Monday, December 27, 2010

a raisin in the sun

As I've gotten older and hit various milestones in life, I've had to say farewell to a progression of childhood ambitions. When you're younger, it's not the toughest thing in the world. For instance, when I was 14, I gave up on my dream of being the youngest boy in history to qualify for the US Olympic team in a non-shooting sport (I thought I had a chance in bobsledding). And when I turned 21, I could no longer take out a bunch of cops in a drunken brawl instigated by my arrest for underage drinking.

But as you get older, the loss of these grandiose dreams begins to sting a little more. I started to lose my hair in my late 20's, and within a few years I realized I was never going to tag a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model. A few years after that, I had to admit it was really unlikely I'd make it to the baseball major leagues, or in fact, turn pro in any sport. And then I went to medical school, and said goodbye to a promising career in sculpting (well ... I'd thought about it).

But I still held out hope for a few things, even as I turned 40 and witnessed all my peers developing into sad, withered facsimiles of their former selves. The biggest one for me was always the English country gentleman scenario. I figured that once I'd put away a little legal tender, I'd retire to the English countryside and take up the ways and dress of a fancy chap. Wear lots of tweed, and subsist on a variety of savory puddings and trifles, and carry an uncocked shotgun across my forearm to blast away at any game birds I chanced across on my property, and merrily chase scantily-clad serving wenches across the moors.

Yesterday, however, on my way back to Mad City from a holiday vacation back east, I had a layover in Cleveland. There I was, eating a slice of Sbarro's pizza, checking fantasy football scores, and idly scratching at my groin when I suddenly saw myself as others do: loud, coarse, smelly, uncouth. And at that moment, I knew I was never going to be an English country gentleman. Not even close. Pfffffft! Another balloon deflated ...

Friday, December 24, 2010

mad kitchen

Today brings a new feature here at Mad City, called Mad Kitchen. People often notice that I can do a thing or two in the kitchen, if you know what I mean, and there's been some pressure on me to share some of my better cooking and baking tips. So, there you go. The name of the new column is a play on "Hell's Kitchen," ha ha. Though in thinking about it, that also was a kind of play on something else. I guess that makes Mad Kitchen twice as interesting ...

Anyhow, here's my piece for the day: you know those special, flexible little serrated knives that you use to loosen the sections in grapefruit halves? You know, before eating the grapefruit with a spoon? Well, those knives are also handy for getting the seeds out of acorn squash.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

tricks are for kids

One thing people notice right away about me is that for someone who doesn't have kids of his own, I'm pretty damn good with kids. People often ask me, "Hey Mad City! How'd you get to be so good with kids?" And I'll usually just chuckle and swat at the air, like I don't know what they're talking about.

But for the longest time, I wasn't so good with kids. They would see me and either be indifferent, or go in another room and play with one of their electronic contraptions. But one day I discovered the secret of dealing with other people's kids: don't be yourself. Because children just find that boring and gauche. No, you need to pretend that you're someone or something that you're not, really. Here's a sampler of some of my most successful ruses:

1. Pretend you're a long-lost relative. Kids are often dumbfounded when you introduce yourself as Uncle Mad City, just returned home after 5 years exploring in the Antarctic. Then, when they've reached the maximum level of amazement and wonder, you yell out, "Ha, just kidding!" Then everyone has a good laugh, usually.

2. Pretend you're an animal. This tends to work better with younger kids, who are sometimes unsure of the difference between an adult human and other mammals. With my long neck and willingness to strip and chew low-hanging leaves from nearby trees, I've convinced more than a few kids that I'm a reticulated giraffe. But you need to be honest with yourself, and consider whether you can pull off giraffe, or if you'd be a more plausible baboon.

3. Pretend you're Richard Nixon. All you have to do is extend your arms upward, make V's with your fingers, tilt your head forward, let your jowls droop, and scowl. Voila! You're Richard Nixon, the late disgraced 37th president of the United States. Kids love it, even if they've never heard of Watergate or Spiro Agnew.

4. Pretend you're hungry. "Oliver, I see you've got some tasty pureed pears and sweet potatoes there. And I'm so hungry! Can't I have just a little bit? Num num num! No? No??? You want me to starve to death? Geez, Oliver!" Repeat several times for enhanced effect.

5. Pretend that you're very, very sad. Kids tend to be more empathetic than adults; and if you act as though you're extremely disconsolate, they'll usually want to know what's wrong. That's when you brighten and say," Well, I was feeling sad, but you just cheered me up!" Because who doesn't like to be the one to cheer somebody up?

6. Pretend there's no oxygen in the room. Even younger children who haven't received a basic scientific education yet know that fish can't survive out of water too long. Try gasping and rolling on the floor in mock agony, like a fish out of water, and screech, "No oxygen! No oxygen!" But if you pretend to be dead for more than 3-4 minutes, kids will usually get bored and look for something else to do.

7. Pretend that you're very angry. This is the one I usually use after a child refuses to share their food with me (see #4). For some reason, kids are totally amused by helpless rage. Just be careful not to make it too convincing.

If none of these work for you, don't give up. There are many other impersonations that have worked for me in the past: Dora the Explorer, bewilderment, ennui, Inspector Javert from "Les Miserables," a California roll. And if all else fails, there's nothing wrong with pulling out your wallet and giving the kid a couple bucks. Everyone likes money, even kids, and if a kid can witness all that without even cracking a smile ... well, maybe they've earned it.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

babies on board

It seems like I'm spending more and more time around infants these days, maybe because a lot of my friends and siblings have been having children lately. Anyhow, one thing I've noticed is that these little tykes can be a lot of fun. Another new revelation for me: they don't scream and carry on all the time! In fact, it seems that kind of behavior is usually the exception, rather than the rule.

This discovery has changed my perspective on noisy kids on planes. It used to be that when a kid was crying or fussing, I would just chalk it up to being in an strange, possibly uncomfortable environment. Heck, there've been times I wanted to behave that way myself on a flight! Maybe just hunger, or a wet diaper, or missing one's crib and toys. But now, I realize the root cause of those tantrums is just bad parenting. And that in turn has changed the way I respond.

Right now, for instance, I'm flying back to Mad City. There are a couple of youngsters in the row across from me, sitting with their father, and they're making a lot of noise. Spouting a bunch of jibber-jabber, asking for juice, giggling, singing some toddler songs, telling various people that they love them, etc. I've already asked the father several times if he could PLEASE get them to simmer down. I mean, I've got things to do over here: I'm blogging, and I'm eating my pretzels. It looks like he's doing his best, in a semi-frantic kind of way, but I suspect he just doesn't have the parenting skills to handle the situation. And the really sad part is that the mother, a capable-appearing woman, is in the row behind them with another small child. No problems coming from that area ...

I think what I'll try next is groaning or gasping every time one of those kids acts up again. Or maybe some silent glaring and eye-rolling, since I don't want to personally encroach on another passenger's Zone of Seclusion. It's amazing what the stink eye can accomplish, when the recipient is strapped in and helpless just a few feet away from you. And to all those parents out there whose kids actually behave well - and you know who you are! - a silent salute ...

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

notes from the typing wars

- I've pretty much mastered all the letters, though with X and C, "mastery" is relative ...

- Hitting about 35-40 words/min when I'm on a roll. On given exercises, such as middle row review. Throw in the QWOP wild card, and it becomes a crapshoot ...

- Favorite word to type: "slowly." Not because that's how I type, ha ha, but because it's got a nice rhythm to it. Left finger, right finger, left, right, etc. Bam ba bam bam bam ...

- Am I touch-typing this post? Hell no! Everyone thinks it's all about the letters, but there's punctuation and capitalization that have to be mastered too, you know ...

- I've noticed some touch-typists on the computers in the library. They look so smug, sitting there casually and tip-tapping away without even looking at the keys. I fucking hate that. When I finally get typing down, I'm gonna be humble about my skills ...

- Favorite letter to type: J. Right there with the right index finger. It's so visceral, almost primeval. Damn ...

- The key to typing? If you ask me, it's "staying home." Don't let your fingers drift out of position, or before you know it, you'll be thinking M and hitting K. I know this firsthand: it's happened to me ...

- Sometimes I'm typing, and I'll hit the right letter without even thinking about it. Sometimes, even entire words (shorter words). Ever have that happen to you? It's like being in Xanadu or something ...

- I'll let you all know when I touch-type my first blog post. Believe me, you will ALL hear about it, and hear all about it.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

silver tree

The last time I was in Seattle, I had a chance to tour the Olympic Sculpture Park, which is really a very impressive public installation. Probably my favorite piece was Split, an actual-size metal rendering of a leafless tree by someone named Roxy Paine. When I went to the OSP website to learn more about it, there was this statement:
"Camouflaged in the natural setting and light, Split reflects its surroundings and poses the question, 'What is nature, what is art?' "

Now, this is interesting for several reasons. First of all, it's the type of vague, watery description which seems so prevalent in art museums now, and which I would expect to find in a B-minus art studies paper. And second of all, it's not how I regarded Split at all. I just thought it was a beautiful sculpture, period. No ambivalence. I've always thought that the form of a tree is one of the most beautiful things in nature, and I kind of gravitate towards art that includes representations of trees, and this one was especially striking.

But I guess you have to say something about art, don't you? You can't just describe everything in a museum with "Beautiful, huh?" So if it had been up to me, I would've written something like, "Who says you can't gild the lily?" Even though it's a tree, not a lily; and it's silver, not gold.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

touch-typing practice

dall all a lass is a lad
lass falls kid laffs ha ha ha
lass is aghast
shaft lit aghast shit i can really do thos kind of
ha h a lil lad the lass kik ur ass
fads last as lids lag ha ha

(back to hunt & peck)

I'm spent! But as you can see, I've become a master of the middle row. QWERTY, you're next ...

Monday, November 22, 2010

asynchrony

You know, I've heard Don Henley's "Boys of Summer" on my car radio twice within the past week or so. And I'm afraid I'm gonna have to call bullshit on that. Why? Because the only appropriate time to play that song is late August, maybe early to mid-September. I suppose you could make a case for early October, if there's been a real Indian summer or something like that. Or in the setting of the baseball playoffs, because baseball players are sometimes referred to as the "boys of summer."

See, that song is all about wistfulness. It's about the summer being *over.* "Nobody on the road/nobody on the beach/ feel it in the air/summer's out of reach." It's melancholic, bittersweet, and incredibly haunting. Some people, I'm sure, feel pangs or heartache when they hear it. But not in November. There is no friggin' reason in the world to play "Boys of Summer" in November. It's like having Thanksgiving dinner on the 4th of July.

I don't know what it is with the DJ's these days. When I was a lad, being a DJ meant something. DJ's had wisdom, and integrity. They didn't just play whatever the hell they felt like, regardless of the season. And "Boys of Summer" here is just one example. I get galled even more when someone plays "Manic Monday" on a Thursday, or even worse, on the weekend. What the fuck??? "Manic Monday" is a melancholic, bittersweet song about going back to work after the weekend.

These are the same dipshits who play "Friday on my Mind" on a Tuesday. And I'm not gonna stand for it anymore. I'm ... gonna blog about it. And I'm not pulling any punches. You've all been warned ...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

bagging the haters

"What's with the bags?" you're asking yourself. Good question. Those are all plastic bags that I retrieved from the trailside during a recent ride on the Glacial Drumlin trail, here in south-central WI. Some were on the ground, some were in bushes or trees, one was caught on a fence. The photo doesn't include other pieces of plastic that I picked up and put in the trash at the end of my ride. I figured I'd recycle the bags.

The way I see it, there is one big problem in the world today: People Who Don't Give a Damn. They're known by other names in some places (i.e. People Who Don't Give a Fuck), but we all know the breed. They're not really committed to any particular philosophy or religion, though many go to church or some other house of worship for social appearances. If they vote, it's Democrat in one election and Republican in the next. Biggest day-to-day concern? Making sure that the Tivo is set to capture "American Idol." They kind of want to recycle but don't. Their kids tend to grow up just like them. They wouldn't go out of their way to harm someone, but it takes an awful lot to make them help someone, too. They probably account for, like, 30-50% of the current US population, and I suspect they're growing.

"But what about the people who do give a damn, but in the wrong way? You know, like Sarah Palin. Aren't they the worst?" you ask. No. Because it's easy to spot people like Sarah Palin, and deride and discount her, and in a more ideal world she would have little sway. But it's the PWDGADs who empower her, because they're attracted by her superficial folksiness and likeability and don't see the menace lying underneath.

Anyhow, that's the general problem with the world. Of course, there's a spectrum of people, ranging from the true couch potatoes to the Nobel Prize winners and messianic figures. By picking up those plastic bags during my recent bike ride, I have positioned myself up on a plane above them all. I'm, like, levitating up there in some Buddha lotus position, serene, with golden rays emanating from every precipice of my body, spouting wacky aphorisms about Reiki energy or some shit like that. Yeah, feeling pretty good about myself ...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

american cheese

American cheese is kind of disgusting. I don't mean to be unpatriotic or anything - it's just a fact. Why the #%$&! would anyone ever order American cheese, on anything? Get cheddar instead.


short & pithy

In an effort to make this blog more readable, I plan to write more short, pithy things from here on out. I'll still compose the occasional doozy about touch-typing and other interesting subjects; but I think the ultimate key to readability, and capturing people's attention, is shortness and pithiness. Or ... I guess that's two keys.

There are two keys to capturing people's attention: shortness, and pithiness. But on top of that, you also need something worth saying. If you know what I mean. I've always striven for that, and I do think I have my finger on the pulse of the national spirit, but I also have to consider that my readers may not necessarily reflect the -

This one's totally getting away from me. Fuck it! Short & pithy, and damn the hindmost ...

touch typing

This is probably going to amaze most of you, especially given my blogging prowess, but I don't know how to touch-type. It's a long story, which I'll summarize for you here:

Back when I was in high school, hardly anyone had personal computers. And the only people who took typing in high school were girls headed for secretarial careers. So I really had no incentive to learn how to type (at least, that I could think of).

Once I got to college ... well, yeah. I had to write papers more frequently, and they were longer papers. But what was I going to do: drop a history of language class to take typing? Or take a semester off to learn how to type on my own? Not to mention, I still didn't have a personal computer at that point, and the Internet hadn't even been invented by Al Gore yet. So I just kept on banging out my papers (on an electric typewriter, no less) all through college. Though I did finally switch to writing on a computer, at the computer center, for my senior thesis.

1994: I decide to go back to school, to do pre-med.

1995: I start my post-baccalaureate studies at UW. Still don't have my own computer yet, or even an email account. I do get email after a couple months back in college.

OK, this is taking forever. Let's flash-forward to 2010: I've been getting by more or less OK with my touch-typing. I'm quite accurate - hardly ever make typos - and would estimate my wpm at around 35-40. But I have to periodically look at the keyboard when I'm typing, and that's a huge hindrance. And there's a chance that I'll have to start typing a whole lot (patient visits, etc) once I get a permanent job.

So, I've bought myself a self-help CD called Typing Instructor and I'm working on it. But it's tough! And I get demoralized pretty easy. I'd say the book's out right now on whether I'll become a real typist before I start working 60-80 hrs/week at a full-time job. Keep me in your thoughts, people! Just remember: the better I type, the more I blog. Oh, and one other thing: make sure your kids start learning how to type at a young age. Like, before puberty. Because once puberty hits, there's gonna be all sorts of distractions. All right, peace out ...

Friday, November 5, 2010

election recap

I think a lot of people are expecting me to blog extensively about the recent elections in the US, given my occasional political bent. But I'm not sure if anyone's even reading this blog anymore, so I don't see the point. In effect, I'm turning it into my own personal online journal, to refer back to from time to time whenever I get whimsical about the recent past. And besides, I've got more important issues to cover right now. See below ...

our amazing language

One of the cool things about the English language is that it continues to grow and adapt to our changing world. Here's an example: "sitcom." What started off as a shorthand term for a "situation comedy" is now an official word! That's pretty cool. And other words have followed, like "dramedy" and "staycation" and "bridezilla."

Some say that I'm also kind of handy with coining new words and phrases. Here's one for you: "BROadcast." You know, "bro" as in the slang term for a dude or fellow. A BROadcast is any program aimed at the 18-to-34 year old male demographic. Consider it and weep, suckahs ...

Thursday, October 14, 2010

joe ratzinger

It seems like the Catholic Church and especially the pope have been under a lot of fire lately, over the priest sex-abuse scandal. There's definitely a lot that needs to be uncovered there, and I hope that the perpetrators will eventually face justice. But I also worry that this scandal has become too much of a surrogate for general unhappiness with the Catholic Church. There's plenty there to criticize, much of it even more important than the abuse scandal, but it's hard to target a lot of it because there aren't the same kind of obvious villains involved.

I'm not Catholic, but it seems like every one of my best friends growing up came from a Catholic family. (Not by my intention - it was just the demographics of my hometown.) I was always envious of my friends for being able to get wine in church - it seemed like a pretty cool and grown-up kind of thing. And I've always thought that the Catholic Church did many good things: not just giving people hope in a troubled world etc., but all the charitable acts by its followers.

But ultimately I think there's so many things wrong with what the Catholic Church is teaching now. Let's see: I disagree with them on divorce, contraception, abortion, the role of women in the clergy and society in general, the environment (especially the church's insane advice to Catholics to keep cranking out as many kids as possible - have you heard of overpopulation???), and rock music. Probably a few other things, too. And it seems like in every case, Joe Ratzinger is pushing for the most extreme, conservative, and reproachable position possible.

Don't know who Joe Ratzinger is? How quickly we forget! That was the pope's name before he became pope. Apparently, when someone is promoted to pope, we're supposed to believe that they become semi-godlike and infallible and whatnot. Some sort of magical process, akin to the selection of the next Dalai Lama or something like that. But there was nothing holy about the way Joe Ratzinger became pope: he did all this political behind-the-scenes shit, like some German Dick Cheney, and got elected by these church buddies that he'd had promoted over the years.

And then, to complete the whole transformation, he gets to pick a special name like Most Excellent Benedict or His Royal Priestness or something. Well, he's never gonna be that to me. You're still Joe Ratzinger - always will be - and I abhor just about everything you've tried to get the church to represent. You see, I don't need the sex scandal thing to call you on all the crap you try to advance. So take that ...

lost in "Lost"

I've always thought that it's important to blog about what's important to you, so I'm gonna take a few moments to talk about "Lost." I've never seen the show "live" on prime time TV; it's been all DVD viewing. At present I'm about halfway through Season 6 (the last season), and waiting for the next DVD from the public library here in Mad City. Unlike most people, I've seen 5+ seasons within the past year, which is pretty impressive when you think about it. Also, I think my condensed viewing of "Lost" gives me kind of a unique perspective on the show.

Probably my favorite character is Kate, mainly because she's so smokin' hot. For a dangerous fugitive on the lam, she does a lot of dumb, helpless-girl kind of stuff, like constantly getting captured and forced to wear skimpy dresses (not that I'm complaining or anything - yowza!). But I can forgive that stuff, on account of her hotness.

My next favorite character, and probably the favorite if you only take character into consideration, is Desmond. He's pretty cool. He has this stranded, tragic-figure kind of air around him, which I can identify with. Also, he got to chill in that cool Hatch pad for a long time. I wish my apartment was like the Hatch. I'm working on it ...

I also like Miles. I like his attitude.

Least favorite character: probably Charlie. I actually cracked a bottle of champagne when he bought the farm. (And props to Desmond for predicting that, over and over again ...) It's a travesty that Charlie was a rock star, and yet few people have ever heard of Inflatable Bitch. I've also heard that in real life he dated Evangeline Lilly (the woman who played Kate), which angers me.

And finally, a special shout-out to Desmond's love, Penny. You're hot too, baby! Don't think I forgot about ya! But I have to show a certain degree of decorum, because your husband is probably my favorite non-Kate character.

mad city, in the big city

So, I was back in New York a few days ago, this time for a long weekend. And in case of anyone thinks I'm too attached to the Big Apple, I had a legitimate excuse for being there: a conference. A two-day conference, in fact. But despite spending most of Friday and half of Saturday in a big lecture hall, I still got around town and did my share of big-city shizzle. In fact, more than my fair share, since I'm kind of familiar, to a certain degree, with NYC now, and can root out cool stuff there better than your average Midwestern tourist.

I have to confess, I did hit a bunch of my old haunts again: the High Line park, Brooklyn Bagel, P.S. 1 Contemporary Arts Center in Long Island City, etc. Some places you just can't stay away from, I guess, though my hotel was only about a mile from P.S. 1 and so it would've been stupid for me not to go there. But I did explore some new ground too - a quick rundown:

- Had dinner my first night at Fatty Cue, a hip BBQ joint in Williamsburg that I meant to get to this summer but just never did. Not too bad, but not quite up to the hip-hype.

- Visited the Noguchi Museum in Queens. Definitely worth a visit.

- Saw two movies which I figured I'd never get a chance to see in Madison. The first was really good, a documentary called Marwencol. The second was a low-budget sci-fi debut type movie called "Jim," and it doesn't deserve a link. I don't think it'll ever make it out of Greenwich Village; but in case it does, you've been warned.

- Saw "Wicked" on Broadway. Yay! Great production, though the music is pretty ordinary.

- Stopped by the big celebration for what would have been John Lennon's 70th birthday at Strawberry Fields, right across from the Dakota Apts. in Central Park West. It was pretty cool: lots of people doing an impromptu sing-along to a band playing Beatles songs. Very upbeat vibe, though I couldn't help but feel kind of down when I considered that John was younger than me when he was gunned down. And that it happened almost 30 years ago. Thirty years without John Lennon.

So, that's about it, other than the conference and some miscellaneous little stuff like getting a tuna melt at midnight at a cool diner next to the 7 line. Oh, and after seeing all that art, I've been inspired to start my own art project: taking photos of the Empire State Building from different places around the city. Pretty cool, huh? Maybe someday it'll be shown at P.S. 1 ...






blog night

Hi ho, everyone. I have to admit, I've neglected "Mad City" over the past couple of weeks. But largely that's because I've been visiting some real mad cities, like New York City. And to make it up to everyone, I've declared tonight to be Blog Night, and I'm gonna bang out a few entries right now. Making up for lost time, as it were. Hang on ...

Sunday, September 26, 2010

joke of the day #9

Q. What leafy vegetable do firefighters hate more than any other?

A. Swiss chard. (You know, like "charred.")

the real me

I know that some of you out there think I'm too critical of things in general; but do you wanna know a secret? I actually appreciate many of the good things in life. There are times when I'm just doing something routine, like walking down the street, and I feel ... happy. I'm grateful for living in such a pleasant place, and I have the right to stay here or go anywhere else I want in the country, whenever I want to, and I have enough money to buy the little things that satisfy me. Like new pants, or gas for my motorcycle. And I've been healthy enough to exercise regularly, and that makes me feel even better.

Today was a good day. I slept in, then went to the farmers' market (which is awesome here in Mad City), made some monster cookies, went to the gym, watched some college football while I rode the exercise bike, saw a great Errol Morris documentary (Gates of Heaven) for free at the Univ. of Wisconsin, then made dinner with stuff I bought at the market. Then I watched an episode of "Lost" on my DVD, played a little Scrabble against the computer, and wrote a couple reviews on Yelp. I think that'd be a good day for anyone.

While I was making dinner, I realized that I really appreciate spatulas. It would've been tough to make dinner without one! Such a handy utensil. I'd like to say thanks to whoever invented the spatula, way back when ...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

gatorade

There are a lot of things in life that annoy me - that's probably evident by now - but maybe none more so than Gatorade. I hate it.

"But it's so innocent," you're saying. "It's just Gatorade." And that's true. I don't even dislike the flavor(s), and I guess it's thirst-quenching, and I've never heard of someone having an allergic reaction to it. So what's to hate? Well, to my mind, Gatorade is the epitome of everything that's wrong with our consumer culture. It's a product that no one really needs, endlessly marketed, ceaselessly modified, vastly overpriced. Do people really buy it because it has more "carbs" than other sports drinks? It's a shame that so many people don't realize that carbs = sugar, and that's all they're talking about. Put a couple of packets of sugar in a bottle of Powerade, and suddenly it has more carbs than Gatorade.

Nutritionally, Gatorade is a complete bust. There's no fruit juice, no vitamins. Those electrolytes they brag about? Put a little salt and a few drops of lemon juice in a glass of water, and you'll have just as much sodium and potassium. In fact, you can make the nutritional equivalent of Gatorade at home for a few cents. Pennies, for chrissake! So why are people paying 2 bucks for a bottle of Gatorade? It's all marketing, all hype.

I exercise every day, and I sweat more than about 95% of the people out there. I never drink Gatorade, and I'm fine. I don't really drink much water, either - it's boring. I drink iced tea, and I'm fine. Same carbs, same lytes, 1/10 of the cost. And I'm not even talking about G2.

Don't. Drink. Gatorade. Don't. Be. Dumb. Trust me, I'm a doctor ...

Saturday, September 18, 2010

the spark plug guy

People who know me, know that two of my favorite things in life are recycling and ingenuity (not necessarily in that order). So imagine how tickled I was when I went to a local art show a while back and found a guy who incorporates both into his work. His name is Dick Cooley, he hails from Wisconsin, and he makes all sorts of cool little sculptures and objects with discarded spark plugs, silverware, wire, metal scraps, etc. Rather than go into detail, I'll just link to his website: http://www.sparkplugguy.com/.

And yes, I did get some stuff from him. Not just for myself, either. B-Phat, your Xmas present this year is coming from the Spark Plug Guy. And the same goes for you, Dean and Caroline ...

Sunday, September 5, 2010

tales from the trenches

Good evening. Tonight witnesses the birth of a new feature here at Mad City, "Tales from the Trenches." The other day, I realized that many of my posts here - hell, nearly all of them - don't really capture a lot of the turmoil and challenges in my day-to-day life. On the one hand, life ain't easy for a lot of us; on the other hand, they don't call this place Mad City for nothing. I haven't consciously tried to sanitize my posts for you; my goal with this blog is just to entertain. But entertainment isn't always puppy dogs and ice cream; many people out there revel in the grittier side of existence, the sturm und drang of our daily affairs. "Trenches" is for those people.

So, I was at the farmers' market today, right? Because that's what I do on Saturday mornings, a lot of the time. Deal with it. Anyhow, I'm a single guy, and when I go to the market I shop for one. So today I was looking for carrots, among other things. And yeah, there was some serious carrot action going on there. So there I am, about to close the deal on a pound bag of carrots, when I thought to myself, "What the fuck? Why not lock in on a 2-pounder?" Because they did in fact have 2-pound bags as well.

So you're saying to yourself, "Well what's the issue here?" Well first of all, I'd just gotten to the market, and I still had a bunch of shit to pick up. So that meant hauling an extra pound of carrots all the way around the farmers' market. Which is not a small market: the one here in Mad City pretty much bitch-slaps just about any other F-market in the country. And also, I'm a single guy! And I ain't Bugs Bunny. I'm not chewing on a damn carrot every time you turn around. So bringing an extra pound of them all the way back to the crib is no small deal. I don't want these things to go bad on me. If there's one thing I cannot stand, it's a skanky carrot.

But at some point in your life, you've just gotta say "What the F," right? And that's what I did. I rolled the dice and picked up a deuce.

There's a 2-pound bag of organic carrots sitting in my fridge right now. I'm not boasting or anything; I just want people to understand that it was a tough decision, and that these things are not always easy. But now, I've got a way to discuss them. And that concludes this installment of "Tales from the Trenches."

Sunday, August 22, 2010

the height of futility

Just what is up with these people who take pictures of paintings at museums? I mean, it's one thing to snap a shot of the Mona Lisa if you're at the Louvre - you're kind of obligated to do it, almost - but another thing entirely to take pictures of every damn Monet at the MOMA. And you want to know what's even more looney than that? Having someone take a picture of you, *next to* the painting. What's up with that? You don't have a good potrait shot of yourself, because everyone's like, "Hey, is that a Monet next to you?" And at the same time, you don't have a good photo of the Monet, because your ordinariness and mortality are presented in stark contrast to the timeless masterpiece next to you, thus diminishing its aesthetic impact.

I saw this happen time and again while I was in New York City. And you know who the biggest offenders were? Yep, you guessed it: Japanese tourists.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

things i can't say on facebook

Good morning. Today heralds the initiation of a new feature here at Mad City, "Things I Can't Say on Facebook." These are witticisms and bon mots which I would just love to post on Facebook, but which would inevitably offend some friend or another for whatever insignificant reason. Good thing I have this blog as a safety valve ...

Anyhow, here is today's entry:

"Trevor is a fan of the page I've got more than my share of horse sense! Which is appropriate, because my ass is about 3 yards wide."

That's for, you know, these people out there who are highly opinionated, despite the fact that they're just ridiculously, morbidly obese. And, uh ... well, maybe it's better not to overexplain this kind of thing. But obviously, it's the kind of thing that I can't say on Facebook.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Sunday, August 1, 2010

big city heat

This was the kind of shizzle I was dealing with all month in the Big Apple. Or should I say sizzle?

Friday, July 30, 2010

take-home lessons

Did you realize that Vincent Van Gogh was only 37 years old when he died? And Georges Seurat was even younger than that - like, 32 or thereabouts. And meanwhile, Picasso was still diddling his mistresses when he was 90.

That was one of the lessons I took home from the Met today. It wasn't explicitly written out or anything, but I put it all together. Oh - I also fell in love with Seurat's "Circus Sideshow." This image really doesn't do it justice.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

high line park

High Line Park is a place I'd never heard of before coming to NYC, but now probably my favorite discovery here. I came across it earlier today while wandering around Chelsea, looking for something to eat. It's an urban park in the best sense of the term: a once-abandoned elevated railway line, nearly demolished at one point, then developed into a green space following a local community effort starting way back in 1999. Only the first phase of the park has been completed, and it's only been open for a year, but it's still kind of amazing.

The park is visible from street level, but you have to go up stairs (or an elevator) to enter it. The rail line has been converted to a walkway and esplanade that will stretch for more than a mile once it's completed (right now it's about 10 blocks). Most of the actual rail line is gone, replaced by all sorts of grasses and greenery as well as wooden chairs and benches to relax in. There's lots of shade as well as views of the Empire State Building to the northeast and the Frank Gehry-designed ICA building a few blocks to the west.

The views are perhaps the greatest feature of the park. Since it's built at rooftop level, you see the nearby city from a completely different perspective. In fact, there's one larger seating area where you can look down and watch traffic as a spectator. When you think about New York, you might not consider traffic-watching to be a relaxing pastime, but in fact it somehow accentuates the peacefulness of this place.

I was in Central Park the other day, and it was great. It's always great to visit Central Park! But the High Line is a park for a 21st-century megapolis, using reclaimed space in the most creative and aesthetically-pleasing way possible. I look forward to returning to NYC in a few years, just to see how it's matured.

Photos will be forthcoming once I get back home next week ...

Friday, July 23, 2010

charles burchfield

I feel guilty about not blogging more about this city I'm currently enjoying! So a quick entry about an exhibit I recently saw at the Whitney:

I don't think I'd ever heard of Charles Burchfield before going to the current exhibit at the Whitney, which made this discovery all the more interesting. And he's from upstate NY, too! But the Buffalo area, not from my neck of the woods.

Anyhow, you can check out Wikipedia for all the details on his life etc. Basically, a 20th-century American artist focused primarily on natural scenes. However, he deliberately avoided literal translation of nature onto the canvas, trying instead to accentuate the fantastical elements he found there. He had a banner year in 1917, including "The Night Wind" (above) and a host of other works, but later went into kind of a dormant period while working as a wallpaper designer for a local company. But later in life, he revisited some of his earlier works, was inspired by them, and painted larger scenes around some of them. You might think he could've ruined some great work he'd done at an ealier age, but in fact some of these revised works are just fantastic.

So Charles Burchfield for you, in a nutshell. If you're going to be in New York soon, check out the show.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

big city livin'

So I know what a lot of you out there are thinking: "T-Shizzle, you're kickin' it in New York right now, true? So how's that goin'?"

Well, that is definitely true, and I've definitely been remiss in not posting more about my time here. Guess I've just been too busy with the ladies! (no, not really) Actually, I don't think anyone in the whole city has said a word to me, except for the bus driver. But I'm still keepin' it real. And I've had a few adventures. But this is a complex place, in a lot of ways. It hasn't been all fun and games, 24/7. Let me give you an example, so you can feel me:

So today, I decided to go this place in Greenpoint (near Williamsburg in Brooklyn), Peter Pan Donuts, that is reputed to have the best donuts in the whole city. So I decide to take the 62 bus out there, and go to the bus stop, and the bus comes about 15 minutes late. And the ride takes about 10 minutes longer than I thought. So I'm already running almost a half-hour later than expected, all for some donuts. So I walk to this place, planning to get a couple donuts and a coffee and chill for a bit, but every damn seat in the place is taken. Even though it's noon. Who eats donuts at noon? Lots of people, I guess, all because Tina Fey raved about this place in Esquire a few months ago.

So I get my donuts to go, and decide to walk to nearby McKarren Park and eat in the park. And keep in mind that it's about 90 degrees out. So I get to the park ... and all the shaded benches are taken. Geddoudaheah! I can't sit in the donut place! All I want is a spot in the shade in the #!*^!# park! But this is New York, and this kind of thing happens a lot.

But, you know, it was still a beautiful day. And a nice park. And I knew that after I finished my donuts, I could be at any one of a dozen famous places (Statue of Liberty, Yankee Stadium, Central Park, the UN, etc etc) within a half-hour. Where else could you do that??? Not Tokyo, that's for sure.

So how were the donuts? Well, I've never been much of a Tina Fey fan; and all I can say is, she was wrong again. She's obviously never been to Top Pot Donuts in Seattle, or even that little place up near Northgate Mall. But, they weren't bad. And if I'm ever talking to someone about New York, and they ask me if I've ever had Peter Pan donuts, I can now reply, "Yes, indeed I have" ...

Saturday, July 10, 2010

summer of the british mindfuck

Oh man, I don't think I'm ready for this! People, within a few days, this summer is gonna turn into The Summer of the British Mindfuck. You know what I'm talking about, right? Christopher Nolan's latest feature, "Inception," will be hitting the theaters, and I just know it's gonna fuck my mind right up.

He's done it before, after all. The year was 2000; the movie, "Memento." Remember that little honey? Man, it blew my mind right out of the fucking water. The whole thing went backwards! How the FUCK did he come up with that??? I don't know, but I get the sense that he's prepared to do it again. And check this out: he's got CGI this time. I don't think "Memento" had any CGI, except maybe for that one scene with Carrie-Anne Moss in the phone booth.

Jesus H. Christ! I don't think I'm ready for this! I'm still not quite recovered from "Memento." And you wanna add "Inception" on top of that? Holy horseshit.

I know what some of you are thinking: what about the Nolan-directed Batman movies? Weren't they British mindfucks as well? Well, you may have a point. But they also had the familiar Batman back story to keep them somewhat grounded. Who knows what insane hijinks are gonna take place in "Inception?" The sky's the limit, babies ...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

coping skills

Well, today was kind of a tough day for me here in the big city. I had a bunch of stuff to do in Manhattan, but a place I'd read about had gone out of business and then I went to the Cooper Hewitt Museum because they allegedly don't charge admission on Tuesday evenings, only to find the museum closed. And when I got back to Brooklyn, all I wanted to do was chill for a while at the neighborhood coffee house, but it was packed. And on top of that, it was really hot out today! I was just sweaty all day. By the time I got home, my shirt was half-soaked and it felt like I was wearing a wet diaper.

People, you know what you call that? A bad day. Fortunately, I've come up with my own unique way of dealing with days like this. First, I'll make myself a soothing and mood-boosting drink, like a green tea smoothie or nice chai spritzer. Then I play the song "Bad Day" by Daniel Powter a few times. It's so uplifting! Even though he's singing about a bad day, it reminds you that other people have bad days too, and that things will get better. Then, I usually snuggle into a nice hot bubble bath (or on a day like this, a cold bubble bath, LOL!). And then I'll curl up on the sofa and watch some TV. And if I'm lucky, one of my favorite characters, like Izzie or McDreamy from "Grey's Anatomy" or Carrie from "Sex and the City," will also be recovering from a bad day. Usually, this occurs with the song "Bad Day" playing in the background.

It doesn't always have to go exactly like that for me. Once in a while, I can make do without the smoothie, or the bath, or the candles, or even Izzie. But I *need* "Bad Day" to come down from a bad day. That part is non-negotiable, thank you very much.

Monday, July 5, 2010

an exorcism

Well, I've tried everything I could think of to shake the J-horror crew from my tail, but they're relentless. Still not sure what I did to stir up the wrath of these cyber-wraiths, except maybe for blogging too excellently. All I know is that something needs to be done; desperate times call for desperate measures.

Anyone even casually acquainted with the J-horror genre should know about the "hungry ghost" phenomenon. This is when a spirit shows an amazing tenacity in pursuing its prey; basically, the only way to throw off the spook is to divert it to a different target. Consider "The Ring": once you've seen the videotape and gotten the phone call, your only chance is to make a videotape for some other unlucky sucker to stumble across. That's it! There's no other way out.

So, I've got 3 words to share with this sadistic bunch that's been hounding me for months now: "Concords are better." It's an American blog even more modest than mine, if that's possible, and just ripe for haunting. The author doesn't even have the wherewithal to diss "Mr. Roboto" or the Japanese World Cup team, two of the more effective maneuvers I pulled to create confusion and temporary uncertainty in the spirit world. And he hasn't written anything in months! He's defenseless! Hell, there's even a link to the site from my home page. What more could you ask for?

All right, chijins, there's my offer. You can't pretend any longer that I'm the ideal target for your terrifying cyber attacks. It's time to take your ghostly business elsewhere. Happy stomping ...

Thursday, July 1, 2010

the circle of life

They're back! The cornflowers are back! The weather seasons changed last fall, and all the widflowers went away, but now the cornflowers are back. (Actually, they've been back for over a month now, but I've been too busy following the World Cup ...)

Nature is truly a miracle, isn't it? Wisconsin is gripped with snow and freezing temperatures for months on end, and yet the cornflowers appear again year after year. They're hardy, too! They grow like weeds. Such pretty blue flowers, and yet they grow like weeds ...

The tiger lilies grow like weeds around here, too. They're also very nice.



sweet, sweet success

Paraguay! Woo woo! Well done, muy muchachos! You strike the ball with such power and precision. The Japanese goalie truly had no opportunity against your thunderous strikes. You acquitted yourselves well, and struck a dagger into the heart of the Rising Sun, and now Asia is kaput in the World Cup.

Truly a momentous match. My hat is off to you, neighbors to the south. Woot.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

wavves

Ever get obsessed with an album? As in, you're into it so much that you listen to it compulsively, over and over again, until you're sick of it and it's out of your system, or you've at least gotten to the point where you're not so compulsive about it?

So, I heard about this band Wavves a while back. A San Diego surf/skate punk type of outfit, which is ordinarily not my kind of thing, but there were some other interesting details which made me decide to check them out. Literally. I borrowed their self-titled CD (actually their second release) from the public library here. And listened to it over and over again. Then bought a copy. And I still *cannot* stop listening to it, at random times when I know I should be listening to something else in order to expand the repertoire of musical artists I'm cognizant of.

Why? I don't know if I can explain, exactly. I'm not really a music critic, even if I put together Top 50 lists like one. It's not for the lyrics, which revolve around your typical California subjects like surfing, beaches, skateboarding, love, etc. It's not for the song titles: over half of the 14 songs have either "Goth" or "Demon" in the title (Goth Girls, Beach Goth, Weed Demon, etc). And I swear, most of the songs have some guy who sounds like someone's mentally-challenged cousin singing backing vocals in this doo wop-pseudo-Beach Boys type of manner. But ... overall it's this completely unabashed, take-it-or-leave-it, straight-ahead kind of driving punk pop, and it's just done brilliantly. The third song, "To the Dregs," is one of the catchiest songs you could ever hope to hear, and there's a couple other great ones later on. In between ... well, there's one song near the end that's just dissonant noise and wordless jabbering. But all the sudden, it segues into this Native American drum beat and lyrics about going to a chapel etc etc. And it works! It all works. You just have to listen to it, repeatedly.

Got no car
Got no money
I got nothin' nothin' nothin' not at all ...

Sunday, June 20, 2010

the worst song of all time ...

... has gotta be "Mr. Roboto" by Styx! Remember that one? From like 1980. Guess they thought we'd all be living in some machine-dominated dystopia by now! Way to predict the future, Dennis DeYoung! "Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto/Mata au hi made/Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto/Himitsu wo shiritai." Yeah, right. Give me a f*!&*ing break.

Take that, you J-horror sons-a-bitches ...

Saturday, June 19, 2010

firing on all cylinders

Kind of an ordinary day for me, for the most part. Not too much going on at work, then went for a jog, biked home, etc etc. And I was making dinner when I suddenly noticed something: there was stuff cooking on every burner. And it wasn't like I was making a feast or anything! At the lower left is red beans and rice, and just above it is chicken sausage to go with the beans & rice. At the lower right, obviously, is asparagus (from the farmers' market - boo yah!). And the stuff at the upper right? Fried cracker bits, to go on top of the asparagus.

That's it! I wasn't even that hungry. But somehow it turned into a 4-burner night. Damn ...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

big apple-bound

Well it's official, or as official as something with no established standards or protocols can get: I'm going to be spending the month of July in New York City. Brooklyn, to be more exact. Not for work or anything like that: I'll be finishing my medical training this month, and thought it would be kind of cool to spend some down time in NYC before getting caught up in a new job and whatnot. I grew up only a few hours up the interstate from New York and always enjoyed my family's little weekend trips down to the Statue of Liberty or a Broadway Show or the state Family Court Building every year or two, but I've never been there for an extended amount of time. I'm gonna learn this town! By the time I leave there, I will know Brooklyn.

New York, New York! The city so nice, they nicknamed it the Big Apple.

Monday, June 14, 2010

green revolution

I'm not gonna lie to you people: I eat a lot of yogurt. And over time, I've come to believe that I should refine my yogurt-eating ways. Which is why I got very excited recently when the good people at Stonyfield Farms announced a special offer: send in 4 lids from specially-marked containers of their yogurt, and get a free reusable yogurt cup.

Remember when you were a kid, and you sent in a bunch of cereal box tops to get some special little toy or doo-dad? Remember the anticipation of waiting for that thing to arrive in the mail? I'd actually forgotten about that, until I sent away for my reusable yogurt cup. And it was a long 6 weeks! But once the yogurt cup arrived, all the waiting was worth it. This is one solid little number.

Oh little yogurt cup, you and I are going to do so much good together! They say that one man, on his own, can't change the world. But I've never heard the same said about a man and his reusable yogurt cup. "You are what you eat." And I'd like to add, you're also what you eat out of. Yes, we're changing the world, one food container at a time ...


Saturday, June 5, 2010

little cyclone

Hey, have I mentioned lately that I'm just nuts about Neko Case? She's my cinnamon girl.

hijacked by the J-horror mafia

Many of you readers out there have probably become accustomed to the comments this blog has accumulated from the Land of the Rising Sun. In fact, to some of you, they've become a welcome feature at Mad City. And I probably should have just accepted this unexpected attention without a second thought, but one day I decided to follow a link and before I knew it, I discovered that my blog had been hijacked by the J-horror mafia.

At least, I think it's J-horror. I can't read kanji very well, but there's definitely a sinister air to these other blogs that reminds me of Ringu or The Grudge. And who else but the masterminds behind J-horror would bedevil a seemingly innocent man with a troubled past, living alone in a dark upstairs apartment? It doesn't matter whether you have a professional blog or a rinky-dink little operation through Blogspot: they will find you. And once they do, they will toy with you, until you either A) go insane or B) are forced to eat your own innards.

This has to be one of the humblest blogs in all the land. I have like 5 readers, tops. Who would think I'd be haunted by these forces from across the sea? It's twisted and diabolical and brilliant. Kind of like J-horror itself ...

Friday, June 4, 2010

one score years ago ...

Twenty years ago this month, a kid from Gloversville NY was handed a diploma at a little liberal arts school in western Mass. and sent out into the world. Truth be told, that kid was not quite ready to be heading out into the world, and it took him quite a while to "find himself." But at the big reunion this past week, the kid (now a man) was able to reflect on how far he's come since that time.

For one thing, he added another bachelor's degree and then a graduate degree to the sheepskin that that college had given him. For another thing, he's now got pubic hair. (Ha, just kidding! I had that goin' on even before I finished college.) And for other things ... well, a lot has happened. Because it's been 20 years, right?

But here's one thing that I discovered: the more things change, the more they stay the same. When I was at reunion, I still recognized just about everyone. There weren't too many people who I saw and said, "Hey, I don't know that person," and then found out that I really did know that person. Sure, there were a few more paunches and a few heads sporting grey hair, but the people generally acted the same. It's kind of amazing, actually: the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

fred tomaselli

I am actually away from Mad City right now, back east for a little family & friend time as well as my college reunion. It can be a bit challenging to find quality stuff to do around my hometown area, so I dragged my dad over to Saratoga today to check out the Tang Art Museum at Skidmore College. I was just hoping for some moderately entertaining artwork, and maybe a better sandwich in downtown Saratoga than I could get around Hagaman, but instead got walloped by a case of serendipity.

The Tang museum is actually kind of stunning, especially for its location on the campus of a fairly small liberal arts college. The building is beautiful, and the quality of the exhibitions blew me away. On the ground floor, an exhibition of senior thesis work by Skidmore art students that definitely paid credit to the art program there. And upstairs, an amazing exhibit of work by Fred Tomaselli, who I'd never heard of before. I've admitted in the past that I'm no art critic, so you won't be getting any sharp analytical insights of his art here or even a biographical review. But let me just say that from the brief amount I've read, too much emphasis is put on Tomaselli's technique. He uses actual leaves, fungi, pills, and other organic material in his work, under a layer of resin that he then paints over. The effect is interesting up close, but what really blew me away was the incredible detail of his art, as well as the brilliant thought behind it. Of the paintings I saw, my favorite was probably "Expulsion," an obvious reference to the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve, rendered in anatomic detail, seem to be pushed away by a swirling vortex emitting beams of energy, which up close are comprised of drawings of songbirds, flowers, tiny sea creatures, pills, and other random objects.

This was one of the few occasions I could remember of actually feeling enraptured by an artwork. The last time was about a year ago, when I took my dad to Williamstown and discovered an exhibit of Julie Mehretu's work at the Williams College art museum. I mean, I still hate Williams, but I now love Julie Mehretu. And Fred Tomaselli. And yes, I did have a good sandwich in Saratoga. And the weather today was awesome.


Sunday, May 16, 2010

if i were a mariner ...

If I were a member of the Seattle Mariners, I'd probably hang out with Ichiro Suzuki the most. He's pretty much my favorite Mariner, of all time. The thing I like about him is that he makes the most of his physical skills, and he's just a very well-rounded player. Take his defense: he can catch, and he can throw. But he's also a great hitter, too. It's not his fault that the Mariners aren't generating enough runs this year - they need to get a couple sluggers to drive him in when he gets on as the lead-off hitter.

I don't know how good his English is now; but he's been playing with the Mariners for like 10 years, so I figure he knows enough to hang out with in the dugout and talk about music and movies and stuff like that. I also love Japanese food! We'd probably spend a lot of time talking about good Japanese restaurants around Seattle.

I might talk to Junior a bit, but I don't think I'd hang out with him that much. I think Cliff Lee is a great pitcher, and I was totally stoked when the M's picked him up in the off-season. But I don't know enough about him personally to say whether I'd hang out with him a lot. Same goes for Felix Hernandez. I also get the sense that Felix and I wouldn't have much in common. But I'm pretty sure that Ichiro and I would get along great.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

the weather

What the HELL is going on with the weather in Mad City? Gusty winds! Rain! High temps in the 50's? This is not what I signed up for when I moved here. Dammit,we're almost halfway through May! Summer's right around the corner. So we should be getting pre-summer type conditions. But instead, it snowed in northern Wisconsin just a few days ago. I live in southern Wisconsin, but even so ...

All I want is to be able to ride my motorcycle to work. Is that too much to ask? Jesus H. Christ ...

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

broccoli


Man, I like broccoli. I had some with my dinner just the other night! It tasted good, real good. And not only that, but good for you. Or should I say, good for me ...

Some other thoughts about broccoli:
- I like Chinese broccoli, too.
- Anyone out there into old James Bond movies, like me? The producer of the old James Bond movies was Albert Broccoli, which is kind of a funny name. But apparently, back in the 19th century, his Italian forefathers either had a hand in developing broccoli or brought it from Italy to America. So his name's not so funny after all.
- Remember when George Bush Sr. spoke out against broccoli? That was so unnecessary. And meanwhile, he liked to put crushed Butterfingers on top of his cereal at breakfast. What an ass ...