Friday, December 28, 2007

My family doesn’t eat crab that often. It’s expensive and fancy and before you know it you haven’t eaten any in years.

My parents remembered an all you can eat Snow Crab feast with another couple at Red Lobster some years ago, but all they were able to recall was that it was either when they were dating or soon after they were married. At the very least it was before I was born, so make that 32+ years ago. They focused on the fact that the staff would not take away the shells as to shame you into eating less, which did not work. Apparently they filled the table, looked obnoxious, and happily ate lbs of crab.

I think as a teenager we had a 1/2lb of King Crab as an appetizer somewhere, which isn’t much more than a taste between 3 people. Not a major event, but I do remember the taste.

All the more reason for my freezer’s liberation of its 20lbs of crab to be mentioned. For Christmas Eve 3 of us ate about 4.5 lbs of crab, which was impressive. I think being non-fancy Chicago Polacks helped. It was such a delicious treat that we just devoured it like savages. I should have photographed the pile of shells as a testament. The other 15 lbs is at my folks and they can do whatever they want with it, which will probably be to slowly eat it over the course of a year or more to best enjoy it and not get used to the taste too much, lest they develop and fancy tendencies. I hope to eat crab for a third time someday before another 15 years passes.

A pretty dull post I know, but all I can think about this week is how tasty it was.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Best Production Support Request Ever.

The headers accessed for all of our web pages when the print style sheet is used had an incorrect phone number for the company. Turns out it was a phone sex number. Modifying 20+ jsp pages has never been so fun.

Monday, December 17, 2007

A weekend always feels like an accomplishment when I take things to the thrift store and half price books to get rid of, and nothing new comes to take their place. That is an endless goal of mine: more going out than coming in. It is a losing battle though, but a good goal to have in mind. Exceptions are made, namely for small stacks of comic books each Wednesday and bikes that are endlessly, absolutely needed.

Anyone ever run across any Thomas Ligotti books? I recently read a graphic novel interpretation of some of his work and I have been duly impressed. People often refer to him as one of the best kept secrets in the last 20 years of horror. I really dug what I read and want to get the original prose, but his stuff seems to be strangely out of print, yet Dean Koontz is readily available. Blah.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

A decent attempt

Didn't come up with 12 pictures, but I think it came out ok, and I did obey the 12 hour rule. It was certainly fun.

12:00pm, moving my cousin within Madison. It turns out that when it is 3 degrees out and you allow the lid of a grill to swing towards the ground (while carrying it on its back) the hinges will snap off like plastic. This was not my doing, but the grill and all its new individual pieces were moved in my truck nonetheless. Welding will be attempted, but a new grill is more likely.

1pm. Madison, west side. Notice the superior snow removal here. It was about 10 degrees by this time! Felt very comfortable.

3:30pm, within the move yet again. A very boring picture, but a memory of the hour long process to connect the dvd player to the tv. The tv is a huge first generation HD CRT, and is probably 150lbs at least. It barely fits in the entertainment center so there were many strained attempts to slide it out while someone furiously fiddled with the cables. The true problem was that the plugs on the rear of the tv kept coming loose so every time it gave us dvd audio and video it would cease doing so after we slid the behemoth back in. Boring picture, maddening memory.

6:30 pm and off the 70's and 80's themed party. I opted for tightrolled jeans. Sadly it was very easy to quickly produce a tightroll from memory.

9pm at the party. Homemade Bailey's(left) and Brandy Slush(right). Very Wisconsin.

11pm. The white elephant gift I received was a vintage, unused, mint boy scout canteen. Very nice.

12:45 am and time to head home from the party. Cold and snowy.

Friday, December 07, 2007

More than just some egotistical assertion that I feel the world would be better off knowing, I’m stating my intention to give the 12 hour photo project a shot this weekend in the simple hopes that I will be guilted into the responsibility of finishing it knowing that I had made that intention known out loud (so to speak). My weekend isn’t the busiest or most fascinating, but I will be bumming around town more than usual so it is as good a time as any to give the project a shot. The snow and ice here are quite charming so if nothing else the pictures will feel like December.

The always prolific Up In Alaska is on it.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The fair amount of snow and ice we had dumped on us Saturday forced me to linger around my apartment and get all kinds of little things done. Sadly no cycling occurred, but I did catch up on things here and there. I was forced again to confront how much stuff/crap I own. I wish I could get rid of piles and piles of it but that would be very difficult and it probably won’t happen anytime soon. Collecting comics and older AD&D stuff is by its very nature a practice in hoarding, which I ideally try to avoid. Aside from the collectable aspect of it, I have an extremely difficult time getting rid of something that can be read that I know I have enjoyed in the past and very well may enjoy in the future. Dumping comics and the like for meager dollars on ebay just cannot replace the possibility that I may find someone whom really would love to plow through runs and runs of DC titles. Eh, my kids can throw all that out after my funeral someday. I have no trouble jettisoning items here and there, but I have the toughest time getting rid of things that can be read. Makes sense to me, while the piles of long boxes tower higher and higher (as do the Lite boxes filled with fiction).

The main thing that happened Saturday was finishing my Lost season 2 dvds. I fell into that all too easy trap of just “starting” another episode with the theoretical plan of only watching 10 minutes, just to figure out which person’s back story we’ll be getting. That approach is a lie. I zipped through the last 6 episodes in no time and now eagerly await season 3. I have so many theories about what is what, what is being critiqued, which ideas are on trial (psychology), etc. I’m sure I’m very wrong about most of these things, but the ride is certainly enjoyable. A few years ago Wayne constantly pitched Lost to me with exciting and salivating gestures. I probably said something well intentioned about not wanting to take on a new show, that I felt that if I wasn’t on it from the beginning it was a futile move, and that the idea of a kooky desert island didn’t sound that interesting. Seeing that the show was successful enough to sustain a few seasons, along with the announcement that the creators do have a well defined goal and that the network has renewed the show to ensure its completion, was enough for me to spend the time to jump in. I feel gun shy about jumping on a new show without knowing it will be canned 2 months down the road, so more often than not I don’t jump. I end up watching much less tv this way and instead watch more dvds, which seems better for me. I much more appreciate being deliberate with my time rather than surfing into something. 108 minutes.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

I don’t dream as much as I would like. I daydream and let my mind wander a great deal when it comes to plans, hopes, and goals for the future, places, vacations, and the like. But I get very little activity when I am sleeping. I have always heard that chugging a glass of pickle juice immediately before bed produced some active dreams, but I can’t remember if it actually works, though I’m certain I tried it many years ago after Rodcore mentioned it to me. If it works, would it be a result of a lot of salt in your system? If that is the case, could a glass of saltwater do it as well? Or is it a magical density of something within a cucumber generated after it has been pickled, kind of like what crab apples do to moose if they are consumed after fermentation? I don’t know, but I’d like more than the bi weekly, random dream/nightmare.

Monday, November 26, 2007

When people came by my cube on the 16th they saw my suitcase and asked where I was heading. I answered that I was heading to Alaska over Thanksgiving week to beat the heat of Wisconsin. I had planned on some hiking, maybe skiing/snowboarding, and lots of Anchorage exploration. Frequent flyer miles made the trip very reasonable so I wasn’t too uptight about not skiing if the snow wasn’t perfect. Well, Anchorage didn’t have much snow but they had enough for the slopes to open up the 17th, only to see them closed mid week when the temps shot well above freezing, even hitting 45 one day. All the snow melted away and the slopes closed as avalanches become real possibilities. So yeah, I literally got away from the Wisconsin chill by heading to Anchorage.

Before the big melt on Wednesday, Becky and I did some excellent hiking on Monday. The waterfall near the Eklutna River was beautiful, though I’m certain the picture will not do it justice. It is very hard to photograph a fairly narrow waterfall in the midst of snow covered trees and rocks. I gave it a shot though and hopefully those will get developed fairly soon (it is far too easy to just let the undeveloped rolls pile up on the shelf). I believe that roll started in my camera back in June. The Eagle River nature center is also the start of many trails (I’d really like to hike from there to Girdwood someday – a perfect one night backpacking trip). We opted for a short hike and took some excellent photos off of the observation deck. Underneath the large deck is a fast moving the stream that offers up a great top down view of salmon come summertime. Hiking in 20 degree, snow covered Alaska is very beautiful and fairly comfortable. I’m glad the melt came on Wednesday and not Sunday.

The Double Musky is ranked as one of the best restaurants in the country, and from the descriptions of people that have eaten there I wouldn’t deny it. We were told to get there early as they do not take reservations and a 2 hour wait is not uncommon, order a steak or something Cajun, and expect to pay plenty and not feel swindled in the slightest. So we found ourselves a little dressed up and heading to Girdwood for dinner Friday night, only to find a piece of paper in the window with magic marker stating “closed till 12/12.” The website had none of this information. I know it is a family place but the website is well designed and therefore presumably often updated. Nah. Very disappointing and strange. How are they not open given the impending start of the ski season at Alyeska right up the street? I would have expected them to take a vacation right before the snow came, but alas. So we went to Alyeska and had a very tasty, yet odd meal. We saw people getting fresh bread and inquired about our own.

“Oh, the bread isn’t very good. It gets stale right after it leaves the warmer so I figured you wouldn’t want any.”
“Well, we’d like to give it a try.”
“Oh, then I’ll bring some.”

Yeah, the bottom of the bread was a little too hard but it certainly was edible. Good meal (crab stuffed salmon for me – steak for Becky), but odd. Next time we’ll definitely have to call ahead to the Double Musky and make sure the drive is worthwhile.

More pictures will be coming soon, and there are certainly more tales to be told. I ended up walking off the red eye at O’hare Sunday morning with a box containing 20lbs of crab (fresh from Norton Sound) and an additional 15lbs of salmon and halibut. My balcony currently contains my ice trays and freezer packs as my freezer is now a perfect block of seafood. I should post a picture of this before the crab legs head to Indy for Christmas and get replaced by piles of venison on my trip back through Chicago. Endlessly… a block of meat.

Friday, October 26, 2007

As Into the Wild opened in Madison last Friday, I had a chance to catch up with it on Monday night. On a side note, the Sundance theatres are very fancy and a bit pricey. Good experience, but if a given movie was playing somewhere else I’d probably lean away from Sundance.

I’ve always been fascinated by Chris McCandless and had read the book in the Spring of 1999 before my first trip to Alaska that summer. I remember becoming completely enthralled in his story, while also seeing clearly the positives and negatives in his life. He lived gloriously according to his own driven id, while simultaneously, selfishly amputating his loved ones with no notice in the name of burying pain and promoting rebirth (I understand his home environment and parents’ flaws were magnified a bit for movie, but how could one really be sure? Even if they were that bad, his selfishness is still indictable). My mother read it as well and was a little frightened for my summer trip, but I assured her easily by reminding her that I had been to BWCA and numerous other high adventure places and had the knowledge to do just fine in Denali with a backpack.

I remember feeling (probably arrogantly to a degree) that I had perhaps a bit more outdoors experience than Chris, and certainly a greater sense of what was wise and unwise in entering a wilderness, particularly one as large and unforgiving as Alaska. I guess I have a healthy fear of the untamed wild, which Chris did not. This makes me pleased and sad. I admire that about him and find it fascinating, but also find it immensely foolish and unwise, and certainly nothing to emulate. It has been surmised that he essentially desired to commit suicide by walking out with the supplies he carried, and it’s hard to disagree. He wanted to disappear into the ether like Enid at the end of Ghost World (which I always read as a metaphorical and near physical suicide) and he got his wish, though we certainly know he intended to re-enter civilization and re-connect with friends and presumably family. Alaska plays for keeps though and while it is easily one of the most beautiful places on earth, it is extremely unforgiving. Alaska has taken many wide eyed adventurers and easily will continue to do so. There is a line in The Blair Witch Project that got a chuckle in the theatre where a character asserts that by merely walking in a straight line they would eventually run into a road, as America has been thoroughly sliced up as to make endless meandering impossible. True, but not so true in Alaska.

While the book loudly sung Chris’ infectious wanderlust and joie de vivre it always tempered it alongside the facts of his story and sobering comments from Alaskans as to the reality of many people from the same cut of the cloth that the Great Land endlessly claims for good. He made many mistakes that could have been easily foreseen – bring a map, more experience storing meat, location of the hand pulley down river from his aborted return route, etc. The film doesn’t really mention these things, but they are certainly there if you stare hard enough. In his attempt to cross the river and return to civilization and human contact he maddeningly confronts the raging river that was much smaller in the winter time. The film succeeded in this sequence so powerfully that I actually though he might make it even though I already knew the conclusion well (much in the same way United 93 fooled me into the possibility of a happy ending), but it neglected to show the audience the existence of a hand pulley less than a mile up river – a fact he would have known if he had brought a map. I see no benefit in insult to injury, but it is a useful fact, though one that probably violates the sainthood Sean Penn seems to ascribe to Chris. While the book loved Chris and clearly painted his warts, the movie seemed to barely mention his warts, yet always with clear justification for their existence. I’m sure Sean Penn will disagree with that statement (and maybe punch me over it), but it definitely came across that way.

Geez, I sound like I’m really bashing this movie. I hope that is not the case, as I loved it. The direction and story structure were excellent. Several shots so perfectly used the widescreen, particularly the opening shot. You could clearly visualize how small we are in relation to the wilderness. I believe strongly that there are aspects of Chris’ life worth emulating and celebrating and that his story is well worth telling. Some of it should be cautionary, even damned in the ultimate analysis. I don’t agree with any beatification though, and probably agree with most of what Alaskans conclude.

Up in Alaska is slightly on the other side of the issue, but I can’t say I disagree with her at all.

Here is a well written, concise Alaskan point of view from a somewhat doppelganger of Chris’.

Another Alaskan pov.

Ultimately, Alaska is that magnetic of a place. I wholeheartedly agree with Chris on that one.

Hal Holbrook practically stole the move when he appeared.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Cross last weekend was ridiculously fun. I'll certainly race again this season, though probably not until mid November. My schedule is a little tight, but I will hopefully race in some snow.

I seriously loved it. I didn't finish last and did better than I had expected. You never really know where your fitness is until you test it in an actual race (I don't know if alleycats count. I guess they do, but then again that is really up to the individual. I always backed off in them in the name of safety knowing that I had no shot at winning to begin with.). I know where my fitness is at Ford's Gym because the numbers on the iron never lie. Pedaling is another story. I was able to ride with a few groups and even pass a few people on the later laps. I suspect my strength is in holding a pace over time rather than turning it on early, late or in the middle. I'll get some shoes soon and give it another shot soon. Being in the pain cave never felt so fun.

It was a road weekend, which was a good choice given the weather.

No pies this week but Into the Wild is finally in Madison so I'll need to see that and satisfy my Alaska jones for the time being. Hopefully there will enough snow to ski up there at the end of November.

I can't wait for Cognition to come out with winter caps. Can they work the Alaska flag into a blue wool cap? We shall see.

Friday, October 12, 2007

I could plead laziness in this low posting frequency, but that would not be completely true (thankfully). I was in a cabin in St Germain, WI fishing for a week with my Dad. The plan was expressly hoping for many Walleye to come home in gallon sized ziplock bags, but as these things go there was not even a single Walleye caught. Lost lake is not very large (500 some odd acres) nor extremely deep, so it was perfect for our smaller boat. We had enough time and knowledge to work the lake properly but alas no Walleye. We did catch fish everyday, albeit smaller ones some days (Smallmouth, Northern, Musky, and even a large Crappie). I donated $20 at the Lac De Flambeau casino, my father won $21, and we both put a hurt on the prime rib buffet. What is it about the northwoods that means prime rib? I don’t know. We caught some fish on a quiet lake, slept in a cabin right on the lake, didn’t have to go to work, ate prime rib and fish fry, saw the full blown fall colors, and I read the Bell Jar. No complaints at all.

We did have a large, ripe apple tree next to our cabin so I went home with about 10lbs of apples. I’m not sure of the species, but they are edible and tasty. It’s probably not the tastiest apple pie in the world, but for a first try I think I did just fine. Melissa in Portland would be so proud of me. Coupled with the blueberry pie I made in July I am genuinely on a streak. A streak of what I do not know for sure, but suffice to say I suspect some tattoos might be needed to balance it out.

My first cyclocross race is tomorrow. Lord, have mercy. I now become initiated into the pain cave.

I have started Lost Season 1 dvds. I am so hooked.

Monday, September 17, 2007

What a busy weekend – one that I still need to recover from. Like many great times it developed quickly and out of the blue. Thursday night and into early Friday morning found plans for going to Chicago that night for Om at the Empty Bottle. We would be returning late that night. The show was terrific. Om feels like getting hit by a slow, trudging freight train. I really need to pick up some of their stuff. The abundance of hipsters at the show was strange though, something none of us could come up with an answer for. I was dropped off at 4:30 am to walk through the chilly, 40 degree Madison night to my apt.

Mid-morning Friday my boss offered me 2 Badger tickets for Saturday’s game – 11 am. How could I say no, even though I had already made plans for the Chicago trip. My Orbea was still in the shop so I might as well try doing something other than biking in my free time. I was up at 8:30 and we were walking towards the flowing tailgating parade by 9:15. I had a little tickle in the back of my throat, which I mainly ascribed to having no sleep and spending so much time in a smoky bar the night before. The game was excellent and all of the people that have told me that I needed to go to at least one game just to experience it were correct. I wonder what my college experience would have been like if I had attended a school with that component of student life. UIC has basketball, but in a city like Chicago it is so easy to disregard any non professional teams. If they hadn’t of canned the UIC hockey team I might have been on board with that. I believe I was the only one at Camp Randall not wearing red.

Still no Orbea come Saturday afternoon. They are in the process of drilling, yes drilling, out the bottom bracket. The word is that the crank and frame are in perfect condition, but still – drilling.

Come Sunday morning (after 10+ hours of sleep) the scratch in my throat is now a full blown cold. I watched the Bears, still had no road bike, and recovered from a busy weekend. I saw Bucky and now need to buy some Om records. No complaints.

Friday, September 14, 2007

No news here, but Hemingway endlessly fascinates, confounds, and challenges me. With any luck I’ll keep uncovering Hemingway factoids throughout my life, even though I try to avoid letting that happen. Call it a lifetime quest for knowledge I hope is never satisfied. Stay Hungry (as Twisted Sister has said).

I understand that he was challenged to write a story in 6 words, to prove his economical style at it’s most extreme.

For sale: baby shoes, never used.

Friday, September 07, 2007

It seemed for a moment that we were gaining ground, only to have the man ultimately shut us down yet again.

On Tuesday my coworker alerted me to a wonderful fact about the candy and chip vending machine downstairs. When you put a dime in, the display registered the .10 increment while also letting your dime drop into the coin return. I walked down with 2 dimes and came back with 2 candy bars and 2 dimes.

On Wednesday I walked down with a few dimes hoping to cash in yet again. The dime went through, the .10 was registered on the display, but the dime actually went into the machine without dropping into the return. Fair enough. I pushed the coin return button and watched while the display cleared to 0.00 and my dime stayed inside the machine. The same thing happened on Thursday to my coworker. He put in 7 dimes, realized the chips he wanted were .50, selected the chips, and promptly received the chips and no change.

The machine, it seems, is making up those lost dimes.

Monday, September 03, 2007

I first tried to ride through the old train tunnel on the Badger State Trail a few weeks ago but didn't bring a flashlight, so that failed. If you're assuming I figured on being hardcore enough to not need one, you would be correct. Well, the tunnel is about a 1/4 mile long and has a 15 degree curve in it halfway to it is not a simple as just heading towards the light. Armed successfully today with a headlight (thanks to the Tron door prizes), I made it through. Very fun and very unique. Oh, and yes, I also pictured the entrance to the Tomb of Horrors or The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth when gazing upon it. My brain does work that way, and it does make me cool. Honest.


The Tron race was near perfect. It devilishly sent us into the maelstorm of Taste of Madison while also winding us through the Badger football traffic. Against all previous self promises, I rode more aggressively that I should have, though remain unscathed. To the older gentleman at Regent and Monroe that turned a bleached white when I just missed his hood, all apologizes. As many riders have said over the years in response to being called an asshole (usually rightly so) after some sort of intersection craziness, "It's a race, man." The after party is easily the best post race party I've attended. We savaged the chips, keg, Boca burgers, real burgers, and brats (yes brats. It's happily - eternally - Wisconsin even when racing). Thanks, Lyle.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

I finally won a MOTAB trophy after many middle finishes and 2 DFL's. This time it involved a relay race with ThunderJet bikes. So much fun as always. Heading home with some hardware is even better.
It was so great to be in Chicago for 4/5 days for work training. The weather was pissy rain most days, although thankfully it abated when I needed to walk somewhere. I didn't gain any weight, which is a miracle considering I ate at Heaven on Seven twice, Francesca's, Giordano's, and Lao Sze Chuan. I believe they have each been on Check Please! -- maybe not Giordano's though. That is how I live and eat -- at the direction of Alpana. I still love Chicago, but every time I visit I realize that it is best as a place to visit for me.
Back in Madison now, listening to Electric Wizard, and heading to the Tron race in about 45 minutes. No trophy this time for sure, but a good is guaranteed.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

In the mid 90’s when I was just out of High School I remember a conversation with a fellow hardcore kid about the lack of real metal available. Death metal had been great, but by 1995 it had hit a layover valley on its way to a more technical and stronger future. It was a tough time for metal in general (a transition period in hindsight), and most metalcore being played in VFW halls by sxe kids just wasn’t cutting it. Mercyful Fate had reformed, but that was more of a touring thrill than an excitement about new material. King Diamond had started to drift. Iron Maiden didn’t have Bruce anymore. Michale Graves was fronting some band. Times were tough. We both knew it would swing again to greater heights as unknown records would someday be released by bands more brutal and heavier than we could ever imagine. It would work itself out, but we sadly acknowledged that at that moment we stood in a desert of sorts. At that same moment we took a great deal of comfort in agreeing that Danzig proudly and solely was metal’s standard bearer. In the good times, bad times, and in between times, Glenn was there, man. Every 2-3 years another Danzig record would come out and it would be good. It was a gimme. We both talked about many records that evening but I always remember agreeing easily on the strength of the Killer Wolf upon parting.

Well, within a short year or so that BlackAcidDevil record was released. What a heart breaker. Glenn had let us all down. Granted, good metal soon came back around in numerous new splintered variations so it all worked out, though it was tough to take considering the throne we had placed Glenn’s output on. The subsequent records were better, but still horribly mediocre compared to what the Misfits, Samhain, and first 4 Danzig records showed us we could expect. I saw the Satan’s Child/Samhain Reunion tour and loved it -- completely satisfying and impressive. I had calmly given up on the possibility of any impressive studio output while still knowing that the live shows would deliver, kind of like Slayer.

All of this chatter leads me to just how impressive the Lost Tracks of Danzig is -- two discs of chronologically organized B-sides and unreleased tracks that are easily up to the quality of the first 4 records. Disc 1 is stellar and disc 2 is closer to lukewarm, though still highly listenable. I still doubt that Danzig has any brand new material worth getting excited about, but this is a killer release. Hey, the Killer Wolf is in his 50’s after all. Time is marching on for all of us.

Friday, August 10, 2007

After a recent trip home I grabbed all of 7” records (maybe 75 or so) and brought them up to Madison. Bringing all of my 12”s would be a little too brutal of an undertaking considering the size of my apt, but thankfully my 7”s don’t consumer as much space. Before moving away from Chicago a few years ago I did some legitimate pruning of my records, trying to ebay away everything that had absolutely no value to me. It seemed tough at the time but I can’t say that I miss any of the records I jettisoned. I do think back on the blue marble One Truth 12” by Strife that I unloaded, but every time I listen to a Strife song I remember that the band never really did it for me. I think I just liked the idea of a mint, gatefold lp on blue marble. I used to buy 7”s constantly at shows -- it’s so easy to just give anything a try for 3 measly bucks. It’s even easier to give something a try if you know it’s a limited color or pressing, never escaping the record nerd part of myself that knows that I could trade or sell it down the road and do just fine. I was never a speculator, but rather just aware of the market in place that would someday lead me to possibly getting the Negative Approach 7”, or Mercyful Fate’s Live From the Depths of Hell 12” (two unfulfilled quests so far).

So now I’m on a new project to listen to the entire collection again and find out what I’ve completely forgotten I own, what I used to love but now just cannot get into, and what I remember as mediocre that is now so much more than that. I was always a lukewarm Mouthpiece fan but their final 7” Face Tomorrow is really rubbing me the right way. I remember liking it better than the lp, but not this much. We’ll see what happens as more sxe goodies are reevaluated.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

It has been hard to come up with more Alaska stories since the big ones have already been written. Perhaps this will drift into more tidbits than wide, expansive storytelling, but that will have to do.

The 10 days in Alaska coupled with some random rain on weeknights when I returned has blunted my riding schedule a bit but it has been dry and hot these past 2 weeks so my mileage should be back up where it belongs. Not so good for sweet corn, but the lack of rain is great for cycling. This weekend looks rain free and my schedule is wide open for riding. With any luck my legs will be torn up by Sunday night.

My canoe trip was a mixed bag. I saw very few people and plenty of wildlife, easily caught several very large rainbow trout, had almost glass like lakes to paddle across in the strangely windless mid days -- yet I never felt the country was substantially different from the Boundary Waters in northern Minnesota. I would rather have looked all around me and seen mountains landscaping the background. Not having officially marked campsites was also a mixed bag. You were allowed to camp anywhere and the maps had noted known campsites, but it would have been a bit nicer to simply declare some of them as official, improve them, and then make all others off limits as the forest reclaimed them. It works in Boundary Waters. Small complaints I guess. I did find out that America has 2 designated wilderness canoe areas, Boundary Waters in Minnesota and the Kenai Wildlife Refuge in the great Alaska. I’m now 2 for 2.

Paddling steadily around the numerous 90 degree turns on the Moose River, I encountered 2 moose (on separate occasions). It is something to come around a corner and find a huge moose standing in the middle of the narrow river just 30 yards away from you. Not enough time to grab my camera, but just enough time to make a little bit of noise and get the thing to move out of the way for me. I am endlessly amazed at just how big those animals are. Like a cow on stilts.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Another Tale From the Great White North…

I had always heard the phrase combat fishing here and there but never really thought about it. It always floated out of my mind just as quickly as it lit in. There is really no combat fishing to speak of in the Midwest. Smelting on the Chicago lakefront doesn’t really qualify. I’m told that during the Walleye run on the Wisconsin River it can get a little congested, but it’s really nothing to get that impressed by. Combat fishing in Alaska is a unique animal and something I never would have believed had I not seen it with my own eyes. The above picture is from Willow, right off the Deshka River (the King Salmon were running through). It was much, much worse on the Russian River (Red Salmon running through). While driving through the Kenai Peninsula we saw it in full force. Apparently the bears even come out in close proximity to the hundreds of fisherman – everyone present just wants fish.

In Wisconsin the fishing is rarely as good as it is in Alaska, but it’s almost always guaranteed that you can find a part of the lake or shoreline to nestle into to quietly fish, chit-chat, and simply enjoy the lake and outdoors. Now, Alaska is a very big place and there are uncountable places where you can fish alone, but when the salmon are running and you are within driving distance of Anchorage (half of the state’s population) you can bet you’ll be combat fishing.

I was a little put off by it myself, but if we had actually caught some King Salmon I’d probably not care at all. People are constantly getting their lines tangled with each other. Most of the time one person will reel all the way in and unhook the other line. I did this for a few people myself, but the glasshead that reeled in my line found it easier to simply cut my line with his knife and then smile. We were on a boat and he was on shore so there was enough distance to prohibit a shouting match, etc. I was pretty angry at first and then realized after taking a breath that tomorrow I’ll be waking up with a good job and education while he’ll still be a burned out meth head. Fine, you showed me up, dude. Have your laugh with your buddies. I’m assuming some strange class envy magically developed because we were in a boat and they stood on shore. I guess they were keeping it real and we were the Magnificent Ambersons or something of the like. Silly.

Friday, June 29, 2007


A Tale From the Great White North…

Skate videos always gave me songs to hear in my head as I attempted to put together my own runs. Certain songs still always appear in my mind visually along with the exact trick that was landed at that musical moment. Gangstarr and Mike Carroll are prime culprits.

Journey’s Greatest Hits is the hottest CD in my life right now. Driving back from a canoe trip in northern Wisconsin a few weeks ago found the CD played straight through from Tomahawk through Stevens Point. It’s perfect driving back to civilization music (We listened to Neil Young on the way up – perfect entering the woods music). That Sunday night “Don’t Stop Believing” became canonical again via The Sopranos. In Homer, Alaska a week later I found myself at 6:30 am waiting to get on my Halibut charter. Your limit is 2 per day and we went out for 2.5 hours into the ocean for this ugly as sin (yet delicious) fish – 6 of us in total. I guess we started fishing around 10 am and our captain told us we were on a shelf of kelp that had big fish on it, and that we wouldn’t get any hits for about 30 minutes, until our bait and chum bag fully announced our presence. About 20 minutes later one guy caught a 25 lb fish but threw it back. It was too early to limit out on small fish. Then right at that 30 minute mark another guy caught a 60 lber. Beautiful fish. The sun was shining and it was about 55 degrees out, but with the wind on the ocean sea it was a little chilly. I kept a jacket on during this and still had a shiver but the crew had simple sweatshirts on – locals. With the nice weather and our settling in on our fishing grounds, it was time for music, so decreed the captain. The Journey CD came on and the captain mumbled, “They always hit for Journey.” No shit. Soon I hooked my 73lb fish, fought it for almost 10 minutes to songs unknown in the middle of the CD. It wiggled and pulled on the drag, but ultimately the experience descended into pulling up a sewer cap from 45 feet. So much fun and truly an exhausting experience. As the day begun I fought the discomfort from a long ride in the ocean coupled with the smell and noise of a diesel engine. Along with the chill from the wind I was eager to see my mood change, and given that it took about an hour for me to catch a fish I was nervous about being skunked to say the least. After I saw that gaffed 73lb fish flopping around the rear of the boat I cannot explain how quickly my mood changed. The day then relaxed for me. If I caught another fish and capped my limit that would be great, but if not then 73lbs is a very nice fish, considering they bone out around 60%. After landing my halibut the captain told me personally that I had caught a nice fish. This was nice to hear since I, along with everyone on the boat, had very little sense of what a good day or fish would be. He probably tells that to all the shmucks that catch something. I was feeling pretty good about my catch (still am) but I was soon trumped. A guy from California caught a 100+ lb fish which he had the pleasure of fighting to “Don’t Stop Believing.” Lucky guy. Over the next few hours 2 more 100+ lb fish made it into the boat. When the fishing slowed down at that spot we headed over to deeper water where within 30 minutes we all limited out on 25lb fish. Much smaller that pulling up a 73lb sewer cap, but challenging in its own way due to that fact that those 25lbers live at 125 feet. So we headed back on our 3 hour ride with everyone in the boat catching their limit while also getting some much larger fish than usual. My fish was just a warm up for the boat in the end, but I sent 48 lbs of meat home so no complaints. Maybe next time I’ll get two 100 lbers.

It’s the easiest fishing I’ve ever done. You bait the circular hook, place a 2lb sinker a foot above it, and then lower the whole operation to the bottom of the sea, feel the plunk, and then reel in 2 feet of line. Place it in the rod holder and wait for the hit. Easy. Also, with circular hooks you don’t need to set the hooks. You just look around at the scenery, take some pictures, drink a coke, and then grab your pole when it bends in half. Easy. One of the first things we were told on the boat was that when the crew was dragging our fish into the boat we needed to grab the 2lb sinker and hold it for them. “That damn thing easily turns into a wrecking ball when we’re wrestling a fish.” He then pointed at his forehead, “It sucks. Trust me.”

Sadly, they did not shoot my fish. When the first 100lber got close enough to be seen the captain asked us to stand back while his crewman held the gaff nearby. “This could get active.” I saw the revolver in his hand and watched him silently load one bullet as his eyes stayed on the fish, still 10 feet out from the boat. As the fish was gaffed it was steadied next to the boat and then a single shot went right through its head. Even with that when it was hoisted into the boat it flopped around like a madman and the crewman that grew up in Montana straddled and kneeled over it like a bull and wrestled it to a momentary calm where he gave it a few wacks with a sizeable, rapidly produced varnished stick and settled it once and for all. My fish did not warrant the head shot and I do feel cheated by this. The other guys got to take home their shell casing.

I have no clue whether we had a typical day or a great day. It felt great to me, especially counting the weather (Sunny and over 50 in Homer is a gift). I heard the captain mention to another captain back at the dock when we returned to Homer that our day was epic. I’ll take that as fact rather than tourist cheerleading.

Epic indeed. Journey will always mean fishing in Alaska to me and the great strength it takes to pull up big fish from 45+ feet below.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

I seldom fly so I have no litany of horror stories about airlines, but that may be changing (I’ve actually flown fewer than a dozen round trips in my life). I was informed via computer voicemail that my NWA flight for tomorrow was cancelled and that I had been placed on an 11am flight Friday morning. That is a 24 hour bump in under a day’s notice! I called and was told that the computer had made the bump and that I could be placed on a different Thursday flight. Fair enough, though I do now have to spend a 3 hour layover in Detroit. I’ll be in the last frontier Thursday night so all is well.

Piss on the Red Wings.

Friday, May 25, 2007

How do you write a book review for a 15 year old book? It’s not new, but it is not old enough to have begun the endless war with time and relevance that all works of art must undertake. It’s not yet the same as writing at length about books by long dead people from decades long before I was born, or even work by Salinger, whom is socially dead by his own design. Wayne is not dead. He is still very much greeting Chicago daily with 2 fists raised up, his back endlessly against filthy gangway bricks.

I always dug The Holy Terror, and not just for the omnipresent Chicago scenery and mood, though that is wonderful. Reading it for the first time 9 or so years ago I remember being struck by the wash of grey in the characters, environment, and conclusion. The conclusion is unsettling and unresolved, something I enjoyed immensely back then. The Painkiller is still out there, lurking in Chicago’s broken streets, though gentrification has certainly shoved him out of Wicker Park (I’ll also gather that Humboldt is too pricey as well). I loved the way the city breathed on each page and became a hulking character in the corner of each scene.

This past week’s reading was a bit different. I found all the things above still there in the same ways they had been before, but I ended up focusing on what wasn’t there – the attractive people coming and going, the nice bars, the good neighborhood with the nice homes on its blocks, and the pain free people. These things are mentioned sparsely and then forgotten. There seems to be a brutal disconnect of the world all of the characters occupy and the rest of Chicago. It is very clear that there are two (maybe Infinite) Chicagos at play here, and that Wayne only cares about the one with grime, filth, broken cement, and pain ridden humans, each responding differently to themselves. It is interesting to think of the true Wicker Park of 1989 in the novel and place it next to the true Wicker Park of today and see that the other Chicago steamrolled Wayne’s characters and their world. Their stomping grounds were not very happy so maybe that’s ok. Chicago is a big place and there will always be dirty alleys and narrow gangways for Vic and Haid to retreat into. They are still out there for sure, stumbling around El platforms.

I can’t recommend this book enough, both as an excellent modern horror tale and a true snapshot of Chicago. It’s not that expensive. C’mon, read a great book and then tell Wayne about it.

Oh yeah, while I’m telling you how to spend your money, buy a Cognition cap. Mine fits better than any other cycling cap I’ve ever bought. Good hat, good people.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Through a few patches of old growth pine...

Before the rain in the afternoon, Saturday was a beautiful 60 degree day in the North woods. This is a beautiful, smooth road through the Timms Hill County Park, near Rustic Road 62 (do people actively try to visit all of the rustic roads?) and Ogema. These woods up north never cease to impress me. Summer is pretty much here.

It was 36 degrees Sunday morning. Summer is maybe not here just yet.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Oats, brah.

It starts out poorly but I think the story pays off.

I eat oatmeal every morning at my desk and therefore have the big cardboard cylinder container in my drawer. Now, it’s cheapest to buy the big 6lb boxed plastic bags of oatmeal at Sam’s club and just fill up the cylinder every 3 weeks or so. Like I’m carrying a fragile newborn babe I end up walking home every now and again with the cylinder in my hand to avoid getting it smashed in my bag. I assume it looks a little silly. While walking home the other day I passed a guy my own age that nodded and then added , “Way to go with the oats, brah.” It was not sarcastic at all. It felt like it needed a high five and a gentle smile in the vein of some phrase like “Yeah, I recycle as well, brah.”

Only in Madison. Cred for eating oatmeal.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Hotel in Homer, AK. Check.

Reservation on Halibut and Salmon charter boat? Check.

Canoeing long days with maximum daylight in the Kenai Refuge? Check.

Most of my wilderness adventures have been in Wisconsin, Minnesota or Michigan – the Midwest at the very least. My impending June trip to Alaska has me remembering that almost every time I head to the woods I bring along my dogged copy of Hemingway’s complete short stories. It has only seldom been accurate, but reading about Nick Adams and looking around at the streams and birches surrounding me makes it believable that I am right where he wrote those stories about 100 years ago. The countryside would have easily looked the same. I did visit the two hearted river last summer in the UP and while it was just as beautiful and similar to all of the north woods I’ve seen in my lifetime, it also added a bit extra for the Hemingway nerd. But, Hemingway never set foot in Alaska. It seems odd that it never came to happen in his life of travel and adventure, but it eluded him. I’ll still drag along the short stories on my canoe trip but it might not be the same. Maybe it’s time to bring along the complete works of Jack London and read beyond the main novels and more famous short stories…

Friday, April 20, 2007

Comics this week…

No spoilers here, but be careful if you jump to the wiki link.

Rumblings spread across the internet a few months ago that there was a very sad disjoint between the 52 braintrust’s storyline planning and the OYL factoids already on display in the current books. Having Rucka, Johns, Waid and the God of All Comics is enough for me to simply say, “Hey, they’ll build the storyline bridge some way and it’ll be great. No worries.” From the message boards at the time there was more concern than I had, but I dig all of their work independently and have loved 52, so I’m a cheap date for the future possibilities. They can write their way out of anything. This week they did their job but

First off, why is World War 3 4 comics, especially when they have to come out on the same day? Make them one big book, annual sized, and be done with it. Oh, but then it would be close to $10, and would therefore scare many people off. For $2.50 a book people will bite and then immediately pile on for the remaining three. There is also something to be said for buying 4 books and knowing you have the entire set. I’m calling it a scam nonetheless. The story also didn’t merit that high of a page count either. I can see the pitch session clearly and envision the inevitable statement: “If its 4 books then it can be a trade.”

I was initially confused as to whether I should have read 52 #50 first or plowed through WW3 first. The cover of #50 told me that WW3 begins here so I went that route. I loved that book. It covered a huge battle, showed some character changes, and had a strong resolution. No complaints. Jumping then to WW3 was such a downer. It was essentially a drawn out, less interesting retelling of the story I had just enjoyed in 22 pages. Why was Martian Manhunter’s presence looming like the Spectre usually does? I know the Spectre is MIA and it was addressed but still. Too much navel gazing. If this big event helped us fill in some of the OYL bits, and it did, why do I still have no clue about Commissioner Gordon? That little fact is nagging me. I’ll bet a Batman annual will fix that in the next few months. $4.99 I’m sure.

I love comics and more importantly never mind spending cash on books I plan on reading – it is almost always an inherently good act. Still, this feels very much like an unnecessary book. 52 #50 covered all I needed to know and about an extra 15 pages here or there would have given me the OYL info I needed. This, coupled with the pricing I noted above, makes this feel more bloated than usual.

I love 52 and I’m in for Countdown. Black Adam is one of the most interesting characters around these days but it would be nice to see him in a better set of books. I’m sure Countdown will fix that. These events, when elevated above this week’s bloated books, are very interesting and will happily resonate for the next year of infinite purchases.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Did Infinite Crisis result in newly energized sales across the board? Did the One Year Later stories catch on? On a creative level, I like some books and ideas and dislike others. Nightwing is bland when it is not terrible, Green Arrow is very cool as always, having Gordon and Harvey Bullock back is great, and I could care less about Hawkman/girl. I'm interested in JLA yet still not sold on it's big picture, though there is so much to like here and there that I'm surely in for the long haul. JSA is a blast (I love Starman), but I dig the Justice Society so much that I'm a cheap date on this one. The jury is still out with 4 weeks of 52 left, but so far a mixed bag with an uneasy sense of poor planning lingering over the OYL concepts.

On to what matters -- the sales figures. Do these numbers represent DC's storylines and events and their success (or apparent lack thereof) ? or are they harbingers of the ongoing comic marketplace's economic reality?

Its well worth a read and not as dense as it appears upon first glance.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Covered with dust in the barn I dug through box after box of books that I had decided needed to make the migration from Chicago in 2005. In hindsight at least 3 boxes should have ended up in a thrift store on the south side, probably Unique on Archer. I wasn’t as brave at the time and thought that all of those books would eventually be reread someday. A fair amount will be, but a fair amount made the trip for nothing. On Saturday I came up with two medium boxes filled with paperbacks and a few hardcovers that will soon end up at Jasper Junction. Saturday night I was disappointed that I only came up with 2 boxes so I promised to look through it all again Sunday morning. This produced another full large box, this one with many beat up Far Side collections. They are funny but I hope to buy the complete collection someday so perhaps that will speed that goal along. So many great books made the cut and will be allowed to stay until I get another bug to dig through things. All of the Hemingway made it of course. Flipping through each text produces a flutter of notes and scribbling in the margins. If I could ever see myself rereading something it could not be given away. This explains the huge box of Archie double digests that remains. I still dig those books. If it is something I could see lending endlessly I could also never give it away. That explains the piles of Sin City and DC trades. If it is anything that I would definitely buy again I could not throw away my ratty old copy in good faith. I may buy other copies, but the fraying and splitting copies of In Our Time, The Things They Carried, and A Farewell to Arms are the specific copies I know I read for the first time. How could I get rid of those?

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


I don’t know if it is some sort of spring fever bug or just an attempt at the endless pruning of my life, but I’m knee deep in digging through boxes and boxes of stuff (mostly books) to drop off at St. Vincent De Paul on Williamson or perhaps even ebay. I have always hoped to have no more possessions beyond what I could pack into my truck for a single trip move, but this has never happened. I’m a materialistic jerk like everybody else, and I have too many bikes – but I’m still reaching for that brass ring of simplicity and immediate mobility.

I’ll be home this weekend digging through boxes and boxes of books in the barn. All of the books are decent and I have read and enjoyed them, but some of them need to find new homes (If they weren’t jettisoned during my Chicago->Madison pruning they must have some interest, right?). I can’t promise a hardcover but how about a paperback meme coupled with some inevitable cdr evangelization (Lair of the Minotaur, Dio, Joe Coffee, etc.)?

Post away and I’ll accommodate (Salma, I know I owe you for your meme and BG) with a package containing a mystery paperback and some metal.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Word has trickled down here at the office that streaming video (no surprise there) and streaming audio (this one really hurts) is now a no-no. Even streaming radio is bad news. This stinks. Its not a distraction like video is, but rather a great way to drone out the office noise. I’ll sorely miss Chicago’s Roe Conn Show, This American Life repeats, and Milt Rosenberg archived shows. They have been replaced by a little music (Mercyful Fate, Merauder, The Jam) and lots of Rollins spoken word. There is something about hearing speech rather than music that helps the work day move quickest. Aside from lifting more often and heavier, the Rollins results remain to be seen, though a result is surely coming. I remember most of the bits and a fair amount of the phrasing but it’s interesting to go straight through and digest it as a whole.

Friday, March 30, 2007

I love it when companies surprise me and have fun with the process of doing business. Joe Coffee's new cd "When the Fabric Don't Fit the Frame" is out now directly from the band and being the loyal fan I am I jumped on it ("Stink of Love" is a terrific and true track).

Here is the confirmation email I received from the online company:

Your CDs have been gently taken from our CD Baby shelves with sterilized contamination-free gloves and placed onto a satin pillow.

A team of 50 employees inspected your CDs and polished them to make sure they were in the best possible condition before mailing.

Our packing specialist from Japan lit a candle and a hush fell over the crowd as he put your CDs into the finest gold-lined box that money can buy.

We all had a wonderful celebration afterwards and the whole party marched down the street to the post office where the entire town ofPortland waved "Bon Voyage!" to your package, on its way to you, in our private CD Baby jet on this day, Friday, March 30th.

I hope you had a wonderful time shopping at CD Baby. We sure did. Your picture is on our wall as "Customer of the Year." We're all exhausted but can't wait for you to come back to CDBABY.COM!!Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Sigh...--Derek Sivers, president, CD Baby
the little store with the best new independent music

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Ford's Gym War Hellride

Maybe its because I will always have on toe in Chicago, or maybe because I try to remember to find the smaller things in life that make a place unique, memorable, or interesting . Either way, small Wisconsin details never cease to interest me.

At the pot luck or VFW dinners in Chicago or Indiana you will have the option of water, coffee, or kool-aid. In Wisconsin there is no kool-aid option, but in its place you can have 2% milk. As much as you want! Eating corned beef and cabbage really gives me a taste for milk served by charming old women in American Legion smocks. I jest, but I had two glasses of milk like the ever acclimating person I’m trying to be.

I am starting to sound like Garrison Keiller. (“Stupid blog! Be more funny!”)

A new member of the gym looks just like Wesley Willis, only a little less hefty. He benches 225 lbs in reps of 2, over 10+ sets. Its very odd and silly, aside from rudely monopolizing the bench for 30 minutes. Some have dubbed him Benchy, which is appropriate. I only hear “Rock on Madison. Rock on Ford’s Gym. Wisconsin – You’re among Friends!” when I see him.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Its a little warmer and the days are longer thanks to the early time change. The salt and sand on the slushy early spring side of the road is making daily cleanings of my bike almost necessary, but I'll never complain about that. Its so nice to be out again. Life is busier than ever these days but with the looming spring on the horizon I am completely relaxed and happy, yet I have found more clear, strong grey hairs in the same area as before. Its no longer a story. When you get that first one its a story. When you get that first clump its worth noting. Now, its on to more interesting things to complain and blog about.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Saturday was a perfect confluence of some Chicago friends on Madison. I met Tom and Jess in Milwaukee to see the Bacon exhibit. Very disturbing and unforgettable. We high tailed it back to Madison for rollerderby where Salma’s Chicago contingent was headed. We had 2 tickets for our group of three which was no worry because you could always buy them there. I don’t know if a bout has sold out before (probably) but this was one was very sold out before it even began. This was troubling -- we passed many groups of people walking away from the venue with heads hung low. The will call line was long so we figured we’d stand in it and work on a plan. We hoped for the “we came from Chicago and already have 2 tickets…can be buy one measly ticket?” approach. We also planned on asking for “professional courtesy” for Chicago’s finest and bravest. Our line inched closer to the will call table over the next 10 minutes when finally a man in full Reservoir Dolls regalia (a sharp black suit) walked out with a ticket in his hand and calmly stated, “Who is a fan of the Reservoir Dolls?” I poked Tom, his hand shot up, and all three of us walked in. Salma and crew were inside, the place was jumping, and I still cannot believe our good luck.

Found my first grey hair this week. I’m sure it is not the first but it is certainly the first bold, clear one I’ve noticed. Does this mean I can no longer listen to youth crew records?

Monday, February 26, 2007


About 6 years ago at Chicago hardcore fest the headliner was supposed to 25 Ta Life. I had not caught that band before but I had seen Comin’ Correct at the Fireside, so I knew Rick’s presence and appreciated it. While I dug CC, I much preferred the songs from 25 Ta Life so I was pretty excited about this show. If I remember correctly it was most of the reason I even went to the fest (Envy from Buffalo was the other one I believe). The band wasn’t on tour so the plan was to drive straight from NYC to Chicago. It being winter and all the chance for tough weather certainly was omnipresent. As it happened, a big snowstorm hit NYC about 4 hours before the band was to go on in Chicago, but strangely enough this snowstorm shot out of the northeastern seaboard. The point is that 25 Ta Life would have cleverly dodged the snow by being on the road extremely early Saturday morning or even Friday night, which were the times they would have needed to leave anyway. It was a random snowstorm and an even more random way to dodge it. Talking with the promoter at the door he told me Rick and co. were not coming due to the weather. His frustrating conversation from that afternoon went like this:

“Hey, where are you calling me from? Are you on the road?”

“Blizzard, yo.”

“You’re still in New York? Did you try to leave? You would have dodged it.”

“Blizzard, yo.”

“You’re my headliner.”

“Yo, sorry but this is a straight up blizzard.”

I saw them a year or so later and the show delivered and they were cool guys. Rick’s merch/flea market is something to behold. Every time I am in the middle of a big snowstorm I endlessly hear ‘Blizzard, yo’ looping through my head in a New York accent.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Trek X01

Aside from giving cross racing a try in the fall, I hope to use this as my full time commuter, errand bike, and poor weather bike. It just might replace the track bike...

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars and say "These wounds I had on Crispin's day."

What is the best way to approach art, writing, film, etc? Do you decide on the theme, thesis, political objective, or concluding dynamic of the characters and then write towards it? Or do you pick out some interesting characters, place them in a situation/time/place and then just write as you follow them to their own conclusion? I support the latter, though unavoidably you need to keep the former in mind. Lean on the characters first and you'll get to the end properly. Otherwise you'll risk ending up with a cultural artifact that rapidly becomes dated (Easy Rider). Lehane's comment on the writing of Mystic River is an excellent example of the right way (I think):

And for about seven years the title and the neighborhood and the main character stayed with me, just lightly rapping on the door every now and then. About three years ago, a sentence—"Brendan Harris loved Katie Marcus like crazy, like movie love. . ."—started echoing in my skull, and it merged with some of the properties of the Mystic River idea (which had been sort of elbowing its way into pole position in my head) and everything coalesced, I guess.

Monday, February 12, 2007

We shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may

Salma mentioned that she is attempting to take a picture a day as an interesting exercise, so I’m going to try and take more pictures than usual, knowing full well that the photo a day is not going to happen. I’ll keep my digital camera with me more often and try and post some of the more interesting pictures. This morning we started getting some snow around 5am and by 6:45 when I began walking to work this is what it looked like. I believe the open ended subject or frame of reference of the “revolt” perfectly works for Madison – there is always something people here want to revolt against in their own little way, so perhaps it’ll stand as a snow riddled mad-lib. I’m revolting against the red crossing flags.

Raced in Chicago yesterday and it was very cold and very fun (as always). We ended up with a 14 degree starting temperature on our roughly 30+ mile loop through the city. Cruising north from the final checkpoint in Sherman Park (in Englewood – yes, that Englewood) we cut over from Halsted onto Archer, turning north again onto Canal. We knew we were not in the top half of finishers but also knew that we had a few people behind us so we kept a hurried pace. I caught a flat around 20th and Canal, rode on it for a few blocks, and ultimately ended up fixing it at 17th after riding on the rim for a few blocks. Scott and crew had already zipped ahead out of earshot. No worries – that’s why I carry a tool kit. My fingers were numb fixing my rear wheel (so much more of a pain than the front on a fixed gear), but since my truck was up around 2400 north even limping to the finish at 500 W Madison wouldn’t change the need to ultimately fix my flat. Freezing on Canal was the same as freezing on Madison. At least with freezing ahead of time I was ensured winning DFL. I was awarded some fancy cycling socks for my placement that eventually went to Clare as they fit her much better. According to J9son a later DFL stumbled in after I left but that sounds like a scam to me. He can fight me for DFL if he thinks he has a right to it.

In Hockey on Thursday night a kid (19 or so) ran into me in the neutral zone. He was skating with his head down, as opposed to on a swivel (the way it should be), and plowed his head cleanly and firmly into my chest, mainly right into my heart. I didn’t move but he stumbled back. Game on was called immediately and we all continued uninjured. Starting Friday morning I have noticed that any pressure on my chest in that area is a dull, deep pain. I’m sure this is simply a bear of a bruise, but it did have me worried until I remembered the collision. “Hmm, I keep having a pain in my chest, right over my heart, should I be worried….oh yeah, somebody speared you, smart guy.”

Friday, February 02, 2007

Alea iacta est

Nothing left to do but nervously embrace the -11 temps this weekend (without wind) and hope for the best Sunday night. People keep laying it at Rex's feet, but I believe Brian will determine the outcome for the Bears. Go Bears!

Friday, January 26, 2007

People around the office are telling me that even if the Bears win the Superbowl, they will nonetheless have last been beaten by the Packers, at Soldier(s’) Field nonetheless. I guess there is something to be garnered from having beaten the team that would go on to win it all. I suspect that it will ultimately ring hollow though, much in the same way it did for me in 1983 when the White Sox lost the ALCS to the Baltimore Orioles, whom would go on to win the World Series. I’m sure my father said something along the lines of, “Well, at least the Sox lost to the winner. They were beaten by the best.” It was a valiant effort, but didn’t help in the least. If the Bears win or lose they were in the Superbowl. The Packers are playing golf (like the Blackhawks always do). Simple.

There has been a bit of 52 explosion here lately. Well, DC has provided a nice, big image to further the endless silliness and speculation. Is that a flight ring on the bottom?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

On my desk this morning, anonymously, was a note with the following scrawled:

The Bears Still Suck!!!

How much can I win from a hostile work environment lawsuit?

Friday, January 19, 2007

Multum in parvo

I try to constantly push towards unread books, unwatched movies, and unheard music. I'll never experience it all before I die, but I ought to make that effort. Yet, I am ceaselessly drawn back to an endless re analysis of books and music. Neil Young, Hemingway's "Hills Like White Elephants," Darwyn Cooke, and Grant Morrison are on tap this past week and the Matheson and Aquinas (both being read for the first time) are on the back burner. So I haven't digested much new this past while, but I've seen the old as new yet again.

Since I mentioned comic books in this post Wayne is more than encouraged to reply at length about 52. How 'bout Animal Man? And the multiverse? But we don't know what is going to come of Adam Strange's eyes...

Monday, January 15, 2007

This past weekend I reread The New Frontier, loving it more than ever. The original intention was to read an issue a day and let them sink in gradually. Once I made it to day 2 this plan quickly evaporated and I ended up reading the final 5 issues over 2 days. This series is so terrific – its seemingly simplicity in art coupled with its complexity in theme is perfect . I had always loved it the first two times I read it, but I hadn’t fully captured the sense of glory and purity at the advent of the Silver Age heroes. Cooke so fully captures this in his sharp, blunt pencils. The panel at the end where Lois is told that the injured Kal was asking for her and her alone is amazing and so expressive. I jumped right into Seven Soldiers #0 last night. This series will probably blur if I rush it though. One book a night is the plan. Anything more than that and Grant will cook my brain.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

I devour comic books much in the same way I pour through movies and tv shows and usually have the same result -- most of it is either mediocre or poor. Its just the nature of reading a lot of comics. Most are forgettable, some are bland yet remembered for their continuity contributions, and a few knock you down with just how good they are. Many great comics are immediately great, thought most are dense and only appear great after being reread 6 months down the road. Its only January but I would not be surprised if All Star Superman #6 holds up as one of the best single issues of the year. So exciting and heartbreaking. The God of All Comics does it again.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Arduum sane munus

Here is my recipe for a great Tour da Chicago Prologue, albeit it one with poor temporal results.:

Go to bed at 2:30am on Saturday night, dream yet again of the Last Frontier, and get up at 4:30am. Drive to Chicago at 5:15am and stop for coffee at the Des Plaines Oasis, where you purchase a cup of coffee.

I never drink coffee (for no discernible reason – I drink Green Tea if anything) so the half dozen times a year I have a cup I really get a boost out of it. Sunday is the perfect example of a day when I needed that boost, so I opted for the most intimidating and interesting flavor available – “Dark Thunder.” I found this emasculating, but also the kind of raw power I needed. It was pretty much strong, dark coffee. Perfect.

I felt that I rode faster than in the past, and I know my fitness level is higher than in past years, but my result was pretty piss poor – even compared to past results. I only added on about ¾ of a mile of extra distance so that shouldn’t have been too much of an anchor to my time. Oh well. I had a good time, the weather was great, the vibe excellent, and I’ll be back for more.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

My cell reception at work is terrible so I never answer it (though txting is fine), especially when the area code or number is unknown. Yesterday I received a voicemail from a 212 number, which turned out to be the Late Show with David Letterman offering me tickets. I had forgotten that I dropped them a note for standby tickets in January. I hoped that maybe I would get a call for Monday tickets (Friday's show is filmed on Thursday) as that would be easy to travel for, but they were for Wednesday, January 10th tickets. Too bad it won't work out, but it was interesting to get the call. Now that I know its possible to have something come from submitting that little form on their website I'll have to take it a little more seriously next time.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

One of the more consistently creepy things I run across in my travels is any sort of forgotten or converted dance hall on the edge of a beautiful lake in Wisconsin. Its usually more than 50 years old at the least and though it probably has been converted to a beach house or restaurant a long time earlier, you can still see the structure of a large, open room looking onto a clear lake. You can still hear the music and picture the flappers dancing away on some long past New Years Eve overlooking a frozen lake. Its all so charming and sweet, but it really brings back The Shining for me. I can still see Jack Nicholson in that Black and White photo, transported back to 1921 for the July 4th Ball. I always felt this at the beach house at Devils Lake, but I recently had dinner at the Silvercryst and they had a photograph of a 100 year old dance hall on the lake that sat on the location the large restaurant currently does. It went right under my skin. The building and structure may be gone or changed, but those flappers dance on, eternally young and careless.