Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Ivri Lider Kissed a Girl

... and he liked it. It would be one thing if someone merely covered the Katy Perry song and even slowed it down quite a bit, but when that someone is a gay man, like Israeli pop star Ivri Lider, the song becomes something different altogether.

His version, introspective and, well, for lack of a better word, questioning, is not a cover version, it is a brilliant song in its own right. The combination of the acoustic treatment, his weary, somewhat worried, perhaps kind of confused, voice, takes the situation, shakes it up and puts it back down, all upside down. The tenor of the song is especially brought to the forefront when, just as Perry sang in her version, he says, "I hope my boyfriend don't mind it." Then to top it off, you have a nice-looking woman enter the room (a bathroom?), walk out, and he soon follows her.

Or I could just be reading way too much into it. I think not. Nothing black and white about it; it's all gray, and I guess that's why I like it. Ivri Lider is just brilliant.

Friday, March 27, 2009

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia - He's a Bear

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia - He's a Bear

This show, much like this 90-second clip from it, is hilarious. And, much like in this clip, they often go places you'd think, "Oh no, they're not ... oh, they are!" going to, all the while, of course, while you are laughing your ass off watching them.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Lisa Lampenelli and Simon Cowell

Everything that Lisa Lampanelli says is wrong, wrong, wrong. And I laugh my ass off listening to her. People think Kathy Griffin is bad and funny? Lisa wipes the floor with her. Hilarious.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

'That Ripping, Nagging Feeling That I Am Inferior'

A 17-year-old in Vermont testifies for equal marriage. Is it OK for me to say that a 17-year-old is my new hero?

(By the way, what's wrong with Splenda? Have I missed something?)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

This Show Cooks

Don't fear The Arab-Israeli Cookbook, the current production of Theatre Mir, which is playing at the city of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs Storefront Theatre downtown (it's across the street from the Chicago Cultural Center). Don't be afraid of being hit with some difficult to digest (no pun intended, really) political discourse. Don't be afraid of shouting or ranting or yet another take on a dispute that seems cannot ever be resolved.

Do go there and go into it expecting to hear the real stories of real people who live in the Middle East -- Arabs, Israelis, Christians -- and how they go about their everyday lives, amid suicide bombings, humiliating checkpoints, being cut off from their families and their traditions, being targeted by those who want to kill them for no good reason, but also as they cook, eat, dine together and discuss their dreams and what they hope for their futures.

Food is at the center of this production. Like the director said after one of the shows last week (the one I went to, on Thursday), the playwright cold not just go to Israel and say, "Hey, tell me about your life," but he could ask them to talk about a meaningful dish and prepare that dish then, in the course (no pun intended, again) of preparing that food, they would open up and discuss their lives and how they live despite their uncertain futures. This tool works both ways, actually. I think it might be a tough sell to a lot of people to tell them, "OK, we want you to watch this play where people portraying these interviewees talk about life in the Middle East," but when you say, "You're going to hear and see people preparing the foods that are meaningful to them, and they'll also give you a glimpse of what it's really like to live there," the potential audience becomes more intrigued.

There are a few moments that are tough to watch, but powerful, as well, such as when an older woman talks about shopping at a grocery store and she sees Arab flower sellers outside beforehand and those young women turn out to be suicide bombers or when an Arab cook and cafe owner sees that he will not be able to pass on the 1,200-year-old tradition of what he cooks and the place he runs, to his children, because the checkpoints have killed his business. Or the Israeli bus driver who drives a bus on a route that is the most popular for suicide bombers.

It's not all bombings and that, there are some lighter moments, as well, so when you and yours discuss the show afterward, you'll be able to laugh at one or two things. Oh, and the food smells great. Unfortunately, the audience doesn't get to taste any of it.

One of the best things about the show, though, is that there is no "big" ending. The show doesn't pretend to have the answers that would end this situation. There is merely a hope, expressed by an elderly woman, for peace. Beyond that, everything else is open to discussion.

The View From My (Back) Window

Ah, to lay about on the back porch railing, scratching yourself, gnawing on the post, and leaving behind some poop, on a breezy Saturday afternoon.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Parking Available

Near the end of 2008, the city of Chicago, with no public input and a minimum, absolute minimum of scrutiny from the city council, rubber-stamped the mayor's deal to sell the city's parking meters to a private firm for a one-time payment of $1.2 billion.

The firm then changed the rates on the meters. It now costs 25 cents to park for 15 minutes in the city, working out to $1 an hour and in time, that rate is expected to jump to $6.50 an hour by 2013. Also, you now have to feed the meters 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, even on holidays. Oh, and another thing -- the city has lowered the 'boot' bar from three tickets to two, so once you get two parking tickets, your car gets "Da Boot," which leads to a cost of about a couple hundred bucks to get the boot removed.

Yep, the city is squeezing those who can least afford it. But the people are fighting it, in their own special way. Now, there are things about Chicagoans I hate, such as their penchant to 'save' their shoveled out parking spots on public streets with old furniture, thereby making most of the city's residential streets look like a huge trailer park through winter. But this I like. Rather than pay the mayor, i mean, the man, automobile owners are finding a way around this absurd parking meter robbery, either by parking in private garages or taking public transit/bikes, whatever to work.

Check out the picture here, that I took on a Sunday morning downtown, near the Merchandise Mart. Given, Sunday mornings are among the easiest times to find parking downtown, but this was astonishing. Normally there would be, about 8:30 a.m., a spot here and a spot there, but on this one block, nearly every parking spot was open! Take that, Mr. Mayor and you parking meter thugs!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Phone Tree

I've got the 20-month itch. Yeah, I've had my current cell phone for almost two years now, and I'm itching for a new one. I see all these fancy dancy ones the kids have and I look at my boring but perfectly serviceable Motorola phone and I think, geez, I'd like to have better-looking pictures from my phone, I'd like to have an easier time composing text messages, I'd like something as cool and sleek and with it as I am (Ha!). So I've been looking around at phones and phone service plans and I say, it's like (human, automotive or real estate) porn, in that everything is portrayed to be so sexy and the lighting is almost always great, and you think, "wow, i wonder what it would be like to play around with that one!" In the same way that you think, "Wow, that's stunning," then, "But can I really feel comfortable in a loft with floor to ceiling windows? Is that really me?" You might also think, as I have, "Whoa, that Blackberry Pearl is like a precious jewel; the LG/Samsung/HTC touch screen is something out of 'A Clockwork Orange' if they had cell phones in that movie -- but could it really withstand my fingerprints, my mindlessly dropping it in my bag, my sometimes driving so erratically that it flies from the passenger seat onto the floor of my car?"

Then there's the matter of social responsibility to consider. Verizon supposedly has the best service/coverage of the major carriers. But the newsletters I get from the Communications Workers of America, my union, tell me that Verizon has worked to smash any efforts by its employees to unionize, or to even meet regarding unions, telling them lies about how it would affect their jobs and pay and generally intimidating them into not organizing. Then my union says it supports AT&T, because it allows its workers to belong to unions, and the CWA even has deals with AT&T for like a 10% discount off its monthly service charges. Great, but AT&T generally is thought to have just about the worst phone call quality in the Chicago area, no matter what their ads say. And, then I got an e-mail from I think it was Air America, saying that AT&T donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the McCain/Palin campaign last year and has generally been quite supportive of Republicans. And AT&T has the iphone, but I've already got an ipod touch, so I get the apps and all that and besides, I don't really want to be that connected, and the iphone service plan is more expensive than normal phones' plans.

Reading cell phone and cell service reviews on Web sites is a waste of time, I've decided, because for every review you see that says, for instance, "The Behold is the greatest phone I have ever owned," or "AT&T has the best customer service of any provider," there is always another reviewer who says, "This phone is a $300 piece of crap" and "AT&T used to be good but they suck. I'm going back to Verizon." But then you go over to the Verizon reviews and you see someone who says, "Their phones are great but Verizon has the worst plans and they add on fees without telling you and they won't even replace the phone that arrived in 12 pieces in the mail." (I am paraphrasing, here, but just imagine a cellular "Mad Libs" and you get the idea.)

So maybe I'll just stay with my current cell phone service provider, T-Mobile, and upgrade my phone in a couple months, when I get a 'discount' to do so, even though I would wind up paying more money than someone new to T-Mobile, who hasn't paid their bills regularly over the past two years and hasn't needed any additional service and has taken good care of his phone. Why not just jump to another company and get a brand new phone for free, as opposed to paying like $149 or whatever? Or just sign up for another two years with T-Mobile just to avoid the headache of switching over and stick with a Motorola phone. Oh wait, Motorola is laying off thousands of workers, which is a bit evil, and they and T-Mobile are profiting from the loss of employment by people who need to support their families. Oy. Just give me a paper cup with a string on it.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Hat Trick!

This is what happens when you hold Blackhawks construction helmet night on the same night as when a player -- in this case Johnathan Toews -- scores a hat trick.

FYI, a hat trick, which doesn't happen that often (think a grand slam home run in baseball -- maybe once or twice a year per team) is when one player scores three goals in a game. For Toews, last month was the first hat trick of his two-year old NHL career. Additionally, when a hat trick is scored, fans often throw their chappeaus on the ice to honor the achievement. On this night, however, hundreds of plastic construction helmets rained down onto the ice at the United Center. Thing is, though, what was Toews' third goal of the night was subsequently disallowed because his stick was too high when the goal was made. Not long afterward, though, he scored yet another goal, which was not in doubt. The hats -- though not as many as before -- came down once again.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

"There Are No Civilians Anymore"

"Broadcasting legend" "Icon" whatever, Paul Harvey, died this weekend at 90 years old. The tributes have been pouring in this weekend, on the radio, in newspapers and on TV. He was a very Right Wing guy who probably had the same beliefs as a Rush Limbaugh, but wrapped his little radio segments in a manner that was "aw shucks, by gosh," which made him more palatable than a Limbaugh/Hannity type, but it was sometimes infuriating hearing him because he'd state his opinion as fact, and even through the economic disaster that was the Bush years, he'd always frame the news in a way that pointed out that some people were still making money and working and those who were out of work were just too lazy to look for work or enjoying their welfare handouts.

I've been withholding any thoughts on the occasion of his passing because I thought it would be inappropriate and in bad form to say just how right wing and wrong he was on the air and what a shameless shill he was for his advertisers and how he sold a Republican agenda to millions with his folksy, downhome tone, which certainly was not ever in Middle America's best interests. I thought, "so what?" he's dead now, and while I am not happy upon anyone's passing, it's best to hold your tongue and let his family and friends mourn and hold back any criticism of the man because it just doesn't look good so soon after his passing.

But I can't hold back, not after yet another 'tribute' to him, this time on CNN. Following a somber "In memory" shot of Mr. Harvey, CNN then broadcast a replay of an interview Larry King did with him in 2003. Like the many times I happened to hear his show because it is broadcast on WGN radio, which I listen to most of the time, I could not listen to more than about three minutes of this man talk without screaming, "Oh, F-- you, you idiot!" at the screen. Larry King asked Paul Harvey about 9-11 and what he did that day and then how it affected him. Mr. Harvey (see, I'm showing some deference by calling him "Mister") seemed more pained and more drawn to prayer a couple minutes before, when he looked back at a 45-minute vocal chord procedure, since without it his broadcast career could have ended. He then said that 9-11 didn't affect him as much as it would have had he been based in New York City, since he worked out of Chicago and he just didn't have the same sort of emotional response that a New Yorker would have had, such as worrying about the safety of loved ones, either on that day or any following day. What a simplistic, narrow-minded way of thinking. The terrorists who killed thousands on 9-11 did it by hijacking AIRPLANES. Those airplanes could just as easily have been flown into the Sears Tower or the John Hancock Building as the World Trade Center. And if you don't feel anything because you are in Chicago and somehow believe the invisible shield over the city will stop any planes from crashing into our downtown, can you not even feel the least bit of empathy for your FELLOW AMERICANS in New York? Or are they different because oh, they have different values than you? Or because there are so many New Yorkers who have darker skin than you? How can anybody, any American, not have felt pain when New York was attacked? Paul Harvey, though, just turned the page. Larry King even asked him if he felt as though Chicago was at danger because you know, it is a pretty recognizable MAJOR AMERICAN CITY, and he just said "no," as if to say, "why would anyone want to fly a plane into a building in Chicago? We're Midwesterners, we haven't done anything bad enough to make foreigners hate us, not like those New Yorkers."

Then, then, Mr. I'm so tuned into what real Americans think and feel was asked how 9-11 changed him. And you know what he said? He didn't say that he now cherishes the little things, he didn't say that he now draws his friends and family closer than before, he didn't say that there are no hyphenated-Americans anymore; we are all one country, etc., no, no, he said that the one thing that he realized, his big realization, after 9-11, was, "THERE ARE NO CIVILIANS ANYMORE."

He then muttered some crap about "our planners" who "show deference" to "civilians" throughout the world don't realize that in the wars we fight now, "there are no civilians." Think about that. This old man, who everyone this weekend is jumping over to show respect to and praise to the high heavens, pretty much advocated just fucking bombing the shit out of any country we go to war with, just fucking flattening these godless, horrible, war-loving peoples, because they're all out to get us, anyway. What this guy said, was, if we think that one guy has weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, just bomb the whole country, since the Iraqis are probably hiding nuclear bombs in their houses or huts or whatever the fuck they live in. If we don't like the way that North Koreans say things, then knock the whole country out before they get a chance to use whatever weapons they have on us. Same thing for Iran. And Afghanistan. And you better watch out, too, India. Pakistan? Don't get any ideas, or else we'll scorch the whole lot of you. You know what, we don't need a reason -- you're all out to get us anyway, what with your fatwas and ayatollahs and 'Death to America,' so we're just gonna kill you all, because "there are no civilians anymore."

What an a-hole. And they claim he had an audience, at one point, of some 20 or 25 million people? GOOD DAY.