Monday, March 24, 2008

My name is David Lee Roth and I approve of this vacation

No, I'm not going to rehab. I'm going to...


I plan on taking lots of pictures of monkeys, buying a nifty hat and avoiding getting bitten by anything too poisonous. You'll get a full accounting after I return, although because I'm using one of them un-fancy non-digital cameras, photos might take a bit longer.

Until then, hasta luego!

Saturday, March 22, 2008


I just got word that I have something in common with George Clooney, Daniel Day-Lewis and that guy who played Chigurh in "No Country for Old Men." A nomination.

Specifically, a nomination for best debut novel of 2008 from the International Thriller Writers.


Interred With Their Bones by Jennifer Lee Carrell (Dutton)
Big City, Bad Blood by Sean Chercover (William Morrow)
From the Depths by Gerry Doyle (McBook Press)
Volk's Game by Brent Ghelfi (Henry Holt and Co.)
Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill (William Morrow)

Possible red carpet guest Barack Obama.

No, you can't stuff the ballot box. A panel of judges will make the final decision. And the judges are writers, who, as you know, want for nothing and are unbribeable. (by the way, do not under any circumstances take the preceding link seriously)

But it's still pretty cool. The only question is, should I go with the De La Renta tuxedo, or Armani?

Friday, March 21, 2008

Chloroquine Phosphate--Week One

Some people blog about their jobs. Or their kids. Or politics.

Today, I'm going to blog about side effects. Specifically the side effects for these giant, pink antimalarial pills I'm taking in preparation for my trip to Panama. Once a week. With food or milk.

According to the literature I was given, I might experience:

-blurred vision
-upset stomach

and my favorite,
-nightmares or intense dreams

I've taken this stuff before, when I visited Paraguay, and I don't remember having any side effects. But I'll be honest with you: I'm kind of hoping for some intense dreams. It seems like a great resource for a guy who writes the occasional science fiction story.

Andriods dreaming of electric sheep.

Tuesday night, the night after my first dose, I had a hard time falling asleep. And did dream, although not intensely, unless dreaming about the movie I was watching on my way home counts as "intensely."

I know. Riveting. But don't worry, I'll keep you posted as events develop.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

But the pages matter too!

I came across this on Al Gore's Internet: A blog that does not judge books by their covers. Oh, no. It just judges the covers.

And hey, oddly enough, it judges MY cover. Other than the fact that my name is OUTRAGEOUSLY LARGE*, the design of "From the Depths" is, well,

... enough to put anyone in a relaxing, oxygen-free sleep. However, the blood-red name of the book keeps us from an untimely slumber. There's the scent of murder mystery in the confined air of this book, and it smells fishy.
It's worth pointing out that her blog looks niftier than mine, too.

*and I'm not Chuck Klosterman.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A second helping

As predicted, I celebrated St. Patrick's Day in style. And of course by "style" I mean "with barbecue."

I've tried to explore as many of Chicago's barbecue options as I can, but sadly, most of them are closed on Monday night. But my appetite was open. So was Risque Cafe.

Thus it came to pass that I indulged in huge amounts of barbecue and discussions of symbols and themes in movies vis a vis zeitgeist. And other foreign words.

Here's the takeaway: Risque was worth a second visit. The sauce remains a bit thin and lackluster for my tastes. The ribs were a little dry and not as tender as--do I need to say it?--Arthur Bryant's. But I got a tremendous amount of enjoyment from gulping down a big bowl of macaroni and cheese covered with pulled pork. Somewhere down the road, my heart surgeon will too.

Other notable dishes were the brisket, which was much more tender this time around, and the creamed spinach, which had a nice parmesany finish. Also, American youth collectively crave punishment for the sins of their elders, and that's why we have the "Saw" franchise. True story.

Anyway, bottom line, Risque Cafe is worth more than one visit. Get the macaroni and cheese with shredded meat. And let me know how the pinball machine is... I was too full to give it a shot.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The listenin' o' the green

St. Patrick's Day is right around the corner. In Chicago, you have a big, fake parade and a big party disguised as a big parade.

Me, I'll be having barbecue. Because that's how I roll.

But to celebrate a holiday that--and this is no coincidence--comes mere days before the best weekend of the year, you'll need not just emerald beer, but a solid-green musical playlist. And that's where I'm here to help.

Beer spilling in progress.

Without further ado,


1) "Drunken Lullabies," (acoustic version) Flogging Molly. Yeah, start it off nice and mellow.
2) "Bottle of Smoke," The Pogues.
3) "Good Mornin' Da'," by Chicago's own The Tossers.
4) "1849," by Kansas City's own The Elders.
5) "The Rare Ould Times," Flogging Molly.
6) "Shipping up to Boston," The Dropkick Murphys.
7) "Every Dog Has His Day," Flogging Molly.
8) "No Loot, No Booze, No Fun," The Tossers again.
9) "Dirty Old Town," The Pogues.
10)"Men of Erin," The Elders. If you're not crying in your beer by the end of this one, your soul is in serious jeopardy.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Spring hopes are eternal

So today was the last day of the quarter for the put-upon graduate students at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. I know this because I administered the final final exam for 15 of them this afternoon. They were happy to be done with the quarter. And I know that because of the shouting--some might say "hollering" or "whooping"--reverberating through the hallway outside the classroom.

And as I walked out of the building later (having graded all the exams and feeling pretty good about that myself), the feeling of done-ness, of "hey, I can sleep in tomorrow"-ness, was floating in the afternoon air, too. It's uplifting, that atmosphere. Kind of equal parts idealism and exuberance and enthusiasm about the future. As a friend and fellow university employee and I walked to our respective cars, he summed up the source of the students' happiness: "It's all the fun of being an adult with none of the responsibilities."

But I don't think that's quite it. And it wasn't just on campus. It's one of those near-perfect days in Chicago: sunshine that slices through the city haze, a breeze off the lake that actually smells like water, temperatures that make coats extraneous. Cruising down Lake Shore Drive from Evanston to downtown Chicago, I was going a solid two decades over the speed limit, and there still were cars whipping by. Every song that popped up on my iPod was perfect, starting with "Within a Mile of Home," by Flogging Molly (about whom I'll write more later this week).

So maybe it's official. Maybe Chicago has finally climbed out of its grimy, road-salt-encrusted winter cocoon.

And maybe, as the March sun turns the evening a comforting shade of yellow-orange, the city is smiling. Just like me.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Econ 104 was not an easy class to stay awake for

Totally not my fault. It was right after lunch, first of all, so my hyperactive college student stomach was digesting whatever crap I had crammed into it. Second of all, by that time in the day the five hours of sleep from the preceding night were starting to wear off, like Mario under the influence of a flashing yellow star. Third, housepainting and shoe salesmanship probably were more interesting topics for me at the time.

But that didn't stop me from learning one key point: Scarcity drives value.

So it is with great anticipation of untold wealth that I announce that only has two more copies of "From the Depths" in stock. Which would put their value at approximately $60,000 each. I accept cash or checks.

But really, I'm just shocked that ran out of anything. You picture it as this dimensionless warehouse--possibly situated partially in a different dimension--filled with more stuff than the most consumer-driven society could consume.

So thank you, readers, for clicking your mouses (mice?) on my book so many times. If nothing else we have proved that the teachings of that long-ago econ professor were not lost on me.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Think how much ink he could have saved

There's a problem with "Garfield." It's not something a lot of people like to talk about. It's an unpleasant reality, like bacteria on a subway handrest or the contents of a McDonald's hamburger.

Yes. I'm talking about unfunny.

I have vague memories of laughing at "Garfield" when I was a kid, back when rat tails were cool and the Beastie Boys were considered dangerous. But perhaps the lasagna jokes grew stale. I found myself laughing at "The Far Side" more than the antics of that striped orange cat.

Until now. What's the secret? Why--eliminating Garfield. An explanation:

Who would have guessed that when you remove Garfield from the Garfield comic strips, the result is an even better comic about schizophrenia, bipolor disorder, and the empty desperation of modern life? Friends, meet Jon Arbuckle. Let’s laugh and learn with him on a journey deep into the tortured mind of an isolated young everyman as he fights a losing battle against lonliness and methamphetamine addiction in a quiet American suburb.

And an example:

Yes. We have a winner. "Garfield" is funnier without Garfield.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Jeff Vader, Dark Lord of the Cafeteria

There's Star Wars. It's fun.

Then there's making fun of Star Wars, which is more fun. How fun? Five "funs" in four sentences, that's how fun. Wait, that's six. Anyway...

... Robot Chicken is the current all-time champion of Star Wars mockery. "Your taste buds can't repel flavor of this magnitude!" is a line that, like "We'll always have Paris," will never be surpassed. But this comes pretty damn close:

Yeah, that's Eddie Izzard playing the roles of "Darth/Jeff Vader," "Cafeteria worker" and "Jar-Jar Autograph Seeker." He's a talented guy. Not so talented that he can kill you with his mind, but close. Maybe with a cafeteria tray.