

by James Scalzitti

When you think of the “Swinging 60s,” the music that probably comes to mind has origins in England or Motown, and the women behind the songs are chanteuses such as Dusty Springfield, Petula Clark, Lulu, even Nancy Sinatra.

While it is Italy that gave us “La Dolce Vita,” setting the stage for the stylish swinging 60s less well-known are the many Italian songstresses who made some great pop music through a period that spanned the decade. Italy also provided a welcoming, fertile ground for some American, British and French women singers during this time.

These women may today not be household names in the U.S., but in their day they regularly topped the charts in Italy and through Europe. Their music may actually be familiar to people who may not know these women by name, because often they turned out Italian versions of American and British pop songs, or they recorded songs that did not do so well commercially, only to be covered later by an American or British singer, sometimes to greater success. Many of these women are still involved in the music and entertainment business, working as talent agents, producers and executives, while every so often one of them will record (or in a few cases re-record) new music.

Since some non-Italians found success singing English versions of Italian songs, then why shouldn’t Italians have recorded their own versions of hit American and British tunes? That’s how I first stumbled onto these women, by finding a version of the Rolling Stones’ “Paint it Black,” done by one of the more renown of these Italian singers, Caterina Caselli. Her “Tutto Nero,” is, I’d argue, superior to the Stones’ version, because her voice is richer, reaches deeper than Mick Jagger’s, and consequently the song is darker than the more well-known version. Caselli didn’t contain her covers of Anglo tunes to the dark stuff, though. Her version of the Monkees’ “I’m a Believer” (“Sono Bugiarda”) has an upfront, swinging intensity that beats The Monkees’ version, I think. But then, I’m a mod, not a rocker.

Caselli, like many of these singers, found fame in the San Remo song contest. Her entry in the 1966 contest, “Nessuno mi può Giudicare” was a hit, outselling a version by Gene Pitney. The song established Caselli as a star and a rapid succession of hits followed.

In addition to her recording career, Caterina Caselli starred in several movie musicals. Her recording career carried on into the early 1970s, but by the 80s and 90s she only released a few singles and appeared in various song contests, devoting the bulk of her time behind the production controls and becoming a manager for other artists.

How’s this for irony? The first single released by another of these Italian songstresses, Patty Pravo, was a cover of Italian-American Sonny Bono’s “But You’re Mine.” Pravo’s song, “Ragazzo Triste,” made it to No. 13 on the Italian charts in early 1967, when Pravo was just 19 years old.

Pravo (real name Nicoletta Strambelli ) was a nightclub singer who after studying music, dance and orchestra conducting, left home in Venice for London, at age 15. She soon returned to Italy, settled in Rome, and in 1968 she recorded what remains one of the biggest-selling hits of all-time, “La Bambola.”

In 1969 she won Festivalbar song contest with “Il Paradiso,” which became a Top 10 hit that the British group Amen Corner covered in English (“If Paradise is Half as Nice”) which went to the top of the UK charts. She continued recording through the 1970s, left Italy’s music scene for the U.S. in the 1980s, but in 1995 she returned to Italy. Less than a year and a half later Patty Pravo made her return to San Remo, released a successful album and she continues recording and performing to this day.

As a teenager in the early 1960s, Rita Pavone worked in a clothes factory, ironing clothes, and supplemented her income by singing in local clubs around Turin. After winning the Festa degli Sonosciuti talent contest, her first single, “La Partita di Pallone” was released, topping the charts in February 1963 and ultimately selling a million copies globally.

Her subsequent hits included “Cuore,” which sold millions of copies throughout Europe. Rita was launched in the U.S. with an album modestly titled, “The International Teenage Sensation,” and appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show, Shindig and Hullabaloo. Americans were charmed by the heavily-accented Pavone and a single from that album, “Remember Me,” reached No. 26 in the Billboard charts. She released two more albums in the U.S. by 1965.

Rita Pavone starred in a number of TV shows and movies, scored many more Top 10 hits through the 1960s and into the 70s (including “Stai Con Me,” a version of “Stand By Me” and “Gira Gira,” her version of The Four Tops’ “Reach Out I’ll Be There.”) Her singing career wound down by the 1980s and she has since turned to more acting roles.

While Mina (born Mina Mazzini in Busto Arsizio, in northern Italy) has had a career that spanned from the 1950s through today, her mid-1960s material, some say, is her best.

She first topped the charts in 1959, with “Tintarella di Luna,” followed that with a string of Top 10 hits, before hitting No. 1 again in October 1960 with “Il Cielo in Una Stanza,” the biggest seller of that year in Italy. Her career suffered in 1963 when her relationship with actor Carrado Pani who was married, though separated from his wife, became known. She was banend from RAI but nonetheless scored more chart-topping hits, including in early 1964 the heart-wrenching “Citta Vuota,” a cover of “It’s a Lonely Town.”

Eventually the RAI ban was lifted, she got her own TV show, but by 1970 she had gone three years without a hit song and she was no longer the presence as she once was. But she kept scoring occasional hits throughout the 70s, 80s, and 90s, before making a big chart comeback in 2002.

These artists are just the surface of the singers who really made the Italian music scene swing in the 1960s. For people who like the music of the more well-known Petula Clarks and Lulus and Dusty Springfields, mining the record shops and mp3 dealers could unearth some great music that’ll reinvigorate your love of the music of this period.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Everything's Gone Green

As you can tell from the list to your right, there was a time, not so long ago, when I was "running" in 5K races quite regularly, and getting a little better and quicker with each race. But for a few reasons, not the least of which I thought it ridiculous to take part in these runs in my ever-present state of fattiness, struggling to finish faster than the people with strollers or those who were clearly in worse shape than me, I gave up, turning my sights to getting in better shape by making better food choices and eating like a healthy person and getting to the gym at least four times a week - hoping to eventually get back to running outside.

But since the Sun-Times was a sponsor of the annual Notebart Nature Museum "Go Green" 5K and any employee who wanted to take part could run in it without having to pay the $35 entrance fee, I decided 'what the hell' and gave it a shot. I'd been running on the treadmill at the gym more regularly and thought maybe I wouldn't look too ridiculous out there. I told myself my first goal was to run without having to stop and walk the course, and secondly to finish in a reasonably respectable time.

Getting to Lincoln Park after my overnight shift, I found a parking spot on Clark Street, about three-quarters of a mile from the race site along Lake Michigan and thought I may as well pump $1.75 worth of quarters into the Daley 2016 Chicago Olympics Memorial parking pay box, since there was no way I'd run the race then get back to the car within an hour and a half.

The race apparently began a few minutes early and when I got to the starting line, a fella poked his out from a tent (it was raining lightly) asked if I was just starting and said, "You'll get a gun time," and I nodded and said, "That's fine," as if I understood the runner's lingo. But I looked at my super slim (the only time you'll see "I" and "super slim" in the same sentence) Nike running watch and saw it was 5 minutes after the hour, so I thought I'll just keep my time this way.

I lasted about three minutes before it felt as if someone had whacked me across the thighs with a baseball bat. I was relatively alone among runners though, since everyone else got an earlier start than me, and thought to myself that I can't stop now, I have to at least get to within spitting distance of the slow pokes before I stop and walk. Which is what I did. As soon as I caught up to a few walkers, I thought I could stop and start walking. But there was no way I'd walk the rest of the way, so after a couple minutes I started jogging again. I followed this run, walk, run, no way I'm gonna let this other fatty finish in front of me, run, there's the 2-mile mark, I can't breathe, I have to walk now, I can't look at this fat ass in front of me, run, walk routine the rest of the way.

After the first mile I looked at my watch and figured I was running an 11- to 12-minute mile. No way. At the gym, my pace is about 14 minutes a mile. That gave me inspiration to not walk all the way. At times it rained a little harder, the gravel along the lake was a bit muddy at times, but I managed to get myself into the pack and before long, I saw the sign that said "Mile 3" so I decided then that I'd kick it up a bit and not stop until I crossed the finish line.

I ran across the finish line and saw the official time was 48 minutes. I looked at my watch and it was 42 minutes past 9, meaning I had "run" it in 37 minutes. I was thrilled. Thrilled to be a slow runner, since I had hoped merely to finish within about 50 minutes. This was not my fastest 5K time, but then I have not run in a 5K in a year and it's been just about that long since I've run outside at all. UPDATE: According to the "official results" that I got e-mailed to me Monday morning, my chip was apparently working, and my official time was 36:01 -- a minute faster than I thought! Yeay, me. Even better than I thought. Of course, I'm thinking, "Damnit, if only I had run for just a few seconds more before stopping to walk, my time would have been under 36 minutes! Oh well, gives me a goal to shoot for next year!

So what now? Keep on training, keep on working out, don't eat like a pig and maybe next year I'll be in good enough shape so that I will be able to run a 10K, and who knows ... can a half-marathon be that far behind?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Meet ya at the Cattle Call, cowboy?

Charlie's. Jo-Jo's. The Double Eagle. The Longhorn. Captain's.

Are they gay bars? Or are they steakhouses?

You'll have to go to steakhouseorgaybar to find out. A simple, possibly stupid, way to waste a bunch of time just clicking on either possible answer.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

With Friends Like These ...

Once again, this week I've been thinking about the nature of the Facebook Friend. I'm almost embarrassed to sound like a 15-year-old girl (or would that be an 18-year-old, since the 15-year-olds are all on myspace?) to waste time thinking about this, but what's the point of the whole Facebook friend thing if your 'friends' aren't really friends in the first place or if they turn on you because of the toxic political environment we're immersed in these days?

I've already had one big huge blowup with a former (real) friend who became my Facebook friend but whose political rants (e.g., 'it's raining out today, i guess the messiah obama could not make the sun shine 24 hours a day!') got to be absurd and tiresome and whose hatred of our President was so deep and intense that she became a vile, hateful, ugly person on my facebook page. Not only did I knock her off my page but I never want to see or hear anything about her ever again.

She had a pal who is also a Facebook friend of mine who also is a part of the whole teabagger, 'there's Marxists running amok in the hall of the White House!' types, but I have not kicked him off my FB page because he isn't that 24 hours a day -- maybe like 20, but not 24 hours a day. He also posts things related to street fairs he's going to or where he's biking or running and he can comment on say, a goofy news story or something I post without resorting to blaming Obama.

But then there are still people such as the guy I went to grammar school with, who I last saw I think in 7th grade, who 'friended' me, wrote me maybe one note that said hello and urged me to read Ayn Rand, but after a while the only time he'd check in with me would be to criticize something I said or to LOL at me and the rest of the liberals. The last thing he posted on my page began with "You liberals make me laugh," called me some sort of a hypocrite and it really bugged me, because I'm like, 'why the f should i care what some guy i haven't even seen in person for like 30 years says to me, not even to my face?' Then there's the guy who I'm not even sure if I've ever said anything to, who may have been a member of the same group of youngish Italians I was in awhile back, who has commented on my page maybe three times, and each time has been to counter something I've said about the need for healthcare insurance reform, or to rebut some assertion I made that illustrated how backwards and ridiculous Republicans have become in the past few years. It's one thing to disagree with me and say so, but if that's the only thing you do -- if you don't even click on the 'like' button when i post a picture of cute puppies or a grammar school choir singing Beyonce songs, why are you even here? Do you actually consider me a 'friend?' because I surely don't think you're acting like one.

Then there's the guy who posted hateful, spiteful things on the Steve and Johnnie Show FB page, and when I made a witty comment about how he's more obsessed with the WGN latenight radio duo than any of their actual fans, he took the time to go to my FB page, read my info, then go back to the Steve and Johnnie page and tell me I was stupid and he hoped I lose my job at the Sun-Times. He was soon thereafter kicked off the Steve and Johnnie show page, but he seems to have revisited them on Monday night, only this time he created a fake FB profile that was very close to theirs -- something like "Steve _ Johnnie _ Show," copied a picture of them for the public picture and then went onto their real page and acting as if he was them, said "Our show has been cancelled." Yeah, what a prick.

What drives people to be like this? If someone actually does not like you, and can't stand to hear you say something without telling you how stupid it is and how deluded you are, are they your 'friend'? If they only say something to you when you've said something they don't like, are they your 'friend'? If people who are your Facebook friends did anything in the 'real' world like what they did on Facebook, would they be your friends? Would they be arrested? Would they be shunned by all good, decent people? If people really need to say something, they should get a blog. It's free, and they can say whatever they want. And they can stay the hell away from me.

Haters Welcome Here

So, the Catholic Church, in an effort to attract people whose favorite word is "no" and who generally can't stand anyone who questions decrees handed down by bitter men, is reaching out to Anglicans who are just not having the acceptance of gays and women their church has been exercising lately.

The Rat's minions this week have announced that Anglicans who have a problem with the liberal leanings of their church can join the Catholics -- no questions asked, no contract, or credit check required.

The Rat's plan "reflects a really bold determination by Rome to seize the moment and do what it can to reach out to those who share its stance on women priests and homosexuality," said Ian Markham, dean of the Virginia Theological Seminary, an Episcopal seminary in Alexandria. Its stance? What stance? Burning at the stake?

I'm surprised the Catholic Church is not setting up recruiting booths at Teabagger rallies. This comes not too long after the Church seems to be reversing its longheld stance on the importance of healthcare reform, because of its obsession with abortion. Yep, they would rather that healthcare reform fail and millions continue to be denied care and access than the medical procedure of abortion even be acknowledged.

Me thinks the Church might want to address the matter of disillusioned Catholics before they start macking on other religions' followers.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Our President, the Writer

A fascinating, inside baseball-y look at President Obama as a writer, and the process behind his speeches, in GQ magazine. (Yeah, I know! GQ!) Particularly interesting is what happened to lead up to his big speech on race last spring.

"When the subject isn’t policy but Obama’s personal values, says Frankel, 'you just wouldn’t presume to write something for him. He has thoughts nobody can characterize.'

This was especially true last March 13, when the incendiary sermons of Obama’s pastor, Jeremiah Wright, blew up all over the cable networks. On that Thursday, Obama had spent the entire day and evening in the Senate. That Friday, after enduring a series of tough interviews, Obama informed Axelrod and campaign manager David Plouffe, “I want to do a speech on race.” And he added, “I want to make this speech no later than next Tuesday. I don’t think it can wait.” Axelrod and Plouffe tried to talk him into delaying it: He had a full day of campaigning on Saturday, a film shoot on Sunday, and then another hectic day campaigning in Pennsylvania on Monday. Obama was insistent. On the Saturday-morning campaign conference call, Favreau was told to get to work on a draft immediately. Favreau replied, “I’m not writing this until I talk to him.”

That evening, Saint Patrick’s Day, less than seventy-two hours before the speech would be delivered to a live audience, Favreau was sitting alone in an unfurnished group house in Chicago when the boss called. “I’m going to give you some stream of consciousness,” Obama told him. Then he spoke for about forty-five minutes, laying out his speech’s argumentative construction. Favreau thanked him, hung up, considered the enormity of the task and the looming deadline, and then decided he was “too freaked out by the whole thing” to write and went out with friends instead. On Sunday morning at seven, the speechwriter took his laptop to a coffee shop and worked there for thirteen hours. Obama received Favreau’s draft at eight that evening and wrote until three in the morning.

He hadn’t finished by Monday at 8 a.m., when he set the draft aside to spend the day barnstorming across Pennsylvania. At nine thirty that night, a little more than twelve hours before the speech was to be delivered, Obama returned to his hotel room to do more writing. At two in the morning, the various BlackBerrys of Axelrod, Favreau, Plouffe, and Jarrett sounded with a message from the candidate: Here it is. Favs, feel free to tweak the words. Everyone else, the content here is what I want to say. Axelrod stood in the dark reading the text: 'The profound mistake of Reverend Wright’s sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It’s that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made.… But what we know—what we have seen—is that America can change. That is the true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope—the audacity to hope—for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.'

He e-mailed Obama: This is why you should be president."

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Why I Love the Belmont Barbers

I've bounced around a handful of haircut places over the past decade -- from Gabby's to Big Hair to Lather to Foam to Rinse and Repeat ;) ... but I think I have settled upon the Belmont Barbers, at Belmont and Western in Chicago, just down the block from the Belmont Area police headquarters. What I tell people when I want to say what the experience is like in a nutshell, is that it's as if the Holiday Club had branched out into a barber shop. There are big black and white pictures of the Rat Pack on the walls, along with vintage 1950s hair product ads and some hair products that seem like they're from that time, as well. There's a pool table, a nice comfy leather sofa, coffee and a little fridge with cans of beer if you get there early for your appointment, and the barbers are of the multi-tattooed Rockabilly sort, who often can be heard talking about vintage cars and motorcycles.

The other thing that endears the place to me (besides that I can get a great cut for $20, tip included) is that when I sit in the chair that's older than me, and the guy about to cut my hair asks me what I want, I can point to the above picture, which they have on their wall, of Elvis getting his hair cut when he enlisted in the Army, and I can come away with something pretty darn close to it, and something which only gets better two and three weeks after it's cut.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Where the 'Boys' Are?

A news story (which should not have been news in the first place but that's another matter altogether) contained the term "Boystown" in its lede, to refer to the North Side neighborhood in Chicago that is the hub of the city's (and dare I say the Midwest's) gay community.

I cringed, groaned and wished for a reason to update the story so that I could change "Boystown" to "Lakeview neighborhood," which it should have been. I can't stand that term, "Boystown." I have hated it since I was a young Leftie rabble rouser in college, when I first heard it used by a well-meaning fellow Leftie at a conference of Lefties at a Midwestern college. (That in itself was something, actually, with the GLBTs in one room and the non-gays -- at the time at least -- in another, and I think the point of the session was to figure out how to be more GLBT-sensitive and inclusive, etc.) One of the leaders of the group in the non-gay room (yes, that's where I was) tried to explain to the other Midwesterners how things were in Chicago, and led off by saying, "In Chicago, we've got a neighborhood called 'Boystown,' ..." That in itself made me want to run straight into the gay room.

The term has, to the best of my memory, been used casually, as a nickname, but never officially, and never as something that would appear in a newspaper (or news Web site). But lately use of the term has grown, I've noticed, and its become a de facto designation of the area. And, for the most part, I hate it. I hate it mainly because it reduces a group of people to mascots and circus clowns, as it every gay was "Jack" from "Will and Grace." Bestowing such a term on a neighborhood allows others to look at and treat its residents like children, and not adults. We don't use terms like "Jew Town" to refer to certain neighborhoods anymore -- and that is a good thing -- so why do people use a term like this? To show how cool or "with it" or not square they are? Puh-lease.

I realize that neighborhoods have often been referred to by the national origins of its residents, such as Little Italy or Greektown, etc., but none of these have the connotation of "Boystown." When you refer to people as "boys," you dismiss them as not worthy of the adult table, and deserving only of a ghetto. When you say Chelsea or The VIllage or The Castro to identify a neighborhood, you and the person you're addressing have an idea of what the demographic makeup of the residents is, so you don't need to use an insulting term such as "Boystown." If someone in Chicago really wants to make sure someone else realizes that the area they're talking about is the "gay" area, why not just say "Halsted Street," or "North Halsted," and then, "nudge, nudge, say no more, you know what I mean???"

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Sinead's Hand

A cool ad that would make any sane person ask, 'now what's the big deal? sure, go ahead!' (I especially like how at one of the houses he made his request in Gaelic.)

Friday, August 7, 2009

Robbie's Back!

Almost. Robbie Williams' new album, Reality Killed The Video Star, due on November 9th. First single to be released on October 12. And, he's got a new, grown-up, cleaned-up look, it seems. Now if only he could bother to tour the U.S.!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Where the Jobs Are

Well, they're not in Chicago (No. 44) or NYC (No. 42), according to this list. Even worse is that Chicago and New York aren't all that much better than (gasp!) Detroit (No. 50), for people looking for work.

Good news though, if I ever move to any of the other cities I'd ever considering moving to -- San Francisco (No. 12), Seattle (No. 6), Boston (No. 9) and DC (No. 1 -- you know, in case I wind up on the staff of a U.S. Senator someday).

Geez, even Pittsburgh and Cleveland have better job prospects than Chicago. Then again, you'd have to LIVE in Pittsburgh or Cleveland, and compared to Chicago, places like SF and Boston are just as if not significantly more, expensive to live in.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Livin' the Highlight!

I finally did it. I finally, after months of window shopping and careful comparisons and weighing the pros and cons of various options, including staying with my current provider, jumping to another, buying online versus in a brick and mortar store, I finally, this weekend, pulled the trigger on the purchase of a new cell phone.

I went with the Samsung Highlight, from T-Mobile. I had almost decided, as recently as a few weeks ago, to go with AT&T because they had all the cool phones and buying one online, from amazon or one of those places that only sell cell phones, would cost me anywhere from 1 cent to at the very most $49 depending on the model of phone, and to me every dollar counts these days. My employer also has been pushing their discount deals with AT&T -- 10 percent on your monthly bill and 'select' hardware -- but I found out the same sort of deal was available with T-Mobile. The biggest factor in my decision, though, was even though I was not thrilled at the fact that my prize for being a loyal T-Mobile customer in good standing for more than two years was a 'discount' of well, really nothing from anyone who's walk in off the street -- actually, the phone cost about $150 more than it would for someone who would come in from another cellular provider -- and I could get a better phone from AT&T for nothing if I switched companies, was the reliability factor.

My previous T-Mobile phone wasn't always great with the reception, and I'm guessing this one will have its faults, as well, but I pretty much knew where the weak spots were, such as near the elevators in the Apparel Center and in my gym at Halsted and Belmont, but not outside of it. AT&T, though, from my research (and believe me, I did a HELLUVA lot of research) had weak coverage just about everywhere in and around Chicago. Alot of it comes from people with iphones, but I read plenty of forum posts, Yelp posts, etc., from people with AT&T as their cellular provider who have awful service in Chicago. Unfortunately, people in other parts of the country who have AT&T don't report anything near the problems people in Chicago have. And I decided to buy a phone from a physical store instead of online, because it seemed that it would be easier to resolve any problems with the phone if you get it from an authorized store where you can actually take the phone to and show to someone, instead of e-mailing a customer service rep in never never land. And, also, I appreciated that I could go into an actual store and try out the phones I have read about and seen online, and you know, I don't want the bricks-and-mortar stores to go out of business, so I thought I should give them my business as a form of thanks.

In spite of the reception issues in Chicago, I was still nearly going to buy an AT&T phone, because I didn't like the idea of paying $160 or more for a new T-Mobile phone, but after talking to people in a couple AT&T stores, I realized that those $0.01 phones only are sold online. While the AT&T phones were cheaper than comparable T-Mobile phones, the ones I was interested in were still in the $100 to $150 range. I could see paying nothing or close to nothing for a phone that would have spotty service, but for $150? Why? That's just stupid.

I found, by accident really, a new T-Mobile store at Clark and Diversey, and I stopped in there earlier this week and the manager talked to me, explained all the costs to me, told me I could spread the $170 cost of a phone over a few months and let me just play with the phones I was interested in. I went back there today, after driving my mom around to do her grocery shopping and that, and having worked last night I was not completely alert, but I thought I would drop in there this afternoon just to play around with the phone a bit more and ask them about an employer discount (10 percent -- whoopee) and the gal who waited on me was so nice and not only showed me the features on the phone but told me how to work them then told me to try my hand at it all, which I thought was strange but strange in a good way.

So I though, as long as I was planning on very likely buying this phone later this week anyway, why not buy it right now? So I told the gal to wrap it up and activate me on the new phone, as I slipped out of the store a couple times to feed my GoddamnedDaley parking meter machine. She moved my SIM card, which has all my two dozen or so contacts onto the new phone, and told me while the ringtones I had on my old phone were now history, since this phone has an mp3 player, I can just drag mp3 files onto it when it's hooked up to my computer, so I can make my own ringtones and I don't have to buy any anymore. How cool is that? I can't wait to drop "Waiting by the Telephone" onto it to be my first new ringtone.

I guess I'll have more free time now, since my phone search was an obsession of my the past few months. I spent hours every week reading reviews, window shopping, hanging out at cell phone blogs to get an idea of what was coming down the pipe and when -- geez, the comments in those blogs all seem as though they're written by 12-year-olds and complete idiots -- so now I can stop checking into those sites on a regular basis (well, with the possible exception of the 'samsung highlight' blog and 'guys with iphones,' you know, uh, just to check on technical issues and updates and such).

I'm looking forward to having a camera that is more than 1 megapixel, and not having to pound the number pad to type out text messages. And hey, my orange/red (officially its called 'fire') highlight, has a neat rubbery sort of backing and is kinda cool-looking. I need more people to call/text though.

Friday, July 17, 2009

"Prejudice Has No Place in the United States of America"

At the very least, he is not shying away from talking about it with crowds that may or may not be receptive to his message. He deserves some recognition for this. Now we're all just waiting for the follow-through.

Embedded Video

Blogged with the Flock Browser

The 'Read' Line

I like to watch. You. When you're on the train on your way to work, when you're on the bus going home, when you're going shopping, etc., I just like to watch.

Don't get too creeped out, though, there's nothing too perverse going on. It just seems that no matter how many magazines I've packed, no matter what TV show (like Rachel Maddow or the Anderson Cooper podcast) is on my ipod for me to watch or what book I may be carrying in my hands, when I am on public transportation I can't help but look around and look at people and try to imagine where they are going, where they've come from, what's up with them, etc. This isn't much fun during rush hour, because people generally are going to and from work, which doesn't interest me at all. So, no matter what time of day it is, I'll take a look at what people are reading and go "hmmm."

I don't know what any of this would mean, but here on this blog I'll occasionally note what I've seen -- who the reader is, what form of public transportation they were spied on, what they were reading of course, and any other impressions I had of them. Unless otherwise noted, these are all observed on the Chicago Transit Authority trains and buses. I'm not going to judge (I save that for people who read the piece of poop 'Red Eye' commuter rag), just observe. Just take it for what it's worth, which is not much, probably.

So here's the first edition, compiled from a few days' observations.

CTA Brown Line, Tuesday 1:30 p.m., heading downtown:

*White male, mid-30s to 40-ish, beard and glasses, red and white checkered short sleeve dress shirt, khaki shorts, Nike running shoes with running socks. Reading: 'Confederacy of Dunces.'

*White male, late 20s, jeans and short sleeve T-shirt, black canvas Chuck Taylors, long-ish sideburns, with a somewhat grown-out faux hawk. Reading: 'In Cold Blood.'

CTA Red Line, Wednesday, 7:30 a.m., heading downtown:

* White female, 30 to 40, short, light brown hair, man's dress shirt with purple and yellow vertical stripes, black slacks, leather jacket, Asics running shoes. Reading: 'Valley of the Dolls.'

Friday, July 10, 2009

Buying Records Cheers Me Up

Or CDs. Or downloaded albums with digital booklets.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Hypocrisy Seems to be the Hardest Word

U.S. Rep. John Shimkus (R - Illinois) and Jean Schmidt (R - Ohio) both oppose gay marriage and would vote to re-write the United States Constitution so that they could define marriage as between a man and a woman. But that's not all there is to hate about these regressives. In 2007, both voted against a measure that would prevent job discrimination based on sexual orientation. Shimkus, of downstate Collinsville, Ill., also voted in 1999 to ban adoptions by same-sex couples in the District of Columbia.

So, where would you expect these mouth-breathing haters to hold a fundraiser? A Toby Keith concert? A NASCAR event? A dinner party with Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly? Nah, they're going to host fundraisers at the Elton John/Billy Joel concert at the Washington Nationals baseball park on July 11.

Yep, these two gay-hating mopes are going to host fundraisers at big gay Elton John's concert! And, and ... it's not the first time Shimkus has done so (hmmm...) according to the Kentucky democrat, via the Party Time blog [it's at -- this page on Safari won't let me link], he also hosted a fundie fundraiser at an Elton John show in 2005! A Shimkus spoeksman said the fundriaser doesn't mean the Congressman approves of the singer's "politics" and that Shimmy wouldn't actually be at the show this month, just as he did not attend the 2005 show. Rep. Schmidt's flack only agreed to reply to Party Time via e-mail and as of Monday afternoon no response was received.

Hypocrites. F-in' hypocrites. But then again that's not so surprising when it comes to right wing hatred, I mean the pope preaches aainst gays from the fabu-freakin' Vatican, a gay temple if ever there was one...

Sunday, July 5, 2009

What's the Story?

These two headlines were cheek-to-cheek on the Sun-TImes Web site this weekend.

Several gun and knife arrests reported at Taste of Chicago
July 4, 2009


Police say Taste peaceful, credit heavier presence
July 4, 2009
(no byline)

So what is it? Is this year's Taste of Chicago a madhouse of thugs and gangbangers and people bringing guns and knives into the crowded streets, or is it a lovely weekend where attendees walk around with parasols, sipping lemonade, tipping their caps at fellow tourists and Chicagoans and those leaving on public transportation give up their seats to ladies and the elderly? Hmmm?

Unfortunately the latter, 'peaceful' story relies on the word of the police and city officials, who would say "everything is fine here," even if downtown was burning amid armed rioting.

Two things here -- one; if your mother (or the city) says the Taste of Chicago is safe and peaceful, CHECK IT OUT, and two; the perceived safety many have of of this city, even downtown, is an illusion.

Friday, July 3, 2009

'Royko Was a Prick'

I don't quite understand the fascination and reverence that many people of Chicago, whether they are journalists, would-be journalists, or media junkies, have for Mike Royko. Royko is the legendary Chicago newspaper columnist who got his real start in Chicago reporting at the City News Bureau of Chicago, then worked for the Daily News, Sun-Times and Tribune, writing some 7,000 columns over a 30-year career, exposing government corruption, taking on City Hall, and writing about other passions, such as the Chicago Cubs and 16-inch softball. His book, "Boss," about Mayor Richard J. Daley of Chicago, is a classic, and showed the mayor as corrupt and racist, and I treated that book as a bible of sorts when i was in high school and college. He's also famous for drinking at the also legendary Billy Goat Tavern.

People speak of Royko as a Catholic would speak of the pope or President Kennedy, as some speak of Sinatra, as basketball fans speak of Michael Jordan, as boxing fans speak of Muhammad Ali -- he was the greatest, there will never be another like him, you all could learn a thing or two by watching him, etc. People name their dogs after Royko. When some get pissed off at a present day newspaper reporter or columnist, they sometimes resort to saying things like (I paraphrase), "Royko was the last great reporter in this town, the rest of you suck." People still are drawn to the Billy Goat, as they were when he was alive, because they want to be in the place where he spent so many thousands of hours drinking, getting into scuffles and hitting on other guys' wives and girlfriends.

He may have been a great newspaperman, but by some accounts, the guy was a first-class prick. A year or two ago, when I heard a radio interview with Chicago Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg, who has had his own obstacles to deal with in his personal life (which you can read about in his book, "Drunkard"), in which he was asked about Royko, someone whom he spent some bar time with at the Goat, and Steinberg stated, "Royko was a prick." And by all accounts, Royko was an unpleasant person to encounter. (Maybe someone who knew him will disagree, that's fine. I never met him and can't say I regret that.)

Then, while bouncing around on the Internet today, I found that Jerry Pritikin, aka "The Bleacher Preacher," has a blog (he doesn't update often, but it is a blog nonetheless). Pritikin, now in his 70s, is a lifelong Cubs fan, a photographer by trade, and is also gay. In a piece he wrote (with photos which you should take a look at) for the Beachwood Reporter in 2008, Pritikin wrote of something he saw one summer day in the 1970s on Chicago's North Side lakefront (then and now, a place where gays liked to gather).

Pritikin saw a handful of police cars and bunch of cops "raid" the beach all because a young blond man in a Speedo was selling sandwiches on the beach, without a license to do so. Yeah, selling sandwiches without a license got nine cops to respond to the beach that day and arrest the guy.

Pritikin, who was visiting from San Francisco (he's lived in SF and Chicago) at the time, found a pay phone nearby and called the Daily News, where Royko was working at the time, and asked to speak to Royko, "who I had heard was always willing to go to bat for the little guy.

"I was connected to him and he listened my story and when I was finished Mike Royko said to me loud and clear:

'They should arrest all the faggots!'

And then he hung up."

So, you know, forgive me for not genuflecting at the altar of Royko the next time he is brought up in conversation or I remind you of how much of a prick this guy must have been when you ask me if I want to be like Royko or you assume that I ask St. Royko for journalistic guidance every day when I leave for work.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Two of My Favourite Things

Anderson Cooper and Fred Perry. I wonder if Coop plays tennis in his Fred Perry shirt or if he goes to ska shows wearing it. He needs to work on his arms a little bit more, like his buddy has obviously been.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Let the Freak Flags Fly

Joe. My. God. has some great thoughts on Pride parades. While I will not be watching or participating this year, I can't say I disagree with his feelings. I need to take a year, maybe two, off from it, but I am much closer to his opinion than those who are disgusted or dismissive of the freaks and "defectives" that make the front pages and nighttime newscasts.

Monday, June 15, 2009

What's the Point of a Parade?

So, this is Gay Pride Month, and what have we done? Well, so far this month we have seen President No Hope defend the Defense of Marriage Act, refuse to repeal (or claim he can't) Don't Ask Don't Tell, and generally ignore and certainly piss off, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and supportive allies community.

Some people are upset. Some people are REALLY upset. Some people say "told ya so!" Some people are calling for a march in DC in the fall, when Congress will be out. In the meantime, the bloggerworld is filled with anger, shouting, name-calling of the President from a place formerly known as Hope. Isn't there anything else we can do?

Cancel all the fucking pride parades. With the exception of the seven states where gays and lesbians can legally marry (each other, Mr. President, not opposite gendered people, and even those marriages aren't recognized throughout the rest of the U.S.) what is there to celebrate this year?

Instead, hold letter writing and envelope stuffing and phone calling parties. You can still close off the streets, but fill them with tables and chairs for people to do this stuff at.

Tell all the fag hags and the folks who wander on down to the "pride" parties because it's a good time that if they wanna party with the queers, drink the queer beer, throw up in the queer streets, they're gonna have to do something to earn that drink or that string of beads (and I'm not talking about more college wrestlers doing porn).

If the big corporations want to show their support, instead of obnoxious floats with naked dancers on them or giant shopping carts, have them provide snacks and drinks for everyone making the calls and writing the letters and stuffing the envelopes and calling the congress people and senators. Instead of flooding the streets with drunks, let's flood the switchboards with calls to repeal DADT and DOMA and make marriage equal and well, as long as we're at it, switch the U.S. to a civilized, single-payer healthcare system.

You think that those who don't like the gays and who make money by preaching against the evils of "San Francisco-style values" and who put video of drag queens and go-go boys on their Right Wing/Religious "news" shows get their panties in bunches by watching and talking about Pride Parades, imagine what would happen if instead they saw hundreds of thousands of queers and others in a number of major U.S. cities calling their Congress people and writing letters and collecting donations to get equal marriage on the ballot, to get the President to keep his promise to repeal DADT and to make sure all the queers are registered to vote? How better to honor the memory of Stonewall?

Yeah, I know, it'll never happen, but like that $3 Lotto ticket I sometimes buy, it is nice to dream for a little while.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Is the Hulu Party Over?

What, you thought it would always be free?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

With 'Fierce Advocates' Like These ...

Dear Mr. President:

You've got the job. Now start doing the work that the people who elected you want, instead of the job you think you have to do so as not to offend those who have done nothing to support you and never will. Our patience is wearing thin, if you haven't noticed.

From Realclearpolitics:
" In 1948, Truman issued an executive order integrating the armed forces. That same year Gallup found that only 13 percent of Americans supported "having Negro and white troops throughout the U.S. armed services live and work together."

That Obama has not acted on "don't ask, don't tell," despite public support that Truman would have envied, spotlights the delicate political tightrope the president now walks.

Obama is consumed by an historic domestic agenda, ranging from stimulus legislation to health care reform. It's no accident that he has withheld early engagement on the same issue that sidetracked Clinton's first year.

But this is also not 1993. That year, one summer Gallup survey found that Americans were divided on the issue--48 percent supporting the policy and an equal share against. Today, about seven in 10 Americans are against 'don't ask, don't tell.'"

What Are You Afraid of, Mr. President?

Monday, June 8, 2009

'A Growing Firestorm'

Americablog taps into it.

"People may generally love Obama. But gay people are pissed. And growing more so by the day. The overall impression in the gay community is that we've been, or are about to be, had by this administration; that someone in Obama-land (rhymes with Rahm) is telling the President that we're political pariahs who must be shunned at all costs."

More than 10 percent of the states now have equal marriage and they may soon be joined by two or three more, but the President has yet to say one word about this. Gay and lesbian service members are still being rooted out -- at great cost to taxpayers and their service branches -- and the president has yet to address this, after promising to be a "fierce advocate" for LGBT rights. He doesn't have to overturn Don't Ask Don't Tell -- he can however, stop the enforcement with single pen stroke. "Gay" was one of his favorite words on the campaign trail and even on election night, but since he's taken office, the closest he's come to demonstrating support of anything gay has been a date night on Broadway with the First Lady.

You can ignore and marginalize and triangulate, Mr. President, but you better watch out, for, as Aravois says, "I can't name a single Democrat (or Republican for that matter) in recent memory who's been on the receiving end of our ire and walked away unscathed. This isn't your daddy's gay community."

Friday, June 5, 2009

Hilarious Beer Ad

I can't believe this ad would ever air anywhere, but there's enough Bud Light in it that either it is Internet only or the beer company's lawyers haven't seen it yet.

In any case, it's so funny I laughed out loud many times, and since I'm still trying to get over a cold, I then started coughing and tearing up, too. But it was worth it. This two-minute ad is simply hee-larious.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Sex With Ducks

In response to the Rev. Pat Robertson, who warned on his TV show -- which, incidentally, is watched by wide swaths of people in certain parts of the country, so we shouldn't underestimate his influence -- that legalizing marriage for all would lead to all sorts of weirdness and immoral behavior, including, but not limited to, "sex with ducks," these two gals, Riki "Garfunkel" Lindhome and Kate "Oates" Micucci, have created video that shines a light on the absurdity of people like Pat Robertson and his followers. There's a way to respond to such brilliant, well-reasoned arguments as the wingnut Right's, and it's with sanity, intelligence and sometimes humor.

Sonia Sotomayor, Racist

She talks about how being a Latina woman has enhanced her perspective -- racist! She made a decision supporting the city and against some non-black firefighters' claims of racism -- she hates white people! She wants people to correctly pronounce her name -- double racist!!

Thank God the New York Times has actually looked at and analyzed Judge Sotomayor's record.

Here's what they found:

"Of the 96 (race-related cases while serving as an appeals judge), Judge Sotomayor and the panel rejected the claim of discrimination roughly 78 times and agreed with the claim of discrimination 10 times; the remaining 8 involved other kinds of claims or dispositions. Of the 10 cases favoring claims of discrimination, 9 were unanimous. (Many, by the way, were procedural victories rather than judgments that discrimination had occurred.) Of those 9, in 7, the unanimous panel included at least one Republican-appointed judge. In the one divided panel opinion, the dissent’s point dealt only with the technical question of whether the criminal defendant in that case had forfeited his challenge to the jury selection in his case.

"So Judge Sotomayor rejected discrimination-related claims by a margin of roughly 8 to 1."

Next question?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Ellen's Commencement Speech

Wow, this was really good. I think this commencement speech should be given not only to all graduates, but also to those just starting college and adult life in general. It was funny, it was serious, it was, also, unlike some celebrity commencement speeches, about the graduates and not the speaker -- though she used her life experiences to show the kids that you can go through great ups and downs in life and still come out of it, eventually, on top, and with your own dignity.

This only makes me like Ellen more.

Ellen's Commencement Speech

Wow, this was really good. I think this commencement speech should be given not only to all graduates, but also to those just starting college and adult life in general. It was funny, it was serious, it was, also, unlike some celebrity commencement speeches, about the graduates and not the speaker -- though she used her life experiences to show the kids that you can go through great ups and downs in life and still come out of it, eventually, on top, and with your own dignity.

This only makes me like Ellen more.

Monday, May 18, 2009

How Sad is the State of Journalism?

According to this interactive chart from Time magazine, journalists polled are slightly happier than butchers, mail deliverers and bus drivers.

I know, I'd think it would not be that bad to be a butcher. Just as depressing is that more insurance salespeople said they were happy in their work than journos. Interestingly, PR people are only slightly happier than journalists.

Among the happiest were priests, firefighters, architects and actors. So when I'm hanging out with actors and architects, now I know for sure that I'm the least "happy" one in the bunch. (Perhaps I should investigate a career change more seriously. I do like preaching to the choir...)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Surviving CHM

Tonight was the last time that I will go to an event at the Chicago History Museum. It was about the fourth time in the past year and a half Stephen and I had gone to the museum for an after museum hours event. The others we had attended while members last year. Each event was dull and unexciting in its own way, from Catholics in Chicago to a couple Out at CHM programs to a Black Sox lecture. Each was so dull that Chicago History Museum event set a new standard for our own inside jokes when something we are at is unbearably stuffy and self-important and sleep-inducing.

But tonight would be different! This one was all about "Surviving Reagan." It was about gays in the 1980s and how they dealt with the presidency of Ronald Reagan and the "Reagan Revolution" and his ignoring the AIDS crisis and how all these conditions all together made activists out of people who would have never dreamt of it and how living through the Reagan years was and what it was like and how terrifying yet at the same time exciting it was! This program was going to be different! This would show the under-30 attendees ($10 for members, $12 for non-members) what real activism and civil disobedience was like and what it was for and we would hear from people (those who were still alive) who had been on the frontlines and who were still working and fighting in many other ways now.

An hour and a half later, after we got our bags from the bag/coat check, I picked up one of the flyers for the event, and Stephen looked at it and said, "Surviving Reagan -- looks interesting. We'll have to come back for that."

Such was the nature of the even...actually, it wasn't an evening, it was a barely 90-minute program, cut short because there was another event happening elsewhere in the city that the organizers of this event were concerned that some in this crowd might miss if this event went too long. In short, the program got off to a very promising start, with a brief video of Joan Jett Black, a Black drag queen who ran for president in the 1980s. From that point on, it sunk like a rock. Instead of telling us who paid to be there what it was like to live through a supposedly oppressive era and how people who were not marching in lock-step with the Republicans did so, what we got was three people on stage talking about the problems of being part of lefty organizations and how contentious things sometimes got and how some segments of the population were underrepresented and how white males ran everything (no one dared mention that the white males likely paid for everything around that time, as well), and how "when I was living in Berlin, I was a Marxist and my boyfriend was a Maoist and .." blah blah blah.

You know, one of Ronald Reagan's great sins was that it took him seven years -- after hundreds of thousands of Americans had died of AIDS -- before he dared mention the word publicly. Ironically, at a program about surviving Reagan in the 80s, I think Reagan was mentioned once by the panelists. The most interesting part of the evening came near the end, when the moderator, who was obviously taking cues to wrap things up from someone offstage, mentioned the time she has spent recently at the Reagan Library, reading previously classified documents and memos to and from Reagan's staffers.

It was incredible, as well, that Danny Sotomayor, who was as close to the epitome of the 1980s AIDS activist that he had in Chicago was mentioned only in passing, briefly, and that was only to make a point about some of the infighting and bickering that went on in groups like Act Up and Queer Nation. That, as well as the mere wave from the stage that a saint like Lori Cannon got, were sinful omissions and demonstrated just how useless the event was.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

"You Know How I Know You're Gay?"

You have three names.

According to After Elton, David Ogden Stiers, he of M*A*S*H fame, has joined David Hyde Pierce and Neil Patrick Harris as actors whom we always were pretty sure were gay, and were not at all surprised (though happy nonetheless) to find out they really were.

Since his days on M*A*S*H Ogden Stiers has done some other TV (ironically playing an effete aristocratic fellow like he played on M*A*S*H on an episode of Frasier), as well as movie voiceover work (for Disney animated features).

Saturday, May 2, 2009

'Dude, Where R My Pants?'

This gives "Drunk Dialing" a whole new meaning. Some geniuses -- and I mean that affectionately -- have come up with what I think is the greatest blog/Web site ever, or at least of the year so far.

It's called, appropriately enough, Texts From Last Night, and like its name suggests, it is a compendium of text mesages that people, mostly drinky, many in various states of undress, have sent their friends (or, sometimes, by mistake, strangers or political campaigns). Their friends, in a display of undying trust and loyalty, then forwarded these text messages to the blog. The results are often hilarious, and it's great mindless, time-wasting, voyeuristic reading. For added enjoyment, they also provide the area code the texts originated from, but the rest is anonymous -- no names are ever revealed, which is good for the texters, once you start reading them.

Some of my favorite excerpts, from a quick read this morning:

* "(813): dude i woke up laying next to some guy. i dont have my bra or his name. he has a nice tv though."

* "(614): I may or may not have started my period at the bar. Good thing I have dark jeans on."

* "(413): Dude this is getting pretty serious, we had a sober make out session last night."

(What is it about texting that makes people call each other "Dude" so much?)

* "(815): Why did you send me a picture of a dick?
(630): It was an accident sry. Not mine tho."

(Oh, those crazy west and northwest suburban Chicago kids!)

* "(323): WTF. you left me with no condoms and you ate all my mac and cheese. scumbag."

And one that makes me laugh out loud every time I read it:

* "(415): Trimmed my pubes and broke your paper shredder. Separate events."

Love it. Dear Crazy Texters: Keep 'em coming, please.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

"A Dancer Dances"

There's a restaurant here in Chicago that I like, called the Bagel. There are a couple of them actually, but the one I like best isn't in the burbs but on the lakefront, in the Gayish neighborhood. As befits its name, the restaurant features downhome Jewish fare, like matzo ball soup, corned beef sandwiches, liver and onions plates, lox, of course, and in the front part you can get bagels and cream cheese to go. The place has been around for a couple decades, at least, so its not like its some 'concept' some restaurant marketers came up with.

I like the place, but the interior feels a bit dated. It's tough to describe, but Broadway musical posters from the 1970s look a certain way (like they are all trying to evoke the early 20th century in some way), and these posters line the walls of The Bagel. In some way it's comforting, but in another way the decor has not aged well and seems a bit out of place, because it has no context --you don't know why there are all these weird-looking musical posters on the walls. (Sometimes when I am there or at a similar place down the street, The Melrose, which is open 24 hours and is Greek-owned as opposed to Jewish, I look at the old posters and photos on the walls and start to wonder about all who have been there before me -- all the dates and all the after-show meals, all the after-clubbing cups of coffee consumed there, all the lives that have passed through. But that's another story.)

This is not about The Bagel, though I kind of wish I had wound up there tonight. This is about "A Chorus Line," which I saw at the Oriental/Ford Theatre tonight with Stephen. I have not seen the movie before, have never seen the stage show, had an idea of the story and definitely knew that it was supposed to be important and influential and that there are people who just adore it, so I thought it would be good to see it onstage, since it was in Chicago for a two-week engagement and I was able to get a decent deal on tickets. Also, I was further intrigued by it after Neil Steinberg wrote about it in the Sun-Times and Amy Matheny and Stephen Rader did their Windy City Queercast podcast after having seen this particular production.

So, a couple hours after having seen it, I can say that it is like having gone to the Bagel. I am glad I did it, the meal was alright, but as I was looking around, I felt that the decor was dated and had no context. I didn't hate it; I was entertained, I thought the dancing was lovely, the actors were good, a couple of the monologues were so well done that the entire theatre was hushed, but ... but ... it just didn't like grab me by the collar and show me how or why it was so important. I don't know, maybe if this was 1977 and we had gone to the Bagel or RJ Grunts afterward it would have felt different and more meaningful, but it kind of was just there for me. I really enjoy 'inside baseball' type stuff and would have enjoyed a story about these dancers' lives and backgrounds and their struggles to even get onto an audition stage, but this production didn't really connect with me, didn't give me that sort of sense of urgency.

But I am glad that I saw it, thought it was great that there were many others, particularly high school-aged kids, who were seeing it, and I had an enjoyable evening. Maybe I'll have better luck going to see Topol in "Fiddler."

Monday, April 27, 2009

Goose Crossing

Sunday, 26 April, 6:20 a.m.
Hubbard Street between Kingsbury and the Chicago River, outside the East Bank Club and the Apparel Center.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Girls Behaving Badly

For some time now, there has been both concern and consternation regarding the presence of drinky giggly women acting like fools in male-centric gay bars. This issue has emerged again recently, with the fight for equal marriage rights at the forefront of the gay civil rights struggle, since some gay bars are so often besieged by groups of these women, who go to gay bars to celebrate impending wedding vows. Bad enough as it is that they are loud and boisterous and obnoxious and tip badly, they also flaunt their legal right to marry by wearing little wedding veils and accompanying costumewear to their bachelorette shenanigans. Some bars have even banned such groups of girls (I can't really call them women because they don't really act like adults), for the above and other reasons.

Jessica and Elizabeth may not have been celebrating an upcoming wedding, but they are not unique. The two pretty much constituted a two-gal wrecking and mayhem party of their own Tuesday night on Halsted Street (I have problems with calling it 'Boystown' -- namely that a moniker such as that only reaffirms the assumption that it's a theme park, and the gays who hang out and live there are mascots and sidekicks and not real people).

Basically, the story says (full disclosure: the version linked to in this post was written and partially reported by me. The Sun-Times Wire Service overnight crew got the story originally, I got the charges and the gals' names and further details), Jessica and Elizabeth got stinkin' drunk at Roscoe's Tavern, and in the process, they dragged a guy into the girl's washroom, kicked bar manager, slapped a bouncer, and tried to interfere with the arrest of one of them, blocking the way of the police and screaming at them. Oh, and one of the gals MADE AN ALLEGATION THAT THE BOUNCER -- AT A GAY BAR -- RAPED HER. And they were only charged with misdemeanors.

Nothing I can say about these two would be fresh or new, because it would all be along the lines of 'Imagine if they had gone to one of the many straight bars just down the street from the gay strip -- do you think they'd be able to get as drunk as they did or act like they did without actually getting sexually assaulted at worst, or at best, gotten kicked out of the bar much sooner? These gals, both of whom live in the gayish area of Chicago, likely go to gay bars to get drunk and out of control because they feel safer doing so there than in straight bars, they like to live in the gayborhood because it's just so lively and fun and safe and I'll bet they don't even know where all their elected officials stand on issues that matter to gay and lesbian folk.

It's kind of odd that it took them so long to get kicked out of this particular bar, though, because Roscoe's has always had a full phalanx of headset-clad security throughout the place. And the former bouncer in me looks at this and thinks that even if the place was understaffed, there were probably signs that they should have been tossed out way before one of them kicked the manager.

I have, even very recently, opted not to chase certain news stories because I felt there would be nothing gained by doing so and it would cause undue harm and pain to those affected by the incident. Not so, here. I hope what these gals did gets out all over and while they were only charged with misdemeanors (Geez, can you imagine if a guy, or even worse, a Black person, had acted like that toward police? They'd be dead right now.), I hope they are embarrassed to death by having their names in the news. And they should be kicked out of the fucking neighborhood.

[NOTE: The above image is a stock photo, from the Daily Mail, of drunken young women at a tavern, presumably in England. Apparently such behavior is international.]