Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Second Coming by William Butler Yeats

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Read more about this poem here.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

It’s 2006… where is my jetpack?

Handy-dandy map detailing the cost of gas by county across the country.

I paid $2.87/gallon this morning at the local Quik Trip. All told, we spend about $200 a month on gas. We don't make any more money than we did a year ago, so we have had to cut back on other things just to pay for gas. We can't go out to eat as much, so the restaurants we usually frequent are taking a hit. We used to drive out to Oak Park Mall once a month or so, but we haven't been there since Christmas, thanks to high gas prices. It isn't just the consumer that's suffering here - it's the businesses that the consumer supports. The only people not feeling this crunch are oil company execs and their supporters. If anyone has thoughts otherwise, please let me know.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

I am pissed at Charles Dickens.

I'm working on a project that involves transcribing several issues of the magazine that Dickens published, Household Words. As a result, he and I are forming a relationship of sorts that trancends space and time - I am typing his words just as he did, and am therefore absorbing some his thoughts and ideas in the process. Our first encounter was a lighthearted jaunt into the realm of the fruit import/export business. Next came the sad tale of the syche sharpeners, which was nothing if not silightly interesting. Then came his long winded and rambling questions about the infamous "They" in which I started to realize that I am doing more than just transcribing - I am having a conversation with a dead man. I am actually finding myself growling back at his words, or giggling, or sighing in frustration, or just asking him to make his damn point already. But today my transcriptions are introducing me to a side of Dickens that I knew existed, but had heretofore never experienced first hand: the pompous jackass:


Her flaccid muscles, tender skin, highly nervous organization, and aptitude for internal injury, decide the question of offices involving hard body labour; while the predominance of instinct over reason, and feeling over intellect, as a rule, unfits her for judicial or legislative command. Her power is essential a silent and unseen moral influence; her functions are those of a wife and mother. The emancipatists rate these functions very lightly, compared with the duty and delight of hauling in main-top-sails or speechifying at an election. They seem to regard the maternal race as a race apart, a kind of necessary cattle, just to keep up the stock; and even of these natural drudges the most gifted souls may give up their children to the care of others, as queen-bees give their young to the workers. Yet no woman who does her duty faithfully to her husband would find her time unemployed, or her life incomplete. The education of her children alone would sufficiently employ any true hearted woman; for education is not a matter of school-hours, but of that subtle influence of example which makes every moment a seed-time of future good or ill. And the woman who is too gifted, too intellectual, to find scope for her mind and heart in the education of her child, who pants for a more important work than the training of an immortal soul, who prefers quarter-decks and pulpits to a still home and a school-desk, is not a sea captain, nor a preacher by mission – she is simply not a woman. She is a natural blunder, a mere unfinished sketch; fit neither for quarter-decks nor for home, able neither to command men nor to educate children.

I know he existed in another time, essentially another world. I know how the Victorians valued the principle of "seperate spheres" for men and women - one public, and one private. But good lord, Dickens. Not all women wanted to be mothers, and that didn't make them "a natural blunder." It's okay to want to extoll the virtues of motherhood, of domistic bliss, of the traditional family roles. But give me a break - even you have to know what you are saying is just fodder for the masses and not really rational arguement. I can forgive you a bit because you know your audience and are an entertainer at heart, but if you could only see how your "logic" becomes perverted even today by people who see women as less because we have actually achieved many of the goals that women of your time only imagined - despite our children turing out for the most part okay - you might change your tune a bit. Would you really side with the ultra conservatives on this issue today? I don't think you would, and that's why I'll keep transcribing the rest of this article, and all the others. You do have something to say to us today - but I can still get pissed at you, Dickens!


Monday, July 24, 2006

This used to be my playground.

This is just plain sad.

At the corner of North Oak and Vivion road in the Northland is one of the most beautiful areas in the city. It's a totally undeveloped corner, with rolling hills, lots of trees, and a small pond hidden from view by said hills and trees. This corner holds a special affinity for me, since I grew up in a house almost right across the street from it.

When I was growing up, there was a fence around that corner, and 3 to 4 quarter horses roamed the field. When we would drive by, I would always try to spot a horse and would wave at them, whether I could see them or not. Once, when I was about 8 or 9 years old, my mom, step-sister and I climbed over the fence to pet the horses, and made it back to the stables behind the big, white house before anyone knew we were there. The man who discovered us was very nice and let us pet the horses, before sending us along with a stern warning not to climb over the fence again.

About a week ago, Mr. Awesome and I were driving past that area and he commented that he was so happy no one had touched that corner. I agreed, and silently thanked the Midwest Baptist Seminary for keeping the land as it is.

That corner, the Northland fountain, and the back-road that runs between the park and the YMCA were my playground, my territory. There were no other children in the area, so I roamed around all over with my dog, or my bike, or on roller skates, or whatever. So now that I hear the Seminary has sold the land - that beautiful, inspiring corner - so another useless strip mall can be built, I'm really, really sad and more than a little angry.

The southeast corner of that intersection is a strip mall, the northeast corner is a strip mall, there are strip malls all over everywhere, but where else in this city do you find rolling acres amist the strip malls? Antioch Mall is a perfect area to put the business that want to inhabit yet another strip mall - go there instead and leave my corner alone.

I know there are many people who have to feel the same way I do about that corner. Imagine how you would feel (or felt) when your childhood playground is paved over. What a fucking waste of some restraint in the name of community beautification. An even greater insult is that the deveolpers of this atrosity to my sensibilities are getting tax breaks from the city that are normally given to redevelop blighted land. Does that area look blighted to you? Do you think Anita Gorman would live half a block away from a blighted area? The only blight in this picture is in the hearts of the counciltards who approved this bullshit.

A special thank you to Becky Nace, for being the lone voice of reason in a room full of greedy bastards.

I am just going to have to avoid the area for the next couple of years, as I think I'll be hard-pressed not to cry as I pass when they start their ridiculous cosntruction project. Whoever is responsible for this - I hope meth-heads move in next door to you.

And while I'm on the subject - to the current residents of my childhood home: trim the goddamn shrubs. The house is starting to look like an overgrown mess. How hard is it to get out the hedge trimmers every couple of years?

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Where do you want to go today?

Every weekday it's the same question. Today, we ended up at Room 39 for the first time. I had a duck salad: pan -roasted duck breast with spinach, roasted squash,
crispy red onion, goat cheese and chipotle-honey vinaigrette. Mr. Awesome had a chicken salad sandwich: roasted free range chicken with mayonnaise, tarragon, lemon zest,
fennel seed and crisp bacon on a bun with vegetable chips. We both thought our meals were delicious.

The downside to Room 39 is that it is very small, so we were stuck sitting at the bar on very uncomfortable bar stools. As much as I loved the food, we probably won't add it to the rotation because I don't want to end up on the bar stool again. I know we could wait 15-20 minutes for a table, but when you only have an hour for lunch, that's pushing it. They serve lunch on Saturdays, so that's an option.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Another reason to look forward to Fall

Here's the trailer for Christoper Nolan's new movie, The Prestige, due out this Fall.

Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale and Michael Caine in a film about Victorian-era magicians? Looks like Christmas will come a bit early for me this year.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Me Talk Pretty One Day (thanks, David Sedaris!)

Here's a handy page of what the authors call non-errors - "Those usages people keep telling you are wrong but are actually standard in English."

I am ashamed to admit that I don't know as much about grammar as I think I should, but I think I know enough to not sound like a moron.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

I’ll be singing Neil Diamond all day now.

Why? Because I just took a short sample American citizenship test. I scored a 95% - the only question I missed was about what form is used to apply for citizenship. I actually knew all the rest. Not bad for a Liberal. You can sing along, too!


We've been traveling far
Without a home
But not without a star
Only want to be free
We huddle close
Hang on to a dream

On the boats and on the planes
They're coming to America
Never looking back again
They're coming to America

Home, don't it seem so far away
Oh, we're traveling light today
In the eye of the storm
In the eye of the storm

Home, to a new and a shiny place
Make our bed, and we'll say our grace
Freedom's light burning warm
Freedom's light burning warm

Everywhere around the world
They're coming to America
Every time that flag's unfurled
They're coming to America

Got a dream to take them there
They're coming to America
Got a dream they've come to share
They're coming to America

They're coming to America
They're coming to America
They're coming to America
They're coming to America
Today, today, today, today, today

My country 'tis of thee
Sweet land of liberty
Of thee I sing
Of thee I sing

I have memories of this song, and the Harmonaires, and New York, and the Statue of Liberty, and being insanely embarassed at my peers for singing said song in the narrow, echo-chamber that is the stairwell of said Statue of Liberty. Looking back, I still think they were idiots - not for singing this song, but for singing some song they made up on the long bus ride to New York from Kansas City, about a podunk town called Iola. Who am I kidding? Over 10 years after the fact ,I still remember the Iola song (sung to the tune of a popular children's song that I can't for the life of me remember the actual words to), even though I never actually sang it with them:

Iola has a Wal-Mart, a Wal-Mart, a Wal-Mart.
Iola has a Wal-Mart and Ken's Pizza, too!
McDonald's and Dairy Queen - Iola has everything!
Iola has a Wal-Mart and Ken's Pizza, too

Now picture this little ditty being sung by 15 or so high school kids on a bus for hours on end, the words and tune reverberating through the cramped, muggy space and drilling into my brain. Then imagine this same annoying song being sung on the long, exaustive walk up the stairs inside the Statue of Liberty. Yeah, it wasn't a plesant experience. That said, I still remember this song and the circumstances in which it was sung, and although it still bugs the shit out of me, I can kind of find humor in the situation, and I have to admit I'm glad I still remember all the words.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Old and the New

We Real Cool
by Gwendolyn Brooks


We real cool. We
Left school. We

Lurk late. We
Strike straight. We

Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We

Jazz June. We
Die soon.

We Old Dudes
by Joan Murray

We old dudes. We
White shoes. We

Golf ball. We
Eat mall. We

Soak teeth. We
Palm Beach. We

Vote red. We
Soon dead.

Read more about "We Real Cool" here.

Wednesday, July 5, 2006

The worst holiday ever.

I love holidays and the traditions that accompany them. Valentines Day and the hearts, Easter and its baskets, Halloween and Thanksgiving and Christmas and all the rest are days I look forward to every year. I love holidays - but I hate the 4th of July.

I am not unpatriotic - far from it. When I see fireworks in the sky, I actually think of the Star-Spangled Banner, what with the rockets red glare, and the bombs bursting in air, and how they gave proof through the night that our flag was still there. I think of these things. But do you think the asshole hillbillies that live near me and shoot off home-made bombs for days before and after our nation's Independence Day give a shit about the American Revolution and the poetic musings it inspired? Do they wonder about the lives of our founding fathers as they set a huge brush pile on fire and try unsucessfully to put it out with a fire extingusiher, before giving up and leaving an ever-growing blaze behind them while I call the fire department from my deck? Do they contimplate the history of our nation - the struggles, challenges and lessons learned - while they drink their beer, light their firecrackers, and keep me and my pets awake until 3 in the morning for 3 nights in a row? I am going to guess not.

God, I want to move. Does anyone know if there are these problems in Brookside or Fairway?