Friday, April 25, 2008

The Picasso of the Draft Machine

OK, I promised I wouldn't write about this, but's Bill Simmons officially is the best NBA writer in America (following the retirement of the Trib's Sam Smith, though really he probably already was). I love the NBA, and as I've told Erika time and again, the only reason I'd ever get cable is to watch games on TNT. That's why it kills me I can't see any playoff series till the finals. This is an awesome playoff year.

Here's a real gem from today's Simmons playoff column (huge bonus for comparing Dirk Nowitzki to Gabe Kaplan):

"To David West for his in-your-face manhandling of Dirk Nowitzki in Round 1, capped off by the same derisive cheek tap that Robert Conrad used to perfection after his concession speech to Gabe Kaplan in the first "Battle of the Network Stars." It's unclear if West was apologizing to Dirk or intimidating him, but we haven't seen a German back off like that since the German army fled from Russia in the winter of '44."

Friday, April 18, 2008

Realm Of Dusk

Tomorrow begins Painful Writing Ordeal 2.0 ... Well, now that I think about it, I already went through PWO 2.0 last month. This will have to be PWO 2.5.

I don't like to talk about my process, but I believe this now-annual occurrence merits an exception, as it occupies a higher, more demanding rung on the Ladder Of Revision -- one that requires a bit of psyching-up for the author (but not too much, as it leads to the psych-out). When it is over, I will have a finished play in my hands -- my second. I'm hoping this won't happen any later than May 3.

I bought a bag of Jay's BBQ chips from the little store, and as I was walking back to the New Cracker Factory, I had a glimpse of sunlit W. Kinzie and N. Dearborn: the Harry Caray's sign that always reminds of me of my many trips to the Fort Dearborn Post Office. (On returning from each submission trip, I pass in front of Harry's for good luck, just as I look into the eyes of the Ludwig Mies van der Rohe bust each work morning for a little lift.) Now a new pile of yet-to-be-copied scripts awaits its mission in the near-future. Soon enough.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Shimmering, rippled

Are there paddle boats in the Humboldt Park lagoon? I want to say there are, which means there probably aren't. I want to say I've seen them before out there in the summer, which means I'm probably thinking about Central Park or the Lincoln Park Zoo.

I should go fishing after work today -- it's going to be so nice -- but I don't want to hurt any fish with a sharp hook. I guess we could walk around the lagoon and stare at it. There are benches ... That's a nice idea. Yes. This is our neighborhood now; we pay the taxes. It's time to enjoy it.

It's time to start enjoying ourselves.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Nature Without Man 2.0

Well, North Sider, are you scared of the cougar, yet? I've been going on and on to Erika about how I want to attract predators to our new big back yard. I was thinking more owls or hawks, but cougars would be fine. This has "First Chicago man mauled by cougar since 1809" written all over it, to run in the Sun-Times in two months. That first Chicago man will be me when I take out the garbage after nightfall one June evening. The animal was attracted by the scent of organ meat (really leftover vegan riblets).

For apocalypticiscts, this is a telling sign, I feel, as it heralds the vanguard of Nature's eventual reclamation of North America from man. The resurgence of the bear and the wolf in the Rocky Mountains and upper Plains States has increased food competition, driving predators such as the cougar back east. We've made efforts to boost populations of classic American animals, but we may begin to run into the problems that lead to their near-extinction in the past. It certainly could make city and suburban life more exciting (lots of eaten pets), as well as up the stakes for clods hunting deer in, say, Wisconsin (lots of eaten Packer fans).

Friday, April 11, 2008

Mr. Squeaky Shoe

For the second spring in a row, my left dress shoe has begun to squeak. I drink a lot of water at the New Cracker Factory, and our Ludwig Mies van der Rohe-designed office requires I take a nice, long German walk to the water cooler. Here the squeaky shoe comes into play, as I take at least 50-100 steps with my left foot alone on each trip. What do these people in their little pens think as I squeak by yet again? Naturally, to the offender, the offense becomes exaggerated. In reality, the squeak may be nothing more than a faint blip on the inner radar screens of the office population, already crowded with car payments, weekend shopping lists and Thai pornography.

But the squeak bothers me. (Don't I count for something?) All the home remedies I've read about have been useless. I can only guess, given its perennial reappearance, that the squeak is tied to some spring change in humidity, temperature or barometric pressure. Maybe I should throw these clunkers away and get some of those futuro-sock/shoes -- the ones Time Out Chicago readers wear: casual, yet stylish; comfortable, yet expensive. But if I did that, well, that would be a bit like giving in, wouldn't it? After railing against Neil Young and the Talking Heads (see below), could I still call myself a true naysayer? Definitely not.

So, sadly, the squeak must stay -- if I'm to keep face. Perhaps I'll grow -- a little, day by day -- to enjoy disturbing the others working in silence: the squeak of my shoe faint in the distance but growing in volume, now loud, now very loud, now fading , all to resume again in two minutes. Is there not some satisfaction to be gleaned from that on this, the first day of spring?

My code name's Happy Harry

It's Friday. It's warm out. Sunny. Though you wouldn't know it right now in the Office Canyon. I told myself I wouldn't post this, but seeing as how I'd instead have to do some real work, I've since backpedaled ...

Highlights include the Battle of Dunkirk and how Talking Heads and Neil Young suck. (And they do suck. I know we all mellowed out there 6-7 years ago over Young's pampered/damaged/rehabbing rocker schtick, and many of us said T.H. is just a few hairs off from ESG and therefore admissible. C'mon, people.) Also, I think IF truly freaks MES out when they start discussing astrology.

In other news: We welcome the return of the light gray suit. I'll be picking one up tomorrow. Nothing even comes close to a light gray suit.

Monday, April 07, 2008

4:10 CST

M: Hello.
T: It's me.
M: What is it?
T: I'm calling you.
M: I'm at work.
T: I'm calling you from the bar.
M: I'm at work.
T: I just wanted you to know something.
T: I just wanted you to know--
M: I have to get back--
T: That I've been drinking since ... Checks watch. See if this was the stage -- you write for the stage.
M: I can't--
T: This was the stage, it would say ... "Checks Watch."
M: What do you want?
T: I've been drinking since 3 o'clock.
M: That's it?
T: No.
T: No, because you're coming down here -- You're going to be down in here in ... Checks watch. See, I did it again ... In 1.5 hours and you're going to see all of us sitting here on our bar stools. I have a bar stool and Jim has a bar stool--
Jim: Suck my dick!
T: See Jim says to suck his dick.
M: Goodbye--
T: Wait! ... Wait a second ... I almost spilled my drink. Jesus.
M: I'm busy.
T: I'm busy, too. I'm busy drinking. You're going to come down here in 1.5 hours--
M: I'm not coming down there.
T: Yes you are--
Jim: Don't be a pussy!
T: You've heard Jim's viewpoint. All right.
M: I have to--
T: Just ... just ... When you walk in that door. The swinging saloon door ... and you see us here on our bar stools. I have a bar stool--
M: You already said this.
T: Don't think ... Don't think it all just suddenly appeared.
M: What?
T: It means ... that while you were there. At the office. We began drinking. At 3 o'clock--
M: You already said this--
T: And ... things have settled in and, more importantly, they have taken a life of their own. Here. That is ... that we have gone about our drinking ... We have gone about existing ... without your presence.
M: Goodbye--
T: Wait ... and you should know ... That things happen -- all over the world -- things happen. Without your knowledge. Or your intervention. And they will continue to happen. So ...
T: When you walk through the swinging saloon doors ... stop a moment. And feel privileged ... That you've come upon an autonomous scene.
T: With no need of your involvement. Indifferent. Vigorous. In other words ...
(long pause)
M: In other words what?
T: Life--
Jim: Get your pussy ass down here!
(M hangs up)

Returrn to me

You knew Wound up couldn't stay down. The blogging history was too rich, the franchise too storied. So what have we been up to here at the New Cracker Factory in the intervening 10 or so months? Glad you asked. WoundUp Corp. has spearheaded a number of new media initiatives for the 18-35 youth market ...

1. MP3s ... lots of MP3s.
2. Open-source app design. Yes ... Not us, but I've read about it.
3. Pill-based media. I had this idea at the bar and wrote it down on a napkin. I'm pretty sure the FDA won't allow it, but I could do an end-around through more permissive Mexican drug boards.

But really, the truth is ... We haven't been doing anything. We've been unemployed. CEO Tom Blister shut down this site after one too many fights with the content team. Unprecedented oil revenues (Woundup Corp. has a controlling interest in Plexite/DAG Petroleum of Rotterdam) allowed senior management to pause and rethink its written content-based solution.

Over the past 10 or so months, the content team slept in till 11, laid on the couch and watched "Regis," smoked marijuana, went to brunch, tried (and failed) to read Proust and fought in court over unreleased severance pay. And Monika had a baby!

And now we return. Any changes? Yes ... No. Everything will be the same. We had some of the highest ratings ever at the time COO Franzon Metternich pulled the plug on this site. And if you're wondering whether the author is diverting precious writing energies for frivolity instead of The Task at Hand, well, that will go, as it always has, largely unanswered.

Friday, April 04, 2008

The WoundUp Platform

Well, now that I got that out of my system, let me turn to politics ... We all remember the 2004 election and how many in the Left were wringing their hands, calling it "the most important election ever." If you consider the president's re-election the sole cause of all our current domestic and foreign problems, than perhaps it ranks up there on the list. But I believe the 2008 race is much, much more important, as we are now seeing a culmination of decades (even a century's) worth of bad practices come to a head. I believe this truly is the first 21st Century American election -- one in which the candidates involved no longer can ignore the challenges we must face for the next 100 years.

If I had my way, the country would have socialized medicine, drastic reductions in defense spending, jobs for all, ethical distribution of wealth, limits on advertising, pluralization of media, tolerance of dissenting viewpoints, environmental responsibility and cultivation of reusable energy, less trash, gun control, revision of jail-able offenses, legalization of drugs, investment in economically moribund urban areas and the inclusion of ghettoized minorities in the national mainstream, mixed-use urban development, mixed-income neighborhoods, more locally focused economies, more small businesses, more vacation days for workers, equal pay for women, an end to the car's dominance, better public transportation including inter-city light rail, funding for the arts with a place for them and physical education in all schools, teaching methods that do not rely heavily on form tests, free college, access to information technology for all, shuttering of overseas military bases and better treatment for the elderly.

I know none of the major candidates will give me all of this, or even any of it, but if there's one who can at least put our collective foot on the very first cobblestone of the road to embracing what man is truly capable of -- an end to our old violent, exclusionary and wasteful practices -- that will make me happier.

Second dark age

Yesterday my wife found out that she did not get an opportunity she had really been hoping for. It left me feeling very ineffectual and upset. I had helped her prepare her materials, so I felt we had done this as team, of sorts. I honestly don't know why Erika wasn't extended this opportunity, and I can only guess it might be over some administrative technicality. Regardless, this has greatly upended her plans for the coming year, and that makes me truly angry. No one I've ever met works harder than my wife; no one gives more while asking for nothing; and no one deserves more to have her dreams be fulfilled for the rest of her life. And if you're some crank who wants to tell me "life isn't fair," I have two answers for you:

1. No shit.
2. Fuck you.

Erika has had the dictionary definition of a hard life, and I doubt there's anything you can bring up that will top it, so save it, asshole.

Rejection is (cliche inserted), as we are both in the creative writing field. For every play produced, book published or poem printed, I wonder how many people have had their dreams spit upon. And I often wonder if the "winner" is truly worthy, and how that distorts an audience's view of that person once they somehow slip past the gatekeepers.

We can only try again next year. But what do we do in the meantime? What does everyone do in the intervening 365 days before the next round of possible disappointments begins? Enjoy the process, you might say. Well, that reminds me a lot of how the christian church made (makes) people obsess about an afterlife to forget how shackled they were (are) in this one. I don't know if I have anything else to say.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Spring offensive starts today

Selection time. I voluntarily waded into the bathtub of razor blades beginning last May, and I've since sent my play to more than 160 theaters and contests across the country. I've garnered a little response, a growing folder of rejections and finalist honors from a small competition in New England (more than what was on my "resume" before.)

Now theaters are making their season selections for 08-09. I'm new to this, so I'm getting a feel for the timing. The bigger ones -- the ones with literary interns and the ones with whom you have no shot -- seem to announce first. The bigger ones work quicker -- thanks to the literary interns. They can turn around a form rejection at breakneck speed.

I'm placing my hopes in contests, many of which are announced in April, and in the smaller theaters, who seem -- thanks to a lack of literary interns -- to work slower. But perhaps it's only a delay of eventual disappointment.

I am nearly finished with my second play (probably by the end of the month) and will ready myself for another paper offensive in May. I've actually grown to enjoy dropping off my scripts at the Fort Dearborn post office.

Some probably would advise me to take the "long view" for both plays: that lack of available slots for new work by unknown playwrights will push my eventual "break" (if it happens) toward an indeterminate date in the future. Creative writing encourages a certain monasticism and remove, allowing you to retreat into your work and shut yourself off from the "historical dimension." It's just that when you return to town with your handiwork do you wonder if anyone cares (or whether it matters) how many revisions you did or how many times you re-read the lines.

But we fight anyway. And when I look at my plays, and I am filled with pride in knowing I did them the right way, and I am still systematically rejected, well, I suppose that's the literary equivalent of dying on your feet in battle.