Wednesday, September 30, 2009


In addition to being "the Windy City", it seems we're also the home of the exploding soft drink and the levitating hamburger bun. Furthermore, according to the evidence at hand, these scientific anomalies are our "favorites". I'd argue if I could.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Aural Fixation

Prong- Beg To Differ (1990)

While the love child of punk and metal known as grunge was still a few years away, a CBGB soundman named Tommy Victor began a band whose sound would unwittingly pave the way for subsequent artists' to enjoy a mainstream success that would elude him. Considered to be before its time, Prong's second release quietly became the raw template for politically-minded bands looking to span the chasm between the hardcore aesthetic and the linear crunch of metal. Prong stayed largely under the radar- they were primarily associated with the early theme to MTV's "Headbanger's Ball"- but Beg To Differ remains a vastly underrated collection of statements in the last days before the age of Nirvana.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Down With The Sickness

I took this pic at a rest stop in Chesterton, IN- "syrup shot" buttons on the soda fountain bank. You know, for the person who finds Mountain Dew to be not sweet enough.

In the midst of all the mindless yammering about health care (which seems mostly about proving that the President is a direct descendant of Hitler), the elephant in the room is that WE have made ourselves sick by filling our bodies with shit. True, government has no duty to dictate our diet, but the "personal responsibility" folks can't cry foul when an insurance company won't cover their Dorito-dust-covered kindergartener because he tips the scale at a deuce. In 20 years, it is predicted that 80% of all health care will be directed at treating forms of diabetes. It's an expensive disease because it is the catalyst for so many smaller illnesses, yet it's largely avoidable through preventative health care. Granted, taking care of ourselves is neither expedient nor inexpensive, but whatever costs we choose to avoid now will literally cripple us financially and physically later on- and we won't be able to blame Obama or an insurance company.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Natural High

Sign at the Kalamazoo, MI Air Zoo that warns drug and alcohol abusers against riding the flight simulator.

"The floor of this shuttle is trying to eat me, man!! Get these spiders offa me!!"

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Mind Over Manner

Everything old is new again- hence last night's premiere of The Jay Leno Show. After weeks of hype- so ubiquitous that Leno himself reassured the audience that "this is the actual show, not just another promo"- and best bud Jerry Seinfeld as his first guest, the show billed as "brand new comedy" fell flat on the Funny-O-Meter. (Full disclosure: As a comedian, I'm an ardent Leno defender. I was never a fan of his dumbed-down "Tonight Show", but off television he remains one of the funniest and sharpest comedians working.) Kanye West (front-page news after his latest outburst onstage at the long-past-relevant MTV Video Music Awards) was already booked as Leno's musical guest, but forfeited his performance on the mic last night for one in Leno's cushy guest chair. Coincidence? Probably not. I cheekily suggested that NBC picked up Kanye's Henny & Coke tab at the VMA's in hopes of really tilting the scale in Leno's favor, but that's just the crazy Alex Jones in me. It's not Kanye being "Kanye" that's so boorish and egregious; I'd be upset if he actually stayed put in his seat. It's the subsequent "confessional" that makes me gag. The guy never met a camera he didn't like and has the unbridled id to make it work. But he knew he was doing Leno the next night and Jay probably fell to his knees in silent thanks when he saw the front page of Variety yesterday morning. Kanye is my hometown boy and one of the best rappers in the game. My concern is not over his calculated outbursts or "bad manners", but that they will begin to represent the best he has to offer.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Reservoir Tip

A new study says that contraception could be very helpful in combating climate change. Latex is one of the more bio-unfriendly substances out there, but I encourage you to lovingly craft your own "reducing emissions" joke.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Air To The Throne

Yesterday, Michael Jordan was finally inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame (though I suspect he may have to sit tight a few more years to get Cooperstown's kudos for his brief tenure with the Birmingham Barons). Aside from a few rare missteps- Space Jam, Michael Jordan's restaurant (where the hamburgers tasted like something left over from the Nike stockroom)- the man continues to be the most recognizable sports figure in the world. I remember the night the Bulls won the NBA Championships for the first three-peat. I was in a taxi downtown, heading home to the far north side. The streets were lined with red and white clad revelers, freaking out as though they had won the lottery. There were people setting garbage fires and trying to overturn unattended CPD squad cars (two expressions of joy that I've never quite understood). My cab was even bumped along the way; it was like Detroit on devil's night, with the color commentary provided by my driver, who was cursing in Farsi at the pedestrians blocking traffic. Watching Jordan make gravity his bitch was something that people traveled from all over the world to see. Watching the fans that night was even better. Congrats, MJ.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Depth Perception

Every generation has its national tragedies. Our grandparents had World War II; their children had the Kennedy assassination. "I remember exactly where I was when it happened", I recall my mother saying whenever JFK was mentioned. No generation can lay claim to the World Trade Center attacks on 9/11, yet everyone knows exactly where they were. I was living in Pittsburgh and had just flown back from doing my show in NYC two days prior. I was awakened around 8:30 am by a friend who said, "can you believe this??" When she told me to turn on my TV, I asked what channel and she replied, "any of them". Like everyone else, I watched transfixed as the towers crumbled, nerves frayed and unable to process what was unfolding. The phone rang nonstop- calls from my family, worried by initial reports that a third plane had crashed in Pittsburgh.

It seems a natural human reaction to take unfathomable events and distill them down to easily quantifiable symbols- yellow ribbon stickers, flag pins, etc. Eight years later, those symbols (once painfully burned into our collective psyche) are largely absent-their emotional impact dulled by the passage of time, assimilated into the tedium of daily life, and replaced by more recent burdens. The wars spawned by 9/11 still rage worldwide, as a constant reminder of the detritus of unanswerable questions. Turn on a television today and a continuous loop of footage from that morning will once again give voice to those ghosts, a necessary and visceral return to the day that fractured our national identity by forcing us to either unite or divide.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Charity Begins Somewhere

$200 whole dollars. I guess sometimes a child does get left behind.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Doing A Load By Hand

As it turns out, "erectile" isn't the only dysfunction in the bedroom. According to a new book with the none-too-subtle title, Why Women Have Sex, gettin' jiggy is supposedly the last thing actually on their minds. This study of 1,000 women cited things like boredom, "it's easier than fighting", and getting their guy to do chores as reasons for hittin' it. And women wonder why we watch porn.

Evidently, they left the word "married" out of the book's title.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Smart Bomb

Today is the first day back to school for most kids across the country and President Obama is set to address them this morning. A number of schools around the country (including Chicago) are opting out of showing the speech, under fire from parents who are worried that Obama will "push his agenda" on their kids. It's a valid complaint, since we all know how kindergarteners' eyes light up when a grown-up starts talking about health care and insurance reform! The relationship between American parents and American schools has long been a tenuous one. On the one hand, parents have never been less involved in their children's education than they are today. On the other, the instances in which they do get involved are usually over the most petty and trivial issues. (Hummus on the healthy lunch menu?? That's treasonous!) The Presidential school address is traditional- Clinton and both Bushes did it- so the notion that the children who start their day with a "stay in school" message from Obama will end it raiding the library for dog-eared copies of Das Kapital is laughable. It's an idea that speaks much more to the ideological prejudices of the parents than the President's. Just imagine the inner-city black kids who will (for the first time) be watching a President who looks like them, telling them that education is supremely vital and that their achievements can mirror his own. I think that's worth hearing.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day

The Labor Day holiday seems a little less important to those of us who also have the other 364 days off. Nevertheless, we should never waste a reason to brush up on our history. The tendency for social movements to become political ones is regrettable and avoidable.

But if you're firing up the grill, I'm a sucker for BBQ brisket.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

What's Mayan Is Yours

Nowhere is the phrase "misery loves company" more apparent than in our willingness to allow pop culture to guide our common interests, to the exclusion of concrete problems. Witness the current hullabaloo over the year 2012. Evidently, as members of a nation that never met an illogical superstition it didn't like, we've extracted our latest from the Mayan and Aztec calendars- both of which point to the aforementioned year as the one in which we'll all grease up and grab ankle. However, the form that this doomsday scenario will take remains predictably unclear. Could it be the killer meteor that some astrophysicists say is barreling toward us? If so, enjoy the forthcoming John Cusack doomsday movie (cleverly called 2012 and not to be confused with the other Cusack doomsday movie, Say Anything). The History Channel is devoting hours of programming to the ancient soothsayers and their portents of war, starvation, and doom. A recent article in Playboy chronicles how the survivalist movement is preparing. (Hint: If you don't like garbanzo beans, death can't come quickly enough). All this nonsense would be good fun if it weren't so disturbing that some people seem to be taking it seriously. I find it mildly ironic that the same people who question the notion of evolution- product of the 19th century!- seem to have no qualms with looking to the Mayans and Aztecs for help with their dayplanner. Mayans and Aztecs- two civilizations who thought the sun could eat them. You'll excuse me if I stick with NASA's website when I start stocking up on chili and batteries.