Saturday, March 31, 2007

7 year itch

On April 1 of this year (that's tomorrow for me...likely today or perhaps yesterday for you) I will celebrate my seventh wedding anniversary. Seven years seems like a long time. There are very few things I've done for seven years in a row. I went to college for 8 years. (Actually, I went to college for 8 years, then took a two year break and worked in the "real" world, and then REALLY went to college for 2 more years to finish my degree. And I want to figure out how to do 2 more years of college before I'm too rediculously old.) I did hold the same job for seven years...but that was during my 8 year stint in college, so I don't know that it counts. And I worked for a comic book store, so it really doesn't count.

But none of that really has to do with seven years of marriage. Much of the seven years of our marriage seems to have just slipped by without me noticing. I think the whole 9-5 thing really makes one's life a blur. That's why I'm opposed to it. It isn't rare to be opposed to something that's a life sentence.

Actually, a lot has happened in the last seven years. I got married. I finally earned my BFA. We had a son. My mother died. We had to give up a dog. We got another dog and immediately broke its foot. Terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Our country went to war over this. I got a full-time job. Polly gave up teaching to stay home with Ross. My Grandmother died. We did a major home addition. We gave up our cat to the family who had kept her during our construction (the girls had become too attached). I tested to become a firefighter. I took a polygraph exam as part of the process. I was told that I lied (I didn't). We had another son. Our country started another war (I'm not sure why). We needed a new house. I got a new job. We moved. We had a daughter (a surprise, courtesy of the Durex® Corporation). I had a vasectomy (no more surprises!). I directed a play.

I'm sure there's more that happened, but at this particular moment, my boys have walked into the room and are doing their best to distract me. You see why I normally blog at work. Somehow it's less distracting.

Anyhow, there's a play called "The Seven Year Itch." The plot is about Richard Sherman, a guy whose company is about to publish a book of the same title, which claims that a significant number of men have extramarital affairs after seven years of marriage. He's paranoid about falling into this trap but for some reason, he sends his wife and son off to Maine for the summer. He meets a young TV model and invites her down for a drink. As he begins to entertain notions of seducing her, he also becomes paranoid that his wife is carrying on with their neighbor in Maine. The play was turned into a movie featuring Marilyn Monroe. The iconic image of Marilyn standing above a subway grate as wind from a train passing underneath causes her dress to blow up around her is from this film. It the play, Sherman and the Girl become intimate. In the movie, it's all in his imagination.

I don't know if such a thing as a "Seven Year Itch" actually exists--if there's ever been any academic study to prove that there's any magic about that number. In my quick search on the internet (where I find all my marital aids) I could find nothing that didn't specifically reference the play and movie. It appears that all the "research" which points to there being such a thing is done to prove whether or not the premise upon which the fictional script stands is accurate. Apparently, the image Marilyn's skirt blowing up over her head become so ingrained in our collective unconcience that this hypothetical has become fact.

That's a pretty interesting comment on the power of imagery.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

sketch of the day

In case anyone has wondered where I've been...I've been too busy to write. Normally, I write on my lunch hour at work, but I've been working through lunch this whole week, so have not had a chance to do it.

The other downside of being so busy is that I'm likely working at the computer a lot. When I do this I start to have problems with my right wrist. At times it's numb, and other times it's intensely painful. Either way, it's pretty unpleasant. So I was considering blogging last night, but I just didn't feel like typing.

The good news is that an image popped into my head, and I decided to draw it. This is to me a good's been a while since I've had that sort of thing happen. So I'm glad about that. And drawing uses the muscles in my hands differently than typing and clicking does, so it didn't hurt. So...for your viewing pleasure:'s a little odd. But I like it. I'm thinking about either adding a word balloon, or maybe a caption of some sort. "Executive Privilege"or something like that...I dunno. I welcome your thoughts on that. I'm thinking of making a t-shirt out of it, if cafe press doesn't find it too obscene.

Friday, March 23, 2007

i don't mean the french!

When I arrived home from a particularly exhausting day at work, I noticed a frog on my driveway. It didn't look much like the frog image I have posted here. This frog is rather exotic and doesn't live in Illinois. I believe it's more of the South American variety. You're welcome to correct me if I'm wrong.

The frog on my driveway was probably of the more common green variety found all over the midwest. I say probably because it was difficult to tell, as it was not so much a frog as a smear that looked like it was probably a frog.

It had apparently been run over. I didn't photograph it; even if I had, I probably wouldn't have posted a photo of it. I don't know that you, my gentle readers, are interested in that sort of grotesquery. (I don't know that "grotesquery" is a word, but I like it. If you like it too, please use it, but you must send me a nickel every time you use it.)

Don't feel bad for whatever pain the frog might have felt when it was run over. I found out later that it was dead prior to its flattening when my wife mentioned to me that our son Ross had noticed that the frog had been run over and exclaimed, "Mom, you ruined a perfectly good dead frog."

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

fun with clip art

I'm in the process of designing a poster for a local community theatre's production of Oklahoma!. I've never actually seen a production of Oklahoma!. I have had two close calls, though. My high school's drama department did it when I was a student there. I had a friend or two in the cast. Of particular note, I recall my biology-class buddy, Dominic deBellis was in the show. He had a really great voice. Too clean for rock, though, as was painfully evident when my brother and I had him come out to sing for us in our first attempt to form a band. He was the best musician among us...but even then we knew that it just wasn't right. He wanted to sing Don't Stand so Close to Me by the Police...that was pretty cool. But anyhow, I knew Dom was in Oklahoma! because he told me, and because we were herded into Biester Auditorium (the big one!) for a "preview" in lieu of class one day. It didn't convince me to buy a ticket. I think I was still a bit sore from my first brush with the drama club. It was cliquier than I would have imagined; I learned that the hard way. It really turned me off to theatre for a while.

The next opportunity I had to watch Oklahoma! was on a PBS presentation of the London revival of the show, starring Hugh Jackman as Curly. This happened to come on the TV in the hospital room while my wife was recovering from the birth of our second child. After the opening number, the doctor came in to tell us that Jack was having some breathing difficulties and had turned blue and they were checking him into the NICU. While I would probably have been content to keep watching the show, my wife was in no mood to do so at that point. (Bear in mind, before you judge me, that there was NOTHING we could do and NOTHING they would tell us...but I knew better than to argue with a woman whose hormones were all a-twitter.) So I missed another opportunity to watch a show that I probably wouldn't like much.

In all honesty, if I had a burning desire to ever see Oklahoma!, I'm sure I could have tracked it down and seen it at some point between my sophomore year of high school and now. What I know about the show tells me that I probably wouldn't care that much for it. I will watch and enjoy just about any genre of play, if it's well done, but I prefer muscials that are little bit surreal or bloody or otherwise edgy. I hated the whole notion of musicals until I saw Sweeney Todd and understood that as long as there is killing and cannibalism I was willing to accept that the actors might occassionally break into song. (In the spirit of full disclosure, I did perform in Camelot once...possibly the squarest of square musicals. But I played Mordred, the villain, and had a lot of fun. And thankfully, I didn't have to watch the show...because it really isn't the kind of show I would ordinarily like.) I'll probably end up seeing the production for which I am designing the poster, and thus will end my unintentional lifelong boycott of Oklahoma!. Maybe I'll only watch the parts that I haven't seen already...

By the way, I have visited the state of Oklahoma. My good friend Brent, one of the best guitarists I've had the pleasure of playing with, moved there and we drove down for a visit. But that's irrelevant.

So, I'm designing this poster with only the vaguest notion of the plot of the play. I know that it involves a conflict between cowboys and farmers. There is also a beautiful morning made more so because the grass is as high as an elephant's eye...but that may just be hyperbole. The first step in designing the poster is to flip through my trusty book of clip art. I'm not a big fan of using clip art, but often it's a starting point. I don't really expect to find much that helps...but I look up "cowboy" in the index anyway. As I scanned down the page of alphabetical listings, I was somewhat taken aback as the word "constipation" caught my eye.

That's right...somebody took it upon himself to create a graphical representation of constipation. I had to look.

Yep. I guess that's constipation. And now I know that if I am ever in need of clip art showing a guy desperately trying to poop, I have it. I'm going to see if I can get a contract with the good people who make Metamucil.

Monday, March 19, 2007

things I learned in high school

Last night I found myself watching a human interest story on the news about the Chicago Barn Dance Company. I have no recollection of how I ended up watching the story...or for that matter the news. It was on the FOX network, and while I usually don't get my news from the television, I certainly never get it from FOX. It was probably happened that whatever program I was watching on my Tivo finished and the rum & coke I was drinking lulled me into a sense of complacency. The woman doing the report had chosen to wear a pair of ridiculous-looking cowboy boots. She appeared to be the only person there wearing anything resembling activity-appropriate footwear--most were wearing gym shoes. I wonder if she felt stupid once she got there. She joined in on the fun and interviewed some of the regulars. She made a point to explain the difference between barn dancing and square dancing (something to do with the number of partners, and who you get to dance with). Really, what I found most interesting about her report was that she had either expensed the purchase of those boots, or had raided the wardrobe at the studio and got "lucky".

Not that I think there's anything inherently wrong with barn dancing or square dancing and using that as a vehicle for social interaction. It's just not my bag. But it did remind me of the month or so that I spent in gym class--I believe it was my freshman year--when we were taught, en masse, to square dance. There's a bit of general "wisdom" out there that insists that a large percentage of the information we're forced to "learn" in high school is mostly irrelevant as it pertains to every day life. I've forgotten vast amounts of information on which I know I was tested--and passed...probably with a better-than-average grade. I suppose very little of the knowledge I gained in high school has come in handy. But the truth is, from time to time, I find myself having to recall some random bit of information. The nice thing about high school is that there is no alchoholic haze surrounding that area of my memory, so I can trust that information to be mostly accurate. If I can remember it, I can trust it. Facts are a little bit more suspect if they were learned during my college years. But I can say with 100% certainty that I have yet to call up on the memory of my square dancing unit for any reason whatsoever.

Even if my kids have to endure square dance instruction when they go to high school, (Are they still doing it? Was it some weird localized thing only at my high school?) there's no way I'll be able to help them with their homework.

To this day, I'm not sure why we were subjected to this particular humiliation during our high school experience. I imagine that it was one of those things that had been in the curriculum for years, and so remained. There have been movements dedicated to making the square dance the offical folk dance of the United States of America, but thus far it has not been made official. it wasn't until 1990 that the square dance was made the official dance of Illinois, ance I was out of high school by then.

Perhaps the idea began with an attempt to create a situation that would encourage social interaction between the sexes in a controlled environment. That seems to be the purpose of the Chicago Barn Dance Company. You get to meet people of the opposite sex in a completely non-sexy enviromnent...none of the pesky arousal that can sometimes be the result of ballroom dancing. As a boy developing into a man, believe me that in high school, just about everything could be construed as arousing. Square dancing was not.

The image I've included in today's blog is a drawing of an "allemande". I like this drawing. The guy looks a little creepy...the woman looks a little mannish. It's odd. The "allemande" is one of the calls in square dancing. I don't recall exactly what it involved...some sort of turn...but then, most of square dancing seemed to involve some sort of turn. The word "allemande" comes from the French for "German". Apparently this was some sort of German dance that somehow was translated into the square dance. If you spell it "a le main", it's also French that describes how the move is done. Those wacky French. Doing nothing, but describing it all with their "words". (Full disclosure forces me to admit that I am proudly 1/8 French.)

So anyhow, the one thing I remember from square dancing was that one was encouraged to "allemande left" or "walk like a german to the left". It's interesting that around this time, the Bangels were encouraging me to walk like an Egyptian.

The Egyptians won out. I remember more about that song than I do about square dancing.

Oh, and by the way, I certainly didn't get any dates out of the whole square dancing thing. Maybe if they had timed it better with my sex education classes.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Beware the Ides of March

Just west of Chicago lies the suburb of Berwyn, home to the world's largest laundromat and "Spindle", a sculpture featured in the movie Wayne's World. It can best be described as a stack of cars on a large skewer. A Car-Kabob, if you will. If you grew up in the Chicago area, you very likely watched a sf/horrow show called "Svengoolie" then "Son of Svengoolie" which featured it's titular comic host cracking wise about the gem they happened to be screening that night. One of their running gags was to repeatedly utter "BERWYN" with dismay. To this day, I can't hear the name of that town without repeating it in the same tone. Berwyn is also the location of FitzGerald's, a music house that is most notable for hosting the open mic night where one of my former bands, map of july, first played to an audience. Maht, lead singer, lyricist and cofounder has written a partial history of the band at his blog. The chapter that includes our appearance at FitzGerald's can be found here.

And Berwyn is also notable for one of it's native sons. Jim Peterik, founder of the band "The Ides of March" is a Berwynian. Maybe they played at FitzGeralds... The Ides of March is probably best known for the song "Vehicle" which was released in 1970. The band was on an extended hiatus (kind of like map of july...maybe it's the Berwyn connection) between 1973 and 1990. Peterik took the opportunity during that time to co-found the band Survivor and bring us such timeless classics as "Eye of the Tiger", "The Search is Over" and "I Can't Hold Back." You may recall that in my second post, I mentioned playing in a "band" that covered "Eye of the Tiger." Wheels within wheels...

In 1990, at the behest of the city of Berwyn, the Ides reformed for Berwyn's Summerfest. The concert was well attended. Sensing an opportunity to cash in on recreate the magic...the band has been touring ever since. I presume they close the show every night with "Vehicle". I can't imagine it any other way.

So Beware. The Ides of March. Coming soon to an outdoor village festival near you. Again.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

TANG for Victory!

Another post that's a bit past it's freshness date...

"If we are approached over orange juice by the Syrians or the Iranians to discuss an Iraq-related issue that is germaine to this topic: a stable, secure, peaceful, democratic Iraq, we are not going to turn and walk away."

The above statement was made last Friday by one of the US diplomats on his way to a conference in Bagdad over last weekend. The objective of the conference, I believe is to find a multilateral solution to the security solution (rhymes with bluster-muck) in Iraq. In addition to the US and the other permanent members of the UN Security Council, Turkey, Iran, Syria were also to attend.

Sounds like a fun time.

The key to the above quote is the bit about orange juice. It's a curious thing to say. I believe it's meant to imply that no formal discussion was planned, but if Iran were to...i dunno...send over the guys from Turkey to the US table to break the ice, then maybe the US delegate might be convinced to awkwardly ask the Iranians to dance later on...if they feel like it. But I think that the US delegation is missing out on a golden opportunity here to flex some good old American muscle.

I like orange juice. It can be very tasty, and has a lot of good vitamins and stuff that can keep one healthy. But no orange-flavored breakfast drink better expresses American superiority than Tang. If you don't know what Tang is, it's a powdered orange drink high in vitamin C. According to Wikipedia, Tang was "initially intended as a breakfast drink, but sales were poor until NASA began using it on Gemini flights in 1965. For a decade it was associated with the U.S. manned spaceflight program by many consumers." Growing up, I was always envious of those kids who had Tang at their homes. For some reason, my mother never bought it, so I felt a bit deprived. She must have thought that orange juice could cut it, so I didn't get to drink what astronauts drank. Who know if my life would have turned out differently if I had had access to Tang. As an adult, I occassionally buy Tang, and I've tried to impress upon my children the significance and tastiness of this drink. If they like it, I have an excuse to buy it. Enough about me...

Like a member of the national guard on his third tour of duty, let's return to Iraq, and my fellow Americans at their breakfast table. If the Iranians or Syrians were to sidle up to the table and try to strike up a conversation, the US delegate could offer them a glass of orange juice and be considered, at best, polite. Conversely, if the delegate were to offer a cold, freshly stirred glass of Tang, he would be making a statement. Offering Tang to a foreign dignitary reminds said dignitary that the USA has a (mostly) successful space program. We have traveled to the moon and planted a flag there. Every once in a while, we break free of the restraints of gravity that most nations must succumb to and we circle the planet. Why? Because we can. Because it's there.

And because we have...




America...Fuck yeah!

I'm certain that the Syrians would be so overwhelmed that they will do as the W famously said with his mouth full at the G8 summit last year, and "...stop doing this shit and it's over." I'd bet good money that he was drinking Tang at that meal.

R.I.P. Captain America

I started to write this post last week, but a busy workweek and insane weekend prevented me from actually finishing. it is. A little less timely that I had hoped.

Captain America is dead. He was felled by a sniper's bullet. And it's a good thing.

I haven't really followed comics--especially super hero comics--in years. Apparently some sort of civil war between the superpowered beings has sprung up over whether or not they need to "register" themselves with the government. Cap believed that it infringed on his civil rights and refused. His death raises the stakes in the overarching storyline that is going on across all the Marvel Comics.

The cynic in me says that he had a high enough profile that his "death" would make the evening news. That sort of publicity is good for comics. Unless things have changed radically since I managed a comic book store (DON'T JUDGE ME!), sales on his comic book were never all that great. So killing him doesn't have the same ramifications as killing Spider-Man or Wolverine would. So it's a solid business decision. I do admire Marvel's choice not to publicize his demise before the book was released. That means stores did not over-buy to meet inflated demand (see: the Death of Superman). That's good for comic collectors.

I was never much of a Captain America fan...he wasn't conflicted enough to make the character interesting, and after more than 50 years, most of the stories were a bit of a retread. But it was nice to know that he was there...a figure to step in every so often and provide a moral center--a voice of reason to the other super heroes. Cap was an idealist who believed and lived out what were supposedly "American" ideals. Life. Liberty. Pursuit of Justice. Equality. Apple Pie. I know that if feels like that isn't really representative of America at the moment. At a time when liberty is increasingly at risk, perhaps it is appropriate to kill Captain America. But maybe it isn't such a good thing.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

rescue me! - epilogue

Whew! That was a close one!

It turns out that my car started easily with a set of jumper cables and a very tiny bit of knowledge (i.e., how to connect the damned things--which is one of the few automotive-related tasks I can actually perform). I thought I'd just drive to work and hope that the car starts at the end of the day, but my mother-in-law insisted that I take the car to our mechanic just in case.

So we did.

And then he told me that I should drive the car to work and give the battery a chance to charge up so that we can be more certain what the problem really is. I thought it would feel good to be right, but it really didn't. It was nice to change up my my morning a little bit.

After my initial panic wore off, I looked around the car and realized that I wasn't as bad off as I thought. I had a bottle of water. I had my Wonder-Woman lunchbox which contained 2 cokes and leftovers from last night's dinner. The meal was mostly rice, so it would have been a real mess to eat. Desperate times...

I also happened to have my copy of Palm Sunday by Kurt Vonnegut in the car. I really love this book. Mine happens to be a 1st edition, but I suspect even later editions are just as enjoyable to read. Even if things got really desperate, I don't think could have brought myself to burn it for warmth (this is the problem with first editions). I think I would have just read it until I fell asleep and then drifted away peacefully. It would have been a nice way to go.

rescue me!

As i write this, I am sitting in my car outside the health club, waiting for my Mother-in-Law to come rescue me from the dead husk that is my car. I don't know how long it will take.

I am vulnerable and helpless. I don't really know much about fixing cars, and even if I did, there's not much I could do, as I am sans tools.

My only connection to the outside world is my cellphone, which has a dying battery, and my computer, which is connected to the internet via the health club's open wireless connection.

I'm not really sure why one of the amenities of this particular club is a free internet connection. I'll ponder that later...if I ever get out of this predicament. Eventually the battery in the computer will drain. I suspect my car's problem may be related to the battery as well. Powerlessness seems to be defining my day.

I have been unable to reach my mechanic in person...I left a message on his machine, but that has only served to reinforce my suspicion that salvation will come to late, and my demise is inevitable.

Tell my wife I love her. Tell my kid's I'm sorry they had to grow up without....

wait. There she is. It's going to be okay.

Monday, March 5, 2007

groove vs. rut

Have you ever noticed that it isn't such a bad thing to get in a groove, but you should avoid at all costs being in a rut? These two words are relatively similar, but their differences in connotation are pretty vast. A groove can guide you, while a rut restrains you.

It certainly helps that in music, a groove is definitely a positve thing. LPs have grooves, within which you would defintely want your needle to remain. And that rhythmic interplay between the bass player and the drummer is a groove. (I have no idea if these two musical notions are related.) Years ago, Madonna encouraged the "Boy" to whom she was singing to "get into the groove" so that he might prove his love to her. If he did so properly, he could live out his fantasies with her. The groove could guide you to your reward. Guy Ritchie could probably provide more information on this. I suppose a host of others could as well. At this point I will refrain from any further discussion of Madonna's groove.

John Mellencamp (or was it Cougar?) also had some things to say on the subject of "groovin' "--an activity that I suppose has somethign to do with getting into the groove. In his song "Cherry Bomb", he waxes nostalgic about a time in his youth:

That's when a sport was a sport
And groovin' was groovin'
and dancin meant everything
We were young and we were improvin'

I can't argue with that. I don't really don't think it means anything, though--and maybe that's all the meaning it's supposed to have. What I'm really interested in, though is whether he chose the word "groovin' " to rhyme with "improvin' " or if it was the opposite.

Probably the most ubiquitous form of groove is perhaps epitomized by the Simon and Garfunkel song "The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feeling Groovy)". Or perhaps even better defined by Bruce Campell as Ash in The Evil Dead whereupon strapping a chainsaw to his bloody stump of a wrist, he utters the word "Groovy!". Either way, the word "groovy" seems to imply that the winds of fate have set you upon an irrevocable course, but the expected result is a pleasant one that will lead to peace of mind. (note: If you are wondering how I can relate a trippy-hippy Simon and Garfunkel song to The Evil Dead, just remember: I went to art school. I can relate just about anything to anything.)

Overall, the definitions of groove and the words and phrases to which it has given birth are all pretty positive. And then there's "rut."

I believe rut's problem lies entirely in its sound. Groovy is blessed with "OOH!" in the middle. It just sounds like more fun. Looking at the etymology of each word, rut certainly has the advantage. Groove gets its meaning in Middle English from a Dutch word for furrow or pit, which is related to "Grave". That's hardly pleasant. On the other other hand, rut comes from Old French for "route". What could be more pleasant than a path, except for a path defined by some nice, tasteful shrubbery? It seems that rut has more in common with the benign and gentle guidance of fate implied by groove than groove does.

And let's not forget that other definition of rut. Derived from an Old French word which meant "to roar", the second definition of rut simply implies doing it like they do on the Discovery Channel. And is that so wrong?

So I guess it really all depends on how you look at it. Being in a rut may not be so bad.

Being in a rut may not be so bad.

Being in a rut may not be so bad.

Being in a rut may not be so bad.

Being in a rut may not be so bad.