Sunday, May 10, 2009


Do you ever notice something really odd that seems even odd when you realize that growing up, you thought nothing of it?

I'll give you an example. On the way back from the Quad Cities this afternoon (Bandits win 5-3), I stopped by my grandparents' house in Gerlaw to drop off a Mother's Day gift. Upon arriving, grandma offered me a grilled cheese sandwich on the condition that I retrieve bread from the basement deep freeze, so I headed downstairs.

Now, this isn't a finished basement. It's more of a cellar - cement floors, brick walls, the works. However, tucked away into one corner is a shower.

It makes sense why it's there. Grandma and grandpa didn't have a shower until eight or ten years ago, and grandpa didn't cotton to baths. I get the reason, but still, it had been awhile since I'd been down there and it struck me as odd now after years of thinking it was as normal as anything.

I'm thinking of Twittering. Not because I want to jump on the bandwagon (I honestly don't know how many of my friends do it - my guess is between 3 and 150), but a lot of times I have an idea for something to say, but a blog post can seem really daunting. Any former English teacher would cringe at hearing that, but it's true. My attention span is scant at best. Also, I like talking about sports, and Facebook statuses don't seem like the place for that. At the same time, jobs with 100-hour work weeks don't allow one a lot of time to explore new means of social networking.

I really want to see Star Trek.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Company makes sound business decision, angers millions

I like Facebook. Google Reader is my go-to time-waster now, but I can still count on it to learn something new anytime I log on. Sometimes it's something innocuous like a new boyfriend or a change of jobs, but every once in awhile, it's a display of misguided indignation from a group of otherwise rational people.

Today I was alerted that no fewer than 20 of my friends have joined Facebook groups protesting the renaming of the Sears Tower. It's mystifying on a number of levels, not the least of which is the fact that the Sears Tower isn't going anywhere. There will be a new name, yes, but the building itself will remain. The drive into the city isn't going to be any less picturesque, and I imagine the sightseeing trips to the top will continue in earnest.

Instantly, comparisons are made to U.S. Cellular's purchase of Comiskey's naming rights and Macy's's (pretty sure that's grammatically correct) buyout of the old Marshall Field's. Neither affected me personally, but I understood. Generation after generation of Chicago families made their pilgrimages to these places an annual rite.

There's probably an unflattering societal commentary in there somewhere, but it's beside the point - as we make memories in these places, they become friends. We personify them; we grow protective.

In part, that's why any indignation over the Sears Tower change - feigned or otherwise - makes so little sense. Though it's been North America's tallest building since its construction in 1974, it's the three-legged man of Chicago attractions - you give him a look, but he's not exactly practicing alchemy or perfecting interstellar travel, so you move on. There's nothing inherently fascinating about the building, so once we've gone up and snapped a few photographs, what more is there? Come back next Sunday?

The other aspect of this that's so bothersome is the sector of the populace that really takes these things as a personal affront. If/when the Ricketts family decides it's time to put Wrigley's naming rights on the block, I won't greet the news with the self-righteous anger that comes all too easily to some in situations like this. All things being equal, the Wrigley name is preferable; at the same time, the Ricketts family is very, very wealthy, and they didn't get that way by leaving money on the table. The same holds true here as, contrary to what public outcry insinuates, those holding stake in the Tower don't run a charity.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Out from Under

Amazon's Gold Box has been cycling through a number of HBO box sets over the past week or so. Picking this up for $15 was nice enough, but the real coups was nabbing the Six Feet Under gift set (SRP $249.99) on Sunday for $60.

Despite my current lack of real income (my $200 semi-weekly stipend might as well go straight into my tank), whether I'd buy it wasn't a question. I tried writing about the show soon after I'd finished it last spring, and have on countless occasions tried to recommend it to friends, but it's a very difficult thing to talk about - after all, how do you make a television show sound like a perception-altering experience without sounding like a bloviating turd?

The easiest thing to say, at the risk of serving up a Colonial Cafe Kitchen Sink's worth of hyperbole, would be, "Six Feet Under changed my life." That would also be very trite and lazy of me, so I'll try to clarify. I've been extremely fortunate in that I've never had to deal with the loss of someone especially close to me - the only two funerals I recall attending were for my grandparents' elderly neighbor and a high school acquaintance.
What this show did is something that no other experience in my 22 years to that point had done - it made me feel mortal. Painfully, imminently mortal. That's not to say that I had pipe dreams of omnipotence, but it made death a very present force in my life.

I'd like to say that I don't take life for granted anymore, that I've embarked on this daily quest for enlightenment, but it's sadly not true. I still spend too much time on the internet, exercise too little, and eat too much fast food, but now more than ever, it hurts like hell to do so. You don't come across a lot of television that has the ability to plant a big ugly grandfather clock in the back of your head, of whose tocking you become keenly aware when you spend an extra hour on Facebook instead of stopping for a tour of the Frank Lloyd Wright house on the way to work.

I worked with this big teddy bear of a guy at the Big Ten Network that everyone calls Johnny Font. Not his real name, but he was dubbed as such presumably because A) his real last name was eastern European (read: virtually unpronounceable) and B) he built fonts for our shows. The prototypical uncle that no parent wants to see at Christmas, Johnny is as likely to talk hockey with you as he is to tell you which Asian massage parlor gives the best happy endings (truth).

Anyway, what I remember most about Johnny are the times he would turn to me or Wes, smile, shake his head, and say "I'd kill to be your age again." That wistful sincerity was something to which I wouldn't have been as acutely attuned before watching Six Feet Under.

I apologize if I've made watching this show seem like a profoundly depressing experience - far from it, it's one of the most enlightening, beautiful, well-written, heartbreaking, and inspiring television series you could ever hope to watch. Though some take a perverse joy in penning 500-word screeds on that which depresses them, I'm not one of those people. It's an amazing achievement in TV, but more than that, there's something to take away, something worth far more than any Amazon price tag.

Please watch this show.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

China's lovable lameness persists

So thanks to Google Reader, I stumbled across this article on an alternate design for Washington D.C.'s Kennedy Center. I actually visited the Kennedy Center once (as did seemingly everyone who passed the 8th grade), but I have no recollection of what it looked like. One image search later, we find this.

Stately. Majestic. Opulent. Well-suited for honoring the memory of a beloved fallen leader. Almost too well-suited...

As we see here. The construction of the tomb of Mao Zedong, inconspicuously tucked away on the world's largest city square, was undertaken in 1976, five years after the completion of the Kennedy Center. I'm not naming names, but Nixon visited in '72. Just sayin'.

Speaking of which, go see Frost/Nixon. Two enthusiastic thumbs up.