"Sitting above the visitors' dugout at a Cubs game once, I heard someone in the Pirates' camp yell at his own teammate: 'If you had one more eye, you'd be a Cyclops!'"
Play on, Brother
Comment on "Soul Jams and Social Justice" by Peter Margasak, December 27
Newell Canfield, drummer:
Great article on identifying some of the musical roots of the 60s black culture. I also was very fortunate to play and be part of a "voice" that expressed the sign of the times. This article has a second underlying theme that addresses how creative, talented musicians go unrecognized for all of the years spent "woodshedding." All of these musicians would still be playing today if society got its priorities straight! I'm glad to hear that drummer Steve Cobb is still active in the biz. Play on, brother!
Sick and Screwed
Comments on the News Bites blog post "The carrot and the cancer stick" by Michael Miner, December 13
First smoking ... next obesity? Lesser insurance rates for the nonobese? What about mental illness? Lesser rates for the mentally sound, and how would you define that? And for having had no drug addictions or STDs? Lesser rates for people that don't have any of those? And ... the list could go on and on. Soon all of us will realize that we are uninsurable.
All this started with "drug-free" workplaces, which allowed employers to drug test their workers as a condition of employment. I'll bet that employees being tested for tobacco usage isn't all that far behind. After all, why take anyone's word for it?
"Soon all of us will realize that we are uninsurable." Thus the crisis in employer-provided health insurance is solved!
Now I Got Worry
Comment on "Lolita Is Gone" by Jona Meyer, December 20
A fine short story that will make dating as worry-free as a trip to O'Hare Airport on the weekend before Christmas Eve.
Why All the Hero Worship?
Comment on "Short Takes" book reviews, December 27
Enough of this hero worship of Algren without a frank evaluation of his books. You could start with explaining Saul Bellow's comment: "Algren was indeed an original, unfortunately susceptible to ideological infection, a radical bohemian in a quickly dated Chicago style." As for Studs, he did great work a long time ago. Praising his fuzzy, rehashed memories is simply ancestor worship.
Schnabel the Snob
Comment on "Real and Surreal" by Andrea Gronvall, December 20
This [Julian] Schnabel guys sounds like a celebrity artist. Is he for real? How can you tell in an art world crowded with Andy Warhol worshippers?
And, notice his choice of topics, all sensationalistic and eye-catching. Basquiat, who hung around with fashionable people. Arenas, a superstar among oppressed artists, not least because he was locked up for being gay. (Any chance of Schnabel making a movie about some guy locked up in Uzbekistan for a not-so-sensationalistic reason?)
And now we are to sympathize with some fashion magazine editor. Now, what happened to him is terrible, and RIP and all that. But would this story have been famous or this movie made if the victim had not been such a cool, hip, rich guy? There is a kind of narcissism in Schnabel's movies, as though only the pain and agony of artists matter. Of course, many would argue that Bauby was NOT an artist, but who is when art and fashion have been so closely linked since the days of Warhol?
Comment on "Complicated Characters" by Jonathan Rosenbaum, December 13
...this Chicago Reader rating system must change! Just look at the past few weeks. Diving Bell and the Butterfly—Masterpiece. Starting Out in the Evening—Masterpiece. Atonement (excuse me while I throw up)—Masterpiece. New Blade Runner—Masterpiece. Etc.
But if all this dreck is a series of Masterpieces then where does that leave the Gertrud/Where Is the Friend's House?/Europa '51/Love Streams etc etc series? Do they each get 72 stars?
I have a new (if somewhat obvious) rating system:
***—Almost Not Shit
**—Start to wipe
Or maybe just a warning: These ratings apply only in the context of our current degraded movie culture.
Thar's Oil in the Middle East
Comment on "If You Should Have Any Need at All" by Keir Graff, December 20
We don't need another story about terrorism in the Mideast. On the other hand, few authors have dared view the Mideast as a capitalist wonderland, which Dubai most certainly is.
I am reminded of a hospitality industry message board I once perused. One thread focused on the Burj Al Arab Hotel, the world's only seven-star hotel, and the obvious inspiration for this story. The Americans on the board couldn't fathom that Dubai was even a city, let alone the world's richest and most modern. Americans already know there are fundamentalists in the Middle East. I'm not sure they know there are cars too.
A Case of the Collar Leading the Trainer
Comment on "The Dog Whisperer Walks" by Tasneem Paghdiwala, December 13
It is unusual they want to go after individual trainers one by one, spending millions of taxpayer dollars for an outcome that will never change. Yet they won't target the source of their issue—the collar. Target the manufacturer by banning its sale and its use (like they did in Wales).
Comment on The Sports Page blog post "You prick-eating bastard!" by Whet Moser, December 3
The best baseball insults (at least the ones I've heard) avoid cursing altogether.
Sitting above the visitors' dugout at a Cubs game once, I heard someone in the Pirates' camp yell at his own teammate: "If you had one more eye, you'd be a Cyclops!"
Comment on "Human resources" by Ben Joravsky and Mick Dumke, Clout City, December 27
"The city's Democratic machine is and always has been built on jobs. ..."
It isn't the jobs (and the state and county are guilty of making a mockery of the veterans hiring preference) that offend me as much as the contracting. That is where the real money is at.
And please don't let these yahoos chase anyone out of this city—God knows we are going to have a hard enough time making ends meet and paying our taxes due to the gross financial mismanagement and lack of real investment in affordable housing, public safety, public transit, public education, or sustainable economic development (and I'm not talking about a new Target or Wal-mart). But for everything they do to try and screw up this city—there is no other like it, so please don't give up on it too easily.
Saddest story of the year—the demise of our local papers. I wish them luck in the new year, they are going to need it.