Thursday, July 31, 2008

Numbers Man

It's that time of year again: fantasy football season. Yes, it doesn't actually start till the real games do, but July and August are when thousands of players across the world prepare their draft lists: crunching numbers, banging heads a few times against desks (Maurice Jones-Drew or Fred Taylor?) and generally trying to predict the unpredictable.

Well, there are some things you can be sure of in fantasy football — LaDainian Tomlinson's production and the Colts offense — but most of the fun and excitement comes from making big gambles to best your buddies. When you draft that receiver who bounces back from an injury or that third-year QB who takes the next step, you smile a little more broadly and quietly call yourself a football genius for separating the wheat from the chaff.

But like life, there is a lot of luck involved in fantasy football (more so, I feel, than in other fantasy sports, such as baseball), and for every Derek Anderson or Wes Welker, whose success you presaged, there is a Peerless Price, Kyle Boller or Cedric Benson, whom you quielty dropped mid-season in disappointment.

Let that temper your hubris, fantasy player — but not too much. If we couldn't gloat, well, why would we play at all?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Green means growth

Do you like this shamrock shake layout? I felt it was time to ditch the Crainium-themed scheme I've had since 2003. Because we'll be using green in the baby's room ... Well, there you go. Additional tweaks may occur in the coming days.

Also, thanks to J.R. for linking up to us again!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Gettin' results

Erika's writing success keeps rolling! One of her poems will be published in Quarter After Eight in the spring. The journal is affiliated with Ohio University. It doesn't look like they have readable e-versions of their issues, so you'll have to take my word that it's a fantastic prose poem. It's Erika, so that goes without saying!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Watching the slopes out the window

If you like dividing the self up (a la "Herman's Head") into distinct, humorous parts, then I ask you to visualize this: My writing part has been sitting in a ski lodge, his foot in a cast, sipping brandy the past two months. Yes, it's a been a "writer's vacation" of sorts. I did squeeze out the first draft of a new play last month, but when I faced draft No. 2 -- and the assembly line system I used for the last play -- I blanched and cried "uncle." I guess I hadn't recovered fully from that grueling June to June stretch run.

I have a dream of completing one play a year from age 30 to 40. I am 31, and I have two to my credit. One extra month off, I reasoned, won't kill me. I think I was trying to do a mid-/late-period-style revision off the bat, and that was too much to ask. With the past two plays, I rewrote the whole thing for drafts 1-4ish, which lent some freshness and a more relaxed feel to the proceedings. I then buckled down for 5-10 (11). It's my goal to go a little easier on myself this time around. Maybe I can wrap the play up in 8 drafts. I think that's a good number to shoot for.

Perhaps I've said too much about my process, which is either an amateurish or gauche move. I don't really care. I just received a very nice "thanks, but no thanks" from a local theater I had some shot of getting produced by. And you know what? That's all right. I know my time will come. Frankly -- at least based on how I feel right now -- I'd rather people leave me alone so I can work, relax and spend time with Erika and the baby, who'll be joining us this winter. Rehearsals, auditions and rewrites sound like a huge hassle. For once, I'm not straining for recognition. I want to be left alone. And I might actually start to enjoy my writing more for what it is: an enriching creative pursuit. Beyond that, who cares?

Pour another cup of hot chocolate for that writing part and turn on SportsCenter. It's earned the R&R.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Role reversin'

My folks are in town right now. They've got a busier social life than we do! They were out late last night partying by a lake in Hinsdale, and they're doing a Southwest Suburbs tour today that will go well into the evening with drinks and dinner. What about me? Well, I'm looking forward to paying the bills later and reading up about our insurance coverage for baby. I'll be lounging on the recliner with my slippered feet on the ottoman, newspaper in hand, pipe in mouth, when those two whipper-snappers get home at 11. They're going to have a lot of explaining to do.

But in all honesty, I'm looking forward to spending the rest of the day with Erika, as I did on Monday -- nice bookends to the week. In that regard, this summer has been very nice. I feel the work and avocation stresses that constricted us in the spring have loosened. What we do today will be anyone's guess, but at least we'll be together.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Mr. Skin

What the heck was that? (See below.) I think I was a little fried after a long day on the road and in the suburbs. Otherwise, the weekend was pretty relaxing ... well, aside from that skin medicine that made my heart beat faster. Yeah, ol' Woundup is finally attending to a dermatological issue brought about by years of wearing tight thrift store clothing. It was just getting too unsightly (and starting to turn Mrs. Woundup off). TMI? Sure. But the oral med the doc gave me made my heart beat like I'd drunk a Red Bull, and the damn things kept me up all Sunday night. I haven't had that little sleep in years. Not fun. Well, the doc told me to forgo the pills and just stick to the topical treatments. I feel a lot better today, and I slept like a rock last night.

What's the moral of this story? Be sure you do your research on medications before you take them ... and always, always, always wash thrift store clothes before you wear 'em. And always shower after you work out. Okay, gross.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The male brain is also affected during pregnancy

Listen, folks, Woundup frequently writes about sports radio and other such lowbrow pursuits. Un-ironically. Fine. I make no apologies there. But please don't bring your weak-ass middlebrow shit in here. What is this Panic at the Disco bullshit? And what is this bullshit Christian Slater NBC show where he's talking to himself through a laptop, presumably from the future? Listen, I'm a 31-year-old man; I'm about to become a father; I sit around on Saturday nights now and watch TV and hope to not be angered by something. SNL is angering enough. Why am I even watching this? I saw this episode a month ago, and it was terrible. Panic at the Disco. I stand by my belief that Iggy's belch that opens (the song) "Raw Power" is more rock 'n roll than the entire careers of almost all other bands rolled into one. If I had my copy, I would listen to the belch from (the song) "Raw Power" over and over again for a half an hour every morning before going to work. And I would never, ever, ever go anywhere near Panic at the Disco. FUCK YOUR STRING SECTION. And please ... No more prime time TV shows with quaint, contrived, novel or gimmicky non-realistic premises. The kind of "surrealism light" that's infected TV and drama makes me want to listen to the opening belch from (the song) "Raw Power" over and over again until it all goes away. And I'm talking about the original album mix done by David Bowie. The one where he turned the James Williamson solos ALL THE WAY UP. Fuck the Iggy remix. Anyone who writes one of those shows should be forced to listen to this album every morning before they go to work until they stop being writers. 2008: ONE LESS WRITER. Good night.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Friday Fung

Yes, I'm listening to Boers & Bernstein, but I have to say that the team of Jonathan Hood, Jeff Dickerson and Carmine DeFalco has been great in filling in the afternoon drive slot on WMVP. They normally appear together a shift later on "The Show" and "Chicago's Baseball Tonight." I've always liked these guys. You've already heard my big-ups on Carmen's job as part of Chicago Bulls pre-game; JD is perhaps the best Bears reporter in broadcast media; and I'm an old J. Hood fan going back to 2003, when he did a great solo evening show on the Score. They can talk any sport knowledgeably, including college. (You might remember Hood and Steve Silverman's old Saturday college football on 'MVP a few years ago.) That's something Mac, Jurko and Harry have trouble with, particularly during Bulls season. "The Show" dudes are in the 30-35 demo -- my age bracket -- so that doesn't hurt, and they're Chicago guys who bring a little of the South Side, North Side and suburbs to the table. Sound like a ringing endorsement? So why haven't I switched back yet? Okay ... there we go.

One more sports talk point: The Score needs to bring back Joe Bartosch. Bartosch, now the producer for Bears radio broadcasts on WBBM-AM, was one of the Score's best personalities, but was taken off the Sunday night slot in 2004 during the North/Murph shift. I've been jonesing for Triple Play Trivia ever since. It was perhaps the most Internet-proof call-in sports quiz ever. Bring it back!

Monday, July 14, 2008


Well, a preliminary test has shown that Erika is amused by "Jeeves and Wooster." We finished up the "Pearls" episode last night before bed. I enjoyed it as well, but that's only natural. I don't know if we'll watch any more together any time soon, but it's nice to know they're there. We were really getting into "The Tudors" a couple weeks ago and should have more on the way from Netflix.

We've certainly had our homebody nights, as habits of the long winter and Erika's stressful second semester (where she often had hours of work to bring home) have carried over into the warm months. Sometimes you just want to plop in front of the tube, zone out and relax. Don't worry, though, we have been more active lately, going out to dinner and such. And we're getting our bikes fixed as I write this. Should have them late today or tomorrow.

In truth, there are some big changes coming up for us. Most of you who read this already know, but if you don't: Erika is pregnant. We found out in early June. We couldn't be happier; it was something we were thinking about for awhile. Naturally, your narrator is a Nervous Norvous, and must work to keep his irrational anxieties in check during this experience and just enjoy it. But that's not the story by a long shot. The story is that we saw the baby's heartbeat for the first time this past Friday. What an amazing, unexpected surprise. Erika is nine weeks along, and I wasn't sure we'd be able to spot it.

So, you can look forward to more reports in the family way vein. I'll spare you the gory details, but I'm very happy to relate the many joys it will bring us in the coming months/years. It's going to be a change, but one I think will pay off in ways I can't begin to imagine. Wish us luck!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Mark has a revelation

Okay, I'm officially old. I want to buy a CD I heard on NPR.

Took a cab home through the rain after work. To my good fortune, the cabbie had 'BEZ on, and I heard the interview with the Homemade Jamz Blues Band. They're three siblings: The singer/guitarist is the oldest at 16, the bass player is 13, and their sister, the drummer, is NINE YEARS OLD. And they made their own guitars out of CAR MUFFLERS.

Sound like a gimmick? I thought so, too, till they started playing ... C'mon, folks, you know my impeccable music taste. This was like the classic Alligator catalog: Hound Dog Taylor, Son Seals. It was the real deal. I know you've heard all that Kenny Wayne Shepherd crap that makes you think the real Blues is gone. No way. Just listen to "Penny Waiting on Change." He's 16 YEARS OLD.

Dynamic duo

Okay, that was a little too good to pass up ... Since becoming part of a home-owning team, I've seen my share of house snafus: dead water heaters, broken furnaces (right before Christmas), bizarre wiring, malfunctioning lights, to name a few. The man who's always been there to help us has been John (mentioned below). And I, as man the of house, am always his assistant on his repair calls.

It's a study in contrasts, for sure. You'd be hard-pressed to invent a better team of opposites. But I like to think we have a lot in common. (We both like sitting in basements -- at least I do. I know John is just there to work.) And I don't let any window dressing get in the way. We're both human beings, and we both like to joke around.

So I'm happy to report that John is making a repair call this weekend to look at the second-floor sink. It's been too long. Granted, I probably won't do much more than hold the flashlight or, if I'm lucky, keep a pipe in place, but the experience is still enjoyable. I sit in front of a computer 40 hours a week, and when I'm writing, 7-10 more at home. It's nice to do something different.

I know I'd make John happy if I would actually complete the projects he recommends to me: insulating the basement furnace area, weather-proofing the basement door, caulking the furnace exhaust tube. I think I'm gonna try, as a half-year resolution, to make these a reality. I'm feeling the call of the house ... and I'm excited.

Green thumbin'

We now have a garden. More than a month ago, we tilled a large patch (I'd say about 15' x 15') in our backyard and surrounded it with a fence. A side note: Prior to this, my father-in-law John (I have two fathers-in-law, for you grammar detectives) told me about the drag bar on a rototiller, and what was the first thing I removed when we rented one from Home Depot? You guessed it: the drag bar. I totally forgot what he said and thought it was some kind of kickstand. Naturally, that made tilling much harder, but we still got through it. (John was amused when I told him I forgot what he said.)

After some intense weeding, the ladies planted tomatoes, beans, peppers and herbs. We also invited the tenants to plant. Things are progressing well so far; Erika spotted the first green grape tomato yesterday.

I also water our house plants and the flower baskets on the our back porch. After a long brutal winter, and considerable, unforgivable neglect, I decided to become a better parent to our plants. I even get excited when I hear about rain -- for our garden and for the flower baskets. I can almost hear them sighing when the drops fall. Okay ... maybe not really, but I like to think they're happier. And that makes me happy.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

It's 80 degrees and he's wearing the jacket

Hawk without DJ? That sounds a little like ... Farmer without Rooney. But sure enough, just as future Ford Frick Hall of Famer John Rooney can be bounced by the Sox, so too can Darrin Jackson. Yes, I'm referencing a recent story in the Trib that said DJ might be replaced in the Sox TV booth by future Ford Frick Hall of Famer Steve Stone (would he be the first analyst?). Now, Steve Stone is the greatest color man of all time, but I've grown to love Hawk and DJ's easy-going, Texas League vibe that's as summertime as city sticker renewal. Sure they have their detractors, but I think they ultimately enhance the game and provide some variation from cookie-cutter broadcast teams such as (gulp) future Ford Frick Hall of Famer Joe Buck and his buddy Tim McCarver. Hawk and DJ are baseball like it used to be: played in gigantic, empty American League parks in the middle of July.

Speaking of Ed Farmer ... I was relating to Erika, while walking through the Home Depot parking lot, that Farmer might be feeling a bit blue now that his favorite uniform infringement target, C.C. Sabathia, has left the AL. Farmer is constantly irked by players and coaches who wear their uniforms, hats and sunglasses incorrectly, according to his standard, which he has never fully articulated. Sabathia, a large man, wears an extra baggy uniform with, most offensive to Farmer, his straight-brimmed Indians cap slightly askew. You can't really top that for aggravating the old-timers. So who will Farmer set his sights on next? I guess there's always Manny Ramirez.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Sanguine Swiss stopped by spasmodic Spaniard

Wow, what a match. I left the house at 10:30 a.m., went to the gym and watched there into the third set, as Nadal was taking the edge off Federer's lead and seemingly sealing his doom. I went to my Grandma's, and after bidding her goodbye at 2 p.m., I popped on WMVP and heard they were in a rain delay -- the match was still alive. Federer had fought through two tiebreakers and things were locked up at 2-2 in the fifth set. I regret missing the rest of the action; I had to get groceries. When I got home at 4, Federer was hoisting that silver plate in the dusk at center court. He was the runner-up. Nadal had finally beat his greatest rival and claimed the cup. (I wish I knew the actual names for these things. That's the men's cup and women's plate there.)

I would love to watch the whole match if someone had it TiVo'd, but it's bittersweet knowing the Fed Man lost. I'm a fan, for sure. How can you not like a guy who does ads like this?

Here's hoping for a rematch in '09, and, hey, by then I'll have a little spectator to join me on the couch.

Moment, enjoy the

It looks like Rafael Nadal might finally have ol' Roger Federer on the ropes at Wimbledon. I wish these two could spar in major finals for 10 more years, the matches are so good. They've become a real part of this decade. I remember sneaking peeks of last year's French Open showdown between them in my father-in-law's trailer (he had satellite TV) near the beach in Zion. No matter where you are, Federer vs. Nadal calls.

In other news, I'm taking my monthly trip down to Mount Greenwood, Gateway to the Southwest Suburbs. After that, I'll haul it back up to Trader Joe's on Clybourn and get the groceries. Just trying to stave off boredom, folks. Erika returns late tonight. Then ... it's back to work.

That went rather quickly -- the weekend. I guess I should stop worrying about the all stupid things that have occupied my mind lately and, yes, enjoy the here and now. After all, what else do we have? I mean besides satellite TV in a trailer near the lake.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Scenes from the bunker

The armies of noise are gathering for tonight's offensive. For some reason, last year saw a particularly loud Fourth of July in the Ukrainian Village. I anticipate something similar, if not worse, tonight in our new 'hood near Kedzie and Armitage. Ah, but it's only one evening, right? I can climb into bed at 11, turn on the fan to block out the explosions and go to sleep.

The real challenge, dear reader, is what I will make for dinner. I'm determined not to order out or drive somewhere for food. I want to make something myself from what we have here -- something that isn't a veggie burger. I'm not much of a cook, though I can at least whip up some pasta. Yes, maybe I'll do that.

The Cubs will battle their natural enemies, the Cardinals, in about half an hour, so you know where I'll be. I doubt, however, that the outcome will affect the intensity of tonight's festivities. Would you want to blow up things more or less after a key Cubs win or loss? My thinking is that if you went through the trouble to drive up to Wisconsin, buy the illegal fireworks and mow a staging area into your back lawn, you're going to blow off all the damn things no matter what.

Now where's that marinara?

Happy July 4th

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Telegram for you, sir

Your intrepid narrator is now home alone for the weekend. Why am I alone, you ask? Well, Erika advised me to stay here and not accompany her to Las Vegas for a friend's wedding. She believed it would be too boring and irritating for me, and we'd be better off saving the money. Nice of her, don't you think?

Now some of you may already be taking the "under" on me starving to death by Sunday, but I assure you, I'm eating a Trader Joe's frozen pizza, freshly cooked, and enjoying a cold O'Doul's as I write this. And if I need more provisions, I have the car.

Indeed, if anything will be my foe this weekend, it will be idleness and solitude. In anticipation of that, I've created a to-do list for the next three days that mixes house chores, exercise and outside errands to keep things interesting. And when I inevitably end up on the couch, I'll have books, comics, sports radio, Netflix selections, PBS, WCIU and MeTV to keep me company. Oh, I almost forgot. Before he moved to NYC last weekend, Jonathan lent me a full complement of "Jeeves and Wooster." I've watched one now, and I'm hooked.

So don't worry about me, dear reader. If things get really desperate, I might -- hey -- call some real human beings. What a novel idea.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Tuning in

I'm toying with the idea ("toying with the idea" means someone probably won't do something, or if they do, they'll wait at least six months) of writing a personal history of my sports radio listenership here on the old WeBLoG. My Buffalo friends got me hooked on fantasy football during the '02 season, and my interest in sports radio started that winter. Since then, I've listened to thousands of minutes of it -- both games and talk shows -- on our two local stations, and I've seen all sorts of changes in programming. I've had my favorites, as well as shows that made me instantly turn the dial. Sports radio has been there to start my day and been there to put me to bed; it's been there to help calm me during tough times; and it's been there to keep me company when I'm alone.

This all probably sounds a bit strange, but I'm not ashamed. In a weird way, it's become a kind of backing track to my life in Chicago. I remember that Roger Angell book in which he talked about riding in a cab one night with his wife, returning from a dinner party where he had drunk a lot of wine. He laid his head back against the seat and listened to the stream of baseball scores coming from the cabbie's radio. It's always there when you need it -- a continuous hum. That's something I find very comforting.