Friday, June 30, 2006

You Christians

“Good morning, you Christian,” I said into the phone on my way to the train station today.

“Good morning, you flag-burning slut,” replied my Mom, who loves me way more than I deserve and in spite of my somewhat progressive views.

She says I’m too hard on Christians.

She’s right, as usual.
Yesterday, a Sun-Times article stated that 90% of Americans believe in God.


The article didn’t say which God, but I’m fairly certain the majority adheres to the most popular flavors of Christianity – they're Catholics, Lutherans, Baptists, Methodists, and Protestants.

As with most religions, there’s also a teeny-tiny faction of Christian fundamentalists – the whack-jobs who bomb abortion clinics and scream at the funerals of U.S. soldiers who died in Iraq “because God hates fags.”
So why are you so hard on Christians? Because of the fundamentalists? They’re not even close to representing the true face of American Christians.

I know that. Of course not.

I’m tough on Christians for two reasons. The first one is logical, the second completely irrational (hey, at least I can admit it, you flag-waving fascists.)

Let’s talk logic first so those of you who don’t feel like diving down the rabbit hole with me have the option to cut and run.

Christians are the majority in this country. By their nature, majorities tend to a) believe everyone else is just like them (because a good percentage are), and b) ignore or marginalize the small groups of people who aren’t like them.

It’s not unique to Christians, either. In any situation, the majority will do this.

If you haven’t guessed by now, I am not part of that majority. I am part of that quirky lesser-known faction that doesn’t believe in organized religion, Christian or otherwise.

As a minority, it’s my job to stand up and remind the majority that everyone isn’t like them. Because that’s what minorities tend to do.

That’s why I had a Darwin fish on my car for a long time. Not because I’m a militant theosophist – but because I wanted to remind the folks with those ubiquitous Jesus fish that this is the United States.

Again, with the patriotism. The Fourth of July is coming. Consider it a Theme Week.

I love this country because I can worship who or whatever I want, as long as I don’t hurt anyone. I love this country because of its diversity, not in spite of it.

And I’m tough on Christians because they need to get their noses tweaked once in a while to be reminded that we’re not all the same, goddammit.
Now, for you brave souls, stick around and pop the red pill. The rest of you, please punch out at this point.

I am tough on Christians because I’m angry. Actually angry is too benign for what I feel.

I am outraged. Pissed off. Punch-a-fucking-wall nuts with fury.

I’m angry because the flavor of Christianity that I got growing up (Catholicism) focused solely on the died-for-our-sins aspect of Christ.

I didn’t get the love-others-as-yourself part until much later and I had to figure that out all on my own, thank you very much.

I’m NOT pissed at my parents (we’ve talked about this.)

I am pissed at organized Christian religion for twisting and perverting Christ’s true message of love and acceptance and peace into sin-focused bullshit rhetoric.

Tell me, what’s a better message?

That we’re all sinners and going to Hell unless we worship some dead bearded dude?

Or that we’re all essentially the same and we should treat others as we want to be treated, with love and respect?

Take either route and you’ll supposedly get to heaven. Doesn’t my way – what I’ve come to believe is the true Christian way – sound just a little more rational and meaningful?

The concept of sin has caused the subjugation of women for thousands of years. Sin is a word that separates people into the classic Christian us versus them mentality. And I’m convinced that focusing on sin is what’s lead so many pedophiles to become priests (or vice versa, who the fuck knows.)

So yeah, I’m hard on you Christians.

Because just like Jesus, I expect more out of you.
I am listening to: Redneck Woman – Gretchen Wilson
I am reading: The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger
And I am: A flag-burning slut

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Blog, burner, blog

First, there's this from the Washington Post:

The Citizens Flag Alliance, a group pushing for the Senate this week to pass a flag-burning amendment to the Constitution, just reported an alarming, 33 percent increase in the number of flag-desecration incidents this year. The number has increased to four, from three.
Next, a few thoughts from the smart folks at

Flags mean nothing when what they stand for has been taken away. - 5000gallonsoftoothpaste

The day they ban flag burning is the day a million flags get burned in protest. - Dimensiation

I support the amendment because I used to believe in God, but then my church burned down and now I don't. - quietbs

"Countless men and women have died defending that flag," said Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., closing two days of debate. "It is but a small humble act for us to defend it."

"Our country's unique because our dissidents have a voice," said Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii. "While I take offense at disrespect to the flag," he said, "I nonetheless believe it is my continued duty as a veteran, as an American citizen, and as a United States senator to defend the constitutional right of protesters to use the flag in nonviolent speech."

Ten-point Toss-up: Which Senator above lost an arm in military service to this country and received the Medal of Honor? Hint: it's not Frist. - Cardinal

I hate people who burn our flag, but I love that I live in a country where people have the right to do it. I may not agree with your choices, but I'll fight to the death to defend your right to make them. That's what being an American is all about. - smuj

Like George Carlin says, leave the symbols to the symbol-minded. - rga143

You do not have a constitutional right to not be offended. - bloodfart

I fail to see what all the fuss is about. Americans should have the same right to burn their flag as any foreigner. - jamspoon

When do we get to start burning foreigners? - cabbyman, responding to jamspoon
Then there’s this amusing exchange I heard, of all places, on the Rush Limbaugh show yesterday:

“Rush, how come it’s okay for someone to burn a flag but it’s not okay for me to beat the hell out of that person for doing it?” - Caller

“Um, because that would be battery, my friend. There are laws about hurting people. The flag is an inanimate object. It doesn’t have feelings.” - Rush
Next: A classic quote from the movie "The American President":

America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You've got to want it bad, because it's gonna put up a fight. It's gonna say, "You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil who is standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to claim this land as the 'land of the free'? Then the symbol of your country cannot just be a flag. The symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Now show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then you can stand up and sing about the 'land of the free.'
And last, from yours truly: We’re blessed to live in a country that still values individual freedom. This freedom is available to everyone; it's a precious and rare thing.

If we can’t see eye to eye on the flag amendment, let’s at least agree that four flag burners so far this year does not constitute a national crisis.

What’s the real crisis? Conservatives losing political ground due to a lack of strong leadership in the White House.

So they drag out the issues guaranteed to motivate their base: Flag burning, abortion, and gay marriage.

And like dogs drooling at a bell, all the patriotic and God-fearing citizens are outraged. They write letters, call radio stations, comment on blogs – and most importantly – vote their candidates back into office.

The conservatives celebrate by doing little more than granting themselves pay raises and sharing the wealth with their high-powered friends via tax cuts until it’s time for re-election, when they pound the pulpits, play on emotions and claim once again they are the only ones protecting the flag and babies and the sacred institution of marriage.

To me, there’s nothing more despicable than an elected leader who betrays public interest – hell, betrays the Constitution – for political and personal gain.

True freedom means recognizing when you’re being manipulated.

True freedom only gets stronger with diversity and dissension.

Anyone who tells you otherwise doesn’t deserve to live here.
I am listening to: Mr. E’s Beautiful Blues - Eels
I am reading: Not much
And I am: A proud American

Burn, baby, burn

George W. Bush is a fucking idiot. The U.S. government is run by a bunch of money-grubbing ass-hats who couldn’t find their diminutive dicks with a map, both hands and a flashlight. Speaking of dicks, Cheney is a scary, evil white man hell-bent on destroying this nation.

I just love doing that.

What? Creative cursing? Lambasting our leaders? Nipping at the neo-cons?


Exercising my constitutional rights. What, you don’t respect me for what I said? That’s okay. But ya gotta respect the fact that I can say it.

Free speech, baby. It’s what made the U.S. great.
Attention all you Christian types. Here’s an important question: If crosses were outlawed tomorrow, would it have an impact on your faith? If you couldn’t have a cross or wear a cross, would it change your belief in Jesus Christ?

No? I didn’t think so.

Because the cross is a symbol of the Christian faith.

If they all went away tomorrow, the powerful message behind the cross would still be there. I’m guessing stronger than ever.
So if the U.S. flag – or say, a giant pile of U.S. flags – was burned tomorrow, would it take away your profound and heartfelt belief in your country?

Probably not.

The U.S. flag is a symbol for something far greater. And that symbol could disappear forever, but it wouldn’t change the profound and enlightened intellectual concepts upon which this nation was founded.
But it’s a matter of respect, Mrs. Liberal-SmartyPants-Pottymouth. Crosses and flags are sacred.

Maybe to you, but not to everyone in this country.

And that’s the point: In the U.S. we’re free to worship or burn as we see fit.

Well, at least until recently.

Plenty of witches were actually burned for worshipping early on. Thank the gods that hasn’t happened in a while.
Here’s the amendment: "The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States."

Remember those strange days right after 9/11? I was part of the crowd sporting a miniature American flag in my car’s rear window.

They were everywhere.

Then, as with everything that spends too much time in the sun, my little flag became faded. The stars and stripes were no longer proud and bright but sad and gray.

So I threw it away. Tossed it in the garbage can unceremoniously, like a used paper towel.

If that flag amendment had passed, what I did would’ve been a crime.
But burning the flag isn’t free speech! It’s an act! An act of treason in my book!

Books, crosses, flags. They’re all material things that represent higher concepts.

Revere the concept, not the physical embodiment of it.
From "Countless men and women have died defending that flag," said Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., closing two days of debate.

Excuse me? Defending the flag? No. Not so much.

They’re defending the ideals behind the flag. They’re defending the freedoms granted by the U.S. Constitution – freedoms that are more sacred than a stack of Bibles or a freight train full of flags.
One vote. We were just one vote away from altering the Constitution to ban flag desecration – something that, according to CNN, has happened just four times so far this year.

That’s right. We’ve got 11 million illegal immigrants living in this country. Our national debt is $8 trillion.

And our legislators are wasting time on four flag burners?
I can tell some of you are about to resort to a little bumper sticker wisdom. Let me help.

“My country: Love it or leave it.”
“No Christ, No Peace. Know Christ, Know Peace.”

I know Christ. And I love, love, love this country.

My faith is stronger than any man-made symbol or any misguided efforts to destroy it.
I am listening to: The Battle Hymn of the Republic
I am reading: The U.S. Constitution
And I am: Patriotic

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


Sometimes there’s simply nothing to say.

And rather than trying to fill that space – with something, anything – sometimes you just have to leave it empty.

Be comfortable with quiet. Everything is as it should be.
Silence is one of my favorite conversational tactics.

It’s a little trick that all good journalists know and love. Let others talk; you'll be surprised what people say when faced with silence.

Of course, there are those who never let you get a word in edgewise. Unfortunate, as they’re rarely the ones who have anything really interesting to share.
A couple of my favorite adages about silence:

“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” - Epictetus

"It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt." - Mark Twain
Wouldya look at that?

I had nothing to say and I filled the space with words about saying nothing.

I am listening to: Nothing
I am reading: Nothing
And I am: Silent

Monday, June 26, 2006

Magical Monday

“I know how you hate magic, but…” started an e-mail from the aforementioned Lisa in Florida.

First: What a comfort. When somebody knows you long enough to learn the quirky little things. Like the fact that I hate magic or that I refuse to eat food out of baskets lined with paper.
Yep. I don't like magic.

But first, we should define which type of magic.

There’s magic, Magic, and magick.

I hate the first kind, possess a bit of the second, and am highly skeptical about the third.


mag·ic n
1. conjuring tricks and illusions that make apparently impossible things seem to happen, usually performed as entertainment
2. a special, mysterious, or inexplicable quality, talent, or skill
3. a supposed supernatural power that makes impossible things happen, or that gives somebody control over the forces of nature.
Being tricked is not entertainment.

We know it’s not possible to pull a rabbit out of a hat or make some big-boobed bimbo disappear from a box.

But the magician tries to make you believe those things are possible. They’re trying to make you believe a lie.

Why would you pay someone to lie to you? They're professional liars. Not entertainment.
David Copperfield. David Blaine.

Why do magicians insist on David? Does it sound more professional? More legitimate?

If one of these ridiculous magicians actually called himself Dave, the Amazing Bullshit Artist I might actually go see him.

Wait. No I wouldn’t.

But it was a sincere, albeit fleeting thought.
Furthermore, when did sitting in an aquarium for a week become magic?

If David Blaine could make himself disappear forever, now that’s something I would pay to see.
More on the paper-lined baskets thing: I’m not a snob. Really.

I believe that cookies and sammiches taste best when served on a paper towel at the kitchen counter.

What’s with the baskets then? It’s because of the germs. I don’t think they clean ‘em too often and that paper under my burger seems awfully thin.
Magic. Now that’s something I can understand.

It’s a Michael Jordan dunk. It’s singing along with the crowd at a U2 concert in Soldier Field back in 1996. It’s the fireflies putting on their synchronized light show in my backyard.

And it was me, mowing on Saturday: When every turn, every movement flowed into the next resulting in a flawless lawn.

Magic with a capital ‘m’ is when everything comes together effortlessly.

I’ve experienced it and can even make it happen sometimes, but not always.

There’s a little bit of Magic in all of us. Really.
Then there’s magick. A touchy subject because there’s a risk even talking about it.

You mean the satanic stuff, right?

No. Before the early Christians turned earth-worshipping religions into evil, there was magick.

Today many modern pagans believe that you can in fact make the universe bend to your will by using spells.

It’s a conundrum, though and something I can’t get my mind around.

Because good pagans are supposed to believe in the adage: “If it harms none, do what thou will.”

But if you find it necessary to make something happen via a spell, you’re messing with The Plan and there will be Consequences.

Furthermore, who needs magick if you can make something happen the old-fashioned way via hard work, determination or – if all else fails – wads of cash?
I just thought of a good spell that wouldn’t harm anyone and certainly wouldn’t mess with your Karma: a spell to make your garden grow.

I wonder if that’s why they call it Miracle Gro.
“If it harms none, do what thou will.”

Do what you feel like, just don’t hurt anyone.

Isn’t that the same as the Golden Rule?


Even pagans believe you should treat others as you want to be treated. They just said it a little differently.
I am listening to: Muted train conversations
I am reading: Nothing
And I am: Magical

Friday, June 23, 2006

Extra, extra

“Help out Children’s Memorial, folks! Get your Special Edition of the Sun-Times for just a buck!”

That was me yesterday morning.

Just a few minutes into it and I had my spiel: Make eye contact. Smile big. Shout.

Our team sold all but 10 newspapers in a little less than three hours. We made $220.
The good: “I saw this on the news this morning,” said one lady after making a beeline for me out of the crowd. “Thanks for being out here.”

Chicago Streets & San workers stopped and holding up traffic in their big blue truck, buying papers.

“That hospital saved my grandson,” said a woman with gray hair and the brightest blue eyes. “He’s eight now and doing fine, but he had to have quite a few surgeries to fix his heart.”

A taxi driver stopped at the light, waving me over to the middle lane of traffic to give me a smile and a dollar.

“Here,” said another woman, passing a crinkled up $10. “I don’t need any change. My grandchild is alive today. An amazing place, that hospital.”
The Loop is quite different in the early, early morning. Just like being backstage before a play.

Remember that homeless vet who sits on the crates by the Madison Street Bridge? Turns out he’s pretty good at that whole ‘weak and forlorn, help me’ gig.

I caught him looking spry and energetic, fairly sprinting up Wacker Drive to Madison with his crates.
The bad: People purposely cutting the corner to avoid me. Classic. I could see them, seeing me in my bright green get-up.

One woman tried to grab a paper out of my hand and when I told her it was “for charity, just a buck” she scowled at me and hurried off.

An ex co-worker of mine: Happy to see me after more than two years until I asked him to help a good cause.
After 7 a.m. the crowds really build until it’s a veritable wall of people coming at you from the two train stations east of the bridge.

I watch them. Each one, a different purpose. A different destination.
“People sure look beaten down, don’t they?” I said to my co-worker Diana. “Looks like they’re carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders.”
“Yeah,” she replied. “The thing is, I’m pretty sure I look like that when I’m walking to work, too.”
The ugly: A Loop Suit looked me straight in the eye, walked over to the Sun-Times box ten feet away and bought a paper.

I guess it wouldn’t have been particularly charitable had I whacked him over the head with my Special Edition Sun-Times.

But it would’ve felt so good.
A few lessons from yesterday:

1) Standing on a street corner selling anything is not easy. I have a new appreciation for my comfy, cushy office job.

2) 98% of commuters do not want to be bothered in the morning. They are a crabby, selfish bunch that wouldn’t crack a smile if you handed ‘em a million bucks.

3) I am one of them.
I am listening to: The Verve – Bittersweet Symphony
I am reading: Nothing
And I am: Re-engaged

Thursday, June 22, 2006

It’s 4:38 a.m.

And I’m on a Metra train bound for Chicago.

“You’re NOT workin’, are ya?”

That’s Darrell, the (42-year-old called in to work the early shift divorced with three kids lookin’ to buy a laptop) train conductor I just met.

I’ll say it again: it’s 4:38 in the morning.

Way too early to be up, showered, and out. Way too early to be conversatin’ with anyone.

“You’re so tan! Ya just get back from vacation or somethin’?”
“Where do you work?”
“You’re not married or have a boyfriend, do ya?”

And way too fucking early for that kind of crap, for sure.
I settle into my seat, crabby that I missed the 4:30 express. The extra ten minutes of sleep was not worth it.

I miss Sir Richard on the 7:42, who is not Darrell and gives me water and reminds me so much of my grandfather who died way back in 1978.
So why ARE you up this early today, Heather?

My company is participating in a special charity event. So at exactly 6:20, I need to be camped at the corner of Madison and Wacker selling newspapers.


Extra, extra. And all that.

Today is the Chicago Sun-Times Kids’ Day to benefit Children’s Memorial Hospital.

Corporate teams all over Chicagoland are selling special editions of the newspaper for $1 each to benefit the hospital.

Great hospital, great cause.

Still too fucking early.
Again, with the irony.

As much as I love supporting this cause – it’s one of my favorite charities – I’d much rather be writing for the newspaper than selling them on a corner.

I know what some of you are thinking (Well at least one of you and you know who you are, Lisa in Florida):

“Could be worse, Hedy. You could be selling something ELSE on a street corner in Chicago! Buahahahahaha!”

That would be extremely funny if it wasn’t so damn early.
And yes, it could be worse.

I could be the parent of a small child who is fighting leukemia.

I could be up this early because I’m on my way to Children’s Memorial at this time every day because the thought of his frightened, weak little body alone in that big hospital bed is more than I can take. I could be wondering if we can afford to make the house payment this month because I can’t work and we’ve stopped opening the medical bills that seem to come every day now. I could be wondering how much more time I’ll have with my son who is Everything, so I soak up every minute, every precious hour with him like a big weepy sponge.

Yes, it could be worse.

That’s what I’ll think about, selling those newspapers on that corner so early this morning.
I am listening to: The noises a train makes when it stops at every town between Aurora and Chicago
I am reading: Nothing
And I am: Good

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

I am reading

a book called ‘Vanishing Acts’ by Jodi Picoult.

It’s about a woman whose father kidnaps her when she’s four years old to save her from growing up with an abusive and alcoholic mother. The main character, Delia, thinks that her mother died in a car accident. At the age of 32, the whole thing comes unraveled: Delia learns that her father is a fugitive and her mother is alive.

The book sucked me right in – I started it Sunday night and haven’t been able to put it down.

But now I’m more than half way through and it’s getting a little irritating.

There’s too much whining about having bad parents. She doesn’t “know who to trust now.”

Get over yourself, lady.

Your father had the courage to break the law in order to save you from an unhappy childhood.

Good parents do whatever it takes to make sure their kids grow up happy and healthy. The lies they tell early on to protect us shouldn’t be held against them once we’re all grown up.

And they certainly shouldn’t be used as an excuse for our own failings as adults.

Even if you had bad parents (or none at all) it’s a lesson in how not to be, right?
This web site is fascinating: PostSecret

Slap your confession on a postcard, mail it in, and they publish it.

But the most recent batch (they’re published every Sunday) had to do with Father’s Day and I’m irritated because most of the confessions were whiney about – you guessed it – bad dads.

Based on the postcards, you could assume:
  1. Bad fathers outnumber the good ones;
  2. People who submit anonymous confessions to web sites might have issues with taking responsibility for their own shit; or
  3. People who had great fathers don’t have much to confess.
I don’t know the answer to that one.

But I do know that as mature adults, it’s our responsibility to get over the minor and often major traumas that come with childhood.

But…but…but…my parents were abusive! My mom was an alcoholic! My dad lied to me!

That’s their shit. Don’t make it yours.

There’s a lesson in every bad thing that happens. Your job is to figure it out.

And for Christ’s sake, stop whining about it.
That’s easy for you to say, Heather.

You have good parents.

Hell yeah, I do. They fuckin’ rock.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t have my share of issues (those of you who know me best can stop nodding now, thank you very much.)

They’re MY issues.

I’m not looking to blame anyone – especially not my parents and especially not this late in the game – for the shit I haven’t figured out yet.

Your parents have an influence on the adult you become. No doubt.

If you had good ones, try to be like them. If you had bad parents, learn from their mistakes; don’t make them your own.
I am listening to: The train rocking back and forth on the tracks
I am reading: Crain’s Chicago Business 40 Under 40 application
And I am: Irritated & preachy

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Inflamed wieners

A few weeks ago I walked through the better parts of the Loop behind a backpack with the following words printed on it:

6th World Congress on Inflammation
In·flam·ma·tion n.

1. The act of inflaming or the state of being inflamed.
2. A localized protective reaction of tissue to irritation, injury, or infection, characterized by pain, redness, swelling, and sometimes loss of function.

Not to be confused with:

Flambé v.
To drench with a liquor, such as brandy, and ignite.

This is just speculation, but I’m thinking more than a few flambĂ©s have led to some unexpected inflammation. Oui?
Just think: These folks gathered at least six times to talk about – of all things – inflammation.

And it’s not a simple meeting or conference. It’s a World Freakin’ Congress, for pity’s sake.

What do they talk about? Isn’t inflammation just a symptom of some other problem like a burn or cyst? And is there a special session on boils?

[Editorial note: Boils are my favorite type of inflammation. What’s yours?]

“Are you going to the WCI this year, Betty? It’s gonna ROCK! David Blaine is the keynote. He’s gonna soak in a brandy-filled aquarium for three days and then set himself on FIRE.”

They party it up, watch a slide show and do shots of Jagermeister every time somebody says “inflamed.”

“Oh, look at THAT one, Stanley. That one’s REALLY inflamed.”
“Is that the frank or the beans?”
Speaking of franks, yesterday afternoon I found myself walking through the Loop again, this time behind a backpack with “Johnsonville” on it.

Johnsonville. As in bratwursts.

Again, fascinating. What did this person have to do to get a Johnsonville bratwurst bag?

Send in proofs of purchase? Win a brat-eating contest?

The obvious answer is that she works/worked for them. But that would be too easy.

I prefer to imagine the following:

“Keep eatin’, honey! Just 12 more to go and Momma gets her bratwurst backpack!”
“Brats for dinner again? I want some chicken, Momma!”
“Shut UP and EAT your BRAT, brat!”
I looked up boil, just to be certain it qualified as an inflammation. I think it does:

Boil n.
A painful pus-filled abscess on the skin caused by bacterial infection of a hair follicle.

On the way past boil, I discovered:

Car·bun·cle n.
A multiple-headed boil

Ew. Completely lost my appetite for brats.
I am listening to: Wire Train – Last Perfect Thing
I am reading: Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult
And I am: Neither hungry nor inflamed

Monday, June 19, 2006


tastes better when you’ve been away for a bit.

Like the bottled water that Sir Richard gave me this morning.

Crisp and clear.
A guy sitting across from me on the train this morning wouldn't stop yapping. So I wrote a bunch on the train, but I'm sorry to report it's mostly crap.

Highlights: Put on some fucking pants. Helmet laws suck but not why you think. You can't outlaw stupidity.

See what I mean? And that was only a taste of crap.
Observation: Women have a reputation for talking too much. But it's mostly men who talk incessantly on their mobile phones in public.
Good news: Sir Richard had some tests and was relieved to learn that there is no mass in his throat as suspected. It remains a mystery why he's coughing/clearing his throat so much, but at least it's not the Worst Possible News.
I am reading: On-line articles about the Clutter family
I am listening to: Wire Train – The Last Perfect Thing
And I am: Back, but not really Here

Monday, June 12, 2006


spo·rad·ic adj
1. occurring occasionally at intervals that have no apparent pattern
2. used to describe a disease that appears in scattered or isolated instances or locations

You decide which definition is most appropriate. I'm taking a little time away to rejuvenate.
I am listening to: The rain
I am reading: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
And I am: Elsewhere

Friday, June 09, 2006

Songs about ass

Are you on iTunes? Or do you use another program to download and organize your music?

Yesterday I discovered a new way to build play lists.

I was looking for “Here With Me” by Dido, but had a brain fart and couldn’t remember the name of the song or the artist.

For some reason I remembered that “angel” was in the album title (No Angel.) So I plugged that into the search function on iTunes.

Voila! I had every angel-related song from my library:

Calling All Angels by Train
If God Would Send His Angels by U2
Angel by Jimi Hendrix
Angel by Sarah McLachlan
Angel to You, Devil to Me by The Click Five
The Adventure by Angels & Airwaves
Here With Me by Dido
Thank You by Dido
City of Angels (movie soundtrack)

A neat-o new song list.

Try it. Be creative. Use other words or names.

Believe. Bob. Hope.
Ass brought back quite a few because of all the words it is in: classic, passage, massacre, glass, Cassidy, Bassey.

And don’t bother asking.

I have no idea why I tried ass. Really.
Good news: Love came back with more than 60 songs.

Hate? Only four.
I am listening to: Songs about ass
I am reading: Web Solutions practice overview
I am: Bloated

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Our Lord – Oh Lord – Not So Much

I’m walking across Madison last night toward Union Station, when I see it: The late afternoon sun shining through a glorious crimson banner flying high just beyond the bridge.


A marketing blitz for Spamalot, I think. What fun.

Approaching, I realized: Not so much.

Standing beneath the flag were several serious-looking men wearing matching red vests emblazoned – because emblazoned is the only way to properly describe the gold lettering on this sort of accoutrement – with “Tradition, Family, Property.”

They were passing out pamphlets.
Confession: I was in Steinberg’s column again yesterday.

It’s pathetic and fun all at once.

Pathetic because it seems it’s the only way I’ll be seeing my name in print.

And fun, well, for the same reason: My name is in print.
Steinberg is the guy I wanted to be when I grew up.

“You wanted to be a short Jewish dude with a receding hairline?”

No. I wanted to be an insightful and sarcastic columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times.

Except I didn’t figure that out until the ripe old age of 30. I’m a bit of a late bloomer.

So I satisfy this inane lust for fame in the twilight of my life by sending Steinberg the occasional quip.

And pushing out this daily blog for a scattered yet appreciative following.
Speaking of late bloomers, those red-vested shmos were handing out pamphlets about the quintessential late bloomer: Jesus.

I had to laugh reading it.

“Real Americans are rejecting The Da Vinci Code.”

Under that: “Rejecting The Da Vinci Code – How a Blasphemous Novel Brutally Attacks Our Lord and the Catholic Church.”
Real Americans? Could we define that?

Real Americans are not the hate-mongering ass-hats who are hell-bent on homogenizing this country while denying others (gays and immigrants, to name a few) the rights they enjoy so thoroughly.

Real Americans are not necessarily Christian. They’re Muslim and Jewish and Atheist. And don’t forget the blessed Turnip Worshippers.

Real Americans are people who truly understand the responsibility that comes with a powerful document like the Bill of Rights.
Let’s say for a minute that I’m a hardcore Jesus Freak.

A Born Again Believer. Faithful to the core.

[Editorial note: this could be challenging for those of you who’ve had the joy of knowing me even slightly. So close your eyes and think of the actual Hardcore Jesus Freak in your life (because we all have at least one, God bless ‘em) and then imagine their face on my body. Did it work? I didn’t think so. But gee, wasn’t it fun picturing these freakish boobs on someone so saintly?]

A digression. Sorry.

If I believe with my Whole Heart and Soul everything that Jesus did and said, then why the loving fuck should I care what some fictional adventure novel has to say?
Back at the pamphlet: I categorically dismiss the word blasphemous and anyone who uses it. The same goes for the word sin or any of its derivations.

Don’t trust people who use those words.

Folks who use those words have an unhealthy preoccupation with the transgressions of others.

Trust me.
The biggest crack up was “Brutally Attacks Our Lord.”

First, all the brutal attacking happened 2000+ years ago.

Your Lord is long past the point of feeling any pain.

If Jesus truly is who you believe he is then there’s nothing in Heaven and certainly not on Earth that can threaten that.

“But it’s insulting! This concept that Jesus married that whore Mary Magdelene and fathered children and didn’t die on the cross! Blasphemer!”

Your Lord doesn’t need you to defend Him. He needs you to quietly follow his teachings and be kind and stop waving giant flags while pushing ideological bullshit on others.
Love others as yourself. That’s what Jesus said.

Does it really make a difference if he was married? Or to whom?

Does that change the message?

Not so much.
I am listening to: Songs about angels
I am reading: Nothing
And I am: Blasphemous and pathetic, but having fun.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Turtle in the road

“Did you see that?” Jim asked. “Big turtle in the road.”

It looked like a crumpled brown paper bag stranded in the narrow space between the two lanes on Randall near Ice Cream Drive.

For a few seconds I felt that irrational need to have him turn the car around so we could go back and rescue the wayward reptile.

But I had a train to catch.
It reminded me of the time I was on the Great Western bike trail doing my usual Saturday ride from St. Charles to Sycamore.

On the way back, I saw a tiny raccoon staggering along the side of the trail. It was daytime and the little guy was alone so it was obvious his family had abandoned him.

I stopped for a bit to watch, contemplating how to rescue him.

I was in the middle of nowhere. No backpack. Carrying him while riding with one hand was not an option as it was still a good 10 miles to my car. And what would I do then?

So I left him. I didn’t like it much, but I left.

I did that same ride the following weekend.

And there, on the side of the trail, was that baby raccoon. Dead.

There’s a part of me that says it was abandoned because it was weak and unhealthy.

Nature is cruel yet practical when it comes to such things.

But I still felt like I should’ve done something.
It’s not as if that turtle could dash across a lane of traffic like a squirrel.

He was pretty much stuck.
If you live in the far west suburbs of Chicago and encounter an abandoned animal please take it to the Fox Valley Wildlife Center on Route 38 in Elburn.

I successfully rescued a baby duck once and they were extremely helpful in that matter.
Of course, that won’t help the turtle this morning.

I had a train to catch.
I am listening to: The Strokes – You Only Live Once
I am reading: Steinberg in the Sun-Times
And I am: Heartless

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

This world is a burning house

I spent most of this morning’s train ride reading the first section of the Chicago Tribune and as much as I could stand of the Sun-Times.

Nothing to report, really.

Plenty of jejune 666 references. Too much celebrity gossip.

And one interesting editorial by Jesse Jackson.
He’s right. I don't like him much, but he's right.

The uber-rich don’t need another tax break.

And while our legislators are fiddling around with constitutional amendments to ban gay marriage and flag burning, Rome is burning.
I’ve been learning about Buddha lately.

Twice my dear friend Nelson has kindly and accidentally on purpose left the book behind. Seemed to be a bit of a hint that I ought to spend some time with it.

One line in particular has stayed with me since reading it early Sunday morning: This world is a burning house.

I’m not going to explain the parable, you can read it yourself here.
But it’s helping me understand something I’ve struggled with my whole life: compassion.

Stupid people irritate me.

A fairly common trait I’m sure.

But in me it is combined with a dark, ugly tendency to dismiss people I deem unworthy of my time or attention.

Buddha says that stupid people are the ones who need help more than anyone because they can’t help the circumstances under which they were born. That enlightenment is open to them just as much as anyone.
“He can’t even read!” I once said, condemning a man (in my mind) the lowest possible way.

As much as I despised the ignorance and cruelty of that particular person, looking back, I’m fairly certain it wasn’t his fault that he had never learned how to read.

And looking back, it was my ignorance and cruelty that was far more despicable.
This world is a burning house. Indeed.

But I’m trying like hell to find the way out.
I am listening to: Pearl Jam – World Wide Suicide
I am reading: The Teaching of Buddha
And I am: Quiet

Monday, June 05, 2006

I'm guessing

Due to a work-related errand, I am on the Metra train from LaFox today.

When I lived in Geneva from 1992 to 1998, LaFox was that teeny tiny town just east of Middle Nowhere. Now there’s a train station. And more than 100 cars in the parking lot at 7:30 this morning.

The scenery is quite different from the Aurora train. Trees. Farms. Horses.

No graffiti. And (I’m guessing) no niggaz.
I could do this every day.

I could catch the train in Geneva and arrive at a station just a block from my office. My regular station is a good 10-minute walk (about four and a half blocks.)

The ride from LaFox is less bumpy, too. I’m guessing that all the white-collar shmos from the leafy communities along this high-falutin’ line paid a little extra for that.
It’s hard to believe it’s been almost five years since 9/11.

I don’t know why I thought of that today.
I could do this route, for sure.

But I won’t.

There are more than a few reasons, but here are two: I could never leave Sir Richard the Gallant train conductor. And I’m guessing my ass would get huge from not walking so much.
Another ominous date is coming: tomorrow is June 6, 2006.

That’s 666 for you Bible thumper types.

I read somewhere that a lot of pregnant women are being induced so as to avoid giving birth to the Anti-Christ.

Good plan. I’m guessing.
I am listening to: Nothing
I am reading: Nothing
And I am: Quiet

Friday, June 02, 2006

The Ride

“We need to re-connect,” he said. “Let’s go for a ride.”

He was right.

You pop in the soundtrack to Pulp Fiction or Natural Born Killers.

You open the sunroof and roll down the windows.

And you head west to the farm roads.

Out where the sky takes over and the air is thick with the earth’s essentials: dirt and manure and all kinds of lush green growing things.

You’re going nowhere and everywhere and the peace of it all takes over your soul.

It was joyful and refreshing and necessary.
Do it.

Take a ride.

Do something.

Do whatever it takes to get you far away the television and the phone and the laptop and anything else that distracts you from what’s Really Important.

I am reading: A client proposal
I am listening to: Howie Day - Collide
And I am: Connected

Thursday, June 01, 2006


From yesterday’s New York Times on-line edition:

"After a thorough and comprehensive search, no remains of Mr. Hoffa have been located," Judith M. Chilen, an assistant special agent, said at a news briefing at the farm entrance.

More than 35 agents, geologists, archaeologists and other experts spent 12 days digging and demolishing a 100-foot barn to examine the ground beneath the foundation.
Last time I checked (just now), ‘thorough’ and ‘comprehensive’ are both variations on ‘complete.’

I can’t decide what’s more irritating.

The fact that we’re paying nearly three dozen highly educated professionals to sift through dirt looking for a dead teamster or that they’re using way too many syllables to describe the effort.

And who was Jimmy Hoffa, really? The New York Times didn’t even bother explaining it in the article. No background whatsoever.

Maybe it’s because the venerable writers at the Paper of Record assume everyone already knows. Or maybe they believe their avid followers read the six (yes, six) previous articles they published on this burning issue over the past two weeks.

In reality, I think it’s because it is downright embarrassing to admit they’re still covering the quest to find some working-class shmo who’s been dead for more than 30 years.
Still, the Hoffa legacy lives on: A Laborers union is on strike in Illinois today.

Could somebody please explain what happened to striking workers actually marching to protest whatever it is that they’re protesting?

Every striker I’ve seen lately has his ass planted firmly in a lawn chair next to a giant box of Dunkin’ Donuts and a boom box. Yapping on his mobile phone.

They don’t look outraged. And certainly not mistreated.

They seem comfortable. And rather happy to be lounging sleepily in the sunshine.
Editorial note: I received an unbelievable and unwarranted load of crap over the whole golf/golfing thing yesterday. Now there was some genuine outrage. You working-class shmos could take a lesson from those highly put-upon and pissed off white-collar shmos.

I am reading: Chicago Sun-Times
I am listening to: Howie Day - Collide
And I am: Complete