Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Are we watching a city die?

The hurricanes and resulting flood waters have brought chaos to New Orleans and a call for a full evacuation. Have we ever seen a city destroyed this way? A co-worker said the 1995 earthquake in Kobe, Japan was on a similar scale - maybe that's the only comparable event. The media keeps reporting that this is the largest U.S. relief effort since 9/11. As terrible as that event was, it was confined to a specific area. Now of course all of New York City was affected, but Ground Zero was 16 acres of devastation. Right now, all of New Orleans is underwater and, more importantly, the fabric of the city is deteriorating as the hours go by.

When I was 17, my father and I left Chicago and drove down the Mississippi until we arrived in New Orleans. There really is a magic to the place, and I don't just mean the visual charms of the French Quarter. There is something more. I can,’t even remember how long we stayed -– just two or three days,– but I left there having had experiences that just felt to be a part of the city. Not just coffee at Cafe Du Monde, jazz Preservation Hall, parties on Bourbon Street, and the action at Jackson Sqaure. What I'm talking about is walking into a hat store and leaving with plans to have dinner with the owners. Or when I was watching my dad slurp oysters in an empty bar in the late afternoon, I (being 17) refused to try one. The worker behind the counter walked to the front door, flipped the open sign to "“closed", locked the door and said, "“You ain't leaving until you try one of them oysters." These are the kinds of encounters that I think of when I remember New Orleans. This is what I mourn as I watch the city drown.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Hands off my Obama!

While on holiday visiting nuclear weapons facilities, Senators Barack Obama and Richard Lugar were prevented from leaving Russia over the weekend in an odd a diplomatic fiasco. Russian officials were demanding to search their plane before it departed, which is apparently a no-no among "friendly" nations. The Senators were detained in an airport lounge while the matter was settled. Obama was reported to be kickin' it on a couch, and let others work it out. The Russian Foreign Ministry has since apologized.

When these things happen, Obama should really get in the habit of blogging about it.


Stayed out too late this weekend and missed church? No problem, just download the podcast. What, you're church is behind the times? That's ok, there's always to provide biblical readings, sermons, and Christian rock. Praising God ain't been this hip since "Baby Got Book".

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Dog Days

First of all, it cost me $39.22 to fill up the car. I just needed to say that out loud.

Well, the summer news doldrums continue. Yesterday on NPR's All Things Considered, the top story coming out the news was Google. Google has rolled out their new instant messaging software - and somehow this became the lead story of the day. I understand that it's August, but you've got the base-closings commission, you've got 007 Pat Robertson planning American foreign policy, even an emerging Lance Armstrong doping scandal that could work as the headliner. Maybe it's me, but it seemed like an odd choice - the technology is not anything new.

Anyway.. as for Google, the NYT at least attempted to take an angle on the story: Google is really rich and thinks its so cool, but now the other kids in silicon vally won't let Google come over to play dungeons & dragons.

I guess there's just not a lot going on.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

There are other blogs?

I had no idea.

Sean over at Cosmic Variance has started some really great conversation with a few posts regarding the recent New York Times series about the growing influence of Intelligent Design advocates. Tons of smart and diverse comments from readers, including a reply from Kenneth Chang, the NY Times reporter who authored the series.

Sigh... well, I need to get back to blogging about the weather, my cat, and public radio gossip.

ps - A little birdie told me that Terry Gross hates kittens and balloons - and only reads the Cliffs Notes.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Press Release of the Day

Today I received an all together bizarre press release from the publicist of game inventor Bob Johnson. Johnson is (apparently) proud to announce the re-release of his "classic" board games, Public Assistance: Why Bother Working for a Living? and Capital Punishment: Celebrity Edition. These games are "guaranteed to rehabilitate lingering liberals." Yes, board games are the answer! Surely they will rid us of all our fears about a broken justice system as well as the inherent inequalities produced by market capitalism. Come on, admit it - once you played Operation, all those worries about HMO's and the under-insured just flew out the window. Because once you start laughing at all the people who fall through the cracks... man, is it hard to stop

Robert Moog Dies

Robert Moog, father of the modern synthesizer, died Sunday. The sound of a Moog is unmistakable and it has been used by countless artists of all genres. I actually own a later model Moog, the Rogue. It packs a powerful punch for it's size, and you can lose hours fiddling around and finding all the weird sounds it can produce.

Here some obits:
And for the full story, check out the book Analog Days.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Zapruder's got nothing on me.

Photo taken from the grassy knoll.

Tomorrow the world will surely be abuzz with the publication of this photo. It turns out the rumored Ira Glass/Gretchen Helfrich karaoke duet actually took place - and The American Sector's got the exclusive goods. I've already called the NY Post to see if they want to run it. The editor said "Public what?" "RADIO" I replied, "Yes - like Howard Stern, just a little different." They're taking a wait-and-see attitude for now. Next, I called the Tribune. "Listen, I know you guys own one of the largest and most powerful commercial AM stations in the country, but these two are not just the competition, they are local celebrities.... hello?" Undaunted, I called Streetwise... they hit me up for a dollar and told me they'd give me an answer in the morning.

photo by Andie T.


Chicago is having crappy weather this summer. Countless days of heat and humidity - and an extreme drought to add insult to injury. Longtime natives (myself included) often will say to visitors,"oh, the summers aren't bad - just a couple of hot weeks" Lies. Every word. This year has been brutal. But today, August 21, was different. Today was the perfect day. Crisp, cool Canadian air swooped down from the north and brought us one of those perfect late summer days. Warm in the sun, comfortable in the shade - and a promise of a cool night for sleeping. Mix in an afternoon libation, and all is well in the world.

P.S. - Yes, I did just blog about the weather. Truly, the equivalent of blogging small talk. But as I sat out on the porch this afternoon reading the paper, I realized that there is nothing going on right now. Really - Cindy Sheehan is all we've got? Gaza? Not gonna touch that with a ten foot pole. Right now, I'm just going to focus on what's good - today.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

I like backpacks and I cannot lie.

Has anyone seen the new commercial from Target? It's got some nice innocent back-to-school lyrics sung to the tune of Baby Got Back, by Sir Mix-A-Lot. Yes that's right - your children will now associate rulers, folders, pencils, and protractors with a song that celebrates a whole lot of junk in the trunk. Don't believe me? You can watch the ad here. What's next -will Tony the Tiger and Tucan Sam dance to Darling Nikki?

A really great way to kick off the 5th grade.

PS - As absurd as this is, nothing tops the biblical version: Baby Got Book.

Monday, August 15, 2005

When the Cat's Away

The cat actually stayed at home... but you get the idea

Do you ever get vacation regret? You leave town...only to return and find out that you missed some great party, a concert, or a naked bike ride. Well, last week I missed my company picnic while on vacation. Normally this would be no big deal. But when I got to work today, I asked my co-workers how the party was - they only said it was "fine". No one mentioned the karaoke. No one mentioned the Gretchen Helfrich-Ira Glass power duet (that's almost good as Gwyneth Paltrow and Huey Lewis). No sir, I had to read about all of this on the internet. It turns out that a certain Eric Zorn of the Tribune attended the picnic and then turned around and blogged about it. With his readership - now thousands of people know about all the fun I missed. I hate vacation.

Don't tell me this town ain't got no heart.

Musical theater has always frightened me. As a child I was subjected to a live performance of a young Jim Belushi in the lead role of Pirates of Penzance (shiver....). Then in the 7th grade, my mother would play the cassette soundtrack to Big River every day as she drove me to school - and I can still recite all the lyrics for you. But in recent years, this once dying art form has risen from the ashes by jamming with the oldies. There's Billy Joel, Abba, The Beach Boys, a new Lennon musical, and now the Grateful Dead! Yes, that's right..the Dead. So skip the shower, put on some patchouli oil, and head down to see Shakedown Street. Here's the kicker. They have taken the songs of the Grateful Dead and placed them in a neo-noir comedy-thriller set in 1940's San Francisco. Could they get any higher?

PS - Not worth its own post - but check out Donald Trumps blog! (via Online News Squared)

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Yesterday's News: Today's Blog Post

While reading the paper on the beach (I'm sorry, did I not mention that I was on vacation?) I came across this correction in the NYTimes Style Section.

An article last Sunday about shifting standards for the use of profanity misspelled the surname of the bartender in the television series "The Simpsons." He is Moe Szyslak, not Syzlak.

I'm canceling my prescription.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Ain't gonna work on Blogger's farm no more.

I'm off for a week's vacation, so that means no blogging for a while. Last month when I tried this, I had to cut my trip short for work. So this time, no email, no cell phone, no singing telegrams, and I plan to ignore any smoke signals I see coming over the horizon. Rock on.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Area Blog Reads Press Release, Blogs About It

Chicagoist is a fine I usually enjoy reading (for readers outside of Chicago, it's part of the Gothamist family). However, today they have a post that is nothing more than a press release. How did this happen? Here's the most likely scenario.
1. They received an invitation to a promotional event - in this case, for a new bottled water called Contrex.
2. They attended party, eat cheese, drank wine.
3. They then blogged about new product, seemingly quoting from promotional materials handed out at the party.

Now, as someone who gets my fair share of offers for freebies and comps, they're nothing wrong with attending these events - either out of curiosity, professional interest... or even for the free chardonnay. But when you take the extra step and present mundane products as worthy of "news" or even as a blog post - you cross a line. And I'm not talking about some nostalgic notion of journalism and ethics. What makes me so angry is that you've just been played like a fiddle by the PR folks who organized the whole thing. Really - let me ask, was this new water so fantastic? Did it really taste any different from the bottle of Aquafina on your desk? Next time, just drink their booze and leave.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

War Corps

The Pentagon is now allowing recruits to meet a portion of their military obligations by serving in the Peace Corps. Congress apparently authorized this nearly three years ago, but Peace Corps officials claim they had no idea about the legislation until after the bill had passed. Since its founding in 1961, there has always been a clear separation between the mission of the Corps and US military objectives. Now, the same grunts that bomb your village can dig you a new latrine. Another giant step for US foreign policy!

Monday, August 01, 2005

Wim Duisenberg, we hardly knew you...

And quite possibly, we didn't really know you at all.

Wim Duisenberg, the former head of the European Central Bank, died this weekend. Why do I mention this? Well, this Dutchman was more than just Alan Greenspan in wooden shoes. He is considered the father of everybody's favorite common currency, the Euro. As I have mentioned on this blog before, I heart currency politics. So next time you're about to pay for that blood sausage and pilsner in Dusseldorf using the change from when you bought the croissant and absinthe in Biarritz - give it up for my man, Wim Duisenberg.

Oh my God, you like sunsets too?

Would you buy this picture at the art fair next summer? Me neither.

Excuse the lack of blogging lately. When things get stressful here in the big city, I tend to... A) curl up in the fetal position under my desk, or B) leave town and head for the beach. Thankfully, option B has been a main pastime this summer. But either scenario obviously puts a cramp in my blogging style, but I hope you can forgive and forget.

Just catching up on the weekend papers and all the hot news I missed while out of town. Hmm, let see... The Japanese have developed a female android.... interesting. King Fahd died - that might be trouble. Bolton in at the UN - no surprise. Oh, and I almost forgot... THERE IS NOW A TENTH PLANET IN THE SOLAR SYSTEM! Why is this not being treated like big big news? Maybe it's because it's really small and way way out there... Maybe it's because it's named 2003 UB313... In any case, this has the potential to completely mess up millions of school kids everywhere who have worked so very hard to memorize, "My very energetic mother just served us nine pizzas". And now, in the wake of the discovery, scientists are trying to decide whether or not to even categorize it as a planet. Yeah, you're right... I guess the japanese sex robot is a better story.