Thursday, December 31, 2009


Numbers on a calendar are arbitrary. You have to keep track of them so people don't get mad at you for showing up late or missing a flight or a payment, or I suppose there are other important things to you or someone else. The year is marked by moments. Here's to another year of moments (I'm raising a glass of Jameson, if you can't see). The moments that make up a life are nothing special and they are all special.

Monday, December 28, 2009

arbitrary rating: bowling on tv

Grade: B

I was staying at a hotel near New York City's Times Square last month. I saw James Spader across the street from my hotel and got trampled by crowds attending the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony at Rockefeller Center. After a near-death tourist experience, there is nothing more relaxing than watching a bowling match from the 1980s on ESPN Classic. I was transfixed by a bowling match that was at least 25 years old. The hair! The mustaches! The Trickle-Down Economics! Here is the problem with bowling on TV: the bowlers are too good. They are robots programmed to throw strikes and spares. There is no drinking or swearing. No having a nervous break down and chucking a ball down the wrong lane. No throwing the ball when the pin setter is down and the guy behind the shoe counter yells and gives you "a warning." Nobody gets a ball stuck on his fingers and whips it at the people behind him like you can do on Wii Bowling. But the good thing is you can't taunt your opponent, or make fun of her for scoring 80 because, god, you guys are mean. I told you on the car ride here, I suck at bowling.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

I dare you to watch the whole thing. I TRIPLE-dog-dare you.

[Wegrzyn created a slight breach of etiquette by skipping the triple dare and going right for the throat]

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

x-mas link dump (part 6)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

van gogh letter sketches

Four people on a bench
To Theo from The Hague
September 1882 [262]

"Well, I hope that the small bench, even if not yet saleable, will show you that I have nothing against tackling subjects with something agreeable or pleasant about them, which are thus more likely to find buyers than things with a more sombre sentiment. [...]

Adieu again, a handshake in thought, and believe me, Ever yours, Vincent"

Before Van Gogh was Van Gogh, he was a financially struggling artist defining his philosophy about art and his place as an artist within the business. He was concerned about which paintings would sell and which paintings wouldn't.
You mustn’t, whatever you do, think that I have great expectations regarding the appreciation of my work — I believe one must be satisfied if one gets to the point where one can persuade a few people of the soundness of what one is striving for and is understood by them, without exaggerated praise.

And the rest is a matter of, if something comes of it so much the better, but something that one should even think about as little as possible. But still I believe the work has to be seen, precisely because the few friends can settle out from the stream of passers-by. One doesn’t have to be guided by what the majority say or do, though.

Self-affirmations are a familiar refrain for artists. Some days belief in them is empowering and some days it's a clap-if-you-believe-in-fairies plea to a cynical Lost Boy.

This collection of Van Gogh letter sketches is captivating as an affirmation of art and life. They illuminate the practical concerns of the artist in both art and business.

And it's fun to pretend you are pen pals with Vincent Van Gogh.

Much more at BibliOdyssey. Link.

Monday, December 21, 2009

katherine dunn lets her faucet drip

A good article on writer Katherine Dunn ("Geek Love"). Link.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

x-mas link dump (part 5)

I enjoy the 24/7 Xmas programming on WLIT, but even I have to change the radio when Christmas Shoes comes on. Okay sometimes I listen just to confirm its horribleness.

Friday, December 18, 2009

x-mas link dump (part 4)

Billy Squire - Christmas is the Time to Say I Love You

x-mas link dump (part 3)

Today is the last day of school before winter break. You pry off your snow-slushy boots that slurp the gold-toe socks half-off your foot, chuck your backpack on the mat next to the door (your Trapper Keeper crushes post Math Class holiday party candy canes into crumbs), and tromp down into your woodpaneled basement to watch X-mas commercials, sitcoms, and specials on your rabbit-eared TV. Will Vinton's Claymation Christmas Special will pop up sooner or later: This is Betamaxmas.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

best YouTube video of 2009?

I don't speak goat, but I think he's yelling to his wife to find his favorite dress pants to wear to a stupid work dinner he doesn't really want to go to anyway. But the open bar is top shelf liquor so where are his pants baaaaaaahhhhh!

x-mas link dump (part 2)

Silver Spoons - The Best Christmas Ever (1982)
There aren't enough sitcom episodes about impoverished families that take residence in well-furnished bear caves on the property of millionaire man-child toy moguls. Watching the whole thing is like challenging yourself to finish the bag of Fun Dip after you've eaten the two lick-a-sticks. Do you dump the rest of the pouch of purple sugar directly into your mouth, or do you use your saliva soaked index finger as God intended? This earnest holiday episode of Silver Spoons fills a crack in the soul of American entertainment with a gooey caulk of Christmas spirit. If there is one lesson I've learned here it is this: being rich solves everything.

x-mas link dump (part 1)

A mess of X-mas music of all sizes and shapes on the internets. Explore:

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

perhaps you noticed:

This blog is now Links and bookmarks pointed to the original address will continue to function as usual. No need to change anything, not that you would, because I haven't been posting. Actually -- true story -- I owned in 2003-2004. I let it expire. After all, it wasn't free like the bowl of Jolly Ranchers next to the cash register at the dry cleaners. And then somebody else bought the domain. Oh my god: frowny face! Who stole my domain?! I invented Chainsaw Calligraphy. I've been writing under Chainsaw Calligraphy ever since I used it as the title for my weekly humor column in Washington University's newspaper ( in 2001.

The domain was available again. So I reclaimed it. So there.

If this sounds like a renewed investment in the blog, perhaps. I don't know. MAYBE. Twitter has diffused the impulse to post dumb things I used to post here. But here's a stray thought: it would be great to be an astronaut repairing a satelite on a space walk because you get to pee in your work clothes. Most jobs would fire you for that.

I'm also trying to be more professional.

Friday, November 06, 2009

The sound effects make this cat fight something special.

Monday, November 02, 2009

man(u) vs. animal

Spurs player Manu Ginobli slaps a bat out of mid-air. Kind of impressive. Then he picks it up and I'm thinking he might want to Wikipedia bats and rabies before picking it up. And also he might not want to pick it up. But go ahead, Manu. You're a man. And you got a game to play.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

good advice

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Kiddieland drags its dirt-smudged Keds into that good night

Farewell, Kiddieland (1929 - 2009)

There's no escaping fun.

I love Kiddieland. The Tribune photo gallery makes it look like an abandoned carnival in post-meltdown Chernobyl. Lots of concrete and chain link fencing. Another icon from my fading youth goes to the scrap yard. I sigh over sepia-toned memories filled with sepia-flavored cotton candy. You'll never know the trouble I went through to get the Tilt-A-Whirl car with the best spin, or the heartbreak of losing my Notre Dame baseball cap on The Little Dipper roller coaster. How did I lose a hat on that thing? It only went like 10 MPH. It's been many years since my last visit to Kiddieland. Glorified carnival rides at Kiddieland made way for later adolescent pleasures at Six Flags, pleasures like getting whiplash on the Shockwave roller coaster and throwing up a funnel cake. Melrose Park won't be the same when Kiddieland closes its prison-grade fence forever. It's sad. What will children do next summer?

They'll probably watch TV. There's a lot of good stuff on TV. I'm not too worried.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

This Budweiser commercial was filmed on the El in Chicago. It was only aired in Ireland. The commercial is joyful and will make you want to buy Budweiser, even though it tastes like goat pee. The Beatles can sell anything!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

oldie but a goodie

Are you feeling motivated now?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Chicago, 1948

I know I know I know I know I know. "Where have you BEEN?!?"

I been around. (makes vague gesture).

I'll be back. (makes another vague gesture).

I caught a mouse in my kitchen last night, humane-like. I've done it before, so it's not as exciting as last time. Ho hum, yawn. Sure, I enjoy hearing the *thump* of the mouse falling and attaching the *thump* to a "yes! (fist pump) got him! The mouse looked so scared in the trash bin. I felt bad for it. But then I noticed the mouse poo and piss-splash it left on the stove. Screw him. No mercy for those who shit where I cook Ramen. Enjoy your new life dodging drunk kickball teams on the Winnemac Park baseball diamond.

Hey you Chicagophiles! These Traveltalk shorts about 1948 Chicago are too good not to share. Visions of recognizable monuments in an otherwise lost landscape. It seems the very 1940s sounding narrator James A. Fitzpatrick didn't read some of the copy prior to recording it, but that's part of the charm. There was much more Neon on Randolph Street in the 40s. I suppose there was much more urban neon everywhere in days gone by. I like the hushed bzzzzzsssst of a neon sign when there's no other noise around.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I'm glad I live in a country where accidents like this can happen

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Authorities said a bullet from a gun that was accidentally dropped injured a Tampa woman sitting in a bathroom stall. Police said the bullet hit 53-year-old Janifer Bliss in the lower left leg. She was taken to a hospital with minor injuries. Bliss was sitting on the toilet in a hotel bathroom when a woman in the next stall accidentally let her handgun slip out of her waist holster. The weapon discharged when it hit the ground. Police said the gun belonged to a 56-year-old woman who has a concealed weapons permit. (link)
Hotels in Tampa are rough. One minute you're taking a pee/poo, the next minute you're taking one in the leg.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

tara buck interview

Here's an interview with actor Tara Buck, discussing her role in my play Ten Cent Night currently playing at The Victory Theatre Center in Burbank, CA:

Tara has a recurring role on HBO's True Blood -- that's why this is on a True Blood fansite. There are no vampires in Ten Cent Night, but by golly, what a great idea for a rewrite. Alan Ball, call me.


Oh god, I love Gordon Ramsay. It's hot the way he calls contestants on Hell's Kitchen stupid donkeys. I gave his scrambled egg technique a whirl today. It's a terrific and easy way to make eggs if you like 'em salmonella soupy. I will never whisk my eggs again.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

The quick trip to San Diego was good. My 8:10pm flight out of O'Hare suffered a one hour "customer service delay" as the flight waited for 30 junior high school kids making a connection from New York. They finally got on the plane and started swapping seats with each other to sit next to friends, holding up the flight longer. Flight attendant on speaker: "Sit down, please. We WAITED for you. Take your seat NOW." Kids. If they're not on your lawn, they're screwing your air travel.

My first rental car experience went down easy if I don't count the part where I trekked across a long parking lot, only to watch my rental car back out of the parking space and drive away without me. It's almost midnight. I'm alone standing in a rental car parking lot watching the tail lights on my rental car disappear into the night. What just happened? It was like that scene in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles where Steve Martin gets to the rental space and there's nothing there but peel-away tire marks on the pavement ("You can give me a fucking automobile: a fucking Datsun, a fucking Toyota, a fucking Mustang, a fucking Buick! Four fucking wheels and a seat!" youtube it). So I had been assigned the same car as the customer ahead of me. For my inconvenience, I was upgraded to a sporty, blue Toyota Corolla with a trunk. Ohmygod I know, right?

The MOXIE Theatre production of The Butcher of Baraboo was a lot of fun. They served the play up right, and it's not an easy play to get right. Awesome set and design, killer acting, terrific directing. I saw it with a packed Saturday night house. Laughs in all the right places. It was nice to enjoy a production of that play as an audience member. Very satisfying to watch talented people take your script and make it fly. It was therapeutic, I suppose, if you know my history with the play. I enjoyed meeting everybody and hanging out after the show. Always fast friends in the theatre world. Glad I went. I wasn't going to go up until a week before closing weekend. But glad I did.

I just stayed up all night after the show, headed to the airport at 4:30 a.m. for my early-ass flight. I was in the emergency exit row on the airplane, so facing me was the flight attendant in the jump seat for takeoff and landing. As we were landing, a bird flew right by the window, and her eyes got big and she said, "Oh, wow, did you SEE that? That bird went right by the window. I've never seen a bird go right by the window like that. Are there any more out there?" Personally, I prefer my flight attendants to be a little more unflappable.

Friday, June 26, 2009

I decided last minute-ish to fly to San Diego to see this.

I'm out the door in a few.

A slight entertainment in the meantime. The genius of this, besides everything, is the use of a karaoke cover of Da Do Run Run. Get to the choppa, kitteh!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

I didn't see 'the piano lesson' at The Court

(on Gchat with Brian)

Brian: you know what i saw that was amazing was 'the piano lesson' at court

fucking loved it
really amazing
me: I haven't seen 1) anything at the Court, or 2) an August Wilson play. So I should probably see that
Brian: you'll get your chance again soon
ma rainey's black bottom is their first show of next season
same director
i've seen fences and the piano lesson at the court now and they were both amazing
me: I want to see The Piano Lesson, so, I should do something about that
Brian: it closed :(
me: FUCK!!!!!!!
(throws chair against an upright piano)
Brian: that's the lesson
me: Learned.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

o, california!

To my dear friends in California:

I know it's been rough. Your state is descending into crippling depression, it routinely gets set on fire, and earthquakes will cause it to drift into the Pacific. What can I do to help? I can offer the gift of theatre! Ooh aah. Two of my plays open on the West Coast very soon. They are funny plays. While you are laughing, you can forget that sharks have developed a taste for human meat as a result of Mexican drug traffickers dumping bodies in the ocean.

The Butcher of Baraboo produced by MOXIE Theatre
San Diego, CA
June 6 - June 28

Ten Cent Night produced by The Victory Theatre Center
Burbank, CA
June 19 - August 2

See, it's not all gloom and doom.

Friday, June 05, 2009

revised pixar film rankings

  1. Toy Story 2
  2. Wall-E
  3. Up
  4. Toy Story
  5. Monsters Inc
  6. The Incredibles
  7. A Bug's Life
  8. Finding Nemo
  9. Ratatouille
  10. Cars*
* I haven't seen Cars.

  • The first 10 minutes of Up made me as teary as the Sarah McLachlan musical interlude in Toy Story 2
  • Tough call between Wall-E and Up. I err on the side of adorable, sentient robots
  • However, I may swap the rankings of Up and Monsters Inc in a few years
  • I'm in the minority on my #7 ranking of A Bug's Life

first names are disregarded

A startling declaration in the stacks of the Harold Washington Library. It's not accurate. First names are regarded when multiple authors have the same last name. In your face, Chicago Public Library.

I was there to return an overdue book that I didn't finish and wasn't going to finish. Might as well browse the shelves and pick up another book that will accrue a fine 3+ weeks from now. Thanks always to the circulation desk staff for your belligerent service. I understand that checking out books is a major fucking inconvenience.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

On the timeline of human existence, falling thousands of feet from the sky into the ocean at hundreds of miles per hour is a new way to die. A plane crash would be as exotic to a caveman as being gored by a mastodon would be to me. What's so terrifying about an airplane catastrophe (besides the whole "it could happen to you" part followed by the whole death part) is the amount of time it would take from the airplane breaking apart -- assuming you survive that -- to final impact. Do any physics brains want to do the math? Minutes, right? Holy shit, right? I would be too jacked with fear and adrenaline to do much beyond process the endgame stimuli. I probably wouldn't even unbuckle from my plummeting seat. Would I be conscious at the rapid loss of cabin pressure? I have no idea. The living can only speculate about the journey to death. When these news stories cause anxiety, I find this episode of This American Life comforting: Last Words

(yes, I know, air travel is a million times safer than driving a mile from my apartment blah blah blah)

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

lalala omg wtf haha

Whenever I'm having a bad day, I do two things.

#1) I think about all the words that mean "to spray with shit"

  • bescumber
  • conskite
  • immerd
  • ordurous
  • sharny
  • shitten
#2) I watch this 24 second clip of a guy singing and smoking (something) in the shower. I've been meaning to never ever post this YouTube video, but it has turned into my favorite thing on the Internet after Geoffrey posted it on his Facebook page.

Watch this clip a few times. Do not worry if you do not understand it. This is not a litmus test.

Study Guide Questions:
  1. Why was this filmed and posted on the Internet?
  2. What is he smoking?
  3. Why is there shaving cream on his face when he is clearly not at the shaving point of his hygienic ritual?
  4. At 0:17, our hero discovers the meaning of life. In 10 words or less, please explain the meaning of life.
  5. No, really, what is he smoking?

Sunday, May 31, 2009

This is almost as good as the literal video version of A-HA's Take on Me.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

wendy and lucy

I'll keep this brief. Wendy and Lucy made my soul ache. I have a soft spot for stories about lonely, quiet drifters. Give that lonely drifter a dog that will, no doubt, wind up in trouble, and it kills me. Toss me on the junk heap, 'cause I'll be a wreck by the time the credits roll. The story is simple. Wendy is on the way to Alaska. Her car breaks down in Oregon, she has no money, she loses her only friend, Lucy the dog. Now what? Jesus, yeah, now what?

As a person who likes to travel independently, I had a visceral response to Wendy's story. I've never been in her situation. If I was in serious trouble, I have family I can call. But I could easily imagine myself in Wendy's shoes. The villains in this story are bad luck, bad decisions, and not enough money; the heroes are perseverance and the small kindnesses of strangers.

I've never been a big fan of Michelle Williams before, but her performance as Wendy is just right. It's sad and exhausting and hopeful. What's amazing about Wendy is just how unamazing she is. She's a young woman in a tough spot who is just wants to get her dog back.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

this is why the internet was invented

One of the more weirdly specific, local interest blogs you will find: Rogers Park Cheetos is a photoblog that documents the occurrence of empty Cheeto bags in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago:

Ever since I found this blog, I've started noticing Cheeto bag litter. It's EVERYWHERE.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Diversey Harbor: final weekend (sad trombone)

It's difficult to fathom how 844 people died within tens of feets (inappropriate English) from the edge of the Chicago River near LaSalle and Wacker; fathom the few fathoms of water it took to drown so many, and the mind flails and flops in the whirling fathoms of bafflement. On a Chicago Ghost Tour way back, I took a photo of this very spot. There were ghosts everywhere.

I'll be done shilling for the play Diversey Harbor after this weekend. We close Sunday May 10. I may hope to have more Diversey Harbor news at a later date, but for now, we'll stuff the stories into our battered steamer trunk, lug it up into the attic, and cover it with a bed sheet to protect it from the years and years of dust.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

It's way too easy to make fun of Cleveland.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

There is an entire genre of books about people who give themselves crazy assignments just so they can write a book about doing the crazy thing they wanted to write about (see also: Know It All and Round Ireland With a Fridge). Sometimes these things start as a blog that leads to a book deal, as was the case with Julie & Julia. It's an enjoyable book that my mom recommended, and it's really the kind of book that everybody's mom would recommend. The preview for the movie based on the book based on the blog is also enjoyable. How could a movie with Meryl Streep and Amy Adams and Stanley Tucci not be enjoyable, at the very least? Now is the time to start brainstorming actors who should play me in Chainsaw Calligraphy: The Movie based on the book I haven't written based on the blog I sometimes neglect.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

try try again

Chainsaw Calligraphy wouldn't be Chainsaw Calligraphy without the occasional squirrel post. I guess? Shrug.

It's not that I like squirrels. No, not like. I'm never thrilled when a squirrel tries to break into my apartment. But -- oh -- I don't know -- if I had to choose, gun to my head, I would pick squirrel as my favorite urban animal. Why is there a gun to my head over this? Why am I blindfolded being asked about urban animals, gun to my head? Oh god. I should never have gotten in that van.

I like when a squirrel chases another squirrel up a tree, barber pole style. And then I wonder if the squirrel being chased is in on the fun or, if they were human beings with cell phones, the chased squirrel would be calling 911.

Here is a charming squirrel video.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

nobody doesn't like bob ross

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

coke bomb explosion prank

We all know that Mentos + Diet Coke leads to explosive fizz. Science can be fun. And evil.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Diversey Harbor Reloaded

Theatre Seven's production of Diversey Harbor is open.

A review round-up here.

This production is a remount of our 2007 production (an evening that also included Sexual Perversity in Chicago). The original production was performed in the former Rogue Theatre/Red Hen Theatre on Clark Street, south of Foster. That storefront space is no longer a theater. It's an upscale furniture store. It is gutted and airy and full of furniture I cannot afford.

I'm pleased with the production. For me, hearing the play is more potent than seeing any photos taken from my post-collegiate years. I have so few photos anyway. This is the only play I've written that's semi-autobiographical. Very semi. There are a few little details that were never full stories in my own life. Well, getting mugged was a full story, but now I mostly whip that out when I want to brag about how totally bad ass I was to take a gun to the face and not end up dead.

So, yes, on that note.

I hope you can see it.

photo by Mike Boehmer at The Windy Pixel

Friday, April 03, 2009

holophonic sound

Grab a good pair of headphones and check out "A Virtual Haircut" on this post. Close your eyes. Whoa.

I wonder if anybody is using holophony in podcasting? Especially for audio drama. It is gimmicky, but with good writing and a grasp on how to use sound in the story, it could be really great.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Choreographed spontaneity at Centraal Station van Antwerpen in Belgium.

Monday, March 30, 2009

sandwich clap

There are sandwich shops in the Chicago area, and other areas I imagine, that employ guitar playing (sometimes harmonica wearing) musicians during the busy lunchtime hours. These singers will cover Bob Dylan, Wilco, and a Jack Johnson song.

I am not complaining. This is not a complaint.

Today, I ate a turkey, ham, and roast beef sandwich to a solo guitar cover of Michael Jackson's Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'. It was very good. So was the sandwich. And if you've been in the situation of live musical performance in a non-concert setting, you run into the clapping dilemma. The song ends, and it is very good, and this is the point where the audience claps to express appreciation for the musical talent/entertainment/enjoyment.

But you are trapped. Trapped in a sandwich shop, eating a sandwich. In these sandwich shops, nobody claps. The hands are busy with the sandwich, or mid conversation, or not really caring because they did not come for a musical performance.

Perhaps you are caught in a fit of solipsism and the thought of a musical performance occurring outside the friendly confines of your skull is too much to think about while you eat your sandwich.

Also, there is no tip jar for the musician. So there's not even that. No tip, no applause, no nothin for your fellow man.

I don't lose sleep over this issue, but would like to acknowledge a subtle awkwardness when a song ends and nobody claps. If you feel like clapping, you should clap, even if you are the only one. That sounds like a variation of a famous quote I don't feel like Google searching right now.

A three year old boy gave the musician a potato chip on the way out. I know that sounds adorable, but otherwise, the kid was fucking annoying, and I was happy when he left.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

all the cats join in (disney, 1946)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Another video from the makers of "Forest Gump" in One Minute. Kill Bill 1 & 2.

Friday, March 20, 2009

r.i.p. space bat

Continuing on the theme of animals I have encountered in or alarmingly near my apartment, did you hear the one about the bat that clung to space shuttle Discovery as it was launched into space a few days ago? From

The animal was last seen clinging on the foam of the external tank of the space shuttle moments before the Discovery launched, officials said. NASA officials had hoped the bat would fly away on its own, but admitted the bat probably died quickly during Discovery's climb into orbit. ... The expert said it appeared to be a free-tailed bat that probably had a broken left wing and an injured right shoulder or wrist.
Imagine: it would be like calling in sick to work to sit in bed and rest a sprained ankle. All of a sudden, your bed is launched into fucking outer space. On the bright side, you wouldn't have to go back to work the next day. Or ever.

Here is an earnest tribute to an animal that dared to explore the unknown. A true hero. Never forget.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

When I was a little girl, the illustration on the cover of this book made me nervous.
The kids and that dog were totally screwed.

Shel Silverstein was my earliest introduction to subversive humor. His poems were the bedtime stories of my childhood.

It’s much more obvious that Silverstein had no qualms writing children’s literature that was less than shiny and happy. Probably the best example is 1964’s Who Wants a Cheap Rhinoceros? In it, a boy lists numerous reasons why a priced-to-sell rhino would make a sound investment, including “He can open soda cans for your uncle.” and “He is great at imitating a shark.” Gradually, however, the lines get a lot less goofy. On one page, the boy describes the rhino as “good for yelling at,” which is accompanied by a picture of the abject, tearful pet. Another page suggests the rhino is “great for not letting your mother hit you when you really haven’t done anything bad.”

Lines such as those are particularly shocking, but they ultimately reflect one of the most innovative aspects of Silverstein’s work—a sense of mutual respect and honesty often lacking in children’s literature. Silverstein firmly rejected the notion that characters should always ride off into a sunset or that kids should be taught to aspire to an all-rosy-all-the-time life. In fact, one of his greatest impacts on the genre was proving that creating great children’s literature doesn’t always mean treating your readers like kids. But Silverstein perhaps summed up his philosophy best in “The Land of Happy” from Sidewalk: “There’s no one unhappy in Happy / There’s laughter and smiles galore. / I have been to the Land of Happy— / What a bore!”

-From Mark Peters' profile on Shel Silverstein at Mental Floss

Monday, March 16, 2009

pencil & paper

There is a good post at Tomorrow Museum about creativity and basic tools:

If your tools chose you, they can also choose to leave you if you can’t afford them. But everyone has access to pencil and paper. Everyone can archive their thoughts in the most basic form available.

Many gold medal runners come from third world countries. Not so many divers, fencers, skiers, or golfers. Why is it, other than the ease of running. No required uniforms, no required equipment. You don’t need to ask your friend, (leisure time is a scarcity too in poorer countries.) All you need to run is your own body.

In the west, we get hung up on sneakers for overpronators and iPod-plugin pedometers. In actuality, running is the sport that anyone can do — and do well with natural gift and determination…. Like writing and sketching.

The artist who needs 50 tons of steel for the next project is vulnerable to a choking of his creative talent due to grants denied and such things. The one who can make something powerful with nothing more than paper and pencil knows no matter how hard life gets, he can always create.
I try to ween myself from laptop dependence. I try. I fail. Try and fail, again, again. I fantasize about pencil and paper. I like to write by hand, but stories catch on my fast typing fingers and not so much in wrist and graphite. Maybe one day I'll get a draft of something on lined paper in a spiral notebook. I have many writing sticks and the raw materials for a fleet of paper airplanes. 'Til then I search for electrical outlets at coffee shops. My eyeballs ache with screen fatigue. Try, fail, try.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Saturday, March 14, 2009

tied houses

I enjoyed a delicious Schlitz Beer at the Gale Street Inn in Jefferson Park on Thursday evening. Schlitz is "The Beer that made Milwaukee Famous" (their slogan) or "If ever a beer tasted like it was brewed in a toilet, this is it." Oh, I like Schlitz. A $3.75 Schlitz is a bit -- cough cough -- much; however, Gale Street Inn pours it into a fancy glass, a fancy glass that makes me feel fancy in turn, so... (shrug)

Drinking that delicious fame-making brew got me thinking of Schlitz Tied Houses. Lakeview bars Schubas and Southport Lanes are examples of well-preserved Tied Houses in Chicago. There is a terrific article about these Tied Houses at Forgotten Chicago (lots of cool pictures!). From the article:

A “tied house” was a type of saloon that originated in England, but gained infamy in pre-prohibition America. An institution that was believed to promote intemperance, tied houses were one of many factors leading to national prohibition in 1919. A number of former tied houses remain in Chicago, long after the practice has been made illegal. Most of the remaining buildings were tied to the Milwaukee-based Schlitz brewery.

Ironically, the event which led to tied houses arising in Chicago came from an attempt at reforming liquor sales. In 1884, license fees to operate a saloon in the city were steeply raised in order to squeeze out lower class dives. Instead of going out of business, many saloon owners who could not afford the fee turned to breweries for financial assistance. The brewery would supply all the necessary accouterments to run a saloon. In exchange, the saloon keeper would be compelled to sell only that supporting brewery’s beer.
If you're a Chicago familiar, you'll see former Tied Houses around town.

The history of Prohibition is fascinating, and it illuminates some of the current, quiet rumbling about the possibility of legalizing, regulating, and taxing marijuana to help sad-sack budget shortfalls. Of course there have always been pot-smoking, sandal-wearing hippies in California saying happy tabaccy should be legal. Maybe our totally hosed economy will help legalize the dread weed before drunk drivers crash futuristic flying cars into the 23rd floor of a downtown building.

Friday, March 13, 2009

daft punk + snow white = dwarfed punk

Effective May 23, The Art Institute of Chicago will increase adult admission from $12 to $18. Student and senior citizens admission will increase from $7 to $12. Get your twelve buck jollies while you can. This variation of Hopper's Nighthawks will not be on display. True art needs no explanation.

In other price-jacking news, the price of a U.S. first class postage stamp increases by 2 cents on May 11. This news isn't brand new, I'm just a month behind on life. I'm stocked on Forever stamps, but I'm also stocked on Edgar Allen Poe stamps that will soon need a 2 cent Navajo Necklace stamp buddy. Or two 1 cent Tiffany Lamps. Stamps!

Norm Gunderson: They announced it.
Marge Gunderson: They announced it?
Norm Gunderson: Yeah.
Marge Gunderson: So?
Norm Gunderson: Three-cent stamp.
Marge Gunderson: Your mallard?
Norm Gunderson: Yeah.
Marge Gunderson: Oh, that's terrific.
Norm Gunderson: It's just a three-cent stamp.
Marge Gunderson: It's terrific.
Norm Gunderson: Hautman's blue-winged teal got the 29-cent. People don't much use the three-cent.
Marge Gunderson: Oh, for Pete's sake. Of course they do. Whenever they raise the postage, people need the little stamps.
Norm Gunderson: Yeah?
Marge Gunderson: When they're stuck with a bunch of the old ones.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

local interest: this day in chicago bank robbery

A man (allegedly) robbed two banks in one hour this afternoon. The first bank was downtown, a Chase bank at 340 N. State in Marina City. The second bank was 6443 N Sheridan Rd, a Citibank in Rogers Park. There was no mention of a getaway car, so I'm assuming he took the Red Line covered in an exploded bank dye pack. And he got from downtown to Rogers Park in one hour? Google maps says this trip takes 38 minutes, but I would have allowed for an hour to make the trip:

View Larger Map

I don't condone bank robbery. I'm just impressed that he robbed two banks at these two addresses in one hour, that's all.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

the butcher in a book

My play The Butcher of Baraboo appears in a new anthology, New Playwrights: The Best Plays of 2008. It might be on bookstore shelves eventually, or for sale on

Monday, March 09, 2009

Forest Gump in one minute, in one take

add this to your bucket list: use a coinstar machine

I would give my grocery store Coinstar experience an A-. The minus is because I couldn't trick it into taking Canadian coins, or the ugly, dirty, goober-covered pennies, those reject pennies that a cashier will sometimes give me with my change and it's just awful receiving a vomit penny in change. Makes my hand feel dirty, and by extension, my soul. My filthy, filthy soul.

So maybe you think: well I can go to my bank and take care of that jar of change. Sure. Sure you could. There are worse things you could do with it. Dump it off a highway overpass? Wow, don't do that.

At the bank, would the teller say "Cha-ching!" when he was done sorting and counting your change? No. You will not get that kind of service from a human being who would like to keep his job at the bank.

The Coinstar machine says "Cha-ching!" It doesn't make a "Cha-ching" sound. It is the voice of a dude saying "Cha-ching!" A Coinstar machine is more fun than going to the bank. It's the most fun I've had inserting coins into a machine since the Claw Machine at Bennigan's, and I always walked away disappointed because I couldn't get the claw to pick up the pair of toy handcuffs. You're always going to win at a Coinstar machine!

Downside: if you are going to a Coinstar machine to change your coins into bills, there's a counting fee of 8.9 cents for every dollar; however, there is no counting fee if you turn your change into a gift certificate. I was planning on ordering a few CDs off anyway, and so, what the hey, right? If ain't your bag, you can turn your change into gift certificates for iTunes, Starbucks, and Eddie Bauer. Yes, Eddie Bauer, because there are people in this world who see a jar of coins and say, "FUCK, dawg, you know what I can get with this?! A backpack."

I had this Tupperware container full of change: no quarters though, because, y'know, laundry. Tupperware container, not big, maybe a little bigger than something I'd use for a sandwich if I liked sandwiches filled with pennies, nickels, and dimes. My total haul from that small container was $39.45. I think I was so charmed by my Coinstar experience because it magically turned a heavy Tupperware container of coins that I've been hauling from apartment to apartment over the last four years into Neko Case CDs.

Coins are money, and money is exchanged for goods and services; a patented, self-service kiosk intermediary at the grocery store really isn't that big a deal. On the other hand, I was just as amazed as Brendan Fraser in Encino Man when he sees Pauly Shore use a lighter: flame-age!

Saturday, March 07, 2009

cult of done manifesto

This is a good list to visit if you're having trouble finishing things. Or getting started. Or watching too much Netflix when you should be finishing or starting things. This list was written by a hacker/builder/inventor (cult of done manifesto via boingboing), but it seems to apply to writing or pretty much anything that needs to get done.

1. There are three states of being. Not knowing, action and completion.
2. Accept that everything is a draft. It helps to get it done.
3. There is no editing stage.
4. Pretending you know what you're doing is almost the same as knowing what you are doing, so just accept that you know what you're doing even if you don't and do it.
5. Banish procrastination. If you wait more than a week to get an idea done, abandon it.
6. The point of being done is not to finish but to get other things done.
7. Once you're done you can throw it away.
8. Laugh at perfection. It's boring and keeps you from being done.
9. People without dirty hands are wrong. Doing something makes you right.
10. Failure counts as done. So do mistakes.
11. Destruction is a variant of done.
12. If you have an idea and publish it on the internet, that counts as a ghost of done.
13. Done is the engine of more.
On #4 - I think it's equally liberating to accept that you don't know what you're doing, so do whatever and trust that you'll learn as you go.

On #12 - another ghost of done is talking about "this great idea you have!" Which is why I can't talk about what I'm working on until it's done.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

sleepwalking fail

Amanda: do you read fail blog at all?
(can you tell I'm bored?)
me: I read failblog all the time
Amanda: did you watch the sleepwalking fail today?
me: Ha, yeah
Amanda: I just watched it for the third time
me: I'm going to watch it again now

Amanda: nomar had a similar issue last night. he was sleeping next to me on the couch. he started breathing really fast in his sleep and then flipped over into a standing position and hissed at the air
wish I knew what he had been dreaming about
me: wacky
He twitches a lot in his sleep
Amanda: yes he does

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

what do you want to be when you grow up? dead? that can be arranged if you blow dry your hair in the tub

I stare at this tag while I brush my teeth.

It's attached to the hairdryer I bought from the money I won in a poker game a few years ago. The morning of that game, my old hairdryer sucked some of my hair through the back vent. That painfully stupid thing was followed by a few sparks and a horrible burning hair smell, the end. That night I won second place at a kitchen table Texas Hold 'Em tourney at The Brad's. Pair of pocket Queens put 60 bucks in my pocket, and I bought a new hairdryer at Walgreen's on the walk home.

A few things about this tag:

"UNPLUG IT" makes it a candidate for The "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks.

I "unplug it" after every use.

Which means I don't unplug it ever.

The hairdryer in the illustration is Princess Vespa's hairdryer in the movie Spaceballs.

I would like to warn children about death by electric shock and include a bonus lesson: How to tell if a person is being electrocuted by Direct Current or Alternating Current. (teaser: AC involves convulsions).

Monday, March 02, 2009

fantasy baseball

I joined a fantasy baseball league. It's a no money, head-to-head Yahoo public league, so I'm probably playing against a bunch of 14 year old boys. I'm trying to figure out fake baseball. If anybody would like to give me any advice, here is my team, Can of Corn. Other teams in the league include: Boston's Best, Green Bulldogs, and I LOVE HALLE BERRY! If my team looks terrible, it's because Yahoo auto-drafted it. If my team looks amazing, then, why yes, I know how to let auto-draft pick a team. Play ball.

C - Chris Iannetta (Col - C)
1B - James Loney (LAD - 1B)
2B - Brandon Phillips (Cin - 2B)
3B - Evan Longoria (TB - 3B)
SS - José Reyes (NYM - SS)
OF - Jacoby Ellsbury (Bos - OF)
OF - Magglio Ordóñez (Det - OF)
OF - Jermaine Dye (CWS - OF)
Util - Aramis Ramírez (ChC - 3B)
BN - Milton Bradley (ChC - OF)
BN - Adam Lind (Tor - OF)
BN - Jason Giambi (Oak - 1B)
BN - Melvin Mora (Bal - 3B)

- - -pitching - - -
SP - Félix Hernández (Sea - SP)
SP -James Shields (TB - SP)
RP - Carlos Mármol (ChC - RP)
RP - Chris Pérez (StL - RP)
P - Yovani Gallardo (Mil - SP)
P - Scott Baker (Min - SP)
P - Ted Lilly (ChC - SP)
BN - Jair Jurrjens (Atl - SP)

don't you have better things to do, squirrel?

Sunday, March 01, 2009

I hate my job value menu fries

. . . is what I call Wendy's french fries dumped upside down in the bag with the cardboard fry box on top. This is the way your bag is handed to you, but you don't know this until the bottom of the bag bleeds grease. It's okay. I would hate working at Wendy's too.

Chicago people who miss the jazz programming that used to be on 91.5fm WBEZ should see if 90.9 fm WDCB comes in on your radio. They broadcast out of the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, IL. Where is that? Why, right down the road from the Fermi National Accelerator Lab, of course! Duh. I get the station pretty well on my stereo with the long antenna, though it'll sputter and fizz if I'm walking around my apartment. "Blues Before Sunrise" early Sunday, midnight - 5:00 a.m. is great if you're still up after a rowdy Saturday night. Enjoy it with your favorite sippin' beverage.

Friday, February 27, 2009

now I'm going to talk to a squirrel

Hey squirrel, how's it goin'? I like your fur, that looks really great. You tryin' to break into my apartment, squirrel? What's that about? Are you related to the squirrel that jumped out of a garbage can at me at the park? Good luck trying to get through the window screen and then through a pane of glass. I could do it, but I have scissors and hammer. So it was great to meet you. Say 'hi' to your mother for me.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

to the tintinnabulation that so musically wells

I'm no philatelist, but I love the new Edgar Allan Poe stamp. Its sepia tone accented with the red USA 42 and dark blue... ascot? Is that right? What tie is that? It makes me want to write a letter.

kid + drugs = you know what

Kid gets teeth cut out of his head. Kid still drugged when Dad takes him home. Dad has video camera. Hilarity ensues. Found this over at BoingBoing, so this kid is going to be all over the internet soon enough. Lucky him.

I had some oral surgery when I was younger. I had a bunch of extra teeth in my skull that were going to cause problems. I know I had some of whatever this kid is on. I don't remember too much, other than my sister making fun of me when I got home because I had to stand over the sink anytime I wanted to drink water.

Monday, January 19, 2009

the art of brevity

One Sentence: True stories, told in one sentence

I'm not interested when people acknowledge that "history is being made" the moment that something possibly historic happens. It's like if someone was grilling hamburgers and asked me how well done I'd like my future bowel movement. History and poop happen later.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

chicago history + crime = interesting

The Chicago Crime Scenes Project:

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

This video isn't new, but it makes me laugh every time I watch it. Kitten Surprise -or- How To Break Up A Cat Fight.

Monday, January 12, 2009


The best advice I can give someone who is moving to Chicago is to hold off on purchasing lawn chairs. You'll find a variety of crappy lawn furniture left in empty, yet shoveled, parking spaces, all of it free for the taking. Funny how a little snow makes people so generous. This person only has one chair to offer and hopes you need a plastic crate, for storing a stack of Rod Stewart LPs or the Beanie Baby collection that is sure to appreciate in value because you didn't cut off the tags. (you didn't cut off the tags, right?)

You have a car, you spend an hour shoveling it out of a mountain courtesy of Mr. Plow, of course you have a sense of entitlement. Somebody moved this office chair out of its parking spot:

You see which chair I'm talking about? See it there? Circled in red, with a -- duh -- arrow pointing at it? The really uncomfortable-looking office chair that deserves to be in a pile of snow, punishment for being a crappy chair. God, I wouldn't even want to take that chair. Looks like something you'd tie a blindfolded hostage to before you rolled them down a concrete stairwell.

Winter parking dibs, ye scourge and scoundrel. Good thing is: it's non-enforceable. Parking enforcement looks the other way if you do it, but sure as shit isn't coming to your rescue if someone parks in your blocked-off spot. Feel free to fling those chairs in a way that won't cause property damage. Established modes will remain established through mindless compliance and misguided empathy. Do not honor the by proxy power of a child's Big Wheel unless there is a child sitting in it.


Of course I want to be a good neighbor. Sure I do! I acknowledge that you spent an hour shoveling a public street. Well done. Now leave your car there and that space is all yours.

people who deserve it

A link from David:

Kinda goes along with people who call dibs on shoveled street parking.

Thursday, January 08, 2009