Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Occludine 8, 31.


Where is this?

Know any good homemade headache remedies?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Diary: February 2009.

February has been defined by:

- Reading about adolescent suicide and General Motors during the 1980s.
- Frequent stops at "Luck's Food" which is my new favorite Vietnamiese eatery on Argyle.
- Tuesday Funk, naturally.
- RPGs with the scavhunt kids.
- The main event has been the preparation and execution of Gothic Funk Party #19 and the launch of the Paramanu Pentaquark.
- Since then I've been trying to decompress, revising Beowulf, and working on the scavhunt anthology. Which all seem mutually exclusive.
- I've also rediscovered The Legend of Zelda III: A Link to the Past.

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Concept: Welcome to my Street Fair!

A Street Fair

I've eliminated the distinction between "frequently" and "infrequently" updated friends, and I've added some links for friends who've been blogging for awhile now. A lot of these sites are really cool, and you should check them out. So imagine this: you're walking down a grassy unpaved street amidst big old brick buldings on a warm sunny day in Blue-Skies-Fallingville. You turn a corner and wham! You're in the midst of a street fair. Ideas are on sale here; art and politics and anecdote and adventure. Where do you turn? You wander from kiosk to kiosk. Here's what you find:

Black Maze Books is a small press publisher specializing in raunchy poetry, but previewing mysterious and grandiose works for the future. It is just adjacent to Bud to Blossom, which is a sort of pseudo-ambassadorship to Australia with delicious scent of fresh-baked good food floating through the air. EGAD is populated with all sorts of political progressives, astrophysicists, Minnesotans, Israelis. It's a mess of telescopes and charts.

One finds EGAD to be hauntingly similar to Elisabeth Blair and her sister sites. They both have telescopes. Now this is a big table with lots of goodies; music and art and history. It's fronted by an equally artistic but more politically driven Dazzling Surprises, heir apparent to the Third Rail Themes. These tables feature an eloquent and compelling lecture series, currently driven by observations of Ghana.

(f)lawless occasionally stops by the other tables to steal their food, or maybe to egg Black Maze Books. Forge 22 Web Design tries to look all sleek and professional, but is inclined to steal food as well.

Two masked carnivalers serve up jambalaya at From the City of Big Shoulders to the Big Easy, under the watchful gaze of a couple of fierce kittens. This dynamic is whimsically documented by the diligent writers at Gnash Nosh. And Gyda's Song is generally quiet, but selling some stunning antique thoughts. Helen's Cafeteria of Stray Thoughts is populated by a staff of Slovakians with predilections for Harry Potter and Star Wars, and the adjacent John D. Martin table discusses these things from the Egyptian-American perspective.

The Layabouting kiosk may seem the most laid-back of the whole bunch, but they're extraordinarily talkative. If you approach this table, don't expect to leave in less than a half-hour, or without learning twenty new things you never thought of before.

The Leila Texts features a consortium of awesome text-messaging Leilas (but almost all of them are imposters!) which is necely set off by the steady stream of Italo blasting out from the Middle Branch Productions table. Such grooves are carved into bias-smashing arguments and dance over at The New PolyAnna.

Oh fragious day, calous, calay!, Once Bitten, Twice Registered, Unieuph, and Virtually Cleistogamic all have a decayed, unattended air to them. The cypress moss hangs heavy here. Most of these are adorned and stacked-high with relics of scavenger hunts past and gone. The same could be said for Small Shelly Fauna, with, of course, the addition of the skeletons of extinct denizens of the Permian Period.

The Patience Family is chilling out, patiently, which is to say a la San Francisco. The Pork Chop Express farms out behind their kiosk, trying to speak in halting Italian.

Smallhouse Log is one of the strangest looking tables: An admixture of religious imagery and dada-like art. Don't confuse it with the throne of The Wolf Baron, where you can get three opinions for the price of one.

All of the goods here are technically free. You can buy them for the price of time.

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Occludine 6, 31.

The Local - Sweden's News in English: Drunken 'rescuer' smashes snowmobile into tree.

What is your favorite Hanna-Barbera cartoon?

Friday, February 20, 2009

Occludine 3, 31.


Michigan or Michigan State?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Diary: January, 2009.

January has been defined by:

- Intensely reading Les Misèrables; feeling all "shook up" by it. The unabridged version.
- I went to the Art Institute to see the East and Southeast Asian Art, as well as Ancient and Roman Art. It's getting bigger, that Art Institute. Afterwards I went down to Hyde Park to drink at the Falcon with some Scavhunt judges.
- I also went to the MCA, and willingly submitted to the luminous immensity of the LED lights in the Jenny Holzer exhibit.
- Throwing my my wife's dinner and my brother's bachelors party. He came into Chicago on a Friday and we went out with Sky, Emma, Armand, Reinhardt, and Sam. We went to an Italian place in Old Town, then out to the burbs to play glow-in the dark mini-golf. It was cold. The next day, we all dress to the nines and took my brother out for his "inauguration into marriage"... Sam, and Cody's friends Andy and Ryan and I all dressed up as cabinet officials. We went out for Mexican at Fiesta Mexicana, then a play about Chicago ghosts, then a piano bar, then bowling. We closed out the night at the Golden Apple diner, dropped off Cody's friends in Evanston, and got home as the sun was coming up. The next day I went to church at St. Ita's and finished reading Les Misèrables. The next morning, I said goodbye to Cody.
- Somewhat less intensely reading The Romance of the Forest.
- In Chicago, -15 below zero, Fahrenheit.
- The Obama Inauguration, which was somewhat more affecting than I was expecting it to be, although it was still far less affecting than the actual election.
- Fire drills at work.
- Work slowdown due to the rough economy.
- Picking up intensity on the Paramanu Pentaquark. I had a long and intense meeting with Sean, Sam, Sky, Amber, and Bill about launch potentialities.
- The night before this, Barb threw Gothic Funk Party #18: The Storyteller. We saw Jim Henson projected upon the walls at the Peter Jones gallery theater.
- Work was busy though, inostensibly. This was our busy time of year.
- I didn't blog.
- I did read about several nations: Nigeria, Cameroon, and the Republic of the Congo. And I read Wordsworth and Coleridge.
- Every Saturday I had an orientation session for the Chi·Town Daily News. I also have done some work for a congressional campaign, and have been published in the Flint free monthly Broadside.

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Occludine 2, 31.

Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club.

What name would you give your krewe?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Event: The Saturn Lasted for 19 Years.

New York Times: A Painful Departure for G.M. Brands.

My parents bought one of the first Saturns off the line in '91, and it was a great little car. Not super comfortable, perhaps, and it rattled at high speeds, but great mileage and it felt versatile. This was the car I learned to drive in, and it served me through high school and much of college.

In '96 the Saturn set aside its cool, saavy, expressive face in favor of a bulkier, more rounded look. It also set aside about 10 mpg. I remember noticing this at the time, with dismay. I wasn't paying for the car, but I was helping to pay for gas. I remember thinking, "I couldn't even afford gas one of these newer Saturns."

Saturn, which Roger Smith unveiled as a "process car" that would both revitalize management-labor-consumer relations and effetively fight compact imports was a massive expenditure, already several billion in the red by the time the first car ran off the line. By the time it had the momentum to perhaps start turning a profit, its best vehicles, and debatably its best years, were already behind it.

I'm really couldn't care much less about Hummer and Saab. I agree, Pontiac is an icon, and it will be sad to see it go. But so much was invested in the Saturn experiment that to see it go down so precipitately... it's a disappointment.

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Occludine 1, 31.


Where is this?

(Hint: Answering this question will be the start of a beautiful friendship.)

Which golden-era Hollywood flick would you most like to inhabit?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Event: Some Compelling Political Pieces...

At Street Prophets today: Here.

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Nimbus 28, 31.


On the first part of the journey
I was looking at all the life.
There were plants and birds and rocks and things.
There was sand and hills and rings.
The first thing I met was a fly with a buzz
and the sky with no clouds.
The heat was hot and the ground was dry
but the air was full of sound.

I've been through the desert on a horse with no name.
It felt good to be out of the rain.
In the desert you can remember your name
cause there ain't no one for to give you no pain

After two days in the desert sun
my skin began to turn red.
After three days in the desert fun
I was looking at a river bed
and the story it told of a river that flowed
made me sad to think it was dead.

After nine days I let the horse run free
cause the desert had turned to sea.
There were plants and birds and rocks and things
There was sand and hills and rings.
The ocean is a desert with its life underground
and a perfect disguise above.
under the cities lies a heart made of ground
but the humans will give no love.

Who said this?

And what is it about?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Diary: What Has Happened: New Years 2009.

I'm going to clip along a little bit faster here, because I want to get back to the present and write about the moment again.

For New Years we drove down to Ohio, where we celebrated 2009's birth with dad J and some delightfully bitter IPA at the Weasel Boy Microbrewery in Zanesville. I got my wife a painting, which was a significant purchase, but the sort of thing you have to leap upon when you get the opportunity. We got home awhile after midnight and caught up on some sleep, which was much needed at that point.

On New Years day we celebrated (of course) with sauer kraut and pork. We went to church, finished giving out our Christmas presents and spent some time picking up a last few items at the Colony Square Mall. We did not, tragically, have a chance to stop at Nichols for a slaw dog.

On Friday, we visited mom alone (since Bill is out of state), and Julie came with us. Then on Saturday we swung up toward Canton/Akron and went out to a Mediterranean place for lunch with Jeff and Chelsea. The town we were in was technically Massillon, which is comparable in population to Burton or Bridgeport. It's a big football town, and all around were gigantic murals situating the town in a divine order of athletic heroism ("and then God created Massilon"). Evidently each boy who is born in the local hospital is given a footbal. Weird as that is (after all, it is Ohio) the murals were absolutely visionary, massively scaled, beautifully executed, and diligently maintained.

Southeast Ohio is in the foothills of the Appalachians; it's gorgeous. We returned to Zanesville and visited with John and Sue for awhile, before spending the last night at dad's. The next day, we drove off past the giant basket of Dresden, saw Mandy and Justin on the way back, and got home late in the evening. It was a fun trip.

To be continued...

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Nimbus 27, 31.

To Fix Detroit, Obama Is Said to Drop Plan for 'Car Czar'.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate the job the Obama administration is doing so far?

Friday, February 13, 2009

Nimbus 24, 31.


What are your plans for tonight?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Nimbus 23, 31.

The Gothic Funk Nation.
I'm linking to us today, because tomorrow night you will be able to follow this page to the debut issue of our new arts journal, The Paramanu Pentaquark.

Name a festival you consider to have been highly successful.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Nimbus 22, 31.


- Where is this?

What did you expect?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Concept: Gothic Funk Party #19: No Luck in Love, AND Paramanu Pentaquark Launch Event

Gothic Funk Nation
In collaboration with Black Automatic and Front 312.

Launch of the
Paramanu Pentaquark:

Afterparty of:
AWP Writer's Conference

Reinhardt Suarez
Elisabeth Blair
Jacob Saenz
Pierre Abelard

$5 Donation from 8 - 10:30
Includes a Copy of the Journal

$5 LeTourment Absinthe
$3 Domestics
$3 Well Drinks
$2.50 PBR

Friday, February 13
8 PM, 2nd Story Loft, 1931 N Milwaukee
Above Lucky Number Grill

The Gothic Funk Nation:
Flier Design:

This event has been a long time in the coming, which is why I'm spending this much time gushing about it. We tried to create a journal starting in November 2007, and it's finally coming to fruition. That this launch coincides with the AWP Conference (when all sorts of writers from all over the country are in Chicago), and Front 312's monthly event, and Friday the 13th, and Valentines Day is like a grand conjunction of the stars.

Check out the Front 312 poster:

The launch is going to be hot, but if you can't make it, the Journal will be available online from as of Friday the 13th.

In case you're wondering, Gothic Funk Parties look like this:

and this:

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Nimbus 21, 31.

"Often the hearts of men and women are stirred, as likewise they are soothed in their sorrows, more by example than by words."
- Who said this?

Are you a very good swimmer?

Monday, February 09, 2009

EVENT: Flint Mayor Don Williamson Resigns.

And Flint, Michigan has just had another seismic day.

Andy Heller writes some insightful comments on the resignation.

Here's my take on his position:

Just a few observations from a 11-year ex-pat.


"Michael Brown, appointed as city administrator last week by Williamson, becomes mayor in the short term. He's a steady, peacemaker type who will bring what order he can to City Hall."

Darnell Earley was far and away the best mayor I've ever seen preside over Flint. Chicago has a reputation for nasty politics, but Flint's scene seems comparable if not worse. The trick is in what you said above... Brown doesn't want the job. The same was true for Darnell Earley. A mayor who "doesn't want the job" is freed from his political ambitions to pursue an aggressive agenda for the city of Flint. A city as troubled as Flint doesn't have any room for personal ambitions and vanities. Which is why I'm optimistic about Brown, and hope he'll maybe reconsider.


While I agree, it's a bad idea to endorse anyone before we've seen the full ticket, things have changed a lot since Dayne Walling lost. He was running on a platform of coalition progress and innovative troubleshooting which has (and many people observed this at the time) had a lot in common with Obama's strategy. Flint's choice of Don Williamson was a -- understandable perhaps -- fearful and skeptical choice. It was a choice that argued that entrenchment and hunkering down will slow a city's deterioration, and that this is preferable to the risk of trying a new direction. Given Flint's history with experimentation -- AutoWorld, the Don's own Windmill Place, even Job Corps -- this stance should not be a total surprise. Of course other "experiments" (the cultural center, community schooling, the magnet program) have been successes. So it's a mixed bag.

Whoever takes the reins of Flint now is going to have to 1) be willing to take risks, and 2) to recognize the right risks. In the past, the city has gotten one or the other, but not both.

Best of luck to all of you. I'll be watching.

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Diary: What Has Happened: Christmas 2008.

Christmas 2008.

I always mean to get these posts out later than I intend, and by the time I've written what's happened, it's all gone hazy.

So this is the post where I start to catch up on everything that was missed during the month-and-a-half when I was hardly posting at all. Then I will be on the level and it will be okay to return to business as usual around here.

So for starters.


Now I'm going to forget some stuff, so bear with me.

I considered the feeling of Christmas to have started a week early, when my friend Paul came to visit. What was going on in the background? I was playing (and not beating, as happened in 1989) Pool of Radiance, rereading Les Misèrables, and railing about congressional impasses on the auto industry. Also, this whole year has been an attempt to wrap up the research for my novel Urbantasm, which I'll just brag is a huge effort. And it kind of overwhelms everything. I was trying to wrap up my Christmas story, which was harder than I had expected, and scheduling situations meant that when I was hope, I was often home alone.

I hadn't seen Paul since my wedding in 2005, although he is one of my very best friends. He's currently living in Oakland, but he and his girlfriend were visiting family in Detroit, and he came down for a quick visit. I met him at work and we took the Marine Drive bus back... it was a crystal clear afternoon, with snow just a couple days now, so everything was cold and gorgeous and sparkling. Back at the apartment we met up with the wife, and after visiting for awhile we set out for Polish food! (Chicago is the best place to be in the world for Polish food, unless you happen to be in Poland, or at my inlaws house). Afterwards, Paul and I stayed up late talking, which is an old, old tradition of ours, and he helped me unknot some mathematical conundrums for my novel. But I won't get into that now. The next morning, I had to work, so I said goodbye, and that was the last time I saw him. He returned to Michigan, and from there, to California.

The end of the year is a weird time. It's inevitably family-centered; ie. these are the people we have known: always. After that, it's friend-centered; these are the friends we have known for a long, long time; decades and lifetimes. Finally, it is home-centered; this is where you learned how to walk, to ride a bike, and where you caught the bus to school, and so on. With all of this history, it might seemed fixed into the past, but then, this is also the time of the year when people are fixed toward their futures. You hear what plans have been made, classes taken, jobs accepted, jobs left, moves planned, changes dealt with. It isn't quite like a reunion or a funeral, backward-looking. After all, a new year is immanent. So Christmas and New Years are overwhelming to me, in that they pull me in two directions. The present only seems ephemeral, and out of that sense of motion, I realize that I care about all sorts of things more than habit allows me to acknowledge, say, at the beginning of March or the middle of October.

So that's why Paul's visit kicked all of that out.

On the following day, Friday, my office hosted its holiday party, and other than the change of name and carpeting at the venue (and the fact that Sean wasn't there this year), this was also a familiar routine. I avoided karaoke this time, though. We went home, and carried on plans for the holiday. Somewhere in here I also went shopping on the Magnificent Mile which, impending economic crises notwithstanding, was choked with thousands of peoples and lights. I did this work at Macy's and Borders and Crate and Barrel. All of the places Where Tourists Go to do Their Christmas Shopping.

Skip forward an odd week. I got out of work around midday on Christmas Eve, that is, Wednesday, and my wife picked me up. We took Lake Shore Drive as it curved around the South Side, picking up Stony Island, and ultimately the Skyway. This is a great way to leave Chicago: you have the skyline in the rear-mirror for a long time, and then you have the Parisian-style boulevards of old Hyde Park Township before the sprawl of Gary and all its smokestacks. We made decent time to Michigan, grabbed the obligatory Taco Bell, and my wife shared all kinds of medical knowledge. As I get older, this trip seems shorter and shorted, so we blew through Paw Paw and Kalamazoo, and on through Battle Creek and Olivet and Lansing and Perry.

When we finally pulled into the driveway at my parents, we found a note that everyone was celebrating Christmas Eve at my grandmas. We turned the car around and headed back into Flushing. There, it was my grandma, my aunt, my parents, my brother and his girlfriend fiancee. A late night talking and visiting, going over small but interesting-sounding details. The dark solstice can give insomnia a glamorous sheen. That's what I was thinking of when I arrived at St. John Vianney church with Cody, which was packed because several parishes have combined.

I'm past a point of comparing individual Christmases. A few stand out for this or that significant reason, but it's become a reliably happy and comfortable day. On Christmas morning, we were slow to get up, enjoyed our coffee and orange juice, and now put off opening gifts, because it's a sort of delectable moment that you want to savor. Jess and I had given everyone a copy of the Santa story (or at least the edited first chapter) and we followed up with Christmas ornaments and more, and I got, among other gifts, several Ann Radcliffe novels, the Writers Market guides, and music by Prince and Chaka Khan. We talked to my sister on the phone, because she was in California. We watched A Christmas Story.

The highlight of the day was, and remains, Swedish meatballs.

But now I'm tending to ramble, which is what always happens in an entry like this. It's okay, because my memory is a little hazy. I planned "catch up" for Friday, although this was abbreviated and interrupted by weird scheduling all around. I did get to see Lyn, which was nice because I'd missed her on my last visit, and we stopped at Genesee Valley to do some more Christmas shopping. This is when I observed the new fashion trend among all the cool kids. You cut random slashes in the thighs of your jeans, evidently using an exacto knife (they didn't look like scissor cuts, you know?). After dinner, we went out again and saw Marcy and some other kids at the White Horse in Flint. We got back not-too-late, but we missed Sarah Crawford, which made me sad. On Saturday, I went for a walk in the township park with Cody, during which a mist came down on the river and all the snow melted, seemingly all at once. Our shoes were choaked and saturated with water. That evening, Jess and I met up with Dave and Katie at Ruggeros, and they're still trying to get us to move to the area. We watched several films: Eagle Eye and Michael Clayton and the grisly Burn After Reading (because all Coen brothers films are grisly). On Sunday, I went to church, I picked up a coney at the Atlas, and I interviewed a couple of Halls Flats residents to learn more abuot the history of the area. Mostly, though, it was ritual stuff I try to do whenever I'm in town.

At the end of that last hazy day at my parents', we all drove down to Mongolian Barbecue on Miller, which I had never been to before, and now I understand its popularity. From there, we said our goodbyes to my family, and cruised on over to Sam's house, where we visited with Emily and his parents for awhile. We picked up Adam in Glenwood Hills, and hit the road back to Chicago caravan-style. We kept in touch with walkee-talkees until we lost each other outside Gary.

But by then we were practically back.

To Be Continued...

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Nimbus 20, 31.

Boston Globe: Breakthrough on 'broken windows'
Note: If you can forgive the pun (which is unforgivable), this study is actually pretty interesting.

Have you ever lived in a place people would have described as a 'crime hot spot'? How many? Did they have names? What were they?

Friday, February 06, 2009

Nimbus 17, 31.


Which toe is your favorite toe?

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Nimbus 16, 31.

Book of Kells Images.

How are your eyes doing?

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Nimbus 15, 31.


Where is this?

Presuming a masterful execution, What party theme would you like to experience?

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Concept: Television vs. Books.

It is popular among educated and upper middle-class people to inveigh against television. The same people who boast about the quality and quantity of books they own are also proud that they don't have a TV set. "Watching television," they say, "that's so passive." I don't buy it.

First, reading a book is a necessarily sedentary activity. I know; sometimes I have read while walking and it's difficult. The amount of concentration it takes to process what is put on a page is equivalent to what it takes to process on a screen. Which isn't to say that reading is more physically passive than watching TV. They're both fundamentally passive activities.

Second, the whole attention-span argument. I don't think that this is true for television and it's certainly not true for culture in general. We are often exposed to the sound-bite MTV argument that modern audiences have no patience for extended concentration. Why then aren't we offended by haikus? Why don't we accuse Shakespeare of being a commercialist when his sonnets are like tiny specks compared to manifestoes like Howl or Prufrock? Or, on the other side of the argument, how do we explain increased markets for extended works in all media. How many people romped through 3,000 pages of Harry Potter, ten hours of the Lord of the Rings films, or going-on five seasons of Lost?

Third, isn't it a convenient coincidence that the book, the medium with the presige of a heritage, and one which readers can collect as a tesimony to their taste is concidered the reciptacle of worthwhile thought? Meanwhile, television, a public medium accessed by billions that has been around for less than a century, is described as an agent of passivity.

Books make an ongoing contribution to society; in some form or another, we will always be reading. But the elevation of books at the expense of television is just one more permutation of the "high art" vs. "low art" debate, in which the vocabulary changes but never the premise. We are living, in fact, through a golden age of television today. Perennial dramas such as Deadwood and Lost are challenging viewers with complex characters, storylines, and visual language, while American Idol today fills the shoes that The Ed Sullivan Show filled in the early sixties. Online outlets such as hulu and YouTube are making television more accessible and versatile, while DVDs as a mode of storage make television more collectible, and can, in fact, be works of art in their own right.

If you claim to be open minded and a populist, it is a very, very bad time to deplore television as a medium.

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Nimbus 14, 31.

"Books, the children of the brain."
- Who said this?

Weigh in on the post immediately following...
What is your favorite book?
What is your favorite TV show?

Monday, February 02, 2009

Nimbus 13, 31.

- Regular blogging restored.

- NEWS OF THE WEEK - Lost thief holes up in French bank lavatory.

Name one instance in which you think a one-way street complicates driving, or makes travel less efficient.