Monday, June 29, 2009

Jack Bauer's Day Off

You gotta love summertime in Chicago. Our fair city claims six murders in 24 hours over the weekend. Suck it, New York!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Good News For The "ShamWow" Dude

Sometimes celebrity deaths happen in more than threes. After Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, and Michael Jackson met their maker, Oxy-Clean pitchman Billy Mays is found dead at his home. Rest in peace, you magnificent stain-fighting sonofabitch.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Goodnight, Sweet Freak

I'm not sure if anyone can pinpoint the moment when it started to go south for Michael Jackson. He was a prolific artist, a cultural phenomenon, and the scion of a musical dynasty whose very name became a punchline, synonymous with outlandish behavior, questionable sexuality, and arcane publicity stunts. He was weeks away from launching a comeback with a month of sold-out shows in London. He died today, after suffering a heart attack at age 50.

I was 13 when Thriller came out and, for kids of my generation and thereafter, it represented a cultural touchstone in music. I was a metalhead, but irrespective of your musical tastes, there was no one who didn't fall under the thrall of the guy. His music was suggestive without being overt, the grooves were undeniable, and if you liked girls- you made sure you were listening to Michael Jackson. He was a genuinely gifted artist borne of the Motown tradition who was the inspiration for subsequent generations of pop artists. In stark contrast to the packaged, computer-generated faux pop of today, he was the real deal. As he was seemingly unable to transition successfully from boy to man, his legacy became less about artistic accomplishments and more about the sideshow- sham weddings, hidden children, living in Neverland, "Jesus juice", a face that seemed like a game of human Jenga. Whatever his motivations and desires later in life, he still occupies a very important place in music history. Ironically, his comeback shows could have put him on the road to financial salvation. Now, we'll never know what the third act of Jacko's life might have been.


All that and a bag of chips...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Nicoteen Fix

President Obama (who began smoking as a teenager) signed sweeping new anti-smoking legislation into law, regulating certain ingredients and designating changes in the marketing of tobacco products with respect to minors. The civil libertarian in me gets nervous when government begins to exert its influence on personal choices. However, smoking is a habit that also negatively impacts the collective, through higher insurance costs and second-hand toxins.

One of the provisions states that tobacco products may not be advertised within a certain distance from schools. So, the same ordinances that apply to pedophiles now apply to cigarettes, which is fitting- neither one should be in a kid's mouth.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

13,870 Days Later

It was 38 years ago today that I became the largest baby ever born at Ft. Lee Army Hospital in Virginia. It was an anecdotal bit of infamy and I doubt the record is still mine. But with my 20th high school reunion on the horizon (and all of the attendant curiosity, doubt, nostalgia, and retroactive insecurity that accompanies it) it's interesting to contemplate- irrespective of time passed- just how little we can ever really know ourselves. Or each other.

Where would the fun be, otherwise?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Props To The Pops

Comedian Jim Gaffigan has a great line about the role of the father during childbirth- "Where would you like me to stand, terrified?" There's not much for us to do until that little cabbage sees daylight for the first time. It's rightly assumed that a mother's bond with her child is something of near-cosmic proportions. It's tough to top having your child start off in your own body; that's a rock/paper/scissors that we guys will always lose. As a result, the perception of a father is sometimes one of happenstance. But that role cannot be overstated. I think of the impact my dad has had on my life, and I hope that I can somehow weave that same tapestry for my own children. It's one of respect, fortitude, generosity, altruism, sacrifice, and a million other elements. Parenting is a minefield of successes and missteps, and it's a lifelong work in progress. There are plenty of fathers for whom a child is merely a postscript. More than ever, it's truly important to recognize the others who quietly do their best every day of the year. Happy Father's Day.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Crapper's Delight

Jesus. I really don't know where to start with this. Someone spent money to patent and produce this thing, then more money to convince us that it's actually necessary for anyone under 400 lbs. How the word "dignity" made it into the script is beyond me. There's nothing comfortable here. You'll feel unclean just watching it.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Channel 44

Bill Maher nails it again.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Highway To Health

The resurgence of the health care reform debate in Congress has exposed unfortunate truths that no amount of partisan posturing can ameliorate. Primarily, the immense influence-purchasing power of the pharmaceutical and insurance lobbies. The force is strong with them, HMO-Bi-Wan. But it's become a comedy cloaked in tragedy. When it comes to protecting overseas corporate tax shelters or unrepentantly forking over more bailout funds for companies "too big to fail", we're reminded by our elected officials that the corporations must be able to compete in a global economy. True enough. However, that same focus on international community conveniently dissipates like a fart in a sandstorm at the suggestion that we look to the members of that global economy for guidance on creating a more equitable health care system. Why would we want to learn from a country like Sweden? That's almost French! Except that Sweden is one of many nations spending far less of their GDP on health care and providing much better coverage to their citizens. To be fair, Sweden is a much smaller country than ours and single-payer coverage has its own pitfalls. But the fact remains that the United States spends 19% of its GDP on health care and is still ranked 37th worldwide. Detractors of reform say that we have the best doctors and hospitals in the world. Faint praise if increasingly fewer people can afford access to them, despite paying increasingly more for "coverage". If a tree falls sick in the forest...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Arrr Ya Hungry?

Those wacky Somali pirates are still wreaking havoc in international waters. They recently released a Nigerian tugboat that they captured last August. 10 months?? Aside from a few burned copies of Re-Animator, I'm clearly not versed in the ways of piracy- but what the hell could a tugboat have that's worth hanging onto for almost a year? And why can't the rescue teams just distract these pirates with food? Leave the M-60s at the consulate; pull up with a dinghy carrying chafing dishes full of spaghetti (because, really- who doesn't love Italian food?) and hoagies. These are Somali pirates- they're probably grabbing these ships to raid the galleys, anyway. "Is that pizza? All we brought were dirt sandwiches and plantains. We surrender!" A surgical military strike is no match for that.

Monday, June 15, 2009

When Doves Limp

Prince needs hip-replacement surgery. Figures. All those cold winters getting gorgeous, unsuspecting babes naked in Lake Minnetonka will shrink your balls and sockets after a while. These days, he's a reclusive, Target-shilling Jehovah's Witness whose songs have become far less appropriate for your "Bumpin' Uglies Mix". But keep in mind that this guy is still wildly prolific, criminally underrated as a guitarist, and was a swordsman of the highest order back in the day. Plus, he managed to make Minneapolis seem interesting for about six months. I think we should all chip in on getting the Purple One some new pins. After all, Prince (like his homeboy Jesus) would still Die 4 U.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The House Always Wins

You know how some people explain tragedy with, "it was their time to go"? Either that's actually true or the people behind the new Final Destination sequel are going to great lengths for publicity.

Woman Who Missed Air France Flight Killed In Car Crash

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Neither Did The Last Guy

The new head of GM says he "doesn't know anything about cars".

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Trojan Horse

Heroin trafficking in Afghanistan and Pakistan is the world's major source of opium and yields about 4 billion dollars annually for the Taliban and Al-Qaida, funding their operational costs. They're not selling all that heroin within their own borders and their cash crop hasn't been a victim of global recession. With our nation's seemingly insatiable desire for illegal substances, it's depressing to know we're helping to fund terrorism. The real war on drugs is more than a marketing slogan and the tide doesn't seem to be turning in our favor.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Sound Of One Hand

Even at 72, actor David Carradine had a reputation for being a swinger, and I think he ended up taking it too literally. He pulled a Michael Hutchence last week while filming in Bangkok: found dead in a closet, hanging with his hands and Little Kung Fu roped off. Well hung, indeed. Quick travel tip: if you're in Thailand and you end up having sex with yourself- you've missed a hell of a lot on the local "To Do" list. I don't get autoerotic asphyxiation. I've done my share of freaky shit and I understand how sex can get boring, but I don't see how it's ever gonna get SO boring that I'm left with that as an option. Frankly, I can't imagine a more undignified way to die. (Actually, I can- his brother, Robert, will meet his maker having been responsible for THREE Revenge Of The Nerds movies.) It's a wasteful death, too. The image of your dad/husband/brother/grandfather accidentally dying while rubbing one out would eclipse whatever legacy they might have otherwise left. The French call the orgasm, le petit mort- the little death. I guess some people think getting your freak on is worth risking the big one, too. Rest in peace, Grasshopper.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Boob Tube

Now that Breaking Bad is over for the season, I've switched gears to Daisy Of Love on VH1. If you don't watch, I'm pretty sure you're missing the tipping point in "reality" dating shows. We all know the formula: Daisy (one of the herpes delivery systems voted off Bret Michaels' Rock Of Love) is a sweetly clueless wannabe pop star in a house full of a dozen suitors, all vying for her affection (read: "hoping to get their own show next year"). The monkey wrench in this show is what makes it so addictive: instead of the standard elimination challenges, these dudes keep walking out on their own. The result is anticlimactic at best and throws poor Daisy into paroxysms of crying and self-pity. The upside is that it may be the first show of its kind where the contestants are less annoying than the host. The casting is predictable- the cage fighter, the goth rocker, the assorted meatheads and pretty boys- all covered in enough bad ink to make Paul Booth weep. But these guys engage in so much infighting, that the blonde sex doll they're supposedly trying to impress becomes secondary. This time, even they seem to know that being on this show isn't worth the hassle. In the losing interest department, the contestants have finally caught up with the viewers.

You know it's getting desperate when I'm thankful for the return of Gene Simmons.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Sun Rah

Despite some leftover rainy, 50-degree days- summertime in Chicago is almost officially here. Three months of bags in the alley, drinking tequila and Squirt, Pitchfork, jogging with my badass girlfriend. Damn.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Absolution Calling

Even organized religion is experiencing a recession. The Vatican is bummed that Catholics aren't going to confession much anymore. Church officials cite the fact that fewer people distinguish between good and evil and don't go for penance. Hypocritical, to say the least, given that many clergy members seem to have trouble making the distinction themselves. (I would cite the fact that, past the age of eleven, you're pretty cool with moving "touching myself in an impure manner" off the confession laundry list.) The Archdiocese of New York went so far as to battle its increasing irrelevance with a video designed to spur interest in the sacrament this past Easter. Dragging medieval superstition into the digital age is simply precious, no?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Encased You Missed It

Chicagoans have long humored New Yorkers when the latter try to convince us that their hot dogs and/or pizza is superior to ours. To suggest that the flopsweat dough discs and street-vendor rodentwater sausages of the Big Apple could compare to our city's culinary prowess is truly worth a chuckle. New York is superior to Chicago in precisely two ways: Rat-to-human ratio and the residency of Miss Gwyneth Paltrow. Otherwise, keep trying in the kitchen. To wit: no less than New York's own globetrotting chef Anthony Bourdain has included Hot Doug's on a brief list of can't miss eateries around the world.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Going Pro

For all of our complaints about living in a soundbite culture, it's one of our own creation. Willful ignorance on a variety of social and political issues doesn't seem to exempt some from distilling their own opinions to oxymorons like, "socially liberal, but fiscally conservative" or "pro-government, but anti-lobbyist". William Saletan's excellent article on the murder of pro-choice doctor George Tiller shows that the abortion issue is far more complicated than either side will admit.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Rollover Minutes

This is an odd way to convince people to buckle their seatbelts. But- as any handicapped person will tell you- safety first.