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.