May 20th, 2013
Hi all. A few weeks ago, I read the following essay at one of my favorite live lit shows here in Chicago, The Paper Machete. If you have not been to this show yet — held every Saturday at the history-sodden Green Mill Lounge at 3 pm, with FREE admission, no less — then you should do yourself a favor and haul your keister over there. Great readers, great comedians, and sometimes great/always interesting musicians. The best thing since indoor plumbing (hey, the Green Mill even has THAT!)
One of the big news stories of the week had been the proposed renovation of Wrigley Field and the surrounding neighborhood. The plans involved, among other things, more than 35000 square feet of advertising signage at the intersection of Clark and Addison Streets. I decided to get a little snarky about it. Quel surprise!
WRIGLEY RENOVATIONS: EVERYTHING’S COMING UP ROSEMONT
Chicagoans are used to threats. We get em all the time. Threats of random street violence. School closings. Government bankruptcy. A second term for Rahm Emanuel.
Now add to that, the threat that owner Tom Ricketts will take his Chicago Cubs out of the city – lock, stock and Marmol – if he can’t get approval to renovate the area around the park and install scads of gargantuan video screens inside Wrigley Field. As threats come, it’s about as hollow as Sammy Sosa’s bat.
He told a business luncheon crowd this week, “I’m not sure how anyone is going to stop the signs in the outfield, but if it comes to the point that we don’t have the ability to do what we need to do in our outfield, then we’re going to have to consider moving.”
Whoa, harsh! If Denzel Washington heard the word “consider”, how fast would the bad-guy corpses start piling up. That’s the kind of hard-charging, take-no-prisoners attitude that made the Cubs what they are today!
First off, where would Ricketts “consider” moving? Rosemont? How peaceful, to rebuild the Friendly Confines within a few hundred yards of the runways at O’Hare.
Maybe a bigger market, like Las Vegas? It’d be tough to build a brand new stadium in a place only slightly less mobbed-up than Rosemont.
Besides, years of negotiations have already happened, among the team, the mayor, the alderman, and the neighborhood. The only hurdle now is the rooftop owners, who worry that the new signage will block their view of games over the wall. If you can only get off on baseball voyeuristically by peeking over the wall like a guy in loose, dirty sweatpants, there’s no better place to be.
The rooftop owners are painting themselves as the little guy in this contest. Some national reporters have even described them as a “neighborhood tradition”. Now, a real neighborhood tradition would involve a picnic table, cheap folding chairs and a cooler of beer, like it did 20 years ago, and not small corporations cramming Miller 64 and chicken wings into people either too claustrophobic to wedge into a stadium seat or too dumb to use StubHub. However, compared to all other commercial ventures in Wrigleyville — ah, Wrigleyville, that friendly northside village where the leafy country lanes stream with beer and vomit – compared with them, the rooftop owners are like Mr. Hooper on “Sesame Street”.
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April 4th, 2013
After a too-long absence, here is the latest podcast of Honk Honk, My Darling. Chapter 16, “The Wild Widow”, is brought to you by Triple Crown Gelatin, “the thoroughbred of desserts”.
You’ll notice many different characters in this episode, all female. While I did try to handle ALL the voices in this book, here I got some help from the fabulous Mary Dixon of WXRT-FM in Chicago. She plays Boots Carlozo in the series, as well as “Big Jill” and “Stripper #2″.
You can listen to this episode below or download it directly from the LibSyn Page right cheer.
April 1st, 2013
I was expecting the piece below to show up on my formerly favorite sports site last week, but with vacations and miscommunication, nobody bothered to tell me it had been spiked. I might not have spent more than 10 minutes on it, but man, it still hurts. The perfect window would’ve been last week, as the Cubs got ready to move home for the regular season.
I think the feeling at the site is to quit picking on the Cubs. I’ll quit picking on them when they stop pretending they are a major league team and lower their prices commensurate with their talent, about on the par of the Joliet Jackhammers.
CUBS COACHES SUSPICIOUS OF “TUMMY-ACHE” OUTBREAK
As spring training nears its end and Chicago Cubs rookies begin contemplating a season in the big leagues, officials with the team say a number of players have been complaining of “really bad tummy-aches,” and one brought a note from his mother asking if he can be excused from traveling to Chicago with the team.
“These complaints first surfaced when we mentioned heading up north for the regular season,” says manager Dale Sveum. “They became more common when players began discussing that Stephen Strasburg would be pitching against us. That’s when I first noticed some of the kids rubbing their stomachs. I’m starting to think it’s not the clubhouse tacos in Phoenix.”
Coaches have also noticed many players who can’t find their shoes in the morning or complain about “a big mean dog” that they’ve seen on the way to Chicago. They are beginning to question the desire of some players to make it to the big leagues.
“Hey, I don’t lie to the new players,” Sveum told reporters. “There will be some tough times in Chicago: playing in 40-degree April weather, dealing with an outfield turned to hay after some concert, and our mathematical elimination from the playoffs in July. But there’s lots of good things too, and deep-dish pizza, and they’ll make nice friends there. I try to tell them they can’t stay in Phoenix forever but right now they’re not being good listeners.”
February 20th, 2013
Last night saw a literary showdown of epic proportions.
At Write Club, no one is under the delusion that all the speakers are equally worthy. It’s a literary competition with winners and losers, just like life, dammit. Two writer/performers go head-to-head on opposing topics, and one combatant is declared the winner by audience applause. The winner gets to take home the Loving Cup of Deathless Fucking Glory, as well as designate a portion of the proceeds to his/her favorite charity, while the loser must dwell in the Cathedral of Eternal Shame. This is Literature as Blood Sport.
It’s always a helluva fun time, and for those of you living in LA, Atlanta, Athens, Toronto or San Francisco, I urge you to go out and see it. Have a drink and wear a cup. It ain’t the Kiddie Pool.
Last night I competed at the birthplace of Write Club, The Hideout in Chicago. My opponent was none other than the daddy of Write Club itself, the charismatic yet loathable Ian Belknap. We argued our sides of the eternal debate of “Solid vs. Liquid”. After having won the rock-paper-scissors preliminary, I chose to go second. In arguing for “Solid”, Ian spent much of his time deriding Aquaman as the most pathetic of all superheroes. A classic gambit, to belittle the opposing side before bringing out your unassailable persuasive arguments. Only problem: his arguments were very assailable.
Which I did — assail them, that is — and walked home with bloody knuckles and the impressive piece of hardware above, as well as a small piece of the world’s adulation. Below is a quick recording of my victorious defense of the notion of “Liquid”, as well as the text of the argument. I hope you’ll agree with the audience that this is what you would necessarily call an irrefutable argument.
“IN DEFENSE OF LIQUID” Audio
IN DEFENSE OF LIQUID
Think back, to the beginning of our planet. The Big Bang is old news, and our little ball of gas has cooled and condensed. For hundreds of millions of years there’s nothing to see but churning waves of a chemical sea, methane and hydrogen raining and evaporating, over and over. A primordial soup. A liquid planet. And from that funky primordial pho, shaken and stirred and shot through with lightning, emerges life.
Amino acids are cooked up first, then proteins and single-cell organisms. Then worms, jellyfish, snails as big as your head, ravaging massive sea beasties sleek as balloon animals with razor sharp teeth. Armored fish, bi-curious amphibians, blah blah animals, and ultimately Kurt Vonnegut.
For this alone, let honest rational people agree: liquids rule it over solids, for without liquids there would be no proteins, no milkshakes, no protein milkshakes. And no Kurt Vonnegut.
Like Capital-L “Life”, every one of our own biographies is written in liquid. First, two parents had to get together which, depending on the circumstances and no offense, might have needed some liquid to get started. A couple Long Island ice teas, a hot tub, the liquid sounds of the Reverend Al Green. Then, after some friction and energy spent, half a little you erupts from your father, swimming like a maniac, seeking in its damp new world the other half of you. Then a lucky zygote luxuriates for nine wet months of squishy cell division.
In liquid we form a spinal column, lose our gills and vestigial tails – (some of us) – sprout arms and legs, gain wiggly fingers, maybe endure some Mozart if the parents are trying to bake a perfect child.
What are humans anyway, but ambulatory punchbowls? In the final tally, we are 98% liquid. Plasma, bile, blood, sweat and, tears, spit and polish, piss and vinegar, the milk of human kindness.
Solids in the human body? Tumors. Kidney stones. Blood clots. Constipation. Nothing but trouble.
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January 8th, 2013
If you sat through that awful BCS game last night and are not a Crimson Tide fan, you are probably in need of a little cheering up. Well, think how God himself must feel that all the boys from Notre Dame forgot to play football. Here’s a short article I wrote for the site ChicagoSide, speculating on just that situation, and how God would handle uncomfortable questions from the press corps.
January 8th, 2013
On December 22, I read the essay below at a performance of my favorite Chicago reading series right now, The Paper Machete. Four days earlier, two inmates from Chicago’s Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) staged a daring escape, only the second time in its history that the building has been compromised like that. The picture to the right (credit: Associated Press and Chicago Reader) should give you a hint why. This picture actually makes it look more inviting than it is. The windows are about 6 inches wide.
The story of how the two inmates escaped is actually pretty ingenious (you can read about it here at the Chicago Tribune). For the week before Christmas, the city was wondering what was going on. Frankly, despite the fact that the inmates were considered dangerous, most people weren’t taking it very seriously. It was a welcome diversion from fiscal cliff discussions and the memory of the Newtown massacre. My daughter actually goes to school about four blocks from the MCC, but I wasn’t really worried about her safety. These guys couldn’t be dumb enough to hang around the jail, could they?
No, but they weren’t much more ambitious. The flashier inmate was captured on Dec. 21, in the apartment of an acquaintance. Now, we get word that the other inmate — the one I call “The Escapee Without a Nickname” — has been caught, too, in the vicinity of an old apartment of his. A rather disappointing ending. Their escape held such promise, but these guys never planned for Act II.
Anyway, the essay is here, below the fold. Often, the Paper Machete will post audio files of some of its performers, but for about two weeks, this hasn’t been the case.
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December 12th, 2012
Well, really, it’s not exactly new, because I unleashed it on the world LAST Christmas, with a podcast and everything.
But this is NEW in the sense that it has a NEW cover, a NEW name for a character within it, and a NEW reason for you to actually click over to Amazon and buy a copy.
“Have Yourself a Monkey Little Christmas” is a heart-warming, poop-flinging tale about how Rex Koko uses a horde of misfit monkeys from Top Town’s infamous Monkey Hostel to help a sick friend out and give a come-uppance to a tight-fisted landlord who needs a little lesson in Christmas charity. It’s like “The Dirty Dozen”, only without the Nazis and the explosions and Jim Brown. Okay, it’s not very much like “The Dirty Dozen” but it IS entertaining.
And when you buy a copy of the story from Amazon, you’ll be helping out a good cause. I’ll take the proceeds and match them, then give the whole wad to the American Red Cross to help with Hurricane Sandy recovery and whatever else is headed this way in 2013.
Now, some of you might already have the story, but this time it’s for a good cause, and it’s only 99c, fer criminy pete’s sake. You can afford that, if only for the cover art. So clickety-click right here and buy it for yourselves and everyone you know:
Thanks for your support with this. I’m sorry the podcasts for “Honk Honk, My Darling” have gotten off-track, but they will begin again sometime in January.
UPDATE: To everyone who downloaded this story, thank you very much. I’m putting a check in the mail today, and taking down this story for the time being. No one should want to read Christmas stories except at Christmas, I think. If you’re good, it might come back next year. As Fats Waller once said, “One never knows, do one?”
November 5th, 2012
By which I mean, the politics is nonsensical, not the poems. A friend threw a dinner party over the weekend, and asked everyone to bring a political poem to share. Some read from others, but I felt the challenge was to write our own. So I wrote a couple. This first one is a comment on who want to dismantle FEMA because of various paranoid fantasies:
To those who want to disband FEMA,
Who say it’s just a brown-shirt scheme, a
Thing that saps our moral will
While siphoning money from the till,
Who hold all government in disdain
And think our fundamental plan
Is to leave each other as we are, in
A twisted sort of nod to Darwin,
To deify the individual
And trash the institutional,
Push “survival of the fittest”
And hoist a vengeful God as witness –
To those I say, all well and good.
Don’t call me during YOUR next flood.
And this second one is in response to a news item from the great state of Michigan, where a Court of Appeals has ruled unconstitutional a law that prohibited patrons from entering libraries while strapped. Here’s the story in the Detroit Free Press. Please be careful choosing the people with whom you argue about Norman Mailer today. Or Zane Grey, for that matter.
If America’s exceptional in any way,
I think it might be this’n:
We care less ‘bout packing heat in libraries
Than ‘bout men on TV kissin’.
October 31st, 2012
Good evening, Mr. and Mrs. America (as well as Mr. and Ms. America, Mr. America and Ms. Caldwell-America, and Mr. and Mr. America in 7 states and the District of Columbia), and all ships at sea:
The new podcast for “HONK HONK, MY DARLING: A REX KOKO, PRIVATE CLOWN MYSTERY” is now uploaded. This episode is brought to you by Shakespeare Lard, the Bard’s Lard. You can listen to it below, or download it from this LibSyn webpage.
October 25th, 2012
Nothing is better at this time of year than a Frankenstein movie. So weird, perverse, idiosyncratic. Go and enjoy limericks every day this month at LimerWrecks (run by my pal Hilary Barta) on everyone’s favorite self-made man.
October 9th, 2012
At last! Will wonders never cease!? The time has come! I’ve finally gotten my act together, and recorded and mixed the latest audio installment of Honk Honk, My Darling!
This chapter was daunting because it had a lot of fisticuffs in it, and all those little sound effects and timing gave me a little hesitation. Also, as I get a little more proficient at this, the time each one takes grows and grows. I don’t think of myself as an insane perfectionist, but I do want to do things right the first time. This was another reason for the delay: I was becoming more dissatisfied with the sound of the narration. It felt too boxed in, stifling. So I talked to a friend of mine in the audio field, and of course he knew the problem and solution right away. It pays to ask a person who knows.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy this chapter. It introduces a new character who will have a big role to play later in the book. Ooops, that’s too much info. Just sit back and enjoy.
September 28th, 2012
I wrote a short silly salute to the fearsome starting rotation of the 1971 Baltimore Orioles for Bardball yesterday. It was only the second rotation to contain four 20-game winners in 92 years, just a buzzsaw that sent fear into their opponents.
I remember hating the Orioles as a kid, because they were the elite of the AL at the time, and always seemed to have the number of my beloved Tigers. Now, as the team is doing well for the first time in a generation, I feel a certain fondness for them. There’s all the old saws about Baltimore being a great old baseball town that has long suffered, blah blah. It’s probably just nostalgia on my part, or a generous mood to let bygones be bygones. The Oakland A’s are also okay by me lately for the same reason.
The Royals, however, can still suck it.
September 28th, 2012
For those of you out there who are “auditory learners” or want to fall asleep to my smooth-as-cocoa vocal stylings, here’s the audio recording of my essay from last week’s Paper Machete, posted by Kate Dries and the grand folks over at WBEZ.
To all my fondly remembered teachers at Catholic Central HS, I hope you take this as part of a constructive debate. You always tried to get us to think for ourselves, which may have been your undoing.
September 24th, 2012
My contribution to the latest installment of The Paper Machete, Chicago’s live newsmagazine/reading series, which happened last Saturday:
Big news this week in the field of papyrology, that is, the study of ancient papyrus scrolls. (and when you ponder whether YOUR degree has gotten you very far, think of that.) A small piece of ancient papyrus, much smaller than a placemat from Pier One, was discovered to contain writing that could or could not shake the foundations of the Christian religion.
First, a little background. At the end of last year, a papyrus collector (and I should warn you, never get cornered at a party by a papyrus collector) brought the scrap to the Harvard Divinity school. Dr. Karen King, noted papyrologist, examined the scrap, showed it to colleagues at the secretive and exclusive Papyrus League Club, and determined that it was not a forgery. This week, Dr. King announced her findings would be published soon in US Weekly (really, the Harvard Theological Review).
The scrap, cut from a larger scroll, contained seven lines of sentence fragments. Among these were the words: “Jesus said, My wife.”
Now, I’d like to get address the elephant in the room and head straight for the Borscht Belt treatment: Jesus said, “My wife wants to take a vacation, spark up our LOVE life. Wants to go to the Dead Sea. I say, Why the Dead Sea? She says, it reminds me of our love life.”
And also: How can you tell that Jesus was married? He brings 5000 people over and then asks, “Hey, have we got any food?”
The headlines screamed the predictably sensational question, “Was Jesus married?” The expert from Harvard answered strongly that she had no idea. The sentence wasn’t complete, it had no context, the scrap had been cut from a larger papyrus we don’t have. It was written 150 years after the death of Jesus, who as you remember, was someone prone to speak a little cryptically. It could have been the start of a parable, analogy, mystical figurative allusion, or something else.
But I ask you, what’s more fun, scholarship or baseless conjecture? Then let’s get to it.
There is no clue as to the identity of the woman mentioned. Some traditions in the early Common Era have held that Jesus had a more-than-platonic relationship with Mary Magdalene, the prostitute turned disciple. This was exploited for Biblical Broadway hotness in “Jesus Christ Superstar” and for the members of the Wal-Mart Book Society in The DaVinci Code. If Mary Magdalene was Jesus’ wife, at least she’d be travelling with him and not stuck back in Podunk-areth.
The idea that Jesus was married does more than make the New Testament more saleable as a Lifetime mini-series. (You know somewhere the concept has been pitched, and a producer has said, “I like the story, but this guy Jesus, he needs to be sexed up.”) If the scrap proves to be accurate, it might shake the foundations of the Christian church as we know it, at least until the church as we know it squelches it.
(The collector who owns the scrap, by the way, has chosen to remain anonymous. He says it’s because he doesn’t want to be flooded with requests to sell it. But we all know what he’s really afraid of: Vatican ninjas!)
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September 18th, 2012
It’s been a while since I posted one of my poems from Bardball here. Not that I haven’t been working on keeping the site alive and growing, but because I’m starting to lose track of all the online venues I’m supposed to feed material to. The Internet is starting to feel like Audrey II, with constant cries of “FEED MEEEE!”
Anyway, here’s a fresh one from yesterday’s White Sox-Tigers game, possibly the most important game between them this year:
Madre de Dios! Ese Alex Rios!
Among Omar Infante’s dislikes
Must be incoming baserunners – Yikes!
To dodge getting maimed
Cost the Bengals the game –
One of inches, and feet wearing spikes.
September 12th, 2012
Time and attention spans are short, so for fans interested in what’s contained in my latest Kindle Single, Tea Party Fairy Tales, here are a couple of samples. To get your copy for the super low price of $1.99, click here:
Get out of bed! No more sleeping! It’s time to wake up, Storybookland!
Some years ago, my name somehow became attached to the leftist “politically correct” movement because my name was attached to a book — Politically Correct Bedtime Stories — that many liberals took to heart. In that volume, I argued we could forge a better world by rewriting familiar stories for our children. By eliminating violence, sexism and prejudice from favorite childhood tales, I thought we could create a better society.
Well, like all social engineering projects, that one failed miserably.
Now the scales have fallen from my eyes. Rising levels of socialism, anarchy and personal cholesterol have alarmed the 50-year-old me, to the point where I realize we need to recast society in a more fundamental way, one that defends liberty, encourages personal initiative and prevents the government from stealing any more of the money I made on my previous books.
The evidence still asserts (if you can believe what pointy-headed academics are saying) that impressionable children can be molded at an early age by their reading material. The crises of the coming decades will require brave, conservative young men and women if the American experiment (bolstered by divine providence, of course) is to survive. America is the greatest country ever, bar none, in the history of this or any other world. That’s why it’s in such mortal danger, from both within and without. That’s why we can’t risk having a younger generation shaped by anything less than true 100% American values, screamed from the highest rooftop and blasted through every media channel. Real truth is strong, incorruptible and eternal. That’s why it needs to be repeated at the top of our lungs, again and again, lest it perish…..
AESOP’S FABLES:The Two Sheep
One morning two Sheep were deciding on the best destination for their grazing.
“I think we should go up the mountain,” said the First Sheep. “Not many other animals go there to graze, so there should be enough clover to eat. Besides, the view is very pretty.”
The Second Sheep said, “No, let’s go down near the river. The grass is very sweet and plentiful there, and we’ll be shaded from the sun and wind.”
“I don’t like that idea,” said the First.
“But I don’t like yours, either,” said the Second.
“Well then, let’s compromise. We can go to the broad plain that lies between the mountains and the river. It should have enough grass to eat, and the weather should be fine for both of us.”
“Agreed,” said the Second Sheep.
And as the Sheep set off down the road to the broad plain, they were both pounced upon by Hyenas and eaten.
Moral: Compromise equals death.
LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD
Once upon a time, when everything was as it should be, there lived a young girl named Red Riding Hood. Now, just because she was named Red and liked to skulk around in red clothing and hide her face with a hood doesn’t make her a secret Communist. On the other hand, it doesn’t mean we’ll be letting our guard down, either. The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.
One day, Red Riding Hood’s mother asked her to take a basket of goodies to her grandmother’s house. She also gave Red a Glock .45 automatic for protection. Old Grandma Hood was fiercely independent, you see, and was still living off the land at age 92. She was also a crack shot and an avid supporter of the NRA (Nonagenarian Rifle Association). At her trailer in her wooded compound, times had grown hard and supplies were getting scarce. And since Grandma’s medication was probably getting low, Red had to be armed and ready in case her beloved granny was getting a little cuckoo and thought Red was from FEMA.
So, free and fully armed, Red Riding Hood set off down the path, pushing her wheelbarrow full of powdered milk, jerky, dried beans and ammunition to Grandma’s compound. Her Grandma was a patriot, and Red Riding Hood loved her.
On the path in the woods, Red Riding Hood was accosted by a Wolf. “Yo, baby, what you got in the cart, huh?” he asked very rudely.
Red Riding Hood took out her Glock and shot him.
“An armed society is a polite society,” she said, and pushed her wheelbarrow along…..
September 7th, 2012
I drove up to the cottage Wednesday, in order to get up to Grand Rapids Thursday and meet a couple of Thai tailors who’d flown to town to get everyone fitted with nice cheap suits. (Yay!) For dinner, I drove to a sports bar nearby Saugatuck, hoping to catch a little of the early action of the Tigers-Indians game. From my barstool, I could look at 11 different TV screens at once.
Little did I know, the whole country was counting down the minutes to something monumentally important.
No, not the Democratic convention, but the start of the NFL season!
The countdown to the kickoff! The clock running down in the corner of the screen! The clash between the Dallas Cowboys (America’s Team to some – shudder) and the NY Giants! In the middle of the media capital of the country! More forced amusement and community than in 10 Rockin’ New Year’s Eves! How could such monumentalosity escape my attention?
With the sound off, it was surreal to watch the interviews, and the other interviews, and the retrospectives of the interviews. However, sound-free was definitely the way to enjoy the music and dance-a-ganza taking place midtown in Rockefeller Center (30 Rock, for the more macho announcers). Mariah Carey sang and danced, looking like she had just enough time on the subway to do her hair. Some fat bald rapper recited from a big gold throne, while everyone who wanted to be part of such scripted joy shoved and pushed to wave to their fans at home. Meanwhile, the dancers around Mariah wriggled and shimmied wearing modified shoulder pads. Too bad they were male dancers.
Oh football. Why can’t I quit you?
You embody so much that is crass and overblown in American culture. Every Sunday, we’re urged to get down, pig up, chest bump, drink up (though with shitty beer that only gets you drunk in the manner that Mariah Carey gets you dancing) and roll back evolutionary progress a couple of centuries.
You make us cheer for brutality, long for overstuffed blonde barmaids, treat a 3-hour relaxing TV respite like it were a matter of life and death. You force us to identify with still-adolescent meatheads whose goal in life is not enlightenment or service or ecstasy, but merely to own a mancave decorated entirely with promotional items, an Ali Baba’s cave for the soulless and rudderless.
Still, I can’t quit you.
To enjoy a game, you force us to ignore millions of dollars wasted in glitz and advertising, not to mention millions of tax dollars siphoned off to build high-tech stadiums for the rich and connected. You force us to forget how many former players are hobbling around their houses on shattered knees, or trying to keep from shaking from the concussions they’ve suffered. You require us to forget about the thousands of young men who never make it, but are sold a bill of goods by sadistic, power-mad coaches that they must sacrifice themselves to the game to get ahead when they could be getting an education or learning a trade.
Still, I can’t quit you.
Football, you force me to admire jocks who not only were assholes in high school (the last time we ever existed on the same plane) but now are rich and even more entitled. You force me to make excuses for the players who get arrested for beating up their girlfriends, or even casual passersby. You encourage me to lard stories about heroism and sacrifice and honor upon a bunch of arrogant steroidal gorillas who would only pull over to help a stranded motorist if there were a film crew nearby, who sometimes play with less enthusiasm than a 40-year-old stripper on a pole. And some day, I am completely certain, I will watch a player die on the field from blunt trauma.
Still, I can’t quit you. How can that be? What in God’s name is wrong with me?
The Chicago Bears connect with me more thoroughly than ever did the Detroit Lions (godawful for my entire life in the Motor City) or the Michigan Wolverines (just not that exciting to me). Plugging into the enthusiasm of Bear fans makes me feel like I grew up here, which is a feeling I like to cultivate from time to time. I like to think of my late father and me watching a game on TV sometime, with his long-gone Aunt Helen smoking cigarettes in her kitchen in Homewood and yelling at Butkus. And the time I spend watching the game (even better when my daughter joins me) gives me a chance to suspend responsibility for just a little while, and enjoy watching someone else’s well-laid plans either go well or ill. But these are only partial reasons, dressed in play clothes of nostalgia.
So what is it about you, football, that keeps me coming back? I never played the game. While short-tempered, I’m not a violent person. We have an artistic household, not an athletic one. My wife and son give me grief for watching a game every weekend.
Still, I can’t quit you.
Must be the logos.
Enjoy the season, fans!!
August 3rd, 2012
Finally, some news on the publishing front. This Friday will the the publication of my first Kindle Single!
Tea Party Fairy Tales will be available exclusively in electronic form from Amazon, 48 pages of trenchant social analysis and juvenile humor for the low, low price of $1.99.
For those interested, the genesis of the book is as follows: Last year, in response to what I saw as screaming, spittle-flecked hostility on the part of the Tea Party conservatives, I was noodling around with more strange fairy tales. (Of course, there are Tea Party Republicans out there, but also many folks who think Republicans are just as complicit as Democrats, and equally worthy of tar and feathers, in a revival of a classic American artisan tradition.) First I played with Red Riding Hood a bit, and was happy with the results. Then I tried a few others, some of which worked, others not. I then tried some of Aesop’s Fables, which earlier had not withstood the PC treatment very well, but here lent themselves nicely to pithy, aggressive morals advising the reader to wise up or get eaten.
The humor wasn’t the long-winded, apologetic kind that propelled Politically Correct Bedtime Stories. “Kindness-impaired” and “outside the dominant beauty paradigm” wouldn’t work for this, and frankly I’m tapped out on that anyway. What this topic needed was a combination of paranoia, unshakeable faith in everything American, a soupcon of conspiracy, and lots of anger. I hope I’ve found the humor in Tea Bagger extremism (my editor and reading buddies say I did) just like I did for the PC crowd. What’s sauce for the goose is propa for the ganda.
A problem arose, however: it became clear early that I could not make this into a book as long as PCBS. Either I exhausted the material early, or it exhausted me, but the manuscript came out at around 14,000 words. (God-given, eternal truths don’t need a lot of explanation. They just need to be followed.) But that’s the beauty of Kindle Singles, and electronic publishing in general. A book can be as long as it needs to be, not a word more or less. So the new book treats topics without beating them into the ground, and the format allows me to use a light, surgical touch for a topic that could easily get out of hand.
Couple that with the marketing reach of Amazon, and I couldn’t be happier to publish with them. I really dig the whole e-publishing thing. I think it’s going to revive the age of pamphleteering and short fiction, and maybe already has. Rex Koko, Private Clown is finding its audience with it, I hope the same happens with Tea Party Fairy Tales.
To get your copy, click on the link below. I hope you all will like it.
Buy the Tea Party Fairy Tales Kindle Single here!
June 7th, 2012
Hello there, fans of old-time radio. It feels like forever since I recorded and mixed a podcast for “Honk Honk, My Darling”, and I’m very sorry for it. After I had my hard drive replaced in April, the raw recordings I was making in Audacity kept coming out a little funny, like I was speaking through a paper tube. I tried to fix it with the program settings, and got a little advice from a producer friend of mine (“Try it again”), but still it kept happening.
“How bad could it be?” I asked myself, as I valiantly tried to mix the subpar recordings. “I’ll just tweak the brightness or horizontal hold, use the Noise Remover on every single track, and fake my way through everything. A lot of extra work, but the show must go on. No one would notice the difference anyway, right?”
And then I played the mixes for earlier podcasts, and realized I couldn’t continue until the problem was solved. After a little forum browsing, I tried one recommendation, to turn off the interior microphone driver in Windows. My laptop has no built-in mike anyway, but this setting was messing things up. So, deleted that driver, and woooolah!, problem solved.
So here, after one of the longer cliffhangers in recent memory,is Chapter 13. Brought to you by our friends at Schtuppenfuss Beer, the Deer Camp Beer. It’s Pilsenized!
And to get all the rest of them, go to the podcast page at the Rex Koko website.
We’re halfway there! More thrills and spills to come!
May 1st, 2012
I’m short-tempered and self-obsessed.
I’m addle-brained in some things, and at other times as efficient and focused as James Bond.
I’m sleeping deep and hard, except on those nights when I can’t get my brain from running loops of 60s pop songs.
I’m frightened and lethargic and giddy and morose and secretive and proud and happy to be where I am, doing what I’m doing, except when I’m not.
All that means: I’m trying to get a new novel started.
Of course, getting it started is something along the lines of Buster Keaton getting the house plans from Sears and then losing the directions. But there’s only one thing worse than pushing through the fog and chaos that comes with a story a-borning, and that’s staring at the walls without a single idea in the world about what I’m ever going to do with my life. So I’ll take this state of mind, as unnerving as it is. I just hope I don’t run someone over in the car while I gaze off into space.
This doesn’t mean I don’t have an idea of where this narrative is headed. Just look at the timeline below. This will actually help me to keep all the facts straight. I just have to fill in the right side of the curve with “stuff” (as we writers say).