Saturday, December 29, 2007

just in time for the end of the year

George W. Bush covers R.E.M.'s It's The End of the World As We Know It in an excellent ADD music video mash-up. Somebody stick this puppy in the '07 time capsule.

And a mellow-personal take on the end of the world from Skeeter Davis:

Followed by an irreverent, hi-larious end of the world.

Friday, December 28, 2007

I know what you're thinking

I can read your mind. Quid pro quo, mon ami: You get to read my thoughts on this blog, I get to read your thoughts. I ain't givin' free pony rides.

Pick a card, any card.

Choose one, quickly or slowly.

Think about it or don't.

Please forgive the glare. The one on the cards, not the one I'm giving you.

Go. Pick. Do it.

Got your card?

Keep thinking about it. I'll get back to it. Promise.

I don't have much by way of end-of-year wrap up. I didn't see enough in 2007 to pick the "Best Of" anything. It's all subjective and I'm sure I totally agree with your "Best Of 2007" list anyway. I don't have New Year's resolutions. I'm not going to diet or drink less. I was going to start smoking, but Illinois caught up to everybody else and the state-wide smoking ban starts January 1. I snoozed and losed on that one. I bet some people have opinions on how I could improve in '08, like I could "probably be nicer", but those people can shove it.

No pat resolutions for the new year. I've been working on my focus the past couple months that'll just have to stretch into 2008. It's not that I don't have time when I say "I don't have time" to do the things I need to do. Well -- no -- sometimes I mean that. But more often, it's a matter of focus in the hours I do have. That, and I need to learn how to write on the train. And while walking. And in the shower.

2007 was a good, awkward, mediocre, exciting, heartbreaking, fun, bizarre year. A year of highs, lows, and outright face-flops. Maybe I learned a couple things that I'm going to keep to myself. I can only speculate that 2008 will be filled with awesome and horrible stuff, but that's a fair prediction for any year.

Some of you found my blog this year. Thanks for reading and hanging out and not being too disappointed if I'm not talking about theatre which is, like, not very much. Again, apologies for those who found me Google-searching for pictures of "chainsaw accidents." I still haven't posted any of those pictures. The internet failed you as it fails so many.

Remember your card? I removed it from the group.


It's not that I knew which card you picked. It's that I knew which card to take away.

The moral of this card trick is: card tricks are annoying. The other moral is: focus, focus, focus on all the cards, even the ones not picked, 'cause some sneaky bastard might just take them all away and then be vague about what just happened.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

oh, the Humana-ty!

I'm probably the last person to post the line-up for the Humana Festival at Actors Theatre of Louisville. Get a face-full here:

I mentioned before that I'm contributing to the acting apprentice show Game On which runs 4 performances during the two professionals weekends of the Festival (March 21, 23, 28, and 30). I wrote a couple short pieces -- one about baseball, one about horse-racing -- that'll be stitched together with pieces by the other writers. My little plays are blog-sized, but the small print of my contract says I'll be fitted with cement boots and lodged at the bottom of the Ohio River if I post them in advance.

I haven't yet read/heard the other pieces. I head back to Loo-vull at the end of January for the first day(s) of rehearsal with the other writers and acting company.

Friday, December 21, 2007

not-so-atomic bomberman

Around 3pm on Wednesday, the fire alarm strobe went off in my office building -- no auditory alert, just something to get me to pull my earphones out of my head. It was followed by a public address announcement to stay away from the windows on the west side of the building. I sit right next to a west-side window on the 23rd floor. They did not explain why we should stay away from the windows so, of course, everybody goes to the West side windows to look outside because it is probably really awesome. Freak storm? Tornado? A face full of shattered glass? Am I going to die at my temp job? How lame.

One of my co-workers speculated it could be a jumper and we shouldn't look out the west side to see A) a plummeting body, or B) a splatted body at the business end of a plummet. So everybody goes to the windows to look again. There were cop cars and firetrucks outside the building.

The non-chalant made another announcement that we were to stay on our floors and not come down to the lobby. Still no explanation and there wasn't any breaking news on the internet or TV.

Gossip trickled in. Something about a bomb. More theories. The only thing that made sense was the Brazilian consulate a few floors down was getting a bomb threat.

I realized I had no idea where the stairs were. That might be a good thing to find out.

Then the P.A. man gave an all-clear and it was back to work. There was a bomb threat in our building and you can read about it here in the Chicago Tribune, and this is the best part: check out the mug shot of the guy they arrested.

OMG hi i'm gonna woo the ladies with my mullet and blowds up ur buildinz with mah grin!!!

This guy must have escaped from a Jerry Springer Show taping. Anarchy in Chicago has never looked so trailer trash.

Saturday, December 15, 2007


Juno is indeed good and funny.

I wondered if I could find the screenplay somewhere online and, indeed, I did:

Screenplay junkies can find recent Fox Searchlight movies (The Darjeeling Limited, The Namesake, Once, The Savages, Waitress) here:

Somebody please break my radio so I stop listening to the 24/7 Xmas tunes on The Lite 93.9.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

movies, life, etc

I've been impatient with the last couple of movies I've Netflixed.

I turned off Bull Durham because life is too short to watch Kevin Costner act.

I quit on Superbad about an hour in because I get bored with the Seth Rogen school of humor.

I'm impatient knowing Disc 2 of Friday Night Lights (tv series) is on the way and Scott saying I can borrow his copy of The Wire: Season 4 when he finishes the bonus features.

Planning to see Juno this weekend, looking forward to Sweeney Todd and No Country for Old Men, eventually. I'm super-looking-forward-to Martin McDonagh's feature debut In Bruges and OH BOY here's a link to the trailer.

These weeks, the usual grind, life settling like Tetris blocks almost making a full row to disappear, but still stacking with a slight gap-tooth with hope for the next level.

I accidentally started doing Suduko again. Goddammit. I'm no Sudoku Ninja, but that doesn't stop me from trying the daily RedEye puzzle on the train home. No shame in giving up on a crap number puzzle.

Monday, December 10, 2007

why I don't text

My phone chirped with a Text Message on Saturday morning. I hoped it was Charlie letting me know that I had left my hat and mittens in his refrigerator, but no, this message was from a number unrecognized and unnamed on my phone.

Police are on their way to BITCH's apt. I can call back in an hour.
Did I do something on Friday that would have involved the police?

Why are random text messages from people I don't know so much more exciting than my real life?

There's a story there. No, I'm not going to write a play about it. You write a play about it.

lost: hat & mittens

Have you seen them? I may have left them at Buffalo Wild Wings in Skokie on Friday night, but I doubt that because always always ALWAYS wear my hat and mittens when it's below, like, 70 degrees.

Possibility #2: hat & mittens lost somewhere in Scott and Charlie's apartment, the place where we went to watch Disc 1 of The Wire: Season 4.

Possibility #3: somewhere in my car. It was late and dark and I haven't gone back to look for them. But I swear they aren't there.

I miss them. Come home now! Please. I'm unsettled.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

winter wonderland

Our Winter Wonderland has fallen into dirty slush despair with slim chance of weekend renewal. Here's my new favorite rendition of Winter Wonderland styled by Jason Mraz.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

snow day

A gray, flurry day. Note to self: wait until el train passes overhead before walking under the tracks so as not to get chunks of ice falling on my head.

It's shocking the number of people who wear inappropriate footwear for a snowy walk to work. Did they not look outside before getting dressed? Durrr?

Looking north on Michigan Ave from the bridge.

The Wrigley Building on the left, the Tribune Tower on the right. I'm just as confused as you are by the lack of traffic in this photo.

When it snows, things get covered in snow. Statues get covered in snow.

George Washington and his un-famous friends pose for Wilco's next album cover. Covered in snow.

Jack Brickhouse, tragically frozen in carbonite during his final broadcast. Now displayed in Pioneer Plaza. Covered in snow.

This liquid metal robot moose was sent from the future to kill John Connor. The moose failed and is now displayed in Pioneer Plaza as a warning to other time-traveling robots. Covered in snow.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

snow & scooters (but not riding scooters through snow)

It's snowing. Weather-folk get all Chicken Little on these snow forecasts, but it is snowing a nice little snow right now. I got home tonight, stomped the snow off my shoes in the stairwell, smelling whatever delicious-smelling dinner one of my neighbors was cooking. What was that? Why don't they invite me over for dinner?

Thank you for responding to the first ever Chainsaw Calligraphy poll. The subject was scooters and the people who love them and/or ride them. Results were pretty much what I expected. An avalanche of dorky with a flurry of hostility from Paul and Ryan in the comments. Geez louise, fellas, did a Scooter dishonor your family?

Thing is, I'm thinking of getting a scooter to expedite the long-ass walk from the train to work. The sidewalk along the river side of Wacker is wide and smooth and not too too busy. I really don't know if you can get a ticket for riding a foldable push-scooter on a sidewalk. People do it. But people also run red lights without getting caught so what do "people" know. Does anybody know?

Here's what's driving me insane: I ride the Metra, which is actually on a schedule as opposed to the CTA which is on a schedule of "Fuck you, we get there when we get there. Have a nice (dooms)Day!" No matter how fast I walk, I can't catch the 5:21pm train home. At my fastest speed-walk I miss it by, like, two minutes. Then I'm stuck with the 5:35 train. Now 14 minutes doesn't seem like a long wait, but after the 9 to 5 coma, those 14 minutes are the longest 14 minutes of my life.

If I had wheels, man, I'd make that 5:21 and I don't care how much of a dork I'd look like doing it. But I don't care how much of a dork I look like most days, especially winter, when I'm rocking the two-scarf, hat-with-earflaps look. It's warm. I don't care, don't'chia know?

My Mom sent me the link to this: It's the best internet radio for the lot of you chained to your work computers during the day.

I'm also making my way through a bunch of celebrity/writer/actor/politician interviews in the Charlie Rose archives at

I still do write plays, by the way. Doesn't always seem like it.

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The liquor store on my corner on a December evening in Chicago. The loiterers loiter, the snow falls

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Scooters!!! TAKE THE POLL

Please draw your attention to the poll along the left-hand side, under the "About Me." Vote, respond, if you feel like it. It's anonymous. Do it. Dooooooo it.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

pegasus players ypf: first rehearsal

I've been working as a playwriting mentor the past few months as part of Pegasus Players Young Playwrights Festival. It's the 22nd year of the festival, but only the second year they've wrangled professional playwrights to be mentors . This year it's me, Aaron Carter, Tanya Saracho, and Lisa Dillman. We're paired with one of four winning young playwrights. Our job is to guide, inspire, teach, nudge, and to harass our young writers via e-mail, phone, and in person to help them get their scripts in tip-top shape for a full production. Each of the plays is workshopped with actors and directors. There are multiple table readings and multiple opportunities to hear revisions. It's a dream opportunity for a young writer. I'm not sure any of the young playwrights will know exactly how awesome an opportunity YPF is until it's over and done.

None of the young playwrights could attend the first production rehearsal tonight. Some had work, some had other things going on. They're all stressed-out high school students being pulled this way and that. Theatre isn't their life.

Still, it was disappointing for that not one of them could make it for the first table reading rehearsal with the company. They don't know this, but the first rehearsal is the best part of rehearsal for a writer! It's when everybody's just thrilled to be in the room. You get to meet the company, and see sketches or models of your set. Actors aren't freaking out about memorizing lines and then freaking out that you cut a line they memorized and then making you feel guilty because it was their favorite line and how could you cut that??? Directors aren't yet offering up suggested cuts, y'know, just to think about, you don't have to, but what if... Nothing's going horribly wrong. Nobody has been injured by your play. Everybody thinks you're a genius (until a favorite line is cut and the genius may be downgraded to "somewhat competent")

It was a good first rehearsal to hear all 4 plays together. I'll write more about being a mentor. It's a new experience. I suppose I could've used a "How to" manual. Trial and error and more error and breakthroughs and a bit of awesome.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

thanksgiving giblets

I went out to the 'burbs for T'giving with Ma and Pa Wegz and sis Carly. Laundered my bloomers, watched some DVR'ed Project Runway, and ate good grub with the family, minus sister Amanda, who called in a happy mood from Kansas on Friday to tell me that (1) Chuck E. Cheese's now sells beer, and (2) She is awesome at Skee-ball.

Yesterday I went to see the Disney movie Enchanted with Mom and Carly. It was charming.

Nomar is going home to my sister tomorrow. Here is what happens when I don't lock the bathroom door:

He didn't give me the opportunity to clean the toothpaste spit out of the sink. He just doesn't care.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


Happy Thanksgiving. I hope your holiday travels are better than this:

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

guess who's back. Back again. Nomar's back. Tell a friend.

My sister is out of town for the Thanksgiving weekend, going to Kansas somewhere with her boyfriend, so her cat Nomar Rasputin Kittycat Mofo Garciaparra is on holiday at my apartment:

The red things on his paws are Soft Paws, the "humane alternative to declawing." I call them Nomar's "tap shoes." Just in time for the holidays you can get the Red & Green holiday color combo for the low low price of $18.95. Here is the advertising:

Dashing through the hall, Kitty will look festive and bright adorned in holiday-themed Soft Paws. The alternating colors of the red and green combo pack add cheer to a room as Kitty helps wrap presents and inspect boxes. This option is sure to delight Mr. or Ms. Claus Claws.
Note: Nomar Kitty has never ever ever helped wrap presents. Are these benevolent claws a miracle?

Nomar is a character. And he is incredibly clumsy. He has problems gauging distances for jumps and balancing on narrow ledges. The theory is that he has bad eyesight. What do you do about that? Eyeglasses? Lasik 4 Kittehs?

The last time Nomar stayed at my apartment (sans tap shoes), he clawed the holy crap out of my reading chair. It's the one piece of furniture I own that isn't second-hand. Strike that. I also own a first-hand IKEA leaning bookcase that I assembled myself. The reading chair is my only legitimate and solid piece of first-hand furniture. No big deal about the clawed chair, though. I'm cool. Just cut some loose threads away it looks good as new. When Amanda dropped Nomar off last night, she brought some double-sided tape to cover the scratchable parts of the chair that he might get at, even with the tap shoes. Wrap the chair in tape! Great idea. Good. Problem solved.

Except in the morning, Nomar had yanked every inch of tape off the chair and wadded it into a big ball of "Fuck You."

He can't do much damage to my chair with the tap shoes -- even though two tap shoes are missing because he gnawed them off -- he can't do too much damage with only two exposed claws. Right? (...right?). He's persistent. My mom brought over the power drill a few weeks ago to Nomar-proof my bathroom with a couple of locks. One for the inside of the bathroom so he doesn't Kamakaze into the tub while I'm showering, and one for the outside just to keep the door shut at other times. The situation with the door: I live in an old apartment, and I have a cockamamie bathroom door that doesn't close shut because it doesn't fit in the door frame. Seriously. And I want to keep Nomar out of the bathroom because it's dirty behind my old clawfoot tub -- where he likes to go, of course -- and I end up with dirty kitty prints all over my apartment. (Don't tell me to clean behind my tub. You clean behind it. I can't reach back there). Here's Nomar attempting to break into my bathroom for the 100th time today:

Over the workday g-chat, Amanda says: "I think my cat is just a dick."

And then she dispatched my mom over to my apartment with a giant sheet of yellow plastic to wrap my chair. This is what I came home to.

I recently gave Mom keys to my apartment in case of an emergency or, as my dad joked, they "needed to get the body." Well I thought it was hilarious. Mom, not so much digging the gallows humor there. Sparing my favorite chair from a vigorous feline clawing = emergency.

Fingers crossed this thwarts him. He can't do too much damage in a week. Right? (...right?)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

theatre magic 101: how to ricochet a rock off somebody's face

I saw Lifeline Theatre's The Island of Dr Moreau on Friday. It was violent and disturbing -- and that was just the walk to the theatre through the Rogers Park neighborhood. Zing!

I loved the show. Charlie, who built the set, showed me this little trick. There's a part in a fight scene in the play when one character throws a baseball sized rock at another character's head, when Predick is fighting off one of the Manimals. The rock ricochets off the character's head, and hits the ground (the rock, not the head) with a convincing weight. It happens so fast in the midst of the fight, and it looks (and sounds) so real that the detail might not register.

The rock -- not a real rock, but something that would hurt a crap-load if someone chucked it at your face -- is tethered to the stage floor with a length of fishing line. The actor throws it and it snaps back at the end of the line, and the rock smacks the ground with the thud of a real rock. The actor on the receiving end of the rock sells the hit to the face with his proper placement -- likely a bit downstage from the trajectory of the rock -- and the reaction of getting hit in the face with a rock. Voila. It looks amazing. You can try that at home.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

rock paper scissors rant

found at Found Magazine.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

isherwood owned

Link via Justin and Adam and Mark:

Playwright Jon Robin Baitz gobsmacks Charles Isherwood in the Huffington Post:

My sentiments exactly, in more words, and not written after 3/4 bottle of 3 Buck Chuck.

great american smoke out

Today is the Great American Smoke Out. The anti-smoking deity declares you quit smoking for the day. I had a conversation about it with Smoking Baby this morning.

Marisa: Hey, Smoking Baby, you gonna kick the habit?

Smoking Baby: (stares. smokes)

Marisa: It's bad for you. Gives you cancer.

Smoking Baby: (stares. smokes)

Marisa: All righty then. Have a good day, Smoking Baby.

Smoking Baby: (stares. smokes)

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

the days are just packed

My current job is internet-based and doesn't require attention beyond moderating the slackness of my jaw to dam the drool. It ain't such a bad gig when I fill the hours at the keyboard with Ira Glass and the "This American Life" gang, 300 episodes archived and available for FREE here:

Some favorite episodes so far...

The Act I story of a legendary voice-mail is a whole lot of funny.

Featuring a story of a production of Peter Pan that went horribly awry

Stories of people's last words before death. (I want to think I'll say something meaningful, but the biographers may be left squeezing meaning out of "oh, shit")

Monday, November 12, 2007

Go East, Young Writers?

Not sure what to make of this Charles Isherwood pep talk to striking West Coast writers: Go East, Young Writers, for Theater!

But writers today may see no benefit in continuing to fail toward success as playwrights when an easy living as a writer on a television series seems within reach. Young writers who win some acclaim for a first or second play will probably continue to head west before they have had time to develop, which means the theater is potentially losing important voices before they mature.

-Charles Isherwood
I read a fair number of NY Times reviews, and it's no secret to the theatre blogging community that Charles Isherwood isn't, exactly, the most supportive of critical voices in the realm of new plays and new/young playwrights. I can't defend the validity of his criticism first hand (I'm not seeing those productions), but you have to acknowledge the culpability of the NY Times of driving talented young writers into the warm and moneyed embrace of acceptance and a fat paycheck on the other coast.

The flip side of this is: well, a writer has got to take a drubbing, and if she really wants to write, she'll keep doing it. A writer has to move on after getting spindled and mutilated by critics who just want to dish a solid zing. But a snarky, dismissive review -- and Isherwood has thick portfolio of these -- will slam many doors so hard on writer's face, the cartilage in her nose will crunch, and she will bleed down the front of her shirts. A few shirts. The bleeding lasts more than a day.

It's difficult to value the sage wisdom of a man who refers the realm he lords over as a "dinky kingdom" -- and, yes, I know, he's trying to be amusing. He's trying to be funny. He's trying to be a good read. But it's that attitude that may prevent a very talented and very-willing-to-fail-in-order-to-mature writer to pack the U-Haul and head West.

This is a round-about letter of affection to the critics out there who are consistent and reliable evaluators of new work and young writers. They exist. I'm not arguing a bad play should be coddled by critics, but if a critic truly wants to nurture the writer, if not the play, she or he should fan that faint spark of talent instead of squashing it like a cigarette butt under a glib foot.

(more) killing women photography

Theatre Seven Lighting Designer extraordinaire Justin Wardell has posted a gallery of KILLING WOMEN production photos. They're mostly full-stage shots for his portfolio. I make an uncredited cameo in one of the shots. Can you find me? It's like Where's Waldo.

This way to Justin's album:

Is anybody in Ohio right now? Like around Columbus? Available light [theatre] is doing a reading of KILLING WOMEN this Wednesday, November 14. It's fuuuhh-reee. (more info)

Thursday, November 08, 2007

doing dishes: a hazard to your health

My favorite juice glass broke in my hand tonight. Washing the dishes. I gotta wash dishes before I go to bed cause dirty dishes in the sink in the morning make me crazy. I was doing the twist around the rim with the sponge to get the early morning pre-toothbrushing lip-print goobers off and - BOOM - the glass is now in two parts in my left hand and holy crap what just happened???

Wow, that really could've been bad if it cut me.

Oh. I'm bleeding.

It's so sudden you don't feel it at first so you don't look for the blood. Then you see the blood. Then the brain goes, "Ohhhhh riiiiiight... PAIN!!!"

That's when you feel like you just cut the crap out of your finger with a jagged piece of glass.

I have a bad track record with favorite glasses. And my favorite glasses tend to be those smallish sort of glasses ideal for juice or wine or spirits, preferably with some humorous/retro design. I'm good at breaking those glasses. I'm especially good at breaking wine glasses. My parents bought me a set of short, stout, tumbler-like wine glasses, impossible to break, the Titanic of wine glasses. I broke one. It jumped out of my cabinet. It got tired of boxed-wine so it killed itself.

My finger is fine. Nothing serious. Nothing a SpongeBob Band-aid won't fix. I'd have a glass of wine to soothe the pain, but now I'm afraid of my glasses. So I'll have to drink from the box. Safety first, classiness second.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

how to win at monopoly

This link is from

For those of you who are super serious about winning at Monopoly, here is some strategy that will help you completely crush your friends:

I haven't found a link that will help you win your friends back after they quit the game when Monopoly strategy turns you into a total bastard.

Monday, November 05, 2007

my favorite movie quotation (of all time)

"Hey, Marisa, what's your favorite quotation from a movie?"

People ask me this question all the time.

Not all the time, but a lot.

Not a lot a lot. Sometimes.

Nobody asks me this question.

Here it is, completely unsolicited, my favorite movie quotation of all time, Madeline Kahn's performance of Mrs White's confession in the movie Clue.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

haunted city

Behind every man now alive stand 30 ghosts, for that is the ratio by which the dead outnumber the living.

--ARTHUR C. CLARKE, 2001: A Space Odyssey
I met fellow ghost hunters, Tracey K and Annie, at Fado on Clark & Grand to have some spirits before chasing spirits on a ghost tour. A few Jameson's set us off into the night, a perfect night for ghosts. Dark and crisp and wind-whipped. We met the tour bus outside the former Rock & Roll McDonald's now the monolithic flagship two story holy crap of a McDonald's on Clark. The bus: a painted black school bus retrofitted with comfortable seats and a rockin' audio system. Our particular bus was "The Untouchables Gangster Tour" bus with decal bullet holes on the outside.

We were held up waiting for some late-comers. Tour guide Wayne announced if anybody had to pee we should take the opportunity to pee in the McDonald's because the next pee break wasn't coming for a couple hours. Half the bus emptied out and while I didn't get off the bus, once someone suggests I won't be able to pee for two hours, I fixate on the state of my bladder.

Stop#1 - The Iroquois Theatre fire
Off we go, south on Clark to Randolph to Dearborn as Wayne tells the story of the Iroquois Theatre fire (mentioned in this post) and how shady politics and building shortcuts for the sake of a few bucks contributed to the death of hundreds of people, mostly women and children, at a holiday matinee. We got off the bus and visited "Couch Place", the newly spiffed-up well-lit yet assuredly haunted alley behind the Oriental Theatre where many many people died in 1903. Wayne told us to take pictures in all the haunted locations for spectral evidence. Here's my Iroquois Theatre fire ghost:

I really don't care if you have a reasonable explanation for that orb that showed up in my picture. It wasn't there. That guy in the tie? ...he wasn't there either. How do you explain that?!

Stop #2 - The Eastland Disaster
Back on the bus for the next stop on the tour, the 1914 Eastland Disaster in the Chicago River, one of the worst nautical disasters in history.

I used to bartend at 10pin in Marina City, right along the Chicago River, near the disaster site. The only unexplained, supernaturalesque feeling I've ever had took place as I was counting down my register after my shift. I was at the bar, alone, all was quiet. I felt a tap on my shoulder. Turned around. Of course, nobody was there.

But I used that feeling of the supernatural in one of the monologues in my play Diversey Harbor. Now, I walk along this part of the river, along Wacker Drive, every day, the spot where hundreds and hundreds of people drowned just a few feet from the dock. I took a picture of the water:

The bit of trivia here is that many of the bodies were taken to a warehouse set up as a make-shift morgue west of the Loop. The building is still in use today as Harpo Studios, where Oprah Winfrey tapes her show. It's haunted too.

OMG!!!! Ghosts in my studio?!?!

Stop # 3 - Hull House
Our next bus stop was Hull House (It was also the bathroom break. I really really had to pee. Too much pre-ghost tour Jameson). Jane Addams moved her school of social work into the haunted Hull Family House built in 1856. The house is west of the loop, south of Greek town, surrounded by the University of Illinois-Chicago campus. The student center -- containing restrooms and a bowling alley firmly stuck in the 1970s -- sits right behind this house. The famous creepy story here is "The Devil Baby at Hull House." Jane Addams took in on odd child, a misshapen imp: hooves, a tail, spoke in tongues, vomited everywhere, y'know, typical evil baby stuff.

Well, that's the story anyway.

The house itself was haunted before Jane Addams moved in. Addams wrote in her autobiographical book that she kept a pail of water at the top of the stairs, thought to be a way to ward off ghosts who couldn't cross running water. The house was closed for the evening, but I took some pictures of the outside. I caught a ghost in my Ghostbusters trap of a camera:

Supposedly, the land the house was built on was the spot where the Potawatomi Indians cursed the the city of Chicago after the white man forced them to treaty away their lands. Also there's, like, a portal to hell under this tree:

The ground... feels... evil?

Annie and Tracey K won't smile. Too much evil.

Stop #4 - St Valentine's Day Massacre Site
After a detour to check out the site of Mrs O'Leary's barn, where the Chicago Fire started, we had a long trip back to the North Side, but it was a nice ride up Lake Shore Drive. The lake was roiling and crashing on a windy night, one of my favorite sites in Chicago on a fall evening. Something a little scary seeing the lake churning its guts.

2122 N Clark street is where a bunch of gangsters were gunned down by some other gangsters dressed as cops. The massacre happened on a cold Valentine's Day in 1929. The garage where it happened was demolished in 1967 to make way for a senior citizens apartment building, and the land was fenced off to ghost-hunting rubberneckers. Taken through the fence at the approximate location of the garage. Not much to see, unfortunately.

Tour guide Wayne really lit up his storytelling here; unfortunately, it was so windy I could barely hear what he said. I wished he had told his story on the bus. Ah well. We headed back to the McDonald's for the end of the tour. I stepped off the bus and took off running to catch my Metra train.

I don't know if I believe in ghosts. I believe in imagination. Our imaginations need to have an empathetic conversation with history and the dead. The result may be a touch of the unexplained. A chill up the spine, goosebumps, a tap on the shoulder. It doesn't really matter if it's real. A good ghost story is a good ghost story.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

fire bad! power tools good!

The ghost tour post is coming. I swear. Shit! See? I swore. (Zing! I'm here all night, folks).

Theatre Seven is doing some payback to Lifeline Theatre for letting us build our set in their shop. We're doing some cleaning and organizing of their basement. I spent the evening cutting wood into little bits with a circular saw. My first circular saw experience. I still have all my typing fingers. Theatre Seven master builder/actor/journeyman Charlie Olson built the set for Lifeline's production of The Island of Dr Moreau. It's a super cool set.

Here's what 99 cents will buy you at Walgreen's:

My Halloween costume. Made in China with lead paint no doubt.

Monday, October 29, 2007

CSI: Chicago?

I walked through a crime scene this morning.

Well -- no -- sorta.

CSI: NY was filming on Michigan Avenue outside my office, around about the Wrigley Building and the Tribune Tower. The central mystery of this particular episode is: "why is CSI: NY filming in Chicago?" Gary Sinise was hanging out. We shared a donut. No we didn't -- that's what I fantasized about when I spaced out at my desk.

Here's the scoop on the Trib's blog.

Friday, October 26, 2007

smoking baby, the movie

I got excited when I found out I could record with my digi-cam. This may be the first and last movie I ever make: SMOKING BABY: THE MOVIE! (I bought this smoking baby for $5.00 at Uncle Fun. It was the last Smoking Baby for sale. Watch out, Wes Anderson. I'm giving "quirky" a new name)

ghost tour: the teaser!

First, for those of you following along with my Pushing Daisies obsession. . . Who do you think the narrator is? Is he simply the omniscient story-teller, or do you think he may factor into the future story? That would certainly be a twist!

I accidentally took 9 second video with my camera the other night on the ghost tour. I'd never used the video feature and forgot I had it on my camera. I was attempting to take a picture of Wayne our tour guide and instead shot the unofficial teaser to my ghost tour post. Here we are in the alley behind the Oriental Theatre, the former spot of the Iroquois Theatre. 844 people died in a theatre fire here in 1903. Many died in the alley when they fell out of fire exits 5 floors up -- the theatre owners rushed construction and hadn't yet built the fire escape. Wicked currently plays in the Oriental Theatre.

The stagehand hanging out by the stage door explained that being in this alley gives her chest pains ("And not because of my smoking," she said, exhaling a puff into the October night).

Wayne explains the sort of ghostly things one can catch on a camera. It should be obvious that I didn't know the video feature was running on my camera, and I'm a little disappointed I didn't get a still picture of Wayne and his waxed moustache.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

ghost tour. coming soon

I went on a Chicago Ghost Tour tonight with Tracey K and Annie. It was fun. The evening will warrant a full post in time for Halloween. I took a few photos, which I will share, some containing unexplained orbs of energy.

UNEXPLAINED ORBS! I do not jest.

I like to think it is evidence of a ghost instead of evidence of a shitty camera. But for all the spooky unexplained photography, I snapped the most terrifying photo on the walk home.

This Sears mannequin was brutally murdered in the display window.

I don't know if he has a head. It might have been sawed off with... I'm not sure what tool was used as he seems to use his tool chest for storing Christmas ornaments.

This mannequin has been like this since at least Monday. Shop Sears.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

emergency: take-aways

Probably the best 911 call ever.

Monday, October 22, 2007

it's raining luggage

Did you hear about the luggage that fell out of the airplane? I always had an irrational thought that my bag would fall out of an airplane. I dismissed it because it seemed unlikely if the cargo door was shut. The luggage that fell out of the airplane was luggage that was checked at the gate. The moral of this story is if you have a big goddamn bag you expect to bring as a carry-on, better to check it like normal or else it is going to fall out of the airplane.

I was going to write something of substance. I'm spacing out.

Here is a link to some great animal photos. The page is called Great Animal Photos.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

No Child

I had the opportunity to see No Child at Lookingglass Friday night. High fives to Hal Brooks for hooking me up with a couple tickets for the show. Real nice of him. I met up with Sarah K for an after work beer, shot, and cheezborger at the famous subterranean Billy Goat Tavern. I'd never been before. It's charming in a that's probably a health code violation! sort of way. Then we hoofed it up Michigan Ave, arteries pumping cheezborger grease, to balance out the dive experience with classier and tourist-priced Maker's Mark Manhattans at Bistro 110 by the Water Tower there. And the show? Amazing, funny and moving, all good things. Nilaja Sun's performance is, I don't know how to describe it, the intense shape-shifting of it... magical? Yeah, magical.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

daisies, newsies, zombies

* Look, I'm not going to beg you to watch Pushing Daisies at 7pm on Wednesday on ABC. I don't have a TiVo or DVR so I actually have to make a point to be home by 7pm on Wednesday to watch this show. I'm having a friendly argument with Dan about whether or not the story-telling on this show is moving too fast. He thinks it is. I don't think it is. My theory is that series creator Bryan Fuller is anticipating getting canceled after one season, so he needs to cram all the important story-telling into the first 18 episodes. I have seen enough TV shows canceled after one season (Freaks and Geeks, Firefly, Wonderfalls [technically canceled by Fox after 4 episodes, but a full season was filmed and then released on DVD]) to know that a very imaginative TV show has to anticipate premature cancellation. Where it goes from there, we shall see. By the way, Swoozie Kurtz cracks my shit up any time the story diverts to Chuck's aunts.

* I know I've hit the big time when my old high school newspaper wants to interview me. I'm running a couple playwriting workshops at New Trier High School's Literary Festival on November 2.

A head's-up from my sister Amanda who turned me on to today (I can't believe I haven't been visiting that site every 10 minutes til today). Here's another gem from them, courtesy of Average Jane Crafter, in time for Halloween. Zombie embroidery. Take a vintage embroidery transfer and Zombie-it-up. (Tif: next Crafty Ladies project?)

Monday, October 15, 2007

today's episode: impromptu corporate sponsorship of the arts

The supervisor for my temp gig took today off. I completed the day's task efficiently and there was nobody to give me more work. You temp long enough, the universe is going to drop one of these free-swim days in your lap.

This is how it goes; the age-old story: You report to one supervisor in a large office. Nobody else knows or cares what you're doing there. They know you belong there as a transient with typing and computer skills. They assume you've been taken care of. Like, say, when your friend goes out of town. You just assume this friend has made arrangements for her pet cat. But perhaps the cat is pooping all over the floor? Who knows? Who cares? The cat is not their responsibility.

I didn't poop on the floor. I haven't. I won't. Not yet.

I doubt anyone knows my name, except the other temp who started with me. I like her. She's temped long enough to know that in the end, everyone is replaceable. That sounds bleak. It's not. It's liberating to the professional artist/temp.

Today I considered myself "on call" for anybody who happened to need my mad office skills.

Nobody needed my mad office skills. Don't they know I got mad office skills? Believe.

And the temp gig? It's not a bad gig as far as temp gigs go. I KNOW bad temp gigs. Assembling name-badges in a windowless, unventilated, fluorescent-lit storage room that was not intended to be occupied by a human for 8 hours? Bad temp gig.

I'm not complaining.

The coffee's pretty good. I've got an incredible view of the Chicago River -- I'll show you some time. I'm enjoying the mile walk between the train and the office, even though I got tricked by a quarter glued to the sidewalk along Wacker Drive. Good one.

The company doesn't block Internet radio like one company I worked for used to do. That was awful. [Repetitive task + silence = insanity]

And on a day like today, when the supervisor goes AWOL, writing plays on the Microsoft Notepad looks surprisingly like "work" work. It is work. Maybe work that is not appreciated at work in the American workforce. It's not building cars, or fixing plumbing, or processing bills. Maybe it's not work that's appreciated by 99% of the people in this country. Maybe it's more like 99.93%.

That's okay. I like it anyway.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Thursday, October 11, 2007


What in the holy love of crap is going on in Springfield?

Moment of silence mandated in Illinois schools

We had a moment of silence for reflection and prayer in high school. It was called "class." And by "reflection and prayer" I mean nap-time.

Sure would be nice if Illinois government would spend less time on this bullshit and more time on, I don't know, things that matter?

toonces in da houwse

The folks are out of town, and Toonces is on vacation at my apartment.

I've given up on the CTA. It made me want to die. I'm taking the Metra to work and adding 2 miles of walking to my commute.

Everybody watch "Pushing Daisies" on ABC! It's whimsical and funny and morbid in a big-hearted way. I hope it taps the full potential of its premise. Please don't get canceled. Please. It would only be replaced with "CSI Cold Case & Order: Miami" because the world needs more crime dramas. Fingers crossed it lasts at least a full season. That's all I'm asking. One season.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

your ears are an incinerator of sound

I once said, "I'd be fine if I never had to hear the B-52's Love Shack ever again." It was said during a long night of light domestic beer and karaoke. I really meant it. I hate that song.

Would I miss it? If I never heard it again, would I miss anything about it? (Tin roof! ...rusted!)

What if...

Through circumstances unexplained but accepted, once you hear a song, you are unable to ever, ever hear it again. Assume you know what you know about the music you love. What song would you save for...

* a rainy day
* a romantic moment
* a night alone when you're really depressed with a big spoon in your right hand and a carton of Ben & Jerry's in your left
* your personal pep rally
* a lazy Sunday morning
* when you're about to smash somebody's windshield with a baseball bat cuz they done you wrong
* driving on Lake Shore Drive
* your deathbed

Lucky you there are enough songs in the world you can go 99 years and still have plenty of music to listen to, but any new loves you hear will be lost loves. Would it change the way you listened to a song knowing it's the very last time you'll ever hear it.

Can you tell my iPod died while I was stuck on the train?

Monday, October 08, 2007

the grind

I started a new job today. I was given a security key-card to get into the office, and I lost it by 10:30AM. Somewhere in the copy room.

The CTA Red Line is atrocious.

Beer me.


It was good that I was out of town for when the Cubs folded like a chair in the playoffs. A sad, sad folding chair. Nobody cares about the Cubs in Louisville. I had to request the game be turned on at a bar. After I saw the score I said, nevermind, you can change the channel back to golf highlights.

Had a good time, met some nice talented folk at Actors Theatre. Disappointments: there wasn't time to do much socializing with the Acting Apprentice company, and the bourbon bar at the hotel closes at 8pm (?!). Every night (?!?!?!?!). Now, on to the writing of the thing.

Hello to the person who found my blog by searching "watch videos about men and women pooping in seprat [sic] tolets [sic] but in the same bathroom". That's a really specific fetish, dude. Good luck on your quest. Maybe you'll have more luck if you learn to spell.

Friday, October 05, 2007

I have a question

Are New York Times theatre critics required to blow 0.08+ on the douche-bag breathalyzer before writing reviews on new plays? Somebody please tell me that Theresa Rebeck's Mauritius is more than just a Mamet knock-off as Ben Brantley proclaims. I won't be able to see it, but I'd no doubt enjoy the crap out of it.

louisville slugger

I'm cruising I-65 to Louisville, KY this afternoon. I was invited to contribute writing to the Anthology show for the acting apprentice company at Actors Theatre, a show that runs one of the weekends of the Humana Festival in March. It's me and 5 other writers and a composer working on a show about SPORTS! Oughta be a hoot. This weekend gathering is to get to know the company and the other writers and maybe do some work and drink some bourbon. Well I'm drinking bourbon. It is Kentucky.

Mom is cleaning out the basement at home and gave me a pile of dishes. I'm writing a note to remind myself: take the dishes out of the car! Every time I hit the breaks, there's a clatter of Fiestaware in the butt of my car. It makes my driving a little more dramatic, but I don't need to shuttle a pile of dishes across Indiana.

I'm itchy with interstate wanderlust. Piloting my little yellow car at 65+ MPH for hours and hours. Driving while eating Chicken McNuggets. Browsing the NASCAR baseball caps and pine tree air fresheners and touristy schlock at interstate Gas-N-Shops. Flipping through the radio stations and finding the local fire & brimstone broadcast on the FM, or the gem of a low-watt jazz or oldies station, lasting 15 minutes before it crackles out of range. Can't wait to hit the road, if only for a weekend.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

everybody's posting it

A krunk ode to Tracy Motherfuckin Letts and Steppenwolf. Word.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

temporary life

Below is a compiled transcript of the past couple interviews for temp work I've endured. It's inaccurate in dictation but true in spirit.


Interviewer: I want to go over a little what the job requires. We're looking for somebody to generate web-based surveys for our clients using a program called Quibblebits 2.0. Have you ever used that program?

Me: No.

Interviewer: Ohh...kay. We're also looking for somebody who can compile and distribute data using a program called Donkeyslap Plus. Ever do any work on that?

Me: No.

Interviewer: Have you ever used Excel?

Me: On purpose?

Interviewer: What do you mean "on purpose"?

Me: Nothing.

Interviewer: How comfortable are you working with numbers?

Me: What, like, math?

Interviewer: Adding numbers.

Me: Accurately?

Interviewer: Yes.

Me: What, like, with a calculator? Or in my head, "quick! what's 57 plus 1877?!?!" like that?

Interviewer: With a calculator.

Me: Are you asking me if I know how to use a calculator?

Interviewer: We're looking for somebody who's comfortable with math.

Me: Right, but would I have a calculator?

Interviewer: Well, okay, it was great talking to you.

Me: But I'm good with computers. I pick up things like super-fast. And I'm punctual. I have many positive qualities. Just ask my mom!

Interviewer: We'll let you know.

Me: Will you really?

Interview: When you don't hear from us, you'll know.

Me: Awesome.

My heart--I thought it stopped (more Amy Hempel)

I went to The Book Cellar in Lincoln Square. I bought The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel. It's cheaper on Amazon, but I like to support independent book stores with liquor licenses. It's nice to know I'm set if I have an alkie-fit in Non-Fiction.

I'm working my way through the book now. All of her stories are short, but some of them are REALLY short (one of her stories is only one sentence). If you don't read any of her collections, yet want to know what it's like to read Amy Hempel, ask a friend to punch you in the face. When you start crying, let him hug you. That's what it's like to read Amy Hempel.

In the Animal Shelter

by Amy Hempel
The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel

Every time you see a beautiful woman, someone is tired of her, so the men say. And I know where they go, these women, with their tired beauty that someone doesn't want--these women who must live like the high Sierra white pine, there since before the birth of Christ, fed somehow by the alpine wind.

They reach out to the animals, day after day smoothing fur inside a cage, saying, "How is Mama's baby? Is Mama's baby lonesome?"

The women leave at the end of the day, stopping to ask an attendant, "Will they go to good homes?" And come back in a day or so, stooping to examine a one-eyed cat, asking, as though they intend to adopt, "How would I introduce a new cat to my dog?"

But there is seldom an adoption; it matters that the women have someone to leave, leaving behind the lovesome creatures who would never leave them, had they once given them their hearts.

Monday, October 01, 2007

friendly bets

The Pink Chainsaws! are clawing their way up the pack. Week 1 and Week 2 were dismal flops. I won my Week 3 match-up (thanks Brian Westbrook, thanks Ronnie Brown), and Week 4 is shaping up for another win as long as Carson Palmer is held to 27 fantasy points or less tonight.

All my Survivor picks are in the game (Erik, Frosti, James [for the car]). There have only been 2 episodes. Not bustin' out the champagne just yet.

I would talk about the 2007 Celebrity Death Pool, but then Satan calls to remind me I'm on the bullet train to Hell.

I'm watching the late night movie on Channel 26 "The U!" It's Teen Wolf starring Michael J. Fox. It's about as good as a steaming werewolf dump. I really liked it when I was 6. This movie contains the line, "with great power comes great responsibility." That line is also in the Spider Man movie and David Mamet's play Sexual Perversity in Chicago. So, yes, Spider Man is a rip-off of Teen Wolf which is a rip off of Sexual Perversity in Chicago. They're all the same story if you squint.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

kitten vs. garbage can

Kittens are adorable and ignorant to how cruel life can be.

Friday, September 28, 2007

NewCity pronounces my last name

It seems a little early for a "Best of 2007" list. What if something really awesome happens in the next 3 months?

dramaturgy at its finest

This one is for you playwrights and dramaturgs.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

hey chicago, whaddaya say?

A nice Eric Zorn column about an anthem reborn at Wrigley Field. Steve Goodman's Go Cubs Go hits the PA after a Cubs win, keeping fans standing and singing before everybody heads for the gates. I noticed the other week the stretch of Lincoln Ave in Lincoln Square (at Wilson) is tagged with a brown honorary street sign: Steve Goodman Way. I don't pay much attention to those signs, but it's nice to know a little about the person behind the honor. You can listen to a few of his songs at this Steve Goodman MySpace page, including one of my favorite folky tunes, City of New Orleans. It's a song about a train. He managed to make a song about a train totally awesome.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

smoking monkey + stick of dynamite = awesome

The new blog banner is a postcard I picked up at Uncle Fun. If you're Chicago folk, you likely know of Uncle Fun on Belmont. Residents of elsewheres, if you ever visit Chicago, the first place I'm going to take you is Uncle Fun. After that, we'll hold hands and skip around Rosehill Cemetery as we ponder our mortality. You can go to the Sears Tower on your own.

Uncle Fun is where you go to buy useless crap, the kind of useless crap that will make your friends say, "Where on earth did you get that useless crap?" Bizarro toys, retro junk, strange postcards, bobble heads, fake poo. It's where I bought a smoking baby a few years ago, something I continue to buy and give as gifts to people. I tend to be friends with people would appreciate a ceramic smoking baby.

Speaking of smoking, I Netflixed the movie Thank You For Smoking per David's suggestion. Really enjoyed it, very funny. Katie Holmes sucked, but she sucks in everything. One of the peculiar things I learned during my week of working with Big Tobacco is that employees are not allowed to bring any child-related imagery into their office building. Like, an employee can't even have a McDonald's Happy Meal toy on his desk or in his bag. They're so paranoid about being further accused of marketing cigarettes to children that they take extreme caution in what can be found on the premises. I thought it was odd they'd hire cartoonists to illustrate product ideas from the brainstorming sessions; their lawyers would have to look over everything and approve them to even be let into the office. On the first day of work, none of the Tobacco people told the cartoonists they'd have to make any people they drew look absolutely mature, and a lot of the people had a youthful and sexy (for cartoons) appearance. On the second day, the cartoonists had to age-up a lot of their early drawings with facial hair and wrinkles, so men started looking like skeezy 'stached porn stars and the women looked god awful. They drew me into one of the pictures on the first day. I looked like a 14 year old and they aged me with liver spots and wrinkles and darker hair. I got a cartoon glimpse of my older self with a smokers wheeze. Hot.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

showbiz pizza & the rockafire explosion

If you grew up on Showbiz Pizza (now Chuck E. Cheese) in the 1980's, you may dig this article in today's Chicago Tribune:

Some find it odd, others see re-creating mechanical band as a way to tap into happy childhood memories

The gist of the article is that grown men in their 20s and 30s with too much disposable income are buying and fixing up these robot bands. Here's one example of somebody's fixed up Rock-afire Explosion doing a rousing rendition of Bubba Sparxxx's "Ms New Booty."

I went to a few birthday parties at Showbiz Pizza. I remember the Rock-afire Explosion, but I don't ever remember sitting still for a show. I was way more interested in Skee-ball and fleeing in terror from the Chuck E. Cheese walk-around character.

Friday, September 21, 2007

cat sitting

I'm cat-sitting my sister's cat Nomar this weekend. He's cute and fun to have around 97% of the time. The other 3% of the time a switch in his brain flips, and he attempts to spray my intestines from wall to wall. He gets under and behind my clawfoot bathtub. There is unreachable grime back there, and it gets all over his paws. I have dirty paw prints all over my bathroom. Adorable. One of my sister's friends named his Fantasy Football team Angry Nomar.

clearly I don't value the health and well-being of my left hand

somebody finally accepted me for what I am

This is good in many ways

Thursday, September 20, 2007

tagged. d'oh!

Got tagged for this survey, or "meme" if you will, by Rob and David. I was not hiding well enough behind the couch.

Oh, this shit is hard!

“Make a list of five strengths that you possess as a writer/artist. It’s not really bragging, it’s an honest assessment (forced upon you by this darn meme). Please resist the urge to enumerate your weaknesses, or even mention them in contrast to each strong point you list. Tag four other writers or artists whom you’d like to see share their strengths.”

  1. I'm good at rewriting.
  2. I can write emotionally grounded black comedy
  3. I write good roles for women
  4. I can write a page-turning script with a well-wrought what-happens-next motor and a rock 'em sock 'em end of act cliff-hanger *
  5. I'm a good collaborator
I'm tagging Brian because I know he won't do it.

* I was once criticized in a review for ending my first act on a cliff-hanger. That criticism made my head spin. You mean I shouldn't want the audience to come back looking forward to what happens in Act 2? Really? Go fuck yourself ya pretentious prick.

Hold the phone!!!! I'm inventing a brand new "meme" as payback.

List 5 things that certain people (who are not deserving of being your friend anyway) may consider to be "totally lame," but you are, despite the possible stigma, totally proud of. Own it. Tag 5 others:
  1. My encyclopedia knowledge of the sitcom Full House and Trampoline accidents on America's Funniest Home Videos and anything with which Bob Saget is associated
  2. My ability to bargain-hunt cheap bear based on Alcohol-by-Volume content. (Icehouse @ 5.5% ABV - the winner, most of the time)
  3. In the heyday of America Online (1996-1998), I used to host a Walt Disney World chat room for "Destination Florida." Don't even try to test me on WDW trivia. You will be owned.
  4. I make awesome Ramen noodles. It's a finer culinary science than you can imagine.
  5. I own juggling clubs, and I know how to use them.
I'm tagging Rob, David, Tif, Dina, Ryan. And Paul. And Tracy. That's 7 people. Oh well. Spread the love.

hump day enfuego

The apartment building across the street from mine was on fire tonight. I could see flames in a 3rd floor apartment and the (wooden) fire escape is charred. Lots of busting glass as the FD knocked out windows in all the apartments in that section of the building. Nobody was hurt. No word on the cause, but a police officer was going around asking all the slack-jawed gawkers if they saw anybody setting fires. Oh, super.

One of the firefighters was speaking to a now-homeless family on the grass in front of my apartment building when the 11:30pm automatic sprinklers went off on them. Talk about insult to injury.

20 years later

From Richard Christiansen's book A Theater of Our Own, on Steppenwolf Theatre:

"In those early years, they kept close to the gritty, edgy, contemporary works that made their reputation. When Austin Pendleton, the New York-based actor-director who joined the Steppenwolf ensemble in 1987, urged the company to tackle The Crucible, Arthur Miller's drama set in a Puritan community of seventeenth-century New England, [Gary] Sinise dutifully read the play but reported back, "I just can't see us doing a play where people are called 'Goodie' and wear buckles on their shoes."
The Crucible is now playing at Steppenwolf.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

I'm out of toilet paper

I have no excuse. No inconsiderate roommate to blame. My life falls apart in small ways. It causes me to question my ability to function on a very basic level. I buy a mondo pack of Toilet Paper god-knows-when ago and the assumption is this plethora of soft paper on cardboard rolls will last forever, like oil, or forests, or polar bears.

Of course a mondo pack of TP won't last forever. Have I learned nothing from the Giving Tree???

I have not. I have not learned anything. Bid farewell to the cornerstone of basic hygiene. God, it would really hurt to wipe with an actual cornerstone. Ouch! Forget that. I have Kleenex. That'll do for now.

I have learned some things in life: Don't microwave Chinese food boxes with metal handles. If I'm petting a cat and it flattens its ears back that means it wants me to die. Just because my neck is sore doesn't mean I have meningitis, I probably slept wrong. What's scary is that I know I have learned things, but how easily that stuff is forgotten as my brain rusts out like a junked car. Hell, I'm not even old, I still have dementia to look forward to. Last Friday I had to take a basic test of Clerical skills for an upcoming work assignment, and there was a section of long division, and it made me want to shoot myself in the face. I regressed to a 5th grade level of math anxiety. I wasn't afraid to fail this math test, but I mourned the loss of the part of my brain that could ace long division. This is why I'm never going back to school. I'm not really one for practical solutions.

Don't come over to my apartment if you have to hit the jacks (I'm also running low on Kleenex). I will be buying TP tomorrow. I'll go to CostCo and buy a 5,000 pack of toilet paper and end my TP-induced self-loathing. I will also have enough TP to build a TP roll fort in my living room. That'll be rad.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

9 to 5 jet lag

It happens every time my night-owl lifestyle smacks into the brick wall of day-jobby-job hours. I can't sleep when I should sleep the sleep required for a bright-eyed 6:20am alarm. I've been a little blurry. I could use a little more than 3 hours of sleep. But I've been working the job I like with all the fun people. It's the speed-typing gig that gave me a pink t-shirt with my name across the chest.


The work is an 8 hour trip through the carpal tunnel of love. I get breakfast and lunch, good coffee, and a refrigerator filled with ice cold sodie-pops. All the caffeine I drink during the day doesn't help my quest for Zzz's later in the day, but damn if I don't start to see through time late in the afternoon. I sit a table with a couple of cartoonists, and they draw cartoons of various group-generated ideas while I jam on a laptop, and we converse about midgets who get tattoos or whatever 80s hair-metal band comes up next on the satellite radio. Really important stuff. I joined their betting pool for the upcoming season of Survivor: China, so expect to hear more updates because my Fantasy Football has already gone to shit.

This latest assignment at the typing gig has been with a very large Tobacco company brainstorming smoke-free alternatives.

First: lots of people spell "Tobacco" incorrectly. (incorrect: Tabacco).
Second: I've learned a crap-load about Tobacco and cigarette marketing.
Third: I'm not sure if I'm allowed to talk about it.
Fourth: Well, I never signed a confidentiality agreement.
Fifth: But I don't want to get fired.
Sixth: But I'm not really getting paid enough to be worried about getting fired.
Seventh: That is depressing and makes me want to start smoking

I can't really fathom a viable, money-making, smoke-free alternative. Despite the addictive quality of nicotine, isn't the ritual and physical activity of smoking a huge part of what makes it appealing? Tapping the pack, lighting the cigarette, inhaling the smoke, exhaling the smoke, ashing the cigarette, repeat. I don't smoke. I have bad circulation and smoking would only make it worse and then my fingers would have to be amputated (thanks for telling me that, Dad). Then there's that whole lung cancer thing, and $7 a pack thing, and getting winded, and all. But I've watched a lot of people smoke and am friends with smokers. I've stood outside with plenty of smokers at plenty of parties and thought, "man, I wish I had something to do out here while I'm avoiding the sweaty debauchery indoors." And it sure would give me a good reason for all the random outdoor loitering I do.

Even though upcoming legislation is putting the ix-nay on the igarettes-cay in bars and restaurants in Illinois, smokers should fear not: Big Tobacco has got your back. Lots of work going into smokeless tobacco products that'll help you with your fix when you can't light up. The future is (almost) now.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

bear down

I've already posted a couple times about Fantasy Fertbow, and to post much more about a team that doesn't exist would be lame. So here, in honor of the only real NFL team that matters, Bryan Griffin of Chicago's Lyric Opera sings Bear Down, Chicago Bears. Bryan Griffin is in his wig & beard get-up from the Lyric's production of Die Fledermaus, filmed early this year, right before Rex Grossman choked in the Super Bowl. Dear Rex. Please don't suck this year.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

hipster olympics

For those who love or loathe hipster style. And if you really don't care, you're probably a hipster.

Friday, September 07, 2007

in an alternate universe, I'm in Philadelphia right now

A couple old college friends are producing a production of Killing Women at the Philadelphia Fringe Festival this weekend. They offered to fly me out to see it and I'm all, "I'd rather drive." But now my car needs servicing and repair before I dare take it on a long distance jaunt. So much for Philly this weekend. Hope it goes well for them.

long way round

What have we let ourselves in for? I mean this is, really is the back and beyond of absolutely nowhere. I mean, it's just extraordinary.
-Charley Boorman

Ewan McGregor must've flipped his nut after doing those Star Wars movies, because in 2004 he filmed a 'round the world motorbiking adventure with his exceedingly likable friend Charley Boorman. The trip took them from London to New York, going east through the lot of Europe, Kazakhstan, Russia, Mongolia, Russia (again), Alaska, Canada, and finally, the United States. The result is Long Way Round, a travel series documenting their 115 days on the backs of their BMW motorcycles.

I don't know why I added this to my Netflix queue. It was done long ago (I don't know why I add half the stuff I do to ye olde Netflix queue. It happens in the wee hours). I like Ewan McGregor well enough. He's an engaging film actor. Turns out, he's an engaging travel companion and adventurer.

I've always kinda-sorta wanted to learn to ride a motorcycle. Now I really really want to kinda-sorta wanna learn how to ride a motorcycle. I have a few strikes against me at the moment: 1) I never learned to drive manual transmission, 2) I'm on the small side to be wrangling the heft of a motorbike, 3) I don't have the dough to be taking lessons and buying a motorcycle. Dammit.

I made up a Long Way Round drinking game. Take a drink anytime...

  • Ewan McGregor falls off his motorbike
  • They get stuck in the mud in Mongolia or Russia
  • They try cuisine featuring boiled animal genitalia
  • They think local hospitality is mafia-related and they are being led to a place where somebody is going to put a bullet in their brains and steal their motorbikes
  • Ewan compares the landscape to the landscape of Scotland
  • Ewan claims his family is responsible for the construction of Mount Rushmore
  • You sense despair
  • Camera-man Claudio fucks up big time
  • Charley or Ewan says something "wise"
  • Charley or Ewan say "Fantastic!" (you don't have to drink: their charming brogues are intoxicating enough)
I've always wanted to write a travel book a la Bill Bryson. Watching Long Way Round stirs up those feelings of wanderlust and open-road travel and creative documentation. Anybody out there want to fund me?

Thursday, September 06, 2007

welcome to the food chain

A couple years ago, the Illinois Bureau of Tourism was giving away posters promoting the kitschy side of Illinois. I got one and tacked it up in my kitchen because it fit my decor: Crap Americana.

Here's my favorite thing about this poster:

Those kids are ass-ugly. The boy in front looks like he's pooping a bowling ball. That woman is sacrificing her baby to a dinosaur. Who gave the artist the green light for this? It's awesome.

The poster was free, postage and everything. Illinois can't help fund public transportation in Chicago, but free posters? No problemo!