Friday, July 30, 2004

Movie theaters are very strange places before showtime.

There is something dead and eerie about these dark warehouses; something dead and eerie about the dense odor of petrified popcorn and assorted human oils; the hollow creak of chair springs; the crushed-velvet curtains; the rope lights; the dim, slide-show advertisements for mortgage lenders and vegetarian cafés; the slide-show quiz and celebrity name jumble; the inane, Clearchannel background music brought to you by Clearchannel, part of the Clearchannel family; cellophane; cheap chocolate and the absent licking of fingers.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Last night, the rain was Biblical, which is another way of saying the skies were long and leather-bound. God blessed us with a flood of His liquid righteousness. Which righteousness thundered through His outlet malls and assisted-living communities and flushed away all of the sin and topsoil. We shall today kneel in His puddles and pray forgiveness.

Then come to our senses.

Wednesday ... no, Thursday mornings can be difficult, to wake up when I can hear the drip-drop outside and I’m cozy in the covers and the twin tasks of shaving and showering seem miles away. And work is this sad place somewhere further in the distance. Or farther. Or more far.

Only grammarians know for sure.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

I would like to see the fast-forward contruct banned from broadcast news rooms. I’ve heard it three times in the past week. It goes something like this:

“Back in 1921, Louisiana Governor Alexender Tolbert rode a horse-drawn carriage 300 miles to the Democratic convention in Memphis, Tennessee. Fast forward to today: The long and bumpy road has given way to what some scientists are calling 'advanced technology.' This year, senators Bo Davis and Marshall Calloway of Maine hopped a carbon-fiber hovercraft down to the Republican convention in Gary, Indiana. ‘Impossible in 1921,’ say our experts.”

And so on and so forth.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Elevated, illustrated, and partially hydrogenated.

Maybe I should write half truths about my life, package them neatly in paragraph form, and publish them as my memoirs. Some Chicagoan did just that ... allegedly. She’s sold over 200,000 copies worldwide. That makes her the Jenna Jameson of the writing world. But then no it doesn’t.

I’ve read stories about ordinary people before. The best example would be Krista Wolf’s excellent short novel about a schoolteacher, The Quest for Christa T. I also like reading those insightful celebrity profiles in the back of Parade magazine. That is where I learn everything I know about pop culture. For example, did you know that the late Marlon Brando liked it when French women rubbed butter on his ass? Read all about it in the next issue of Parade magazine. Or, better yet, see the movie. Parade magazine. What a fucking joke. And that’s no laughing matter.

Speaking of laughing matters, I have a couple words for the writers of HBO’s new hit flop comedy series “Entourage.” Unfortunately, I can’t seem to put those words together to form a sentence. The words are (in no particular order): is, worst, for, the, comedy, this, a, since, fucking, excuse, Perfect Strangers. Break it down. Work it out. Chew it up.

Monday, July 26, 2004

The Cooler was a huge disappointment. And by huge I mean very large. Any movie that has some hot young tootsie (Maria Bello, in this case) palming William H. Macy’s member and whispering “You have a beautiful cock” into his ear and that tries to play said dialogue off as endearing and wildly romantic deserves to be dragged into a dark alley and kicked about vigorously. And I guess all those critics who said it was Alec Baldwin’s best performance have never seen Glengarry Glen Ross. Ugh.

I did absolutely nearly almost nothing productive with my time this weekend. I did go to Urban Outfitters. I did buy two T-shirts for $25. Both T-shirts were manufactured by my favorite T-shirt-making company. Both T-shirts are soft and have snug, mildly elastic neckholes. I have the utmost confidence in the durability and esthetic of Company X’s product.

When I buy new clothes, I usually decide quite early in the process which day of the week I am going to wear those clothes. If I buy something nice, shirtwise, on the weekend, I will — based on the reflected appraisals of several previous new shirts w/r/t the day on which I chose to wear them and the reaction I expected vs. the reaction I got — wait until Thursday to wear it. Because on Thursday we have our all-staff meeting and it is nice to deck oneself out in one’s newest duds for meeting days because one never knows if one will have to stand up and give one’s peers some kind of impromptu presentation on changing file systems or coffee pot etiquette. And you know how when you go to work wearing something clean and new that no one has seen yet you feel kind of better-than-usual and you catch yourself looking at yourself in mirrors or any other kind of reflective surface, like dark marble or office windows with the lights off inside, which, if coupled with a new haircut or eyeglasses or, of course, shoes, will indeed make you puff your chest out and assume a swagger that seems to you quite normal but that strikes your co-workers as either affected or somewhat homosexual? Well that feeling will carry over if anyone should happen to mention that, my my Mr. Thomas, your new shirt has divine stitching and such a bold, masculine collar! And the outfit, or any particular ingredient thereof, will assume the front spot in the closet and will be hung with great care after every wash and will possibly be ironed, depending on the fabric’s tendency to wrinkle.

I rolled around on the couch a bit. I watched the Cubs drop two to the Phillies. I showered a couple times but only conditioned once. I moved various home decorations from one side of the apartment to the other and back again, trying to determine which items looked best where. I did this for company. We must please company. Because when company comes over the bamboo-in-glass-cube-w/-black-rocks-&-water had better be in the right place, you know, from a fung shui POV, otherwise company might crack their molar on an item (or combination of items — cracker, salami, and provolone, for example) off the cheese plate in some karmic twist of inefficient interior decorating gone haywire.

So, friends, just be careful out there.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Last night after closing up shop, a few coworkers and I headed off to sample some of La Duni’s fine Latin beverages. After a few rounds of mojitos (the new margarita), someone at our table thought to ask one of the wait staff how much mojitos cost. Good call. I could be mistaken, but it seemed like the server feigned no English for a split second before informing us that those refreshing libations clocked in at $30 a pop, which, if you subtract exaggeration for effect, comes to roughly $7.50 plus tax. So we astute journalists moved on to less-finer things, like Bohemia beer and Scope.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Count me in among the legions of viewers who have flocked (figuratively) to the World Series of Poker since it began airing in earnest sometime last year when I was bored and there was nothing else good to watch (literally). It is quality television showmanshiperry. Watching “Thunder” Keller take down the semifinal pot last night was almost as entertaining as watching a drunken barfight spill into the street from the comfort and safety of your third-floor living room.

I love listening to oldtimers talk about sports legends. (I also love rubbing honey on my belly and running through the bramble. If someone knows where I can find a good bramble in the greater Dallas area, clue me in, because just thinking about running through the bramble makes me really miss running through the bramble. Just talking about running through the bramble warms the cockles of my heart. And nothing makes Hump Day hump like the gentle hum of hot cockles. Hmm.)

I love listening to oldtimers talk about sports legends. After a few scotch/rocks, my grandfather used to jump onto the dining room table and re-enact Gabby Hartnett’s 1938 Homer in the Gloamin’, only instead of hitting an actual baseball (or even an imaginary baseball) he’d hit my grandmother in the head with a spatula — knocked the bitch clear out. Now that I think about it, he might not have been re-enacting anything. But if he had been reenacting something, it would have only served to reinforce my love for listening to oldtimers spin yarns about their childhood heroes. Because beating women with spatulas is wrong.

And but so the World Series of Poker is absolutely rife with these exaggerated characters: guys with names like Amarillo Slim and Dutch Boyd and Eskimo Davis; guys who wear fedoras and chew cigar nubbins and whose expressionless faces are an absolute street riot that you can sit and watch from the comfort and safety of your third-floor living room. ESPN does great vignettes exploring the eerie pathology of each pokerist — his superstitions, his strategy, his favorite cheese. Very entertaining.

Yes yes. Very entertaining.

Headphones engaged. Do not disturbinate.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Last night on Sportcenter, the insufferable Stuart Scott did it again. But this time, in addition to the convoluted lede and nonsensical mid-story interpolations, he uttered this gem during a key transition:

“Can I get an ‘i.e.’? Here we go: for example, the Lakers ...”

Aha! Most of you already know that “i.e.” does not mean “for example.” It means “id est,” the Latin equivalent of “that is.” I see this abbreviation misused quite often in print, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone use it incorrectly in a nationally televised newscast. I imagine Stuart’s battle-weary coworkers taking him aside after the show and gently explaining to him the important difference between e.g. and i.e.

Stuart likes to sound smart. That’s commonly why people use i.e. instead of e.g. For some reason, i.e. just sounds more scholarly. The problem is that they don’t mean the same thing. Someone needs to start getting this through to kids at the elementary level, because this confusion has been getting more widespread over the past five years, and it’s not going to get any better if it goes on unchecked. Typos are understandable; Punctuation is a tough sonuvabitch; Remembering the important difference between two abbreviations that mean two different things is cake — cake I tell you.

Ah, the delicious irony! That in making an effort to sound intelligent, Stuart made himself sound quite stupid, and I’m sure I’m not the only viewer who noticed.

Friday, July 16, 2004

In Chicago, it doesn’t really matter how many days the mercury dips below 10 degrees. People will wake up early, bedizen themselves in multiple layers of cotton and Gore-Tex, commute to their offices, navigate the revolving doors, stamp their boots clean in the lobbies and foyers of corporate America, and tap the elevator-up button.

They will stand there, flanked by the golden doors of the elevator breezeway, and unravel scarves, unzip coats, stomp boots again, bite gloves off, detach knit caps, toussle hair, blow into hands, warm earlobes between fingers, feel cheeks with palms, snork back snot deposits, exhale through half-puckered lips.

The elevator fills to capacity; a closet bursting with upside-down mops. Strange smells: aftershave, cold hair — only those who have lived in these climes can appreciate the distinct odor that wafts off cold hair — Vapo-rub, mildew, gangrene, worse.

And they get to their floors and walk to their offices and struggle to open glass doors while juggling hats, scarves, gloves, briefcases, and the occassional fast-food breakfast bag.

And I eventually lose interest.

If you are going to open an eatery in Oak Park, Ill., let me give you an important tip: don’t misspell Hemingway.

Thursday, July 15, 2004


I find it interesting. I realize this fact seriously diminishes my overall sexiness quotient.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

I can’t figure it out, but this made my day.

The best thing about last night's MLB All-Star Game was the Aquafina commercial. It was one of the most ingenious and well-executed TV ads I've seen in a long time.

It was a stark contrast to the guerrilla ad campaign that went on during the actual game. First, there were at least four distinct pre-game ceremonies, each with its own corporate sponsor. The in-game trivia question was sponsored by Doritos or some other famous chip. Baseball games are not to be stopped for spontaneous performances of "God Bless America" by American Idols. But if a corporate sponsor wants to finance the not-yet-traditional mid-baseball-game concert, then by gum they're going to push Ruben Studdard out to home plate and make him sing it and like it.

At least, that's the way it went down last night.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

I’m going to tell you this blog I ran across today is really neat, and you’re going to say you knew about it months ago.

I realized last night that the MLB Home Run Derby is boring. I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to figure this out, as I’ve watched the entire thing several times before. Something broke the illusion this go ‘round and I realized I was watching a bunch of guys take batting practice under mildly competitive conditions. But that’s not what really ruined it.

Chris Berman uttering “back back back” after every fucking fly ball didn’t help the broadcast. Joe Morgan laughing at Chris Berman’s idiotic nomenclature didn’t help the broadcast (I mean seriously, Miguel “The Bigger They Are” Tejada “They Fall”? This old schtick has run its course, methinks.). Watching that token hot chick do awkward on-field interviews with baseball legends, asking moronic questions like “Which was your favorite home run of your career?” and “How do they put the filling inside the Twinkie?” did not help the broadcast.

Another thing that sapped the pleasure out of the whole production was the fact that at dusk in Houston, you can’t see home run balls flying out to the left field stands. Whenever a righty hit a towering shot over the Crawford Boxes, the ball disappeared completely and the cameraman just kind of let the camera pivot to mimick the majestic arc of a home run ball. It was like watching a crowd of people pretending to watch tennis.

And all this is kind of the capstone on a creeping dislike I have for ESPN. If Stuart Scott makes it onto NFL Prime Time, I will boycott the network. Just you wait and see.

Monday, July 12, 2004

This is too easy. Documentaries used to reveal things. They used to explore aspects of life that your typical Man on the Street would never find out about. Think of The Thin Blue Line and Hoop Dreams — movies that revealed things, that broke the anonymity of the disenfranchised.

Nowadays, many popular documentaries seem content to dabble in the obvious. We are finding out, much to our horror, that eating McDonald’s every day for a month is not a good idea, and that it may in fact have health consequences (Amazing! I can see the headlines now: “Documentary links diet, health”).

The neo-documentary is the same boring animal as the vapid news-magazine shows that have infested every major network. I’m talking about Dateline NBC, 60 Minutes, 20/20, 60 Minutes II, 20/20 Monday (or Tuesday or whatever) — the kinds of shows that send presumably serious journalists (they look mighty serious — mustaches roiling, eyebrows cocked) out to seedy motels to reveal with ultra-violet lights that the bed your family is sleeping in is pretty much soaked in a potent cocktail of pig semen and methamphetamine, that sharks will eat your children ... probably, and that somewhere in Utah, a man has seven wives, one of them 14 years old.

(I should note, in the interest of full disclosure, that I am hopelessly addicted to news magazine shows ... and adverbs.)

So I’m fairly certain that everyone in the country — even the people who watch it and nod their heads in righteous indignation — know that Fox News is a bit of an industry joke. I mean, most television news is an industry joke. The whole industry might soon be an industry joke. And this didn’t happen like five years ago. It didn’t happen 10 years ago. It’s been going on for a long time, and people have been eating it up for just as long. Conservative, liberal — it doesn’t really matter. The ratings: that’s what matters. We don’t need a documentary to tell us this. We shouldn’t need a documentary to tell us this. Network already told us. Bill O'Reilly is a modern-day Howard Beale, sans the studio audience.

In other entertainment news, I was mildly disappointed yesterday when I saw that Hollywood is remaking The Manchurian Candidate, a movie that I think has been grossly overrated for far too long. Don’t get me wrong. Angela Lansbury as a bad mamma-jamma, but by the time I saw this movie (in the early ‘90s), the whole brainwashing/auto-suggestion/hypnosis thing was a bit far fetched. Maybe in the early ‘60s that kind of thing was pretty cool, but when I see Frank Sinatra flipping through a deck of cards and going stiff as he gets to the queen of blank (I forget the suit ... and I don’t want to ruin the movie if you haven’t seen it), I can’t help but roll my eyes.

Now excuse me. I have work to do.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Last night I was eating country-fried steak and drinking beer at an undisclosed location. I had just finished reading Eric Celeste’s piece in the Dallas Observer and began flipping back toward the music pages. It was there I came across one of the worst Top 10 lists ever. Check it out. Let it marinate.

I knew something quite silly was afoot when I saw that No. 1 on the list was “Greatest Hits” by Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five (which, first off, is akin to calling Beatles Greatest Hits the Beatles’ greatest album). Putting a greatest hits album on a Top 10 list — especially in the No. 1 spot — is so idiotic that I can’t even think of a funny way to finish this sentence. And that’s pretty fucking idiotic. Furthermore, the greatest hits album in question came out in 1989, long after Melle Mel’s messages had been appropriated and dilluted by dozens of other rappers and rap groups. “The Message” came out in 1982 and jarred a segment of the population. It didn’t happen in 1989. You can’t jar people twice with the same message just so you can fit some songs off the second album onto the list. That’s cheating. It’s like saying that “Anarchy in the UK” is as shocking today as it was in the ‘70s.

All this is aside from the fact that putting Grandmaster Flash & Co. on the top of any rap list is played out. Everyone has done it. Putting them at No. 1 does not make you look like you know a lot about rap. (And I would hazard a guess that in 1982, Adam Bregman was nowhere near the communities where “The Message” had the most relevance. Instead, he knows it had relevance because he’s read about it on other people’s lists.) This makes you look like you’re trying to establish some credibility where you have none.

I want to say I’ll get to the rest of the list later, but I probably won’t. Any of you who listened to any amount of rap growing up will probably lodge the same criticisms I would. (E.g. Choosing “Fear of a Black Planet” over “It Takes a Nation of Millions” was a mistake.) Fuck. I’m out of time.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

I'm about to spend the entire afternoon on a bus tour of Dallas. No, I am not joking.

Pray for me.

Next time you’re in Chicago, be sure to stop in at Marie’s Rip-Tide Lounge. We rolled up at 2:30 a.m. Sunday and waded toward the back through throngs of late-night drinkers and early-morning drinkers and girls with curious hair. Ben, a Rip-Tide regular, whispered a sweet Polish nothing in the ear of a white-haired waitress who in turn gave us access to the VIP room and piled our tabletop high with drinks of incredible proof. We threw them back until spots danced in the corners or our eyes. The cab ride home, the windows down, thick cool air and blur, made my ears tickle.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

This Village Voice column does nothing for my confidence. How many of us will someday populate the crowded halls of unpublished writers? This is where the fear comes from.

Dallas is the guy at the party who, when things gain momentum and others are sipping their drinks and mingling freely, places a hand in his armpit and mimics fart noises by pivoting his elbow like a pumping jack, then — when that doesn’t get big laughs and actually gets at least a dozen people to look at him and then at each other as if to say “Who’s that moron in the corduroy blazer?” — blurts out “I have crabs!” followed quickly by “Just kidding.” and a trembling smile that betrays the fact that he knows the joke fell flat and maybe — just maybe — in his rush to recover from the armpit-fart fiasco, he again grossly miscalculated the tone and tenor of the party and said something that was wildly inappropriate, something that would almost assuredly cost him any chance he might have had to make romantic inroads with the brunette whose name he’s already forgetten, this after having forced the host, his friend, to introduce him shortly after his (being Dallas’ [Dallas’s]) arrival (which arrival itself engendered some awkward moments, as he was a good hour and a half early and the host and his wife were having a heated argument about whether they should call Dallas and tell him that something had come up and the party was off and could he maybe meet them for drinks at a time and place to be named later, as they don’t have the heart to tell him they only hang out because they feel sorry for him).

I’m pretty sure I butchered some punctuation on that one.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

What is it about me that every time I leave — no matter where I go — I come back to realize I’ve completely forgotten how to work my shower knobs?

Now back in Dallas proper after a five-day vacation in Chicago, I know how it must feel to be a weary businessman returning home to a boring trophy wife and ill-mannered children after spending hot time on the road with some sexpot intellectual who specializes in sensual back rubs, baseball trivia, and gourmet cooking. I loosen my tie and toss my briefcase and coat, limp over to the couch, lay back, close my eyes, and dream of my Midwestern lover.

I have pictures, stories to tell. I have blisters atop both feet — there on the knuckle ridge that runs perpendicular to the big toe — from walking the sidewalks and beaches in cheap sandals. I couldn’t stop myself. Once I am streetside in summer, I never can.

The blisters on my feet: lipstick on my collar.