Thursday, October 30, 2003

Sorry so underblogged of late.

Today has been a mixed bag. On the negative side I think I've figured out why I have such a terrible itch. I had decided that it was a recurrence of eczema, a condition I only had once and that was during a time when I needed to say, "we should just be friends," and instead of saying it, I had inflamed, itchy skin.

Last night I itched so badly, I left my bed and went to sleep on the futon in the itching.

A while back I came across a mention somewhere in the news of the resurgence of bed bugs in the U.S. which, it turns out, are a real thing. They hang out in your bed linen and suck your blood. In the dark. The swollen welts on my thighs and calves seem to bear this out as does the only-happens-in-my-bed piece of the story.

So I've started in on the laundry which should be fun and I've bought some very formidable looking insecticide foggers to detonate tomorrow. However I was up itching for lots of last night and so I'm tired now (it's a few minutes to midnight) and yet not sleepy. Just cross and self pitying about the stupid bed bug infestation and wondering how I got them and wondering how I ensure that I don't get them again. Ick. I started having itching last week, before the arrival of my friend John who would otherwise be a possible culprit. Of course John didn't set foot into my room, much less the bed unless he snuck in there while I was out at work but that doesn't seem his style and, like I say, the itching and apparent bed bug-ness happened before John showed up. So I don't know. It does seem bed-specific and not about my other furniture so that's good.

Okay enough about the fucking bed bugs. I saw the stage production of THE LION KING tonight. Friends of my dad's were going and had an extra ticket at the last minute so I sat on the 10th row for free; cool, no? I have to say this was one of the few times when the advance hype didn't ruin it for me, it was super cool. I tried wrapping my mind around the logistics of the how the hell do they launder some of those costumes? How long does it take to learn how to walk on stilts, in the dark, with a big-ass giraffe head on top of your head? How long must the tech rehearsals be for the show (ouch)?

Okay, that's enough for now. I went on the Nitty Gritty Bus Tour last Saturday and intended to blog all kinds of stuff about it but here it is Thursday already and I have midterms this week. The tour was sponsored by the horribly named Chicago Headline Club. The Headline Club is the oldest chapter of The Society of Professional Journalists and this is the second year they have sponsored this tour. Hosted by Ron Grossman (who, I am pleased to announce, looks exactly like his picture) the tour went through some of Chicago's neighborhoods off the beaten path.

"Absolutely NO ALCOHOL on the bus!!!" warned the registration sign-up. I've been reading THE BOYS ON THE BUS, an account of the press coverage of the 1972 presidential campaign and I was excited about getting on this bus; they have to warn us not to drink?!? Awesome!

Alas, I knew it was not to be when I got to the rendezvous point in front of Tribune Tower. The beautiful clothes and enormous, early-morning smiles let me know I was in the presence of broadcast journalists. Print journalists and broadcast journalists aren't terribly fond of each other. In my classes, the broadcast majors are openly disdainful of having to write anything, at all, ever. Based on my tiny sample, it seems like those who yearn to be on-camera news reporters are mostly interested in the on-camera part and journalism offers a way of being on television without having to hang out with a bunch of creepy actor types. In class it's the broadcast majors who are most surprised by the most rudimentary elements of civics; who is the governor and how does his job differ from that of a senator? for instance.

The folks from ABC Channel 7 stood around in the chilly morning (the bus left at 9:30 and was scheduled to return to the Trib at 5:30 p.m., an all day affair) discussing the advantages and disadvantages of different camera angles available at that location. The rest of us stood around eating corn muffins, drinking coffee and eyeing one another warily. Journalists are introverted egomaniacs, notes the author of THE BOYS ON THE BUS and that sounds about right. This leads to another point of conflict between broadcast and print; the broadcast folks are extroverted and therefore much more upfront about their need for attention which seems unseemly to us, shuffling around in our weird clothes, notebooks in hand and cynicism in our hearts. It's not that the print folks don't warm up; I shared my table at lunch with the new Chicago bureau chief for The Christian Science Monitor who was perfectly friendly after we had hung out in each other's orbit for a few hours.

One of the things that makes journalism so interesting to me is that it forces a writer to become an instant expert on a wide range of topics. Last term I had to write stories on the mayoral campaign, Wi-Fi technology, car-sharing programs, a profile of a gay punk rock musician, an all-women's baseball league from the 1940's and others. I thought about this watching our tour leader, Ron Grossman who didn't tell us his age although he did mention that he had graduated from college in the 1950's so you do the math. Grossman makes a very cool old guy and I think it's being a journalist; remaining constantly curious, always learning. This keeps a person, if not young, then certainly vital.

I was there for 9 hours and I have pages of note but it's late.

However I will say that I learned this...that in most cities ethnic groups will follow one another. For instance, the neighborhood Pilsen in Chicago was settled by Czechs who then moved to the neighborhood Little Village and arriving Mexicans settled in Pilsen. The Czechs became more affluent and they moved to nearby Cicero, the Mexicans moved into Little Village and so on, the Mexicans following the Czechs (Cicero is now way Mexican and I wrote down where the Czechs went next but it's late and I don't wanna bother.) That's Chicago. However, throughout the U.S. blacks have always followed Jews. Chances are, according to my guide, if there is a neighborhood in an American city that is predominately black, chances are if you go back far enough, you'll find the time when it was primarily Jewish.

The other major lesson of the day was that if you want to get a bunch of journalists excited you should give them a bag full of stuff. It doesn't have to be wonderful stuff, we don't care. It's the thought that counts. One of the community activists on the tour understood this and gave each of us a bag with Xeroxes about her community along with a mango (lots of Indian and Pakistani residents in this neighborhood). We lined up as if none of us could possibly afford a mango. Other community organizers didn't give us diddly squat and one community organizer, this one located at a housing project, spoke really softly even though we kept asking him to speak up and he insisted he was speaking as loudly as he could even though he wasn't loud enough to hear from 4 feet away (ironically, his topic was that the city was ignoring his group. DUDE, MAYBE THEY JUST CAN'T FUCKING HEAR YOU.)

Not speaking up loudly is a good way to piss off a group of journalists.

To recap: Bags with free stuff, no matter how petty? Good. Failing to make interesting, or even audible quotes? Bad.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

The Chicago Tribune reports today that Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (as opposed to Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr.) is endorsing Dean.
Woo hoo!

Friday, October 24, 2003

Doesn't Cuba Gooding Jr. already have an Oscar? Why, then, are we subjected to a movie where he plays someone who is retarded?

The BBC is once again discussing the issue of overly high hedges causing bad feelings between neighbors. There is a great photo captioned "Protesters have fought a long campaign against hedge abuse". This does not appear to be a joke. A small change in UK law will soon allow local governments to intervene in hedge disputes. Clare Hinchcliffe (love that name) is the spokesperson for Hedgeline, a group the BBC describes as the national lobby and support group for the victims of high hedges (and clicking on that link does seem to confirm this) had this to say:

(for) Clare Hinchcliffe, who has campaigned for six years against nuisance hedges, it is the end of a long fight.

"The victims of high hedges have waited a long time to hear this. Hedge bullying will now be clearly labelled as what it is, anti-social behaviour."

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

In the next seven to ten days I will be free once again to kiss strangers, share their cups and cigarrettes, and generally carry on. I got the meningitis vaccine today.

There was an outbreak of Meningitis in Chicago last weekend, centered mostly on the gay bar Little Jim's. 4 people are dead, two others are in critical condition. Chicago had developed a plan of action in the event of biochemical warfare and they decided to put that plan into effect, urging folks to get vaccinated. I got it today, not because I have ever been anywhere near Little Jim's except once, to take a leak, but because it seemed dumb not to and besides it was free and it lasts 3-5 years and antibiotics get less and less effective every day so what the hell.

Meningitis is sucky all sorts of different ways, you can learn more about the specifics by clicking here.

A brief search of the web indicated that there is no ribbon one can wear to promote Meningitis Awareness. There is, however, a ghastly plush toy named J.W. who is the mascot of Camp Riley, an otherwise fine institution for children suffering from the effects of meningitis.

Monday, October 20, 2003

A truly stupid concept can transcend all language barriers.

Friday, October 17, 2003

Friday evening and I'm home in front of the computer? Lame? I dunno...I am feeling like swine in excrement because I'm getting caught up on the blogosphere. Alas my day job has been requiring me to actually, you know, work lately so I'm not getting all the media I want. I swam laps earlier, now it's time for pizza and blogs.

For starters here's a dynamite story about attempts by both democrats and republicans to capture the votes of Arab-Americans (according to the story there are 4 million Arab-Americans located in Michigan, the hot spot, and six other states, all considered up for grabs in the 04 elections).

Of course "Arab-American", like "Latino" or "Asian" doesn't mean "homogenous group". It's Romeo and Juliet time if a Mexican falls in love with a Puerto Rican and don't get anyone started on Cubans and of course there are many more groups to consider. It's just outsiders who say, "I dunno...they all speak Spanish...let's treat them as a single group!" This is, of course, true with Arab Americans as well.

I am favorably impressed with a blog put out by, of all organizations, ABC frigging News but The Note is sharp and, while tending towards plugging the Mothership a little too often (oooooooh George Stephanopolous traveled with Joe Lieberman in the candidate's Winnebago and will have an exclusive on Sunday? I'm so psyched) I suppose it is unreasonable for all corporate blog-like entities to maintain the same sense of objective distance Slate appears to maintain from its sugar daddy. Nevertheless it tracks all of the Dem candidates individually so, if you want to see what Sharpton is up to (addressing a whopping 150 students at Claflin University, a historically black college in Orangeburg, SC where he received what the blog notes was a response described as mild, medium at best) then this is your spot.

I guess it's good that I have to work because otherwise I would just sit here, looking at this stuff all goddamn day.
No one does cute, weird animal stories quite like The BBC. Here's one about a newly discovered purple frog.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

The National Association of Convenience Stores is hosting a trade show in Chicago this week and The Chicago Sun-Times did a piece on all the wacky products found there (energy popsicles, a low-carb malt liquor, etc.) with a side bar about how the NACS trade magazine is doing a story in the November issue about Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, the convenience store owner on The Simpsons.

"There are some retailers who truly think he is one of the worst things that has happened to our industry,'' (industry spokesperson Jeff) Lenard said. But Apu is also one of the most honest, lovable, good-hearted characters on the long-running show, he said.

He's a highly educated family man, Lenard said.

But, Lenard notes: "He often keeps a loaded rifle behind the counter and chases shoplifters, two dangerous practices that increase the likelihood of violence.''

Lenard also pointed out that Apu maintains a poor selection of food.

Monday, October 13, 2003

Monday, at least for another 57 minutes and thought I should update since it's been since Thursday.

Had a great weekend, one of the top all-time weekends, really. My friend Alex visited from Canada and we had a great time. Part of it was our connection. A band called The Beautiful South sings this lyric:

Well it can take many years to forge a friendship
It can take a lifetime to get close
But we took all the shortcuts, used our hearts as a map
And we still got closer than most

and that sounds about right.

But the other thing I find about hosting a visitor is that it brings out that best part of me...the part of me that lives vigorously, that fixes potatoes at breakfast, that sees exciting live theater and checks out an exhibit of sculpture inside a conservatory. It's not always enough to be all that I can be just for me. So it's nice to have a visitor who makes me want to try harder than I otherwise would.

My other reason to blog today is to pass along this from my friend, Katie who is a very reluctant passer-alonger of websites so her recommendation gave it quite a seal of approval. What it's like to learn Japanese. Nicely done.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

I started subscribing to a bunch of email newsletters from The Poynter Institute, a group that provides resources, seminars, discussion lists, etc. for journalists. It's one of those sites that makes me want to sit in front of the computer non-stop.

One of the newsletters is called "Al's Morning Meeting Feedback" which tracks interesting stories and suggests angles, approaches, etc. Here's an interesting item from this morning's copyediting teacher would be cranky that I am simply repeating this as if I have confirmed its truth but hey, isn't that half the point of blogging anyway?

From Australia's The Age:

The American Billboard singles chart top 10 is made up exclusively of tunes from black artists for the first time. Nine of the 10 are rappers, plus one track by R&B singer Beyonce and reggae star Sean Paul.

I am unsure what this story really says. It might say something about how record sales, or urban music popularity, or how people buy music now, or what Billboard does or does not measure. I will be interested in what you come up with.

Anyone besides me surprised that this is the first time? Considering that I have basically given up on white people in popular music (I could not possibly care any less than I already do about Dashboard Confessional, Radiohead, ColdPlay, etc.) I felt confirmed by this top ten.

Also from Al I've learned about a brilliant idea, The Democratic Primary Embeds!!!

And not from Al, just from Chicago...Cubs won last night and the garbage strike is getting resolved this morning.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Now that Ahnuld has won the governor's seat, there isn't really any reason that other sexual creeps can't be elected to office.

Witness former congressman Mel Reynolds of Chicago's South Side who went to jail in 1995 after he was convicted of sexual misconduct, child pornography and obstruction of justice relating to an affair he had with a campaign volunteer who was a minor. Today's Chicago Sun Times notes:

Convicted felons running for alderman in Chicago are nothing new, but political experts can't recall any convicted sex offenders running for Congress.

"Offhand, I don't know of any," said Ian Stirton, a spokesman for the Federal Election Commission. "I don't think it would be particularly [something] you would want to emphasize in your campaign literature."

Reynolds served 5 years in prison before being part of that last-minute series of pardons issued by Clinton before he left office (it's useful to remember in this time of W. that Clinton almost never lost his capacity to be a little bit creepy). Although his criminal record has been wiped clean, Reynolds is still listed on city and state websites that warn of sex offenders.

"Well, so what?" Reynolds said. "And what would you like me to do about that? That is a requirement of the law. What is that going to do to me? How does that affect my life?"

Saturday, October 04, 2003

I'm full of schadenfreude over the tiger attack in Vegas, of course, but I'd like to direct your attention to a different entertainment story, this one found on the BBC's website:

Adam Ant has remade his classic single Stand and Deliver in aid of the Dian Fossey Highland Gorilla Fund with the lyrics changed to "Save the Gorillas".

This morning I was reading the Chicago Sun-Times online and was struck by a banner ad for the U.S. Army with shadowy, arabic writing in the background. Clicked on it and found this application for becoming an army linguist.

Friday, October 03, 2003

Battling the end of a change-of-seasons cold so I stopped by the video store tonight to load up on DVDs to keep me occupied this weekend in between learning "The AP Style Manual". My local video store mixes in the new arrival kiddie with the adult (not Adult, just not juvenile) and the spanish language with the anglo. Imagine my horror when I came across this Barney wanna-be; Ladies and Gentlemen, I present Juana La Iguana.

I'm listening to the Cubs play by play on the radio right's nice having a winning team to follow. I moved to Chicago in 1997, the end of the Bulls dynasty and I quite enjoyed watching those games on television, and even more going out into the streets after the team won the championship and my Puerto Rican neighborhood got into their cars and sat, happily gridlocked in the streets, honking their horns and not going anyplace.

In between today's play by play former Cub Ron Santos is plugging his "Ron Santos Walk To Cure Diabetes" which is taking place this Sunday. I have no beef with Mr. Santos, of course, and I think it's terribly unfortunate that he himself suffers from diabetes. And I suppose that 25 years ago, when the charity walk was concieved the notion of A Walk seemed like a good idea. However, Santos recently had both of his legs amputated in connection with the disease so there seems to be something of a mocking quality to the whole endeavor. Or maybe that's just me.

Maybe it's a generational thing but I think walking for a cause is weird and not very effective. Of course it could be that the real benefit is not to the charities that benefit from the monies or the awareness raised in a walk, but that it gives those on the sidelines...friends and family opportunity to feel as though they are doing something, taking action.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

"Nuttin' but garbage! Straight up garbage!"
-Flava Flav

The garbage collectors in all of Chicagoland are on strike. The garbage collectors are organized under the Teamster's Union. Okay, I realize this is all based on THE SOPRANOS but explain this...the teamsters and the garbage haulers are on opposite sides???

Nevertheless, our office has informed us that they will only be removing wet garbage from our office.

Okay, I don't mean to turn this blog into "I'm old enough to remember..." but goddamn I remember the environmental movement of the early 90's when grade school kids sent their used, styrofoam containers back to McDonald's and convinced the burger biggie to use more eco friendly materials. Today we have single serving chip containers in hard plastic cylinders so that they will rest in cup holders.

What happened?