Friday, February 28, 2003

Linking is the sincerest form of flattery
Very busy today, but I recently came across parallel motions, a sweet, almost romantic website run by a young, creatively inclined Chicago couple. Read “the big idea” and you’ll understand what’s going on. The photo archives boast some pretty impressive shots of everything from strangers on the street to bike parts. I’m really impressed. The site put me in a great mood.

Thursday, February 27, 2003

Writers publish at their own peril
One of the funniest author interviews ever. The old saying “I don’t care what they say about me as long as they say something” springs to mind.

An alert reader/trivia buff/Dallas Morning News copy editor/model citizen/functioning alcoholic has informed me that teenager is no longer hyphenated. This according to the latest edition of The AP Stylebook.

Goodbye neighbor
There’s a lot of talk today about the death of Fred “Mister” Rogers, who died of cancer at age 74. Like most kids, I watched “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” almost every day growing up. When I wasn’t ingesting black tar in the outfield of the Barrie Park baseball diamond, odds were you could find me hunkered down in front of the TV set watching the dandy Mister and his make-believe pals. It was hypnotic. I can still remember the opening theme song: A psychedelic xylophone riff that would drive someone with a tenuous grip on sanity headlong into the depths of psychosis. Looking back, it’s hard to imagine anyone with Fred Rogers’ imagination wasn’t ingesting large quantities of hallucinagens. But no, Old Man Rogers was a fine chap. Pure of heart. Genuine and kind. And he devoted his life to children. It’s sad he died at a relatively early age.

Fuck the Llano Estacado
That’s right: Llano Estacado.

It’s not that I harbor any particular ill will toward the topographical features of the Llano Estacado. Nor do I dislike its inhabitants. Heck, I don’t even know where in Texas the Llano Estacado is.

Here in Dallas, no marketing campaign is complete unless it includes some reference to Texas. The shape of the state is branded on everything from beer bottles to yogurt cups. Advertisers know most Texans want to identify themselves as Texans. This is incredibly annoying to anyone who immigrates from, say, suburban Chicago. We Illinoisans are unilaterally ashamed of the shape of our state. And we don’t much appreciate having Texas constantly gloat about its figure. At the Prom of America, Texas is the bubbly blonde in the strappy dress. Illinois is the girl with the fat ass and industrial headgear.

According to their ad campaign, Dodge trucks typify the Texas mentality: strong, powerful, utilitarian. As a matter of fact, all truck commercials down here prey on Texans’ masturbatory fascination with their own state. Mottos like “Chevy: Driving Texas” and “Ford Is the Best in Texas” bombard us constantly. By far the most annoying of these commercials is Dodge’s “Llano Estacado” spot. While the typical truck-navigating-a-mudslide footage rolls, the background music (from a song by the world-renowned Cooder Graw) loudly proclaims: “I was born/on the Llaaaano Estacadooooo, yeah!/But I was raised here something something.” I never want to hear the words Llano Estacado again. And I’m not alone. Miya (who came to Dallas via Atlanta), hates it as much as I do. We have spent countless hours honing our ability to mute that commercial before Cooder can deliver his bone-rattling proclaimation. And we’re not the only ones. This comes from a google search of the words “Llano Estacado Dodge Commercial”:

Have you ever had a paticular commercial that you just hate and everytime it comes on you want to plug your ears?
Well, right now mine is that blasted Dodge truck commercial that is a song but I can't make out what they are saying and just the sound of it is like nails down a chalkboard to me!

It goes something like this,uuhummm(shelia clearing throat so she can sing)......

"I was born an anamambo espinotttoooooooooooooo!" Thank you, Thank you!
Now does anyone else hate that darn thing?

I hate it, too, Sheila. But I actually like those lyrics better.

But I digress. Just writing about this commercial is giving me the howling fantods.

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Lost in Space
Awesome. Scientific stuff usually gives me headaches, but this is undeniably cool.

Sleet dreams
Monday night, Dallas was hit by what meteorologists call “a huge fucking ice storm.” By Tuesday morning, streets were covered with about two inches of the stuff. It made driving an adventure and, needless to say, schools and workplaces were shut down throughout the city.

Dallas reacts strangely to this type of weather. Some people stay home and pray they be spared the wrath of the coming apocalypse. Others hit the roads as if there is no sheet of ice (I call it Southern Denial) and end up careening their SUVs off of traffic signals like ping pong balls. News of the weather and its effects, which can be adequately gleaned by anyone with, say, a window and vision, will nonetheless dominate every newscast, newspaper article (e.g. “Local teen-ager weighs in on shitty weather” [yes, AP Style says teen-ager should be hyphenated — Don’t ask.] and “UN mulls Iraq decision, weather in Texas declared ‘Shitty’”), and Texas-based website.

What’s perhaps toughest to understand is that many workplaces have now been shut down for two days in a row. I wonder if this is an indictment of the Texas Department of Transportation (they being ill-prepared to handle inclement weather); Dallas Public Transit (of which there is very little); or the meek hearts of Dallas folk who are simply scared shitless of driving under 40 mph on an empty road. For a state that prides itself on being tough and gritty, there’s not a whole lot of gumption floating around when the roads are bad. Many Texans just seem to flat-out give up. I’d hate to see what would happen if a blizzard dumped, say, a foot of snow on this place. Sheesh.

Dig it
I’ve been checking out this site pretty regularly for the past couple months. Cool photos from the Great Northwest (click on images to access thumbnail menus).

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Straight trippin'
The question on everyone's mind is: How is it that City of God, my favorite movie of last year, wasn't so much as nominated for an Academy Award?

Ebert addresses this burning question in the latest Ask the Movie Answer Man.

Friday, February 21, 2003

Grammar Got Run Over By A Reindeer
I emailed the guy who runs this handy site and asked him what the difference is between "among" and "amongst." His verdict: There is no difference, although amongst is being gradually phased out.

Here’s the skinny on the Barrie Park cleanup. I had trouble finding stuff because I misspelled Barrie. According to the article, there is already a class-action suit filed. There are additional stories on the Oak Leaves archive page if you type in "Barrie Park" as your search command. Apparently, this thing all started in 1999. My old neighborhood is in turmoil because of declining property values and, well, the fact that local children are going to grow up looking like slobbering troglodytes and their parents will be too incapacitated by black lung to care for them.

Sound Dust
When I was a young lad, I lived at 918 S. Taylor in Oak Park, Ill. It wasn’t the best neighborhood, but it was never dull. A working-class area of a diverse Chicago suburb, the southeast side of Oak Park — my block, in particular — was an odd collection of characters. Characters within families. Families populating the humble bungalows that lined the broad streets. Each family unique in its pathology. There was the self-proclaimed Vicelord, Mike Edwards, who babysat for me for years and, at one point, stole my dad’s car and crashed it into a snowbank less than three blocks away. His brother Damien, a short, foul-mouthed punk who was, as I remember, my first real friend. Two doors to the north, in a ramshackle gray monstrosity, lived a crazy, white-haired old lady who would pace around her front porch swearing to herself. She had vomit on her dress, always, and bright yarn in her hair.

We escaped that block as often as possible.

Most times we’d head across the Eisenhower Expressway canyon to Barry Park. It was a modest, one-block-square park with just enough going on to keep a kid occupied. There was a steep hill with strange corridors behind it where we’d go sledding during the winter. I remember going into the fenced-off corridor behind the hilltop and sitting with my legs dangling over the back edge. A sheer drop of some 25 to 30 feet. When I got older, the Barry Park diamond was our home field for little league baseball. I flew kites there in spring. We’d ride our bikes over the medieval wooden slats that stuck pell mell from the dirt.

The dust of that park constituted a better part of my daily caloric intake between the ages of 4 and 12. That place was all about kids running around with dirt on their faces and having rock fights and getting the scum of the field under your fingernails. Coating your skin with it. Barry Park was what wove the neighborhood kids together.

I got a call from my dad earlier this week and he asked me if I remembered Barry Park. How could I forget? Best times, those days. I remember that place as well as I remember my backyard.

“Well, they have the whole thing covered with a huge plastic dome,” my dad said. “I saw it from the expressway the other day and I thought ‘That’s where Mike used to play.’”

“Is it like a stadium or something?”

“No, get this: It’s been declared a toxic nuisance. I guess back in the 1920s it was some kind of mine. A bunch of people around there have been getting sick so they did a test on the dirt there and decided to shut it down. And they put the dome up to keep the dust from getting around the neighborhood. They have a bunch of trucks there and they’re digging the whole thing out.”

"No way."

"Well, hopefully we're OK. It's been over 15 years since we've lived there and neither one of us has been sick."

“I think maybe that dirt gave me superpowers.”

“Really? You don’t seem to ever get sick much.”

“Right on. It’s like those guys in the Amazon who drink small amounts of snake venom until their bodies develop an immunity. I spent so much time at that park my body probably thinks shit like influenza is some kind of joke.”

“Well, I thought you’d find that interesting.”

“Yeah, definitely. Let me know when the class-action suit gets underway.”

Freaky. I've looked online for more news about this, but I've only found a few vague references in an Oak Park community message board.

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Alas, Poor Yorick!
I bought a copy of my favorite book, “Infinite Jest” by David Foster Wallace, a while back and gave it to Miya, who proceeded to tear through some 70-odd pages before getting bogged down. First-time Wallace readers are prone to this affliction, as is evidenced by a satirical piece in The Onion.

Interesting semantic movement deconstructed for your reading pleasure.

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

My disappearing brethren
Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night and get that bone-chilling feeling that you are the only person on earth who is updating his bleepin' website?

Me neither.

I haven’t been sleeping too well lately. I think the cause has been my ongoing worry about the fate of Evan Marriott, TV’s Joe Millionaire. Well, last night my concerns were officially put to rest until next week (when Fox will air “Joe Millionaire: The Aftermath”). Evan, in a gesture sure to resonate in the memories of viewers across the country, chose as his mate ... Sarah! The bulldozer operator and the serial toe tickler were united (and untied) at last. But wait, there was trouble in paradise. In a stunning turn of events, Jeeves (the conniving butler) announced the show’s final, cruel twist: Evan Marriott, ladies and gentleman, actually is Sarah Kozer! And vice versa. Yes, they are one in the same! I was breathless. Amazed. Agog. Nonplussed. But my shock was soon replaced with another, higher and more intense level of shock than my original shock.

The show’s producers further announced that Evan would have to choose the remaining contestant, the diabolical Zora Andrich, to fulfill the terms of his contract with Fox. His alternative was to forfeit his final reward: A brand new riding mower!

Evan swallowed hard. The tension was palpable. Even the palpability was palpable.

After a few commercial breaks, Evan eventually gave in to the producers’ demands and agreed to continue his relationship with Zora, who, on cue, entered the ballroom and, in another stunning twist, shot Evan in the head with a crossbow!


Around 2 a.m. Monday morning, 21 people died at a South Side Chicago nightclub after what should have been a small fracas between a few patrons. Somebody sprayed pepper spray. Some 1,500 started pushing for the exits, and the crush was on. The club only had one working exit. The rest had been chained shut.

Last night came news that the club was ordered shut down by a judge last year.

And this morning in South Korea, another tragedy.

Monday, February 17, 2003

By the way, the final episode of High School Reunion aired last night. Ben got drunk, put on a red vinyl suit and punched a member of the rap group Naughty By Nature in the face — on screen! I'm shocked the typically conservative WB didn't edit that out...

...Maybe they did.

Er, yeah. Sorry, I was thinking of Daredevil. And that was Ben Affleck.

So last Tuesday, after many months of mental preparation, I began my new workout regiment. I've been to the gym three times in the last week and figure that in that time I have lifted well over 1,000 pounds. Unfortunately, this poundage has been amassed slowly, as I quickly discovered that my muscles have been weakening since my halcyon days. I’ve made a bit of progress — turning what was a grueling 25-minute workout on Tuesday into a 1-hour fiasco by Saturday — but I still have a long way to go before I resume my old habit of picking street fights with indigent old ladies. But working out feels good. Muscles tight. Slightly sore. I figure by spring I’ll need a new wardrobe to corral my bourgeoning pecs.

Leisure sport of the week: Driving home after working out
Skill level: 8
Challenge: Steering the car when you can’t move your arms

Friday, February 14, 2003

Sarcasm spasm
I would hereby like to reassert my complete support and affection for Valentine's Day.

Thursday, February 13, 2003

In all fairness to my man T.S.
Earlier this week, I posted my favorite short poem, an image study by Ezra Pound. So in fairness, here's a passage from my favorite long poem:

“My nerves are bad to-night. Yes, bad. Stay with me.
“Speak to me. Why do you never speak. Speak.
“What are you thinking of? What thinking? What?
“I never know what you are thinking. Think.”

I think we are in rats’ alley
Where the dead men lost their bones.

“What is that noise?”
The wind under the door.
“What is that noise now? What is the wind doing?”
Nothing again nothing.
“Do you know nothing? Do you see nothing?
"Do you remember nothing?”
I remember
Those are pearls that were his eyes.
“Are you alive, or not? Is there nothing in your head?”
O O O O that Shakespeherian Rag—
It’s so elegant
So intelligent

“What shall I do now? What shall I do?”
I shall rush out as I am, and walk the street
“With my hair down, so. What shall we do to-morrow?
“What shall we ever do?”

The hot water at ten.
And if it rains, a closed car at four.
And we shall play a game of chess,
Pressing lidless eyes and waiting for a knock upon the door.

When Lil’s husband got demobbed, I said—
I didn’t mince my words, I said to her myself,
Hurry Up Please Its Time
Now Albert’s coming back, make yourself a bit smart.
He’ll want to know what you done with that money he gave you
To get yourself some teeth. He did, I was there.
You have them all out, Lil, and get a nice set,
He said, I swear, I can’t bear to look at you.
And no more can’t I, I said, and think of poor Albert,
He’s been in the army four years, he wants a good time,
And if you don’t give it him, there’s others will, I said.
Oh is there, she said. Something o’ that, I said.
Then I’ll know who to thank, she said, and give me a straight look.
Hurry Up Please Its Time
If you don’t like it you can get on with it, I said.
Others can pick and choose if you can’t.
But if Albert makes off, it won’t be for lack of telling.
You ought to be ashamed, I said, to look so antique.
(And her only thirty-one.)
I can’t help it, she said, pulling a long face,
It’s them pills I took, to bring it off, she said.
(She’s had five already, and nearly died of young George.)
The chemist said it would be alright, but I’ve never been the same.
You are a proper fool, I said.
Well, if Albert won’t leave you alone, there it is, I said,
What you get married for if you don’t want children?
Hurry Up Please Its Time
Well, that Sunday Albert was home, they had a hot gammon,
And they asked me in to dinner, to get the beauty of it hot—
Hurry Up Please Its Time
Hurry Up Please Its Time
Goonight Bill. Goonight Lou. Goonight May. Goonight.
Ta ta. Goonight. Goonight.
Good night, ladies, good night, sweet ladies, good night, good night.

—T.S. Eliot,excerpted from "The Waste Land"

I was happy to see I could find the entire text of "The Waste Land" online.

Another reason why Central Illinois can just freak a guy out.

Miya pointed out that I neglected to include Punch-Drunk Love in yesterday's List of Five. That was, indeed, an unintentional oversight. So wedge it in there between slots four and five.

By the way, how nice is it to see a movie title with a hyphenated compound adjective? Maybe Punch-Drunk Love will set a new standard.

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

In honor of the announcement of this year's Oscar nominations, here is my list of the best five movies I've seen in the past year:

1. City of God (Cidade De Deus)
2. Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
3. Pumpkin
4. Y Tu Mama Tambien
5. 24 Hour Party People (Which, to be honest, was pretty disappointing. But then, I didn't see a whole lotta' movies this year.)

Links go to reviews by Roger Ebert.

Am I the only person who scratches his head every time he looks at the spelling of the word raisin?

Notebook excerpt
“He told me that this guy Peko I’d been doing runs with, he told me Peko was sleeping with his wife,” Barry said as he swirled a glass of liquor in his left hand.

When coked, Barry could move with feline speed and accuracy. After a dump at the warehouse outside Maywood, when the car wouldn’t start and he saw the red-blue lights, he’d taken off like a shot for three miles before he collapsed on a golf course. It was 2 a.m. and the grass sparkled in the moonlight. The dampness of the sod crept slowly through his clothes. And he’d laid there. The coolness of it kept him there. The run had overheated his circuits.

Six o’clock in the morning he was being jabbed in the ribs with a fairway wood. Some old guy was at the handle of the club, another old guy peering over his shoulder. Both were white-haired and red-nosed. Both looked vaguely angry. The jabber took a step back, turned and waved someone over. Voices were vague. Motions were vague. And the faces danced in flashes somewhere in his brain. Barry got up slowly, resting his hands on his knees, and looking up saw a groundskeeper advancing with walkie-talkie in hand. So he took off toward a thick outcropping of trees that lined the fairway. He heard yelling behind him fade as he inched through a fence hole. He smoothed his hair. His clothes were damp.

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Confessions of A Litigation Nation
Haven't lost it yet? Here's another reason to reassess your faith in humanity. Unbelievable, what some people will do for a buck.

My favorite poem is one of the shortest.

I can't remember the title, but I think it's something like "On the Metro."

The apparation of these faces in the crowd:
Petals on a wet, black bough.

— Ezra Pound

Monday, February 10, 2003

I can't decide if she's pissed or not, but Summer Zandrew found out about my spilling of the sacred beans (those beans being that she is proposed to by former classmate/boyfriend-from-home David Lipschultz) and shot me the following message:

From: "summer zandrew" info@address edited to protect the
Subject: hello fine fellow
Date: Mon, 10 Feb 2003 03:19:17 -0600

would you mind telling me where you get your information?

Am I the only one who detects a diabolical subtext? (I mean, when your parents ask you "Would you mind telling me why you drove the minivan into a signal post?" they don't expect you to exonerate yourself with a response; they expect you to reveal the source of your stupidity. So I kept my piehole firmly sealed in order that the source of my stupidity remain a mystery.) I responded in kind that I got my information from a reliable, unnamed source. This answer is entirely truthful and clearly reflects my journalistic integrity. The answer I considered giving was that Summer herself got drunk and inadvertantly told me at the reunion (held last fall at Harry Caray's in Chicago). I decided against that reponse. This decision reinforces my journalistic integrity.

In other news, Miya (she of the highest beauty and intelligence, with a knack for style and wit) uses all kinds of special soaps. This means that I, too, often use all kinds of special soaps. She also has this fluffy sponge puff. So, yeah, I've been using that too. And my skin has never been so soft and creamy. Today I shall go and buy my own fancy soap and fluffy sponge puff. I asked her if this makes me gay. She said it does not.

Thursday, February 06, 2003

In a blatant effort to increase traffic here at Vitriolic Spree, I will here spoil the mystery engagement, to be revealed officially on the final episode of High School Reunion. I am doing this because I have no morals and sometimes I realize that a secret is just too disappointing to keep. By this I mean that the engagement revelation is sure to disappoint HSR viewers. But without further ado:

The engagement involves Summer and her boyfriend from home, one David Lipschultz (also an OPRF Class of 1993 graduate). I got this information from a reliable source, although not from someone who is on the show. So I have no idea if the proposal is actually accepted. Kind of a letdown, eh? I mean, the trailers have encouraged all kinds of speculation — Is it Dave and Holly? Dan and Natasha? Tim? Maurice? — when in fact it involves a person who is not even a participant on the show.

So there you have it. I hope you're happy.

Tuesday, February 04, 2003

The inspiring story of a reporter taking on The New York Post and the Walt Disney Company. And all kinds of important shit is at stake, including serious issues regarding mass corporate entities controlling the news. Gail Wynand would be proud.

Internet phrase of the week: Hilarity ensues.

Seen for months on fark.
And today on boingboing.

Monday, February 03, 2003

Copy of the email I sent this morning to Sun-Times columnist Richard Reoper:

Among the many reasons the Columbia explosion isn't rousing the same depth of feeling as that of the Challenger: The Challenger explosion was caught on film. In detail. The film of the Columbia only shows a ball of flame streaking across the sky and then falling apart. It was too abstract. It was hard to think that there were people somewhere in that ball of flame. Whereas, there was no such doubt about the Challenger. We saw it as if it were happening a block away, and the human element was inescapable. For weeks leading up to the launch, we heard about the schoolteacher turned astonaut, Christa McAuliff. There was a sense that the people on that shuttle were neighbors.

I was in sixth grade on the playground at Lincoln Elementary in Oak Park when kids came back from lunch talking about the space shuttle exploding. I didn't believe it. I couldn't. I was too young to know why it was important, but it just was.

In two years, I'll have forgotten that I was sitting on a couch in Dallas watching the news Saturday morning. There are a lot of reasons it's different for me this time around. I wish I knew ...

mike innocenzi
dallas, TX

You have not yet seen this movie, but you will.