Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Friday, May 27, 2011

Help Is 'Round The Corner

My heart's heavy for friends, family and neighbors in Joplin, Mo. Here's a hurried column I wrote reflecting on the EF5 tornado that decimated my hometown. I'm heading back this weekend to spend a few days trying to capture the immense damage and grief. Right now I'm for the right focus, considering all of the other journalists down there, and the fact that I'm late on the scene. But there are so many stories that need to be told.

This song's been on my mind as a result of all the uncertainly and helplessness in the air.

Stuck here, in the middle of nowhere
With a headache, and a heavy heart
Well, nothing was going quite right here
And I'm tired, I can't play my part

Oh, come on, come on
Oh, what a state I'm in
Oh, come on, come on
Why won't it just sink in?
That help is just around the corner for us

Oh, my head won't stop aching
And I'm sat here, licking my wounds
And I'm shattered, but it really doesn't matter
Cause my rescue is gonna be here soon

Oh, come on, come on
Oh, What a state I'm in
Oh, come on, come on
Why won't it just sink in?

That help is just around the corner for us

Monday, May 9, 2011

Who needs men?

Just browsed an article in the Wall Street Journal that makes the by-now-popular point that women are surpassing men in many fields, including but not limited to the workplace, college, salaries, grades, etc. Here's a taste:
Relatively affluent, free of family responsibilities, and entertained by an array of media devoted to his every pleasure, the single young man can live in pig heaven—and often does. Women put up with him for a while, but then in fear and disgust either give up on any idea of a husband and kids or just go to a sperm bank and get the DNA without the troublesome man. But these rational choices on the part of women only serve to legitimize men's attachment to the sandbox. Why should they grow up? No one needs them anyway. There's nothing they have to do.

They might as well just have another beer.
I completely agree that there's an alarming trend of laziness and failure to launch in modern 20-somethings. I know plenty of guys—and girls—who fall into that category. I do in some ways myself. But somehow this means that men suck they're no longer needed? If a man wrote an article like this article about women (and I'm sure there have been many), how would we feel? When there's a fundamental lack of respect for gender and humanity, little will improve.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Overheard: Sunday breakfast

Late on a Sunday morning in May. A corner diner nestled in the crook of one of Chicago's many six-way intersections.

"Are you going to make up your mind, asshole?" Rodney asks his friend. They're sitting at the triangular bar in the middle of the restaurant. "What are you going to have? What are you going to order? Do you know yet?"

The waitress arrives.
"An Americano, please," the friend says.
"Americano," she confirms. "And you?"
"Uh, gimme a diet Coke," Rodney says.
"Know what you guys want to eat yet?"
"Sure. Are you ready?" the friend asks Rodney.
"No. I need more time. Do I want breakfast? Or do I want lunch? I can't decide."

Rodney scratches his head. He's a young-ish, fair-skinned guy, maybe early-3os, but his hair, sideburns and stubble are grizzled. There's a tattoo of an evil cartoon rabbit on his left forearm, swathed in orange flames. The rabbit is holding a pair of red dice.

"What are you going to get, jackass?" Rodney asks his friend. "Want some pancakes? Some pe-can pan-cakes? With some Georgia pe-cans? You're a Southern boy, so you probably want some pe-cans. What do you think of this place? Okay for a diner, right?"

The waitress is back.
"I'll have the pancakes, please," the friend says. "With some pecans on top, if you can."
"Pancakes, got it. And you?"
"Pulled-pork sammich!" Rodney says. "Pulled-pork sammich!"
"Okay, pulled pork. What kind of side?"
"Pulled-pork sammich!"
"Tots, sweet-potato fries, regular fries?"
"Oh. Um, fries. Regular. Pulled-pork sammich! Oh, and a cup of the chicken soup. And pull out two pieces of pie and set them aside. Do you want pie?"
"Yeah, I want pie," the friend replies.

The waitress sets their food on the counter. Rodney sucks the soup off his spoon.
"Oh, there's wild long-grain rice in this. That wasn't in the description. They should advertise that. It's a selling point. They'd sell more. Stupid white people think it's healthier. Well, it is healthy."
He sets the top half of the bun on his unused coffee cup.
"I hate buns. What should I do with it? I could use it as a hat. Like a bun-yarmulke."

The waitress refills their drinks.
"I'm feeling weird today," Rodney is saying to his friend. "Like, kind and generous and positive toward the world. I'm usually an asshole. I remember when I was in kindergarten, and I got beat up by some first-graders. They were girls. Her name was Melissa Monroe, and she had a box of fancy crayons and a sharpener. She'd make fun of me for having the simple crayons. She had silver-copper and gold-coper and Ferrari red. Who needs yellow-green and green-yellow?"
He looks down at his plate.
"I think I have that psychological disorder where I can't have my foods touching each other. I would freak out. Except corn, gravy and potatoes. You just have to moosh all that together. You know, I don't even like Irish people, but I still like potatoes."
"What about eggs, bacon and hashbrowns?" the friend asks.
"Well, yeah, that's a given."

The waitress brings the pie. She clears the used plates with the forks still on them.
Rodney and his friend look at their dessert, wondering what to do.
"Damn!" says Rodney. "It's like that Greek myth where the guy was neck-deep in water but couldn't drink. What was his name? Damocles? No, of course not. Why did I say that? Oh, because I said damn."
He laughed at his joke. The waitress dropped off their check before bustling off to help another customer.
"I was laughing and forgot to say 'fork.' But the last time I said that, someone said, 'Fork me? Well, screw you, too!'"
"Was it Sisyphus? The guy in the myth?" the friend asks, getting out his smartphone.
"I don't care what diseases he had; I just want his name!" Rodney quips. "Sisyphus? Syphilis? Come on, that was funny!"

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Why Journalists Matter #573

This, from Robert Feder's interview with former Chicago Tribune editor Ann Marie Tara Lipinski. Seems especially relevant considering all the misguided talk about how Twitter "reported" the story on bin Laden's death, not news organizations. Booyeah.

Q. Do you feel you’re still as well informed as you’d like to be?

A. When I was an editor I used to say that the value of something like the Chicago Tribune is the hands of all these editors and reporters making choices for you, the reader — culling information, reporting it, writing it, editing it, shooting it. You don’t have time in your life to do that, or you may not know how to do it, so we’re going to do that for you. But frankly, there were times when I suspected I was just saying that because that’s what I did. I wanted to think it was true.

But I am more convinced than ever of the value of that. I crave great editing. I crave it. Because I don’t have time, and I don’t have a bunch of journalists I can send off to answer the question I want answered or solve the problem I want solved. That’s not my work anymore. And I so value it when it’s done well. I don’t want to have to be my own editor as much as I want somebody else doing it for me. I’m a big admirer of it being done well.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The things we live for

"Some of our dreams dissolved into thin air. They almost seem comical now. But some of our dreams were lasting, and real."

— The Wonder Years; season 2, episode 2.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Super Bowl XLV: The Force

Last year, the best was Google. This year, it's Volkswagen. I wonder if the child-sized Star Wars figurine comes with the car.

But this commercial for the city of Detroit gives is a close second. I've always said America's mostly about fast cars and freedom. But now Eminem?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

On projects in progress

From Rules For My Unborn Son (which apply to all of us born sons, too.)

222. Don't boast about projects in progress; celebrate their completion.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Raconteurs: "Carolina Drama"

It's brilliant how you can here the lalalala's softly, even before the little brother comes in. If there were ever a song that embodied the name of this band, this is it.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


Italian soccer practice. Heh.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Bermuda Triangle of Productivity

Stole this from @jeffkies over at his blog. Wish I could add in "News" and make it a Bermuda Quadrangle.

Monday, January 31, 2011

What I'm Reading: Boss

Nothing has helped me get to know Chicago better than Mike Royko and "Boss," his book about Richard J. Daley's steady rise to the mayor's office. First of all, Royko is top notch. A friend of Studs Terkel, Royko turns a scathing and unblinking eye on the Machine—Chicago's legendarily corrupt system, dominated by the Democrat party.

It's a case study in power management, and it's an eye-opening account of how masterfully one puppeteer can manipulate the marionette of a supposedly democratic American city.

Part of Royko's brilliance comes from his perspicacious understanding of the way things really worked in mid-century Chicago, and more importantly, what the public face of politics actually meant behind the curtains.

This line sums it up perfectly:

"This town was built by great men who demanded that drunkards and harlots be arrested, while charging them rent until the cops arrived."

Of course, the Daley dynasty was just beginning with Richard J. His son Richard M. came afterward. In fact, he's only just leaving. And his other son Bill just joined Obama in Washington while his predecessor Rahm Emanuel returned to Chicago to take Richard's spot. (You might know Rahm as a) Obama's former Chief of Staff or b) the brother of Ari, who's the inspiration for the eponymous agent in "Entourage.")
The fact that Chicago's mayoral race is in full swing only makes the reading experience better.

Here's Royko talking about his softball prowess and his death wish—to collapse at home plate after hitting the game-winning home run—at the Billy Goat, one of Chicago's more famous bars.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Finders keepers

Losers weepers. We scored on our apartment in Chicago. Introducing the W/S Putnam residence:

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Wolves

And one more, just because it fits with the weather: "The Wolves (Act I & II)" by Bon Iver. Good winter to you.

Haunting song. Here's one listener's interpretation of the line, "Can't you find a clue...when your eyes are all painted Sinatra blue?" from
"I think the last line shows she has a deluded impression of love from today's culture, that she is convinced by what she may have seen in films and heard in songs (such as Sinatra's, which gave an oversimplified, easy view on love). For this reason, she may be unable to accept the reality of how much of a struggle love can be."
That could apply to a lot of people these days, not just Bon Iver's ex, Emma. A lot of us, men and women alike, have adopted this idea of feeling love rather than doing love. Thanks, rom-coms.

Adios Muchachos

After a brief hiatus, some music for your Monday: "Adios Muchachos," as sung by Carlos Gardel, un gigante of the Argentine tango scene.

Adiós, muchachos, compañeros de mi vida,
barra querida de aquellos tiempos.
Me toca a mí hoy emprender la retirada,
debo alejarme de mi buena muchachada.

Adiós, muchachos; ya me voy y me resigno.
Contra el destino, nadie la talla.
Se terminaron para mí todas las farras.
Mi cuerpo enfermo no resiste más.

Acuden a mi mente
recuerdos de otros tiempos,
de los bellos momentos
que antaño disfruté
cerquita de mi madre,
santa viejita,
y de mi noviecita
que tanto idolatré.

And especially:

¿Se acuerdan que era hermosa,
más bella que una diosa,
y que ebrió yo de amor,
le di mi corazón?
Más el Señor, celoso
de sus encantos,
hundiéndome en el llanto,
me la llevó.