January 29, 2004
Cold...and Old?

Today's high: 8. Tonight's low: -3.

A night to turn on the gas fire, curl up and listen to Aztec Camera. (Inspired by a mention on a listserv, I realized I bought this 20 years ago. All aboard the slow train to Aging Hipsterville!)

Walk Out to Winter
Words and music by Roddy Frame

We met in the summer and walked 'til the fall
And breathless we talked, it was tongues.
Despite what they'll say, it wasn't youth, we hit the truth

Faces of Strummer that fell from your wall
And nothing was left were they hung
So sweet and bitter, they're what we found
So drink them down and...

Walk out to winter, swear I'll be there.
Chill will wake you, high and dry
You'll wonder why.
Walk out to winter, swear I'll be there.
Chance is buried just below the blinding snow.

You burn in the breadline and ribbons and all
So walk to winter, you won't be late, you always wait
This generation, they'll walk to wall
But I'm not angry, get your gear get out of here and...

Posted at 07:41 PM
January 27, 2004
Annoying Modern Art

I have a book at home titled Enjoying Modern Art. A friend misread it as Annoying Modern Art and so it has remained, at least in my mind. For some reason this rather pointless anecdote comes to mind as I read the Arts Journal piece here (and followups and responses) about modern(ist) music and modern audiences.

I'm not -- absolutely not -- saying that orchestras should play only easy pieces. But this modernist style has absolutely no audience. It doesn't appeal to mainstream classical concertgoers. They don't have modernist taste. (Neither, for that matter, do the people who run orchestras. Once, at an American Symphony Orchestra League conference, I spoke about new music on a panel, and polled the people who came to listen about their interests in art, film, and literature. They didn't spend much time reading Finnegans Wake, or seeking out films by Godard and Antonioni. Why should anybody think they'd listen to Birtwistle, Carter and Babbitt?)

These remind me of similar radio-station-programming methodology debates we used to have. My show, when I had a show, was an old jazz/R&B/soul format that ranged from the 1920s to 1980s--from King Oliver to, say, "Ben"-era Michael Jackson. It was pure fun, not educational.

E. did a show that I used to laughingly call "Difficult Music for Difficult People." In truth, I did not listen to it--but I believed it should be there, because its presence could open people up to different kinds of music, and that was the point. (There was a little tinge of what Teachout calls "eat-your-spinach" thinking there, I'll admit.)

His format (Sundays at midnight) lives on, while my format is long gone. So perhaps it's more about enjoying than annoying, after all.

More on this: ruminations on "the split between what is popular and what critics praise" here (registration required, alas).

Hmm, things are getting a bit serious. Let's change gears with this snarky Guardian piece on candidate hair:

This is all a little unfair on Kerry because, of all the candidates, he is the one who can least be held accountable for his disastrous hairstyle. The truth is, he just has terrible hair. On a bad day he looks half man, half badger.

I raise a paw to him.

Posted at 08:18 PM
January 22, 2004
Pins Out

Pins out!!!!!!!

(Kitty Joyce Press Release)

CHICAGO, Jan. 22--Friends and readers who have been following the post-surgical saga of the broken finger will be pleased to note this historic day.

Healing continues to progress as well as or better than expected following the removal of two immobilizing pins, a spokeswoman said Thursday.

The market reacted positively to this news, although some lying down was required initially. Activities such as washing the afflicted hand and putting on long-sleeved sweaters with elastic commence immediately.

We expect a gradual return of activities such as shoe-tying and mitten-wearing, with a good outlook for two-handed typing by early February.

Analysts expect flinching, grimacing, and shuddering to decrease rapidly, although the outlook for sighing ruefully remains strong through the first quarter.


Posted at 05:34 PM
January 18, 2004

Chicago is a sad place for chocolate fans these days. We've lost the Frango franchise (now that it is made in Pennsylvania) and now that ubiquitous bastion of classic chocolate goodness, Fannie May, is also coming to an end.

I am no chocolate snob--a handful of Hershey's will do in a pinch. But once or twice a year, in deepest secrecy, I have been known to stop by FM for a half-ounce of vanilla creams in dark chocolate. It has been my reward for myself, once in a while. But now the factory and the stores are closing, and FM fans like me are on their own.

So I stopped in to say goodbye and stock up, if possible. Apparently a lot of people are doing the same. Shelves are half-stocked; bins were full or empty at random. These people are clearly not expecting to make it to Valentine's day.

The two employees behind the counter seem resigned to their fate (it's been reported that more than 600 people will lose their jobs when the factory and stores close next month). Despite (or perhaps because of) the imminent closure, they are as free as ever with the samples, which makes me happy. (I chew to spite The Man.)

The customers, in contrast, are in a complete state of denial. They keep asking for their favorites, suspecting a hidden stash of nut clusters in the back. Do you have Pixies? The clerk sweeps a hand around the room. "just what you see here." Do you have caramels? Again, "Just what you see here."

They don't seem to have vanilla creams, except the sugar-free kind, which makes me sad. Will my last FM memory involve saccharine? I opt for the vanilla cream truffles, which are a fancier version of my old favorite. "I'll miss this store," I say, handing over the money.

The clerk invokes a puzzling metaphor, given the circumstance. "Well, that's the way the cookie crumbles," she sighs, and passes me the box.

I push past my fellow milling, grief-stricken shoppers and head back to work. Up the street a small group of people are protesting. (They are holding signs that, to be blunt, don't make any sense. If I want to find out what they want, I have to go talk to them and read a flyer, which I don't want to do.) They don't seem to be protesting about the loss of local candy institutions, which is all I feel like talking about.

Inevitably, a few cops are stationed nearby, watching the protesters casually. "Aha! So you bought a box!" exclaims a jolly cop, noticing my bag.

Get 'em while they're still here, buddy. Soon they'll be gone.


Posted at 01:59 PM
January 14, 2004
Campaign Flashback

Saw a guy on the train wearing a Dukakis/Bentsen button on the train today.

Now there's a campaign to revisit, as if being a Democrat today isn't depressing enough.

I didn't know what, if anything, to say, except: "You think it'd work better a second time around?"

Posted at 07:32 PM
January 13, 2004
Why I Identify with Fire Ants, and Other Posts Unwritten

This guy has developed a blogging flowchart, attempting to map all the steps in the process. (I seem to have added extra steps, like "dither for a while before publishing.")

He also lists what blog writers vs. readers want to see in 2004. Not surprisingly, writers want to see more constructive criticism/feedback (you mean you didn't have anything to say about my 2600-word rumination on 'why I identify with fire ants'?), while readers want to see more original material and insight, less groupthink and lockstep. Here here!

(via NON)

Posted at 07:32 PM
January 11, 2004
Silly Season Begins

Was anyone else disoriented by this cheery illustration of a smiling Howard Dean? I am neither for nor against Dean, but he does seem awfully crochety. In this picture, he looked so happy, I thought it was supposed to be a picture of Wesley Clark, who is always smiling, though for perhaps less reason.


But back to substance, not style. (Dedicated readers are wondering: "What does she mean, 'back to'?") I have been wondering if anyone has compiled a list of how those 2004 presidential candidates who are currently congressmen have voted on some of the more noxious bills the Bush administration has rammed through. The Bush administration likely didn't get where it is today without some congressional rolling-over, and if any of these guys were responsible, I want to know. I think voting records make a better basis for elimination of candidates than sweater choice at this point. (This doesn't help with non-congressional outliers like Clark and Dean, but you've got to start somewhere.)

A few places to find voting records:
The Global Stewards, an environmental group, links to Congressional voting record scorecard information for environmental, labor rights, civil rights, animal rights, and war-related issues.

The NOW-PACS page focuses on women's issues.

The ACLU has a pretty good site, as does Public Citizen.

To really do this right, I would need a more comprehensive knowledge of the key bills (names, sessions of congress, etc.). This could be a lot of work, but hey, it's amazing how much time on your schedule opens up when you've got a broken finger.

Posted at 05:01 PM
January 08, 2004
I.M. a DJ

So what have we learned from this unfortunate incident?

1) Some people just do not respond well to unsolicited criticism. No surprise, I guess.
2) Some people just do not have a clue as to what "dealing with the public" means. Plus, is it a good idea to be deliberately rude to one's listeners? When I had listeners, I wanted to send them fan mail.
3) Not all radio stations are run on the principle that sloppy DJ-ing will get you whacked on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper (metaphorically speaking).

But we're not bad sports. We'll keep listening and donating. However, I certainly will think twice before I I.M. the DJ.

PS: I was forcibly restrained from responding to him myself, to the effect of:
What E. is trying to say (but was too nice to put it like this) is that your endless yammering is driving us nuts. If I wanted that much talk, I'd listen to freaking NPR. Sorry if this makes you feel bad, but friendly advice obviously isn't doing the trick. Have a great week!

Posted at 07:23 PM
January 05, 2004
The Donut Divide

A friend sends this description of life as an extra on the set of "The Company," which was filmed in Chicago. He reveals a great snack divide:

The on-set hierarchy was illustrated by the snacks. The cast and crew got Krispy Kremes, the extras, Dunkin' Donuts.

Gives a whole new meaning to haves and have nots.

Posted at 06:25 PM