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« November 2007 | Main | January 2008 »

December 31, 2007

The [New Year's] Papers

"Let's cut right to the chase. What does it mean - all this highly competent football during the past two weeks against teams that had something to play for (the Packers were still alive for overall home-field advantage and the Saints had an outside shot at a wild card) even if the Bears didn't? The answer, I'm afraid, is not much," writes our very own Jim Coffman in Bear Monday.

Not much, but still something.

Holiday Note
The rest of the Beachwood, including The Papers, will return on Wednesday with a full slate of really good stuff. In the meantime, the Weekend Desk is in charge.

*

The Weekend Desk Report by Natasha Julius
It's been our pleasure to serve at the Weekend Desk in 2007. As New Year's Day draws near, we pledge to be at least 50% more butch in 2008.

Market Update
It's time to put the pain of the recent Bear market behind us. Of course, despite recent gains the climate is hardly Bullish. Experts note the housing crunch may keep the Cub market depressed and there's been precious little movement on the Sox market. According to analysts, conditions are ripe in 2008 for a rare Hawk market.

Iowa Lot to Them
With the 2008 Iowa caucuses right around the corner, analysts are predicting sources of bitchery and paranoia may not hold much longer and may lead to terminal fatigue.

Trumped Down
As more politicians contemplate a return to private life after years of repression, lies and mind-boggling denials, we have good news: the lower ring of Hell is now open.

One Step Ahead
Scientists this week have announced the discovery of a snortable drug that replaces sleep. Lindsay Lohan has announced, "Duh."

Buckeyes, Indeed
Finally, with the BCS Championship Game right around the corner, the state of Ohio has already taken a commanding lead in the all-important Kinky Entrapment Bowl while Texas A&M has blown out a strong field to take the Really Fucking Tasteless Bowl title.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Give a little bit.

Posted by Lou at 07:41 AM | Permalink

Bear Monday: Saint Feint

Let's cut right to the chase. What does it mean - all this highly competent football during the past two weeks against teams that had something to play for (the Packers were still alive for overall home-field advantage and the Saints had an outside shot at a wild card) even if the Bears didn't? The answer, I'm afraid, is not much. The big picture is all that matters at this point, and in the big picture this season sucked. Also, a final few words about last week's win. Beating the team from an otherwise completely inconsequential small town in Wisconsin does not matter when the Bears can't even win enough other games to squeak into the playoffs.

But these last two games did mean a few things. They meant that Kyle Orton should get a legit shot at the starting job next year. There was a lot of chatter a month ago about how the Bears should play him the last three weeks to improve his trade value. Excuse me? Exactly who do the Bears have at quarterback who makes Orton expendable? That would be no one. So in the off-season, the Bears brain trust will see if it can sign Grossman to a reasonably salary-cap-friendly deal (the cap is going up so fast these days in the NFL that very few deals really qualify as cap-unfriendly). If you sign Grossman, trade (not likely) or release (probably) Brian Griese. If Grossman doesn't re-sign, hang onto the forever-more back-up who has proven he can win a few regular season games in relief of a starter but shouldn't be trusted with the top job. Then draft the best quarterback you can get in the fourth round or later (barring the availability of a Devin Hester-like game-changing talent at a different position, the first three rounds have to be used for an offensive lineman - or two - a running back and, if possible, a wide receiver). And this year, the quarterback who plays best in training camp starts, period.

I would also argue the last few weeks meant a case can be made (not a terribly convincing one, but a case) for not firing either coordinator. First of all, I virtually guarantee Lovie is going to make that argument if he hasn't already (in post-game remarks). And unless Jerry Angelo absolutely demands a change, Lovie's wishes will prevail. Ron Turner shouldn't be fired - although Ron, how about a mea culpa for your ridiculously inconsistent use of Hester? It was still less than a year ago that Turner called the plays for an offense that was at least an equal partner in the Bears going to the Super Bowl (yes, the defense was good but the opposition scored all sorts of points in the post-season people). As for Bob Babich, I'd like to see him gone. He was completely overmatched in too many games in which there seemed to be obvious ways to attack opposing offenses (like, say, blitzing the Redskin back-up quarterback who hadn't thrown a meaningful pass in a decade - by the way, if the Bears had won that game they would have finished in a tie for the second wild card spot). But there also is something to be said for avoiding the three-coordinators-in-three-years-scenario.

There were a few other conclusions to be drawn but let's have some bullet points already.

* A little more about the quarterback position: Plenty more will be said about Grossman, Orton and Griese perhaps qualifying as starting quarterbacks in the league (when they had decent support - solid running games and overall offensive line play - they all recorded victories this year) but not as potential Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks. Incorrect. Always, always, always remember - Trent Dilfer once quarterbacked the Ravens to a Super Bowl championship - with a lot of help. If Orton or Grossman or Griese (cringe) or anyone else (a draft pick, a free agent, Donovan McNabb - yeah right) is to lead the Bears to post-season success in the next few seasons, they will do so only in concert with a great running game and a great defense.

* And oh by the way, enough of the less-than-gushing assessments of Orton's performance last week with some saying it was nothing more than a quarterback "managing the game." Folks who didn't lavish praise on Orton in the aftermath of the trouncing of Green Bay a) apparently didn't begin to understand how bad the weather conditions were and how difficult it was to complete any sort of pass at any point in the game and b) were willfully ignoring Hall of Famer Brett Favre's complete inability to accomplish anything whatsoever on that day. From critical pinpoint third-down passes that kept the epic game-opening march alive to huge tosses to Garrett Wolfe and Bernard Berrian that accounted for virtually all of the drive that finished with Adrian Peterson's touchdown run, to the a touch pass to Desmond Clark for the critical touchdown that began to put the game away, Orton had an amazing game. He wasn't quite as good against the Saints, overthrowing a bunch of passes early and missing several other opportunities. But the deep balls to Hester (and the other deep ball to Hester that seemed to result in an obvious pass interference penalty that wasn't called) and Mark Bradley (any sort of competent receiver catches that ball in stride and goes in for a score) and a bunch more strong intermediate throws were awfully good signs.

* The Bears need to not overpay Berrian (although again the observation about the skyrocketing salary cap comes into play). He has good hands and has at times shown the ability to get deep but he doesn't run great routes and I'm still waiting for his first memorable run after the catch. On the other hand, Muhsin Muhammad clearly seems to have run out of gas and Bradley struggled all season. They may have to address this position in free agency and the draft.

* We've been spoiled lately by a run of top announcing teams but on this day we were stuck with Dick Stockton (enough already, Fox - you really can't find a play-by-play man better than Stockton, who was good for a long time but has fallen off dramatically the last few years?) and analyst Brian Baldinger, who struggled during a Bears broadcast earlier this season. Surprisingly enough, Baldinger had a great day Sunday. From commenting "It's CSI: Chicago down there" as Bear receivers pointed to a mark in the turf at the back of the end zone where Greg Olson just missed getting his second foot down inbounds on an early pass, to pointing out, more than once, what we all know was the Bear offense's biggest shortcoming this year - not enough touches for The Ridiculous One - Baldinger had all sorts of sharp stuff to say.

* The latest entry into the Here We Go Again file: Pierre Thomas, New Orleans' fourth-string running back, became the latest totally-obscure-until-today back to have a huge day against the Bear defense this season. See previous Bear Mondays addressing games against the Broncos and Giants in particular for further details. After a couple early fourth-quarter runs, Thomas had piled up 101 yards rushing and 60 receiving. If anyone knew Thomas had this sort of potential it should have been the Bears coaching staff, specifically Ron Turner. Thomas starred for Turner at the U. of I., but then slipped back in the depth chart (mostly behind Rashard Mendenhall and partly due to injury) after Ron Zook arrived a couple seasons ago. The former superduperstar at south suburban T.F. South was thought to have pro potential going into college but not coming out, when the Saints signed him as an undrafted free agent. But look at him now.

* Brian Urlacher certainly stepped up and reestablished himself as an elite player in the league in the last month of the season (he had four picks in the final five games). But it wouldn't kill the Bears to start planning for his transition to weak-side linebacker (he is perhaps the best ever dropping back into a huge middle zone in pass coverage but Thomas' big day was yet more evidence that Urlacher isn't a good enough run stuffer in the middle). Unfortunately, there wasn't an opportunity to see either Lance Briggs or Jamar Williams in the MLB spot down the stretch to begin assessing their ability to take over at that spot. And it doesn't matter anyway, at least as far as Briggs is concerned because I bet he's gone anyway as a free agent.

* Speaking of the defense, Brandon McGowan and Danieal Manning (I still can't get over the fact that Manning wants us to pronounce his first name Danielle - can we just call him Dan next year?) could turn into a very good safety tandem. They need to work on their form tackling (not just trying to ram into guys and ineffectually pawing at the ball in an attempt to strip it, but going in with head up and arms wide and wrapping good, solid tackles consistently) but there is a great deal of potential. McGowan is a big hitter with great strong safety size who seemed to improve considerably in coverage late in the season. Manning also played very physical football at times, although I don't think he's a perfect fit for the classic cover-2 scheme with both safeties playing deep in the secondary and mostly concerned with covering their zones.

* In the second half, Tommie Harris seemed to awaken from a season-long slumber and we're reminded of what a powerful disruptive presence in the middle of the defensive line can do. A fully healthy Harris is a big reason to look forward to better things in 2008.

* Roberto Garza put a capper on the season with one final false start less than six minutes into the game. But otherwise, the offensive line avoided penalties, protected Orton and opened up at least a little bit of running room for Adrian Peterson. Peterson earned some hard yards and some tough first downs but on any decent team he has to be a back-up (and a big-time contributor on special teams). In fact, unless Wolfe is a total bust in training camp 2008, Peterson should be the third-stringer behind last year's third-round pick and whichever stud running back the Bears bring in to replace Cedric Benson (with a high draft pick or as a veteran free agent).

* Thank goodness the Bear defense finally had enough stops early in opposition drives to force enough punts from deep on the other side of the field to almost force the kick that Hester returned for the touchdown (if you kick straight out of bounds too many times from your side of the field, the Bears' average field position will just be too good). He went through a huge hole and initially I was going to write something positive about the blocking on the play. But the key element was a trio of Saints cover guys who banged together, Three-Stooges-like, in front of Hester as he began the return. Clearly two of those guys had failed to maintain gap discipline and that's what set the greatest returner ever free. It was a wonderful reminder that no matter what else happens, Bears fans can take comfort from the fact that the Devin Hester-era is still in its infancy.

Posted by Lou at 07:19 AM | Permalink

December 29, 2007

The Weekend Desk Report

It's been our pleasure to serve at the Weekend Desk in 2007. As New Year's Day draws near, we pledge to be at least 50% more butch in 2008.

Market Update
It's time to put the pain of the recent Bear market behind us. Of course, despite recent gains the climate is hardly Bullish. Experts note the housing crunch may keep the Cub market depressed and there's been precious little movement on the Sox market. According to analysts, conditions are ripe in 2008 for a rare Hawk market.

Iowa Lot to Them
With the 2008 Iowa caucuses right around the corner, analysts are predicting sources of bitchery and paranoia may not hold much longer and may lead to terminal fatigue.

Trumped Down
As more politicians contemplate a return to private life after years of repression, lies and mind-boggling denials, we have good news: the lower ring of Hell is now open.

One Step Ahead
Scientists this week have announced the discovery of a snortable drug that replaces sleep. Lindsay Lohan has announced, "Duh."

Buckeyes, Indeed
Finally, with the BCS Championship Game right around the corner, the state of Ohio has already taken a commanding lead in the all-important Kinky Entrapment Bowl while Texas A&M has blown out a strong field to take the Really Fucking Tasteless Bowl title.

Posted by Natasha at 08:47 AM | Permalink

December 28, 2007

The [Friday] Papers

Thanks to the Internet, you can read the same news Pakistanis read.

- "A Dream Snuffed Out."
- From Pakistan's most widely circulated English newspaper

And thanks to Google News, without which I wouldn't have found this, just as one example.

- "The deeply disturbing assassination Thursday of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has the effect of a boulder crashing down a mountainside. Whether it will trigger a landslide in this volatile region remains to be seen, and tragically there is not much more the U.S. can do but observe, and perhaps regret the climate it helped create there," Maine's Bangor Daily News says in an editorial.

"Ms. Bhutto's death recalls the assassinations 40 years ago of presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy and civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. But despite the depth of those terrible losses, most Americans clung to their belief in our democracy and its rule of law, and remained confident the assassinations would not tip political power toward one faction. Pakistanis are not so fortunate."

All news is now both local and international. That's the new reality.

The Audacity of Axelrod
The Obama campaign changes the tone.

Hometown Hole
The discussion about Obama that isn't taking place in Chicago.

1. "What a disappointment Barack Obama has become," David Zephyr writes in heavily commented post on Democratic Underground.

"You know, I winced at Senator Obama's brazen insult to my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters last month and bit my tongue as his staff flat out lied to the the gay community regarding the extent of a role a terrible homophobe played in his events. The guy that was to represent a 'new' politics showed us that he also had a talent and an inclination for playing 'old' politics when it suited him.

"But, for me, this time, Mr. Obama really went too far with his gratutious and completely uncalled for insult to such a great American as Tom Hayden who was fighting for Civil Rights, being beaten and jailed for Civil Rights when Baby Barack was shitting in his diaper."

2. "Barack, I thought Hillary Clinton was known as the Great Triangulator, but you are learning well," Tom Hayden writes on The Huffington Post in "An Appeal To Barack Obama."

3. "Every now and then in American politics, normally balanced people get swept up by delusions of greatness about a presidential candidate, based on an emotional attachment to the candidate's oratory or image. The youthful William Jennings Bryan brought down the house and swept up the nomination with his famous 'Cross of Gold' speech at the Democratic National Convention in 1896 - only to be crushed by the dreary William McKinley in November," Sean Wilentz writes in for The New Republic in "The Delusional Style in American Punditry."

"Political journalists have never been immune to the delusional style. But editorialists and pundits are supposed to be skeptical experts, who at least try to appear as if they base their perceptions in facts and reality. Enthusiasm for a candidate because of his or her 'intuitive sense of the world,' 'intuitive understanding,' and discovery of 'identity' - the favored terms in some recent press endorsements of Barack Obama - is presented as the product of such discerning, well-considered thinking. But it is in fact nothing more than enthusiasm, based on feelings and projections that are unattached to verifiable rational explanation or the public record."

4. "Yesterday the London Times reported central questions about Senator Obama's shocking dearth of international experience: 'Fresh doubts over Barack Obama's foreign policy credentials were expressed on both sides of the Atlantic last night, after it emerged that he had made only one brief official visit to London - and none elsewhere in Western Europe or Latin America.' It also reported: 'Mr. Obama had failed to convene a single policy meeting of the Senate European subcommittee, of which he is chairman,'" Joseph Wilson writes on Huffington Post in "The Real Hillary I know - and the Unreal Obama."

5. "Over the last few days Mr. Obama and Mr. Edwards have been conducting a long-range argument over health care that gets right to this issue. And I have to say that Mr. Obama comes off looking, well, naive," Paul Krugman writes in The New York Times in "Big Table Fantasies."

And believe me, that's just a small slice.

Bald Cap
I Had a Crush on Obama, my friend.

Season Greetings
- On the 12th day of Christmas, the Cubbies gave to me
100 years of heartbreak and futility
.

- This one goes out to all our Jewish friends out there.

- This one goes out to all our African-American friends out there.

Give the gift of the Beachwood! You will be rewarded in Beachwood Heaven.

Water Wussies
"Bottled-Water Tax Story Even Bigger Sham Than Bottled Water."

The Daley Show
It turns out all that foreign travel the mayor is doing isn't being paid for by taxpayers. And that's bad news. Why? Because that means what he's doing can't be justified as the public's business. Instead, he's taking corporate junkets. Riding bikes in France and visiting Milan while the governor is whacked for attending a Blackhawks game during the CTA-inflected state budget meltdown. In secret. Because the trips aren't public.

New Year's Eve Advice
Please.

Year in Review
Listen to Outside the Loop Radio at 6 p.m. tonight (WLUW-88.7 FM) for a fine and funny roundtable featuring myself, Margaret Lyons of Chicagoist and David Schalliol of Gaper's Block. This is more like how these things should go. (Thanks to Andy and Mike)

The Beachwood Tip Line: Let it be.

Posted by Lou at 07:36 AM | Permalink

The Blue & Orange Kool-Aid Report

So the Bears broke against conventional wisdom and crushed a superior team last week. Could anybody really say that they saw that coming? Perhaps the Bears need 40 mph winds, -1 degrees of wind chill, a third-string QB, and a losing record to play their best. Perhaps the Bears ought to take their unconventional formula further. Here are a few suggestions.

*

1. Tell offensive linemen the snap-count is 30 seconds later than it really is.

2. Require the defense to attend weekly sex-ed classes.

3. Use Devin Hester out of the backfield, duh!

4. Hire John McDonough. And Steve Stone.

5. Under absolutely no circumstance go to training camp next year with the same three quarterbacks you went with this year - no matter how tempting it seems for reasons only Bears management can fathom.

6. Make Lovie Smith take yoga classes to make him more flexible.

7. When your best players on offense are your top two tight ends, go with two tight-end formations . . .

8. . . . With Devin Hester out of the backfield. In other words, put your best weapons on the field!

9. Realize that beating the Packers actually isn't important at all unless the winner goes to the playoffs.

10. When the offense stalls, put Devin Hester in a really deep shotgun formation and tell him to just pretend he's returning a kick.

*

Saints at Bears

Storyline: Remember last year's NFC Championship game? Two great teams have had terrible seasons.

Reality: Both teams last year were merely the tallest midgets in the lame NFC. Better-than-mediocre teams are now less-than-mediocre.

Pick: Bears Plus 2 Points, Over 40 Points Scored.

*

Sugar in the Blue and Orange Kool-Aid: 5% (Residual Sugar from Packers Sweep)
Recommended Sugar in the Blue and Orange Kool-Aid: Kyle is our quarterback.

*

For more Emery, see the Kool-Aid archive, and the Over/Under archive. Emery accepts comments from Bears fans reluctantly and everyone else tolerably.

Posted by Lou at 01:54 AM | Permalink

December 27, 2007

The [Thursday] Papers

Maybe I've underestimated "Love Is . . . " all along.

I hope tomorrow we hear his excuse.

Wisdom of Crowds
"Well, that just about answers the question of whether televising home games will hurt the box office, doesn't it? Despite the broadcast, the Blackhawks recorded their first sellout (20,511, described as 100.1 percent of capacity by the box score on ESPN.com) of the season on Wednesday - that's right, "on Wednesday," our very own Jim Coffman writes in Hawk TV!

Bowl Games
University of Illinois President B. Joseph White's teachable moment continues.

And Vice-Versa
"BEIJING - John Thomson, Chicago's first ambassador to China, casually dispenses the kind of nuggets that are usually buried in a heap of China analysis," the Tribune reports.

"First, the person with fancy titles on a Chinese business card is very likely not the real person in charge.

"Second, if heading to a work dinner in the hard-drinking north, start off with a swig of Pepto-Bismol to keep you coherent after rounds of local firewater.

"And third, if you're getting impatient with bureaucratic dead-ends, take heart that 'in China, anything is possible; nothing is easy.'"

I imagine a similar story in the Beijing Bugle about a Chinese ambassador to Chicago could say the exact same thing about us - or worse. So let's quit with the exoticism already.

Lobby Mularkey
"Three political aides on Sen. Barack Obama's (D-Ill.) payroll were registered lobbyists for dozens of corporations, including Wal-Mart, British Petroleum and Lockheed Martin, while they received payments from his campaign, according to public documents," The Hill reports.

"The presence of political operatives with long client lists on Obama's campaign contrasts with his long-held stand of campaigning against the influence of special interests."

In fact, Obama recently went so far as to say "not in my White House."

It's amazing what you can learn if you go beyond the hometown press.

Now, can someone explain that Tony Rezko land deal to me again?

Sling Blade
"So, then, why Hillary? Her chief rival, Obama, has disappointed in the debates, appearing to lack confidence and talking mostly in generalities. George W. Bush has certainly lowered the bar when it comes to expecting experience in our presidential candidates, but Obama was an Illinois state senator just three years ago," the Washington Blade says in an endorsement editorial.

"By contrast, Clinton has demonstrated a mastery of detail during the campaign. Whatever you think of her, there's no denying her intellect and willingness to work hard . . .

"For those who doubt her ability to win over moderate and conservative voters, look at what she accomplished in upstate New York, where she carried 'red' counties in a landslide Senate re-election victory. I've interviewed elected officials, including conservative Republicans, from those areas and they agree that Clinton is a hard-working and accessible leader with a focus on constituent service. In addition, she worked from day one in the Senate to cultivate relationships with even her most conservative Republican colleagues."

As I've written many times, I'm not endorsing, supporting or even voting for Hillary Clinton. Not in the primary - I don't believe journalists ought to vote in primaries because it's an internal party activity; we shouldn't be helping parties choose their nominees - or in the general election, unless my vote for her would be the only thing keeping us from, say, a Duncan Hunter presidency.

I'm just trying to inject some reason into the local political bloodstream - especially in advance of coming Tribune and Sun-Times endorsements of Obama, who still hasn't adequately answered questions about Rezko, his kinky stock deal, his relationship with Machine bosses, his record in Springfield, the fabrications in his memoir . . . and so on. In part because he's dodging the Chicago press.

Biden Time
The New York Times forgets to interview its own editors while it searches for mysterious reasons why Joe Biden hasn't gotten a fair hearing for such a serious man.

"Mr. Biden's supporters will tell you that this is all the media's fault for not covering him more - much the same argument you hear from Bill Richardson and Christopher Dodd's supporters, too," Matt Bai writes. "This has some validity, but personally, I think Mr. Biden is less a victim of the media itself than of the distinct political culture that we in the media have wrought. Ten years of endless blather about the game of politics on cable TV have trained the most engaged American voters to handicap candidates rather than hear them, to pontificate about who might win rather than deciding whom they actually want to win. Voters seem to approach politics increasingly as pundits, and they look to poll numbers to tell them who's electable and who isn't, never stopping to realize that they are the ones who get to decide."

That's just insane on so many levels my head is spinning too fast to comment further.

Machine Man
"I am sick to death of no-bid contracts and cronyism and incompetence and indifference and corruption," Hillary Clinton said the other day.

Words Obama has never said to his Illinois pals.

Screw You
Ouch.

Hometown Hype
A more sober view of Fukudome.

God's Newspaper
Sun-Times Christmas Day headline: 'Something God Wanted To Happen," with story about a kidney donation.

Why didn't they use the page 7 story: 'She Went Off On Her Husband: Accused of Killing Him Over Guests"?

Does God only intervene when it's good news?

Troopergate
"Escorted by police, four charter buses cruised past bumper-to-bumper traffic in the left lane of the northbound Kennedy Expy. on Sunday afternoon after the Bears trounced the Green Bay Packers," the Sun-Times reported this week.

"Who received such royal treatment?

"The Packers, belive it or not."

By longstanding arrangement, opposing teams hire off-duty state troopers to escort team buses. Frank Main reports that the teams pay the troopers for their work and that because they are off-duty, they don't compromise manpower.

But those aren't the right questions: The right questions are: Why do pro sports teams get to pay to get special treatment to bypass traffic? Can anyone buy such an escort? And . . . here's the kicker: Why are the off-duty troopers allowed to use State Police cruisers?

This is an outrage, not a joke.

Love Is Creepy
"In The Simpsons episode, "A Milhouse Divided," Homer suggests the comic strip to a couple that is facing divorce, explaining it's 'about two naked eight-year-olds who are married.'"
- From the "Love Is . . . " Wikipedia entry

The Beachwood Tip Line: Cross at your own risk.

Posted by Lou at 07:00 AM | Permalink

Hawk TV!

Some hockey games have true grit. The checks are frequent, fierce and finished. Goals are at a premium and the buzz builds and builds as the seconds tick, tick, tick away. The Blackhawks versus Edmonton on Sunday, a contest the Hawks rallied to win 3-2, had true grit. It would have felt right at home in the playoffs.

Wednesday's game with Nashville's Predators on the Comcast Network? Not so much. But the Hawks made plays on offense and mustered just enough defense to pull it out. The Blackhawks' second 5-2 triumph in their last four games was also their fourth straight victory.

Play-by-play man Dan Kelly, Jr. (working the game with analyst Ed Olczyk) noted late in the game that the Hawks were about to record their first such streak since March 31st of 2002. That's a five-season stretch - and not surprisingly they were five miserable seasons.

There was no shortage of highlights:

* Well, that just about answers the question of whether televising home games will hurt the box office, doesn't it? Despite the broadcast, the Blackhawks recorded their first sellout (20,511, described as 100.1 percent of capacity by the box score on ESPN.com) of the season on Wednesday - that's right, "on Wednesday." Even during the glory years in the decades prior to this one the Hawks had a hard time selling out The Stadium for mid-week games against non-name opponents like the Predators. The holiday break helps - I'm sure one of the reasons plenty of folks felt comfortable taking in a relatively late game on a Wednesday (it ended after 10 p.m.) was they didn't have work or school the next day - but it didn't help that much. Folks are getting fired up about this team.

* The Predators would seem to have a problem between the pipes. When the Blackhawks knocked them off to start their current hot streak, they scored two goals on the game's first two shots to banish goalie Chris Mason to the bench. He was replaced by Dan Ellis. In the rematch last night, Ellis got the start and was demonstrably better. He stopped one of the first two shots mustered by the Hawks. But when he gave up a soft, short-side goal on the third he, too, got the hook. This time Mason came on in relief.

* The Blackhawks do not. And they certainly shouldn't, considering all the money they paid to bring in Nikolai Khabibulin a couple seasons ago. Khabibulin has put up the wall (that would be the 'Bulin Wall of course) at all the critical times of late. The last few seasons, Khabibulin has often seemed just good enough to lose, i.e., a goalie who could make plenty of big saves but would let just enough goals to finish on the wrong side of the score. This season, the Hawk netminder has turned that around. Just after the game ended, Olczyk noted "Nashville out-chanced the Hawks - in terms of quality chances - 2-to-1." In other words, Khabibulin was the difference.

* The rookie duo, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, have grabbed most of the pub but it has been veterans like Patrick Sharp (who is still only 25 but has been playing in the league for several years now) and Robert Lang who have really made the offense run and taken care of defensive responsibilities at the same time. Sharp opened the scoring with his seventh shorthanded goal of the season. If he keeps this up he might just catch the all-time record holder, a fellow by the name of Mario Lemieux (who once totaled 13 in a season). The Hawks lead the league with 12 shorties. Proof of Sharp and Lang's excellence is contained in the plus-minus ranking. Sharp is a plus-14 and Lang a plus-12. Kane is a -2 and Toews is 1.

* Then again, when the Hawks seized command in the first period it was Toews who made the plays. He made a perfect rush down the left side on the first one, never even hinting he might slip a pass into the slot until the last possible instant. All Sharp had to do was tip it in. And then it was Toews who seemed to have no room to work with after Sharp hit him with a pass in a spot well off to the side of the goal. But the rookie found a way to slip it past Ellis.

*Before the game, the Hawks announced that last year's leading scorer, Martin Havlat, was returning to injured reserve for the second time this season. The temptation with this squad is to point to its most accomplished offensive player and say if Havlat can get healthy (something he has struggled to do his entire career and a big reason the Hawks were able to get him) and stay healthy, the team has a great shot at the playoffs. But then it turns out the Hawks have a better record without him so far this season (14-8-2) than with him (5-7).

* The game ended with an intense little fight between the Hawks' James Wisniewski and Nashville's Jordin Tootoo. Tootoo is a noted provocateur and plenty of people had to be happy to watch him getting pummeled by the Blackhawk backliner. But in the process Wisniewski managed to hurt his knee and is expected to be out a while. It was a rough game overall for Hawks defensemen. Brent Sopel broke a finger, although the Hawks seemed hopeful afterwards that he could return in a week or two. And Brent Seabrook was slammed into what Kelly described as a "turnbuckle" in the second period. Near the middle of the ice, where there is not protective glass above the boards, Seabrook was pushed to the side and then came to an abrupt halt as his top half leaned over the boards and ran into a wall separated at the space where side-ice reporter Josh Mora hangs out from the Blackhawk bench.

* Either Kelly or Olczyk noted they hoped Mora had been able to see Seabrook fighting the wall and the wall winning in a reflection in the glass because the replay showed him turning away from the action in a hurry.

* In the end, the UC's giant organ struck up the Bum, bum, bum - Let's Go Hawks! Bum, bum, bum - Let's Go Hawks! little ditty and it sounded great as the tempo picked up just a bit with every one of the approximate nine (No. 9 was Bobby Hull's jersey number of course) repetitions. Some of the Hawks' music choices are inspired - Queens of the Stone Age comes to mind. But I'm confident I speak for a large number of sports fans in Chicago when I say we don't need the typical canned music at Hawks games, even if it is a bit better than the soundtrack for say, the Bulls. But the organ sounds like hockey. In fact, it sounds like winning hockey.

-

Jim Coffman is covering this season's historic home Hawks telecasts for the Beachwood.

Posted by Lou at 01:11 AM | Permalink

Over/Under

With the Christmas season (almost) mercifully behind us, I have an observation: As ridiculous as the NFL hype machine seems to be, the Christmas season makes the NFL look like a tea party with your Aunt Mildred. Gladly Christmas isn't more like the NFL, because it would look a lot like this:

* Peyton Manning in even more commercials, and also appearing as Santa at your local mall.

* The news measures the health of the economy by finding out how many hot dogs were purchased at the last New York Giants home game.

* The "All-Christmas" radio station changes to "All NFL carols." The station plays Gloria Estefan signing the favorite "Hark! The Drunken Packers Sing (Glory to the Newborn Favre)"

* Minute-by-minute coverage of Week 17's action starts in late November.

* NFL plays its Thanksgiving Day games at midnight to kick off the merchandising season.

* Even though most of the nation claims to be "devout NFL fans," most fans only watch football the Super Bowl.

* Instead of watching the latest game with favorable company, you insist on watching the game with hated members of the family, where the spirit of the NFL season is lost in the petty arguing and bitter grudges.

* By Week 16, you wish the NFL never existed.

-

OverHyped Game of the Week: Titans at Colts

Storyline: It's a must-win for the Titans. It's a must-not-get-injured game for the Colts. You should still watch it, because both teams have winning records.

Reality: The Colts are worried about a Manning injury; they replace Manning with Gary Busey for all commercials. Too bad the Titans cannot score a bunch to cover the spread.

Pick: Indianapolis Plus 6, Under 39.5 Points Scored.

*

UnderHyped Game of the Week: Cowboys at Redskins

Storyline: Both teams have each other. You know what I heard? Terrell Owens said something totally outlandish about the Redskins, which he will later retract.

Reality: This is another "mail it in game" for the Cowboys. Too bad the Redskins cannot score a bunch to cover the spread.

Pick: Dallas Plus 9.5 Points, Under 39.5 Points Scored.

*

Results:
Last week: 2-4 (1-2 Against the Spread, 1-2 Over/Under)
Season: 40-54 (17-30 Against the Spread, 23-24 Over/Under)

-

For more Emery, see the Kool-Aid archive, and the Over/Under archive. Emery accepts comments from Bears fans reluctantly and everyone else tolerably.

Posted by Lou at 12:08 AM | Permalink

December 26, 2007

The [Wednesday] Papers

Geez, even "Love Is . . . " has lost itself.

Season Greetings
- On the 12th day of Christmas, the Cubbies gave to me
100 years of heartbreak and futility
.

- This one goes out to all our Jewish friends out there.

- This one goes out to all our African-American friends out there.

Give the gift of the Beachwood! You will be rewarded in Beachwood Heaven.

Holiday Hangover
Examples of the disconnect newspapers have with reality:

* The Tribune unironically uses the following quote from Phil Cline as among the year's best:

"He tarnished our image worse than anyone else in the history of the department."

Jon Burge? No. Anthony Abbate.

But then, the media too is more outraged over Abbate - an drunken off-duty cop who did a stupid thing but has not been shown to have engaged in systematic torture off black men deemed by a court to be de facto city policy - so it makes sense.

* The Sun-Times's best-dressed list of 2007 includes captions such as "In cobalt blue, [Halle] Berry could be a fertility goddess."

Which is nice because the photos are all in black-and-white.

* Every Sunday, Zay Smith devotes his Quick Takes column to items found on the Internet - a column whose Internet version contains no links.

* Neil Steinberg makes another startling confession: Until he was told by family members on Christmas Eve, he had no idea who Scott Skiles was.

That's Neil!
Neil Steinberg's visit to a dominatrix is wrong on so many levels I'll leave it to you to decide what the worst part of it is. But the fact that it's the most boring dominatrix story ever is certainly near the top of the list.

Speared
"The Sun-Times Has Mommy Issues."

CTA MIA
"CTA President Ron Huberman told us that contrary to our experience, he finds most riders understand the agency is underfunded by Springfield," the Sun-Times editorial board writes today.

Huberman is delusional, but what's worse is the paper's failure to note that the agency is underfunded - and mismanaged - by the mayor, whose name does not appear in the piece.

Regardless of the funding puzzle, the CTA is the mayor's responsibility. And if the mayor isn't exactly knocking heads in Springfield to get things resolved.

Deja Vu
* "A Sun-Times reporter spends 24 hours at the Ritz-Carlton to find out why it's frequently named the nation's best hotel."

Like Steinberg's dominatrix story, it's been done - better. But they've got a helluva PR operation over there!

* A Sun-Times Kevin Fox exclusive.

But not as good as this one.

* "It's the only one of our construction jobs where no one complained about the old building being torn down," Donald Trump Jr. told Sneed.

I beg to differ.

Baby Paper
And please, no more picking a tragic baby story every year to exploit for your day-after-Christmas front-page instead of reporting the real news all by yourself.

Cy's Folly
A full page ad appeared in the Sun-Times on Sunday from Sun-Times publisher and Sun-Times Media Group CEO Cyrus Freidheim, Jr., congratulating Sam Zell on his acquisition of Tribune Company.

"P.S.," Freidheim writes, "We would have taken this ad in your paper, but your rates are too high."

Memo to Cy: The Tribune's rates are higher because their paper is better, and thus can command higher rates. Having lower ad rates is nothing to brag about.

From The [Christmas Day] Papers
* "In the second half of the 20th Century, no jazz pianist could touch Oscar Peterson when it came to sheer mastery of the instrument," Howard Reich writes on the front page of the Tribune today.

"The technical brilliance, unprecedented speed and hard-driving swing of Peterson's best work inspired generations of artists. But it also drove them to despair, for they knew Peterson's feats could not be matched, much less topped.

"Moreover, no place on earth forged a closer musical link to Peterson than Chicago."

* "It isn't just shopping mall Santas who lose their jobs on Christmas Eve," the Tribune reports. "Add Bulls coach Scott Skiles to a notable list of people who got fired the night before Christmas."

Shoppers Delight
"This is the season of frenetic shopping, but for a devious few people it's also the season of spirited shopdropping," the New York Times reported on its front page Monday.

"Otherwise known as reverse shoplifting, shopdropping involves surreptitiously putting things in stores, rather than illegally taking them out, and the motivations vary.

"Anti-consumerist artists slip replica products packaged with political messages onto shelves while religious proselytizers insert pamphlets between pages of gay-and-lesbian readings at book stores.

"Self-published authors sneak their works into the 'new releases' section, while personal trainers put their business cards into weight-loss books and aspiring professional photographers make home made cards - their Web site address included, of course - and covertly plant them into stationery-store racks."

My favorite is this photo accompanied by this caption: "A Wal-Mart cashier tried unsuccessfully to check the price on an Anarchist action figure, an item the company does not sell."

*

Of course, shopdropping isn't just for Christmas.

*

We're here for you through the holiday. Settle in with our guide to the college bowl season and wager appropriately. Play the Bears Drinking Game to make watching them finish out their sorry season, um, bearable. And don't forget stocking stuffers for your favorite players.

*

Beachwood season greetings:

- Dear Macy's: The Walnut Room sucks!
- Dear Oprah: Don't do it!
- Dear Patti Blagojevich: Congratulations!

*

From the holiday vault:

- Home for the Holidays: Start from the bottom!
- 20 Carols
- A Poem For The Children On The Subject Of Gluttony
- Barista! The Gift Card That Saved Christmas
- Day in the Life: Christmas Radio
- The Hester Man Can!

Beachwood Tip Line: Give and take.

Posted by Lou at 08:54 AM | Permalink

Have Yourself A Merry Little Kwanzaa

Have yourself a merry little Kwanzaa
Make your kinara light
From now on,
Your Christmases won't be white

Have Yourself A Merry Little Kwanzaa

Have yourself a merry little Kwanzaa
Something just ain't right
You get to have Christmas
And you get Kwanzaa seven days and nights

Harken back now to Malcolm X,
Martin Luther King and more
Sadly Jesse's all that you have left
And they caught him with a whore

Through the years you're owed remuneration
If the government allows
Hang racist Trent Lott
Upon the highest bough

And have yourself a merry little Kwanzaa now

Harken back now to Marvin Gaye
Tupac Shakur and those
Sadly Jacko started out as black
And now he sleeps with young boys

Through the years you've fought discrimination
To earn equality
But it ain't fair your TV shows
Are on the WB

And have yourself a merry little Kwanzaa now
Kwanzaa Yenu Iwe Na Heri

*

More season greetings!

- This one goes out to all our Jewish friends out there.

- The Twelve Days of Beachwood Christmas.

Posted by Lou at 07:35 AM | Permalink

What I Watched Last Night

Trivia gleaned from Comcast's Sounds of the Season Music Choice Channel. Better than watching a burning log.

*

1. In Poland, the gift bringer is Star Man. (Not to be confused with Starman.)

2. In "Prancer Returns" Charlie finds a baby reindeer in the woods and immediately believes it to be Prancer.

3. On New Year's Day 1876, in honor of the centennial, the first Mummers' parade was held in Philadelphia, PA.

4. Christmas Island is located in the Pacific Ocean.

5. "Do You Hear What I Hear" was heard in the film Gremlins.

6. In Germany, the mother is the family member who trims the Christmas tree.

7. Christmas gifts date back to the time of Britain's Henry VII, when Christmas "boxes" filled with money were common.

8. 86% of consumers do their Christmas shopping during December.

9. In Syria, the camel is the gift bringer.

10. In France, parents exchange gifts on New Year's Day.

11. Born on New Year, 1735: Paul Revere and 1940: Frank Langella.

12. The present-day New Year's Eve ball displayed in New York City's Times Square was designed by Waterford. (Bonus fact: The 2008 ball has new LED technology - 9.5 LEDs - to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the New Year's Eve ball.)

13. Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" is the best selling Christmas single with sales of over 30 million copies.

14. The color white on the candy cane symbolizes purity.

15. In How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966) the Grinch took the last can of Who Hash.

16. Scandinavian mythology brought us the custom of kissing under the mistletoe.

17. White Christmas (1954) never won an Academy Award.

18. Early Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parades had employees marching dressed as clowns, cowboys, knights, and sheiks.

19. Ingredients for low-calorie egg-nog are 2 eggs, 4 cups skim milk, vanilla, sugar substitute, brandy, and nutmeg.

20. Skateboards were the most popular gift of 1965, especially in California.

21. Over one million acres of land are planted with Christmas trees in the U.S.

22. In Denmark, a bowl of julnisse (rice pudding) is left out for Santa's elves.

23. Frosty the Snowman (1969) begins with the first snow of the season on Christmas Eve.

24. When Prohibition ended alcohol could be legally purchased again on St. Nicholas Day in 1933.

25. St. Francis of Assisi created the first manger scene, or creche, in 1224.

26. Since the beginning of the White House holiday tree tradition, 16 states have provided trees.

27. Cabbage Patch dolls were the most popular gift for girls in 1984.

28. According to legend, the holiday tradition of tinsel is attributed to spiders.

29. Bert Convy starred in the only Christmas movie of his career in 1979's The Man in the Santa Claus Suit.

30. Norway sends a large Christmas tree to England on an annual basis.

*

Catch up with Comcast's rock trivia!

Posted by Lou at 07:04 AM | Permalink

December 25, 2007

The [Christmas] Papers

"In the second half of the 20th Century, no jazz pianist could touch Oscar Peterson when it came to sheer mastery of the instrument," Howard Reich writes on the front page of the Tribune today.

"The technical brilliance, unprecedented speed and hard-driving swing of Peterson's best work inspired generations of artists. But it also drove them to despair, for they knew Peterson's feates could not be matched, much less topped.

"Moreover, no place on earth forged a closer musical link to Peterson than Chicago."

Merry Frickin' Christmas
"It isn't just shopping mall Santas who lose their jobs on Christmas Eve," the Tribune reports. "Add Bulls coach Scott Skiles to a notable list of people who got fired the night before Christmas."

Shoppers Delight
"This is the season of frenetic shopping, but for a devious few people it's also the season of spirited shopdropping," the New York Times reported on its front page Monday.

"Otherwise known as reverse shoplifting, shopdropping involves surreptitiously putting things in stores, rather than illegally taking them out, and the motivations vary.

"Anti-consumerist artists slip replica products packaged with political messages onto shelves while religious proselytizers insert pamphlets between pages of gay-and-lesbian readings at book stores.

"Self-published authors sneak their works into the 'new releases' section, while personal trainers put their business cards into weight-loss books and aspiring professional photographers make home made cards - their Web site address included, of course - and covertly plant them into stationery-store racks."

My favorite is this photo accompanied by this caption: "A Wal-Mart cashier tried unsuccessfully to check the price on an Anarchist action figure, an item the company does not sell."

*

Of course, shopdropping isn't just for Christmas.

Christmas Carol
Among Carol Marin's Christmas wishes:

* "Interviews for Barack and Michelle Obama with the Chicago media, whom they mostly dodge."

* "Better answers from the mayor about his son and nephew's city contract."

* "Stamina for Cindi Canary and Jay Stewart, lonely government watchdogs. So much corruption, so little time. Stay strong."

Santa Song
It's the 12th Day of Beachwood Christmas!

On the 12th day of Christmas, the Cubbies gave to me
100 years of heartbreak and futility
.

Then again, every day is Christmas at the Beachwood!

Give the gift of the Beachwood!

*

We're here for you through the holiday. Settle in with our guide to the college bowl season and wager appropriately. Play the Bears Drinking Game to make watching them finish out their sorry season, um, bearable. And don't forget stocking stuffers for your favorite players.

*

Beachwood season greetings:

- Dear Macy's: The Walnut Room sucks!
- Dear Oprah: Don't do it!
- Dear Patti Blagojevich: Congratulations!

*

From the holiday vault:

- Home for the Holidays: Start from the bottom!
- 20 Carols
- A Poem For The Children On The Subject Of Gluttony
- Barista! The Gift Card That Saved Christmas
- Day in the Life: Christmas Radio
- The Hester Man Can!

*

This one goes out to all our Jewish friends out there.

*

Action Alert
In the wake of the shockingly apt accidental death of roofing billionaire Ken Hendricks, the Weekend Desk Holiday Disaster Team has issued alerts for the following public figures.

1. Having succumbed to a surge in infection, President Bush will deny his rising fever until it's far too late.

2. Sam Zell will be crushed while dismantling a printing press.

3. Despite a detailed explanation of his symptoms, doctors won't know what to make of Mitt Romney's sudden decline.

4. After underestimating the amount of time required, Barack Obama will consume too much half-baked bread.

5. Roger Clemens will be shot in the ass.

6. Friends of Governor Rod Blagojevich will throw him under a Hannah Montana tour bus somewhere far away from Springfield.

7. Cook County Board President Todd Stroger will continue to drown at an unbelievably slow rate.

*

Bear Market
* "There is no overstating how well Kyle Orton threw the ball," our very own Jim Coffman writes in Bear Monday, the city's best Bears wrap-up. "All day long his spirals were as tight as tourniquets."

* "You can't salvage a losing season," Mike Mulligan writes in the Sun-Times. "That's the bitter reality the Bears face."

* "How long should Mike McCarthy play Brett Favre and other key veterans in the regular-season finale?"
- Online poll at PackersNews.com, because Green Bay is going to the playoffs
-

And to all our atheist and agnostic friends out there, keep the faithlessness!

The Beachwood Tip Line: Counting the days.

Posted by Lou at 09:14 AM | Permalink

The Twelve Days of Cubness

On the 12th day of Christmas, the Cubbies gave to me
100 years of heartbreak and futility

*

The 12 Days of Cubness

On the first day of Christmas, the Cubbies gave to me
Heartbreak and Futility

On the second day of Christmas, the Cubbies gave to me
100 years of losses full of
Heartbreak and Futility

On the third day of Christmas, the Cubbies gave to me
3 - Kiki Cuyler
2 - Billy Herman
So begins the Mediocrity

On the fourth day of Christmas, the Cubbies gave to me
4 new owners
3 Donald Trumps
2 Mark Cubans
Let's get someone to spend some money

On the fifth day of Christmas, the Cubbies gave to me
Fukodome
4 Santo slip-ups
3 international incidents
Domo Arigato
How do the Japanese say Mediocrity?

On the sixth day of Christmas, the Cubbies gave to me
6 balls by Leon Durham
F-ing Steve Garvey
4 runs in the 7th
3 straight Padre wins
2 games up
This series almost killed ol' Harry

On the 7th day of Christmas, the Cubbies gave to me
'07 D-Backs sweeping
After 6 Zambrano sleeping
Wait Until Next Year
4 Pinella screw-ups
30 Lilly lit
2 for 23
A World Series is something I won't see

On the 8th day of Christmas, the Cubbies gave to me
8 runs Bartman weeping
7 ground balls Alex booting
6-4-3 not turning
5 outs to go
4 Prior pissed
3 Chicago runs
2 toothpicks
Another Curse and more Futility

On the 9th day of Christmas, the Cubbies gave to me
'98 Atlanta sweeping
'89 Will Clark keeps hitting
'70's team are shitty
'69 Cubs a-choking
'05 White Sox win
'45 Goat Curse
'32 Babe Ruth's called shot
99 years of infertility

On the 10th day of Christmas, the Cubbies gave to me
10 Santo skipping
9 Hundley catching
8 1/2-game lead is dwindling
7 Peanut Lowery Coaching
6 Randy Bobb is hardly playing
The Amazing Mets
Don Young going crazy
A black cat
2 games for Ernie Banks
The year I learned to shout obscenities

On the 11th day of Christmas, the Cubbies gave to me
11 - Carl Sawatski
10 - Paul Gillespie
9 - Rube Novotney
8 - Vic Roxnovsky
7 - Joe Giradi
6 - Joe Altobelli
5 - Amalfitano
4 - Billy Williams
3 - Lou Klein
2 - Herman Franks
What a franchise for this century

On the 12th day of Christmas, the Cubbies gave to me
12 Bleacher Babes a-kissin
11 troughs for pissing
10 concrete a-falling
9 Yuppies yapping
8 drunkards napping
7th inning singers crappy
6 ticket brokers scalping
5 Frosty Malts
4 Beanie babies
3 long balls
2 Ivy walls
99 years of futility

*

Lyrics/arrangement: Tom Latourette
Singers: Tom Latourette, Bill Latourette, Tom Noelle, Steve Rhodes
Recorded by: Joe Dilillo, Maxim Entertainment Group

*

The 12 Days of Beachwood Christmas:

- Day 1: Have a Dysfunctional Family Christmas
- Day 2: Little George Bush
- Day 3: Hillary, Hillary
- Day 4: O Holy Grill
- Day 5: Christmas Lingerie
- Day 6: I've Got Erectile Dysfunction This Christmas
- Day 7: 1908
- Day 8: 'Twas The Night Before Christmas At El Taco Bandito
- Day 9: O Christmas Pole
- Day 10: O Sumenberger
- Day 11: I'm Santa Claus
- Day 12: The Twelve Days of Cubness

*

Special season greetings to our First Lady!

- Congratulations!

And:

- This one goes out to all our Jewish friends out there.

*

Special thanks to Tom Latourette, Don's Grill, the Cubs and Joe at Maxim.

Posted by Lou at 08:15 AM | Permalink

December 24, 2007

The [Christmas Eve] Papers

Is sweeping the Packers really more satisfying than getting into the playoffs? That's why rivalries are not only overrated, but silly and immature.

Bear Market
* "There is no overstating how well Kyle Orton threw the ball," our very own Jim Coffman writes in Bear Monday, the city's best Bears wrap-up. "All day long his spirals were as tight as tourniquets."

* "You can't salvage a losing season," Mike Mulligan writes in the Sun-Times. "That's the bitter reality the Bears face."

* "How long should Mike McCarthy play Brett Favre and other key veterans in the regular-season finale?"
- Online poll at PackersNews.com, because Green Bay is going to the playoffs

Shoppers Delight
"This is the season of frenetic shopping, but for a devious few people it's also the season of spirited shopdropping," the New York Times reports on its front page today.

"Otherwise known as reverse shoplifting, shopdropping involves surreptitiously putting things in stores, rather than illegally taking them out, and the motivations vary.

"Anti-consumerist artists slip replica products packaged with political messages onto shelves while religious proselytizers insert pamphlets between pages of gay-and-lesbian readings at book stores.

"Self-published authors sneak their works into the 'new releases' section, while personal trainers put their business cards into weight-loss books and aspiring professional photographers make home made cards - their Web site address included, of course - and covertly plant them into stationery-store racks."

My favorite is this photo accompanied by this caption: "A Wal-Mart cashier tried unsuccessfully to check the price on an Anarchist action figure, an item the company does not sell."

*

Of course, shopdropping isn't just for Christmas.

Christmas Carol
Among Carol Marin's Christmas wishes:

* "Interviews for Barack and Michelle Obama with the Chicago media, whom they mostly dodge."

* "Better answers from the mayor about his son and nephew's city contract."

* "Stamina for Cindi Canary and Jay Stewart, lonely government watchdogs. So much corruption, so little time. Stay strong."

Santa Song
It's the 11th Day of Beachwood Christmas!

On the 11th day of Christmas, Santa gave to me
rap rock like Kid Rock and Run-DMC
.

Then again, every day is Christmas at the Beachwood!

Give the gift of the Beachwood!

*

We're here for you through the holiday. Settle in with our guide to the college bowl season and wager appropriately. Play the Bears Drinking Game to make watching them finish out their sorry season, um, bearable. And don't forget stocking stuffers for your favorite players.

*

Beachwood season greetings:

- Dear Macy's: The Walnut Room sucks!
- Dear Oprah: Don't do it!
- Dear Patti Blagojevich: Congratulations!

*

From the holiday vault:

- Home for the Holidays: Start from the bottom!
- 20 Carols
- A Poem For The Children On The Subject Of Gluttony
- Barista! The Gift Card That Saved Christmas
- Day in the Life: Christmas Radio
- The Hester Man Can!

*

This one goes out to all our Jewish friends out there.

*

Action Alert
In the wake of the shockingly apt accidental death of roofing billionaire Ken Hendricks, the Weekend Desk Holiday Disaster Team has issued alerts for the following public figures.

1. Having succumbed to a surge in infection, President Bush will deny his rising fever until it's far too late.

2. Sam Zell will be crushed while dismantling a printing press.

3. Despite a detailed explanation of his symptoms, doctors won't know what to make of Mitt Romney's sudden decline.

4. After underestimating the amount of time required, Barack Obama will consume too much half-baked bread.

5. Roger Clemens will be shot in the ass.

6. Friends of Governor Rod Blagojevich will throw him under a Hannah Montana tour bus somewhere far away from Springfield.

7. Cook County Board President Todd Stroger will continue to drown at an unbelievably slow rate.

*

Tomorrow we will bring you the 12th and final Beachwood Christmas song, and then return to normal on Wednesday with a full slate of ridicule. In the meantime, we wish you a holiday with minimal aggravation - and that goes for the atheists and agnostics our there too. Keep the faithlessness!

The Beachwood Tip Line: Help us help you.

Posted by Lou at 08:08 AM | Permalink

I'm Santa Claus

On the 11th day of Christmas, Santa gave to me
rap rock like Kid Rock and Run-DMC

*

Where I come from, there is lots of snow
With my reindeer fast, look at my sleigh go
My fashion sense uses red velour
And my friends are just a bunch of elves

I'm making toys here in the North Pole
If you're bad here's a lump of coal
Mrs. Claus makes my apple gold
Candy cane in my pocket

I'm Santa Claus
Bringing cheer to the girls and boys
Be good 'cause I'm Santa Clause

I'm Santa Claus
Got myself a big bag of toys
Be good 'cause I'm Santa Claus

Look at all those little kids
Nestled snug inside their beds
All their stockings hung with care
Sugar plums dancing in their heads

I make a list who's bad or good
You know I see most everything
Take my picture at the mall
You gotta do the Santa thing

I'm Santa Claus
On Christmas Eve my sleigh will see
Be good 'cause I'm Santa Claus

I'm Santa Claus
Puttin' presents under your tree
Be good 'cause I'm Santa Clause

The truth is
I don't stand a chance
You kids leave me all this food
And I just can't resist
No I can't I'm eating cookies, drinking milk
Chocolate cookies are tasting great
I can't squeeze down your chimney
Santa needs to lose some weight

I'm Santa Claus
South Beach Diet it ain't for me
Be good 'cause I'm Santa Claus

I'm Santa Claus
I eat every cookie I see
Be good 'cause I'm Santa Claus

I'm Santa Claus
Ho-ho-ho!

I'm Santa Claus
I'm a bad mother- . . . shut your . . . !

I'm Santa Claus
Be good 'cause I'm Santa Claus

*

Previously in The 12 Days of Beachwood Christmas, brought to you by our very own Tom Latourette:

- Day 1: Have a Dysfunctional Family Christmas
- Day 2: Little George Bush
- Day 3: Hillary, Hillary
- Day 4: O Holy Grill
- Day 5: Christmas Lingerie
- Day 6: I've Got Erectile Dysfunction This Christmas
- Day 7: 1908
- Day 8: 'Twas The Night Before Christmas At El Taco Bandito
- Day 9: O Christmas Pole
- Day 10: O Sumenberger

Posted by Lou at 06:39 AM | Permalink

Bear Monday: Orton's Army

I stepped off the shuttle bus at the end of the line just to the west of Lake Shore Drive at 18th Street and caught a glimpse of amazing Soldier Field. It has been said many times, many ways but it still bears repeating: The place most closely resembles - especially when you look at it from the west-southwest - a saucer-shaped UFO hovering mere inches above 80-year-old colonnades built to honor veterans of World War I. World War I! It may be hideous, but it is spectacularly hideous! Is there a more bizarre-looking, prominent sports facility in this great country of ours? I think not! We're No. 1. We're No. 1.

After 15 weeks of televised football this fall, I decided to venture out into the elements for Sunday's contest with the hated Packers. As usual, my timing was impeccable - the Bears played by far their best game of the season and prevailed by four highly satisfying touchdowns. Actually, my timing usually isn't quite this good. In my only 2005 game at the Field, I watched Carson Palmer and the Bengals give the boys in Blue and Orange a whuppin'.

But that was nothing compared to the single game I took in the year before. That one featured a terrible Redskin team led by Mark Brunell trying oh so determinedly to give the Bears a victory. But good old Jonathan Quinn, the backup quarterback hand-picked by Lovie's first offensive coordinator, Terry Shea, as just the guy to run his offense, ran it alright - straight into the ground. Ah Terry, you one-year-wonder, we hardly knew ya'. Wherever you are, just remember one thing: Don't give up. Another recent, ever-so-overmatched Bears offensive guru, Gary Crowton (Dick Jauron's first guy), is doing just fine these days. He will return to action Jan. 7 directing the offense for . . . possible national champion LSU.

And now, onto . . . the Highlights!

* When the renovated Soldier Field re-opened, the word was that fans with first dibs chose seats on the east side of the stadium, where they could kick back during afternoon games and enjoy cozy sunshine. But they pay for it on days like Sunday, when merciless westerly winds blast away. That was also the side of the field where the Packers felt the brunt of The Hawk whistling down on them all day long. My friend Jon's seats are on the west side, not far behind the Bears' bench, so we were sheltered from the worst of it. By about midway through the second quarter, the upper-deck stands on the East Side had pretty much cleared out. But impressively enough, most of those folks were back in their seats early in the third. And even in Sunday's bitter, bitter cold they couldn't have been feeling too much pain after Peanut Tillman's glorious punt block and definitely not after Brian Urlacher's pick six.

* Given those winds, there is no overstating how well Kyle Orton threw the ball. All day long his spirals were as tight as tourniquets. In conditions when it took only a moment for the slightest wobble to deteriorate into a mortally wounded duck, Orton's passes did not falter.

* You had a chance to double your 3-0 lead after three lame runs inside the 10 . . . but instead you went for it on 4th-and-goal from the three-and-a-half, Lovie? But slap my mouth - coach Ron Turner had just the play, spreading the field and crossing Muhsin Muhammad into a wide-open portion of the end zone. But then, all together now, "Not agaaaaiin!" Moose dropped a pass that hit him in the exact midpoint of his body. And Green Bay took over on downs. Fortunately the Bear defense held and soon thereafter, the second chapter of the Packer punting fiasco (after a fumbled long snap on an earlier attempt) unfolded. Punter Jon Ryan had to take a couple steps to the side to field a wayward snap and Darrell McGlover stretched out for the first block of the day.

* From our seats we had a very good view of the Bears' long-snapper par excellence Patrick Mannelly's unique little commute. He went back and forth from the sideline heater to a spot down the sideline near his special teams coach four times during the Bears' epic opening drive. He obviously is supposed to be right there in case third downs turn into fourth downs and he has to go in, but each time the Bear offense converted and Mannelly hustled back to the heater. Overall, Mannelly had another great game. He snaps the ball like Orton was throwing it.

* So many Bears were out there in short sleeves, apparently trying to assert their dominance over the weather, to prove their toughness forever. Guys, we know you're tough. Put on some sleeves! One guy did re-think his shirt choice. I've got to give Jon credit for noticing that Adam Archuleta put on another layer before the second half began. Of course Archuleta is also the guy who was summarily drummed out of the starting lineup about a month ago. Coincidence?

* The Bears were leading by multiple touchdowns and for the second time today, Brett Favre was lying on the field in the fetal position (after corralling a loose ball). Life was sweet. Favre's comeback season is a heck of a story and all, but we really don't need to hear a whole lot more about it around here. Then again if he's going to keep finding ways to lose to the Bears he obviously shouldn't hang it up just yet.

* Israel Idonije had another great game, especially on defense. He may be undersized at defensive tackle but the Bears need to figure out ways to get him in games, and not just on special teams. So - coaches Bob Babich and Ron Turner - don't come back (to training camp in 2008) until you have found ways for Idonije to make more of an impact on defense and Devin Hester to do the same on offense.

* Hester barely touched the ball in this contest after playing a significant pass-catching role in two of the past three games. All is forgiven and forgotten after a sweet victory but the inconsistency with which he touches the ball on offense continues to make one wonder about what is going on when game plans are created.

* And one other thing. Can Bears who commit false starts (three more in the first half against the Packers) be forced to leave the field immediately and do 50 pushups in front of the crowd behind the Bears bench? At least in the season finale this week against the Saints? Lovie, you can do this.

* Did you see that Sunday night score? It was Washington, a whole bunch of points-Minnesota, a few meaningless late touchdowns. So much for all that chatter about how dangerous the Vikings and their vaunted running game would be in the postseason. The Bears' defensive performance last week hinted at the fact that people were anointing Minnesota a playoff dark horse a bit too soon. And the Redskins blew it away.

* Last year the Packers wrapped up a late-season resurgence (a four-game win streak after losing eight of their first 12 games) with a decisive victory over the Bears in their finale. It was a game that didn't matter to the Blue and Orange because they had already clinched the top spot in the playoff pecking order going in. After the victory, the Packers went about convincing themselves that it was significant, that it was a definitive sign of better days to come. I'm usually a firm believer that victories after a team has been eliminated from playoff contention (ones that occur after all pressure has been eliminated) are absolutely meaningless. But something turned the Packers around. And it can certainly do the same for the Bears as they look forward to 2008.

-

Jim Coffman brings you Bears Monday every . . . Monday.

Posted by Lou at 06:28 AM | Permalink

Jason Ringenberg's Rainbow Stew

Listening to the upcoming Jason Ringenberg solo career retrospective Best Tracks and Side Tracks is like waking up in a land where the Bubble Up is free and there's an all-day feast of rainbow stew: The music seems sparkling and too good to be true, and yet it's still got one foot in a slow-moving freight running past a hobo jungle somewhere down around Carbondale. That combination of punk rock exuberance and social consciousness and deep country sorrow, which has marked Ringenberg's career since the earliest Jason & the Scorchers tracks, is still abundantly evident on this Yep Roc Records compilation, which mostly covers his post-2000 solo records.

jason.jpgRingenberg gets a lot of credit as probably the originator of so-called cowpunk and as a crucial pioneer in alternative country music. And you know what? He deserves all of that credit and much, much more. He's one artist from the '80s who came in with an exciting new sound and never abandoned his integrity once the major labels came a-calling.

Of course, that resulted in a shortened time atop the heap. The Scorchers, after helping to lay the groundwork for the total re-imagining of roots rock that would could come in the mid-'90s, blew up in 1989 after the pressures of dealing with the demands of the rock 'n' roll fast lane got to be too much. Ringenberg says the Scorchers had to spend so much time trying to break down the barriers in Nashville between rock and country music that it drained him and the rest of band. Being the first was bad timing, as it turned out. The true pioneers are rarely recognized.

Ringenberg was advised by Bob Dylan as the Scorchers were breaking up to concentrate his future work on his country roots and drop the arena-rock crunch of the Scorchers, and that's more or less what he's been up to ever since. In the late '90s, the Scorchers reunited and toured extensively, deservedly cashing in somewhat on what they had wrought by establishing alt-country as a legitimate genre. But, especially since 2000, Ringenberg has been a solo guitar-slinger, obsessively touring, writing, and wringing out a living to support his family in Nashville.

On the two-disc Best Tracks and Side Tracks, it's the solo Ringenberg, who in his late forties is more reflective and less bombastic, that emerges here. The crucial songs on this retrospective come from the LPs A Pocketful of Soul (2000), All Over Creation (2002) and Empire Builders (2004). Listening to the best of these albums, you realize that although he's toned down the fiery wild man that helped make the Scorchers one of the best live band of the '80s, he's also now writing songs that are more emotional and heartfelt and, really, more satisfying than ever, both musically and lyrically.

On "Tuskegee Pride" from Empire Builders, for example, he sings a country-rock dirge about the grandson of a slave who volunteers for a segregated army to fight Hitler, and explains to a younger generation how he became a fighter pilot and suffered horrible burns for a country in which he still wasn't free. And on "Chief Joseph's Last Dream," Ringenberg uses a spare, haunting acoustic ballad to recount how the great Nez Pierce chief foresaw the doom of his people, a coming time when the "white devouring beast" would destroy his nation:

Chief Joseph's last dream before he passed away
On the God-forsaken Oklahoma day
He saw a purple sunrise through the mountain mist
He felt his first wife give him a perfect holy kiss

Her face was shining brilliant in a sky of blue
And her smile told him he had no more to lose

Another stand-out in the same vein is from All Over Creation, an album in which he teamed with different guest collaborators on each song. On "A Bible and a Gun," he does a duet with Steve Earle in which they sing about not being able to "shake the anger" that keeps them on the road through "this world of woe with a Bible and a gun," as claps of thunder echo in the background.

But since this is Jason Ringenberg, it's not all gloom and doom here. The solo years have also produced some great uptempo, feel-good numbers as well. One such is from his his alter ego Farmer Jason, where he shows a completely different side as a . . . gulp . . . children's songwriter! His most recent album was last year's Farmer Jason's Rockin' In the Forest, in which he unveiled a collection of clever kids songs built around animal characters. "Punk Rock Skunk" tells the story of a lovable critter who sings,

I have a leather jacket, my jeans are full of holes
If I lived in England, I'd be on the dole
Today I told the barber I wanted a Mohawk
He was so freaked out, he couldn't even talk

I'm a punk, I'm a punk,
I'm a punk, I'm a punk, I'm a punk rock skunk

For hardcore Ringenberg fans, there's also plenty of interesting new stuff. The first two songs on Disc One are in that category: "Shop It Around," one of the first breakthrough Scorchers songs from their 1984 Lost and Found LP, is given an exciting new treatment; and "The Life of the Party," from his generally dissed first solo record made right after the Scorchers' break-up, One Foot In the Honky Tonk, is reworked into a all-stops-out rocking twangfest. Lovely.

And this is not even to mention the 10-song bonus CD called Sidetracks, which includes such rarities as the new song "The Sailor's Eyes," which Ringenberg says is most likely about his years with the Scorchers; "Jimmie Rogers' Last Blue Yodel," which he cut with the Wildhearts; and a weepy country version of "Cappuccino Rosie."

Indeed, Jason fans, your Bubble Up with bubbleth over right into your lap.

*

From Roky Erickson and the Detroit Cobras to The Lounge Axis of Evil and The Beachwood Country All-Stars, the Root Cellar is chock full of good stuff!

Posted by Don at 12:55 AM | Permalink

Casino Crapshoot

At the end of 2007, unsolved funding issues still exist in Illinois. While the city has addressed theirs with tax and fee hikes, the county and state are still milling around looking for a solution.

The state has implied the only way to solve fixing our roads, bridges and addressing mass transit is to expand gambling in a massive way. The proposed expansion would bring a huge casino of 4,000 positions to Chicago, two more casinos to other areas, the creation of race tracks as mini-casinos with slot machines, and Internet gambling, among other items.

The solution seems to be to move the people living in and visiting Illinois to be individual economic machines producing money to oil the wheels of government. In 1999, when casino gambling started in Illinois, 6.7 million patrons lost an average of $61.97 per visit to a casino. By 2006 (the last year statistics are available), the-then 16.1 million gambling patrons were losing an average of $118.88 per visit. The casinos are doing very well and patrons are not.

Now Illinois wants to exploit that number by increasing the number of the gambling public and how much they lose. Despite a threat of over-saturating the market, they have so little regard for our citizens and visitors the state says they must have more gamblers. Why?

Because the state and local governments get a cut of the action through the taxes they make on casino profits. Chicago wants to take this to an even-higher level by owning their own casino. Instead of protecting people against abuse, the city wants to become "the man" and exploit its citizens and visitors.

Mayor Daley is a smart man. He has leased the Skyway and talks of leasing Midway Airport. He asked for and received a $286 million tax increase this fall. But in his mind, apparently this is not enough and he wants more.

This move comes despite the largest housing foreclosure debacle in this country's recent history. Chicago now faces more than 200,000 homes in foreclosure. This despite lower-income people are facing much higher costs of living than before. More than 2,300 families depend on a housing subsidy from the city to keep from becoming homeless. These two examples beg the question: Why must our city government press for a casino when the economy is worse for many people expected to become patrons of Casino Chicago?

The Task Force to Oppose Gambling in Chicago has worked with the legislature to find alternatives to their imposing a casino on this city and more throughout the state. It is true we have not contributed a dime to campaign funds. The Illinois casinos and racetracks have given more than $2 million between 2001 and the first half of 2007. More than $155,000 of that money went to the House Gaming Committee.

We haven't wanted much - just fairness and protection for the people of Illinois and our visiting public. We have even asked for a referendum so you can vote on whether you want major casino expansion in Illinois and to Chicago. But some legislators and the mayor's chief gambling cheerleader have dismissed that idea as unnecessary. That seems a strange way of saying that democracy is not needed in a democratic republic.

*

Doug Dobmeyer is the spokesperson for The Task Force to Oppose Gambling for Chicago, a coalition of religious, civic and neighborhood organizations committed to opposing casino gambling in Chicago founded in 1990.

*

See also Daley's Casino Royale.

Posted by Lou at 12:00 AM | Permalink

December 23, 2007

The Weekend Desk Report

A Special Edition

*

Death Notice
In the wake of the shockingly apt accidental death of roofing billionaire Ken Hendricks, the Weekend Desk Holiday Disaster Team has issued alerts for the following public figures.

1. Having succumbed to a surge in infection, President Bush will deny his rising fever until it's far too late.

2. Sam Zell will be crushed while dismantling a printing press.

3. Despite a detailed explanation of his symptoms, doctors won't know what to make of Mitt Romney's sudden decline.

4. After underestimating the amount of time required, Barack Obama will consume too much half-baked bread.

5. Roger Clemens will be shot in the ass.

6. Friends of Governor Rod Blagojevich will throw him under a Hannah Montana tour bus somewhere far away from Springfield.

7. Cook County Board President Todd Stroger will continue to drown at an unbelievably slow rate.

*

It's the 10th day of Christmas!

Then again, every day is Christmas at the Beachwood!

Give the gift of the Beachwood!

*

We're here for you all weekend and through the holiday. Settle in with our guide to the college bowl season and wager appropriately. Play the Bears Drinking Game to make watching them finish out their sorry season, um, bearable. And don't forget stocking stuffers for your favorite players.

*

Beachwood season greetings:

- Dear Macy's: The Walnut Room sucks!
- Dear Oprah: Don't do it!
- Dear Patti Blagojevich: Congratulations!

*

From the holiday vault:

- Home for the Holidays: Start from the bottom!
- 20 Carols
- A Poem For The Children On The Subject Of Gluttony
- Barista! The Gift Card That Saved Christmas
- Day in the Life: Christmas Radio
- The Hester Man Can!

*

And finally, this one goes out to all our Jewish friends out there.

Posted by Natasha at 07:08 AM | Permalink

O Sumenberger

On the 10th Day of Christmas, Don's Grill gave to me
another tribute that brought me to my knees

*

O Sumenberger

O Hamburger, O Hamburger
How toxic were your odors

O Hamburger, O Hamburger
How lovely was your meat

Laid in bread, and wrapped in wax
Departing loudly from my ass

O Hamburger, O Hamburger
Full of flatulence

*

Previously in The 12 Days of Beachwood Christmas, brought to you by our very own Tom Latourette:

- Day 1: Have a Dysfunctional Family Christmas
- Day 2: Little George Bush
- Day 3: Hillary, Hillary
- Day 4: O Holy Grill
- Day 5: Christmas Lingerie
- Day 6: I've Got Erectile Dysfunction This Christmas
- Day 7: 1908
- Day 8: 'Twas The Night Before Christmas At El Taco Bandito
- Day 9: O Christmas Pole

Posted by Lou at 06:59 AM | Permalink

December 22, 2007

O Christmas Pole

On the 9th day of Christmas, the Beachwood gave to me
a practical alternative to a Christmas tree

*

O Christmas Pole

O Christmas Pole, O Christmas Pole
This year I'll take no chances
O Christmas Pole, O Christmas Pole
You need no leaves or branches

$2.99 at Ace Hardware
A metal stick just standing there

O Christmas Pole, O Christmas Pole
You're so convenient!

O Christmas Pole, O Christmas Pole
You stand there at attention
O Christmas Pole, O Christmas Pole
Give cheer without pretension

No ornaments to hang about
No lights to plug, but then go out

O Christmas Pole, O Christmas Pole
Free of maintenance

*

Previously in The 12 Days of Beachwood Christmas, brought to you by our very own Tom Latourette:

- Day 1: Have a Dysfunctional Family Christmas
- Day 2: Little George Bush
- Day 3: Hillary, Hillary
- Day 4: O Holy Grill
- Day 5: Christmas Lingerie
- Day 6: I've Got Erectile Dysfunction This Christmas
- Day 7: 1908
- Day 8: 'Twas The Night Before Christmas At El Taco Bandito

Posted by Lou at 08:46 AM | Permalink

December 21, 2007

Calendar Bears

I'm lovin' lovin' how the schedule's unfurled
No Super Bowl now boys and girls
I'm lovin' lovin' how the schedules unfurled
No more Super Bowls in the Bears' world

San Diego, lose your first game out west
Kansas City, home but your team's a mess
Dallas, Prime Time Sunday 7:15
Detroit, thank God the Lions, now you're 1-3

Calendar Bears

Yeah, yeah, the schedule's unfurled
There won't be any Super Bowl now boys and girls
No way, any day, this year

Green Bay, stuff some cheese and brats down your throat
Minnesota, lose this one could this be all she wrote
Philly, like the Eagles you're already gone
Detroit, nice to have a team you can beat up on

Yeah, yeah, the schedule's unfurled
There won't be any Super Bowl now boys and girls
No way, any day, this year

I'm lovin' lovin' how the schedule's unfurled
No Super Bowl now boys and girls
I'm lovin' lovin' how the schedule's unfurled
No more Super Bowls in the Bears' world

You're two and six at the bye
No Jones or Rivera could be why
Only eight more games to play
Tank'll be out on parole some day

Yeah, yeah, the schedule's unfurled
There won't be any Super Bowl now boys and girls
No way, any day, this year

Oakland, start the second half out right
Seattle, Holmgren's got his revenge in sight
Denver, late November baby in the snow
Giants, Eli's coming to Chicago

Yeah, yeah, the schedule's unfurled
There won't be any Super Bowl now boys and girls
No way, any day this year

Washington, in the capitol they'll be taking scalps
Minnesota, bring your skis over for the Alps
Green Bay, two days before Christmas, what a shame
New Orleans, now it's payback for that championship game

Yeah, yeah, now the season is done
There won't be a Super Bowl for Chicagoans
No way, any day, this year

I'm lovin' lovin' how the season's unfurled
No Super Bowl now boys and girls
I'm lovin' lovin' how the season's unfurled
No more Super Bowls in the Bears' world

Posted by Lou at 06:45 PM | Permalink

I'm Sammy

I'm Sammy
Why does the whole country doubt me
I'm Sammy
Now I'm feeling Cubbie blue

I'm Sammy
You know it's all about me
All I did
Was cork a bat or two

I'm Sammy

Worry? Why in the hell should I worry
Every lie that I've told has been true
I'm the Sam-a-roo

Since I got beat
Everything has been blurry
There's no sense in crying
My story you're not buying
I'm Sammy
forget about you

I'm Sammy
Why does the whole country doubt me
There's no sense in crying
My story you're not buying
When Steinbrenner calls, I'll be a Yankee
Real soon

I'm in my June swoon

Posted by Lou at 06:19 PM | Permalink

The [Friday] Papers

1. Stocking stuffers for the Bears.

2. Thank you, Fran Spielman:

"Four times, reporters tried to get answers from the mayor. Five times Daley deferred.

Q. What's your reaction to the inspector general investigating Patrick's sewer deal?

A. I have no comment on that.

Q. Do you have any problem with him investigating it?

A. Any other questions?

Q. Have you given any thought to an executive order that would bar family members [from doing business with the city]?

A. No comment. I've answered all that.

Q. Are you confident that nobody in City Hall helped [Patrick]?

A. (Cutting off the question) I have no other questions. Fran, please, you've done this. No other questions [on this topic]. Any other questions . . . And I'm not mad at her. So, don't write a big headline: 'Mayor Daley is mad. The mayor gets mad. He gets red, screams, yells.'

How about "The Mayor Is A Child"? You didn't mention that one, your Honor.

Questions for mayoral press secretary and former Tribune reporter Jackie Heard:

A) Why won't the mayor answer our questions? No, seriously, why won't he answer?
B) What is the mayor hiding?
C) What kind of discussion did you have with the mayor outlining your media strategy for dealing with this issue?
D) Don't you think taxpayers deserve answers?
E) Does the mayor think he is beyond accountability? Then why does he act like he is?
F) If you were still a reporter, wouldn't you be royally pissed off at the mayor? Why or why not?

Questions for Barack Obama:

A) You endorsed the mayor. Are you troubled by the steady stream of scandals that continue to come out of his City Hall?
B) Will you call upon the mayor to clean up his act?
C) Do you think the mayor owes taxpayers answers?
D) How does your endorsement of the mayor fit in with your idea of a new kind of less cynical politics?

3. "In her annual report filed in federal court, Noelle Brennan accused the city of engaging in 'subtle types of manipulation' that have impeded efforts to implement a hiring system free of politics 17 months after the conviction of the mayor's former patronage chief," Spielman also writes.

"Daley countered, 'Maybe it's by error, but not intentionally.'"

Oh, so you've looked into the cases she cited and determined that?

4. The New York Times wrote this week on its front page about Barack Obama's habit of voting "present" rather than "No" while an Illinois legislator.

It's a good story and a legitimate criticism, but isn't the bigger story that Obama's qualifications for president are so thin that we're debating his record as an Illinois legislator?

5. Then again, in the U.S. Senate he hasn't even been present.

6. "On the abortion-related roll calls, Obama voted 'present' not to duck taking a stand but to help provide political cover to lawmakers who did not hold a 'safe' seat like he did," Lynn Sweet writes today.

In other words, to somehow lend support to lawmakers who did not want their position on abortion on the record for voters to see. Change we can believe in!

7. "[The voting strategy was conceived] under an arrangement worked out with the registered lobbyist for the Illinois Planned Parenthood Council, Pam Sutherland," Sweet continues. "On the presidential campaign trail, one of Obama's biggest applause lines comes when he says he would limit the influence lobbyists would have in an Obama administration."

8. "Like Senator Edwards who is a good guy, he's been talking a lot about I am going to fight the lobbyists and the special interests in Washington," Obama said recently. "Well the question you have to ask is were you fighting for 'em when you were in the Senate? What did you do? Because I did something, immediately upon arriving in the Senate . . . "

A) Yes. You not only began running for president, you shaped your Senate agenda toward that goal.
B) Yes. You lobbied for obscure legislation that would benefit a stock you had just bought.
C) Yes. You started raising money from lobbyists and special interests.

9. "We've now launched the boat together, and we have to start paddling," Sam Zell said in an e-mail to Tribune employees (whom he called "investors") upon taking over the company on Thursday.

A) Now, true, I own the oars, but you paid for them!
B) And we'll be paddling with fewer people in the boat, but then you'll just have to paddle harder!
C) Paddle faster, the repo man's right behind us!
D) We have to paddle because Dennis FitzSimons took the plane with the golden parachute with him.

10. And here we reach the logical conclusion:

"Despite [Amy Jacobson's] right to invoke reporter's privilege under the state's shield law, experts say any attempt by Jacobson to fight the grand jury subpoena would likely have been futile because she had already been 'briefing' the police on her encounters with Stebic."

11. "If you think my daughters are going to ask me to try to get them tickets to see Hannah Montana and I'm going to tell them 'No,' well then you're wrong."

After all, they contributed to my campaign.

12. "If you think my son is going to slink his way into a city contract as an unpaid intern by going in on an investment with his bosses whose business suddenly gets a boost once he's involved and I'm going to say 'No,' well then you're wrong.

13. "If you think I'm going to turn down the chance for Rose Bowl tickets just because a special favor is being done to me as a public official, well then you're wrong."

14. "Making sure we are providing for the needs of legislators and the board and donors to the university is proper," University of Illinois President B. Joseph White said. "It is not like these are the only tickets available."

The "B" stands for Bullshit.

"I view the University of Illinois going to the Rose Bowl as a real celebration for the people of Illinois and the legislators are the representatives of the people of Illinois," White said.

This is what we call a teachable moment.

15. Sam Zell's new board of directors is composed entirely of white folk.

In The Beachwood
* Daley's Cop Canard
* The Bears Drinking Game

Plus, revisit:

* The [Sam Zell] Papers
* Amy Jacobson's Resumé

And this holiday season, give the gift of the Beachwood.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Teachable.

Posted by Lou at 07:29 AM | Permalink

'Twas The Night Before Christmas At El Taco Bandito

On the 8th day of Christmas, El Taco Bandito gave to me
a haunting culinary memory

*

'Twas The Night Before Christmas At El Taco Bandito

'Twas the night before Christmas at El Taco Bandito
They serve tacos, enchiladas and brain-size burritos

We drove in Stan's Chevy, Milwaukee and Sunnyside was not far
So Tim and Kev, Paul and Mark, Bill and I rode along in his car

We arrived at el restaurante from the jukebox-blared La Bamba
Knowing a few hours later our stomachs would be doing the mamba

The tortillas on the table were nestled with care
Awaiting the salsa dip chaser, hot sauce if you dared

Kevin ordered the beef lengua, Tostadas! we all said
For O'Rourke's cast-iron stomach went where others feared to tread

Then up from the basement the old man appeared
Pancho Villa El Bandito was finally here

He wore a large black sombrero and limped with an old worn-out cane
And his remaining teeth had yellowed from a cigar smoker's stain

A multi-colored pancho covered his flabby round belly
That shook when he laughed like a bowl of guacamole

He was holding a pet kitten, through his fur he ran his fingers
It looked scared and forlorn, by the grill where it lingered

Pancho yelled, "I'll steam your tortillas and turn up the heat
One thing's for sure, amigos, you can't beat my meat!"

We shoveled down our food, inquiring about this wild new flavor
"I've added seasonings, some new spices and a secret ingredient that I favor"

"Hey gringos, how was your meal?" he asked when we were done
We were silent; "What's the matter, has the cat got your tongue?"

He looked at our empty plates, like a Cheshire cat he was grinning
And at that very moment our bowels began a-spinning

Excusing myself from the table, I ran to the bathroom without fail
Flynn, Guzzetta and O'Rourke followed, the others were looking quite pale

Three stalls and a sink, but a dilemma was close
We could shit or blow chunks, but we couldn't do both

The vomit that splashed in the porcelain bowls
Warned us of more than we needed to know

Out in the restaurant, we heard a great clatter
We all threw up together, expelling various food matter

Away from the toilets, lifting our heads off the walls
With our mouths full of bile, we stepped out of the stalls

More rapid than diarrhea, the health inspectors they came
Pancho Villa limped to the basement and called out these names

"Undulay Bill, undulay Felix, Morris and Sylvester,
Vamonos Garfield, Vamonos Sox, Lucy and Ethel

Out of your litter boxes, leave your scratchposts behind
Grab the vivisection equipment, all your cat toys and that big ball of twine

Out the basement window, jump over the wall
Now dash away, dash away, dash away all

With our stomach pumps in tow, the inspectors walked where we were sittin'
It seems that instead of ground beef our food was made with ground kitten

El Taco Bandito was torn down later that same year
And while it's not a cheerful story, it's one I've come to fear

Pancho Villa haunts my Christmas dreams and just might make me mad
But you know, as a culinary experience ground kitty didn't taste all that bad

So I cough up a fur ball and turn off the light
Meow Christmas to all, and to all a Buenos Noches

*

Previously in The 12 Days of Beachwood Christmas, brought to you by our very own Tom Latourette:

- Day 1: Have a Dysfunctional Family Christmas
- Day 2: Little George Bush
- Day 3: Hillary, Hillary
- Day 4: O Holy Grill
- Day 5: Christmas Lingerie
- Day 6: I've Got Erectile Dysfunction This Christmas
- Day 7: 1908

Posted by Lou at 04:49 AM | Permalink

The Blue & Orange Kool-Aid Report

With only a few days remaining, many people try to escape the ninth level of hell that is Christmas shopping. You'd be surprised to know that the friends and relatives of the Chicago Bears are no different. Here are some suggestions for those who have a Bear in need of a stocking stuffer.

*

Rex Grossman
Gift: A roll of double sided tape.
Why: Not only cuts down on fumbles, but dramatically reduces the number of passes he is able to throw.

*

Cedric Benson
Gift: One-way plane ticket to New York City.
Why: Playing for the Jets will make Thomas Jones look good again while once again creating the illusion that he, too, is a viable starter in the NFL.

*

Bernard Berrian
Gift: Collection of David Letterman's Top Ten Lists.
Why: Makes Berrian realize that he does not appear on any Top Ten list.

*

Bears Offensive Line
Gift: Dry Erase Board with Pen.
Why: Help Fred Miller remember the snap count.

*

Lance Briggs
Gift: A book titled How To Drive Defensively.
Why: Very useful when he drives while "sober."

*

Brian Urlacher
Gift: A year's supply of condoms.
Why: Because there is no book titled How To Have Sex Defensively.

*

Mushin Muhammad
Gift: A bottle of Ben Gay and the complete collection of Matlock.
Why: Because old people like both.

*

Lovie Smith
Gift: A year's supply of yoga lessons.
Why: To make him more flexible.

-

Packers at Bears

Storyline: It's a storied rivalry. It's the resuscitation of Brett Favre. It's the utter demise of the Bears.

Reality: It's worth watching. It's a storied rivalry. It's a game that fails to entertain on it's own merits.

Pick: Green Bay Minus 8.5 Points, Under 35 Points Scored.

*

Sugar in the Blue and Orange Kool-Aid: 0%
Recommended Sugar in the Blue and Orange Kool-Aid: Wait 'Til Next Year

*

For more Emery, see the Kool-Aid archive, and the Over/Under archive. Emery accepts comments from Bears fans reluctantly and everyone else tolerably.

Posted by Lou at 04:31 AM | Permalink

December 20, 2007

The [Thursday] Papers

The Tribune pretty much sums it up on its editorial page today:

"It's not just [that] the younger Daley and his cousin, Robert Vanecko, ponied up $65,000 to become part owners of Municipal Sewer Services in June 2003. It's not just [that] they cashed out the next year, right about the time the Hired Truck scandal broke. There's nothing illegal about any of that.

"But the company appears to have broken the law by leaving the cousins' names off of a required economic disclosure statement. Oh, and its city business shot up around the time the cousins got in the game.

"While Vanecko and Daley were on board, Municipal Sewer Services took over two city contracts held by a bankrupt vendor and got one-year extensions on both. The city didn't seek competitive bids for those contracts. The company - formed by officers of the investment firm where Patrick Daley, who holds a graduate business degree from the University of Chicago, was an unpaid intern - got $2 million from those contracts in 2004."

Christmas Looting
"This holiday season, the Tribune Tower's cleaning crew will be working overtime to scrub the stench of failure from the executive offices," So-Called Austin Mayor writes. "Just imagine how enormous FitzSimons payout would have been if he had had any success in the newspaper business."

Dirty Dennis
Just think what that $38 million could do.

You will know less about what scams your public officials are pulling, how your taxes are spent, who the police are beating up, who is in prison though innocent, the plight of the poor, how corporations are ripping you off, and who would make the best president in order for Dennis FitzSimons to maintain a life of supreme luxury.

And it's gonna get worse. It's all about numbers to Sam Zell. And if he makes the numbers work, the benefits will accrue to him, not you, dear reader.

Sunrise, Sunset
"That adage 'You've got to spend money to make money' may well be true," the Sun-Times editorial page said on Wednesday, "but, Sam Zell and the Tribune Co., get your hands off ours."

The paper was talking about the possibility of a state authority buying Wrigley Field, but I wonder if the editorial board would be so bold as to direct its wise adage to its own corporate parents, who are about to gut a newsroom that has very few guts left.

Charge Card
No, Daily Herald, you are not out of touch. You are (almost) absolutely right.

The only thing wrong with your policy is to allow names to be printed when you are told someone is going to be charged. Even then, you best wait. I've written of this before, but I remember my first job covering cops in Lakeland, Florida and making the requisite calls to various law enforcement authorities every night to see if anything was going on we needed to know about. Quite often someone would be in custody for a newsworthy crime, but I would always have to ask if he or she had been charged yet. Without the charge, we weren't allowed to publish.

Why?

Because any of us might at any time be under investigation. We are all suspects. And the point of reporting the names of people who are charged is just as much for their protection as it is to inform the public that the police believe they have caught a perpetrator. We don't allow secret arrests in this country, and once a person is officially captive to the criminal justice system, their case becomes open to examination - maybe even exoneration.

But not everything is fit to print ethically, even if it is allowed legally. And that includes the names of suspects unless or until they are charged.

Especially when violating that principle is motivated by selling newspapers and boosting television ratings instead of the public interest.

*

So what does the Daily Herald do, just ignore the madness swirling around it? No. The media's unethical behavior is newsworthy. Report on it.

Bears Broadside
The Trib's David Haugh slams the Bears to the turf.

Wrigley Shuffle
The Cubs aren't spending more on their payroll, you are.

A Screw You World
We live in a world where everyone is out to screw you. Politicians, advertisers and marketers try to manipulate you, corporate executives put money in their pockets by taking it out of yours, and basic commerce is a mass exercise in price-making built on deception and exploitation.

Few are more evil than credit card companies. In effect, credit card companies are just kinder, gentler versions not only of the noxious payday lender industry, but of good old-fashioned loan-sharking. Except - like gambling - it's legitimate because it's carried out by what organized crime writer Gus Russo calls the "overworld," the "legit" parallel to the underworld.

Latest example in my life: I just received a statement from Chase Bank informing me about how great their privacy policy is. Oh, and by the way, there are some changes being made to my account terms.

Those changes are spelled out in fine print too incomprehensible and daunting to comprehend. But the key boldface words are Variable Rates and Late Fees.

I don't have to read it to know I'm being screwed. Changes in terms are never favorable to consumers.

It's just greed, plain and simple. They do it because they can.

*

Dennis FitzSimons and Sam Zell could just as easily be credit card industry executives for all they care about journalism. It's just all numbers to them. And they are no less looting Tribune Co. than Conrad Black and David Radler did theirs.

*

These guys could be heroes, but they'd rather be absolutely filthy, filthy rich. Why live your life that way instead of doing something great?

Today's Beachwood
Lots of good stuff. All you have to do is look at our Today's Beachwood box on the right rail and click!

The Beachwood Tip Line: Tap into the Altworld.

Posted by Lou at 09:45 AM | Permalink

1908

On the 7th day of Christmas, Beachwood gave to me
more Cubs mediocrity

*

1908

1908, 1908, the TV wasn't invented, West Side Park's where you played
William Taft won the election
Ford produced his first Model T
Tinker, Evers, Chance and Steinfeldt made your infield deep
You beat the Tigers in five
Now there's no one who saw it alive

1908, 1908. all those years of frustration just keep slipping away
You've been cursed by a pet goat back in 1945
And a Black cat crossed Ron Santo's path as he roamed the third base line
And Leon Durham was a player you loved
Till that fair ball skipped under his glove

1908, 1908, Dusty chews toothpicks, Corey whiffs at the plate
Now the White Sox and Red Sox have played through the fall
And your Cubbies might have been there had Alou caught that ball
But Steve Bartman sat in the stands
And that foul ball, it glanced off his hands

*

Previously in The 12 Days of Beachwood Christmas, brought to you by our very own Tom Latourette:

- Day 1: Have a Dysfunctional Family Christmas
- Day 2: Little George Bush
- Day 3: Hillary, Hillary
- Day 4: O Holy Grill
- Day 5: Christmas Lingerie
- Day 6: I've Got Erectile Dysfunction This Christmas

Posted by Lou at 08:31 AM | Permalink

The Periodical Table

A weekly look at the magazines laying around Beachwood HQ.

Island Hell
"Settled in 1790 by mutineers from the storied H.M.S. Bounty, Pitcairn Island is one of the British Empire's most isolated remnants, a mystical hunk of rock that was largely ignored until 1996," Vanity Fair reports (not available online). "Then Pitcairn's secret was exposed: Generations of rape and child molestation as a way into life."

Warning: this story may make you sick.

"It just seemed to be the normal way of life back on Pitcairn," one accuser testified.

Indeed. The transmission of culture - be it abuse, torture, slavery, or corruption rationalized by those who benefit most - is society's most powerful force. Often for evil.

The Golden Suicides
Also in Vanity Fair: "When Theresa Duncan, 40, took her own life on July 10, followed a week later by her boyfriend, Jeremy Blake, 35, their friends were stunned and the press was fascinated: what had destroyed this glamorous couple, stars of New York's multi-media art world, still madly in love after 12 years?

"Nancy Jo Sales reveals the cloud of fear - involving the rock star Beck, Scientology, and 9/11 conspiracy theories - that enveloped a dazzling dream."

Lesson: Even beautiful and talented people have deep problems. Sometimes more so.

*

Of course, the common denominator in these stories is almost always alcoholism and/or drug addiction, even if reporters insert this fact ever-so-casually into their reports in order to maintain the entertaining elements of mystery and intrigue to better exploit other people's tragedies for commerce.

Huckabee Heaven
Mike Huckabee got a lot of attention for asking in a New York Times Magazine cover story: "Don't Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?"

It may have been dirty politics by the former minister aimed at Mitt Romney, but let me ask you something: Why is that any less believable than Jesus being God's "son"? In fact, what if Jesus was Satan? You know, he'd come as a man of peace? And if Satan was once an angel of God, why is it so implausible that he was a son of God as well? And is that really any less believable than the Virgin Mary showing up on a freeway underpass in the form of grease stains and weathering?

No religion has a monopoly on rational thought. I don't find the absolute nuttiness of Mormonism any more incredible than the absolute nuttiness of Catholicism, Judaism, Islam, and the rest. They are all cults; some of them have just gained acceptance via longevity.

Huckabee Finn
"In spite of this surge in popularity, Huckabee has almost no money or organization. He has no national finance chairman, no speechwriters and a policy staff of three. His 'national field director' is his 25-year-old daughter, Sarah. Huckabee does have a pollster, Dick Dresner, but so far there hasn't been enough cash to take any polls."

In other words, just the kind of campaign Barack Obama pretends to run: a true grass-roots effort that eschews - even if by necessity - the big money, special interest politics that, again, Obama pretends to be running against.

Ditto for Ron Paul, who is actually raising more money - via the Internet - than Huckabee.

If you want to represent a new kind of politics, you have to run a new kind of campaign. Otherwise you're only revealing the exact compromises and hypocrisies by which you will govern.

And in the case of Obama, it fits exactly the pattern of his entire, if brief, political career.

Tom Sawyer
"That's a groundbreaking group," Huckabee says of Grand Funk Railroad. "The bass player, Mel Schacher, is very underrated."

Only a true music fan would say something like that.

Experience Counts
The Times asked Huckabee what cabinet position he would be suited for if not elected president. "Secretary of health and human services would be one," he said. "Secretary of transportation, or the interior."

Now, ask yourself the same question of the other candidates. What, for example, would Obama be suited for? Patronage director?

On the other hand, you could see John Edwards as labor secretary or heading up an administration's povery efforts and you could certainly see Hillary Clinton as secretary of just about anything, including defense.

Just sayin'.

Trib Hop
I was very prepared to absolutely hate the Chicago Tribune Magazine's cover story this week, especially after reading the cover line: "Kevin Coval, a hip-hop poet from, yes, the North Shore, needs to have a few words with you."

Because white suburban kids aren't much interested in hip-hop!

And when the story's author, Rick Kogan, says in the issue's editor's note that "I'm not sure [Coval] could do what he does in any other major city," I just have to wince.

Yes, the opportunities for a hip-hop poet are so much more expansive here than in, say, New York or Los Angeles!

But I have to admit that I found the story more than mildly interesting and it was acceptably executed considering the venue in which it appears.

*

Memo to Wilco: Coval turned down $20,000 to be in an ad for Bass Ale because "I felt that if I did the commercial, it would be a betrayal of the community of artists and of young people."

A) Sounds like Bass Ale really low-balled him
B) Nonetheless, twenty grand is half the dude's annual income

Hail Kevin Coval.

*

Also, rare props to the Trib mag for a great cover image (I'm not sure if it's online; the Trib's online presentation of this story is a mess). But young folk ain't gonna see it, so it's not going to entice them to start reading the paper if that's what you have in mind.

Kid Coval
"People may think they are hearing a youth culture out there, but what they are hearing and seeing are the results of decisions made by older white males who dictate what we see and hear and consume."

Not only that, but when media managers say they want "attitude," what they really want is the appearance of attitude. Real attitude is not acceptable in corporate media environments.

Besides, the key isn't attitude, it's authenticity. And not fake authenticity.

Ironically, I thought journalism was inherently based on being authentic.

Posted by Lou at 07:35 AM | Permalink

Over/Under

As we travel to various friends and relatives homes for holiday functions this time of year, we might find a television nearby at the same time that an NFL game with playoff implications is being aired. Do you turn the TV on? If you are the host, do you turn your own TV on?

'Tis the season for tricky holiday football viewing dilemmas. We're here to help.

* If somebody's team is playing and he/she is taping the game, you shall not show any football game. Letting your guest see the score of the game is sort of like telling your guest the day in which he/she will die.

* Exception:If the game is the "hometown favorite," then your guest should have stayed home.

* Exception to the exception: Host shall not show hometown team if said team has been eliminated from the playoffs. Yes, that means you Bears fans.

* If you do watch a game during a holiday function, the game must be played on the best TV in the house.

* The first person to stand during a commercial must offer to get drinks for everyone else.

* Exception: After offering to get somebody a drink a person takes you up on your apparent offer, you can also say "Thanks, get me one also." This is allowed because it's really funny.

* Just because viewers turn up the volume to the game, it doesn't mean non-viewers need to talk louder. It just means that non-viewers must move to a more remote room. Or just shut the fuck up.

* Non-viewers must always take the hint.

* All gifts are to be opened at halftime. Saying "thank you for the gift" happens after the game.

* No double-dipping.

* Ordering pizza is not acceptable if the host has laid out any semblance of a food spread. But making plans for getting a pizza or stopping at Taco Bell on the way home is.

* If the Bears are playing, it is no longer acceptable to say "Devin Hester is ridiculous!" no matter what ridiculous feats he performs.

* Making excuses for the Bears is not acceptable.

* Any mention of Jessica Simpson in relation to Tony Romo is grounds for expulsion from the party.

* Commenting on cheeerleaders is only acceptable to the poor married schmucks who have nothing else to hang on to anymore.

* Be sure to thank your host even if your team loses. It's not their fault.

-

OverHyped Game of the Week: Texans at Colts

Storyline: Hey, the Texans have a shot at the playoffs! Maybe the Colts will rest some starters! Oh my! Look at Jim Sorgi! He might play!

Reality: First problem: Everybody and their mother needs to lose for the Texans to make the playoffs, including Ohio State. Second problem: The Colts are neither "everybody" nor "their mother."

Pick: Indianapolis Minus 7, Over 45 Points.

*

UnderHyped Game of the Week: Redskins at Vikings

Storyline: Minnesota earns a playoff spot with a win. Washington stays alive with a win. Let's now talk about the two main running backs on each team, and compare them to famous running back tandems. Sure, I'd probably mention Portis/Bettis or Peterson/Taylor to Marcus Allen/Bo Jackson.

Reality: Well, you can mention these running backs in the same sentence because it's a free country. But it's not prudent. Two words: BOR-ING!

Pick: Minnesota Minus 6.5 Points, Under 40.5 Points Scored.

*

Results:

Last week: 3-3 (1-2 Against the Spread, 2-1 Over/Under)
Season: 38-50 (16-28 Against the Spread, 22-22 Over/Under)

*

For more Emery, see the Kool-Aid archive, and the Over/Under archive. Emery accepts comments from Bears fans reluctantly and everyone else tolerably.


Posted by Lou at 07:18 AM | Permalink

Daley's Cop Canard

At a ceremony for police officers graduating from the academy on Tuesday, Richard M. Daley once again issued his familiar canard that the media only reports negative stories about the police department.

This is not only demonstrably false, it's an out-and-out lie.

We went back in the archives of our very own Cate Plys's fine work and pulled this column she once wrote for the Sun-Times to show just how long the mayor has been spouting this pernicious crap. Someone has to call him on it, and if it's us, so be it.

*

Bad News Isn't No News
Chicago Sun-Times
June 9, 2000
By Cate Plys

This is an amazing Chicago story of courage and tenacity. It's also a mystery. As you read, see if you can spot the bad guys:

Last January, a mother and four children were trapped behind a locked security door in a burning building. The desperate father begged Police Officer Lyzette David to save his family.

Despite the intense heat, David and officers Ricardo Colon, Rick Nigro and Erick VonKondrat managed to bend the door's bottom half enough to let the family crawl underneath. At Wednesday's City Council meeting, Mayor Daley and the Council honored the four officers, along with firefighters who saved two victims of another fire.

Did you spot the bad guys? It's the press, of course. A little Council history will enlighten you.

For the last couple of years, the Council has started meetings by honoring heroic firefighters and police officers. The ritual goes like this: A resolution recounting heroic actions is read aloud. Ald. Edward Burke makes the first speech praising the officers. Aldermen who can claim one of the officers as a ward resident may see their chance to jump up and talk, too. Daley finishes by praising the officers and the entire Fire and/or Police Department.

Then, for the finale, Daley attacks the press - for not covering good stories, and reporting anything else negative. His press attack on Wednesday was typical. "It's our responsibility to tell the people what's truly taking place within the Fire Department and Police Department," he huffed. "If one individual did something wrong out of the ones we honor, just one, there'd be headlines maybe for four or five days, editorials, writings, everything about one individual's conduct. But we never read an editorial, we never see a headline about the heroic deeds of men and women of the Chicago Fire Department and Police Department."

There are three problems with Daley's attacks. First, it would be wonderful if newspaper space constraints allowed more feel-good stories, but those stories do exist. In May, for instance, the Sun-Times wrote about Fire Department paramedics Heather Linehan and Joan Marquardt, who revived Chicago Police Officer Mike Nolan after he collapsed of a heart attack.

Second, the press isn't a supernatural presence suffusing the entire city, instantly aware of every good and heroic deed. Reporters can't be at every crime or fire scene. When they're not, they find out about heroic actions only if someone tells them. The Police Department has no record of informing the media about the January rescue attempt from behind the security door, and the Fire Department couldn't determine whether the press was told about the other rescue honored on Wednesday.

The third problem with Daley's attack is that negative stories are good, too. The media attention to recent police shootings of LaTanya Haggerty and other civilians helped spur the current reforms in police training procedures. And what spurred the Fire Department to add 12 basic life support ambulances, rather than the six they were planning? All the bad press when Haggerty died after a 12-minute wait for an ambulance, and gunshot victim James Michael Baker died in March after waiting 20 minutes.

At Wednesday's meeting, Daley pointed accusingly at the nearly empty press box. "I always point this out - if [the police or firefighters] did something wrong, that gallery would be loaded with press," he barked.

The press box was empty because the entire press corps was waiting outside the Council chamber door, as instructed by the mayor's press office, for a quick press conference with Daley. He was about to leave for the funeral of police Sgt. Alane N. Stoffregen, who died last week during diving exercises with the Police Marine Unit.

The press covered that, too.

Posted by Lou at 07:00 AM | Permalink

And Then There's Maude: Episode 13

Our tribute to the 35th anniversary of the debut of Maude continues.

*

Season 1, Episode 13
Episode Title: The Slum Lord

Original airdate: 19 December 1972

Plot: For this episode, the Findlay living room has been nearly transformed into a greenhouse, with houseplants everywhere. Maude has followed the advice of every book and magazine, talking to her plants for weeks and she's scolding them now for not responding more favorably. (I'm guessing any benefit of talking to the plants was outweighed by all the yelling in this household.)

Carol rushes through the front door to tell Maude that a black man is picketing their front yard with a sign that says, "A slum lord lives here." Maude can't believe what she's hearing. "Don't be ridiculous Carol! Do you know what a slum lord is?" She then gives a lengthy definition of "slumlord," prompting me to wonder if the writers' felt it was necessary to define slumlord for the viewing audience.

Before Maude can confront Walter about the situation, Carol calls Philip to drive him to school. Maude doesn't want her grandson to see the picket sign, so she tells Carol to have Phillip scrunch down low in the car as they pull out of the driveway. ("Phillip, there's a new game your mother's going to teach you. It's called Scrunch!")

Maude tells Walter about the picketer (" . . . A Slum Lord Lives Here. And he means you!"), to which Walter answers, "Do you know what a slumlord is?" It turns out Walter is indeed the slumlord in residence, having bought into a building, sight-unseen, on the advice of his accountant. Apparently Walter's tax shelter is actually a tax tenement, with cockroaches the size of Volkswagens. Die-hard liberal Maude is positively mortified. ("Everything we stand for is going down the drain!")

Next-door-neighbor Arthur arrives, proclaiming, "Hey, that's a heck of a new lawn decoration you got out there. It's so much more animated than those little colored jockeys." He sympathizes with Walter's attempt to make a fast buck in the "dog eat dog world out there." Vivienne calls with news that the Findlays are the "talk of the supermarket." Word travels fast here in Tuckahoe.

Maude tells a reluctant Walter to talk to the picketing man. ("As long as that picket is outside the door, Walter, I wouldn't give you two cents for your love life.") Walter invites the man inside. "This is nice," the picketer says, looking around. "How many people live here?" When he's told four, he says, "No, I mean in the whole house."

Walter introduces himself to the picketer, a one George Washington Carver Williams, and asks what exactly is wrong with the building he lives in. Mr. Williams replies, "Just two things. The inside and the outside." Maude enters with a cheery, "Would you like some coffee, Mr. Picket?" She's introduced to Mr. Williams and assures him, in a tone dripping with bleeding heart sincerity, that she and her husband are "very much with your people."

Walter tries to explain how this is just a misunderstanding. He explains the concept of a tax shelter to Mr. Williams, who understands perfectly. ("Oh, you're talking about stealing. No offense ma'am, I mean legal stealing. We even got some black people doing it now. That's progress.") A flustered Walter and Maude babble about how people like them get into these "kinds of arrangements" all the time and they "never know what they are." (Well, at least they had a good excuse.) They keep repeating variations of "we never know what they are" until Mr. Williams says, "And we think we got problems."

Carol returns home with Phillip, who couldn't stay at school because a six-year-old classmate called him a fascist pig. Florida rushes in. She's heard the news and is giving her notice. ("Massa Slumlord, your faithful old darkie is leaving the plantation.") No amount of pleading by Maude gets Florida to stay and after collecting a few things, Florida's out the door. She's back a moment later, to rescue the African violet from Maude's plant stand.

Later that day, Maude is taking yet another crank slumlord phone call. Walter is meeting with his accountant and Maude has learned from the Urban Renewal Office that it will take at least $100,000 to fix the property. Walter returns and Mr. Williams asks to come in to talk with them. Maude assumes he wants to tell them he's made a mistake and understands what good people they really are. No chance - he just wants to use their bathroom.

Walter tells Maude that the accountant has found someone who will buy out his share, but at a loss of $3,200. He's not willing to take the hit but Maude tells him to take the offer. Not so fast, Maude! It's at this point that Walter reveals he's not the only Lord of the Slums in this family. Maude had signed the papers too! What?! Maude is incredulous until she faintly recollects the night when Walter brought her a stack of documents to sign and she was too distracted by an episode of Marcus Welby to read them. "Oh, my God I'm a slumlord too!"

Carol, ever the voice of morality and conscience, makes her speech of the episode: "Well there you have it, nice people. Half of you standing around with your head in the sand, while the other half of you pollutes the environment and oppresses the poor."

Mr. Williams emerges with a glowing review of the Findlay bathroom. ("Well now, that was a pleasant visitation.") Maude rushes to tell him that a buyer has been found for their share of the building. (Apparently selling off their share - passing the buck - is an acceptable solution that everyone, including Mr. Williams, can feel good about.) Walter objects. Losing $3,200 bucks is nothing to sneeze at. (Mr. Williams can relate.) Maude gives Walter "one agonizing choice: You are either going to lose the $3,200 or me." Mr. Williams pipes in, "That might not be so agonizing," to which the audience applauds and Maude turns to Mr. Williams and utters her now trademark phrase, "God'll get you for that." He leaves.

Arthur returns, having learned from his accountant that Walter's looking for a buyer. He low-balls Walter with an offer of $5,500. Maude urges Walter to take the offer and she'll make up the $2,500 difference herself. It might take a while though; in four years she's managed to save only $40 from her household account.

Saved by the bell! Walter's accountant calls to say a buyer has been found at a loss of just a thousand bucks. Maude is proud of him for losing only a thousand dollars! She promises to make it up to him . . . tonight when they are alone.

She rushes to the door to give Mr. Williams the great news. "We're no longer slumlords!" Still feeling guilty, Maude gives him $60. Florida returns, having forgotten her transistor radio and four-inch Sony TV. Maude gives her the good news. Carol elaborates that to further ease her conscience, Maude has paid Mr. Williams off with cold, hard cash.

Walter gives Maude grief as well. Sixty bucks won't do folks in a rundown building much good. He tells Mr. Williams to "run it up in a crap game." Maude is shocked and apologizes to Mr. Williams and Florida for Walter's insensitivity. Then, Mr. Williams elaborates on what he's going to do with the cash - he'll put it on a worthy cause - which is running at 10 to 1. Florida declares Williams a "smart man" and asks him to put five on the nose for her.

Hot button social issue: Slumlords! Do you know what a slum lord is?!!

Fashion statement: Maude begins the episode in what I'm assuming is her household smock, a blousy front-and-back apron in a pattern of pink flowers on an orange background, over a burnt orange shirt with wide lapels and, of course, the requisite neckerchief.

Neckerchief count: One - worn two different ways. In the first scene, it's knotted at the throat and tucked into Maude's shirt. In the second scene, the ends of the scarf are fancy free, flowing over the blue pantsuit that has replaced the housedress/apron.

Cocktail hour: Walter and Maude commiserate over their slumlord status with a couple of straight shots of gin. Later, to butter up Arthur when it appears he might buy out Walter's share of the tenement, Maude offers him hors d'oeuvres of Swedish meatballs and "pigs in a blanket."

Welcome back to 1972 pop culture reference(s): Ah, the era of talking to your houseplants to get them to grow. Maude isn't having any luck talking to hers. ("Now listen to me guys, you're either going to shape up, or ship out.") Perhaps she should have tried playing classical music for them - that seemed to work in every high school science fair I ever attended.

Describing their precarious financial state, Walter refers to himself and Maude as Mr. and Mrs. MasterCharge.

Number of times Maude yells: 7

Memorable quote: "Why can't you be like other husbands and blow your money on broads?"

Times the live audience breaks out into spontaneous applause: 4

Wow, did they just say that? The morning after Maude has "made it up" to Walter, he's in the living room talking to the houseplants: "Fellas, I'm here to tell you that Maude's love and affection is really going to work for you. Because last night, I can't tell you how it worked for me. I mean, I grew and grew and this morning I feel ten-feet tall!"

-

Previously:
Season 1, Episode 1: Maude's Problem.
Season 1, Episode 2: Doctor, Doctor.
Season 1, Episode 3: Maude Meets Florida.
Season 1, Episode 4: Like Mother, Like Daughter.
Season 1, Episode 5: Maude and the Radical.
Season 1, Episode 6: The Ticket.
Season 1, Episode 7: Love and Marriage.
Season 1, Episode 8: Flashback.
Season 1, Episode 9: Maude's Dilemma (Part One).
Season 1, Episode 10: Maude's Dilemma (Part Two).
Season 1, Episode 11: Maude's Reunion.
Season 1, Episode 12: The Grass Story.

Posted by Lou at 06:41 AM | Permalink

Lyric Lesson: Skip a Rope

Singer Henson Cargill, whose 1968 hit "Skip a Rope" topped the country charts with its understated take on social problems, has died. He was 66.

Mr. Cargill died March 24 following complications from surgery, Matthews Funeral Home in Edmond, Okla., said.

"Skip a Rope" made it to No. 1 on the Billboard country chart and was a top-25 crossover success on the pop music chart.

- AP, March 30, 2007

*

SKIP A ROPE
(Jack Moran/Glenn Tubb)

Also recorded by: Bobby Bare, Gene Vincent, the Kentucky Headhunters, Patti Page, B.J. Thomas, the Harden Trio, Autry Inman, Joe Tex, and Ben Vaughn.

Oh, listen to the children while they play,
Now ain't it kinda funny what the children say,
Skip a rope.

Daddy hates mommy, mommy hates dad,
Last night you shoulda heard the fight they had,
Gave little sister another bad dream,
She woke us all up with a terrible scream.

(CHORUS)

Cheat on your taxes, don't be a fool,
Now what was that they said about a Golden Rule?
Never mind the rules, just play to win,
And hate your neighbor for the shade of his skin.

(CHORUS)

Stab 'em in the back, that's the name of the game,
And mommy and daddy are who's to blame.

Skip a rope, skip a rope,
Just listen to your children while they play,
It's really not very funny, what the children say,
Skip a rope, skip a rope.

*

- See also a short essay on Henson Cargill that appeared in No Depression.

- And here's the rest of the record that "Skip a Rope" appears on.

Posted by Lou at 12:08 AM | Permalink

December 19, 2007

The [Wednesday] Papers

Thank you, Sun-Times.

The paper's big front page display today gets it right: "5 Questions Daley Won't Answer."

Columnist Mark Brown gets it right: "In [a] speech to . . . new police officers, the mayor warned them about the press always writing negative stories and stressed the importance of people in command positions taking responsibility, and then in the press conference he read a prepared statement about the Sun-Times' story on his son Patrick's involvement in a company with a city contract, but wouldn't answer questions about it."

Columnist Carol Marin gets it right: "The same mayor who can lecture new police officers about 'trust,' 'mutual respect,' 'responsibility,' and 'common sense' displayed none of the above."

And Tim Novak and the paper got it right for breaking the story in the first place.

This is the Sun-Times at its best.

We can only pray that the paper doesn't pull a Reader and fire its best people amidst the coming budget cuts. If the paper was smart, it would invest in its future by hiring the likes of John Conroy & Co. and turning them loose.

The Daley Show
"With [the reading of his statement finished], Daley changed the subject to the CTA financial crisis."

Here's how I'm sure it happened: Daley met with top aides including press secretary Jacquelyn Heard to come up with a strategy to deflect questioning about his son instead of meeting with top aides to find out what happened and why - if he didn't already know.

They settled upon reading a statement and changing the subject as a strategy they hope will put the story behind them, counting on the media's short attention span.

And in any case, they've decided to stonewall instead of telling the truth - just like they teach their children to do when they get in trouble.

The five questions the Sun-Times refers to in its front page headline are questions in writing the paper gave to Heard on December 3rd. Those questions have not been answered.

Here is my one issue with the Sun-Times on this story: It isn't good newsroom policy to offer anyone questions in writing. If you do it for one person, you've got to do it for everyone. And besides, the written responses you get in return often do not answer the questions, and obviously do not allow for probing follow-ups or attempts to clarify the answers. It also gives news subjects the ability to take the questions and huddle with advisors whose specialty is crafting propaganda campaigns designed to blunt those very questions.

It's pretty standard stuff; we had just such a policy back at the college paper, for godsakes.

Better to write stories about how the mayor won't answer questions. Hell, why not produce an annual special section listing the questions the mayor wouldn't even address?

Daley Dodge
"Asked a few minutes later if he knew whether his son or nephew were involved in any other city contracts, the mayor said, 'I don't know.'"

Writes Marin: "How does a mayor, who prides himself on knowing how many bolts belong in a beam of one of his many bridges, not know every single detail about his kid and nephew's investments with a city he's run with an iron hand for 18 years?"

Prince Patrick
"It was a lapse in judgement for him to get involved with this company," Daley said, reading his statement.

Gee, what made Patrick Daley think this was the way the city operated?

Due Diligence
"[Heard] said later that 'a preliminary review' has found no other contracts involving the younger Daley," the Tribune reports.

The city's not exactly making a huge effort to find out, though.

"I don't want to lead you to believe it is some sort of dragnet search," Heard said. "It's not. I don't think that's required here."

Just enough for show.

Cop Shop
"The days of police brass 'blaming the troops' and running for cover will end when career FBI agent Jody Weis takes over next month as Chicago's new $310,000-a-year police superintendent," Fran Spielman reports.

How does she know?

Because the mayor said so!

This begs the question, though: Is Daley saying former police chief Phil Cline was guilty of blaming the troops and running for cover?

Cop Crap
"If you look to your right, to my left, that is called the media," Daley told graduating police officers. "It's always negative, 'cause negative news, of course, sells, right?"

Tell that to Alison True.

Police Poop
Memo to the mayor: You are either lying or don't actually read newspapers and watch television news when you say the media ignores positive stories about the police. Cops-as-heroes stories are so prevalent I'm going into toxic shock from sugar overdose just thinking about it.

Rotting Head
I hope no one has any illusions any longer that the mayor is committed to reforming the police department, which is in need of a culture change. The mayor inculcated new police officers with the notion that the media is the enemy because it sometimes exposes wrongdoing. As opposed to being against the wrongdoing.

Same old, same old.

Soldiers' Story
"Many times people have turned their backs on men and women in uniform," Daley said.

Name three.

Had Enough?
"A court-appointed monitor charged Tuesday that Mayor Richard Daley's administration has slipped backward in its efforts to clean up patronage even as City Hall seeks to convince a federal judge that it has eliminated politics from hiring," the Tribune reports in its top-of-page-one story today.

"The report by Noelle Brennan, who has monitored city hiring since August 2005, alleged that several high-ranking aides to Daley skirted hiring rules to give jobs to favored candidates. In other instances, preferred job-seekers were put on the payrolls of outside contractors to get around restrictions at City Hall, Brennan said.

"Many city employees who violated hiring rules have not been punished, the report said. Brennan also alleged that city lawyers repeatedly provided false or misleading information about hiring problems, hampering her investigation."

Like father, like son.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Bad, nationwide.

Posted by Lou at 09:50 AM | Permalink

Be The Boss Of Your TV!

Recently I finished my master's in journalism and now that I'm even more unemployable than ever before, I spend my days keeping the couch down and giving my remote the best workout ever. During my travels up and down the TV channels, here's what I've discovered: the writer's strike has sucked the life out of my television viewing so much so that I actually look forward to the commercials and, gasp, reality TV.

Join me on my little journey.

*

Flipping Out
This little gem airs on the same channel as my ultimate guilty pleasure and is about another set of Southern Californians working their 15 minutes of fame to the very last second. Meet Jeff Lewis, the main house-flipper, drama queen and star of the show. He acts more like a movie studio head honcho than one of the thousands of house-flippers in the nation. His ego alone is bigger than the LA basin and while he's monumentally obnoxious, he's also mesmerizing. He's very good at his job and turns some of the ugliest homes into hip abodes. He lives in his "flips," is constantly moving and strongly relies on the power of house blessings/psychics when buying and selling a property.

*

Verizon Wireless Miniature Horse Commercial
You've seen this ad and hopefully laughed out loud because it's funny. It's the one with the three high school girls standing in a backyard looking at the ultimate little girl gift: a pony. But it's obvious a wood-eating, growling tiny equine is not the gift she had in mind. She wanted the latest cell phone, like the ones her two stunned friends got. It's nice to see Verizon moving on from that god-awful "Can you hear me now?" tag line.

*

Be the Boss of Your TV!
Yes, it's a boring subject matter for those of us who don't have kids. But, I guess parents don't want to subject their wee ones to the evils of television. Now, there are PSAs out to help clueless parents navigate and regulate their electronic babysitter. These ads feature stereotypical, albeit popular, TV characters: the undead, the Mafia boss, prison gangs, the dominatrix and the junkie being confronted by concerned parents who sing their praises yet inform them that they're going to be blocked. The funniest one features the prison gang on a concerned mom's smartly appointed lanai where they're noshing on finger sandwiches and lemonade. She's obviously unmoved by these thugs and even attempts to show her hipness by using prison lingo (and is politely corrected).

*

Emporio Armani Diamonds Perfume Commercial
Don't get me wrong; I think Beyonce Knowles is lovely. She can sort of sing and dance. She's stunning to look at. She's not a poster child for anorexia like so many of today's starlets. Yes, her acting abilities need work. So what.

But this new ad for Emporio Armani Diamonds perfume that features Ms. Knowles belting out a sleazed-up version of "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend" makes me cringe. It's gotten to the point where when I hear the first few bars of the song and I'm not quick enough to the mute button, I want to rip off my ankle monitor and finish up my bid in the pen.

*

Trailer Park Boys
With episode titles like "Going Off the Rails on the Swayze Train," "Let the Liquor Do the Talking," and my personal fave, "A Shit River Runs Through It," how can you possibly not check out this show? Trust me, it's clever and stupid and eventually even you can tune out the canned laughter.

Posted by Lou at 07:53 AM | Permalink

The Beachwood Bowl Series

It's time once again for the Beachwood's annual inimitable college bowl preview. Let this be your guide.

*

Game:The San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl
Date: December 20
Teams:Utah vs. Navy
Prediction: Navy is overdrawn. Mormons have momentum. Utah by three touchdowns.

*

Game: The R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
Date: December 21
Teams: Memphis vs. Florida Atlantic
Prediction: Those are some mean-ass owls. FAU by eight.

*

Game: The Papajohns.com Bowl
Date: December 22
Teams: Southern Miss vs. Cincinnati
Prediction: The Golden Eagles ought to be more at home here in Birmingham. Besides, they've already ordered a few dozen Papa John's pizzas to the hotel rooms of the Cincinnati players, ensuring a logey opponent with little desire to do anything but sleep. Southern Miss by a polite dozen.

*

Game:: The New Mexico Bowl
Date: December 22
Teams: Bill Richardson vs. Tom Tancredo
Prediction: Believe me, that would be far more interesting than the assigned Nevada-New Mexico matchup. We'll take Nevada in an upset just because it's not fair that the Lobos get to play at home. Same for Tancredo.

*

Game: The Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl
Date: December 22
Teams: UCLA vs. BYU
Prediction: BYU in a walk. If Mormons were allowed to drink caffeine, it would be BYU in a run.

*

Game: The Sheraton Hawaii Bowl
Date: December 22
Teams: Boise State vs. East Carolina
Prediction: When Boise State can't play on their blue home field, they bring little blue pills on the road to simulate the experience. Broncos beat the spread. (Fun fact: The Boise State Pavilion is now the Taco Bell Arena.)

*

Game: The Motor City Bowl
Date: December 26
Teams: Purdue vs. Central Michigan
Prediction: The Chippewas get the home state crowd but the Boilermakers get the better recruits. Purdue pulls away and takes the victory lap.

*

Game: The Pacific Life Holiday Bowl
Date: December 27
Teams: Arizona State vs. Texas
Prediction: The Sun Devils' claim will be denied. Longhorns cash in.

*

Game: The Champs Sports Bowl
Date: December 28
Teams: Boston College vs. Michigan State
Prediction: This used to be the Citrus Bowl. That makes us sad. We preferred the old days before the BCS came along as a half-assed way to crown a formal national champion. In conjunction with heinous naming rights, a textbook study in degrading the brand value of the original bowls. Spartans in a squeaker.

*

Game: The Texas Bowl
Date: December 28
Teams: TCU vs. Houston
Prediction: Like religion, this one is more a hope than anything based on reality: Houston because we're tired of Christians.

*

Game: The Emerald Bowl
Date: December 28
Teams: Maryland vs. Oregon State
Predictions: Previously the San Francisco Bowl and the Diamond Walnut San Francisco Bowl. With just one exception in its five-year history, the West Coast team has always lost. Vote Terrapin.

*

Game:The Meineke Car Care Bowl
Date: December 29
Teams: UConn vs. Wake Forest
Prediction: In a first among bowl games, the teams will play basketball in the second half. Winner will face winner of the AutoZone Liberty Bowl in the new Days of Thunder series.

Game: The AutoZone Liberty Bowl
Date: December 29
Teams: UCF vs. Mississippi State
Prediction: Because your car deserves to be free.

*

Game: The PetroSun Independence Bowl
Date: December 29
Teams: Alabama vs. Colorado
Prediction: Formerly the Poulan Weed-Eater Independence Bowl. Because an Independence Bowl ought to be named after an oil and gas supplier.

*

Game: The Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl
Date: December 31
Teams: California vs. Air Force
Prediction: I think we can all see what's going on here.

*

Game: The Roady's Humanitarian Bowl
Date: December 31
Teams: Georgia Tech vs. Fresno State
Prediction: Bono will perform at halftime. No, seriously, Roady's is a truck stop chain. So Angelina Jolie will perform at halftime.

*

Game: The Brut Sun Bowl
Date: December 31
Teams: South Florida vs. Oregon
Prediction: Boy that stadium's gonna stink.

*

Game: The Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl
Date: December 31
Teams: Kentucky vs. Florida State
Prediction: A Southern rock free-for-all. We give the edge to Florida State mainly due to Molly Hatchett, but Tom Petty's last three decades of lameness almost do them in.

*

Game: The Insight Bowl
Date: December 31
Teams: Indiana vs. Oklahoma State
Prediction: Marx in a walk.

*

Game: The Chick-fil-A Bowl
Date: December 31
Teams: Clemson vs. Auburn
Prediction: We can't think of anything we'd rather do more on New Year's Eve than watch this exciting matchup.

*

Game: The Outback Bowl
Date: January 1
Teams: Wisconsin vs. Tennessee
Prediction: This used to be called the Hall of Fame Bowl until the nation of Australia began sponsoring it.

*

Game: The AT&T Cotton Bowl
Date: January 1
Teams: Missouri vs. Arkansas
Prediction: The winners get two-year cell phone contracts. The losers get three-year contracts.

*

Game: The Konica Minolta Gator Bowl
Date: January 1
Teams: Texas Tech vs. Virginia
Prediction: Previously the Toyota Gator Bowl and the Mazda Gator Bowl until the printer industry perfected the planned obsolescence that car companies once did so well.

*

Game: The Capital One Bowl
Date: January 1
Teams: Michigan vs. Florida
Prediction: The winner will get to pummel David Spade into the turf. Michigan is slightly distracted so we think the Gators will get to do the honors.

*

Game: The Rose Bowl presented by Citi
Date: January 1
Teams: Illinois vs. USC
Prediction: If this game doesn't finish on time, both teams will be charged interest on their share of the gate.

*

Game: The Allstate Sugar Bowl
Date: January 1
Teams: Hawaii vs. Georgia
Prediction: Because when you think of sugar, you think of insurance. Hawaii just for the fun of it.

*

Game: The Tostitos Fiesta Bowl
Date: January 2
Teams: Oklahoma vs. West Virginia
Prediction: Did you know Tostitos are a Frito-Lay product? It's true. We find that mildly interesting, which is more interesting than we find this game. Did you know that former Bears quarterback Craig Krenzel was a two-time Fiesta Bowl MVP? It's true. And did you know that former Bears quarterback Peter Tom Willis is also a former Fiesta Bowl MVP? These Tostitos are making me thirsty.

*

Game: The FedEx Orange Bowl
Date: January 3
Teams: Virginia Tech vs. Kansas
Prediction: The loser is forced to accept evolution.

*

Game: The International Bowl
Date: January 5
Teams: Rutgers vs. Ball State
Prediction: Because nothing says international like Rutgers vs. Ball State. The winning team receives passports.

*

Game: The GMAC Bowl
Date: January 6
Teams: Bowling Green vs. Tulsa
Prediction: Winners get automatic bid to next year's Meinecke Car Care Bowl.

*

Game: The Allstate BCS Championship Game
Date: January 7
Teams: LSU vs. Ohio State
Prediction: LSU doesn't deserve to be in this game, but justice will be done anyway as Ohio State is the best team in the land. Free insurance polices to the winners do not cover acts of God or the NCAA.

Posted by Lou at 07:43 AM | Permalink

I've Got Erectile Dysfunction This Christmas

On the 6th day of Christmas, the Beachwood gave to me
A solution for my flaccidity

*

Erectile Dysfunction Christmas

I've got erectile dysfunction this Christmas
My turtle wants to hide inside his shell
It's flaccid and it's limp, just like a little boys'
I need a taco warmer I can play with and enjoy

I've got erectile dysfunction this Christmas
I'm hoping Santa Clause will have a clue
He'll leave me a stocking with those pills so blue
Then my hapless Elmer
Can start shooting out some glue

I can see me now on Christmas morning
Sporting a pork sword
Oh what joy and what surprise
When she opens up her eyes
To see my tonsil toothbrush standing there

I've got erectile dysfunction this Christmas
I'm afraid a brand new vacuum pump won't do
I've tried datin' Rosie Palm and her five sisters
But my knuckle shuffle
doesn't launch my morning missile
I can't punch the clown or make old Baldy Puke . . .

So Santa, you think you score me some? A Viagra? How about a few Cialis? I'm begging you man . . .

Kojak, the Bishop, my one-eyed trouser snake
We haven't seen Old Woodrow in a year for goodness sake

OK, I promise I'll call the doctor if I have one that lasts for more than four hours . . . Hey, are those jingle bells in your pocket?

Richard and the Twins, and Honk the Magic Goose
Lord Hardwick, Mr. Plumpy, and the Big Bald-Headed Moose

They can see me now on Christmas morning
With the Mighty Thor
Oh what joy and what surprise
When she opens up her eyes
To see my mutton dagger standing there

I had erectile dysfunction this Christmas
I'm glad that Santa Clause knew what to do
So come and blow the horn, and speak into the mike
We'll stir the macaroni, all through this Christmas night
I've got a bulbous Candy Cane for you

*

Previously in The 12 Days of Beachwood Christmas, brought to you by our very own Tom Latourette:

- Day 1: Have a Dysfunctional Family Christmas
- Day 2: Little George Bush
- Day 3: Hillary, Hillary
- Day 4: O Holy Grill
- Day 5: Christmas Lingerie

Posted by Lou at 06:28 AM | Permalink

Open Letter

The Walnut Room may have improved the quality of its food this holiday season. Perhaps now it's on par with Burger King's French Toast Sticks. I don't know. After last year's vile experience at our family's annual Walnut Room breakfast, preceding the traditional visit to Santa, we vowed never to return. [See last year's letter to Macy's below for the nightmarish details.] It was an easy promise to keep, admittedly in part because our youngest child no longer believes in Santa, just in presents from Santa.

You have, to your credit, settled on a theme for the Christmas windows on State Street that actually has something to do with Christmas - the Nutcracker - after several years of stories which were complete holiday nonsequiters. However, you are simultaneously continuing the recent and unconscionable practice of decorating the giant Walnut Room tree not in tandem with the window displays, but as a crass merchandising push.

The irony is that in the past, Marshall Field's managed to decorate the tree to match its windows and use it as a crass merchandising push, and you could have too. For instance, the year Field's windows displayed the story of the Grinch, a giant Grinch perched on the wall near the top of tree, which looked straight out of Who-ville. Meanwhile, many Grinch items were on sale all over the store. You could have done that with the Nutcracker. Maybe you've failed to notice that many stores find all manner of Nutcracker memorabilia to push at this time of year? Like . . . nutcrackers.

I guess there's just too much more money to be made from Martha Stewart than Nutcracker knickknacks. In association with the State Street Macy's recent Martha Stewart craze, rather than in association with Christmas, the tree was officially decorated by Martha herself. (Though like other rich people these days, Martha didn't put up her own Christmas decorations; that's for the hired help.) At least you haven't included a manger underneath the tree with a Virgin Mary sporting a preternaturally blonde pageboy and an annoying smirk, arranging the hay just so.

Let's be clear, Macy's: I'm not getting teary-eyed because the Fields no longer own the store. Like anyone else, the Fields owned the store to make money, not because they cared about making Chicagoans feel good about themselves. And it especially doesn't bother me to have Field's owned by Macy's rather than the Target corporation. (Target itself has really gone downhill, I might add.) I'm also not boycotting your stores, though you were churlish not to include the Field name as part of the State Street store's moniker for simple historical continuity - an entirely free bone you could have thrown to assuage local sensibilities.

But your tree is hideous.

Happy Holidays,

Cate Plys

*

Cate's Open Letter to Macy's following last year's holiday season:

Dear Macy's:

It's been two months, and only now am I beginning to deal with the horrific experience of Christmas at the State Street Macy's, aka Marshall Field's. If I had a therapist, he or she would be pleased with my progress. I don't have one, so this letter will be my therapy.

Now, it is not entirely your fault that the Walnut Room sucks. And suck it does, so royally that the outrageous prices should include one of those minor titles frequently sold off by impoverished British aristocrats to fund rehab for themselves or the ancient family manor. Had I been charged $6.50 for a small glass of eggnog but left the Walnut Room a duchess, I might not complain.

Ever has it been so, and thus, Marshall Field's must take its share of the considerable blame. However, when you made the churlish decision to erase the Field name from Chicago entirely, I had hoped some small good might still come from your corporate ownership. Specifically, I hoped the Walnut Room would raise its standards slightly higher than a combination Dunkin' Donuts/Kentucky Fried Chicken. But no.

Let me also take a share of the blame for my repeated visits to the Walnut Room, which must appear both inexplicable and masochistic. My Walnut Room attendance is of a religious nature. I did not choose to be raised Catholic, and neither did I choose to be raised a native Chicagoan, worshipping at the altar of Marshall Field's holiday windows and genuflecting before the Walnut Room's massive Christmas tree.

These days I'm an atheist and I generally treat the State Street Marshall Field's/Macy's as a heated or air-conditioned corridor leading to the nearby Filene's Basement. But religion has a way of sucking you back in for the holidays.

In my case, I see no reason to put up with ubiquitous Christianity all year long and then skip the only good part, Christmas. Accordingly, my children have been taught, like all good Chicagoans, that the real Santa sees kids at the State Street Field's. Only such inflexible dogma could get my husband and I to blow about fifty bucks each year on a sorry Walnut Room breakfast before visiting Santa.

But this year, I have to tell you, even the kids noticed that it sucked. Normally, so long as there's a big train going around the Christmas tree, they wouldn't notice if the waiter spit on their food after placing it on the table in front of them. That is how bad the Walnut Room has gotten.

Let's start with your tree. The giant Christmas tree not only had nothing to do with the holiday window theme of Mary Poppins, it had nothing to do with Christmas at all. It was decorated instead with blue-and-white fake Wedgwood ornaments, a mercenary tie-in to a store push to sell Wedgwood. Wedgwood reminds me of ancient Greece. It doesn't remind me of Christmas. It would have made as much sense to decorate the tree with golden Buddhas.

Even more inexplicably, a store employee was dressed in a somewhat ratty Cinderella costume and charged with visiting each table to ask patrons if they wanted to get sprinkled with fairy dust. Ah, the logical problems here - where to start? First, are you aware that Cinderella is not a Christmas story? Second, are you aware that Cinderella is not herself a fairy, and so does not, and cannot, sprinkle fairy dust on anyone?

I could only presume that some genius made the Cinderella connection because the Disney Cinderella wears a blue dress approximately the same color as Wedgwood - which, of course, has nothing to do with Christmas.

Even so, the kids may have accepted the strange anachronism if your Cinderella hadn't been so shy that she could barely approach a table. Once standing tableside, she was unable to speak to us beyond an incomprehensible mumble as she stared at the floor. Either she was morbidly shy, or embarrassed at having to dress up as Cinderella for Christmas. It took much repeating before we understood what her container of silver glitter was all about. The whole thing was so insane, I let her sprinkle some on me for a laugh. She was grateful to do it and move on. Sadly, my dreams did not come true. I was still in the Walnut Room, and had not been magically transported to Lou Mitchell's, where someone was handing me some fresh doughnut holes as I waited for a table.

What else. Well, as usual the food was straight off a conveyor belt, possibly manned by Lucy and Ethel. You, Macy's, are so cheap you don't even provide the usual complimentary cranberry walnut muffin (slightly stale) with the menus. The mighty Walnut Room was out of hot chocolate, though we were among the very first customers. Perhaps the Walnut Room does not know that children make up a rather high percentage of its clientele at Christmas, and perhaps the Walnut Room does not know that children in winter invariably want hot chocolate. Perhaps no one at Macy's is personally acquainted with a child.

We noticed that a group of women next to us received giant glasses of eggnog and asked for some of that, instead. The waitress said no, the eggnog was an alcoholic beverage. After pondering why anyone, much less an entire group of people, would need a giant alcoholic eggnog at seven o'clock on a weekday morning, we called back the waitress and asked if we could have eggnog without alcohol. Yes, we were told. We ordered eggnog, which came sans alcohol in tiny glasses rather than the hefty brandy snifters enjoyed by the drunks at the other table. When the check arrived we learned that you can order eggnog without alcohol at the Walnut Room, you can drink eggnog without alcohol at the Walnut Room, but you will pay for both eggnog and alcohol. Even after you talk to several people about it. That's the $6.50 eggnog I mentioned earlier in this letter.

I'll say this for you, however, Macy's: Thanks to the Walnut Room, our family now has a new catchword, a synonym for insanely overpriced items. We say "eggnog" and crack up. On the day of our Walnut Room visit, we enjoyed posing in front of the anti-Christmas Wedgwood tree and screaming "Eggnog!" at the camera. And from now on, the kids have agreed to go to Lou Mitchell's for breakfast. Even the Milk Duds there will be fresher than the crap you serve at the Walnut Room.

Many Happy Returns,

Cate Plys

*

Am I nuts, or have you also found the Walnut Room isn't all it's cracked up to be? Horror stories welcome. Open Letter is open to letters.

*

See who else Cate has written Open Letters to this year.

Posted by Lou at 06:07 AM | Permalink

December 18, 2007

The [Tuesday] Papers

1. Kyle Orton is who we thought he was. In Bear Monday Tuesday, the city's best weekly Bears post-mortem by our very own Jim Coffman.

2. "A businessman first and journalist never, Radler made his reputation here not by finding ways to channel money toward improved news coverage and investigative projects, but on shutting down escalators in the old Sun-Times building to save on electricity," the Sun-Times says in an editorial this morning upon the sentencing of their former publisher.

Of course, no one spoke up when this - and far worse including the complete perversion of editorial integrity which the paper still hasn't owned up to - was going on. Except to say "Thank you, sir, may I have another!"

3. "The 1 percent tax on downtown restaurant meals that helped expand McCormick Place could move north to the area surrounding Wrigley Field to finance either renovation of the landmark stadium or improvements in the neighborhood, officials said Monday," the Sun-Times reports.

"Tribune Co. senior vice-president Crane Kenney, who oversees the Cubs, said extending the northern boundary of the downtown restaurant district at least seven blocks - from Diversey to Waveland - is one of several possibilities to finance stadium renovations if the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority agrees to a Tribune Co. plan to acquire and renovate Wrigley Field."

How perfect, seeing as how the structure of the Sam Zell deal will virtually free Tribune Company from having to pay any corporate taxes.

That also dovetails nicely with raising the price of the newspaper ahead of the massive cuts that are on the way. The Chicago Tribune: On Your Side!

4. "In a piece mailed in New Hampshire - and including citations from Iowa newspapers - Obama's piece states 'Slipping in the polls, Clinton is now attacking Obama,'" Lynn Sweet reports.

To save money, the Obama campaign had the printer just Photoshop some "Slipping in the polls, Obama is now attacking Clinton" mailers it had laying around.

5. Catch up with our Twelve Days of Beachwood Christmas series . . . and visit our YouTube page.

6. Joe Lieberman's endorsement of John McCain is far less newsworthy than Barack Obama's forgotten endorsement of Joe Lieberman - who was running against an anti-war candidate who eventually won the party's nomination but lost the general election when Lieberman ran as an independent. Oops.

I mean, there's war and then there's politics.

7. The city's best blog, Whet Moser's Chicagoland, has disappeared from the Reader's website. Please return it unharmed and no one will get hurt.

8. Neil Steinberg's daily chuckle not so daily.

9. "Although Mayor Daley's father once dismissed questions of his sons' city deals with a short expletive, on Friday the current mayor sidestepped reporters seeking comment as he attended a meeting in Racine, Wis.," the Tribune reported over the weekend.

"Jacquelyn Heard, Daley's press secretary, said that Daley had not been scheduled to take media questions on Friday when the Chicago Sun-Times first reported the contracts involving Patrick Daley."

Well, guess what, Jackie? Reporters hadn't been scheduled to ask questions about the contracts on Friday until the story appeared! Shit happens!

"Heard said Daley learned of the contract issue this week, but she declined to characterize how he reacted to the news, noting that his son soon could be serving in harm's way."

Hiding behind his son's military deployment is vile.

"But when the company filed its economic disclosure statement with the city in February 2004 and listed three owners as owning 100 percent of the company, it failed to disclose the ownership interest of Patrick Daley and [his cousin Robert] Vanecko. The disclosure was required at the time."

So a law was broken? Is Patrick Daley under investigation?

"In a Thursday memo to his employees, company Chairman Robert Bobb acknowledged that disclosure statements filled out by his predecessors 'contain a number of mistakes or oversights,'" the Sun-Times reported.

You can't do simple paperwork but you want to inspect our sewers?

Maybe stick to something you're more qualified for, like Blue Line inspections.

"The mayor refused to answer questions about his son," the Sun-Times noted. "That left Heard to insist that Daley knew nothing about his son's involvement in the sewer inspection deals until the Sun-Times starting asking questions."

How does Heard know? She won't say.

"I think I'm going to avoid peeing on his family," Ald. Toni Preckwinkle said. "If this was one of his minions, I'd probably have some comment. But it's his kid, so I'll let it pass."

What? That's exactly backwards. It's ten times worse because it's his kid.

After 18 years of this, isn't it time one of the papers ran a front-page editorial under large bold type stating "We've Had Enough"?

10. Every day that passes without an alderman holding a press conference and stating he or she has had enough and announces a reform drive is another day we do not have a true independent on the city council.

11. "It's incredible to me that any one would believe the mayor would stake his reputation and all that he has worked for in an effort ot help anyone, even a family member, get business," Heard told the Tribune. "It's his reputation and he wouldn't risk it."

The Tribune did not note whether Heard was howling with laughter when she said it.

12."According to the Daily Herald, 'the battles were nearly over when the arguing turned to a sophomoric joke about oral sex.' Well, sort of," Chicagoist reports. "Jim Clark, chief of staff for Commissioner Timothy Schneider, says it was more like sophomoric laughing at an innocent comment. According to Clark, Beavers said Gene Moore got 'down on his knees and begged' for the deal struck between Moore, Schneider and Silvestri, and Schneider said 'something like, Nobody got down on their knees in front of me.' And then all the commissioners laughed like a bunch of seventh graders. 'There was a lot of tension throughout the meeting,' Clark says."

13. Ben Eason, new overlord of the Reader, has expanded his holdings with the idea of building a national advertising platform out of a string of local weeklies. Isn't that the same idea that doomed the Tribune Co.'s failed acquisition of Times-Mirror? I seem to recall New City trying the same thing with a national online portal of local weeklies as well.

14. "I'm saying these guys are already at the top of their game. They've got huge audiences, their brand is loved in their markets - why would you change anything? We're not here to (cannibalize) the place."
- Ben Eason, in August

15. The view from Minnesota:

"Bears Dust Off Orton Just In Time To Aid Purple's Push: The Chicago defense was up to the task, but its former third-string quarterback was not."

The Beachwood Tip Line: First-string.

Posted by Lou at 08:24 AM | Permalink

Christmas Lingerie

On the 5th Day of Christmas, the Beachwood gave to me
Girls in lingerie and a shirtless man you shouldn't see


*

Previously in The 12 Days of Beachwood Christmas, brought to you by our very own Tom Latourette:

- Day 1: Have a Dysfunctional Family Christmas
- Day 2: Little George Bush
- Day 3: Hillary, Hillary
- Day 4: O Holy Grill

*

Visit our YouTube page!

Posted by Lou at 06:29 AM | Permalink

Oprah Don't Support That Guy

To the tune of "Angels We Have Heard on High"

Oprah in the public eye -
Please remember ol' Wes Clark.
Madonna was his best ally.
Barack will sink like the Bismarck.

O-o-o-o-o-O-o-o-o-o-O-o-o-o-o-bama, part of Oprah's road show.
O-o-o-o-o-O-o-o-o-o-O-o-o-o-o-bama, part of Oprah's road show.

Obama can you win this race?
Oprah's won you votes down South.
Her book club logo's on your face -
Oh dear - she's glued o'er your mouth.

O-o-o-o-o-O-o-o-o-o-O-o-o-o-o-bama, you went on her talk show.
O-o-o-o-o-O-o-o-o-o-O-o-o-o-o-bama, you went on her talk show.

Ms. Winfrey says your voice is "fresh."
But what's your stance? We'll have to delve.
She'll come to claim her pound of flesh.
Vote "Dr. Phil - 2012"

O-o-o-o-o-O-o-o-o-o-O-o-o-o-o-bama, your views on things we don't know.
O-o-o-o-o-O-o-o-o-o-O-o-o-o-o-bama, you went on her talk show.

Your career she's euthanized -
It floats on down the river Styx.
How will she apologize?
With a Pontiac G6.

Posted by Lou at 06:23 AM | Permalink

Bear Tuesday: False Start

Which play was the perfect microcosm? Was it the Vikings' final touchdown? The one where everyone in the stadium knew the home team wasn't going to have the backup quarterback, who had just entered the game without any sort of significant warm-up, pass the ball? Then, after a timeout, the Vikings ran a delay. Delays are only supposed to work when the other team thinks there is at least a tiny chance of a pass. And the delayed handoff was to Adrian Peterson, the guy all 11 Bears defenders should have had in their sights. But there was Peterson, scooting left, then through a hole and then into the end zone virtually untouched.

Or was it Devin Hester's first attempt at a punt return, when he retreated all the way to his goal line and then broke right, carried out an absolutely inexplicable fake hand-off about halfway across the field and then was spun down at the 3-yard line, losing a fumble in the process. Fortunately it wasn't just a little dribbler of a fumble, it was a ridiculous fumble. It zipped 10, 15 yards across the artificial turf. And it didn't bounce into and then out of the end zone, something that would have given the ball to the Vikings. No, it never left the 3 as it headed out of bounds, giving the Bears possession. It must be said that Hester has been amazingly fortunate with fumbles this year. He has put a half-dozen balls on the turf, but he or his teammates have recovered virtually all of them.

No, the official microcosm of this comical 20-13 defeat - the one that finally officially eliminated the Bears from playoff contention - had to happen on offense. This contest was actually comforting in the way it represented a return to the Bears game archetype of yore, the one where the defense plays well, limits the opposing tailback to a sub-par performance and forces a substantial amount of turnovers . . . but the offense is too incompetent to take advantage. A Bears fan seeking the seminal play had the usual smorgasbord of false-starts to choose from, or perhaps one of Kyle Orton's less-than-pinpoint passes.
But the play that best encapsulated the game and the season was the one right after Hester's misadventure. That was when the Bears, needing a couple tough yards just outside their own goal line, gave the ball to the tailback who inspires cries of "God Bless Us Everyone!"

I actually covered Garrett "Tiny Tim" Wolfe (who is listed at 5-7 and probably stands about 5-5) when he led his now defunct Holy Cross (of Chicago) team to a victory over Loyola in a Prep Bowl playoff game about five years ago. And he was a great, great high school running back who then starred at NIU. The problem here was you just knew the pre-game plan was to put last spring's controversial third-round pick in for a few plays during the Bears' third possession. And they went ahead and did so even though the situation called for a slightly more physical presence at the position at that point. Unfortunately, as these Bears have shown more than a few times this fall, they don't do mid-game, situational strategy switches very well. And with the Viking defense geared to stop an inside run, the Bears handed it to Wolfe headed right up the gut. There he was engulfed by one of those massive humans named Williams who man the defense tackle positions for Minnesota. I suppose we should just be glad Wolfe didn't suffocate as he went down for a two-yard loss. Later on, Orton's fourth-down pass attempt to Jason McKie was farcical as well, but for me that Wolfe run was the one that best summed up the latest chapter of Bear ineptitude.

On to the lowlights:

* For the longest time I enjoyed listening to John Madden analyze a game because I was confident that at some point, he would tell me something I didn't already know about offensive line play or defense. I feel that way about Ron Jaworski these days. Jaws always has good stuff at the ready, especially regarding his specialty - quarterback play. Monday was no different as he broke down the flaws in Tarvaris Jackson's throwing mechanics and essentially predicted the sort of trouble that materialized only a couple plays later (Nathan Vasher's late first-half interception). Fellow analyst Tony Kornheiser is occasionally funny but seems almost desperate to prove he is the most clever ever by busting out ever-escalating put-downs (which are sometimes accurate but, especially late in the game, mostly redundant). And this was the most I have ever enjoyed a Mike Tirico play-by-play performance. No doubt emboldened by the radio talk show he now hosts for ESPN radio, Tirico simply did a great job.

* Oh by the way, the guys on talk radio in Chicago (OK, OK, the few I happened to listen to Monday afternoon) were appalled the Bears brought Vasher back from his groin injury, one that had forced him to miss 10 weeks of action. Their thinking was there was no way the Bears should risk Vasher re-aggravating the injury in a game that would almost certainly end up being meaningless (to a team that had all but officially been eliminated from the postseason). But football players risk injury every play. If a player is healthy enough to play, he should play, period. And it was apparent early on, and later on, that Vasher was more than healthy enough.

* Brian Urlacher! And again! And not just one sack but two! This was his best game in a long, long time. Maybe all isn't quite lost for the Bears defense.

* Have offensive linemen ever been cut just for false start penalties? Actually Bill Parcells did that at one point (or two) didn't he? At least three of the stiffs (if not four) on the Bears offensive line must be replaced sooner rather than later. All of the false starts - four more on Monday - had even the almost-always deadpan Lovie Smith looking exasperated against the Vikings. My six-year-old daughter sees the yellow flag icon on the screen these days and automatically intones "False start - offense." And Tirico soon lowers the boom: "This offense is awful." Later on, as Vasher returned his interception, Tirico was seized by the spirit of the season: "On Vasher! On Prancer!"

* Moving right along, early in the fourth quarter, Michelle Tafoya brings us a typically illuminating (illuminating like a match illuminates an operating room) tidbit from the sideline. It involves Viking head coach Brad Childress bringing his team together the night before the game for his weekly inspirational address. Childress, who looks like he should help his players with their taxes in the spring, apparently served up some gobbledygook about how the Vikings, in falling to 3-6 this season but then rallying to win four straight, had "experienced agony and then ecstasy." After another wildly exaggerated transformational analogy, he brought the pep talk home by asking "Can you go from good to great?" The statement provoked giggles from the boys in the booth - clearly the Vikings didn't make the jump in this game.

It all goes to a larger point, one that was also illuminated by Kornheiser's story earlier in the game about Childress asking players if they would choose to be the water buffalo or the lion or some other animal, maybe a hippo, out in the wild. The players are supposed to say the lion and then Childress goes all Nature Channel on 'em and shows a tape of a juvenile water buffalo being culled from the herd and on the verge of being served for dinner. But then the herd of water buffalo intervenes and all of those big, dumb animals manage to scare off the lion by working together, like a team, get it? My larger point is that 95 percent of this motivational stuff is so much drivel. If the players need this sort of thing to get going before playing this amazingly fast and violent game in front of tens of thousands of rabid fans, well, they won't last long. Either guys have the talent to make plays and the ability to motivate themselves or they don't, and nothing a coach says, except of course for when he speaks of tactics, will make a darn bit of difference.

* The Bears have managed to lose games so many other teams would have won in so many different ways this fall. Teams that aren't terrible always take advantage of opponents missing extra-point kicks to win by one. If Orton hadn't thrown that final desperation interception, the Bears would have lost a second game in three weeks in which they recorded four more takeaways than the opposition. Tirico noted during the broadcast that the Bears had last done that (lost with a four-plus turnover differential) in 1970. But hey, at least the boys can still go 2-0 against the Packers this year! And that's the main thing that matters, right? If nothing else, maybe we can obliterate that misguided sentiment once and for all this season.

-

Jim Coffman brings you Bear Monday every . . . Monday. Except when the Bears don't play on Sunday.

Posted by Lou at 06:09 AM | Permalink

December 17, 2007

The [Monday] Papers

Major cuts are coming once again to the Sun-Times which, like the Reader and the Tribune and the rest of the dinosuar-minded newsprint industry, is going about their business in reverse.

The Sun-Times, for example, has already decided to eliminate its Controversy section, according to the Tribune's Phil Rosenthal.

If the Sun-Times was smart, it would recast the entire newspaper in the mold of the Controversy section. It's the best thing the paper has going, and it also depends heavily on content culled from the Internet. So, you know, it would be a great product for the paper's website, too. Imagine that! In fact, it could be a prime starting point and industry example of how to create an online newspaper and recast the print version as an entirely different animal.

But the cuts in the industry - no matter the corporate rhetoric you are being fed - is not about new economic models and the future of journalism and serving readers or even advertisers. It's about taking as much money as possible out of these operations to continue feeding overpaid executives and greedy shareholders.

The Sun-Times once had another model for its future. Unlike the inane RedEye, Red Streak was almost everything the Sun-Times ought to have been: A snappy and irreverent take on the news unbowed by throwbacks like Michael Sneed and Richard Roeper.

Like Controversy, Red Streak died an ugly death and here we are.

I hear rumors the Sun-Times is about to make a big online push. Somehow I just can't muster the confidence to think they'll do it right. Besides, kind of late, isn't it?

Newspapers are dead. They didn't have to be, but their window of opportunity closed long ago. And don't let them tell you at the funeral that they died because of shifting reader habits and the Internet. They will have died at their own hands, spurred by cowering, closed-minded, frightened and immature minds.

Fire At Will
That said, I'll make some suggestions for cuts.

* No one would miss Jennifer Hunter.

* No one would miss the business section. If you're not going to even pretend to be serious about it, just get rid of it. That would probably save a bundle right there.

* Send Michael Sneed and her humongous salary to pasture. Sure, she probably still has a large readership, but she's a blight upon the journalistic landscape. Just think what kind of readership someone who actually got their own (accurate) scoops instead of stealing them from the New York and London tabs could draw.

* Eliminate the editorial board. Newspapers shouldn't have them anyway. Who cares what a self-selected group chosen to somehow represent the voice of the corporation that owns the paper thinks? Besides, newspapers shouldn't take positions outside of their news judgements.

* Fire editor-in-chief Michael Cooke and replace him with a cheaper but more talented visionary, journalistic talent. Your front pages will make sense at last.

Tower of Debt
Cuts are coming to the Tribune, too. Sam Zell isn't going to sit still.

Here are some suggestions:

* Eliminate the Books section and Sunday magazine. Not because I don't believe in them, theoretically, but because the Trib does such a piss-poor job with them it's not worth it.

* Eliminate every third editor. The newsroom bureaucracy is worse than your average federal government agency.

* Put your relatively large staff to more productive use or risk losing it. And by more productive use, I don't mean wasting their time on the next set of 12-inch stories to cram into the world's most boring Metro section. I mean actually organizing them according to an editorial agenda and riding herd.

* Cut your price to 25 cents. Of course, the paper announced today that it's newsstand price is going up to 75 cents. Is this the only industry that charges more for offering less?

I suspect the paper actually wants to depress newsstand sales; it prefers the home subscribers that give it a better demographic profile to sell to advertisers. But then, stop complaining about decreasing circulation.

On the other hand, if you lower the price to even less than the Sun-Times, loosen up the white bread attitude, and go for broke with city coverage, you become the heroes everyone wants to read.

Reader Reflux
The Reader is perhaps the most disappointing of all. If any publication should have been on the cutting edge with an imaginative Web strategy and crack journalism week after week, it was the Reader.

Instead, it wallowed all these years in 10,000-word cover stories about baby photographers and falcons while Craigslist stole its classifieds, Metromix stole its entertainment listings, and RedEye stole its advertisers.

When the Reader finally woke up, it was so disoriented it fired its news section.

Now we have the likes of Ben Eason to contend with.

"These decisions were not made lightly and [we] have made them with the future in mind for all of us and are as committed to serious journalism as [we] ever were," Eason wrote in a memo last week.

That's just an observable lie. You can't fire four of your most serious journalists and claim your level of commitment is the same as it ever was.

The Reader has its own problems and, like the dailies, it may never recover. But a visionary editor with a better grasp on the news is where it should start.

The 12 Days of Beachwood Christmas
Our series continues!

We're on our fourth day with "O Holy Grill."

Also, if you're not reading Natasha Julius's Weekend Desk Report, you oughta be.

And finally, today in The [Steroid] Papers, if you read to the bottom you'll find the best player excuses culled from the Mitchell Report by The Beachwood Performance Enhancement Affairs Desk. It's pretty funny.

The Beachwood Tip Line: A series of tubes.

Posted by Lou at 07:47 AM | Permalink

Out of Sight: 1975

20 original hits from 20 original stars.

*

SIDE ONE

1. "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting."

Get your party started with Elton John's version of a rock song.

2. "I've Got The Music In Me."

You know, Kiki Dee had her moments. This is one of them.

3. "Life Is A Rock (But The Radio Rolled Me)."

One of the great "list" songs of all-time. By Reunion. Here we go:

B.B. Bumble and the Stingers, Mott the Hoople, Ray Charles Singers
Lonnie Mack and twangin' Eddy, here's my ring we're goin' steady
Take it easy, take me higher, liar liar, house on fire
Locomotion, Poco, Passion, Deeper Purple, Satisfaction
Baby baby gotta gotta gimme gimme gettin' hotter

Sammy's cookin', Lesley Gore and Richie Valens, end of story
Mahavishnu, fujiyama, kama-sutra, rama-lama
Richard Perry, Spector, Barry, Archies, Righteous, Nilsson, Harry
Shimmy shimmy ko-ko bop and Fats is back and Finger Poppin'

Life is a rock but the radio rolled me
Gotta turn it up louder, so my DJ told me (whoa whoa whoa whoa)
Life is a rock but the radio rolled me
At the end of my rainbow lies a golden oldie

FM, AM, hits are clickin' while the clock is tock-a-tickin'
Friends and Romans, salutations, Brenda and the Tabulations
Carly Simon, I behold her, Rolling Stones and centerfoldin'
Johnny Cash and Johnny Rivers, can't stop now, I got the shivers
Mungo Jerry, Peter Peter Paul and Paul and Mary Mary
Dr. John the nightly tripper, Doris Day and Jack the Ripper
Gotta go Sir, gotta swelter, Leon Russell, Gimme Shelter
Miracles in smokey places, slide guitars and Fender basses
Mushroom omelet, Bonnie Bramlett, Wilson Pickett, stop and kick it

Life is a rock but the radio rolled me
Gotta turn it up louder, so my DJ told me (whoa whoa whoa whoa)
Life is a rock but the radio rolled me
At the end of my rainbow lies a golden oldie

Arthur Janov's primal screamin', Hawkins, Jay and
Dale and Ronnie, Kukla, Fran and Norma Okla
Denver, John and Osmond, Donny
JJ Cale and ZZ Top and LL Bean and De De Dinah
David Bowie, Steely Dan and sing me prouder, CC Rider
Edgar Winter, Joanie Sommers, Osmond Brothers, Johnny Thunders
Eric Clapton, pedal wah-wah, Stephen Foster, do-dah do-dah
Good Vibrations, Help Me Rhonda, Surfer Girl and Little Honda
Tighter, tighter, honey, honey, sugar, sugar, yummy, yummy
CBS and Warner Brothers, RCA and all the others

Life is a rock but the radio rolled me
Gotta turn it up louder, so my DJ told me (whoa whoa whoa whoa)
Life is a rock but the radio rolled me
At the end of my rainbow lies a golden oldie

Listen - remember, they're playing our song!
Rock it, sock it, Alan Freed me, Murray Kaufman, try to leave me
Fish, and Swim, and Boston Monkey,
Make it bad and play it funky.
(Wanna take you higher!)

4. "Beach Baby."

I sense a dark undertone to this poppy summer song. Maybe it's this verse:

We couldn't wait for graduation day (Oh, oh, oh)
We took the car and drove to San Jose (Oh, oh, oh)
That's where you told me that you'd wear my ring
I guess you don't remember anything

By First Class.

5. "The Black-Eyed Boys."

You mean Paper Lace had more than one hit? By the way, they're pictured on the album cover dressed as gat-wielding Chicago mobsters guarding a keg.

6. "Touch Me." It kinda goes like this:

Touch me
I get the feeling
Touch me
Lord, you make me feel good
Touch me
Oh, I get the feeling
Touch me, yeah, hey

Touch me
Oh, baby, why don't you
Touch me
You make me feel so good
Oh, baby, touch me
Yeah, I know you got the feeling
Touch me
Yeah, you make me feel so good
Touch me . . .

By Fancy.

7. "Higher Plane."

By Kool & The Gang. Not to be confused with Paper Lace.

8. "You Little Trustmaker."

By The Tymes.

9. "I Feel A Song (In My Heart)."

You can't go wrong with Gladys Knight & The Pips. The Pips, by the way, are currently featured in a GEICO commercial. As is Peter Frampton, who does not appear on this record.

10. "Kung Fu Fighting."

Kind of worn out even as kitsch. But this song always reminds me of the Saturday morning cartoon Hong Kong Phooey, which also came with a frickin' cool song sung by Scatman Crothers.

SIDE TWO

1. "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet."

There is no need to ever hear a Bachman-Turner Overdrive song ever again. Ever. Let's put that in the Kyoto Treaty and all of our major trade deals.

2. "Get Dancin'."

Disco Tex and the Sex-O-Lettes have one of the greatest names in pop history. And on rare occasions, like this one, that's enough. Plus, they're damn groovy.

3. "Star."

By Stealers Wheel.

4. "After The Goldrush."

Yes, except this is a cover of the Neil Young classic by Prelude. There's no way Young himself would make it onto a record like this. Too much of a downer, man!

5. "So You Are A Star."

By the Hudson Brothers.

6. "Heavy Fallin' Out."

By The Stylistics.

7. "The Need To Be."

Gruesomely by Jim Weatherly.

8. "Abra-Ca-Dabra."

Which is worse, this song by the Defranco Family (Featuring Tony DeFranco) or Steve Miller's song a decade later? Miller's.

9. "Kings of the Party."

By Brownsville Station, of "Smoking in the Boys Room" fame.

10. "Rock The Boat."

Still pleasing after all these years. By the Hues Corporation.

*

Thank you, K-Tel.

-

From the Beachwood jukebox to Marfa Public Radio, we have the playlists you need to be a better citizen.

Posted by Lou at 03:42 AM | Permalink

Reviewing the Reviews

Publication: Tribune

Cover: "Favorite Books of 2007." One-hundred and fifty of them! Each with a single paragraph of small type devoted to them and crammed into four of the most unappealing pages ever published.

Other Reviews & News of Note: Of course not. Worst Book Review Ever.

*

Publication: Sun-Times

Cover: "The Final Ballad of John and Yoko."

Other Reviews & News of Note: "Holidays 2007: Coffee Table Books." A more readable offering than the Trib's list; a somewhat eclectic set of choices made by Sun-Times staffers, which makes it more fun.

Entertainment columnist/Society maven Bill Zwecker, for example, chooses Entertaining at the White House With Nancy Reagan! Too perfect.

Theater critic Hedy Weiss chooses Shakespeare: The Life, The Works, The Treasures. So that's probably a pretty good selection.

Rock critic Jim DeRogatis chooses Creem: America's Only Rock 'N' Roll Magazine.. And so on.

It would have been even more fun if more of the staff's recognizable bylines were included. For example, where are selections by Jay Mariotti and Rick Telander? Roger Ebert and Carol Marin? Tim Novak and Abdon Pallasch?

*

Publication: New York Times

Cover: "A Stranger in Camelot," a review of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

Other Reviews and News of Note: "This July, when the Democrats John Edwards, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton all proposed closing a tax loophole that saves hedge fund managers hundreds of millions of dollars each year, it wasn't immediately clear what to make of it," Noam Schieber writes in his review of Robert Kuttner's The Squandering of America.

"On the one hand, it was the sort of proposal you'd expect from the party of working people. On the other, these three presidential candidates had stayed silent on the issue for months - while raising gobs of money from wealthy financiers. Why would they turn on them now?

"Only later did we get some hint of an explanation. The New York Times reported that Charles Schumer, the Senate's third-ranking Democrat, had spent June assuring Wall Street donors that the loophole would remain intact. This made the pronouncements a victory for everyone involved. The Democratic candidates could take the high road publicly, while their contributors could rest easy knowing those tax breaks were safe."

And therein lies why I hate Democrats.

As Schieber writes it, Kuttner's book is an exploration of just this sort of behavior by so-called liberals - most notably within the Clinton Administration, rehashing the fight that occurred between the Robert Rubin faction, which wanted a balanced budget immediately and "free" trade agreements to satisfy bondholding yuppies and their pals, and the Robert Reich faction, which wanted more investment in infrastructure, education, technology and social services, on the way to a balanced budget.

The Rubin faction won - as they always do - but in fact got burned. As Kuttner writes, "What the Clintonites . . . missed was that clearing aside trade barriers can leave you dangerously exposed when many of your trading partners - especially in East Asia - don't reciprocate."

And is that Clinton balanced budget really as important now as long-term investment in people's lives would have been? Balanced budgets are important but investing in the long-term health of an enlightened economy is never the wrong thing to do.

Also Noted: P.J. O'Rourke is as annoying as ever in a review of Taylor Clark's Starbucked: A Double Tall Tale of Caffeine, Commerce, and Culture, which doesn't sound so hot in itself.

O'Rourke reveals that "his money manager" suggested his company take a pass on Starbucks' 1992 IPO because he visited one in Seattle and "I didn't like the look of the people hanging around in there."

It was too hippieish for him.

O'Rourke displays his usual ignorance when he chides Clark for including in his book the work of sociologist Ray Oldenburg, famous for his notion of the "third place" - "locations other than home or work that are 'neutral, safe, public gathering spots.' Oldenburg claims that third place is disappearing in America. I beg to differ. It's called a bar, Ray."

Memo to Pajamas O'Rourke: Oldenburg indeed cites bars as crucial third places - and indeed they are disappearing. It's been well-reported by now that under the Daley Administration here in Chicago, the number of taverns in the city has dropped by more than half.

Clark's work seems equally lacking in rigor. He argues, according to O'Rourke, that "the surest way to boost sales at your mom-and-pop café may be to have a Starbucks move in next door."

Are you going to believe Clark or your lying eyes?

Clark hangs this argument on the fact that there are now more than 24,000 coffeehouses in America, compared to 585 (a dubious figure if you ask me) in 1989.

Apparently he fails to note that 23,500 of them are Starbucks', or that Starbucks rode a trend it didn't necessarily invent, but exploited.

There is one nugget cited by O'Rourke that confirms what some of us have been saying all along: That Starbucks' coffee sucks. Without all the sugary accompaniments, that is.

"Clark tells us that Ernesto Illy, patriarch of Italy's Illycaffe, 'the most quality-focused major roaster in the world,' says coffee as dark as Starbucks's smells as if it's been through 'a fire that has been extinguished by a fire brigade.' After that, Clark discusses rumors that Starbucks sells bitter, burnt-tasting coffee so that customers will order its more expensive syrupy, milky concoctions."

Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz gave the game away himself in a 1997 Larry King interview cited by Clark:

"People weren't drinking coffee . . . So the question is, How could a company create retail stores where coffee was not previously sold . . . charge three times more for it than the local doughnut shop, put Italian names on it that no one can pronounce, and then have six million customers a week coming through the stores?"

Indeed. Starbucks is a marketing triumph; a mix between McDonald's and Evian. In America, you can never go wrong underestimating the intelligence of the same yuppie consumers who thought Friends was funny.

And now they can buy their Paul McCartney CDs with their crappy, overpriced "coffee." Perfect.

*

CHARTS
1. Stephen Colbert
2. Glenn Beck
3. Tom Brokaw
4. Steve Martin
5. Anna Quindlen
6. Eric Clapton
7. A dog named Sprite
8. Tony Dungy
9. Alan Greenspan
10. The American Revolution

Posted by Lou at 03:16 AM | Permalink

The [Steroid] Papers

The Cubs and White Sox were plenty present in the Mitchell Report released last week. Let's take a look.

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"Mitchell blasts the 'code of silence' of players and managers, such as former Cubs skipper Dusty Baker," Rick Telander writes.

"Baker long has said he knew nothing of steroid usage by any player during his years as manager of the Giants.

"The Mitchell Report shows Baker knew at least one of his player, Marvin Benard, had used steroids, but Baker 'did not report Benard's admission to anyone in Giants management or the Commissioner's Office.'"

*

Of course, Barry Bonds played for Baker all those years in San Francisco.

Dusty Baker: The Sgt. Schultz of Major League Baseball.

*

Baker is the new manager of the Cincinnati Reds. Here's what the Cincinnati Enquirer reported:

"In 2003, Giants outfielder Marvin Benard admitted to Baker that he took steroids.

"Baker told investigators he was 'completely shocked' when allegations of steroid use by Benard were made. The report says Baker asked Benard if the allegations were true. Benard, Baker said, admitted using steroids in the past but said he'd stopped. Baker, the report said, did not disclose this to Giants management or the commissioner's office. That could make Baker the subject of discipline.

"Baker did not return a call from The Enquirer Thursday."

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Not to elevate Jim Parque to a position of prominence, but his non-denial denial is total bullshit.

Besides, he had his chance.

"Parque, who lives in Seattle, where he operates a baseball academy, said he was contacted by the Mitchell team but refused to talk."

To be angry now about what the report says after refusing to speak to investigators is an act of Bakerish bullshit artistry.

*

I'm certainly not the first to say it - in fact, I'm about the last - but hail Frank Thomas.

"The report stated that Thomas and New York Yankees slugger Jason Giambi were the only current players to speak with the Mitchell team about the so-called 'steroid era,' and Thomas did so voluntarily," the Sun-Times reported.

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Jim Parque runs a baseball academy?

*

Among inactive players, former White Sox and Cubs reliever Matt Karchner was one of the few who met with investigators, "though he wouldn't identify the Cubs players he watched inject themselves with steroids during spring training 1999," the Sun-Times reports.

"He said one of the players brought the steroids to the apartment but was afraid of needles and therefore asked the second player to administer the shot," the Mitchell Report says. "The second player injected the first player with steroids in the buttocks and then injected himself.

"Later that season, Karchner was offered steroids by certain of his Cubs teammates. Karchner would not disclose the . . . players who offered him steroids, but he said the conversations he had with them involved the general cost of steroids and discussions of 'stacking' to build lean muscle . . . for pitchers. Karchner did not report either of these incidents to anyone at the time."

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I'm struck by how many ballplayers are afraid of needles.

*

"Sosa was mentioned in the report just once," Greg Couch writes, "where it said that he didn't respond to a letter asking questions."

Maybe his translator wasn't available.

*

Couch's column focuses on the legendary Wrigley Field home run hit by Glenallen Hill in 2000.

"In the stadium, players past and present, and fans, too, were buzzing. Ron Santo and Mark Grace, though, both told of baseball's dirty secret, that the ball was juiced.

"'Not to take anything away from Glenallen,' Grace said at the time, 'but no human being can do that.'"

Hill was named in the Mitchell Report, leading Couch to observe that maybe it was the players who were juiced, not the balls.

*

"Hill said in the report that he didn't use the steroids he had bought because he was having marital problems. There is no explanation for whatever that means," Couch writes.

Maybe he was having problems in the bedroom and didn't want his balls to shrink.

*

Todd Hundley got off easy here in Chicago compared to his treatment by the New York Times as one of the major links in baseball's drug network. Hundley is the son of legendary Cub Randy Hundley, still a popular figure in these parts.

*

Online reports cited by the Tribune that Kerry Wood and Mark Prior were on the list were wrong. My apologies to everyone I called that afternoon with the news.

*

Sammy Sosa wasn't named in the report, but he did test positive for cork.

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Sosa and McGwire react to the Mitchell Report.

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Finally, the Beachwood Performance Enhancing Affairs Desk has spent the last few days reading the 409-page Mitchell Report and we've culled the best excuses players have given for using performance enhancing drugs.

- "I was walking down the stairs and I slipped and fell on the steroids. Every day. For three years."

- "Yes those are steroids in the pants I'm wearing, but these aren't my pants."

- "Sure I took steroids. But I never inhaled."

- "What's the big deal? I mean, Obama did a little blow and he's running for president."

- "It was my mistake. I thought this syringe had undetectable HGH in it but it was actually Winstrol steroids. So, yeah, my bad."

- "If you can prove that Cy Young didn't take steroids, let me know."

- "I have to wear uncomfortable polyester clothing for hours at a time. You deal with that and not take steroids.

- "I just wanted to spend more time with my family, while suspended."


Posted by Lou at 12:29 AM | Permalink

O Holy Grill

On the 4th day of Christmas, Don's Grill gave to me
A pickle on a pure beef patty

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O Holy Grill

O Holy Grill
On Cicero and Belmont
You were the place where my drunk friends would go

O Holy Grill
Your meat was really greasy
With grilled onions and some french fries on the side

humburgers1.jpg

An egg with ham and cheese on white bread lightly toasted
Oyster crackers in our chili bowl

Fall on your knees
Pray to the god of porcelain

O Grill called Don's
O Grill where Jake cooked

O Grill called Don's
O Grill O Grill called Don's

humburgers2.jpg

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The 12 Days of Beachwood Christmas, brought to you by our very own Tom Latourette:

- Day 1: Have a Dysfunctional Family Christmas
- Day 2: Little George Bush
- Day 3: Hillary, Hillary

Posted by Lou at 12:07 AM | Permalink

December 16, 2007

Hillary, Hillary

On the 3rd day of Christmas, the Beachwood gave to me
A woman running for the Presidency

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Hillary, Hillary

Hillary, Hillary, you're Bill Clinton's spouse
He'll be the First Husband
In your feminist White House

Hillary, Hillary, you went to Wellesley
Then on to Yale Law School
Where you earned your law degree

Dashing through New York
Health care's the card you play
More taxes from the rich
Equality for gays

The pantsuits that you wear
Show that you've got class
I'll bet if you arm wrestled
You'd kick Giuliani's ass

Hillary, Hillary, your singing is off-key
You wrote It Takes a Village
Then Dear Socks and Dear Buddy

Hillary, Hillary, you're Bill Clinton's wife
You'll be President in the daytime
His Commander-in-Chief at night

A day or two ago, Las Vegas - the debates
They called you duplicitous
But you didn't take the bait

Won't let illegals drive
Won't play the gender card
You say caucusing's easy
Bill says exercising's hard

Hillary, Hillary - you are Chelsea's mom
I don't know if I trust you
With your finger on the bomb

Hillary, Hillary, some call you a MILF
If you win this election
You'll be the USA's first PILF

If you win this election
You'll be the USA's first PILF

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The 12 Days of Beachwood Christmas, brought to you by our very own Tom Latourette:

- Day 1: Have a Dysfunctional Family Christmas
- Day 2: Little George Bush

Posted by Lou at 07:56 AM | Permalink

December 15, 2007

Little George Bush

On the 2nd day of Christmas, Tom Latourette gave to me
Two full terms and a song of presidential mediocrity

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Little George Bush

Well way down in Texas, hanging at his ranch
Job approval's in the toilet, Congress - Democrat
Civil liberties gone, he waved them all bye-bye
In his new biography, he says he likes to cry

He's the Little George Bush (Little George Bush)
He's the Little George Bush (Little George Bush)

Got in Afghanistan - and screwed up Iraq
This year he'll take Iran - It's just down the block
He doesn't waste his time with diplomacy
He does it in the name of democracy

He's the Little George Bush (Little George Bush)
He's the Little George Bush (Little George Bush)

Bomb Bomb Iraq
Bomb Syria
Bomb Bomb Iran
Then North Korea
It's the Axis of Evil

Weapons of mass destruction - well he used that line
Nuclear bombs and terrorists - will have to do this time
Halliburton execs - still profit from the war
With Condeleeza Rice, I would love to score

It's the Little George Bush (Little George Bush)
It's the Little George Bush (Little George Bush)

Aaaah, Merry Christmas George Bush
You're trying for peace in the Middle East
Aaaah, Merry Christmas George Bush
he budget deficit's getting steep
Aaaah, Merry Christmas George Bush
Your bullshit quotient's getting deep

*

The 12 Days of Beachwood Christmas:
- Day 1: Have a Dysfunctional Family Christmas

Posted by Lou at 07:56 AM | Permalink

The Weekend Desk Report

Would you mind shoveling our sidewalk while we watch the news? We can't be two places at once, you know. Thanks, you're a peach.

Market Update
Not a bad week to grow food. However, analysts warn it's not the greatest time to eat it.

Under the Mitchelltoe
President Bush this week urged caution in the wake of the newly-released Mitchell Report, asking that members of the public not "jump to any conclusions on individual players named" until they have been properly detained and interrogated. And since any evidence of such interrogations will be duly destroyed, it's officially time to forget anything ever happened.

Crooked Cook?
After a tumultuous first year and another stinging rebuke over the distribution of funds, Todd Stroger announced this week he will dissolve Cook County.

High School Musical
The hot gossip around the lockers this week involves feisty North Korea's intention to go all the way with America. This comes despite the revelation that the U.S. totally lied about what happened with Iran after the Homecoming dance. A bitter Mahmoud Ahmadinejad remarked, "It's crazy. I can't even walk through study hall without all the upperclassmen making cat calls at me and I didn't even do anything!" Gushing North Korean despot Kim Jong Il giggled, "What can I say? He gave me this note in English and it was just so sweet. He said the rest of the world could wait for all he cared, just as long as things were good between us."

Walk On
Once again on the local front, CTA workers have decided to call off a one-day walk out originally planned for Monday. Because, frankly, they weren't sure we would notice.

Five Extended Arms
Finally this week, a note to the taxi drivers of Chicago: Sure, we're watching you like hawks, but at least we're not as bad as this guy.

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WEEKEND BONUS!
- Day 2 of The 12 Days of Beachwood Christmas: Little George Bush

- Day 3 of The 12 Days of Beachwood Christmas: Hillary, Hillary

- And feel free to catch up on the week's Papers and the Weekend Desk Report archive!

Posted by Natasha at 07:42 AM | Permalink

December 14, 2007

The [Friday] Papers

Is there an honest man in the land?

1. "Mayor Daley's son Patrick had a hidden interest in a sewer-inspection company whose business with the City of Chicago rose sharply while he was an owner," the Sun-Times reports in an exclusive.

Whoa!

"Patrick Daley invested in Municipal Sewer Services in June 2003, along with Robert Vanecko, a nephew of the mayor. The pair cashed out their small investment about a year later, as federal investigators were swarming City Hall in the early days of the Hired Truck Scandal.

"Municipal Sewer Services had partnered with a Hired Truck company in the sewer-cleaning program."

That sounds about right.

"Mayor signed pacts, but spokeswoman says he didn't know his son was an owner of a sewer-inspection business that did city work," the paper states.

Of course, the mayor himself wasn't available for questions such as:

A) Would you be willing to repeat that under oath?
B) So are you mad your son kept this secret from you?
C) Is he grounded?

2. "Christopher G. Kelly, one of Gov. Rod Blagojevich's closest advisers and the chief fundraisers on his two campaigns, was indicted Thursday on tax fraud charges alleging he improperly used corporate funds to cover gambling debts he had run up in Las Vegas and with a local bookie," the Tribune reports.

Kelly, you might recall, is the pal Blagojevich put in charge of gaming policy.

3. Sausagegate was so much more fun than Steroidgate.

4. There are a number of scenarios which would explain why Sam Zell is lobbying the mayor and the governor to have the state buy Wrigley Field, and none of them are in your interest.

5. "A federal influence-peddling probe into the administration of Gov. Rod Blagojevich has expanded to include allegations that prominent Joliet pharmacist solicited campaign contributions in exchange for promises of regulatory favors," the Tribune reports.

"The federal inquiry follows Tribune reports about a 2005 accusation made to state police that the pharmacist offered to intervene in the Medicaid fraud probe of another drugstore owner in exchange for a $25,000 contribution to the governor."

That sounds about right.

"The Tribune also reported allegations from state investigators that they were hindered by political interference in a separate Medicaid fraud case against the Joliet pharmacist, Harish M. Bhatt, who has helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the governor."

6. Best Bears Drinking Game Ever.

7. "[W]e remain committed to publishing, both in print and on the Web, in-depth reporting, robust listings, and provocative arts criticism," Reader editor Alison True writes this week.

A) Just not as committed as we used to be.
B) Except for the in-depth reporting part.

8. "[O]nce it became apparent what the future with the new ownership held, [True] surely could have done the honorable thing that others in similar circumstances have done: handed in her own resignation to Creative Loafing and its banker-lender-investor-creditors and told Ben Eason to fire these extraordinary writers himself."

- Andrew Patner, in a letter to the Reader

9. "In one of the largest awards ever in a Chicago Police shooting, a Cook County jury Thursday said the city must pay $12 million to the family of a 23-year-old unarmed man whose death was caught on a CTA station security video now heavily viewed on YouTube," the Sun-Times reports.

"[T]he Office of Professional Standards recommended [the officer's] firing, but former police Supt. Phil Cline only suspended him for 30 days - then promoted him to detective."

10. Maude: Marijuana Mama.

11. "In a stinging defeat for the Bush Administration, one of seven Miami men accused of plotting to join forces with al-Qaida to blow up Chicago's Sears Tower was acquitted Thursday, and the case against the rest ended in a hung jury," AP reports in a story on page 28 of the Sun-Times.

I'm just going to go ahead and say I told you so.

12. I'm just going to go ahead and say it again.

13. And so on.

14. Dammit, we can't let a few no-goodnik outsiders with an anti-torture agenda get in the way of our Olympics!

15. Daley press secretary Jackie Heard "would not discuss details of the deals involving the mayor's son and nephew," the Sun-Times notes.

"Patrick Daley could not be reached for comment. His cousin, Vanecko, issued a written statement . . . The other investors . . . also declined to be interviewed . . . the company's former president, Anthony Duffy, would not comment."

Will the mayor call on those who know who did it to come forward?

16. "[Kelly] began as a roofing contractor in the 1990s," the Tribune notes. "At the same time, he became friends with Gery Chico, then Mayor Richard Daley's chief of staff.

"In the 1990s, Kelly secured a number of contracts at O'Hare International Airport and for other city agencies. A roofing firm that Kelly oversaw, BCI Commercial Roofing, as well as an affiliated company, Castle Construction, were paid $7.6 million for work at O'Hare and Midway Airports between 1999 and 2004."

Had enough yet?

17. Today we kick off The 12 Days of Beachwood Christmas with "Have a Dysfunctional Family Christmas."

And don't forget "The Hester Man."

18. "Sun-Times Media Shareholder Demands Cost Cuts."

In sign of commitment to in-depth reporting, company considers eliminating newsroom.

19. Pat Boone had one soulful moment. And Don Jacobson located it.

20. Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot share their best albums of 2007 on Sound Opinions on Friday at 8 p.m., rebroadcast Saturday at 11 a.m., on Chicago Public Radio (91.5 FM).

The Beachwood Tip Line: Heal your soul.

Posted by Lou at 09:21 AM | Permalink

Have A Dysfunctional Family Christmas

One the first day of our Beachwood Christmas, Tom Latourette gave to me . . . the dysfunctional family we've all come to know and love.

And thus we kick off The 12 Days of Beachwood Christmas. Let's all drink heavily to achieve a joyous season. Here's hoping each and every one of you has a dysfunctional family Christmas.

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Have A Dysfunctional Christmas

Well, it's that time of year again. Christmas. Ahh, a time for you to spread yuletide cheer, gathering with those you love. Those who are near and dear to you.

Have a Dysfunctional Family Christmas, it's a screwed up time of year
Don't you know bout Uncle Joe, He just told us he was queer

Have a Dysfunctional Family Christmas, your mother-in-law's a bitch
But you let it pass and kiss her ass, cause your father-in-law is rich

Oh no, your cousin's blouse cut low, her breasts are what you see
They're so full of silicone, Billy paid for Double-Ds

Have a Dysfunctional Family Christmas, and you'll drink a case of beer
You'll need some medication with possible sedation at Christmas this year

If I have to spend one more minute with your crazy family . . .
If you need me, I'll be taking a dump . . . for the next 3 hours

Have a Dysfunctional Family Christmas, my sister wants to borrow cash
Her husband lost his job, their kids are slobs, no better than white trash

Oh no, where did Grandpa go? He walked out in the street
Someone call the nursing home but wipe his feces off the seat

Have a Dysfunctional Family Christmas, you'll need therapy through the year
Look up your family tree you'll find insanity at Christmas this year.

Dr. Phil ain't gonna help this bunch, let me tell you
Thank God Dear Abby's dead or this group woulda killed her

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Tom Latourette will be counting down The 12 Days of Beachwood Christmas with a new song every day from now until the dreaded day. Have a good one.

Posted by Lou at 07:13 AM | Permalink

The Blue & Orange Kool-Aid Report

Now that the Bears season is lost, you may be finding it hard to get excited about watching the remaining games, even if Kyle Orton will be on display like a circus freak. But oh my funny, fuzzy Bear fans, you're forgetting about our good friend alcohol. Here's a Bears drinking game to enhance these last few weeks of Letdown '07.

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Pregame Prep
Step one: Get fellow Bears fans of legal drinking age.
Step two: Get one case of beer per person. I recommend Hamm's, since it had a bear as a mascot.
Step three: Elect a "referee". Some of the rules will require some interpretation.

The Rules
Drink beer each time the following occurs.

Brian Urlacher
* Drink once for every Urlacher tackle.
* Drink once each every time broadcasters say "Arthritic back", "off-year", or "humps everything that moves."
* Chug if announcer says "Urlacher is still the best linebacker in the NFL."

Rex Grossman
* Drink once for every shot of him on sidelines.
* Drink once more if he is smiling.
* Drink once more if it appears he is not paying attention to the game.
* Chug if announcer says "Grossman is still the Bears' quarterback of the future."

Bears Offensive Line
* Drink once for every sack allowed.
* Drink once for every false start.
* Drink once for every running play that goes for two yards or less.
* Chug when fellow Bears fan vomits for drinking too much due to poor overall performance of Bears offensive line.

Lovie Smith
* Drink once for every shot of him on the sidelines.
* Drink again if he exhibits a blank look.
* Drink once again if he musters up a simple headshake when disgusted.
* Chug if he half-heartedly claps his hands when the Bears face adversity.

Bob Babich
* Drink once for every shot of him on the sidelines.
* Drink once more after every big play the defense gives up.
* Drink once again for every rushing touchdown allowed.
* Chug if announcer states "Bears miss Ron Rivera more than they realize."

Ron Turner
* Drink once for every curious play call.
* Drink once for every play that gets negative yards.
* Drink once every time you're forced to visit Fire Ron Turner.
* Chug if announcer states "Nick Sabin was a college coach who went to the pros, only to go back to college football. Given Turner's lack of success, I recommend Ripon College for Turner's next job".

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Bears at Vikings

Storyline: One team expected to go to the playoffs. The other expected to dwell in mediocrity. As it turns out, both teams switched roles. Oh, by the way, both teams have an Adrian Peterson. Yuk, yuk, yuk.

Reality: During a game where both teams commit to the run, it gives the announcers ample time to bring up "all the people" who "are very disappointed with their performance." Guess what? When they bring up Urlacher, Smith, Grossman, Benson, Miller, Babich, Turner, and Archuleta, it will have nothing to do with their performance Monday night.

Pick: Vikings Minus 10 Points, Under 43 Points Scored.

*

Sugar in the Blue and Orange Kool-Aid: 1%
Recommended Sugar in the Blue and Orange Kool-Aid: .125 %

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For more Emery, see the Kool-Aid archive, and the Over/Under archive. Emery accepts comments from Bears fans reluctantly and everyone else tolerably.

Posted by Lou at 06:53 AM | Permalink

And Then There's Maude: Episode 12

Our tribute to the 35th anniversary of the debut of Maude continues.

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Season 1, Episode 12
Episode Title: The Grass Story

Original airdate: 5 December 1972

Plot: The drug references fly fast and furious in this episode. Pay close attention kiddies and you just may learn a pill-popping thing or two.

The episode kicks off with a slam-bang argument between Maude and Walter that's been raging since Wednesday. No, since Tuesday. No, it was Wednesday. No . . . you get the idea. When the doorbell rings mid-yell, a panicked Maude shouts, "Maybe that's Jeff with the marijuana!"

It seems a 19-year-old supermarket box boy was arrested for possession and faces a possible three to seven years in jail. Maude plans to be part of a protest where 146 middle-aged women will march themselves into suburban police stations all over New York, present their own stash, and have themselves arrested on the same charge. Maude's responsible for getting the marijuana she and her friends will need to get arrested and she's counting on her nephew to score some grass. Walter thinks Maude is being ridiculous. So, what else is new?

Maude and Walter continue to argue back and forth, right through Maude's exchange with a door-to-door tomato salesman. (A door-to-door tomato salesman?) When Maude mentions that her anxiety about the pot protest has given her insomnia and Walter says he slept like a baby, their conversation turns into an exchange of who-took-what-drug when.

Maude: I'm exhausted. I was so nervous about this morning that I didn't sleep a wink last night.

Walter: Why didn't you take something, like a couple of Seconals.

Maude: We're out of Seconals but I did take two Chloral hydrate and a Librium and they didn't work.

Walter: Well I took two Miltown and a Doriden and I slept like a lamb.

Maude: And snored like a moose. No, I should have taken two Meprobamates with a Nembutal instead of two Chloral hydrate with a Librium. (She glances down at her grandson Philip who's having breakfast at the kitchen table.) Philip! Cold knockwurst for breakfast? How can you put that junk inside you?

Jeff finally shows up. Maude's nephew looks less like a twenty-something pothead and more like a 40-something, shaggy-haired version of Paul Williams. Maude gushes over her "favorite nephew" until he tells her he couldn't score any weed ("There was a big senior prom last night," he whines) and she says, "You're a loser Jeff. You've always been a loser." She shoos Jeff out the door, telling him to "hang around playgrounds" until he can scratch up some Mary Jane.

Carol comes downstairs and makes a beeline for the coffee. She needs all the help she can get to wake up, after she had to take a Valium to sleep through Maude and Walter's argument. ("We were not arguing. I just had to speak very loud because Walter was trying to sleep.") Mommy Maude reaches in her purse and gives dopey Carol a "mommy's little helper" ("Here sweetheart, take a Ritalin. It will pick you up like that.") and asks Carol for a return favor - to help her get some marijuana.

After striking out with Carol, a desperate Maude turns to Florida for help. No luck there either. ("On my salary, I'm a Dr. Pepper girl.") That leaves Arthur, who's dropped by on his way to work to bum a Bloody Mary hangover cure off Walter. As he dispenses refill prescriptions of Seconol, Miltown, and Librium to Maude and Walter, Arthur rails against "kids using artificial stimulants like marijuana to solve all their problems."

Florida enters with good news. A friend of Jeff's just dropped off a plastic bag filled with $20 of pot. Maude snatches the bag with glee while Walter gives Florida money for the backdoor salesman. He takes the bag from Maude ("I paid for it. It's mine."), sparking another fight with Maude. He refuses to give her the pot or his "permission" to participate in the protest, which only further enrages the independent-minded Maude. To prove that "the rights of the individual stop when it affects the marriage," Walter calls a cute "little chick" who works for him to ask her on a weekend trip to Atlantic City and the telephone suffers collateral damage when Maude rips it from the wall.

Walter prepares to leave with Maude's baggie safely out of reach in his briefcase. Crafty Maude goes for Plan B, or should we say Plan O, heading off to the police station with a bag full of oregano.

Down at the Tuckahoe police station, a crowd of seven housewives is positively giddy with pre-arrest excitement. When Maude arrives, the women break out singing "We shall overcome!" Maude marches up to the desk sergeant and demands to be arrested. ("Print us, mug us, book us, and beat us up.") When he asks to see the evidence, Maude tries quickly flashing the bag in front of his face, but this cop can't be fooled. He's Italian and while he can't see the pot, he can certainly smell the oregano. Maude's busted - but not the way she was hoping for.

Officer Lazario is in no mood for this. He's had a hard day and he's tired. Maude says she's got just the thing for him and reaches in her bag of prescription tricks to offer him a Dexamil. ("It's an upper.") Apparently offering a cop prescription pills as if they were Tic-Tacs is no big deal in 1972, because the cop doesn't bat an eye.

Rules are rules though and Sgt. Lazario can't arrest Maude for possession of a controlled spice, even if she does flatter him by comparing his good looks to that of the Pope. When she threatens him with a middle-aged, stark-naked sit-in, he gives some cash to an officer on duty, telling him to run down the block to buy this nice lady some grass.

Hallelujah, Maude is on her way to the slammer. But not so fast! A phone call informs the desk sergeant that the kid has just been sentenced to three years, so there won't be any protest arrests today. Maude and the suburban ladies pothead auxiliary leave defeated and Officer Lazario, feeling lower than before, pops the pill Maude left for him.

Hot button social issue: Let the punishment fit the crime or "The ridiculous marijuana law."

Fashion statement: Arthur wins for most eye-boggling ensemble this episode: a camel suit with plaid vest, striped tie, white striped dress shirt and his bleeper, the size of a cigarette pack, prominently bulging out of the top pocket of his suit jacket.

Neckerchief count: One. What does a girl wear to her arrest? Maude sports a blue paisley blouse under her jumper dress that includes a built-in scarf, swirled around her neck in a yard of fabric that's secured by a large broach.

Cocktail hour: On his way to the hospital where he works, Arthur stops by the Findlay household for a Bloody Mary to cure his hangover. He scolds Walter for making the drink too weak and leaves with a serious case of the shakes. Did we mention that Arthur is a surgeon?

Welcome back to 1972 pop culture reference #1: Golf great Lee Trevino. Maude heard Trevino mention a particular Mexican dinner on TV. She thought Walter would like it because he's a golfer too; turns out it just gave him gas.

Welcome back to 1972 pop culture reference #2: Arthur: "I'm talking about morality. You start these young kids off on pot, indiscriminate sex, running off to Canada to avoid the draft - you know what it leads to? You know what it leads to? WELL I'LL TELL YOU WHAT IT LEADS TO! Jane Fonda!"

Welcome back to 1972 pop culture reference #3: Dial-a-Prayer.

Number of times Maude yells: 6

'70s slang: Maude accuses Walter of being "a fink" because he objects to her buying a bag of pot.

Memorable quote(s): "My luck, I have to have an aunt who's a head."
"Honey, I've got to have some marijuana. Now please Carol, call one of your weird friends."
"There is a pot fairy after all!"

Number of times the live audience breaks out into spontaneous applause: 4

Number of references to taking prescription medication: 17

Wow, did they just say that? "Florida is black. You can't tell me she doesn't know any musicians!"

Keep an eye out for: Lorraine (first seen in episode 1-10) makes a return appearance as one of the protesters. Sergeant Joseph Lazario is played by Frank Campanella, a character actor with quite a filmography on IMDB. He's also credited in Wikipedia as helping Robert DeNiro learn Sicilian for his role in The Godfather: Part II.

-

Previously:
Season 1, Episode 1: Maude's Problem.
Season 1, Episode 2: Doctor, Doctor.
Season 1, Episode 3: Maude Meets Florida.
Season 1, Episode 4: Like Mother, Like Daughter.
Season 1, Episode 5: Maude and the Radical.
Season 1, Episode 6: The Ticket.
Season 1, Episode 7: Love and Marriage.
Season 1, Episode 8: Flashback.
Season 1, Episode 9: Maude's Dilemma (Part One).
Season 1, Episode 10: Maude's Dilemma (Part Two).
Season 1, Episode 11: Maude's Reunion.


Posted by Lou at 06:20 AM | Permalink

December 13, 2007

The [Thursday] Papers

Now that the torture settlement with the city has fallen apart, the mayor will have to leave town again.

Kissing Da Coach
Why is Mike Ditka getting such a free pass?

Let's review.

* "Twice this year, pro football legend Mike Ditka has blasted the National Football League and its players union, telling Congress that both groups are 'delaying or denying' requests by needy retired players for help," USA Today reported earlier this month.

"Ditka formed a charity in 2004 to aid those players. The Mike Ditka Hall of Fame Association Trust Fund has collected $1.3 million and netted about $315,00 after expenses."

Ding, ding, ding!

That not just violates all acceptable guidelines of the percentage of a charity's budget allowed to be spent on expenses, it obliterates it.

And it gets worse.

"[The charity] has given only $57,000 for former players in need, according to federal and Illinois tax records."

So the Mike Ditka Trust Fund has collected $1.3 million and dispensed just $57,000.

* "The trust spent more in fees to induce former stars to appear at a 2005 fundraiser than it gave needy ex-players in its first three years."

* In its first two years, Ditka's charity doled out . . . nothing. Not a cent. In two years.

* "The problem is finding [needy] guys and getting them to fill out the [application] form," Ditka told the newspaper. "Some of these guys are scared of forms. There could be pride involved, too."

* And yet, in June Ditka went before a U.S. House panel and said that the players union "does nothing material to help these guys."

Well, it does a little.

"Two charities formed by the NFL and its union gave about $1.1 million a year from 2000 to 2005 to needy ex-players and related causes, tax records show."

* Then Ditka refused to accept responsibility - you know, the way a real man might. "It is unfortunate that the media has to attack something that is good," he said.

In a prepared statement. You know, without facing reporters the way a real man might.

And yet, the local media has largely downplayed the story and given its sympathy to poor Mike Ditka.

* Jay Mariotti has been the - gulp - voice of properly calibrated outrage on this one.

"You don't launch a spirited fund-raising campaign to aid former NFL players in dire need, then drop the ball when it's time to distribute the money," he writes.

* Mariotti also rightly takes on the local media for soft-pedaling the story.

* "For the right price, Mike Ditka will put his name on anything," Mariotti wrote in another column. "You can book a room at Mike Ditka Resorts. You can buy a bottle of Mike Ditka wine, including the Kick Ass Red. You can devour Mike Ditka's pork chops and smoke Mike Ditka's cigars with gold-chained Ditkaphiles at Mike Ditka's Restaurants. Back in the day, you could take Mike Ditka's advice and try Levitra, which cures Limp Ditka.

"You can join Mike Ditka at Majestic Star Casinos, where he is a spokesman despite the NFL's anti-gambling stance. You can see Mike Ditka playing Mike Ditka in a Will Ferrell movie. You can buy music at Mike Ditka Records Inc. Or you can try the Mike Ditka Kick Ass Salsa, a spicy complement to watching Mike Ditka on TV, listening to Mike Ditka on radio and reading Mike Ditka's book, which, of course, is titled, In Life, First You Kick Ass."

That's Ditka the Showman. But Ditka kicking ass?

"Just last month, Ditka described NFLPA boss Gene Upshaw as a liar. 'These people got in front of Congress and lied, actually lied and said, We're going to try to fix this system,' Ditka said. Play smashmouth with an S.O.B., as Ditka knows, and you'll get your bell rung. Still, it doesn't answer the question of where the money went. Still, it doesn't answer the big question. Will we ever know?

"Not that Ditkaphiles care to know. People love the guy, especially those who hold onto 1985 like their first backseat dates. That's why many will ignore this story and excuse his stance, including his intention to keep issuing appearance payments from his trust fund. 'You're asking guys to play golf in August in a tournament that's got my name on it,' Ditka said.

"He obviously doesn't get it. When a man of his stature puts his name on a charity, it isn't to be treated like wine, salsa and pork chops."

* Contrast that with the take of Rick Morrissey in the Tribune:

"To dwell on the numbers is to miss the bigger picture."

Yes, I'm sure former athletes in need feel that way too. They aren't dwelling on numbers on a check they're waiting for. They're looking at the bigger picture. And what is that again?

Oh yeah. It's all about Mike Ditka.

"He is not a micromanager. Everything he does and has done is big. Ask him to lead men into battle; don't ask him to design a new rifle. He's not the close-up camera shot. He's the wide-angle view."

* And then today, the Sun-Times's Esther Cepeda writes in an item titled "Da Coach Didn't Drop The Ball":

"We cynics can harrumph at what's been billed as yet another charitable mismanagement story, but let's just put it this way: If you've given even a brief second thought - as the National Football League has been forced to do in no small part by Ditka's crusading - to the health and well-being of the retired and mostly-forgotten modern-day gladiators who suffer from the aftereffects of the organized brutality we cheer for every Sunday, then Da Coach did all right."

A) Oh stop, I'm tearing up.
B) Huh?
C) Depending on your definition of "all right."

* On the other hand, the Sun-Times editorial page today has a piece called "Ditka Should Have Kept Closer Eye On Charity." Finally some sense from the genius editorial board?

Don't be silly.

"With all his career obligations - the TV and radio gigs, the restaurant, co-ownership of the Chicago Rush Arena League football team, all the personal appearances - Ditka may have been stretched too thin to devote sufficient time to his charity.

"But those who have heaped scorn on him for its low payout rate are off base. If the NFL was as disturbed by the plight of many of its retirees as he is, far fewer of them would be in such dire straits."

Or, you could look at it another way: If Ditka disbursed as much money as the NFL and the players union that he has so criticized have, they wouldn't be in such dire straits. But the media prefers a good show to the boring details of actual accomplishment.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Stretched thin.

Posted by Lou at 08:38 AM | Permalink

The Periodical Table

A weekly review of the magazines laying around Beachwood HQ.

Gangs of America
"National polls show that, as an issue, immigration is far behind the Iraq war, terrorism, the economy, and health care as a concern to most Americans; a recent Pew poll shows that, nationally, only six percent of voters offer immigration as the most important issue facing the country," Ryan Lizza writes in The New Yorker this week in "The Return of the Nativist."

And yet, even the Democrats are trying to out-Tancredo Tancredo.

Giuliani Time
From "The Rudy Quiz":

Who said what about Rudolph Giuliani?

1. Schools chancellor Rudy Crew.
2. Columnist Jimmy Breslin
3. Police Commissioner William Bratton
4. His son, Andrew.
5. Former Mayor Ed Koch.
6. Al Sharpton.

(a) "His goal in life is to spear people, destroy them, to go for the jugular."
(b) "It's like a cult he's got there. You can't work with the guy unless you're willing to drink the Kool-Aid.
(c) "There's obviously a little problem that exists between me and his wife."
(d) "He is not bound by the truth. I have studied animal life, and their predator/prey relations are more graceful than his."
(e) "[He] didn't bring us together, our pain brought us together . . . We would have come together if Bozo was the mayor."
(f) "He is a small man in search of a balcony."

Alcoholocaust
This week's New Yorker is loaded, no pun intended. Also highly worthy:

* D.T. Max examines the "mysterious demise" of author Malcolm Lowry, whose Under The Volcano is considered one of the masterworks of the 20th Century.

His demise is hardly mysterious, though. His life - and that of his wife - was destroyed by alcohol. Those with a romantic view of the role that alcohol and drugs play in the life of an artist might be interested to observe what Listening to Prozac author Peter Kramer argues in Against Depression: Far from inspiring art, substance abuse and mental illness rob artists of their ability to produce great works.

* "None of the Above" is Malcolm Gladwell putting to bed the pernicious myth that race is inherently linked to IQ - which itself is so slippery that "a century ago the United States was populated largely by people who today would be considered mentally retarded."

Evil Evel
Evel Knievel's real name was Robert Craig Knievel.

Left Hand Complement
Using "package flow" software, UPS was able to "shave 28.5 million miles off its delivery routes, which has resulted in savings of roughly three million gallons of gas and has reduced [carbon dioxide] emissions by 31,000 metric tons," the New York Times Magazine reports.

Among the tricks employed by the software in mapping hyperefficient routes: Eliminating wasted time and gas spent in left-turn lanes.

Bombs Away
"I am pleased to see the amount of money being invested in the city's esthetic infrastructure - and the pockets of favored contractors," the co-author of The Official Chicago Bar Guide tells the Tribune's Rick Kogan.

"It is heartening that I can include walks in many places that I would not have just a few years ago. But then I am also shocked at the condition of so many Chicago neighborhoods. There are some once-grand boulevards and parks that are just bombed out. For 10 years I have been living in other cities and countries, and there is simply no other First World place that would have allowed such decay. Nowhere."

And as such, there is no First World place on the planet in which the media perspective is so disconnected to reality.

Sick System
"A You-Gov/Polimetrix poll for The Economist this week shows that half of all voters would like to see everyone get [health] coverage, even if that means a tax increase, with only 36 percent opposed."

And as such . . .

Cat Power
"[Chan] Marshall has credited sobriety and antidepressants with helping her to overcome stagefright and put an end to some of her more erratic behavior," Sasha Frere-Jones wrote in "Wonder Woman," in last week's New Yorker.

"When she played her new songs, they sounded as fully realized and idiosyncratic as the covers she had recorded. 'Lived in Bars,' from The Greatest, is a slow, deliberate rumination about 'living in a bottle.'

"The lyrics avoid both the pat sentimentality of barroom camaraderie and the hollow rhetoric of recovery. Though Marshall mentions 'ending it all,' she makes her local bar sound like the kind of place that you could happily lose a few weeks in: 'Send in the trumpets, the marching wheelchairs. Open the blankets, and give them some air. Swords and arches, bones and cement, the light and the dark of the innocent of men."


Posted by Lou at 06:53 AM | Permalink

Over/Under

I've decided to make a quick assessment of the football year for me. Here are the results:

Bears: Favorable - Orton is your quarterback.
Steelers: Mostly Favorable - At best the third best team in AFC.
Column Predictions: Unfavorable - Though better than the 12-infinity record from last year.
Fantasy Football: Unfavorable - Team finished one place better than last year: 9th out of 10.
Office Pool: Unfavorable - Currently in 40th percentile.

I still enjoy watching football since I can have some good ol' fashioned guy time, yet the pasttime fails to hold my interest this late in the season. I'm sure others feel the same way. At this point, the regular football fan has one option: Nap. Everybody knows this option, but few have viable comebacks and diversions when the distressed spouse spots your slumber. Here are some winners:

* Do you think it was wise for the Fed to lower interest rates given that this action tends to increase inflationary pressures and decrease the value of the dollar?

* If Mike Huckabee is the Republican nominee for president, will the campaign fashion buttons say "I Heart Huckabee"? Also, will Lily Tomlin come and drop F-bombs?

* While incarcerated, will Michael Vick start a prison team called "Mean Machine" and challenge the guards to a game? Will Eddie Albert consider shooting Vick?

* Is it wise to bring a 5-year-old to a hunting trip, even if he's a good shot? Should we send apology notes to Britney Spears for accusing her of being a bad parent?

* If human evolution is really speeding up, then why do we love Cops and Cheaters?

* Does Tyra Banks really believe what she is saying, or she simply one big joke at our expense?

* Pay $200 ticket to see legendary musical group. Some smartass yells "Play Stairway!" Group plays Stairway. Question: Does everybody deserve a refund?

* Was it wise for NASA to use the same fuel tank design as the Ford Pinto?

I also recommend you not saying any of the following:

* I was just dreaming about the fresh home-cooked meal you're going to make for me.
* Remember your boyfriend/girlfriend from high school? You ever wonder what he/she is up to?
* That person on TV is much smarter/hotter/handsome/richer than you.
* You know, that sidewalk doesn't shovel itself!
* Merry Fucking Christmas to you.

-

OverHyped Game of the Week: Bengals at 49ers
Storyline: Since this is the NFL, you should probably just cancel your Saturday night plans and watch this game. So do what you can, because since we are showing a game, no matter the quality, you better watch it goddamn it.

Reality: Both teams have losing records, and it will probably be covered by announcers no more skilled than the average college radio station. Oh, by the way, your cable company probably doesn't carry the NFL Network. So please go to your local bar and spend $6 on a pint of Miller Lite. Don't complain about it, because we are the NFL.

Pick: Cincinnati Minus 8.5 Points, Over 43 Points Scored.

*

UnderHyped Game of the Week: Jaguars at Steelers
Storyline: Both teams, at 9-4, need to win to keep pace with some other hot AFC teams.

Reality: You'd think that a severe woodshed-style beating would motivate the Steelers. But here's the problem: Jacksonville has an offense that gives the Steelers fits. And then we have to see a whole bunch of pissed-off, fat, mustached men (and women) in the stands. Technically, nobody wins when that happens.

Pick: Jacksonville Plus 3.5 Points, Over 37 Points Scored.

*

Results:
Last week: 4-2 (1-2 Against the Spread, 3-0 Over/Under)
Season: 35-47 (15-26 Against the Spread, 20-21 Over/Under)

*

For more Emery, see the Kool-Aid archive, and the Over/Under archive. Emery accepts comments from Bears fans reluctantly and everyone else tolerably.

Posted by Lou at 05:44 AM | Permalink

December 12, 2007

The [Wednesday] Papers

I'd like to say a few words about the Beachwood this morning.

First, all hail our very own Tom Latourette!

Tom is the man behind many of our song parodies and videos and today we kick off Tom Latourette Month with three of his latest creations.

Our Politics page today features Tom's "Patti Just Sold A Home For The Holidays," a Christmas tribute to our state's fine First Lady.

Tom's song is also an entrant in Eric Zorn and Mary Schmich's seasonal-song parody contest.

Our Sports page today features "The Hester Man," the product of Tom and The Beachwood Devin Hester Affairs Desk.

And our People, Places & Things page features Tom's "It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Hanukah," the first of a series of holiday songs coming your way. On Friday, we begin The Twelve Days of Beachwood Christmas.

Needless to say, Tom is the frontrunner for Beachwood Employee of the Month, which, in the great tradition of Moe's Tavern, comes with a free case of Keystone Light.

Beachwood Business
Longtime readers know that on occasion this column does not appear; an editor's note usually says that I am tending to business.

I'd like to say a little bit more about what that business is.

The Beachwood launched two years ago February on the hopes, dreams and enthusiasms of a handful of bitter, idealistic, worn-down, witty, alcohol-fueled, scornful, angry, passionate, music-loving, depressed and truth-loving people.

It has always been more than a lark, though. We have always had a business plan built on not only developing the Beachwood over time into a credible local news outlet but on producing a stable of sites as a way to generate multiple revenue streams while having a helluva lot of fun.

It is really a couple of the other sites we've always had in mind and are ready to move on that look to be the real revenue-generators because of their particular niches.

Our first year was funded by the meager savings I managed to accrue after finally paying off my heinous student loans. That's what paid my modest living expenses while everyone buckled down on a volunteer basis to try to build this thing.

Our second year has been funded largely by a fan of the site and his friend and colleague who became our first investors. We are forever grateful to them for believing in us.

Along the way, we have also taken in a small amount of money through our "memberships" and a smidgen of advertising. Several folks have offered professional services pro bono, and to them we are also grateful.

The funding we've had so far has allowed us to, as they say in the business world, create value. To show what we can do - on a shoestring. (Just think what we could do if we had some money.)

The business I'm often tending to is the business of exploring partnerships, alliances and potential new investors to put The Beachwood Media Company on solid financial footing.

I've had many, many discussions with many, many interested parties over the last year. As our current funding winds down, I hope to make a deal soon and expand operations. But this whole thing could just as easily die a painful death if that doesn't happen.

I'd give us a 50-50 chance.

Either way, I can't begin to tell you how gratifying this has been and how much I appreciate your readership and support.

I hope the next time I write about the Beachwood I can give everyone the good news.

Anyway, everyone is always welcome to the real Beachwood, the Beachwood Inn on Beach and Wood. Stop by and say hello.

Newspaper Genius
"If all of the newspapers in America did not allow Google to steal their content for nothing, what would Google do?" Sam Zell said recently, as recounted in the New York Times on Monday.

I've never understood that line of reasoning. How is Google stealing newspapers' content? You can't read their content on Google. You have to click on the links that go back to the newspapers. In other words, Google is increasing readership for newspapers by referring people to their websites - for free. It's free marketing. Hail Google!

City Where Some People Work
We live in a city where Stella Foster has a job in journalism but John Conroy does not.

Journalism Justice
I hereby nominate John Conroy for a MacArthur genius grant.

Teen Wisdom
Three teenagers who are smarter than the mayor and Op-Ed columnist Dennis Byrne show off in a letter to the Tribune.

Body Image
"When celebrities insist that they stay thin through restraint, grilled chicken, breadless meals and long walks in the Santa Monica hills, they might as well be telling you that there is a new Prada store on Venus," critic Ginia Bellafante wrote recently in the New York Times.

"[Super Skinny Me] follows two journalists as they investigate what it takes to get to a size 0. What they find is that it takes masochism and misery, subsisting on a diet of lemon water and running on treadmills while covered in Saran Wrap in a sauna. A size 0 doesn't mean getting by on 1,200 calories a day but rather half that, as you perform at least an hour of cardiovascular activity daily, tired, petulant and disinclined toward bonhomie."

The Image of Self
"The first step in curing perfectionism, procrastination and blocks is to ignore all the hype and romanticism," a woman from Boston wrote to the Times science section on Tuesday.

"Society promotes a shallow and unrealistic idea of professional success not only via platitudes such as 'Just do it!' but romanticized stories of 'overnight successes' and 'tortured artists.'

"The media also tend to ignore the fact that those who refuse to sacrifice their families or other important commitments to their professional ambitions will necessarily succeed more slowly, and perhaps to a lesser degree, than those who don't."

In other words, pathology is rewarded in our society.

Which I might not be against if it wasn't the wrong kind of pathology.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Get real.

Posted by Lou at 09:05 AM | Permalink

A Patti Blagojevich Holiday Song

Oh, Patti just sold a home for the holidays
'Cause her husband is governor of this state
When you need steady income
From a lobbyist
For the holidays, just sell some real estate

Patti Just Sold A Home For The Holidays

She met a man named Tony Rezko
And he's in jail for solicitating
kickbacks from the FBI
Her friend Anita's been indicted for
2 million out the door
They helped raise funds for their campaigns
Now they're paying for their Champagne

Patti just sold a home for the holidays
Cause her husband is governor of this state
If you want no-bid contracts
From Blagojevich
For the holidays, just buy her real estate

*

Also from Beachwood A/V:

- "Cubs Fans: Please Stop Believin'"
- "Oklouhoma" and "Ozzie Cabana"
- "Dusty Must Get Fired"
- "I Had a Crush On Obama"
- "I"m the Tribune/I'm the Sun-Times"
- "Tap Three Times: The Larry Craig Song"

Plus, new YouTube video including "It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Hanukah" and such classics as "Dear FCC."

Posted by Lou at 07:24 AM | Permalink

The Hester Man Can!

Everyone can sing along with this one, Bears fans.

The Hester Man

*

Who can take a kickoff
Run it back in record time
Make you leave your jock strap
On the 50-yard line

Devin Hester can
Devin Hester can
Devin Hester can 'cause he mixes dekes and jukes and makes the Bears seem good

Who can be a decoy
Line up wide or in the slot
Who's risking injury
8 catches all he's got

Devin Hester can
Devin Hester can
Devin Hester can 'cause he's leaping a defender, giving Bears fans wood

Devin Hester shakes
Devin Hester bakes
His kick returns are so delicious
His preparation is meticulous
Joniak calls him ridiculous

Who passed Gayle Sayers
McKinnon and Gentry
In his second season
More returns than McAfee

Devin Hester can
Devin Hester can
Devin Hester can with his speed and stutter steps he makes the Bears seem good

Devin Hester's quick
Devin Hester's sick
His punt returns are really vicious
With Sauerbrun he was malicious
His mom thinks Campbell soup's delicious

Who can't save the season
Even though he's great
The Bears are in the toilet
Best they'll do is 8-8

Devin Hester can't
Devin Hester can't
Devin Hester can't but let him play some defense, maybe then he could

*

- Tom Latourette, Steve Rhodes, Marty Gangler

*

Special thanks to the Croix Nation Haylushka Indian Princesses.

*

Also from Beachwood A/V:

- "Cubs Fans: Please Stop Believin'"
- "Oklouhoma" and "Ozzie Cabana"
- "Dusty Must Get Fired"
- "I Had a Crush On Obama"
- "I"m the Tribune/I'm the Sun-Times"
- "Tap Three Times: The Larry Craig Song"

Plus, new YouTube video including "It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Hanukah."

Posted by Lou at 06:32 AM | Permalink

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Hanukah

The Beachwood is proud to kick off its first annual holiday series of audio and video tidings with one that goes out to our Jewish friends.

We invite everyone to sing along:

It's beginning to look a lot like Rosh Hashana
Let's shout shanah tovah
Your name in a book God keeps
Grab the horn from a sheep
We'll blow Tekia gedolah on our shofar

It's beginning to look a lot like Yom Kippur
We're atoning for our sins
Go to the synagogue that we built
We'll wallow in our own guilt
Until we get home

Apple slices with honey
The Ha-la looks funny
The head of the fish on a plate
Bagels and Lox
Your matzah soup rocks
Cold caviar that I hate
Grab your star of David and Yammach
For our next date

It's beginning to look a lot like Hanukah
The dreidel we will spin
Light the monorah with the shamash, eat latke and applesauce
If you spin Hay or Gimmel, gelt is what you'll win

It's beginning to look a lot like Hanukah
All our lights are blue
For 8 days we'll have some fun
For we are the chosen ones
It's good to be a Jew

*

Visit the Beachwood's YouTube page to see what else our A/V department has been up to. And when you embed, please speak nicely of us.

Posted by Lou at 06:21 AM | Permalink

Pat Boone: Moody River

Pat Boone's pop career didn't really end because it was killed by the Beatles, as the conventional wisdom has it. It was already heading down the tubes as early as 1960 after his TV variety show, The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom, was canceled by ABC. Apparently, even the McGuire Sisters and the Kingston Trio weren't enough to keep those white shoes shining into America's living rooms every week. After five number-one hits in the late '50s (mostly boring, sanitized versions of black-written rock 'n' roll classics), it looked like Boone's inexplicable, inexcusable run as an American Idol was finally coming to an end.

Then came 1961's "Moody River" on Dot Records, quickly followed by an LP of the same name. Boone's cover of a rockabilly-inflected country song by Dot labelmate Chase Webster (real name Gary D. Bruce) was his last number-one hit and, in my opinion, the only one that really deserves it.

pat_moody.jpg"Moody River" prolonged his role in the pop spotlight for a couple more years until he was mercifully rolled over by the British Invasion. Unlike his blatant ripping off of such great black artists as Fats Domino and Little Richard, this song wasn't so much stolen from a victim of Jim Crow prejudice as it was a legitimate effort to give a great, overlooked song the exposure it deserved.

It works because, for one of the few times in his career, Boone's trademark, suburban white guy delivery is nowhere to be found. Instead, he dares to reveal a little . . . gasp . . . soul. While not exactly dripping with forbidden emotion, Boone pulls back the covers just a tad to reveal a tiny glint of edge as he tells the sordid tale of a lover's suicide.

In the song, the singer heads on down to the moody, muddy river to meet up with his "baby" for a secret tryst. Instead, he finds a note saying she had cheated on him and wasn't worthy of him anymore. She had thrown herself in.

Moody river, more deadly than the vainest knife
Moody river, your muddy water took my baby's life

I looked into the muddy water and what could I see?
I saw a lonely, lonely face just lookin' back at me
Tears in his eyes and a prayer on his lips
And the glove of his lost love at his fingertips

Well, all pretty strong stuff for Pat Boone fans. But he pulls it off in a just-slightly-rockin' New Orleans-style shuffle beat arranged by Billy Vaughn, the house bandleader at Dot Records who made a very successful career out of turning any and all popular music into syrupy instrumental cover material. And rest assured, his version of "Moody River" took the original, in which Chase Webster sings it like Elvis, and tones it down. But he leaves in just enough grit to pull it up well short of the usual Boone schmaltz. It was later covered by Frank Sinatra, who turned in a puzzling, kind of wacky version of the song in the late '60s.

Alas, the rest of Boone's Moody River LP can't keep it up and makes me want to jump into that muddy stream right after that chick. While his copy of Ray Peterson's "Corinna, Corinna" actually is the best song on the album (it swings!), everything else on it is really downright embarrassing. There's just no way I can work up any kind of retro-respect for such atrocities as his drippy versions of great songs like "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" and "The Great Pretender" (a title which actually says it all about Pat Boone). Hearing him turn these greats into elevator music so soon after their initial success makes you realize how the rock 'n' roll wolves were at the door right from the get-go.

And "Georgia On My Mind?" Ol' Pat makes it sound like an outtake from a Walt Disney movie. So sad. He got a lot better in the '70s when he switched over to his true calling, which is gospel music, a genre that really suited his style much more than pop.

And then there was that heavy metal thing. Thank Jesus he wasn't able to do to Black Sabbath what he did to Little Richard.

*

See what else is in the Beachwood Bins. Bin Dive explores rock's secret history through the bargain bins and your old stack of records. Comments - and submissions - welcome. You must include a real name to be considered for publication.

Posted by Don at 12:57 AM | Permalink

December 11, 2007

The [Tuesday] Papers

"He hurt the public - by him taking money from the paper, that gives them less resources to bring us the news," a Chicago law clerk is quoted saying about former media mogul Conrad Black, who was sentenced to six-and-a-half years in prison on Monday, in a Sun-Times editorial this morning.

"I'm sure he didn't reinvest money to make the paper better," a consultant said.

If only we could imprison all news executives who commit that crime.

*

Black's real problem was stealing money from the company through devious accounting instead of devious marketing. If only he had explained that the Sun-Times could better serve readers with fewer reporters - you know, like the Tribune and Reader - he'd be a free and even more prosperous man today. Instead he tried to hide it.

Tortured Mayor
"Daley, who was Cook County state's attorney at the time of the alleged torture, had little to say when asked about the settlements following a news conference to honor public school teachers," the Tribune reports.

"The cases were 'very, very complicated,'Daley said."

Yes. There were so many methods of torture used on so many suspects over so many years it was hard to sort out.

"When a lawsuit is filed, 'you settle it,' Daley said."

Even if you have to spend more than $7 million fighting it first.

"He added that he hopes it's 'an end to that type of error we had.'"

That type of error?

That deserves only one response: Fuck you, Richard M. Daley.

Drop a Dime
"Recently I read a rather scathing attack on my father and me, written by - of all people - Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr.," Todd Stroger writes to the Tribune this morning. "If the congressman would just call, I would tell him that his claims about patronage and waste are a farce."

Make that call!

Presidential Quality
Barack Obama was too busy raising money for Joe Lieberman to comment on the torture settlement in Chicago approved by the mayor he endorsed, nor the Cook County spat involving the board president he endorsed, nor the role of his political mentor Emil Jones in the state budget stalemate. Besides, after appearing with Oprah he had to prepare for the upcoming Tony Rezko trial.

Now, what was that about judgement again?

Cavemen
"In a deceptively agreeable column published in The Oregonian on Oct. 29, the television critic Peter Ames Carlin interjected two revolutionary sentences - 13 seditious words that might cause polite readers to question his judgment, if not his sanity," a New York Times critic wrote on Sunday.

"'ABC's sitcom Cavemen is actually really funny,' he wrote. 'You should give it a chance.'"

Sigh.

* "Don't you think the Geico cavemen could be the basis for a sitcom?"
- Me, Beachwood Reporter, February 14, 2007

* "I rarely watch network TV; I'm a cable-boy. But Cavemen and Carpoolers - new on ABC this season - are both really good shows."
- Me, Beachwood Reporter, October 25, 2007

Bear Branding
The Chicago Bears were the fourth most frequent brand to be placed on network television shows in the first half of 2007, according to Nielsen Media Research (via the New York Times).

Rich Dessert
"The Republicans Find Their Obama."
- Frank Rich, New York Times, December 9, 2007.

Sigh.

* "On the Republican side, my early money is on former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee."
- Me, Beachwood Reporter, January 18, 2007, also noting around that time that Huckabee would be the GOP version of Obama in terms of being a uniter whose appeal could transcend party.

A Bronx Tale
"The Bronx of the 1970s and '80s, setting of a best-selling novel by Tom Wolfe, has been transformed, as has the city around it," the New York Times says. "Crime is down, and race relations have generally improved."

Gee, I didn't know Richard M. Daley was the mayor of New York too.

The Great One
Wayne Gretzky was always my favorite.

"Although he has a vast array of investments and business interests, Gretzky prefers the hockey life to a life of leisure," the New York Times writes. "He will arrive at the rink hours early for game-day practices, and he still holds to a ritual of an afternoon nap and pregame meal."

Broken Compass
"Does Golden Compass Point To Anti-Christianity?"

And what if it did? Is that not allowed?

Brodsky's Beat
"There has to be a voice out there saying, 'Whoa. Wait a second. Let's look at the facts,'" Drew Peterson's lawyer, Joel Brodsky, tells the Sun-Times.

Especially when the media isn't that voice.

Papal Plea
"Pope Benedict XVI said Saturday boys and girls at younger ages are in danger of being deceived by adults hawking false models of happiness and leading them down 'the dead-end streets of consumerism.'"

I always thought it was interesting that declarations from the Pope are often front-page news except when it's anti-war and anti-capitalist.

Quarantine Clincher
"Huckabee Wanted To Quarantine AIDS Patients."

Looks like he just locked up the Christian conservative vote!

Obamarama
Barack Obama says he wouldn't quarantine AIDS patients but, based on his religious beliefs, he wouldn't allow them to marry, either.

The Coincidental Mayor
"In typical City Hall fashion, news of the big payout came late Friday afternoon, while Mayor Richard Daley was out of town and unavailable for comment," the Tribune reported on Saturday. "The mayor's in Italy, but the Daley administration insisted the timing was coincidental."

Even though, as I understand it, it was City Hall that leaked the news, which wasn't supposed to be announced until Monday.

In which case newspapers should print the same story over and over on the front page until the mayor becomes available.

American Indian
The best piece of writing a saw last week was Reader rock critic Miles Raymer describing the live shows of metal band Indian as "a five-alarm hellstorm of doom."

Indian played the Hideout on Saturday night, and unfortunately I missed the show. Here's what else Raymer had to say:

"And their new second album - the vinyl-only Slights and Abuse, on the local metal label Seventh Rule - is so deeply, irresistibly evil that it's made me a slave to its incomprehensible wickedness."

A band after my own heart.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Be naughty.

Posted by Lou at 09:06 AM | Permalink

Reviewing the Reviews

Catching up on a few weeks' worth, starting with the most recent editions.

Publication: Tribune

Cover: Another paean to Studs Terkel, featuring this quote from reviewer and author E.L. Doctorow: "The memories of this nonagerian author are free-associative; they dance along the synapses of his ebullient brain."

Huh?

Overwrite much, E.L.?

In other words, Terkel's latest is an unfocused mess that moves from one tangent to another as if he just turned on a tape recorder and started talking?

Previously: Last week was the holiday gift guide (a total waste) and the previous week the cover featured Daniel Boone (zzz . . . ). The week before that was "What's So Funny? Comics may have grown up faster than their fans." Because every single year newspapers must reference comics growing up or be banished from the business.

*

Publication: Sun-Times

Cover: A review of Michael Wiley's The Last Striptease: "Former Chicagoan's first novel is loaded with wall-to-wall plot, impressive body count."

Previously: Books editor Teresa Budasi took an online quiz and - much to her surprise - found that the presidential candidate whose views most aligned with hers was Dennis Kucinich. So she picked up his memoir, The Courage of Survive, which she described as "not an outline of his career in politics or his platform - not directly anyway; it's Kucinich, in his own words, going back to his poor, working-class roots. He has a remarkable memory of people and places; his family moved 21 times before he moved out at 17, and he remembers every address and neighborhood."

Also catching up: Two weeks ago, Budasi wrote about David Levy's Love + Sex With Robots: The Evolution of Human-Robot Relationships. Don't laugh. "[H]e comes up with so many rational, scientific and sociologically sound arguments that the deeper you get into the book, the more difficult it becomes to dismiss his thesis," Budasi writes.

"For example, this little tidbit: 'There are obvious social benefits in robot sex - the likely reduction in teenage pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and pedophilia.' At least two-thirds of that thought is completely reasonable - and encouraging."

Also: Lloyd Sachs rightfully demolishes Tom Brokaw's latest marketing prop, Boom! Voices of the Sixties. "For Brokaw, not surprisingly, 'ageless troubadors' such as James Taylor, Paul Simon, and Joni Mitchell provided the soundtrack for the '60s," Sachs writes. "But what of the Who and Jimi Hendrix and Jefferson Airplane? Where in this book is the defiance that defined this era for so many?"

Jesus Christ, James Taylor?!!!

That is so Tom Brokaw.

Of course, softening the edges of the 60s is a neat way of dismissing them.

Just another strategy West Ravenswoodite and former Punk Planet managing editor Anne Elizabeth Moore might point to in Unmarketable: Brandalism, Copyfighting, Mocketing, and the Erosion of Integrity, also reviewed in this issue.

I've commented favorably before on Moore's work, so I'll just leave you on this one with this golden nugget: "She was recently invited to voice her concerns to an audience of [marketers] at a 'futurist' conference, where she was met with offers to help polish her 'sales pitch' - and offers for her work as a consultant," reviewer Mark Athitakis writes.

"These people are really nice," Moore told Athitakis. "But they just don't get it on a fundamental level."

*

The funny thing about authenticity is how much marketers - and the media - want to fake it.

*

Publication: New York Times

Cover: "The Ten Best Books of 2007."

Also: Dan Barry's review of Studs Terkel's memoir is more convincing than Doctorow's: "The volume has been cobbled together, but is not a mishmash . . . What emerges is an engrossing stream-of-consciousness meditation on the 20th century by a man who, it seems, never forgave himself for being born three weeks after the sinking of the Titanic, and so he vowed in the crib to bear witness - to everything."

Noted: "Charles Bukowski was a monstrously homely man because of a severe case of acne vulgaris when he was young," Jim Harrison writes in his review of the Bukowski collection The Pleasures of the Damned. "Along the way he also had bleeding ulcers, tuberculosis and cataracts; he attempted suicide; and only while suffering from leukemia in the last year of his life did he manage to quit drinking. Bukowski was a major-league tosspot, occasionally brutish but far less so than the mean-minded Hemingway, who drank himself into suicide. Both men created public masks for themselves, not a rare thing in a writer's paper sack of baubles, but the masks were held in place for so long that they could not be taken off except in the work."

*

CHARTS
1. Glenn Beck
2. Stephen Colbert
3. Tom Brokaw
4. Anna Quindlen
5. Eric Clapton

Posted by Lou at 06:06 AM | Permalink

Oprah vs. Obama


Oprah: Self-involved narcissist whose cult-like followers think she is divine.
Obama: Self-involved narcissist whose cult-like followers think he is divine.

Oprah: Chicago institution who never challenges Chicago institutions.
Obama: Chicago institution who never challenges Chicago institutions.

Oprah: Gives away cars to audience members.
Obama: Used car salesman.

Oprah: Writes best-sellers full of pablum and nostrum.
Obama: Writes best-sellers full of pablum and nostrum.

Oprah: Features James Frey and his wildly exaggerated and fictionalized memoir.
Obama: Writes a wildly exaggerated and fictionalized memoir.

Oprah: Decries the celebrity culture she profits from.
Obama: Decries the celebrity culture he profits from.

Oprah: Obsessed about her weight.
Obama: Anorexic.

Oprah: Stinky and snorey.
Obama: Stinky and snorey.

Oprah: In favor of ethanol subsidies.
Obama: In favor of ethanol subsidies.

Oprah: A knack for befriending the right people at the right time.
Obama: Ditto.

Posted by Lou at 05:51 AM | Permalink

Coaching Carousel

A "What If?" experiment brought to you by Beachwood Labs.

*

What if Lou Piniella coached the Bears?

* Rex Grossman would have been traded after the third game of the season and Griese and Orton would trade starts with various members of the practice squad. And it would work.

* Devin Hester would play every down at a variety of positions. His nickname would be DeRosa.

* Like your crazy drunk uncle, Lou would have been kicked out of at least one game for kicking a referee's flag all over the field in anger.

* Would make frequent trips to the huddle to tell his quarterback to throw touchdowns.

* Would often run out of time-outs a couple of minutes into each half.

* Would beat Green Bay.

* Would pull Griese too soon in the wild-card game.

What if Lovie Smith managed the Cubs?

* They'd get off the bus running.

* They'd get off the bus getting thrown out running.

* They'd get a new team bus.

* All players with hitting streaks over more than five games would be benched.

* Starting pitchers would never be removed for relievers unless it was part of the game plan.

* He would insist on the Tampa 2 outfield.

* Bob Babich, pitching coach.

What if Ozzie Guillen coached the Blackhawks?

* Would get off the bus fighting.

* Would regularly throw players under the Zamboni.

* Would eventually slur every Eastern European nationality represented in the league.

* A.J. Pierzynski, enforcer.

* Would lose to Detroit.

* Uniforms changed to black; mascot changed to a Hawk.

* Fired after two weeks.

What if Denis Savard managed the White Sox?

* It would be just like Ozzie Guillen managing the White Sox.

What if Scott Skiles coached the Bulls?

* It would be a helluva lot better than what he's doing with them now.

Posted by Lou at 05:02 AM | Permalink

December 10, 2007

The [Monday] Papers

Just an abbreviated version of the Papers this morning as I tend to other business. Tomorrow I'll return with a full column and new offerings throughout the site.

Loafing's Losers
"The owners [of the Reader] in Chicago sold out last summer to an unfortunately named outfit, Creative Loafing from Atlanta, which has mandated cuts across the organization. It is as if Creative Loafing executives bought a shiny new doll and then once they got their hands on it, felt compelled to tear its head off," media columnist David Carr writes in the New York Times this morning.

"Ben Eason, chief executive of Creative Loafing, said, 'We are not trying to make any other statement here other than it is a competitive world out there and we are doing what we can to make sure we are putting out an excellent paper in the communities we serve.'"

And then there are the communities we don't care to serve, Eason added. We're putting out lousy papers there.

"There is a chance that historians will examine this period in American history and wonder if journalism left the field. With a lack of real-time annotation, wholesale business swindles and rogue actions by sitting governments will go uncovered," Carr writes.

"In part, it is the triumph of the spinners, top to bottom. Since the media reached the height of its powers in the 1970s, there has been a pervasive effort to gain custody of public information in both the public and private sector. A working reporter cannot walk into a Gap store in a mall, let alone a police station, and ask a question without being swarmed by bureaucracy."

More than that, I would add, this is an age when the bean counters, marketers and greedy corporate suits have completed their victory in an age-old battle against the very journalists upon whose work they profit. This is a battle that has always existed in the industry, but newsrooms have lost by getting arrogant and lazy while remaining uneducated about the business side of their business. Instead of scrutinizing the false claims of their corporate masters the way journalists might be expected to, journalists of this era instead have absorbed the marketing values and selfishness of their paymasters while chasing off the kind of creativity and imagination that could very well have saved their organizations from the kind of doom - oh boo-hoo, our criminally huge profit margins aren't as fantastically fat as they once were - that has become the norm as actual, real reporting disappears when it is needed most.

"Without John Conroy's stories, the public would have never believed what happened to my son," the mother of Aaron Patterson told Carr. "It is so important to have a reporter who knew the whole story, who did the reporting, and told people, over and over, what was really going on."

Ben Eason and Reader editor Alison True don't care about all that. They've got entertainment listings to revamp.

Torture Town
"The City of Chicago is preparing to pay nearly $20 million to four men who were once sent to death row after interrogations that they say amounted to torture by the Chicago police, the city's law department said on Friday," the New York Times reported on Saturday.

"The four men were among scores of black men who reported being tortured, beaten with telephone books, and even suffocated with plastic typewriter covers during police interrogations in the 1970s and 1980s, special prosecutors found last year.

"Of the proposed settlement, Flint Taylor, a lawyer for one of the men, Leroy Orange, said, 'It speaks volumes about the seriousness of the systematic torture, abuse and cover-up that went on in the city of Chicago for decades."

News of the settlement was leaked on Friday so it would melt away in the little-read Saturday newspapers - and while the mayor is away in Italy. He is so impassioned about the torture that went on during his two terms as Cook County state's attorney and millions of dollars the taxpayers will shell out because of it on his watch, including millions the city initially spent fighting the lawsuits against it, that he was too choked up to comment.

*

The Weekend Desk Report
While Weekend Desk Editor Natasha Julius is on assignment with Rod Blagojevich for her upcoming report Weekend With The Governor - it turns out his weekends are a lot like his weekdays; you know, a lot of puttering around the house - the rest of us underlings are keeping an eye on the following stories for you over the next couple of days.

Brain Scan
A new National Intelligence Estimate has concluded that President Bush doesn't have any.

Pen Pals
President Bush has written a letter to North Korea strongman Kim Jong-il begging him to continue his nuclear weapons program so somebody in the Axis of Evil is actually a threat.

White Phone
First Daughter Jenna Bush gave her dad a call from the set of Ellen this week and, lo and behold, her mom answered and handed the phone over to the president. "Are you mad, dad?" Jenna asked. "No," the president said, "I'm just sitting here writing a letter to Kim Jong-il. Let me run this by you and see what you think. Dear Kim . . . "

Religious Freedom
Mitt Romney gave a speech about religious liberty this week in an attempt to soothe the fears of voters who are absolutely freaked out by Mormonism's tenet that Jesus will not only return to set up a thousand-year kingdom on Earth, but that he will do so in Jackson County, Missouri. Romney noted that some scholars translating ancient texts think the kingdom will actually be based in Des Moines, Iowa, while others say Manchester, New Hampshire.

CIA MIA
It was revealed this week that the CIA destroyed videotapes of suspected terrorist interrogations that could have been used as evidence of the torture we know they did but the president denies. The CIA says they weren't destroying evidence, however; they were just showing suspects what would happen to them if they didn't cooperate.

Torture Tax
The city of Chicago has agreed to pay out $19.8 million to four African-American men who were tortured by the Chicago Police Department. The police department maintains that they weren't torturing the suspects; they were just showing the suspects what would happen if they didn't cooperate.

Mayor MIA
So that's why the mayor is in Italy.

Bail Bondsman
Barry Bonds pleaded not guilty this week to federal charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. Bonds also denied once again ever knowingly using steroids; instead, he said, he was just showing his muscles what would happen if they didn't cooperate.

Bear Down
Bears coach Lovie Smith was also reportedly traveling to Italy.

Grammy Mammy
Amy Winehouse garnered six Grammy nominations this week including one for Best Sad Sorry Spectacle and another in Best Fucked-Up Chick Singer Whom The Media Loves To Alternately Glamorize And Scold As They Exploit Her Deep Personal Problems For Ratings And Newsstand Sales.

Snow Job
Finally, snow made a rare appearance this week in Chicago and citizens were completely caught unaware of what to do with the strange, icy substance. Thankfully, the media brought it's "A" game to the table and calmed the hordes with such soothing advice as "Traffic may be moving a bit slower today" and "Remember, if you have a heart condition, be careful shoveling." Because there's a good chance we might have forgotten!

The Beachwood Tip Line: Now hiring.

Posted by Lou at 07:42 AM | Permalink

December 08, 2007

The Weekend Desk Report

While Weekend Desk Editor Natasha Julius is on assignment with Rod Blagojevich for her upcoming report Weekend With The Governor - it turns out his weekends are a lot like his weekdays; you know, a lot of puttering around the house - the rest of us underlings are keeping an eye on the following stories for you over the next couple of days.

Brain Scan
A new National Intelligence Estimate has concluded that President Bush doesn't have any.

Pen Pals
President Bush has written a letter to North Korea strongman Kim Jong-il begging him to continue his nuclear weapons program so somebody in the Axis of Evil is actually a threat.

White Phone
First Daughter Jenna Bush gave her dad a call from the set of Ellen this week and, lo and behold, her mom answered and handed the phone over to the president. "Are you mad, dad?" Jenna asked. "No," the president said, "I'm just sitting here writing a letter to Kim Jong-il. Let me run this by you and see what you think. Dear Kim . . . "

Religious Freedom
Mitt Romney gave a speech about religious liberty this week in an attempt to soothe the fears of voters who are absolutely freaked out by Mormonism's tenet that Jesus will not only return to set up a thousand-year kingdom on Earth, but that he will do so in Jackson County, Missouri. Romney noted that some scholars translating ancient texts think the kingdom will actually be based in Des Moines, Iowa, while others say Manchester, New Hampshire.

CIA MIA
It was revealed this week that the CIA destroyed videotapes of suspected terrorist interrogations that could have been used as evidence of the torture we know they did but the president denies. The CIA says they weren't destroying evidence, however; they were just showing suspects what would happen to them if they didn't cooperate.

Torture Tax
The city of Chicago has agreed to pay out $19.8 million to four African-American men who were tortured by the Chicago Police Department. The police department maintains that they weren't torturing the suspects; they were just showing the suspects what would happen if they didn't cooperate.

Mayor MIA
So that's why the mayor is in Italy.

Bail Bondsman
Barry Bonds pleaded not guilty this week to federal charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. Bonds also denied once again ever knowingly using steroids; instead, he said, he was just showing his muscles what would happen if they didn't cooperate.

Bear Down
Bears coach Lovie Smith was also reportedly traveling to Italy.

Grammy Mammy
Amy Winehouse garnered six Grammy nominations this week including one for Best Sad Sorry Spectacle and another in Best Fucked-Up Chick Singer Whom The Media Loves To Alternately Glamorize And Scold As They Exploit Her Deep Personal Problems For Ratings And Newsstand Sales.

Snow Job
Finally, snow made a rare appearance this week in Chicago and citizens were completely caught unaware of what to do with the strange, icy substance. Thankfully, the media brought it's "A" game to the table and calmed the hordes with such soothing advice as "Traffic may be moving a bit slower today" and "Remember, if you have a heart condition, be careful shoveling." Because there's a good chance we might have forgotten!

*

Catch up with the daily Papers!

Posted by Lou at 06:57 AM | Permalink

December 07, 2007

The [Friday] Papers

1. The new ownership of the Chicago Reader - along with its longtime editor, Alison True - apparently believes that making the stale weekly even worse is the path to success.

Here's the memo.

There will be less justice in Chicago as a result of this move. John Conroy's work in particular has been Pulitzer-worthy in the best sense of that phrase. If you haven't read Steve Bogira's Courtroom 302, buy it now and do so. It's a tremendous insight not only into the Cook County criminal courts, but the way your media gets police and court coverage so wrong. Tori Marlan's work has always been impressive and Harold Henderson is as much a part of the place as anyone.

Ben Joravsky and recent hire Mick Dumke are the only ones left worth reading; these were the shining jewels in an otherwise crappy, unimaginative and aimless publication. You might as well just shut the whole editorial operation down.

*

Reader Comment
Through muscle, into bone, through bone, into organs, organs tossed around the room.

Doctors assure family that every measure was taken to save the patient.

Doctors have sex with cadaver.

- So-Called Austin Mayor

2. "Federal agents are investigating real estate deals involving Gov. Rod Blagojevich's wife as part of a three-year corruption probe into allegations of favoritism and fraud within his administration," the Tribune reports this morning.

"Several federal sources familiar with the inquiry confirm that agents are interested in hundreds of thousands of dollars in real estate commissions Patricia Blagojevich has earned in recent years as a real estate broker for political supporters, fundraisers and state contractors."

The indictment of Patti Blagojevich has long been on the Beachwood's Political Odds board; it's currently rated a 20 percent likelihood with the comment Unindicted co-conspirator is more likely.

Watch for that number to change with this latest revelation.

3. "Other than a defensive coordinator (Bob Babich) who gets out-coached every stinkin' week, [Brian] Urlacher's difficulties are the biggest problem facing the Bears," our very own Jim Coffman writes in Bear Friday this morning. "The guy is their star, after all, the signal-caller and leader and highest-paid player. If he doesn't find a way back to being at least a good player this team is in huge trouble."

4. The Bears hire Larry Craig for his "wide stance" to improve their offensive line, and other developments to watch for. In Eric Emery's Over/Under.

5. So let's see if I can get this right.

A) Frank Kruesi manages the CTA into a ditch for 10 years until he is finally dismissed because he has alienated too many people, including legislators in Springfield in charge of the purse strings.

B) Ron Huberman is hired with great fanfare in part because of his perceived ability to deal with Springfield. Huberman's touch is so golden that the state budget is held up in months of overtime sessions due to an inability to solve the mass transit funding formula that the CTA depends upon.

C) We learn that 80 percent of the maintenance records pertaining to the Blue Line are either missing or forged.

D) The mayor rides his bike in France while the CTA burns.

E) Kruesi is rehired by the mayor to be his man in Washington, apparently because he is so good at schmoozing legislators.

F) The governor attends a Blackhawks game in Chicago while legislators in Springfield meet yet again in order to not come to a solution.

G) The mayor decries the sad state of affairs on his way to Italy.

H) The governor joins Todd Stroger in wondering why he always gets attacked but the mayor gets off scot-free.

I) The mayor gets off scot-free.

Is that about right?

6. "CTA's Red Line Slated To Run On Different Track."

From now on it will run on the Blue Line.

7. What's it like to be Frank Kruesi, handmaiden and whipping boy to the mayor? Do you ever want to, you know, do something on your own, Frank?

8. "A trucker claiming he was approached by Drew Peterson and another man about carrying off a mysterious package appears to have fabricated the story," the Sun-Times reports via its corporate-combined, money-saving, reporting-challenged partner-in-crime, the Joliet Herald-News.

9. "Some experts believe . . . Zell, skilled at evaluating real estate and other corporate assets, is getting a better handle on parts of the Tribune that could be sold."

Reporters, for example. They've got to go.

10. "I guess I felt that if I was doing fundamental damage to the Reader I wouldn't have bought the Reader," new Reader owner Ben Eason tells Michael Miner.

Guess what? This is beyond fundamental damage. This is carpet-bombing.

If the rest of the Reader staff had any balls, including True, they'd walk out the door too. Put Eason to shame.

Instead, Miner writes: "Does their departure do fundamental damage to the Reader? I want to say no, because the remaining staff is top drawer. But I expect readers to mourn the departed."

Please. The top drawer has been sawed off for kindling. Let's not pretend and do Eason and True's bidding.

Though True "fervently" hopes those she just let go will continue to produce the same work for her on a freelance basis. If only she would take the same deal.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Fundamental.

Posted by Lou at 08:29 AM | Permalink

Bear Friday

A special edition of Bear Monday.

Cris Collinsworth is the best analyst in football and he filled last night's broadcast with intelligent and oftentimes wonderfully blunt commentary. He almost never pulls punches but for some reason midway through the fourth quarter he couldn't help himself. When confronted with the realization that Brian Urlacher hadn't made a play all night against the Redskins, he prevaricated. Instead of lowering the boom on a guy who was overrated even as the Bears went to the Super Bowl last year (first and foremost it has been years since he was good enough fighting off blocks and tackling running backs), Collinsworth told his national audience only "It has been a bit of a down year for Brian Urlacher."

And it is has been a bit of a rough century for the Cubs.

On to the lowlights:

* First a bit more about Urlacher - Collinsworth's comment was so irritating because he had an opportunity to begin to deflate the myth of a guy who is held in such undeserved high esteem by so many football followers. And yes, I understand Urlacher's back hurts. But this was the first week all season there was any serious talk about the soreness keeping him out of the lineup (and what was Dan Hampton's line earlier this fall on WGN? Something along the lines of "every player in the NFL either has a sore back or will have one"). It is almost as though praise for Urlacher is part of a sacred script for national broadcasters, articles of faith they must intone every time they see the Bears. It reminds me of when local fans knew Dave Wannstedt was a terrible head coach and so many talking heads kept telling us he was a good coach trapped in a bad organization. Nope, as he proved conclusively in Miami and beyond (until maybe last weekend when he led Pitt to that unbelievable upset win at No. 2 West Virginia despite scandalously bad officials desperately trying to save the Mountaineers), he was in over his head in the top spot.

Other than a defensive coordinator (Bob Babich) who gets out-coached every stinkin' week, Urlacher's difficulties are the biggest problem facing the Bears. The guy is their star, after all, the signal-caller and leader and highest-paid player. If he doesn't find a way back to being at least a good player this team is in huge trouble.

* Rarely do you see a more stark indictment of a defense than the one Eli Manning delivered in the aftermath of Giants-Bears last Sunday. "We just kept running the same play . . . they had a hard time adjusting." Yikes. And then the Trib's David Haugh quoted Babich this week as saying the main problem for the Bears' run defense recently had been the fact that it had been facing some of the best running backs in the league. Um, Bob? The Broncos' Andre Hall (who had a combined 167 yards a week and a half ago) was at least fourth on just his own team's depth chart at the position heading into the season. The Giants' Derrick Ward (who piled up the yards last Sunday) was third. They're not even the best running backs on their own teams.

* One must note that the other, biggest problem for the defense is Tommie Harris' inability to get healthy. So much of Lovie Smith's basic defensive scheme is based on linemen consistently pressuring quarterbacks up the middle. Harris hasn't done that since doing the splits the hard way in a game late last season and doing serious damage to his groin.

* Bye, bye Lance Briggs. I'm almost hoping Urlacher will be out for at least a game down the stretch so perhaps we can take a look at Briggs at middle linebacker. But if the future free agent can't man the middle (and therefore have value as an insurance policy on Urlacher) he should be gone. Briggs' shortcomings have also been exposed this year, including the fact that he almost never gets to the quarterback on blitzes. On this, I'm taking my cue from Indianapolis Colt President Bill Polian (maybe the best talent evaluator in the game), whose big salary cap rules included avoiding overpaying outside linebackers. They aren't that critical and it shouldn't be that hard to find more.

* Who is that who almost blocked Brad Maynard's first punt? It's Rock Cartwright! I believe Rock is the adopted great-grandson of Ben Cartwright of Bonanza fame. Michael Landon (a.k.a Little Joe) is his great uncle. And Mr. Maynard, I know it is sometimes difficult to remember these things in the heat of battle, but c'mon man. How're you going to get that roughing the kicker flag if you don't fall down like you've been shot when a guy slides under you like that?

* Collinsworth highlights from the first half: He notes that Adrian Peterson ran hard for the Bears last week against the Giants but let's not get carried away. "There were three or four times when if he could have just broken an arm tackle," he could have made huge plays. He also notes that defensive linemen have the most fun. "When you went by their meeting room it was always louder in there than anywhere else." And he mocks the Redskins' ludicrously large assistant coaching staff (play-by-play man Bryant Gumbel tees that one up nicely).

* Rex Grossman suffers a gruesome injury, one that looks like it will end his season and perhaps his Bear career. Not long thereafter his counterpart, Jason Campbell, goes down awkwardly as well. When the camera zooms in on the injured Campbell, his forefinger and thumb form a circle and are pressed against the side of his leg. We later learn his patella has been traumatized. In other words, when he was laying there he was actually holding onto his dislocated kneecap.

* There hasn't been a more unlikely touchdown pass thrown in the NFL this year (except perhaps for Vinnie Testaverde to anyone) than Todd Collins to Todd Yoeder.

* Offensively, the biggest problem for the Bears is that the line, or at least key components of the line (Ruben Brown, Fred Miller), got old and teammates were exposed. And oh by the way, wouldn't it be nice to have some sort of explanation as to why the Bears offense seem so incapable of getting the ball to Devin Hester (whoops, they finally commit themselves to doing so late in the game and Hester records several catches and almost scores a touchdown. So it would appear the lack of touches for Hester were just a matter the coaching staff not trying hard enough).

* The Bears finally figured out how to stop the run. One of the real "best backs in the league," Clinton Portis, never gets going, totaling only 12 yards on his first eight carries. Of course, they allowed Todd Collins, a longtime journeyman backup who hadn't seen significant playing time since 2005, to throw for well over 200 yards and two touchdowns for the first time since 1997.

* The game perks up for a while as Bear receivers start making circus catches. But those plays are eventually buried in a blizzard of flags. Collinsworth notes that perhaps the fact that Brian Griese uses a different hut, hut, hut cadence excuses a false start or two. The only problem is Griese was playing a month ago. We mentioned before that Mr. Collins had been out slightly longer than that and the Redskins committed no false starts.

* Don't worry any of you who threw your remote through the TV after the Bears were called for their sixth penalty IN A SINGLE DRIVE. We hung in until the very end to provide you with some details. Some more Collinsworth highlights from the second half:

- "That's no good. That's just a give-up play."
- "It is even more of an indictment of the Bears' offense that they're struggling so much even with such great field position."
- "There is professional football and there is unprofessional football and the Bears are playing unprofessional football."

* Hester hauls in a pass near the goal line and . . . Don't do that Devin! Hester extends the ball out toward the end zone in one hand to try to earn a touchdown. The problem is if the ball is knocked away from him, into the end zone and then out of bounds (and the ball is knocked away but it goes out of bounds before getting to the goal line), it is a touchback for the Redskins. One has to conclude that Hester's occasional mental lapses also probably have something to do with his inactivity on offense.

* Another long, back-breaking opposing drive featuring less than the NFL's best just about wraps this one up. The Bears finally decide to blitz Collins but he obviously knows it's coming and has the perfect route called for a final touchdown. Throughout the second half the Redskins employed "max protect" schemes and only sent out a few receivers. Unless the Bears blitz everyone, they should be able to utilize manpower advantages in the secondary to shut down those limited options. Instead the Redskin receivers constantly break wide open. Can't wait to see how Babich breaks this one down.

-

Jim Coffman brings you Bear Monday every . . . Monday. Except when the Bears play on Thursdays, in which case he brings you Bear Friday. And so on.

Posted by Lou at 03:56 AM | Permalink

Over/Under

Much was made of Comcast not carrying the NFL Network, and in turn, Thursday night's game. If you are among those who missed the game, you didn't miss the worst two announcers in NFL history: Chris Collinsworth and Bryant Gumbel.

Announcer depth is extremely low in the NFL. If you refuse to pull from the Sunday regulars, you're clearly getting horrible talent for Thursday night. Among football fans, Collinsworth remains as a fairly unpopular choice. In the NFL Network's wisdom, instead of finding somebody who at least brings out the best in Collinsworth, they hire the boring, dull, and football knowledge-handicapped Gumbel.

Here's my theory: The NFL Network hired Gumbel to make Collinsworth look better. Would this work in real life? Here are some other examples:

* Bears hire Larry Craig for his "wide stance" to improve the Bears offensive line.

* Bill Belichick hires surprisingly insufferable coaching great Don Shula to seem like less of an ass on the way to a perfect season.

* Microsoft hires key members of the Iraq war effort to develop "Shitsta", the follow-up operating system to Vista.

* ABC tries to push Cavemen one more time by following the show with reruns of Full House and Family Matters.

* John Mellencamp pays a fortune to get Bob Seger's "Like a Rock" re-released to make "Our Country" seem less annoying.

* The Bears give Kyle Orton a start to make Rex Grossman seem not so bad.

* The Vikings trade for the Bears' Adrian Peterson to make their Adrian Peterson look even that much better.

* In a reversal, Tony Romo dates Jamie Lynn Spears to make Britney seem that much more wretched.

* NBC brings Jimmy the Greek back from the dead to make John Madden seem relevant.

-

OverHyped Game of the Week: Steelers at Patriots
Storyline: It's the #1 offense vs. the #1 defense. It's the precision of Tom Brady vs. the chaos of Ben Roethlisberger. It's the ragamuffin Bill Belichick vs. the stylish Mike Tomlin.
Reality: Many believe only Kryptonite stops the Patriots. We've learned, though, that a patient passing game, a solid running attack, and a consistent pass rush gives the Patriots trouble. The Steelers have all three.
Pick: Pittsburgh Plus 12 Points, Under 49.5 Points Scored.

*

UnderHyped Game of the Week: Chargers at Titans
Storyline: With both teams at 7-5, both teams wished they played in the NFC. They don't, so they're fighting tooth and nail for a wild card spot.
Reality: Both teams have alternately looked like legitimate contenders and refugees from the USFL this season. Which teams show for this one? Probably the one without a guy named Turner on the coaching staff.
Pick: Tennessee Even, Under 40.5 Points Scored.

*

Results
Last week: 2-4 (2-1 Against the Spread, 0-3 Over/Under)
Season: 31-45 (14-24 Against the Spread, 17-21 Over/Under)

*

For more Emery, see the Kool-Aid archive, and the Over/Under archive. Emery accepts comments from Bears fans reluctantly and everyone else tolerably.

Posted by Lou at 12:53 AM | Permalink

Police Forum: Profiling, Contact and Force

City officials are expected to be in attendance

WHAT: Public Forum: "Police Interaction with Communities of Color: Profiling, Contact and Force."

WHEN: 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 13.

WHERE: Jane Addams Hull House Association, 1030 W. Van Buren, Chicago.

WHO:
* Clyde Murphy, Executive Director of the Chicago Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Inc.
* Author David Harris, University of Toledo School of Law Professor.

CHICAGO - Recent media reports have highlighted the complex issues and tensions between police and communities with large populations of people of color. Problems have existed for years with mistrust on both sides.

Jane Addams Hull House Association's Center for Civil Society will host a panel discussion Thursday, December 13, 2007 regarding this delicate subject and what can be done to ease concerns.

David Harris, Balk Professor of Law and Values at the University of Toledo and the author of Good Cops: The Case for Preventive Policing and Profiles in Injustice: Why Racial Profiling Cannot Work and Clyde Murphy, Executive Director of the Chicago Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights Under Law will discuss the subject.

For more information or to RSVP, email advocacy@hullhouse.org or call 312/235-5391.

*

About the Jane Addams Hull House Association
Founded in 1889, the Association is one of Chicago's largest not-for-profit social welfare organizations. Its mission is to improve social conditions for underserved people and communities by providing creative, innovative programs and by advocating for related public policy reforms. The Association has 70 programs at 43 sites throughout Chicago and serves approximately 60,000 individuals, families and community members every year. Additional information can be found at www.hullhouse.org.

Posted by Lou at 12:47 AM | Permalink

A Hole to China: Part 5

The fifth of five parts.

Part 1: She left. I asked for it, I think.
Part 2: They met in a bar.
Part 3: Favoring the He-Fucked-It-Up version of events.
Part 4: A nuclear desire for revenge.

*

Billy remembered the proud day he told his parents what he wanted to be, finally, after they went into a semi-autistic trance just harping: "What are you going to do?" over a period of about 5 years, and so Billy got into his sailing jacket, white Sansabelts, and blue Keds to announce his true and final decision.

"Mother and Dad? I want to be Goethe."

They were silent.

"Gerta," Billy enunciated, trying to be precise.

Yet, silence.

"A fine writer and musician and scientist and philosopher and politician. CAN-DO, you know?"

"That Nazi just liked to drink and fuck!" went Pharaoh McMann in silence to only himself.

And Billy did harbor the pathetic delusion that such work lent itself to mostly drinking and fucking. That it really wasn't work at all. He was thinking (cleverly, he thought) he'd be a Renaissance Man in lieu of having a real job, no?

Yes.

Good one, Billy.

Hole to China

It was his way of figuring out how to do the least with the most reward. Like all that work he used to do as a boy faking brushing his teeth - he could have brushed his goddam teeth with less effort. That's what Mother said when she busted him. He was again finagling an escape, an escapism. Florid with romance. Billy conveniently forgot about all the real jobs Goethe actually had. Hell, even Dr. Zhivago knew he had to have a real goddam job no matter how sensitive he was. Billy was most hip to the apparent perks, most attracted indeed, and most unhip to the costs. And he would pay for that unhipness, too, in good old time. Getting hip would cost.

Pharaoh knew what his son was thinking, and was afraid for him. Pharaoh did his utmost to discourage these inclinations, as perhaps was his duty, but at the same time he didn't blame the boy and hell, "maybe I'd be thinking the same damn thing." Unfortunately, even at this relatively late date, Pharaoh was still Pharaoh and thus he had no choice but to play hardball. No prisoners.

To Billy, they didn't appear to get it. Mother imagined it was a gag, and not a very funny one at all, and so she would, without fail, go: "No. Really."

Billy had no idea what to say. It was obvious what had gone down and what would continue to go down over the course of these semi-autistic years of theirs. They became like televisions, Mother and Pharaoh, just saying things and not really hearing things.

One thing for sure: It wasn't A Decision That Billy Had Made it was A Problem That Billy Was Having. Yes. What to do about this Problem, then.

The silence, and the memory of the totality of that silence, reminded Billy of the silence that followed the click of the phone after Anna said goodbye for good, when Billy knew that, to Anna, he was Ian Holm in that scene in Alien: a detached head, useless, drooling and sputtering a jazzy foulness.

It was a deep silence.

I and I went: "Whoa."

The air in the room became cold in that moment, and in the moments that followed one right after the other, and there appeared in Billy's mind the image of dust and dried leaves being whisked away in a sunny wind, ashes that had once been Peter Cushing as Dracula in a Hammer film.

That sequence of film in a loop, endless and slow, a minute that was one century long.

Then his solar plexus clenched quick and hard and stayed that way for over a fortnight straight, as the light of day got shorter, his breath too was getting shorter, and the darkness went on and on and it was cold, and nothing was being born. Remembering most vividly only the shittiest things he'd done and said to her (ah, Memory!), an actual purgatory of sorts.

Pharaoh McMann thought for what seemed like an abstract and extended moment that his son had just proclaimed that he wanted to be a woman. "Gerta." It resonated in his head. And so he further surmised that his dear and almost completely faithful wife Miriam had won out, that she'd actually gotten this child to want to be a woman. "Mother always liked Billy better," was Pharaoh's sky-Blue perpetual refrain.

"My son wants to be a bum," Pharaoh did out loud softly go.

"Just because he doesn't want to be you?"

Billy and Pharaoh both were simultaneously awed by Mother's candor.

*

Anna Gaun had a pure, raw, animal strength, an almost tensile strength, that Billy only heard once translated into vocal rage. They'd been hanging out a lot, her and Billy, they were at her place uptown, and she was in the kitchen feeding Shivers (the Drooler). Billy sat in the front room looking at the Exercycle, wondering what on earth people actually did with the things. The cat apparently was being a bitch, and Anna went "Knock it OFF!" in a shrill, almost manly bark and Billy felt a chill, a rush of his own cold blood, imagining flames coming out Anna's nostrils.

He knew there was plenty of raw power there to respect and be wary of.

He had actually poked around for it before, trying to goad her, but he never tapped the furor he heard from down the hall in the kitchen that day in the first yet-glowing months of their loving until much later, and not completely on purpose.

They would talk about animal heaven. She was mortified to understand Billy's decidedly non-pastoral views about nothingness and the non-beyond. Billy thought nothingness was heavenly, that one's spirit would blend back into the greater spiritual pool. Anna seemed to have a cartoon vision of animals with white wings dancing on happy white clouds, jumping hoops through one another's animal halos.

When Billy first saw Anna and, he would be joyed to learn later it was mutual, he was stopped dead in his living tracks by total, utter, animal lust. Period. The rest of it was just showing up. Boom. Billy's heart seemed to thrust out of his chest, billowing his shirt. Later, he would sustain an erection in her regard. He simply couldn't help it.

"She's not my type, I know it, I know it."

Ultimately they were both just animals but animals who could have a nice conversation once in awhile.

Anna felt as helpless and vulnerable as a small, solitary animal in a big, foul city. And she needed assurances that Billy was not yet man enough to provide with any semblance of grace.

"Let's make a clean break."

Goodbye, Billy. Hello, sweet nothingness.

Ghost diary: "Anna calls me."

"What the fuck is she calling me for? So I can comfort her for having broken up with me?! Man! thought I was no good all of a sudden or something, sure. So what is this about now? She plays me like a fucking viola. I'm like, 'Leave me alone if I suck so bad. Really. You're the one that decided that we couldn't be together. It was definitely not my decision. I wanted to keep trying. But I guess if you have to try that should tell you something. Why do I have to hear from you now that I'm getting used to us not being together? In or out, goddammit!'"

"Let's just get back together. Or, if it's over, just please leave me the fuck alone. Being friends is just not in the cards. It just doesn't work that way. If it hurts more to be apart than to be together then let's get the fuck back together."

"We've been having the same damn conversation, a hundred different ways, since that fucking party, that stupid fucking party that I went to make her happy and I ended up making her hate me. I'm not good at pretending to dig things I don't dig, and I guess if two people are going to stay together you have to do a lot of pretending. What is the fucking point in making your mate do things they hate to do? What does it prove? Nothing. Nothing at all."

"Just like with Bethany, except she finally moved out of town, really sealing it. We'd talk every once in a while and it would be weird and stilted and vague and easily annoying, very fragile, and I would just want to get back together. She would say not and then I would say 'Then leave me alone.' It's like, they want to keep being friends except they just broke up with you which is not what I would call the friendliest of acts. It comes down to they get whatever they want whenever they want it. And then you break up, and they still want what they want. That's the deal. Still whatever they want whenever they want it, even after they shut your ass down. So I'm like, 'Here's the deal: How about if neither of us gets what we want? How about it?'

"But, I swear to God, if they can pull it off, more power to them."

"Dead is dead. When the light goes out in a woman's heart, it's out. Goodbye now and it has been good to see you. You try to be Dr. Frankenstein and revive the dead heart, but, once you've blown it, it's blown. The toothpaste, it is out of the tube. You try to argue, to logic your way back into that glorious spontaneous past, you actually sit there and explain why this is all wrong and why it makes all kinds of sense to start loving me again. Jesus. How pathetic. But, you have to try. Of course, the most effective thing to do is pretend you absolutely do not give a shit. Again, pretending. I suck at pretending."

"Animals are animals. Logic matters somewhere beyond the planet Pluto. Goodbye now."

For Billy, and his work, it was put up or shut up. He said he'd write a novel if he ever found the time. Well. How about being fired from your job and then being dumped by your woman? Got any time on your hands? At least he finally had a title: "My Wife's New Boyfriend." Had a beginning, even, often the toughest part: "Suddenly and wholly without warning, our hero was out of a job. Just as suddenly and seemingly wholly without warning, our hero found himself utterly and singularly unattractive to members of the opposite, sex, even just platonic friends." He was out of excuses. He would cast himself, cleverly, he thought, as a romantic, genius-protagonist. Yes.

"This was going to be easier than I thought."

Good one, Billy.

Life kills everybody. How long can you lollygag amidst the gewgaw and hobbledehoy? How long would it be before the Sheriff came knocking at the back door, with a big, big bill in his hand? And suddenly, and (almost) wholly without warning, Billy had a desperate jones for food, coffee, sex, and rent.

-

J. J. Tindall is the Beachwood's poet-in-residence. He can reached at jjtindall@yahoo.com. Images graciously provided by Brett Johnson.



Posted by Lou at 12:39 AM | Permalink

Are You Harming Your Horse?

Five Key Things New Horse Owners Must Know
Worthington, ON - December 2007- Owning your first horse can be a dream come true. Yet many new horse owners may find their newfound dream less-than-perfect as they struggle with issues of behavior, manners, training and respect. Perhaps they are inadvertently harming the very creature they've fallen in love with. Even though they're large, majestic animals, horses require a lot of gentle TLC. Unfortunately, many of the long-standing practices in traditional horsemanship may be harmful. Growing numbers of horse owners are seeking more humane ways to train, ride and care for their horses.

That's why Natural Horsemanship has become so popular. It's based on understanding the natural herd hierarchy or pecking order, how horses use body language to communicate and how the practiced application of "pressure and release" can cause the horse to willing work with you - respecting and obeying you as the lead horse. It also promotes a deeper bond between horse and rider, based on the creation of a trusting relationship. Building trust isn't always easy - that's why it's crucial for first time horse owners to make sure they're not unknowingly hurting their horse.

Here are five key things new horse owners must know:

1. A horse's mouth is sensitive. Many first-time horse owners assume they must use a bitted bridle to control their horse. But a metal bit can quickly become an instrument of torture in a horse's tender mouth. Consider trying a bitless bridle instead. They cradle the horse's head to let you apply gentle consistent pressure and release signals to "tell" the horse where to go and provide exceptional control with less pain for the horse. Do your research - the effectiveness of bitless bridles vary with the design of each model!

2. Heavy hands hurt! New horse owners think they have to tug strongly on the reins to control the horse. This can cause pain and lead to health problems for the horse. Many "behavior" problems actually stem from heavy-handed riders. Talk to a qualified trainer about the best way to hold the reins to avoid confusing and/or hurting your horse. Riding in a bitless bridle can also help you develop softer hands and improve your use of other aids like your seat and legs.

3. Saddles are NOT one size fits all. You shouldn't just walk into a tack store and buy the first saddle you see, or pick up bargain. A saddle should be fitted to your horse's size and shape. Call the tack store ahead of time and get instructions to correctly measure your horse. Ask about treeless saddles; they're softer, more flexible and more comfortable for the horse and rider.

4. Not all horses need shoes. Depending on where and how you ride and your horse's living conditions, your horse may not need shoes. Hooves help pump the horse's blood and some experts believe this function is enhanced when a horse is "barefoot." But it's best to talk with your vet and farrier about what's right for your horse's specific needs.

5. Reward your horse. Don't confuse intimidation with respect. Teaching your horse to obey because it's frightened of you does not lead to a good relationship. Spend time bonding with your horse. Hang out in the round pen and consider riding freestyle. Simply petting your horse is a good way to reward good behavior.

*

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Rachel Friedman

Posted by Lou at 12:36 AM | Permalink

December 06, 2007

The [Thursday] Papers

BREAKING NEWS 4:56 P.M.: It's a bloodletting at the Reader, and a sad, dark day in Chicago journalism. Four of the best folks they have are no longer there, as the consequences of the new ownership makes itself known. And while all are a big loss, the loss of John Conroy is most stunning. My God, the man has produced perhaps the most important journalism in the city in his time at the Reader. This is wrong and unconscionable.

Here's the memo.

*

From: Alison True
Date: December 6, 2007 4:40:02 PM CST
To: everyone@chicagoreader.com
Subject: Reader news

Dear Reader staff--

Despite the considerable challenges we've faced recently, you've continued to make a newspaper and Web site we can all be proud of. Unfortunately the financial pressures of our industry continue unabated, and I'm very sorry to announce that as a cost-cutting measure we eliminated several positions in editorial this week.

The people we cut--John Conroy, Harold Henderson, and Tori Marlan, as well as Steve Bogira, who's been on a leave of absence--are all staff writers, and as you might guess, this move represents a shift in the financial structure of our relationship with contributors.

Over the years John, Harold, Tori, and Steve have produced some of our most important and exciting stories. Their achievements have included brilliant investigative work, prestigious awards, and possibly most important, spurring social change in a city that always needs it. (Their Reader e-mail addresses are intact through Friday if you'd like to communicate with them.) I can't emphasize enough that this action in no way reflects a judgment on the value of the work of these particular writers, and in fact it's my fervent hope that they'll continue to work with us on a contractual basis.

As the publishing environment changes, we'll need to continue to make strategic decisions about where to place our resources, but we remain committed to our mission of presenting meaningful reportage, not to mention robust listings and intelligent and entertaining arts criticism, and thanks to all of you we manage to do it well week after week.

Alison

Alison True
Editor
Chicago Reader
11 E. Illinois
Chicago, IL 60611
312-828-0350

*

The [Thursday] Papers
"Instead of treating off-duty shootings as matters deserving rigorous inquiry, Chicago police officials have viewed the shootings as administrative issues and treated officers with deference," the Tribune reports today in the second part of its "Shielded From The Truth" investigation.

Here's Exhibit A:

"In some cases where officers might have been under the influence of alcohol during a shooting, officials leading those investigations delayed administering Breathalyzer tests for hours.

"In the case of [Phyllis] Clinkscales, records and interviews indicate, investigators didn't administer one at all, although she was returning from a wedding reception at a tavern at 3 a.m. when she shot [17-year-old Robert] Washington."


This is no surprise, of course. But now the Tribune has documented it beyond question. And it's an outrage.

"Hours after Officer Phyllis Clinkscales fatally shot a young man trying to steal her car, Chicago police investigators and commanders ruled the shooting justified," the Tribune reports in its lead example today.

"They have stood by that conclusion even as she gave differing accounts of what happened the night she shot 17-year-old Robert Washington in June 2000.

"They stood by her even though all four of the gunshot wounds were on the back right side of Washington's head and neck, including a 'muzzle imprint' that suggested the gun barrel had been pressed against his skin.

"They stood by her even after the department's civilian oversight agency found her account didn't square with the autopsy on Washington and initially recommend she be fired."

And the mayor lectures citizens in the most aggrieved neighborhoods for not cooperating with the police. Maybe it's the mayor who should cooperate with them.

Daley Time
"There has been a chronic internal failure to deal fairly with complaints against rogue police," the Tribune says in an editorial today.

Welcome aboard. We've been expecting you.

Daley Crime
Richard M. Daley was the Cook County state's attorney from 1981 to 1989. Since then he has been the mayor.

"Daley seemed to defend the use of roundtables," the Tribune reports separately today. "Asked if officers involved in shootings are treated differently from other citizens, he replied, "I hope not. No, because you have a roundtable discussion with prosecutors there and everybody else there. You have all the parties there.'

"When he was told that no one is sworn and evidence is not presented, Daley, a former state's attorney, replied, 'Well, I don't know all about that.'"

Daley then had to rush off to Washington to prepare the next National Intelligence Estimate.

Daley Mime
"Recently, the oft-criticized [Office of Professional Standards] was given new powers and a new name, the Independent Police Review Authority, as part of its makeover," the Trib notes.

"'At one time it was within the Police Department,' Daley said. 'Now it is separate, which is very important to us.'

"Although Daley has given the civilian oversight agency some expanded investigative powers, its recommendations are subject to review by the police superintendent," the Trib notes.

So it's more like the Independentish Police Reviewable Authorityless agency.

"And the agency will continue to deal with staffing problems for the foreseeable future. Budgeted for 85 positions, the agency is short 24 people. The current caseload for investigators is about 30, [new director Ilana] Rosenzweig said, about three times what she thinks is reasonable."

But we're [supposedly] getting new libraries!

Nothing illustrates a public official's priorities more than their budgeting and spending.

Change Agent
From the The Papers on March 5, 2007:

"Word on the street is that Chicago police chief Phil Cline will hang it up soon. The city could do worse than to consider Miami's top cop, John Timoney, featured in the current The New Yorker [abstract here]: 'In the decade before Timoney's appointment, Miami police had killed twenty-eight people and fired at another hundred and twenty-four. During his first twenty months on the job, no Miami cop fired a shot, a phenomenon that appears to be unique in a city of Miami's size. In the four years of his tenure, police have shot at seven people, killing two and wounding four. The murder rate in Miami has dropped from about twenty to fourteen per hundred thousand in the years since 2003. (Although major crime over all dropped in 2006, there was an increase in the number of killings in Miami.) Credit for the drop certainly does not belong solely to Timoney; there has been a nationwide renaissance in police work and in attitudes toward policing, and crime in many American cities, including Miami, fell steadily during the nineteen-nineties. In New York, where much of this change was pioneered, Timoney held several top jobs with the N.Y.P.D.'"

And how did Timoney do it: He simply told his officers to stop shooting people.

That's only an ever so slight oversimplification. He rewrote the department's general orders too.

Change starts at the top. But you have to want it.

Does the mayor?

No.

"[Incoming police chief Jody] Weis is . . . an organization guy who sought to protect the FBI from internal criticism following the terrorist attacks of 9/11," John Kass writes this morning.

So Weis has just the skills the mayor is looking for.

See, Daley wants those cops on that wall. He wants them to rough people up and, if necessary, shoot a few of them. Let's be realistic. He believes in bullying that leverages power to maintain order. That's who he is. He isn't going to change.

How in the world anyone can think - after watching this guy for 18 years - that he's ever sincere about reform is beyond me. Apparently our media has even shorter memories and more naivete than even I ever thought.

Good Start!
"Weis returned a phone call from the Chicago Sun-Times today, but refused to answer questions to avoid muddying the waters prior to his City Council confirmation hearing. He is scheduled to take office Jan. 16 after celebrating his 50th birthday and qualifying for an FBI pension," the paper reported this week.

"'Out of respect for the 50 aldermen, I don't want to come across as presumptuous. That could be perceived as ignoring or assuming the process is already in place,' he said."

The last thing he wants to do before a confirmation hearing is answer a bunch of questions!

In An Alternate Universe
Phyllis Clinkscales, Jody Weis and Richie Daley get as much scrutiny as Drew Peterson. A universe where marketing hasn't trumped journalism - and reporters and editors know the difference.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Be the difference.

Posted by Lou at 08:37 AM | Permalink

Cab #2038

Date Taken: 12/05/07
From: Wicker Park
To: Irving Park

The Cab: A Blue Diamond! It's aesthetically pleasing on the outside with that Blue Diamond logo. Unfortunately, this will be the last good thing about a cab ride gone bad.

First, riding in this cab was like riding in the back seat of a friend's car - in a bad way. There was no divider between driver and passenger. In some way I would think I would like this egalitarian structure, yet instead it creeped me out. He was right there! I could touch him between the bucket seats! Was this even a real cab? Or did he just stick a placard on the side of the car in order to lure victims whom he would take to his underground torture chamber?

Because that was the vibe I had.

The Driver: Another bad clue strikes me immediately. He's talking on a cell phone. Not like the other cabbies, though. He actually is holding a cell phone to his ear by hand. What?! That's wrong. I'm used to the jibber-jabber into the nearly invisible headsets that is unjarring enough, but this is just plain wrong. Plus, it looks like a 15-year-old girl's cell phone - kind of pinkish red and very slim. Something is wrong with this picture. It could be the cell phone of a victim.

The Driving: Immediately suspicious. First, why are we turning around? We're heading toward a freeway on-ramp. I don't understand. Should I say something? Does he know a better route? Oh my God, our eyes just met in the rear view mirror. He knows I'm onto him! Should I jump out? Call someone? Mouth "Help!" to that cop car alongside us?

Okay, so he's going to take Milwaukee Avenue. Let's try to relax. Oh God, Milwaukee sucks! It's jammed up! Is he trying to screw me? Where is that rate card? How in the world could I already owe $3.65?

Well, the flag pull alone is $2.25, so I guess that makes sense. Wait, does he have the extra passenger light on?

Oh my God, I just realized, we're driving with radio silence!

It's just me and him.

He certainly seems in a hurry - a hurry to kill me! Now I don't feel so well. For the last couple of years, riding in the back of cabs has made me nauseous. Maybe it's some sort of late-onset motion sickness. I feel my head getting flush. My face is starting to sweat. I feel like I want to throw-up - or pass out. Or pass out in my vomit. At least that's the way I always wanted to go - but in a rock star suite, not the back of a Blue Diamond.

This is the point in the ride where I always start thinking about how much my life sucks. I need to eat better. Sleep better. Get more exercise. God, how did it lead to this?! I'm such an idiot. I should never have put myself in this situation.

Now we're behind a truck. And he keeps speeding up as if the truck isn't there only to slam on the brakes just before impact. Is he learning-impaired? Oh my God, he's going to try to thread between the truck and a CTA bus! Don't you know those buses never do what you think they'll do! Those aren't rational drivers! Don't fuck with them!

Oh my God, he pulled back.

Oh wait, no, don't do it! He's passing everyone on the right and there's another bus ahead and there's a truck and he's going to try it again and . . . he made it! But I'm not happy about it. Now he seems aggravated. He wants this ride over as much as I do. He, like I, has an internal narrative going on. It's saying "Kill! Kill! Kill!"

So is mine.

Pulaski? Why are we turning here? Hey, here's that freeway we could have taken! No, not again! Now we're behind a school bus. Don't hurt the kids!

Hey look: Hangovers Liquor Store. That's pretty good.

Oh yeah, where was I? Oh yeah, I was being taken to a dungeon!

Is that Hot Doug's? Is that where we are?

No, it's a mirage! I just had a Hot Doug's mirage.

There's Irving Park. Thank God.

"Anywhere along here, I can just get out."

I don't feel well.

Overall Rating: Half an extended arm for at least getting me to my destination. And for not taking me to his basement torture chamber.

- Steve Rhodes

*

There are more than 6,000 cabs in the city of Chicago. We intend to review every one of them.


Posted by Lou at 06:51 AM | Permalink

The Blue & Orange Kool-Aid Report

Late last week, I received an e-mail from a friend casting doubt on my Bears prediction (Chicago plus 2). One thing led to another, and we bet 12 boneless chicken wings on the game. I'm not bringing this up because I made the wrong pick (which I do on a regular basis). I'm mentioning it because this person is a Bears fan, yet he was betting against the Bears. At home. Against a vulnerable opponent. In a must-win game.

New rule: When a fan bets against their own team, that fan is not allowed to bet for their team for the remainder of the season. Here are some more betting rules.

*

Sucker Bet: The Bears sticking with what works - like the hurry-up offense and using throwing to its dynamic duo of tight ends.
Sure Bet: Insisting on game plans not best suited to the talent at hand.

*

Sucker Bet: The Bulls or Bears going for a second consecutive win.
Safe Bet: Against the Bulls or Bears going for a second consecutive win.

*

Sucker Bet: Lovie Smith's personnel wishes (Bob Babich, Adam Archuleta) vs. Jerry Angelo's best instincts.
Safe Bet: The Bears amazing failure to draft the right running back.

*

Sucker Bet: The Cubs making meaningful acquisitions around Christmas.
Safe Bet: The Cubs move to get: 12 second basemen, 11 left fielders, 10 changes to Wrigley, 9 concrete repairmen, 8 washed-up players, 7 hot dog vendors, 6 girls with tight shirts, 5 throwback jerseys, 4 pitchers with arm trouble, 3 more night games, 2 Prior shoulder surgeries, and 1 more awful losing year.

*

Sucker Bet: Believing the president in areas of intelligence.
Safe Bet: Believing the president lacks intelligence.

*

Sucker Bet: Believing in Kenny Williams' boldness.
Safe Bet: Watching Kenny Williams boldly go nowhere.

*

Sucker Bet: The Cubs improve themselves by ditching players like Jacque Jones.
Safe Bet: The Cubs improve the lives of players like Jacque Jones by ditching them to much better teams.

*

Sucker Bet: The Bush Administration changing course on Iran.
Safe Bet: They just recirculated their Iraq memos with the "q" changed to an "n."

*

Sucker Bet: Ozzie Guillen will mature.
Safe Bet: Ozzie Guillen will say something stupid enough to get him fired.

*

Sucker Bet: Expecting responsive customer service during the holiday season.
Safe Bet: Digging yourself deeper even though your harangue at the customer service rep was totally justified.

*

Sucker Bet: The Bears returning to the Super Bowl any time soon.
Safe Bet: Fans blaming coordinators for problems caused by lack of talent at key positions.

-

Bears at Washington
Storyline: It's really hard to say much about this game. The Redskins started well and then the wheels fell off. The Bears started the year without wheels and on four concrete blocks.
Reality: This contest resembles a hockey game: Action happens between the blue lines, nobody has possession for long, and a few players dish out some hits.
Pick: Washington Minus 3, Over 37 Points Scored.

*

Sugar in the Blue and Orange Kool-Aid: 5%
Recommended Sugar in the Blue and Orange Kool-Aid: <1%

*

For more Emery, see the Kool-Aid archive, and the Over/Under archive. Emery accepts comments from Bears fans reluctantly and everyone else tolerably.

Posted by Lou at 05:43 AM | Permalink

A Hole to China: Part 4

The fourth of five parts.

Part 1: She left. I asked for it, I think.
Part 2: They met in a bar.
Part 3: Favoring the He-Fucked-It-Up version of events.

*

It was starting to be cold in the morning and stay cold until night and Anna wore black tights under her formless ("sexless," she called it) black wool dress. Absolutely formless, and absolutely capable of freeing Anna to center her thinking and seeing self even further within. A dark-gold, fake-fur-lined pseudo-cossack hat she went specifically to Oak Brook to get, gave her head a slight point, particularly in shadow. You could see not only breath now but the shadow of breath, and it though it was warmer as close to Lake Michigan ("a stone's throw") than inland, cold was cold. A calico scarf, wool and scratchy, and driving gloves from Lord & Taylor at the Water Tower. And a burgundy leather bag that was her sister's first.

Anna had no idea, really none, of how her boss Ray Johnson longed for her. There's a reason people use the word long. Ray was living, breathing proof. To him, she was never, ever sexless, think what she might.

Hole to China

She and her sister Tanya Gaun lived in an apartment together until Tanya moved in with her own boyfriend in Printer's Row. For a while it was Billy, Anna, and Tanya. No one had much privacy. Billy stayed at his own campsite a lot. That's what Anna called it: "This is a campsite." New towels and fresh flowers did not impress her.

Now Tanya and Anna and Billy each lived alone. Tanya's fiancee turned out to be more "sophisticated" (bi-sexual) than she had, at first, realized. But she kicked some quick and efficient ass when she found out, did a damned fine job in fact, got the condominium and what was left of his sizable portfolio, got an AIDS test (negative, for now), and took up smoking again. Not a bad recovery.

Anna had no idea how much and how quickly she would fall in loving with living alone. She wasn't any more scared than ever, no more, no less. Which was something she hadn't counted on, when she would lie in bed before falling asleep and think of reasons to be frightened of maybe getting her own place. She used to think it would happen with a man but lately she'd been thinking that maybe she could just do it on her own. It was the first in a series of thoughts, which amounted to a logical process of realization, which she dreaded having to face, of being alone, of living alone, specifically without a man but also without another woman. And precisely as she thought of it, she discovered unmapped land: maybe it would be fun as all holy hell for at least a little while.

Holy Jiminy Jesus!

Fun. To her, the word meant trouble, badness, somehow, for an adult. She used to think it would be a sign of failure to finally live alone, and to rely on herself and no one else by this "time in her life" (as she had once, as a teenager, imagined): i.e. later in her twenties than was automatically a relief anymore.

And then necessity mothered a positive attitude. An almost jocky elan. She did something she had not been taught directly but had witnessed, in her family life and work life: she copped the proverbial CAN-DO. Totally out of necessity, out of having to find a way to emotionally survive, to just sleep at night, she made two promises to herself: 1) to not break anymore promises to herself and 2) to go for it. She felt that her steering favored shame, and she just decided to pull back the other way, back toward center. Freedom. Free. Almost rhymes with fear. She wanted a man but didn't need one. She wanted a man but didn't need one.

And she realized that she, in fact, could keep going.

I and I are like, "Go."

Free at last, free at last.

And then, and only then, after having taken a small chance, almost defying herself, she discovered an appetite she had never before known with such sureness and passion: she wanted to make money so that she could stay free. She remembered something she read in school but didn't understand there: "When the infinite servitude of woman shall have ended, when she will be able to live by ad for herself; then, man - hitherto abominable - having given her her freedom, she too will be a poet. Woman will discover the unknown. Will her world be different from ours? She will discover strange, unfathomable things, repulsive, delicious." She barely remembered it, even, barely remembered not trusting the idea at first, barely remembering if it was a letter or a poem by Rimbaud or Rilke. Someone with an "r." She knew she wanted to rely on no one, anymore. No one. There. Boom.

She wanted to make a lot of money. Boom. She wanted to be very free. She was sure of it now. She wanted to be able to go out and get a bird if she damn well felt like it one time. Absolutely sure of it now. Yes. And she was also (dizzied by the clarity of it all now) confident that she was quite capable of doing it. She realized it was going to be a hell of a lot of work, and she didn't like that so much, but there was no fucking way she was ever going to worry about who or what was going to take care of her and she vowed to live well, and she understood, really felt in her soul, what it meant to wreak revenge simply by living well.

She would not subject herself to the gruesome, morbid depressions that she had to walk Tanya through in the first months after everyone found out the truth about her strange fiance Dirk. No way. Anna Gaun would just as soon get a cold sore. The younger sister, she had learned a lot from seeing Tanya, a little older, a little bluer, fuck up. She learned a lot from watching Tanya succeed as well, but she hated to know that she learned most well from when Tanya fucked up.

And she understood that she in fact had an almost nuclear desire for revenge. It scared her. A nuclear desire to live well, napalming the humid jungles of self-loathing. She would have to take some time, completely implode into her own psyche, and find out what the fuck that was all about.

She assumed that some of that energy was coming from the nagging voice, like a distant but relentless pulsar somewhere in the galaxy of her consciousness, that kept saying she would rather have a man. "I want a man, I need a man." She didn't need one, she would tell herself back, she just wanted one.

It was precisely the same energy source from which her success in business would spring. The success she knew would come and knew would be half-empty.

*

She and Billy lived later, rather than sooner, after Milwaukee Avenue became Ditka Drive and North Avenue became Butkus Parkway. After Mt. Rushmore had Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson, TR, an erect cock and shaggy balls (JFK) but before the second President Johnson ("Wiser men than me have called the last century the American Century. My vision for America now is to be the leader of this, the World Century . . . ") was added. The El still stops at the corner of Butkus, Damen, and Ditka. That's near the Lynx Building, on the Near Northwest Side, just nart of both Schiller and Goethe.

Pat was legal, cigs weren't. And toxins now distorted the atmosphere such that it often looked red rather than blue.

Madeleine McMann openly and without angst wants to be an artist. Or thinks she wants to be one. And for a time, in lieu of being one, she married one.

Billy McMann is struggling writer, and a writing struggler. He's suspicious of both art and artists, but only because he sees in the artist a hint of a side of himself he doesn't, yet, want to face. Facing that part of himself will take a more refined maturity than he's capable of at the present time. Maybe he'll grow. Maybe.

And Billy McMann actually had a perfectly legal doctor's prescription for government-issue marijuana "for relief from the debilitating effects of The Nausea." Yes.

It was possible. Thing was, Uncle Sam's dope was lame. Lame. Sixties potency, relatively lame. So. Not much had really changed. If you wanted weed that was any good, or any kind of tobacco, you had to see The Man. Even if it was a woman, it was still The Man.

Billy was mangled.

He awoke regretfully, crippled with Nausea, mute with disgust.

He flopped and gasped like a dry-docked catfish.

He flopped to the mirror. In it he beheld an ersatz miesterwerk of faintly muted horror, one with a mattress-matted jet-black crew-cut, something out of Lovecraft: Cubist eyes, singular, unrelated; earless in an impressionistic mode; and the eyes actually did seem crooked, the skin now more like scales, deep red lines inlaid in the cheeks which anyway were ghastly primary hues unholy on human flesh. Styes. Boils. Blackheads. A crushing headache, down into the teeth, kept one styed-eye virtually closed.

He looked bad, he looked really, really bad. Like the old prisoner from Papillon, asking "How do I look?" and he's utterly grizzled, fried, but Papillon is kind, and then later an equally fried and grizzled Papillon, grizzled but at least a grizzled Steve McQueen, asks the same goddam question, having come around.

"How do I look?"

In the novel, Henri Cherriere specifies his theory that the real first grizzled guy was, among other things, quite obviously "a victim of brutal masturbation." Papillon stayed sharp with mental numbers games, non?

Oui.

Among other things, Billy'd been drinking a bit hard. Now he just bit hard.

"This has got to stop."

He'd been partying very, very hard the night before. And the night before that. And the night before that. He'd felt this tell-tale way only a couple of times before: he'd eaten his brain sometime late last night and, before passing out, filled his skull with cement. And now he had to badly shit his own brains. What a glamorous guy. His woman left, not without his prodding, and now he was alone. He would be hurt and go get fucked up to not feel it and then wake up the next day still feeling it and just going out again and getting fucked up. Very imaginative.

Yes. Billy was selling this idea to himself with feeling.

"Won't You Come Home Bill McMann?"

Fifteen minutes after vowing never to fall in love ever, ever again, Billy McMann, born in Minneapolis, Minnesota but raised in Downers Grove, Illinois, was madly in love with the young check-out girl at this hugely stocked and indulgently low-priced liquor store. Something about her hips. Yes: the world was moving on them.

Sure, Billy was just thrilled as shit to be alive this day, with a terribly sublime and Romantic headache and stomach ache and who knows what the fuck else since, time being time, and total darkness being total darkness, you just never knew.

Passing out equals dying. Jesus forgives you and brings you back to life. Period.

Billy was often awakened by surgeons from the fourth dimension who were totaling up his life, doing a daily run through of the proverbial "life flashing before the eyes." Daily. The system had to be tested every day so usually about just after 4 ante-meridian they started poking around, these Judges ("I am surely condemned!"), condemning for at least those dark moments, which often seem like hours or days or years, and then after a cup of coffee they're all gone. All gone.

"I'll be damned!"

O really Billy? I and I go: "Not so fast!"

Billy was lonely.

Won't you come home Anna Gaun?

It was an indiscreet loneliness, as all loneliness is, but it was loneliness nonetheless and, milieu by milieu, nature abhors a vacuum. It dictates presence, a perpetual physical presence that is in turn perpetually sucked into the Black Hole but then the presences keep right up into the nothingness, through the looking-glass where NASA keeps saying it wants to go, "It," us?, "we," through the mirror where how many faces reflect at once? Yes.

Life was going to be long this way. Really long. This was not good news to him, to Billy, not good at all. He was a quality guy, not a quantity guy, looking to go with his boots on.

He was also the first man on the modern record to be granted a government prescription for marijuana to relieve The Nausea. People had been getting it for relief from cancer relief, for glaucoma, for all sorts of things. The times had been a-changin'. Turned Billy into a patriot. This was the kind of freedom he could actually relate to having to kill to protect. He had a Black Hole of his own. He was constantly trying to fight the gravity that would suck him down in there. Billy's Black Hole to China. It was a sea of holes. For Billy, a real place to drown in.

He'd occupy his mind with the heroic task of rising from a form of the dead, to ultimate victory in the face of utter defeat. He'd get her back. He'd make it all up to her. Make a few tough changes, non? Oui.

Suck it up.

Be a man, become a man, an actual one.

As opposed to a McMann. Some kind of standard-issue, milquetoast Ray Johnson motherfucker. That kind of thing.

Or perhaps in the effort distract and exhaust himself such that by the time he has to give up it won't hurt so badly. Period. Maybe that would be enough, to distract himself such that Time the Avenger could do some healing. Buy some time, maybe find a way to not kill himself with booze and drugs in the meantime.

That'd be nice.

Her heart was dead to loving him and he would raise it.

It would be like a guy actually, actually digging, with a spoon, a personal hole to China that, Holy Jiminy Jesus, actually gets through! The first guy ever. He'll be on 60 Minutes.

"Whatever gets you through your life."

Digging from city to city.

Cities: it was all in the lighting, this lure of cities, in the nature of the natural and artifical, if not unnatural, light itself, which in fact bespoke lightning, which in fact is the power all animals and plants seek to harness. The power of a pure, white lightning for all the world's machines to stay drunk on, just north of the other Cities of Light, towards his old college, just down Old Route 66: the Mobil Oil refinery, the Dow Chemical plant, the Joliet Armory, and the Braidwood Nuclear Reactor, down through Missouri, Oklahoma City, Kingman, Barstow, yes. Route 66 ain't what it used to be. Lo, the Citadels.

-

Coming Friday: Coffee, sex and rent.

-

J. J. Tindall is the Beachwood's poet-in-residence. He can reached at jjtindall@yahoo.com. Images graciously provided by Brett Johnson.


Posted by Lou at 02:23 AM | Permalink

December 05, 2007

The [Wednesday] Papers

In the first of a two-part investigative report called "Shielded From The Truth," the Tribune reports today that the Chicago Police Department's method for investigating police shootings is a sham.

"The inquiry, which reviewed available records for more than 200 police shooting cases over the last decade, found that these cursory police investigations create a separate standard of justice and fuel the fear among some citizens that officers can shoot people with impunity," the paper reports.

"Law enforcement officials at all levels, from the detectives who investigate cases to the superintendent, as well as the state's attorney's office, have failed to properly police the police."

I hope we can all agree on that now. This isn't about bad apples or maligning cops. It's about the failure to properly manage a police department - and about officials, including the mayor, who simply care more about public relations and protecting their own than they do about justice and the public interest. Even if innocent people are killed as a result.

"The combination of this secrecy and the perfunctory investigation of police shootings means that it is virtually impossible to determine how many were in fact legitimate," the Tribune says.

The Daley Administration believes we do not have a right to know.

"The newspaper reviewed thousands of pages of documents from authorities' internal investigative files, Cook County medical examiner autopsies and depositions from lawsuits filed after police shootings," the Tribune noted. "The paper sought complete case files, but the Police Department denied a Freedom of Information Act request for its records on such cases."

Inside Accounts
As long as I've been in Chicago - more than 15 years now - the media has gullibly passed along the police department's conclusion in almost every shooting of a civilian by a police officer as "justified" without asking just how officials reached that determination.

Now we know. They just made it up at a phony process called a roundtable, which gathers enough officials together to create the appearance of deliberative thought.

"To me, the roundtable is just a way to quickly justify cases," Thomas Smith, chief investigator for the Office of Professional Standards from 1998 to 2002, said when he left his job, according to the Tribune. (You can find video of an interview with Smith and others cited in the Trib story in the web version of the story.)

"Michael Oppenheimer, a prosecutor in the state's attorney's office from 1990 to 2003, said he attended numerous roundtables and that he was told by his superiors not to ask questions," the Tribune reports. "He said he and other prosecutors were there as 'window dressing' to lend an air of credibility to the process."

Of course, activists, lawyers and plain ol' citizens whose dealings with cops aren't as warm and fuzzy as those of newspaper editors have been talking about this stuff for years - if not decades.

(Just last September, our friend Tracy Jake Siska, who runs the Chicago Justice Project, posted on his blog an excerpt from documents about roundtables unearthed in the same case the Tribune uses as its lead example today. Jamie Kalven's work also comes to mind.)

The Tribune's project today is inspiring. A truly excellent piece of journalism that takes time, dedication, money and expertise to turn out. But like so many Tribune projects (Burge and the death penalty come to mind), I find myself also asking: What took so long?

Unequal Justice
"The details that cast doubt on an officer's account can be found in police reports, the files of the Office of Professional Standards or in autopsy records," the Tribune reports in a second article today. "They can be unearthed by attorneys during the civil suits they bring against police officers and the city.

"But a Tribune investigation of police shootings in Chicago found that those documents are rarely scrutinized by the Cook County state's attorney's office, which over the last decade has not charged a single on-duty Chicago police officer with shooting a civilian.

"In contrast, if the civilian survives the shooting, police and prosecutors invariably charge them and bring them to trial. Many of those questionable cases, however, unravel in court, with either the charges dismissed or a judge or jury acquitting the defendant, the Tribune found."

It's hard to imagine a more devastating finding.

Campaign Issue
No doubt these findings will be injected into the current campaign to succeed Dick Devine as Cook County state's attorney. It can't be good news for the Devine deputies in the race; so-called change candidates such as Ald. Howard Brookins should get a boost.

What's fascinating is how police issues - including the Jon Burge torture scandals - are playing out in the state's attorney's race in a way that never occurred when Daley ran for re-election.

"Police brutality and prosecutorial misconduct emerged as flash points Tuesday in the Democratic contest for Cook County state's attorney, with outsiders seeking the job criticizing the office for failing to combat the two problems while career prosecutors defended their agency," the Tribune reports.

And former two-term Cook County state's attorney Richard Daley, who then moved into the mayor's chair and has been there for 18 years, skates by again.

Daley Show
Today's Tribune investigation is exactly why Daley is not to be taken seriously when it comes to reforming the police department. He has not only refused to support a civilian review board, but he has placed a reorganized internal affairs office directly under his own control, while then conducting a secret and possibly illegal search for the next police chief that castrated the police board. How can you promise that the new police chief will bring transparency and reform to the department when his hiring was shrouded in mystery, evasion and fiat?

Chief Beef
The Tribune also reports today that Jody Weis was not the mayor's first choice to fill the police chief vacancy. What I wondered as I read this was why the mayor seemed so hellbent on bringing in an FBI agent to run the show.

Meanwhile, the Sun-Times reports today that "A one-page agreement that has not yet been signed will lock Weis into a three-year term unless he leaves on his own or is fired for cause."

So he's "locked in" unless he decides to leave. Or he's fired. That's pretty locked in.

And three years is hardly the "long time" the mayor promised the other day. It's more like the minimum we could expect - if that.

Court Retort
"The Tribune this summer filed a motion in federal court, still pending, that seeks to unseal more than 50 police shooting files turned over in a lawsuit filed by the estate of a man who was shot and killed by a Chicago police officer in 2002."

Why stop there? Let's unseal the entire Daley reign.

The Beachwood Tip Line: It's Daley Time.

Posted by Lou at 07:44 AM | Permalink

Meeting Up Now

The newest Chicago meet-ups. For real.

* Independent Strategies for Assisting Individuals w/Insomnia

* The Chicago Romanian Language Meetup Group

* The Southwest Suburbs Divorce Support Group

* Chicago Stay at Home Entrepreneurial Parents Meetup

* The Chicagoland Hunting Meetup Group

* The Millionaire Project Meetup Group

* The Northwest Suburb Sushi Meetup Group

* The Non-Toxic Avengers of Chicago

* The Chicago Axis and Allies Meetup Group

* The Lombard Network Marketing Ambit Group

* The Skokie Prosperity Meetup Group

* Chicagoland Widows and Widowers Meetup Group

* Wealth Education

* Gourmet Circle Tasting Club

* Greater Porter County Mike Huckabee for President '08 Meetup

* Greater LaPorte County Huckabee for President 2008 Meetup

* The Crystal Lake International Relations Meetup Group

* The Naperville-Lisle Entrepreneur Meetup Group

* The Saint Charles Bible Study Meetup Group

* The Bartlett Anti-Aging Meetup Group

-

Previously from the Meetup Affairs Desk:
* Meetup Match Game
* 15 Meetups

Posted by Lou at 05:28 AM | Permalink

A Hole to China: Part 3

The third of five parts.

Part 1: She left. I asked for it, I think.
Part 2: They met in a bar.

*

They were digging the same band. She asked him to dance. He danced.

Billy could dance.

Billy was 21 and about to graduate from Lincoln University. Bethany, born and raised in New Lincoln, Illinois, a university town sprung up not much taller than the Illinois corn around a river grove, always wore beautiful pleated, paisley or scotch-check skirts over blue jeans and cowboy boots. Her round face shone like a ripe summer peach. Her soul shone and simmered with the angry passions of a smart girl from a broken home. She loved to ride on the back of Billy's bike, a '73 Honda CB-750 he "inherited" from his older brother Art, and close her eyes and hug Billy's back hard. Burnt-orange gas tank. Billy wiped it on I-74 between Champaign and New Lincoln, after a Gang of Four (featuring Ms. Sara Lee) show at Mabel's that he'd taken Bethany to but they got in a fight and she disappeared, and he started to drive home alone on his bike drunk. The last thing he remembered before waking up in a hospital room were the orange-lit letters "O's Gold," a hybrid corn seed, on a barn off the highway, orange letters shimmering through black rain and drunken tears.

Billy wiped out.

Hole to China

Not quite mangled. Close, real close.

And there she was, Miss Bethany Hawkins, fever-dream starlet, part of the stock company of players that entertained in dreams while Billy "slept."

Anymore she'll make a surprise cameo. She knows how. She got Billy into the movies.

Yes: Billy is immortal. Timeless. Period.

Next time out, rent Grandview, U.S.A. On Key Video, directed by Randall Kleiser, who also directed Grease, starring Jamie Lee Curtis, C. Thomas Howell, Patrick Swayze, Jennifer Jason Leigh, John Cusack and fucking Troy Donahue.

No lie. Bethany saw the ad for a cattle call at the Pontiac National Guard Armory, just north of New Lincoln, for dancers for a music-video sequence for the film.

Bethany went: "Let's go." They went. They auditioned.

Billy got picked. Billy became immortal. Bethany became jealous.

Check it out.

Billy now spent a lot of time thinking that he had to be sure not to fuck things up with Anna Gaun the way he did with Bethany Hawkins. Somehow, he figured he had managed to fuck things up. Something about his self-esteem and his conscience combined in a run of fever-dreams wherein whatever went wrong came down to Billy. Almost a reverse ego-trip. He had purposefully eliminated from his mind the possibility that it was fate with no one to blame that made him and Bethany Hawkins part.

He had to make sure not to fuck things up with Anna. Guess what: he failed, again, wow.

He'd always wanted to be a writer and if he was, his take on the old story would be innovative in this regard: boy meets girl, boy loses girl, girls stays lost, boy gets over it. Save our ship, same old shit. Girl stays lost and boy attempts to prevent implosion. Boy becomes ashy-man.

He looked forward to spending some time with his buddy Guillermo trying to figure out just what the fuck happened this time around, with Anna. He tried really hard not to fuck it up, and still he fucked it up. It got fucked up, anyway, that much was for sure.

At the moment, Billy was favoring the He-fucked-it-up version of events.

The fever was guilt, that was the deal.

Maybe Guillermo would have a different idea. Maybe Guillermo could provide a quick fifty-minute therapy session with medication, yes.

But first, he had to call his sister Madeleine for some dough. For the car payment and maybe some food. He wasn't above asking Madeleine for dough.

Last batch he got was raped out of him at the Mercantile Exchange.

*

Anna Gaun awoke in the darkness to an all-news station, aware that it was cold, and Desdemona her cat was hungry and scratching. Anna hadn't slept well until just before she had to get up.

Billy's bullshit was getting old.

He was, like, fucking up instead of 'fessing up. Classic, classic shit. Anna could read the writing on the wall quite clearly. It wasn't in the dialogue. Lately, Billy was very "in so many words," living his feelings but not acknowledging them. "I'm not going to be happy," came out, not in those words to Anna, but in these words to Tanya (o and about, say, twenty other people yes including Anna):

"I think Tanya should show us her breasts."

Good one. Not.

The future started horning in on the neat little tryst of Billy, Anna, and now. The future: how, not who. Conversations became arguments. Joy became resentment. Wine became mineral water and cigarettes.

One squirrel was red, the other was black. One wanted to write and one wanted to eat.

Problematic. Billy thought he took his writing seriously. Anna took her eating very, very seriously indeed.

And just now, she was in a shitty mood.

She got up to feed Shivers (the Drooler), her cat.

She kept feeling alone. This was after quite a while. She had a boyfriend but she was still lonely. Period. She blamed herself at first and then it felt like she was married to her father. Billy felt it, too. Inches between were space enough to echo across. Conversations became arguments, and then just monologues, lectures. That really did it. "I need you to be different. Get with it." There was more sadness than happiness, ultimately, and, as usual, she was going to have to be really, really strong.

It was dark and cold and Shivers, a Tabby, had peed on the kitchen floor and Anna stepped in it and damn near, damn near started to cry.

Instead she hissed at Shivers.

It wasn't even 6 ante-meridian.

It was over, and she was the one who was going to have to say so. Again. Great. Women cry like men shit: a long time, with feeling, and afterwards they feel glorious. Men cry like women shit: a short time, with detachment, and afterwards they feel ashamed. Billy would say to Anna that he was going to go have a good cry. Billy always literally cried, actual tears, more than Anna. Billy would get with it, get into it. Anna would get uptight. It started mattering to Anna when Billy started doing it (crying) more in front of her. She loathed having to pity him.

Ultimately, she didn't.

-

Coming Thursday: One thing she understood was that she had an almost nuclear desire for revenge.

-

J. J. Tindall is the Beachwood's poet-in-residence. He can reached at jjtindall@yahoo.com. Images graciously provided by Brett Johnson.


Posted by Lou at 02:10 AM | Permalink

December 04, 2007

The [Tuesday] Papers

"A new assessment by American intelligence agencies released Monday concludes that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and that the program remains frozen, contradicting a judgment two years ago that Tehran was working relentlessly toward building a nuclear bomb," the New York Times reports this morning in a front-page story with a bold, four-column, two-deck headline.

"Rarely, if ever, has a single intelligence report so completely, so suddenly, and so surprisingly altered a foreign policy debate here," the Times wrote in an accompanying front-page analysis from Washington.

The Tribune also put the story atop its front page this morning, stating that "U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and that international pressure has succeeded in compelling the Islamic Republic to back away from its pursuit of the bomb."

The Tribune account notes that "As recently as October, President Bush was warning that a nuclear armed Iran couldlead to 'World War III,' and Vice President Dick Cheney threatened Iran with 'serious consequences' if it did not abandon its nuclear program."

The Tribune also produced an editorial under the headline "A Bombshell On Iran."

The Sun-Times also covered the news. With two paragraphs on page 22 under "Teddy Teacher Jets Home After Getting Pardon," beside an ad from Pro American Windows, and above a Salvation Army ad asking for donated cars, boats, trucks, campers and RVs.

*

I know the Sun-Times is (theoretically) a locally focused newspaper, but does it really do its readers a service by increasing their ignorance? Do the paper's editors assume its readers get their real news somewhere else? Or are they just not very bright?

Besides, all news is local. Chicagoans fight in wars, pay for wars with their taxes, and rehabilitate wounded veterans who return from those wars. Chicagoans also vote, and Iran is one of the top issues in the current presidential campaign. And some Chicagoans are even Iranian. Or anti-Iranian.

There's no excuse.

*

Even if the paper insists upon being tabloidish, several options existed for playing the Iran story with headlines blazing.

- "Iran Shooting Blanks!"
- "World War III Called Off!"
- "Impeach Bush!"

*

Instead, the Sun-Times gave its front page to a curious home foreclosure story: "Middle Class And Out Of A Home."

"The home mortgage meltdown isn't just gutting the poorer parts of town," the paper declares. "It's beginning to slam Chicago's wealthy and middle-class neighborhoods."

So now that it's not just about poor people, we care.

Web Cred
The Iran story, however, is (as of 8 a.m.) nowhere to be found on the Tribune's home page. I guess that's understandable. After all, there is that big snow alert that's just been issued.

Earth to Neil
"You can't see the problem there, Mr. Steinberg?" Mary Mitchell writes to her Sun-Times columning colleague. "Really?"

Earth to Mary
On the other hand, I have to ding Mitchell for her column on Sunday, "Why Aren't the Cops Hassling Peterson?"

"Why isn't Drew Peterson in jail?" Mitchell asks.

Well, because the police don't have enough evidence to charge him. Unless you consider the Sun-Times smear campaign evidence.

"Obviously, Peterson is innocent until proven guilty," she continues.

And yet, she wants him in jail.

"But he has been called a suspect by top officials with the State Police. It seems strange that he is still out and about."

Maybe in North Korea, but this is America. Is Mitchell advocating that we now toss all suspects in the clink?

See, a lot of people are suspects. You and I could be suspects. That's what police do when they investigate crimes. They compile a list of suspects. And then they try to solve the crime. When they think they have, they charge a suspect. And if the case goes to trial, the suspect gets to try to prove the cops wrong.

It used to be that journalists understood this, and thus didn't publish the names of suspects until they were charged.

Now journalists want to convict them first and have police jail them. The charges can come later.

*

I'm not unaware of the larger point Mitchell was (I think, anyway) trying to make: That the cops weren't hassling the white Drew Peterson the same way they are allegedly hassling the black Reginald Potts Jr., who has been "linked" to the missing Nailah Franklin.

Mitchell senses racial inequity. Even if true, the answer wouldn't be to lock them both up. The answer would be to afford suspects every right bestowed upon them by the Constitution even while trying to make a case.

Besides, Peterson has been hassled plenty - by Mitchell's own newspaper.

Lakeshore Living
"Northwestern University has found a buyer for the former Lakeshore Athletic Club, 850 N. Lake Shore Drive, that will save the building and turn it into housing for senior citizens," the Sun-Times reports.

It wouldn't have happened if not for the preservation activists. This is a win for Chicago against the forces of evil.

In Today's Beachwood
* Our very own Jim Coffman has another installment of Hawk TV!.

* Part 2 of our week-long series by J.J. Tindall about a guy and a girl and maybe another girl and some alcohol and art and artists and all sorts of things like that. It's called A Hole To China, and it's excerpted from what J.J. hopes will soon be a published novel.

Beachwood Tip Line: Break the news.

Posted by Lou at 08:07 AM | Permalink

And Then There's Maude: Episode 11

Our tribute to the 35th anniversary of the debut of Maude continues.

*

Season 1, Episode 11
Episode Title: Maude's Reunion

Original airdate: 28 November 1972

Plot: Following the controversial "Abortion Episode," Bea Arthur and company lob a softball with an episode about Maude reuniting with an old friend she hasn't seen in 25 years. In preparation for the visit, Maude has pulled out boxes of ancient history from the attic. Carol and Walter entertain themselves going through old yearbooks - "First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes Maude with the baby carriage." Or in Maude's case, "First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes love and another marriage, then comes love and another marriage, then comes love and another marriage . . . "

Carol finds Maude's old cheerleading sweater; judging from the size, it appears the last time it fit, Maude was about 12. Holding the sweater up in front of her, Maude remembers how the "W" once covered her entire chest, and Walter remarks she now has enough room to spell out "Massachusetts Institute of Technology." Maude picks up her old pom-poms, demonstrating how once-upon-a-time she could Bring It On, nearly throwing out her back performing a high-kicking cheer. Florida does her one better, giving a "boogie woogie" cheer that brings down the house.

Maude tells Carol and Walter the backstory on her old friend Phyllis, who earned the high school nicknames Mousy (for her personality) and Bunny ("because of an overbite.") When Carol asks what she's doing now, Maude says Phyllis mentioned something about "being with Avon," which they take to mean she's a "ding-dong" Avon lady.

When Walter asks if they should call Phyllis "Bunny" or "Mousy," Maude becomes protective of her friend, warning Carol and Walter to be careful what they say around Phyllis, because she always was a very sensitive girl. Anticipating that Phyllis (who never married) will burn with jealousy when she sees what a glorious life her friend is living in Tuckahoe, N.J., Maude rushes off to hide her 20-year-old "Mother of the Year" award. Now that's sensitivity.

Phyllis arrives and (surprise!) she's nothing as Maude described. In a stylish triangle-print dress, with frosted hair, impeccable Avon makeup, and no overbite, Phyllis has got it all together. Nevertheless, Maude keeps referring to her as "poor Bunny" behind her back; obviously her life is still empty - if you can call being a female executive in the 1970s meaningless. Yes, it seems Phyllis isn't just an Avon Lady, she's an Avon Vice President Lady. Poor Bunny, indeed.

News that Phyllis is a female executive is a dream come true for uber-feminist Carol, who's "dying to find out what it's like to be vice president of Avon . . . Do you find you're discriminated against because you're a woman?" Phyllis insists companies are really "coming along" and she loves every minute of what she does. Maude, feeling ignored, whips out her "Mother of the Year" award, waving it under Phyllis' nose and slamming it on the ground for attention, to which her friend proclaims the award "adorable."

After Phyllis leaves, Maude is completely in denial, thanking her family for being so supportive of "poor Mousy" and helping to build her up. What is she talking about? Walter proclaims Phyllis "Mighty Mousy" and Carol gushes that she's got everything a woman could want. Maude is astounded they can't see how miserable and unfulfilled Phyllis really is. Of course we know who Maude is really talking about when alone in the kitchen she breaks down, lamenting her wasted life.

Later, over dinner at the Findlays, Arthur is boring Phyllis with his medical humor while in the kitchen while an insecure Maude grills Walter about the attractiveness of the "untamed" career woman. She's determined to help her "poor, dear" friend fill up her "empty life." Over coffee, Maude encourages jet-setting Phyllis to take a desk job where she could meet someone and settle down - a suggestion that Phyllis proclaims makes her want "to throw up." Maude plays the grandson card, dangling motherhood and grandmotherhood as the ultimate fulfillment of womanhood. This sparks a children's poetry reading duel over who gives the best interpretation of The Slithergadee, which Maude performs for the group.

The gal pals are left alone to toast the good old days. ("To old friends." "To you, Chunky." "To you, Mousy.") In trying to sympathize with her friend's pitiable singleness, Maude displays a surprisingly un-feminist attitude. ("What is a woman without a man?") Phyllis assures Maude that she doesn't need a man to justify her existence. (Though if she did, she could choose from a collection that includes a 50-something billionaire and a 28-year-old beach boy!)

Soon the friends are arguing over "the girl most likely to . . ." and their respective life choices, ending with Maude amazed to learn that Phyllis wouldn't trade her life for Maude's ("No way!") and vice-versa. With their tearful heart-to-heart, these two old friends agree, "No matter what you get in life, we can't have it all."

Hot button social issue: Successful career woman vs. happy housewife - we want it all!

Neckerchief count: 1

Cocktail hour: After dinner, Maude and Phyllis reminisce over snifters of brandy.

Pop culture trivia quiz: Can you name the author of The Slithergadee?

Number of times Maude yells: 2

'70s slang: "Oh, any company that's with-it today . . . accepts you for what-you-are!"

Memorable quote: "Thank you Walter. And I'll remember that little remark the next time you wake me at three in the morning with one of your simple yes or no questions."

Times the live audience breaks out into spontaneous applause: 2

Keep an eye out for: Barbara Rush as Maude's old pal Phyllis "Bunny" Nash.

-

Previously:
Season 1, Episode 1: Maude's Problem.
Season 1, Episode 2: Doctor, Doctor.
Season 1, Episode 3: Maude Meets Florida.
Season 1, Episode 4: Like Mother, Like Daughter.
Season 1, Episode 5: Maude and the Radical.
Season 1, Episode 6: The Ticket.
Season 1, Episode 7: Love and Marriage.
Season 1, Episode 8: Flashback.
Season 1, Episode 9: Maude's Dilemma (Part One).
Season 1, Episode 10: Maude's Dilemma (Part Two).


Posted by Lou at 05:39 AM | Permalink

A Hole to China: Part 2

The second of five parts.

Part 1: She left. I asked for it, I think.

*

Yes: Billy hated poetry, or, more specifically, poets. Mimes, it was like being a mime to him, or any other legerdemain proffered by anyone calling themselves an "artist," some who, maybe too much like Billy, was trying to find a way out of the normal Hell that life can be. He'd get a chill of rage up his spine whenever he heard anyone refer to themselves as an "artist."

"If they were really artists," to himself Billy would go, "they'd never say it aloud."

He felt that such discretion was the rest of the world's due.

Soon, he'd learn a long, if not hard, lesson regarding such matters, such certainty, such cynicism. Not quite yet.

Billy wanted to be a genius, but he didn't know (yet) that he'd have to become an artist first. And in order to become the artist he could be, he'd have to develop some serious, late-hour humanity. Period.

Hole to China

Art was one thing, art was cool. Artists, that's another thing entirely. Billy's hero Goethe was a writer, scientist, philosopher, perhaps even a playwright, but, as far as Billy was concerned, not an artist, and surely not, of all things, a poet.

Good one!

I think it had something to do with his older sister's talent for drawing and the attention she got for it as they grew up together. That's part of it, anyway. Another part had something to do with not wanting to accept that tons of other people were also working hard conjuring up ways to avoid the Hell of a dull and lifeless life as an enslaved worker-bee of one kind or another. Period.

That was surely Billy's game, and he didn't want anyone else horning in on it.

He was, in fact, hard at work at his own transformation, even if he didn't know it yet.

Well. He was hard at work at it when he wasn't, as they say in Britain, "down pub." Sipping at Stella's. Slurping at Black Rainbow. Leering at Olaf's. Or Esther's. Or The Blue Lynx. Or The Little Red Bunny.

Yeah, The Little Red Bunny.

Pressing up to the bar, confessing the blues to the barkeep or barmaid, confessing all the blues, then sucking the blood of Christ till forgiveness is felt, and then looking to eat some of the body.

*

Stinkweed is square and flat and like Dingle has a pub a la The Little Red Bunny on every corner.

It has a scent and it has a voice.

The world's longest continuous straight street, aptly named, Western Avenue. Augustine says the City of God has the longest streets.

Anyway: Billy took Anna Gaun to The Little Red Bunny on their first date. Anna Gaun was a beautiful woman Billy met at a party. Her face shone like a bloomed spring rose. Brunette bangs trimmed deep brown eyes, resonant with inherited sadness, from a home not broken but burdened with the siege mentality of folk refugees at least of the soul. Would the blue blood ever not flow back from lost Ulster? Billy could never reach this part of Anna, and Tanya must have had a similar unreachable place, where one hides from the legacy of having an aunt, or a sister, or an aunt and a sister, say, leave the house for the store never to come back alive.

Anger and grief and their attendant wisdoms. There was no thrill in danger for Anna. One doesn't have to live like a refugee, was Billy's line, but that's just not how it really was, or could be. It is very difficult to argue blood (not that our lovers here didn't try).

The gravity of sadness in a woman is not defiable.

She was somebody's sister. Kin, friend of a friend. She drank beer. "Beer!" Billy was very, very excited about that.

Billy gotta boner.

Billy was very pizza-and-beer. He didn't make with Champagne and caviar or diamonds. They made a toast with their beers, sat back, smiled, and started talking. And talking. And talking.

About cats and horses and movies and books and food and beer and politics, not much politics, and cars and jobs and dreams and the people sitting at the bar right where you go order a drink and clothes and her family, mostly her family, and music and school and old boyfriends and girlfriends, and television, o beautiful television, and modes of partying.

Billy valued partying. Beer and pot, pretty much.

Dumbshit. Well, that's just me.

He valued quality time with his entertainment center.

He valued partying.

Hard partying in moderation. O just a little bit of hard partying every day and, before you know it, you are a perfectly happy person! Yes!

Anna Gaun had a lighter touch, pretty much.

*

In the clenched fist of his head, the cement block that had anchored him as he "slept," and in the huffing and puffing heart of his heart, he bet he'd end up OK. But he really, more than anything, wanted to be more than OK. It was just a thing that he had. Same with Anna. He was sorrier for the poor girl calling looking for her money, it's got to be somebody's money, and getting blown off by the likes of Billy and probably taking a good dose of it from her uptight, repressed, primarily a symphony of beiges boss.

"Message for Mr. William McMann . . . "

William, went Billy. It's either Mother or Jesus H. Christ himself, drunken Madeleine, or an officer of a private or state institution looking for their dough (by the way, take it from a ghost: the H. in Jesus H. Christ can stand either for Hellkiller. If you're good, and live a life of humility, justice and charity - good one - you don't have to go to Hell. Boom. Period . . . ).

Anyway, Billy closed his eyes, and tried to soak in the salves of the warm, gnarly, aforementioned optimistic wave.

Billy lived on Damen between Goethe and Schiller. On the Schiller side. On Wicker Park. There's no more Weeping Wicker Willows there, anymore. Only their ghosts.

Anna was zaftig.

Her sister Tanya was svelte.

They lived on Lincoln Park. Lincoln isn't there, by the way, the statue, I mean. Grant is. Lincoln is in Grant Park. Goethe is in Lincoln Park as well. At Diversey, not Goethe. Anna seemed like a countess from some old, distant country in the past.

Billy loved Anna. And, conveniently enough, Anna loved Billy. Once upon a time. Pertaining the 21st century? This is prehistory. A moment of prehistory. A blink, a deep blip.

It only took a couple of hat dates. Yes.

Chicago, Illinois: Hot is often hat. Rock is often rack. Somebody could say hat rack and be talking about good music. Pot is pat. North is Nart.

Squirrels are, occasionally, "blaick."

This was in the future when the anti-smoking movement finally got itself a national prohibition law. How it happened is hard to say. It is the end of a long story. Cigs were dope. Cigarettes, sugar, and red meat. Brutal. Pollution and ozone damage would often turn the sky a deep, artificial red after the sun reached its peak in the sky. Sunset was now almost always red, when it wasn't grey.

It was a weird time to be alive. Anywhere. Anytime. Around and around.

Besides Billy was another separate, living/breathing William who answered to "Guillermo." Guillermo was, essentially, Billy's best friend from the old days in Downers Grove, in the suburbs, when they'd cut through the yards and then through the woods toward Downer's Grove Central High. Guillermo's house was right on the way, if you were cutting through the yards. Not everybody with a yard thought it was such a great idea. Downer's Central was right off William Butler Ogden Avenue, named after one of Chicago's great mayors, which leads one way to the heart of the glamorous, dangerous, and romantic city of Chicago and the other way to the glamorous, dangerous, romantic, and two thousand miles further away city of Los Angeles, California. Like a main artery in a huge heart, huge and fatty, but deep with soul. Downer's Central was right off Old 66, The Road.

*

A rich scent wafted eastward.

Billy wrestled for the Indians (which was legally changed to the Fine Young People the same year tobacco was outlawed) and Guillermo threw the javelin. The Road would call to the young men like a distant and seductive siren. "Hither."

Chicago was closest, firstest. Fingers of scent like from a Disney full-length animation feature, what is that smell?

Fucking Guillermo. Damn. Always bagging babes. It could be annoying. You would be out with him having a drink and women would come up and totally ignore you while asking Guillermo for a light. It was his eyes. Even Billy loved the hazel eyes exaggerated, enlarged by glasses for this delicate man who otherwise would be basically legally blind. Without his glasses, he couldn't find his ass with both hands. Thus the lenses were thick and the eyes large and luminous.

Billy was always borrowing money from his sister Madeleine.

And his old girlfriend from school kept coming back to him in the fever dreams his ruined love now engineered. Her name was Bethany Hawkins. She had blond hair, zaftiggy, light and easily sunburnt skin, and small, soft, white hair all over her forearms. She was 17 and a townie. Well, she was 16 when they met. Yes.

They met in a bar.

-

Coming Wednesday: At the moment, Billy was favoring the He-fucked-it-up version of events.

-

J. J. Tindall is the Beachwood's poet-in-residence. He can reached at jjtindall@yahoo.com. Images graciously provided by Brett Johnson.

Posted by Lou at 01:49 AM | Permalink

December 03, 2007

The [Monday] Papers

"Call it death by a thousand tiny wounds, just about all of which were self-inflicted," our very own Jim Coffman writes in Bear Monday. "The Giants did a few things right down the stretch of Sunday's showdown at Soldier Field, but mostly the Bears chipped and chipped and chipped away at themselves until they crumbled."

Cop Shop
I found it odd that the mayor made sure to say at the press conference announcing his pick for new police chief that Jody Weis was going to be around for a long time.

Neither of Daley's last two chiefs - Terry Hillard and Phil Cline - were on the job for long, and Cline and Daley's first police chief, Matt Rodriguez, had to step down because of scandal. The mayor's track record isn't good.

Was Daley trying to say that this time he's gotten it right - that this guy will last, unlike the others?

I was puzzling over this just as a faithful reader sent me a note with a take I wish I would have thought of myself: It's about the Olympics. Daley is signaling to the Olympic committee, the theory goes, that this is the guy who will be in charge come 2016. And that would explain such an odd choice: bringing in an FBI agent with counterterrorism experience at a time when the department needs institutional reform. Throw in the fact that Weis will also take over the second job of emergency response director (that's why he'll make $300,000) and it makes a fair amount of sense.

Whatever the mayor's thinking is, Weis is a strange choice and it still isn't clear what he has that the other candidates didn't. One thing is for sure, though: There is no good reason to think that Weis has been brought in to clean up and transform the department, even if he is an outsider. There simply isn't any evidence to support that notion.

*

"Weis should have ample street cred: He has deep experience with hate crimes, gang violence, use-of-force complaints and other core components of urban law enforcement in cities as ethnically diverse as Los Angeles and Philadelphia," the Tribune crowed in an editorial on Sunday.

That sounds like a stretch. He'd have more street cred if he had actually ever been a street cop (Weis is coming to us from the FBI office in Philadelphia). Experience with hate crimes? Since when did that become a pressing qualification? Experience with use-of-force complaints? Do elaborate, because I've seen nothing to indicate he'll bring a fresh approach to perhaps the department's number one issue.

Beyond that, are you telling me that the nation's best police departments didn't have any rising stars to offer? That reformers were nowhere to be found? That there is not a single person-of-color in the entire land who is the equal of Weis and who would be more equipped to mend the perpetually and justifiably damaged relations between Chicago cops and minorities?

We'll never know because the process was conducted in secret by Daley, who made a mockery of the police board that is supposed to screen candidates and recommend finalists but instead was batted around like a cat's plaything by our Mayor for Life.

And where has the media been? Uninterested in the dysfunctional process and predictably approving in the mayor's actions. A certain amount of this is instinctual: The media would have loved Daley's pick no matter who it was. It's not personal, Jody. The Tribune went so far in its editorial to praise the mayor for getting it right every time with his police chief picks, spotty record to the contrary.

The Sun-Times editorial page was even worse on Sunday, using its vast warehouse of wisdom to declare that "Weis has the experience to restore Police Dept. luster."

Really? How does the Sun-Times know?

And how can you restore luster to a department that never had it?

The Sun-Times cites the U.S. attorney in Philadelphia saying "Jody had an appreciation for getting a handle on street violence" as evidence.

Case closed. I'm sure the other candidates didn't have a similar appreciation.

The truth is that no matter who the mayor picked for the job, outside of Drew Peterson, the editorial boards would have written the exact same approving pieces. They always do.

*

The Sun-Times gets particularly knotted up in its own favorable comparison of Weis to outsider U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald. "Unlike Fitzgerald, though, he won't be a detached third party working to change the system, but basically one of the guys."

So . . . not an outside reformer then?

It's doubtful Weis will be one of the guys, either, seeing as how he has never been a street cop (many of whom are not pleased with that fact). But if he was, that would run counter to the paper's vision of Weis as a man unencumbered by personal relationships - a notion that also conveniently leaves out the mayor who hand-picked him.

"His devotion to beat cops, encapsulated by his promise that 'I will have their back 100 percent,' raises the possibility he will continue the sorry tradition of slapping police who abuse their authority on the back when they need a kick in the rear."

So . . . not an outside reformer then?

"But when outsiders prove themselves winners here, whether in the football arena like Mike Ditka or the political arena like Barack Obama, Chicagoans embrace those individuals like one of their own."

What is this, high school? What a bunch of nonsense. On at least five different levels.

(Including the fact that the Sun-Times's owner, editor-in-chief and, I believe, its editorial page editor are outsiders - and not even proven winners.)

Meanwhile, we still have very little idea why the mayor picked Weis and what Weis plans to do.

Snowblind
"If a black president can serve all races, why can't a white police chief?" race scholar Neil Steinberg asked on Sunday.

Where to start?

A) We've never elected a black president - in part because so many white people think they won't be fairly served.

B) Steinberg's comfort with Barack Obama only illustrates his preference for people of color who don't discuss race.

C) Nobody said a white police chief couldn't serve all races. But we do have a sorry racial history here which includes the finding that the city had a de facto policy of torturing black suspects. The benefit of the doubt has been lost.

D) Like the editorial pages, Steinberg is asking the wrong question. The questions right now start with: Why Jody Weis? What is his plan?

The Beachwood Tip Line: The one and only.

Posted by Lou at 09:35 AM | Permalink

Bear Monday: Giant Suicide

Call it death by a thousand tiny wounds, just about all of which were self-inflicted. The Giants did a few things right down the stretch of Sunday's showdown at Soldier Field, but mostly the Bears chipped and chipped and chipped away at themselves until they crumbled. The home team could have survived the half-dozen infuriating five-yard flags that flew at all the wrong moments. They could have persevered through the offensive ineptitude. They could have overcome the same stinkin' defensive deficiencies we've been decrying for months. But they couldn't survive all of them stuffed into one atrocious second half.

And so Eli Manning, who for a long time seemed to be channeling the haunted spirits of so many sub-par Soldier Field quarterbacks past, regained command in time to lead the Giants to victory.

Manning was so bad that surely coach Tom Coughlin spent some time contemplating the nuclear option. For the Giants that would be benching Manning and sending in . . . the heaviest quarterback in history. Back-up Jared Lorenzen set a slew of passing records at the University of Kentucky despite tipping the scales well north (topping out at 322 pounds) of most of his offensive linemen. In so doing he inspired teammates, coaches, fans and nicknamers. His Wikipedia entry notes that at various times Lorenzen, who signed with the Giants as an undrafted free agent in 2004 and has since worked his way up to second string, has been dubbed The Hefty Lefty, The Pillsbury Throwboy, the Round Mound of Touchdown and the BBQ (the Big Beautiful Quarterback).

After Manning threw his second pass right to Brian Urlacher and then digressed even further for most of the first three quarters Sunday, we at home were again left to wonder why on God's green earth did this charisma-challenged, ubiquitously unhappy baby brother shun sunny San Diego on Draft Day several years ago. In so doing he essentially engineered a trade to the blast furnace known as the New York sporting scene, seemingly the absolute worst place for this former University of Mississippi good-old-boy gunslinger to ply his trade. It still seems highly unlikely that Eli will ever lead the Giants to the Promised Land. But I suppose stranger things have happened - like a team amassing four takeaways to its opponent's zero and still finding a way to lose.

On to Sunday's lowlights:

* Overall, the home team blew a Giant opportunity to pull into a tie for the second wild-card spot (with the Lions and the Vikings and the Cardinals fascinatingly enough). A win would also have left the Bears only a game in back of New York for the first wild card. All that's left is cold comfort: whoever does win the wild cards will earn the right to be killed by either the second-tier division champs (almost certainly Seattle and Tampa Bay) or - in the event of a big ol' first-round upset - Packer or Cowboy juggernauts coming off byes.

* Even when the teams aren't very good, the top two media markets in the NFL and a start-time of 3:15 CST bring out the best in the booth. Joe Buck and Troy Aikman were on the call. I like Buck better on football than baseball (although I sympathize with the almost impossible task of coming up with enough compelling things to say to fill a four-hour-plus playoff game broadcast), and I have expressed my admiration for Aikman in the past. But he wasn't at the top of his game on Sunday. He parroted way too much of the same crap we've been hearing from poorly prepared NFL talking heads for far too long. The worst of the first half was Aikman's assessment that six-time Pro-Bowler Olin Kreutz, who has actually been one of the worst centers in the NFC this season, is well on his way to a seventh trip to Hawaii.

* Rex Grossman was not off to a good start when he flinched something fierce on his first play from scrimmage after (I think) hearing the crowd suddenly get a little louder (I have no idea why this happened but I heard it and there didn't seem to be any other reason for Grossman to have so visibly braced himself for a blind-side hit that never came). Then again the former Gator still managed to recover and hit Adrian Peterson for a big gain down the sideline.

* Then the Bears were running the hurry-up offense! And they attempted four passes in a row to start the game! Don't tell Lovie but this definitely didn't qualify as "getting off the bus running." Sure enough, all those passes set up a couple productive runs in the red zone (moving the ball to the five), which set up a wide-open touchdown pass to Desmond Clark. Blimey!

* Three times in the first half, Grossman took big third-down losses with seemingly ill-advised pocket retreats. But were those moves so clearly avoidable? On at least two of those occasions (counter to what Aikman was saying), there was clear pressure up the middle in addition to ends coming free off the edges. Twice Robbie Gould bailed Grossman out, nailing field goals that were double-digit yards longer than they would have been had the quarterback managed to just throw passes away. Brad Maynard, punting from 11 yards in back of the line of scrimmage rather than the usual 16, couldn't do the same from the back of his own end zone. In fact it looked like Maynard's punt actually deflected off a Bear blocker who had been pushed into the path of his kick.

The subsequent 30-yard wobbler set up the Giants' only points until halfway through the fourth quarter. The Giants didn't score for the rest of the first half but their rushing game did repeatedly gash the Bear defense to the tune of Derrick Ward piling up 104 yards on his first 10 carries.

* At least Rex didn't fumble the ball! Or throw an interception for goodness sake! He didn't even throw any passes that should have been intercepted but were dropped. What more do you want? OK, maybe if he could have hit Bernard Berrian on just one off those seemingly wide-open fly patterns that all went incomplete.

* And that spike that Grossman threw as the clock ticked under 30 seconds before halftime is one of the things that drives me crazy about NFL football. People! You cannot just give away a down in that situation! Come up to the line and throw a fade to one of your wideouts against defensive backs that are clearly back on their heels. They either catch it or it falls incomplete to stop the clock. If you feel you must stop the clock, take the timeout. Then you've got three shots (if you want, just keep rolling your quarterback outside of the tackle box so that when trouble comes, he can just throw it away) at the end zone before going for three.

* As for the second half, first of all, can we not have too much whining about how tough it was for the defense being on the field for as long as it was? The Bears rotate in multiple players at many positions after all and therefore should never be completely fatigued. More importantly, the best way for a defense to get off the field and therefore avoid fatigue is to make a stop, which they just couldn't do when it mattered.

* It looked like the defense was really going to take command in the second half, just like it used to during the Glory Days way back in . . . 2006. First, Adewale Ogunleye forced and recovered a huge fumble. Then Jamar Williams blasted through the wedge and right through return man Ahmad Bradshaw on the kickoff following Gould's third straight dead-center field goal. Mark Anderson assisted on an Anthony Adams sack and it looked like the Bears were going in for the kill. And then Peanut Tillman made another huge play, taking an interception away from 6-foot-7 Plaxico Burress. But then the big plays evaporated. And on offense, while Grossman wasn't great, a bigger problem was the fact that Adrian Peterson just could not break a tackle, even of the one-handed variety. And the next thing you knew, the Giants took a lead they never should have even sniffed and then held on.

*

Jim Coffman brings you Bear Monday every . . . . Monday.

Posted by Lou at 07:38 AM | Permalink

Hawk TV!

Consider Friday and Saturday evenings' games exhibits 1A and 1B in the case for putting Blackhawks home contests on TV. It doesn't seem possible this case will ever really need to be made again but hardened Hawks fans won't be completely convinced for a while yet that the recent run of enlightened leadership at 1901 West Madison won't suddenly be exposed as a mirage. After all, the biggest reason the Hawks needed to televise their contests at the United Center wasn't exactly complicated. They needed to improve the odds the fans at home would see at least as many victories as setbacks, what with winning being about the best marketing a team can do and all.

Sure enough, the Blackhawks played glorious hockey right from the jump at the UC Friday against coach Wayne Gretzky's Phoenix Coyotes. They raced out to five splendid scores (they were all slick passing plays leading to great shots - not a lucky-bounce goal among them) in the first 10 minutes. And they eventually cruised to a deliciously decisive 6-1 win.

In the old days (actually . . . in the October days) before the decision announced last month to finally start regularly broadcasting hockey on Comcast live from the West Side, potential fans might have heard or read about Friday's impressive performance and then tuned in for the weekend's only televised action the next evening. And then of course they would have seen the homestanding St. Louis Blues give the Hawks a thumpin' that wasn't as close as the 3-1 final. Fortunately, even after the second game, the events of the night before remained fresh.

And now . . . Snippets!

* Play-by-play man Dan Kelly and analyst Eddie Olczyk did a serviceable job on the mike for both games. I will say that a Kelly pre-game comment Friday about borrowing some of the mousse Olczyk uses in his hair had me pining for the old days. I'm reasonably confident longtime Hawk chronicler Lloyd Petit never referenced hair care in any way, shape or form during his storied career.

* Martin Havlat, the leading returning scorer who celebrated his return from a shoulder injury to the Hawks lineup earlier last week against Tampa Bay (a 5-1 win) with goals near the start of both the first and second periods, kicks things off again. His smooth move around a defender at the blue line enables him to slip the puck to Tuomo Ruutu, who snaps it into the net under the arm of Coyote goalie Ilya Bryzgalov.

* A little while after a Coyote shot rings off the post (there's a little of that hockey luck) The Taser (rookie forward Jonathan Toews) scores his 10th goal of the season. And then young Dustin Byfuglien goes to work. He has the Hawks' heaviest slap shot and he uses it to score three goals on three straight shots in less than six minutes. He might not have three rapid-fire scoring chances, and cash in all three with perfectly placed shots, like that again in his career. And it is looking like the 6-3, 246-pound defenseman may be settling in for a long run on the Blackhawk blue line. Byfuglien's second goal is set up by Toews and fellow rookie (and Blackhawk leading point producer with seven goals and 20 assists) Patrick Kane; this team's potential seems just about limitless.

* And oh by the way, it isn't enough for the announcers to tell us that somehow the correct pronunciation of Byfuglien's name is Buff-lin. We need a little more information about what is potentially the biggest spelling-pronunciation differential in Illinois and its neighboring states since Brett Favre came along.

* After Byfuglien's third goal a brief shot of the ice shows that at least a half-dozen fans have heaved their hats onto the ice in honor of the three-goal performance. Shortly thereafter, Olczyk opines "No lead is safe in this league." Ed, this lead is safe. Phoenix's leading scorer is former Hawk Radim Vrbata (9 goals) and he isn't exactly tearing it up out there.

* Another rookie, Colin Fraser (playing in only his second game in the NHL), livens up the last few minutes of the first period by dropping his gloves with Phoenix tough guy Daniel Carcillo. Fraser gets in a few shots early but the tide turns and Carcillo, who already has more than 100 penalty minutes, gives the rookie "a rough ride" before the combatants are separated. Side-ice reporter Josh Mora reveals he had a pre-game conversation with Blackhawk goon Dave Koci (who recently returned to the lineup after being sidelined for two weeks with a broken nose) in which he asked if Koci and Carcillo "might have a go." Koci responded "Nah, he's more of a middleweight." Good to see the guys are so sporting.

* The primary highlight of the rest of the game, other that Ruutu's second goal, is an interview with new Hawks president John McDonough. My favorite part is when McDonough talks about the future and particularly about the Blackhawks' "po-tential." He stresses the first syllable and then some, later repeats it with even more emphasis and if you didn't know better, you'd swear he'd been working for this hockey organ-I-zation all his life.

McDonough later notes that one of the things about the Blackhawks that "jolted him" as he learned more about the team and the sport after decades spent working for the Cubs was the fact that the team has four official dentists.

* In the aftermath of Friday's game, it is looking more and more like former superstar Denis Savard has a reasonable shot to be the rare former superstar player who successfully transitions into coaching. Not so Gretzky, who it must be noted was a slightly larger star than Savvy, and everyone else who ever played the game. It seemed crystal clear a timeout should have been called (OK, it was mostly clear because Olczyk, a former coach himself, repeated the point pretty much nonstop for the next few minutes) after the Hawks' third goal back in the first period - and if not after the third then certainly after the fourth Hawks' tally. In a related matter, if a coach is going to change the goalie, he probably needs to do so before the game is totally out of reach. The Coyotes have struggled throughout Gretzky's tenure and while you can make the argument that the squad is undermanned, Gretzky simply hasn't distinguished himself as a line-changer.

* In the end, let's be clear about one thing: the main thing the Blackhawks have going for them this year is that they have been bad enough long enough to finally pile up enough top-10 draft picks to turn things around. But let's also note that the 16,000-plus who attended Friday's game despite the opportunity to watch it at home certainly weren't complaining.

*

Jim Coffman is covering this season's historic home Hawks telecasts for the Beachwood.

Posted by Lou at 07:27 AM | Permalink

A Hole to China: Part 1

The first of five parts.

She left.

I asked for it, I think. Yes. Come to think of it, I believe I did ask for it quite specifically. Well. There. There you go.

I wanted to get back to her.

It would be like digging a hole to China.

Not like a slow boat to China, because that is a reality, something that could readily happen. This hole is a hole in my soul, rendered by the arrow having been pulled back out by Cupid, crudely and diagonally back through my heart, as though through a flesh globe, and which to fill would require the dirt dug out from a hole to China. Cupid breaks the arrow over his chubby knee.

Another hole. They keep happening. There goes a ghost of me. I put it on the payroll. Kind of thing that happens a lot here in Stinkweed.

Hole to China


Yes: Chicago is Pottawattomie for Stinkweed.

And I tell you this: I know I'm not the Shit, but I smell it everywhere. This town, at this time, is rife with it, and Time will bear this fact out. In the meantime, I urge you to believe.

I'm not the Shit, but I'm close to it, real close.

Actually, I pulled it out, this arrow, she and I pulled it out together, but it's easier to blame somebody else. Big, fat, Jupiter-red Cupid got sick of us bitching and pulled his fucking arrows back out. You hate what you have and love what you want. You'll no sooner cure that wont than dig a hole to China, but, if it makes you feel better for now, set about your plans.


You get to thinking a lot about trowels and levels, polishing up the high school French for when you get there.

That kind of thing.

And, in the weeks after you stop seeing someone, if you like, you think a lot about getting back together, or, I do anyway, even though you know it will never happen, and isn't supposed to happen. It's just something you imagine, a soothing fantasy that helps you get through that particular day, and gradually it gets easier. A fantasy is a pain reliever. All the relief you can legally buy without a prescription. Go ahead and start digging the hole if it helps for now. Slowly. If there were a boat, it would definitely be slow. And somewhat drunken. So. Best get started.

She left. Gone. "Goodbye now." Goodbye now.

*

I wanted to get back at her. Yes. Living well is (often) the best revenge and revenge was seeming sweet, truly sweet. Sweet even if it was wrong. Sweeter even for being wrong.

She always wanted me to write about her. As a result, I never did.

Then one day I and I suddenly and (not quite) wholly without warning had to come up with something to do other than hate myself for the six months it would take just to decompress from having been with this powerful woman so long after the future became more important than the present, the six months I was figuring it was going to take before I would be myself again, whoever the fuck that was. There. Six months of being somebody else, a guy in less pain. And, of course, it ends up being a fuck of a lot longer than six months, in the end, when it stops.

Love is the drug? I had to live through withdrawal. OK, then.

I hired my pre-ghost to Ghost the novelization.

Fucker charges too much. Go:

Billy was mangled.

Mangled = brutalized by booze and drugs and their attendant hangovers. Self-abused in the guise of distraction or even celebration. It starts before love ends, it starts as the end of love looms and carries one through the end and past it, into near-oblivion if not actual oblivion. Invariably, the morning after, Billy was mangled. The self-destruction could end only when he realized, "This has got to stop."

*

"You're just a penis with an act." She actually said that to me once. Early on. I couldn't believe it. It resonated for days. It seemed really true. And really scary.

"Power corrupts," I would go now. "Behold a beautiful woman."

Absolute power absolutely. Boom. There.

Nobody stays together anymore. We were both single and we were both at a party. I and I like to party a lot. She isn't into it so much. And this is where it begins and ends, basically. I'll just come out and go: this is like one of those stories about a guy who I'll just say is a friend of mine. It's not me, it's this friend of mine that I'm close to, I swear to God. He has, like, sextophenia or something. At least six different, distinct personalities by my last perhaps faulty count. His is a myriad of voices in three-dimensions: six different guys, then each are manic/depressive, then a couple aren't sure they're entirely just guys. Would you blame a guy? Could you blame the guy?

People are animals. They are compelled to obey the laws of nature (gravity, physics, physicality). She and I were like two little party squirrels whose endless movements converged in an energy that surged and then waned geometrically. It burnt pretty hot and pretty fast, in a sometimes truly cruel friction, and with a remarkable, regretful, strictly inescapable gravity. One squirrel was red, and one was black.

"Nobody should get married anymore. It ruins everything. It really ruins everything."

Billy was mangled.

Billy began to think. It was a big moment.

Billy was broker than shit. And he did not care. It was almost un-American.

He figured America was broker than shit too and could still kick anybody's ass. That was the big difference. We're fried too, but we can kick your motherfucking ass, so, it's OK, right? RIGHT?

Billy is a patriot. A true lover.

He'd been recently let go as journalist for a financial rag, journalism being the kind of day job an aspiring creative writer like Billy thought would be perfect. Turns out, no day job is any perfecter than any other. He didn't get any more creative writing done as a journalist than he would've done as a housepainter bartender. Journalism was no better or worse than anything else, provided it wasn't celebrity journalism.

If there was one thing Billy hated more than poetry, it was celebrity journalism.

-

Coming Tuesday: She drank beer. "Beer!" Billy was very, very excited about that.

-

J. J. Tindall is the Beachwood's poet-in-residence. He can reached at jjtindall@yahoo.com. Images graciously provided by Brett Johnson.

Posted by Lou at 01:33 AM | Permalink

RockNotes: Wilco and the Sell-Outs

I saw one of those damn Volkswagen commercials using Wilco's music again today and I'm still not resigned to it. It still upsets me, probably because I really thought Jeff Tweedy and friends had that special something that elevates their rock 'n' roll art beyond crass commerce - an apparently naive belief. They've had a pair of Top 10 albums, after all (including their latest, Sky Blue Sky), and while I'm certainly not going to say the guys in the band should be forced to busk on the streets, wasn't there enough money coming in?

VW.jpgWas the VW payday really worth sacrificing their integrity? Because that's what they did. They removed themselves from that best of all worlds: Bands that are commercially successful on their own artistically whole terms. Those bands are important because they give everyone else who's making sacrifices for their integrity hope that there just may be a light at the end of the tunnel.

They try to justify it by saying they've licensed "hundreds" of songs to TV shows and movies. Okay, two things: TV shows and movies aren't commercials. They're artistic endeavors using the music of other artists to hopefully create something with merit. There's a huge difference. Also: If Wilco has been licensing "hundreds" of songs, that means they're probably not worrying about where next month's rent is coming from.

They also say that thanks to the tiny playlists of the corporate titans that have a stranglehold on radio, licensing music to commercials is one of the few viable ways to get your music heard nowadays. But I just don't buy the premise that that's where you have to go to get heard. Geez, I haven't noticed a lack of radio airplay stopping bands like Radiohead from gaining great amounts of buzz. Are they doing commercials? If Wilco wants to recruit new fans, why not give away downloads of their next album like Radiohead just did, thus bypassing the evil (but convenient-to-blame) radio industry altogether?

Wilco would be a perfect candidate to go that route - an established band at the edges of the mainstream that you don't hear on the radio, but with enough of a cult following to generate a lot of free publicity by making a stand against the corporate gatekeepers, instead of joining them in a comfy VW ride. Those fans who liked it would contribute what they thought it was worth - but since Wilco is now making the big advertising bucks, probably not many listeners would be motivated to pay much of anything.

But now that our local heroes have indeed become the backdrop to a bunch of stupid car commercials, it's time to officially add them to the list of famous rock 'n' roll sell-outs - here thoughtfully provided by the Canadian newspaper the Windsor Star. The list begins in 1971, the year rock's original artistic integrity showed the first signs of corporate creep and ends in a Bug, which at one time was considered the vehicle of the uncompromised.

1971: The New Seekers turn a jingle into a single when they re-record the Coca-Cola song "I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing." Comment: The New Seekers. Cripes. It figures the first knife in the back would come from a passel of nobodies. They're the slippery slope incarnate.

1981: The Rolling Stones sign the first corporate sponsorship contract for a rock tour with Jovan perfume. They have since been sponsored by Budweiser, Sprint and Tommy Hilfiger. Comment: Have the Stones really done anything worth a damn ever since? Don't bother to answer.

the_king.jpg1985: Burger King uses Aretha Franklin's "Freeway of Love" in a campaign, believed to be the first licensing of the master recording of a hit. Comment: Nineteen-eighty-five, the year soul sold its soul.

1987: Nike pays Capitol Records and Michael Jackson $250,000 to use the Beatles' "Revolution." It is the first and last significant instance of concerted fan protest against not just the marketing use of a beloved song, but the vitiation of the song's message. Comment: The year it all broke. It must be noted that Yoko Ono supported Jacko's cynical ploy, once and for all confirming our suspicions that she always thought rock 'n' roll was just a silly past-time, and as such, it was okay to milk it some.

1989: Madonna's "Like a Prayer" is the first song by a pop superstar to debut as a commercial before it is released as a single. The song airs in a Pepsi ad the night before it is unveiled on MTV. Comment: Madonna establishes herself as the antithesis of all that is good and holy about music. Her stage name is an un-ironic slap in the face to people who worship great music.

2003: Led Zeppelin finally agrees to license one of its songs, "Rock and Roll," to Cadillac for an ad campaign. The amount of money involved is said to be "ridiculous," although by whom is not known. Comment: Although it is indeed a sell-out, the fact that Zep held out until 2003 is nothing short of a miracle. Page and Plant seem to be making up for lost time, though: They've also licensed themselves for an amusement park ride.

2004: U2 and Apple announce a "co-branding" deal involving the sale of a custom U2 iPod. Apple has the rights to sell U2 songs from the How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb album on its iTunes service. Comment: Should be called, How To Dismantle 20 Years of Artistic Integrity and Become a Cartoon Version of Yourself in One Fell Swoop.

2007: Art-rock band Wilco strikes a deal for their music to be heard in a series of six Volkswagen commercials. Comment: Roger, Wilco and out.

*

For a good time, send your comments to Don. And then check out the RockNotes collection.

Posted by Don at 12:44 AM | Permalink

December 01, 2007

The Weekend Desk Report

Our extra-special Evel Knievel Memorial Edition.

Market Update
Eternally humane Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has announced a plan to delay the inevitable ripping off of the Band-Aid for a few years, hopefully giving Americans more time to heal. Unfortunately for Chicago, it ain't our only bandage.

County Your Pennies
Of course, Band-Aids aren't all that effective against suppurating flesh wounds anyway.

Puttin' On the Oil
Responding to very real threats from a pack of school-yard bullies, the U.S. House of Representatives announced plans this week for a leaner, meaner auto fleet . . . someday. "Just wait until 2020," Speaker Nancy Pelosi emphatically stated. "They'll have 40% less of us to push around."

Thank Sinking Feeling
Leave it to the U.N. to rain all over Pelosi's parade, pointing out that 40% of America's roads will likely be under water by then anyway.

Snow Hawk
State-wide dirt bag Rod Blagojevich has weighed in on the pending Mitchell Report by playing hooky in an entirely new way. "I prefer to watch a game that wasn't rigged," he oozed, leading officials in Springfield to speculate Blago may actually turn up for work this summer. Skeptics, however, still point out he's never had a problem with a rigged game before.

Wait 'Til Next Year
Meanwhile, fans of the city's second-most cursed sports franchise and sincerely hoping Blago leaves his shitty luck on the North side.

Posted by Natasha at 08:03 AM | Permalink

MUSIC - Smells like tech spirit.
TV - It's A So-Called Wonderful Life.
POLITICS - Inside Obama's internal report.
SPORTS - Down the Bears memory hole.

BOOKS - Beachwood's best books of the year.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Australia 2008 in Review.

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