Wednesday, November 26, 2003Oh, boy, this should be fun: Margaret Cho's coming to perform at the University of Chicago the night before my birthday.
Tuesday, November 25, 2003If I didn't have class tonight, I'd love to attend this hoary and revered traditon - the Annual Latke/Hamentashen Debate at the University of Chicago's Mandel Hall, where participant stake sides and discuss the comparative merits of the traditional Jewish holiday treats.
Longtime moderator Prof. Ted Cohen will once again preside over the lively debates, PowerPoint presentations and tastings; in Rocky Horror Show fashion, attendees are invited to dress as either latkes (potato pancakes) or hamentashen (triangular pastries with a sweet filling like apricot or prune lekvar).
"People keep asking me when [the debate is] is," [Cohen said], "and it’s always the Tuesday before Thanksgiving." When forced to reflect further, he mused: "It very often happens that the participants simply subvert the whole thing. They don’t take any side at all or they tell us the whole thing is a mistake, that a thing like kreplach is better than either. This kind of bad behavior is common."
Perhaps you can taste some on my behalf; the event takes place from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 25, in Mandel Hall, 1131 E. 57th St. Chicago. The debate is free to the public, and the tasting reception is a mere $3 in advance or $4 at the door - more details at Newberger Hillel Center website or by calling (773) 752-1127.
Monday, November 24, 2003Jeffrey S. Murr, a 24-year-old Tennessee Ku Klux Klan inductee, was critically injured Saturday when a bullet fired into to the sky arced downwards and pierced his skull. The initiation - a mock lynching - consisted of tying Murr blindfolded to a tree with a noose and shooting him a barrage of paintball ammo. An older Klansman, 45-year old Gregory Allan Freeman, had fired the bullets into the air to provide "sound effects."
Poor kid: he'll never get to appear on the Jerry Springer Show wearing an old bedsheet.
Sunday, November 23, 2003
The Exorcist Revisited ReturnsActually it's in a state of construction, but those of you that remember the original The Exorcist Revisited will be happy to see that the site will be returning to the ether shortly; and the most popular feature, the Georgetown photos, will be back soon.
One of these shots I took in 2002 (of the steep "Hitchcock Steps" between Prospect and "M" Streets in Georgetown, where Father Karras famously tumbled to his death after defeating the demon Pazuzu) appears in a recently published book, "James Dean Died Here" by Chris Epting; the shot is published in black and white, which doesn't quite do it justice - but hey, it's published!
Perhaps The Exorcist isn't one of today's most socially relevant motion pictures; but it is a classic. If you remember the 70's, you know how much a part of that wacky and devilish decade the film was. For Georgetown folks, it's what The Fugitive was to Chicago: I hear screenings of the film are still a (half-comical) annual Georgetown University ritual.
"Hoya saxa! [what rocks!]"
On a side note, here's a recipe to strike sheer terror into faint hearts: Velveeta Fudge, courtesy of the Soup Lady, who warns that with this one, "you're on your own". I'd wager that Regan McNeil never spewed anything more repulsive than this - so just try bringing Velveeta Fudge to your next potluck.
Friday, November 21, 2003This afternoon, my partner and I did something very unusual, indeed.
We were interviewed by Associated Press reporter David Crary for a forthcoming AP piece on the Massachusetts same-sex marriage ruling, because we were "Civil Unioned" in Vermont about three years ago ("early adopters, so to speak), and my partner had a chance to meet one of the Human Rights Campaign's higher-lever representatives on same-sex family issues at a recent Chicago Loop function. We've considered the Massachusetts Marriage if it ever happens, but apparently the issue is so new and so fraught with legal pitfalls, that at this point in time we've been advised to stick with the Vermont civil union.
Forget location: it's connections, connections, connections.
After a few intervening phone tags, we set up a conference call at Mr. Crary at his NYC bureau office; he's a very personable chap, friendly and knowledgeable. Of course, since this was our first brush with the national (and potentially international) media we are understandably a bit nervous: how will we be quoted? Where will our material appear, and how will it be presented? Time will tell. Sometimes you just have to take the plunge and say, "to hell with it - we're taking a stand."
It's a bit scary. It's not as if we're expecting a barrage of feedback from out little soundbites, but the media is a strange and far-reaching octopus of connections.
A moment in the back pages is just that; but Google is forever.
Thursday, November 20, 2003Update: just as I suspected, media coverage of the protests against Bonzai sushi bar's monthly Naked Sushi have only fueled the public's interest in eating raw fish off the naked torsos of nude Saran-wrapped Asian women.
Bonzai, based in Seattle, is only one of the city's more unusual attractions - if you're in a more spiritual mood, there's always the Beer Church.
Checking my site referrals for the past week or so, fully one out of every ten searches contained the words "naked" or "sushi." Some even look for "Chicago Naked Sushi," so it's only a matter of time before someone in the Windy City gets wise and starts their own Naked Sushi Night.
Just don't anyone go slicing up Granddad, the 70-year-old Shedd Aquarium lungfish.
Consider that fact that the White Yodel was in fact a standard dark chocolate Yodel on the inside, enrobed in a light covering. The rolls came individually wrapped in a thin crinkly tinfoil inside the cardboard box, unlike today's cello-wrapped Yodels™.
Then, note the subject of this blog post, which appeared immediately prior to the one on White Chocolate Yodels. I shuddered at the connection; psychology works in very strange ways.
Random Surrealism Generator quote of the day: "We are the bug-eyed bosoms. We are here to protect you from the suicidal lemon-squeezer of Hong Kong Phooey."
Wednesday, November 19, 2003This really dates me, but does anyone out there remember White Chocolate Yodels™ by Drake's? I haven't seen them on the market for about 30 years. Every once in a while, the memory comes to me. I've Googled "white chocolate yodels," but no luck. I've only found two Usenet posts (from August 2000 and 2001), both asking the same question.
He repulses me because he's willingly carved and sliced away the normal physical appearance of humanity into bizarre artifice. Okay, let's be fair - I feel a combination of revulsion and pity. It's just sad, sad, sad and ugly.
Deep down inside, we know that someone should have sat Jackson in front of a mirror years ago and said, "what the @%!# are you doing to yourself?" Someone who body-modifies to that extent should at least be honest enough to admit he's modifying. Transforming from a cute-kid-with-an-Afro into a Howard-Hughes-like mannequin is anything but natural - hell, Madame Tussaud's wax sculpture of him looks more natural that he does.
He would have us believe his private vision of genderlessness, racelessness, and agelessness came about by nature or accident: vitiligo, my foot.
What does this have to do with the child molestation charges of "lewd and lascivious conduct"? Little or nothing - except that after decades of willful deceit, the public isn't likely to buy his protests of innocence about anything. It's public behavior like this makes you think the man's capable of almost anything:
According to The Associated Press, Jackson stopped by Santa Barbara, Calif., Congressman Elton Gallegly's field office about two weeks ago to ask why the city of Solvang has no fast-food restaurants. But instead of wearing the surgical mask he usually wears in public, the pop star was wearing a Spider-Man mask. Jackson was told Solvang only has a Subway, and he said, "I love Taco Bell." After that, Jackson pulled off his Spider-Man mask and apologized to the deputy director for disturbing the office.Ordinary people get put into soft padded rooms for doing crap like this.
Tuesday, November 18, 2003This is really big news, folks: a few moments ago the Massachusetts high court ruled in the case of Goodridge v. Department of Publc Health that a ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.
What a delightful irony - "Boston Marriage" just came one step closer to legal reality.
Friday, November 14, 2003We finally went to see The Matrix Revolutions last night, but I still haven't decided whether I like the movie or not; maybe I'll stay ambivalent for a while. It's very flashy and very, very loud - but not much more.
The first few minutes are occupied with sadly-edited attempts at character development and visual wit, which eventually leads us to the obligatory Matrix "club" scene: this time around, we're treated to a sickly green-lit cavern filled with hundreds of extras in bondage gear, doing the jungle-boogie against a killer techno vibe. In the balcony? Who else but the smarmy Merovingian lounging in a blood-red smoking jacket, sipping a martini and munching on a pair of jumbo olives impaled on a twisted steel skewer.
"Bring me the eyes of the Oracle," he oozes. He never gets the cyber-seer's orbs, but he does get a King Louis XIV-sized asswhupping from Trinity that's almost worth the price of admission.
Throughout most of the Zion Battle action I found myself asking, "what the hell is up with all these squids/Sentinels/calamari?" - or whatever those mechanical Octopi of Death are called. Little or no exaggeration: half the film is consumed by overcrowded CGI shots of explosions and roiling murder-by-a-million-metal-arms. I enjoy action and special effects as much as the next geek, but here it reaches the point of psychic barrage, past where a human brain can safely take in that much information. It's so busy, it's boring.
This movie just about hit my video-game tolerance limit. Sitting dead-center about five rows back from the big screen was like getting a nut-and-bolt brain enema. Okay, I'm not ambivalent, just stunned and floating like a telephoned fish.
In short, too much CGI, not enough cool, as if Neo, Trinity, Morpheus and Company were no longer swell enough to chill out the screen. I missed most the cold, broadly-referenced intelligence and groundbreaking style that defined the first Matrix.
...Revolutions will go down as the lemon on the Matrix slot machine, but did we honestly expect anything different? Well, yes, actually we did. We expected a movie on par with The Matrix Reloaded - was that too much to ask? It's really a "kitchen sink film": the Wachowskis threw just about everything else into each hyperactive scene, and I'm pretty certain I spotted a wayward Kohler™ Deluxe in the corner somewhere.
Wednesday, November 12, 2003Why are activists, led by the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum, mounting a protest against Bonzai, a ritzy Seattle sushi restaurant?
Because Bonzai stages a popular monthly "Naked Sushi Night," a buffet-cum-performance art spectacle featuring sushi served from the Saran-wrapped torsos of live female models sprawled on tables. This idea wasn't Bonzai's, however; the live sushi-tray-girl concept originated in Japan and has been around for some time (those of a certain age will recall The Tubes' "Sushi Girl.").
"It's dehumanizing, the manner in which people are buying and selling sushi to be eaten off a woman's body. It's dehumanizing to be treated as a plate." says Cherry Cayabyab, president of the local chapter of NAPAWF.
Is naked sushi such a horrible thing? Maybe yes, maybe no; personally, I say "no," considering the rest of news we see on a daily basis - but a closer look at the debate's interplay of social, ethnic, and gender dynamics is revealing. Consider this alternate scenario: what if the live nude model from whom diners chopstick maki rolls were a white - or Asian - male?
Who would be most likely to patronize such a display? Or, more importantly, who would organize a protest? I can easily visualize the white-sushi-boy-tray concept marketed as either a fanciful "Ladies' Night Out" or a decadent Studio 54-type gay bar centerpiece. Now change the stage a bit - the naked sushi model is a Black man. This opens up an entirely different can of sexual and racial worms. If the sushi model were a white female, "Naked Sushi Night" collapses into a vat of dreadfully poor taste and fringe fetishism - but we could probably be convinced to see the display as a sort of Bohemian "art," and we probably wouldn't see an organized protest.
It's only when we combine oppressive images that naked sushi takes on its controversial cloak. Not only are the models women, but they are Asian women, who have been endlessly stereotyped as submissive and servile at home and abroad.
I can see how some people might find this display offensive; but remember this isn't a public display. Diners pay for the privilege to take part in "Naked Sushi" in a private, adults-only setting, and the models are willing paid participants - or at least one hopes so. No one seems to claim the naked sushi models are performing under duress.
What the protest organizers don't seem to look at is the possible cost-benefit result of their actions: the publicity they generate will likely create even more demand for "Naked Sushi" - and put Bonzai's business through the roof, exactly the opposite result they hope for. Those offended by naked sushi would never attend in the first place, and it's highly unlikely that a law will be passed banning the event - or that any "Naked Sushi" fans will be shamed into mending their lascivious raw-fish-gobbling ways.
Tuesday, November 11, 2003
Wake up: today is the 11:11.
Monday, November 10, 2003About two years ago, when I first learned just enough HTML to get me in serious trouble, I took advantage of my free academic web server account and created a slew of crappy-to-halfway decent webpages as an exercise in vanity. Those sites are mostly gone, with my blog using most of cyber-energy these days...but like a slumlord, I am slowly renovating what were the neglected dregs of interesting ideas and turning them into neat, gentrified little units. Sort of.
The first renovation was my tribute to the late, great Gobbler Motel of Johnson Creek, Wisconsin. If that name sounds familiar, that's because James Lileks created a hilarious section on his website called "The Grooviest Motel In Wisconsin" based on a vintage brochure from the torturously kitschy fleabag - every nascent proto-geek forwarded the URL to that site to all their Usenet buddies. Me included. Days after I stopped laughing my tush off, I realized I lived two hours away from the Gobbler and made it my mission to create my own Gobbler website - but although I didn't plan it that way, this one would show the place in its death and decline. Kind of like Elvis in the coffin. "The Requiem for the Gobbler Motel" is my oldest website; now all fresh and spiffied up on Blogspot, and more purple than ever.
Next project, my long-foundering X-Files site - The X-log. Somehow, there just never seems to be enough time to write commentary and synopses on the X-Files episodes we periodically pop in the DVD. It's my favorite TV show, and if any program is worth my time to pore over and analyze, this one is it. Well, now that I know a little more HTML (and a smidgen of CSS, too, for good measure), I thought it high time I brought the X-Log back to life, this time a little cleaner and sharper than before - and it doesn't hurt to have a DVD screen capture utility handy. Another little goose for my motivation was the fact that FOX recently deactivated their official X-Files site...boo hoo.
Somebody's gotta do the job.
Friday, November 07, 2003"Your generation stuck mine with a motherload [sic] of cultural horrors (bradys! disco! plaid! roller skating!). -30% for being a yuppie. 5 point bonus for telling me where you saw this."
So claims the autogenerated response from this quiz' author. Horsefeathers. I had nothing to do with the Bradys or plaid; blame the Picts, or at least the Bay City Rollers. Besides, aren't we discussing the Eighties here? A decade of some remarkably adventurous music that often degenerated into the worst earworm glurge, and a political era painfully close to our own Oughties in hypocrisy and Armageddonism.
I've often theorized that throughout history, the fear of Doomsday often goes hand-in-hand with egregious fashion; to wit, powdered wigs and crinoline in one period, clamdiggers and beehive hairdos in another, and in the Reagan era - mullets, jewelled gloves worn solo and parachute pants. You can't blame my generation for that...well, actually you can. I'm wedged somewhere between being a child of the Seventies and the Eighties, I'll take the fall for anything.
What have we to complain of; after all, the Eighties gave us the advent of the affordable personal computer as well as the pop-cultural zenith of Milli Vanilli. I'd call that a raving success, non? Final score: 89. Thanks, Mel!
Thursday, November 06, 2003"Green River Killer" Gary Ridgway now holds the U.S. "Serial Killer Championship Belt" for pleading guilty to the deaths of 48 women - but there could be many more still missing, still buried, their fates still unknown to family and friends. For those keeping score of prolific serial murders, Ridgway's tally pales against many well-known mass murderers of history.
What is most frightening is how this particular killer escaped the law for over twenty years: he was an "ordinary" man, with a personal history that included marriages, children, and friends who were completely oblivious to his predatory nature.
Neither an Ed Gein-style loner, nor a pathological playboy like Ted Bundy, Ridgway's deadly career most resembles that of "killer clown" John Wayne Gacy, who also disguised his bloody "hobby" with a mundane, often charming exterior. One of the "Green River Killer's" attorneys, Mark Prothero, says "[Ridgway] was always very polite, never displayed any anger. We got along very well, and he was a very nice client."
There's the rub, as they say: Ridgway's mild manner undoubtedly allowed him close access to victims who thought him just another harmless person; but how many other Ridgways are out there - that we work with, live next door to, pass on the sidewalk?
Fron CNN: "In most cases, when I murdered these women, I did not know their names," Ridgway's statement to the court said. "Most of the time, I killed them the first time I met them. I do not have a good memory for their faces. I killed so many women, I have a hard time keeping them straight." Ridgway admitted placing the bodies in "clusters," usually near a landmark that helped him remember their locations. "I did this because I wanted to keep track of all of the women I killed," he said in his statement, which he affirmed as [King County Deputy Prosecutor Jeff] Baird read it aloud. "I liked to drive by the clusters around the county and think about the women I placed there."Imagine what it must feel like to be the family member of one of Ridgway's victims, hearing those cold words from the killer's lips. What gave Ridgway his justification?
"I hate most prostitutes. I did not want to pay them for sex," he acknowledged. "I also picked prostitutes as victims because they were easy to pick up, without being noticed. I knew they would not be reported missing right away, and might never be reported missing."Arrogant words, but chilling in their grain of truth that many of these victims would be seen as socially "less valuable" than other human beings: to Ridgway, these were literally "disposable women" who deserved death because he didn't wish to pay for services rendered.
He is one lucky S.O.B., however. Ridgway will escape the death penalty though an extrordinary bit of legal wrangling. The prosecution's desire to achieve indictments on as many of the murders as possible drove a sketchy plea bargain, aimed at locating more bodies and convictions for the State and closure for more families of the dead.
So - whose fault is Gary Ridgway? His parents'? His genetics? Society's? His own? I don't believe we're advanced enough to know the answer to that question. It's disingenuous to call him the result of "permissive modern society," because history has shown that the murderous mind knows no social or temporal boundaries. The only thing we can honestly fault modern society for is having widespread technology that is often used to glorify the serial killer to a wide audience...but by the same token, it is in our deepest human nature to be drawn to tales of human monsters, from Vlad Tepes to Charles Manson.
Social pundits often call people like Gary Ridgway a "disease," but I think it's more accurate to call him a symptom. Like a suspicious lump one has removed only to be replaced by the fear of rampant metastatic spread, we feel a momentary sense of relief at a Gary Ridgway's capture - only to have it dawn on us that there will be more Ridgways somewhere in the shadows, waiting.
Wednesday, November 05, 2003
"In the midst of winter, I finally learned there was within me an invincible summer."Have you ever had a craving for an honest-to-goodness thunderstorm? You know, the kind where the lightning illuminates the sky for moments of blue midday brightness, and roaring peals of thunder spook paranoid car alarms for blocks around? The sort that strikes fear into the hearts of timid dogs and cheap umbrellas?
- Albert Camus (1913-1960)
That kind of thunderstorm; the sort you generally never get in the Northern hemisphere in November - unless you have precisely the right combination of outbound unseasonable heat and incoming frigid air. Well, we got one of those last night. Hoo-ee, that was a storm.
A beautiful, brawling fight in the sky with gale-force winds that beat gouts of rain against the train doors, squeezing huge drops of water down the inside of the rubber seals.
When the doors open, you have to move away to keep from getting soaked...which just plain looks silly when you're sitting on a subway car. Chicago streets in a storm are something to see, mercury lights white and signals red, yellow and green; all with streaking glowing tails shimmering to the labored drains.
I was quite grateful for my English "killer" umbrella last night. Walking home from the Red Line platform, your bumbershoot carves a clear zone about you, just enough to see hoods pulled over heads and hunched-over unprepared pedestrians taking long rushed steps over puddles, missing and splashing in the dark with soggy curses.
Last night's deluge washed away weeks of accumulated grime and dirt; cleansing the air of bus exhaust and barbecue smoke, and the sidewalks and alleys of late summer's stepped-in dog turds, spilled sodas and hawked loogies. It was about time Chicago took a shower. I walked more slowly than usual to my front door, savoring the change.
Then, I just drew a steaming tub in the dark bathroom, lit a fat red candle and listened to the rain.
(afterthought) I really love the Anagram Server. Where else could you discover that when you rearrange the letters in "lit a fat red candle," you get "farted Latin decal"?