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Help Fight Childhood Cancer!

In last Sunday's newspaper I discovered this great cause--St. Baldrick's Celebration, which is a charitable fundraiser which supports the National Childhood Cancer Foundation. Despite great progress made during the past few years, cancer still kills more children than any other disease. The NCCF is a great organization which backs both cancer research and treatment of young patients. In supporting NCCF, we can all do a little bit towards finding a cure.

Which is where I (and you!) come in. On March 12, the day of St. Baldrick's Celebration, I will have my head shaved at Smith & Wollensky in Chicago. The head-shaving is a symbolic gesture of solidarity with cancer patients, many of whom lose their hair during chemotherapy. I am hoping to personally raise $500 in donations in my name to benefit St. Baldrick's and the NCCF. St. Baldrick's raised over $2 million in donations last year and $3 million since its inception in 2000.

Now, those of you who know me personally realize that I'm already quite follically-challenged, and thus will be sacrificing very little hair to this great cause. But, based on the photos I've seen of last year's event, it appears that only clippers are used at the event locations, leaving a thin stubble. I intend to take it one step further, and blade-shave it right down to my scalp. (Hopefully the end result will be closer to Michael Jordan than Scottie Pippen.) I'll post an "after" photo here once the shaving is complete.

If you would like to donate, you can do so via credit card through my page at the St. Baldrick's website. Or if you'd prefer to donate with check or cash, just email me and we'll make all the necessary arrangements.

For more information on St. Baldrick's Celebration, click here, and for the National Childhood Cancer Foundation, click here.

Thank you so much!

February 29, 2004 in Personal | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thought Is To Be Cherished

Morrie sat at the dining room table, long after the meal had been finished. The dinner plates were pushed to the center of the table, and before him sat the dregs of his third after-dinner cup of coffee. The coffee barely crossed his mind, as the cup was merely an object to occupy his nervous hands and the coffee itself a temporary pause to collect his thoughts.

He sat, leaning forward in his shirt sleeves, his necktie still on but with the knot substantially loosened and the top shirt button undone. Although his rounded shoulders slumped and his tired arms hung loosely at his sides, his spirits remained high. His diminished physical bearing, in contrast to the energy of his speech, was the accumulated result of decades of sales calls, hauling a sample case into office after office, sitting in rickety wooden chairs making his pitch. Now, as he spoke, he leaned back slightly, and unconsciously unbuttoned his cuffs and rolled up his sleeves to his elbows.

"But what of Kafka?" he said excitedly. "Poor doomed Samsa...condemned to a job he loathes, with no social life, all for the good of his unappreciative family. Extraordinary. He intentionally makes himself useless to them, no longer the provider, forcing them out of their sedentary dependency. Suddenly they have to tend to his needs, instead of him to theirs."

For Morris Kushner, underneath his salesman uniform, was an intellectual. A working intellectual, one with a nine-to-five job, or more accurately seven-to-seven. He delighted in discussing philosophy and literature, going so far as trying to ease weighty discourses into his calls. But such efforts were largely unsuccessful, as his counterparts were too preoccupied with sales figures and unit prices and office politics to pay him any mind.

It was here at the dinner table, his own or that of a friend, where his intellectual hunger was truly satisfied. As dinner reached its final stages, the food fulfilling its basic, physically-sustaining role, his mind and those of his companions moved to the forefront. Thoughts and conjectures were introduced, the air brimming with words as the coffee was poured, opinions and evidence exchanged effortlessly, back and forth. For a few hours in an evening, he could forget about the everyday and lose himself in thought and lofty conversation.

February 27, 2004 in Fiction | Permalink | Comments (0)

A Truly Extraordinary Book

The compelling thing about A People's History of the United States is the way it challenges your assumptions and makes you re-think what you had previously taken to be fact. The passages on Lincoln, the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation illustrate this quite vividly. Note the following positions taken by Zinn, all of which would have been considered heresy in my public-school American History classes.

Lincoln Was Not an Abolitionist, Nor Did He Believe in Racial Equality
Lincoln was, first and foremost, a politician, indulging in what today would be condemned as pandering. During his 1858 campaign for the Senate, he said the following in Chicago:

"Let us discard all this quibbling about this man and the other man, this race and that race and the other race being inferior...let us...unite as one people throughout this land, until we shall once more stand up declaring that all men are created equal."

But just two months later, speaking in considerably more pro-slavery southern Illinois:

"I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races...I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race."

Thus he clearly tailored his message to whatever would be the most well-received by his audience. His position on slavery was unequivocally stated in his first Inaugural Address, in March 1861:

"I have no purpose...to inferfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so."

...It was only after the war grew more bitter, the casualties mounted, desperation to win heightened, and the criticism of the abolitionists threatened to unravel the tattered coaltion behind Lincoln that he began to act against slavery. (Richard) Hofstadter puts it this way: "Like a delicate barometer, he recorded the trend of pressures, and as the Radical pressure increased he moved toward the left." Wendell Phillips (a prominent black abolitionist) said that if Lincoln was able to grow "it was because we have watered him."

More on Lincoln from Wendell Phillips:

"Not an abolitionist, hardly an antislavery man, Mr. Lincoln consents to represent an antislavery idea. A pawn on the political chessboard, his value is in his position; with fair effort, we may soon change him for knight, bishop or queen, and sweep the board."

The Civil War Was Not Fought To End Slavery
Congress passed a resolution in mid-1861 which stated the following:

"...this war in not waged...for any purpose of...overthrowing or interfering with the rights of established institutions of those states, but...to preserve the Union."

Read "established institutions" as "slavery." The following year, Lincoln reinforced Congress' resolution in a reply to a critical letter from newspaper editor Horace Greeley:

"My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it...What I do about slavery and the colored race, I do because it helps to save this Union."

The Emancipation Proclamation Was Not a Call for the Absolute Abolishment of Slavery
This is perhaps Zinn's most devastating revelation:

When the Emancipation Proclamation was issued January 1, 1863, it declared slaves free in those areas still fighting against the Union (which it listed very carefully), and said nothing about slaves behind Union lines...The London Spectator wrote concisely: "The principle is not that a human being cannot justly own another, but that he cannot own him unless he is loyal to the United States."

In other words, any Confederate state which submitted to the Union could continue practicing slavery. Business as usual, as it had been in the South for centuries.

The implications of Zinn's book, while always thought-provoking, often becoming overwhelming in impact. Thus I've decided to not read it cover-to-cover. Instead, I'll finish the section on the Civil War and return it to the library, and resume reading at some later date. But when I do resume reading, it will be with a copy that I personally own. This magnificent book unquestionably deserves a permanent place on my bookshelf, as well as that of everyone else who cares about this country and how we got to where we are today.

February 26, 2004 in Books | Permalink | Comments (3)

What Book Are You?

So, I took this "What Book Are You?" quiz. I was quite pleased with the results. Actually, Julie is the big Vonnegut fan in the family, but I thoroughly enjoyed the only Vonnegut I've read so far, Cat's Cradle.

You're Mother Night!

by Kurt Vonnegut

Nobody knows what to believe about you, and you know least of all. You spent most of your time convinced that the ends justify the means, but your means were, well, downright mean! And the end is nigh. Meanwhile all you want is to travel back in time, if not to change, then to just delight in the way it used to be. You are who you pretend to be. Oh yes, you're the great pretender.

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

February 25, 2004 in Books | Permalink | Comments (1)

Gay Marriage

So, Dubya wants to protect the institution of marriage with a constitutional amendment which bans gays and lesbians from marrying. But, given the divorce rate of something like 50%, it's obvious that heterosexuals have already done severe damage to the institution. In fact, if he really wants to protect marriage he'd be better off banning heterosexual marriage instead. It's hard to imagine that allowing gay marriage would make things any worse.

Bush has shown himself to be quite variable when it comes to states' rights. During the 2000 election, he dodged the gay marriage question, saying it was a state issue. But now, when several states have acted within their presumed authority, Bush wants to squash the gay marriage movement at the federal level with a constitutional amendment. His message to the states? You can have all the rights you want, just as long as you make decisions that I agree with.

It's also interesting to see him now slamming "activist judges" who rule in favor of gay marriage when, after all, it was activist judges who put him in the White House in the first place.

February 25, 2004 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Mexico Then, Iraq Now

I came across another currently-relevant passage from A People's History of the United States, this one involving the Mexican-American War. The expansionist movement was in full swing during the 1840s, with the U.S. setting its sights on the conquest of Texas. President James Polk was just itching to get justification for attacking Mexico, and had U.S. troops massed on the north bank of the Rio Grande.

Polk: "Up to this time, as we knew, we had heard of no open act of aggression by the Mexican army, but that the danger was imminent that such acts would be committed. I said that in my opinion we had ample cause of war, and that it was impossible...that I could remain silent much longer...that the country was excited and impatient on the subject.

There's that notorious word "imminent" again--apparently, the Bush doctrine of preemptive war isn't a new one. But at least Polk went to the trouble of having the army incite the retreating Mexicans into an attack. Polk finally got what he was looking for in April 1846, when a U.S. patrol was ambushed. Zinn continues:

The country was not yet "excited and impatient." But the President was. When the dispatches arrived from General Taylor telling of casualties from the Mexican attack, Polk summoned the cabinet to hear the news, and they unanimously agreed he should ask for a declaration of war.
John Schroder, in Mr. Polk's War: "The disciplined Democratic majority in the House responded with alacrity and high-handed efficiency to Polk's war recommendations."

The bundles of official documents accompanying the war message, supposed to be evidence for Polk's statement, were not examined, but were tabled immediately by the House. Debates on the bill providing volunteers and money for the war was limited to two hours...barely a half-hour was left for discussion of the issues.

(The opposition Whigs) were not so powerfully against the military action that they would stop it by denying men and money for the operation. They did not want to risk the accusation theat they were putting American soldiers in peril by depriving them of the materials necessary to fight. The result was that Whigs joined Democrats in voting overwhelmingly for the war resolution, 174 to 14.

Schroeder: "(Throughout the war) the politically sensitive Whig minority could only harry the administration with a barrage of verbiage while voting for every appropriation which the military campaigns required."

War is declared with insufficient debate and review of the supporting evidence, and the minority party in Congress verbally opposes the war while faithfully voting in favor of all resolutions and approprations. Sounds too familiar. Abraham Lincoln was first elected to the House after the war was already underway; in July 1846 he addressed the House in response to the patriotism of the Whigs being questioned based on their opposition to the war:

"You Democrats say we Whigs have always opposed the war...The declaration that we have always opposed the war is true or false, according as one may understand the term 'oppose the war.' If to say 'the war was unnecessarily and unconstitutionally commenced by the President" be opposing the war, then the Whigs have very generally opposed it...But if, when the war had begun, and become the cause of the country, the giving of our money and our blood, in common with yours, was support of the war, then it it not true that we have always opposed the war. With few individual exceptions, you have constantly had our votes here for all the necessary supplies..."

Then, as now, it's possible to support the troops while opposing the administration which started the war in the first place. There's absolutely nothing unpatriotic about such opposition. One more Zinn comment:

Accompanying all this aggressiveness was the idea that the United States would be giving the blessings of liberty and democracy to more people.

Or more white males, at least. Indians, blacks and women were still officially considered inferior, and not entitled to the same luxuries. And conservatives today still aren't sure what to think of them.

February 24, 2004 in Books, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Hands-Free Driving

Here's another candidate for story of the year. Presumably, this gentleman was not driving with his hands at the recommended "ten o'clock, two o'clock" position.

Police Nab Driver Viewing Porn Film
Chicago Tribune news services, 2/23/04

ALBANY, NEW YORK -- Police last week arrested a 35-year-old man for illegally driving while watching a pornographic movie.

Andre Gainey of Clifton Park was pulled over in Schenectady by police detectives after he was spotted at a stoplight. The officers found the movie "Chocolate Foam" playing on screens embedded in the headrests and the passenger-side visor of the Mercedes-Benz.

The case may be the first of its kind in New York, said Joe Pichi, a spokesman for the state's Department of Motor Vehicles.

February 23, 2004 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (3)

Bush in the Headlights

By Mike Luckovich of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (all rights reserved, or whatever). Outstanding.

February 23, 2004 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

71-Year Old First-Time Novelist

This story (via Maud) certainly puts my novel-writing efforts into proper perspective. Congratulations, Mr. Chadwick.

February 20, 2004 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)

Coffee! We Must Have Coffee!

In A People's History of the United States, Zinn relates Abigail Adams' account of a "coffee party," a 1777 women's uprising similar to the Boston Tea Party:

One eminent, wealthy, stingy merchant (who is a bachelor) had a hogshead of coffee in his store, which he refused to sell the committee under six shillings per pound. A number of females, some say a hundred, some say more, assembled with a cart and trunks, marched down to the warehouse, and demanded the keys, which he refused to deliver. Upon which one of them seized him by his neck and tossed him into the cart. Upon his finding no quarter, he delivered the keys when they tipped up the cart and discharged him; then opened the warehouse, hoisted out the coffee themselves, put it into the trunks and drove off...A large concourse of men stood amazed, silent spectators of the whole transaction.

Impressive. While Julie and I are fiercely loyal to our daily coffee, I doubt if we'd ever go so far as to procure it by brute force.

February 20, 2004 in Books | Permalink | Comments (2)

Some Things Never Change

Interesting excerpt from Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States:

While it was the rich who ruled Boston, there were political jobs available for the moderately well-off, as "cullers of staves," "measurer of Coal Baskets," "Fence Viewer."

In Maryland (there was) a class of small planters who were not "the beneficiary" of the planting society as the rich were, but who had the distinction of being called planters, and who were "respectable citizens with community obligations to act as overseers of roads, appraisers of estates and similar duties."

It helped the alliance to accept the middle class socially in a "round of activities that included local politics...dances, horseracing, and cockfights, occasionally punctuated with drinking brawls..."

In other words, patronage jobs, honorary titles, "bread and circus." But bear in mind that this is Colonial America of the mid 18th Century, not Chicago of the 20th Century. Clearly, while the art of Machine Politics may have been perfected here, they were by no means invented here. I wonder if City Hall has any plum Fence Viewer jobs available.

February 18, 2004 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)

Update on Eden

My novel-in-progress, Eden, is still approaching the first-rewrite stage. The holdup is that I wrote the first draft in longhand, primarily during the last two rounds of NaNoWriMo. And since I can't possibly imagine doing revisions in longhand, I'm in the process of transcribing the 240 handwritten pages. My secretarial skills are clearly not up to the task (apologies to Mr. Whale, my high school typing teacher), and I've only finished 75 pages so far.

Even at this early stage, I can already see some pretty significant revisions which need to be made, primarily related to historical facts which I didn't learn until long after the related passages were written. And those revisions don't even include the ones which will inevitably arise after I finally get around to reading several history books (Mark Holloway's Heavens on Earth: Utopian Communities in America 1680-1880, Charles Boewe's Prairie Albion: An English Settlement in Pioneer Illinois, Mark McCutcheon's Everyday Life in the 1800s, Catherine Tobin's The Lowly Muscular Digger: Irish Canal Workers in Nineteenth Century America, and Stephen O'Connor's Orphan Trains) that I've identified as good source material. I realize this is going to be a long-term, time-consuming project. But having it all transcribed and printed out, even in its rough draft form, should be a big psychological lift.

Incidentally, I'm already working on a new title to replace the somewhat hackneyed Eden. My leading contender at the moment is Furrows Through the Earth.

February 17, 2004 in Fiction | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Final Final Word

Despite what I said earlier about letting the Center for American Progress have the final word about the Super Bowl halftime show, the final final word will deservedly go to Ruben Bolling, writer of the excellent comic strip Tom The Dancing Bug. I never dreamed this shameful incident could possibly be paralleled to the even more shameful incidents going on within the Bush Administration, but Mr. Bolling has clearly proven otherwise:

News of the Times: JJ Orders Probe of Wardrobe Malfunction

February 17, 2004 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

"We Are The Majority"

Here's an outstanding article in this month's The Progressive by U.S. Representative Bernie Sanders of Vermont: "We Are The Majority."

My thoughts: If you're thinking of voting for George Bush because you think he truly represents your interests, I suggest you think again. If you're not one of the wealthiest 1% of Americans, or if you are a factory worker, a military veteran, an office worker whose job depends heavily on computers and telecommunications, or a parent with kids in public schools, Bush is coming after you with all the fury he previously reserved for Saddam Hussein.

Don't give him four more years to decimate what little he hasn't already taken away.

February 16, 2004 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Miller Brewing Company

I wrote the following essay way back in 1996. Most of it still rings true, I think.

As relentlessly conformist as most Americans are, we all want to be considered individualists. Perhaps that's the reason for the enduring appeals of such pop-culuture institutions as the movie western, a genre that is hopelessly narrow and whose plot line can be predicted in advance by a ten-year-old possessing only average intelligence. But there's something about that lone cowboy, riding into town, exerting his will and having his way, and then riding off into the sunset off to some other town where he will undoubtedly exert his will and have his way. Though we can't identify with that cowboy as we dutifully insert ourselves in bumper to bumper traffic for that long commute to work, where we dutifully obey the boss and where the duties are of of only modest interest, we want to be the cowboy. We want to be different.

And American industry didn't become the most powerful force on earth by ignoring such opportunities. Take Miller Brewing Company, for example. Miller, a subsidiary of promotional colossus Philip Morris, could probably produce a high quality product if it wanted. It certainly has the capability. With its vast financial resources, Miller could easily secure the finest ingredients, the most innovative brewmasters and the most sophisticated production processes. But the fickle tastes of American consumers, who want to be safe while imagining themselves being "different", makes such an investment fairly risky.

Instead, Miller focuses on its real strengths, marketing and promotion. Rather than producing a beer that is truly distinctive, Miller's investment goes into producing a perception, a perception that its product is truly distinctive. Miller took a long look at its onetime flagship brand, Miller High Life, and saw a dinosaur--a dinosaur that only sold to lower income, blue collar, non upwardly mobile consumers. A dinosaur whose slogan continued to be "The Champagne Of Beers"--dating from a time when the use of the word "champagne" could invoke a sense of chic and sophistication.

So, High Life was going nowhere. Not to worry--the marketing honchos at Miller understand fully that the ticket to success in American business is not quality, but image. With much fanfare, they unveiled two "new" beers, Red Dog and a beer simply known as "Miller". Red Dog ("Be Your Own Dog") zeroed in on the American yearning for individuality. Its clever ad campaign began with the creation of a logo, the head of a snarling bulldog colored a vivid shade of red. As the beer was being introduced, billboards appeared which bore no text--just the unmistakeable image of the Red Dog. One couldn't help noticing these billboards and wonder what they could possibly be. Then, when the TV commercials hit, the consumer could make an immediate connection--instant familiarity.

Miller Beer ("Brewed From The Heart Of The Hops"--as if the use of hops was some bold innovation that Miller just came up with) stressed its newness. New beer, new label, new name--but, as Miller stressed, you were already familiar with the beer, label and name. Both beers came with boldly designed labels and an unmistakable message.

But let's not forget that under the packaging, under the advertising, and under the highly efficient distribution system there is the base product. Beer. If all the labeling and promotion were to be believed, Miller had come up with a great beer, something bold and distinctive for which we consumers wouldn't mind pay a few extra pennies for than we had paid for High Life.

Yet, when one finally tastes the product that is buried under all that image, it tastes suspiciously like High Life. Maybe slightly better than High Life, but not enough of a difference that would seem to justify all the hoopla and the higher price. It's almost as if Miller peeled off all the High Life labels, slapped on glitzy new ones and starting hawking the "new" product with a brilliant ad campaign.

Maybe the Miller Beer message was honest, after all. New beer, new label, new name. And, they forgot to add, same beer.

February 13, 2004 in Food and Drink | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Myopia Continues

The Bush Administration is wholeheartedly praising the overseas outsourcing of manufacturing and service jobs, per the following item from the Center for American Progress:

The rationale, as explained by White House economist Gregory Mankiw, is that shipping jobs overseas is simply the "latest manifestations of the gains from trade that economists have talked about." Summing up the Administration's position, the report said: "When a good or service is produced more cheaply abroad, it makes more sense to import it than make or provide it domestically."

Never mind that this process, taken to its ultimate extreme, will result in such massive unemployment that nobody in the U.S. will be able to afford any such goods and services, no matter how cheap they are.

And don't just take the progessives' word for it: Even House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) strongly disagrees with the White House's position on job outsourcing.

February 11, 2004 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)


I stare lazily two blocks ahead, where bridge traffic moves steadily in parallel lines, cars and trucks intently following the one-way streets, compulsively propelled forward by the next stoplight, always striving for green. But the red light just as often gives unconscious comfort...they have no choice, they must stop and wait, unlike the green which can impose the terror of possibilities.

Do all these people, drivers and pedestrians, really think about where they are going? Streaming out of the train station toward the exits, they instincitively began to queue up to align themselves with the revolving doors at the far end. Once freed of the station, they are immediately re-encumbered by the overriding thought--to move quickly, to get to the office on time, to start yet another work day.

I am not immune. I am also propelled forward by the unconscious thought of my destination, where my desk, my coffee mug and the morning news all await me, as they do every day. The comfort of the routine.

February 11, 2004 in Fiction | Permalink | Comments (0)

Harry Potter Translated Into Ancient Greek

My first thought on this story (article via Maud) was: "Wow, somebody has way too much time on his hands."

But I suppose it's worthwhile if it will be used as a means of teaching ancient Greek. Now, the inevitable Klingon translation, on the other hand...

February 10, 2004 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)

Gantry Revisited

"We must always strive to make the world a better place for everyone," said the pompadoured preacher, unconsciously fingering his diamond pinky ring. He flashed his million-megawatt smile across the broad expanse of his immaculately appointed mahogany desk.

I had to admit the man was a charmer. Meticulously mannered, relentlessly upbeat, brimming with energy, and endlessly flattering of his listener. But I had to stay on my guard, stay objective, and not fail to ask the tough questions. Most importantly: Could he account for every last dime of the donations received for his overseas mission?

(This is another submission to the Fast Fiction Contest at Writer's Resource Center. This assignment required at least three alliterations.)

February 6, 2004 in Fiction | Permalink | Comments (0)

Two Executives

Two executives
Senior vice presidents
Loved the work, the challenges
The rewards, the people
Long and successful careers
Two very powerful men.

And now they're gone.
Found themselves stranded
On the wrong side of the battle line
Faulty alliances foolishly made.

Never fail to keep
A wary eye on the corporation
In an instant it will turn on you
Attack and devour
When you're no longer of use.

February 6, 2004 in Fiction | Permalink | Comments (0)

Aleksandar Hemon

Here's a neat little novelty from Aleksandar Hemon, author of Nowhere Man and The Question of Bruno. It's two short stories loosely based on Nowhere Man, under the title of The "Lost" Pronek Fantasies, in a booklet that you construct yourself. If you've never read Hemon, this is a good introduction to his fascinating prose. And if you're a fan like me, it's a tiny morsel to tide you over until his next novel comes out. (Whenever that might be--I haven't heard.)

If you attempt this, two suggestions:
1. Unless your printer automatically flips the paper for two-sided printing (which mine doesn't) you'll have to print out just the first page, flip it manually, then print out the second page followed by the instruction page.
2. Cut the top and bottom (Step 8) with a sharp knife from the inside along the crease, rather than with a scissors as indicated. It should come out much more cleanly this way.


February 4, 2004 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)

End of an Era

Sad news from my hometown--Camp Algonquin will soon be closing. (Archived Tribune article here.) For decades the camp has given inner-city kids a reprieve from city life and exposure to nature they might never have had. I grew up in Cary, and I remember seeing batches of newly-arrived campers disembarking from the CN&W train, all wide-eyed and excited. (And, incidentally, also completely out of place in the culturally homogeneous community that Cary was in the 1960s and 1970s.)

I guess a rural campground is a luxury for an urban social service agency that finds itself hard-pressed just to keep kids alive in the city. They've been blessed to be able to keep the camp running for as long as they have. Hopefully the proceeds of the sale will be wisely spent on its city community centers.

February 4, 2004 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

On Some Days the Muse Will Not Cooperate

The grit crawled over his tongue, coming with the last mouthful of his morning coffee, and with no good place to spit he had no choice but to swallow it uncomfortably. The bitter taste jolted him out of a long but restless reverie, but the intrusion was not entirely unwelcomed.

Scattered thoughts and phrases had fluttered about for most of the morning, small nervous birds flitting in random arcs, offering only hints of color and indefinite form, never remaining still long enough for him to see them clearly and affix them in his mind.

The cold bitter winters of years past had remained...no. The phrase would not complete itself, and he soon became distracted by the view from his window, something commonplace which held his attention only until the next abstraction arrived. But that, in turn, would also dissipate, the cycle fruitlessly repeating.

No words of any permanence would come today.

February 4, 2004 in Fiction | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Halftime Travesty

As my first and final comment on the deplorable incident during the Super Bowl halftime show, I offer the following from The Center for American Progress. (I have abbreviated the names of the immediate culprits, as the publicity which they so desperately crave will not be provided by me.)

As has been well documented by now, CBS refused to air an ad about the ballooning deficit by Moveon.org during the Super Bowl last night, charging it was too "controversial." Instead, as the WP writes, they chose to air "sexy and violent commercials that included jokes about flatulence and bestiality." And the topper? The climax of the halftime show, when popstar JT yanked down half of singer JJ's costume, clearly exposing one of her breasts. (Despite CBS apologies, "there were reports that MTV had hinted during its afternoon programming that JJ's appearance would be one for the record books.")

In a column, Moveon.org's Eli Pariser said, "Outrageous as it may sound, CBS has decided that ads selling erectile dysfunction medicines and toilet paper are appropriate for Americans, but serious discussion should be banned."

What did Americans get instead? A broadcast that led media critic Tom Shales to conclude, "Maybe the Super Bowl will have to move from the broadcast networks to the Playboy Channel if its commercials are going to be so dirty that they embarrass parents watching with their kids."

But at least no one had to think. That would have been "controversial."

February 3, 2004 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Hand Caught in Cookie Jar...Again

Ramsin Canon, as always, has an excellent take on City Hall's most recent ethical/legal gaffe. An official apology from Da Mare, even an evasive one, is almost as rare an occurrence as a Cubs postseason appearance. Yes, it's been quite a year.

February 2, 2004 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Greetings, Amy Iuppa!

Sandrine and Rob Iuppa proudly announce the joyous arrival of Amy Elizabeth, who was born on Sunday, February 1st. She was seven pounds, eleven ounces, and Papa says both she and Sandrine are doing well. He also states "We enjoyed our first Super Bowl together although I prohibited her from watching halftime." (If only we all were as fortunate!)

February 2, 2004 in Personal | Permalink | Comments (2)