Friday, February 18, 2011

Happy Birthday, Dad

My father’s birthday is today, so, in his honor, I am going to defend the Rolling Stones, his favorite rock band, and go against my instincts in the whole Beatles v. Stones debate. For the record, I prefer a few Beatles songs to most of the Stones’ catalog, but my mood is shifting. “Cry Baby Cry” and “Taxman” are great enough to make me a Bealtes guy, but really the Kinks and the Who are better than pretty much all else from the era. But I digress…

10 reasons why the Stones are better than the Beatles:

1. The Stones didn’t write “Oh Blah-Dee, Oh Blah-Dah”

2. While the Beatles merely made an off joke about being bigger than Jesus, the Stones hinted at real Satanism. That’s hardcore!

3. John and Paul might have smoked some grass and dropped acid but neither of them knew the fury of heroin. Keith, love him or hate him, is a rock star who’s danced with the skag.

4. Two words: GIMMIE SHELTER!

5. The Beatles sang “all you need is love”; the Stones sang “I’m a flea bit peanut monkey, all my friends are junkies!” Who would you rather party with?

6. The Stones never let their drummer sing.

7. The Beatles had many phases, mostly cute and relatively harmless. The Stones made a record called Sticky Fingers with a pair of pants and a working zipper on the cover. For all intents and purposes, the Beatles were pretty sexless and sex is an essential component of rock and roll.

8. The Beatles stopped touring. The Stones never will. Okay, these last few decades have been a joke as far as that’s concerned, but a real rock band plays live. They sweat it out on stage. They live a chuck of their lives on the road. They miss birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries to play gigs. The Stones might charge absurd fees for their shows, and they may be long past relevant, but they know that rock and roll lives in a concert venue.

9. The Stones managed to make disco palatable.

10. One of the Stone’s tamer songs, “Under My Thumb” was the soundtrack to a murder at Altamont. Even the slower material is pretty dangerous.

"She's Always Been So Hard to Figure Out"

I am not a Tom Petty fan. That being said, I don’t dislike his music, but there’s just not much to write home (or blog) about. A few songs are pretty good (“American Girl”) and a few, well, not so much (“Into the Great Wide Open” which contains a line he lifted from Paul Westerberg, which can be assumed since the Replacements opened for Petty shortly before he shat out that terrible song). Anyway, this is the one song that pretty much justifies Petty’s continued, otherwise baffling existence. Thanks to the internet, I don't have to buy the CD to enjoy this lost gem.

Just thought I’d share.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Fish’s Sentence

Funny, grating, spot-on review. Stanley Fish is an interesting figure, and I admit an interest in some of his essays and even this book, though the thought of it also makes me want to run far away.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011


In all the years I have lived in Chicago, with and without a car, I have never condoned the practice of calling dibs after digging out a parking spot. Yesterday, I did it. I caved. I had spent, collectively, about four hours tending a spot right in front of my apartment, digging the snow, piling it on the grass, salting the area around the tires, cleaning off the car itself, scooping up the snow from the car and depositing it away from the road so it would not impede anyone else on the block. I did not drive for days as a result of this effort. The question of whether or not it is ethical, justified, and, damn it, just plain right to call dibs on a piece of city property weighed heavily upon weary head. In the end, I decided that if everyone else on my street was doing it, so would I.

My logic centered on the idea of martial law, or some version of it. Basically it goes like this: in a state of emergency, and a blizzard counts, minus proper authority, a separate entity shall rule. In this case the people of Chicago are the de facto leaders of parking regulations.

This is, of course, bullshit. No one can call dibs on a spot with a lawn chair. Not legally. I did hear a story (from a “friend-of-a-friend” source) about a woman who called the police when someone took her reserved spot and the cop sided with her over the usurper. That story was the last bit I needed to tip my scales on the side of dibs.

Remember the Seinfeld joke about kid law? He had this whole bit about “callin’ it” and how, once a child does this, the other kids know that the called object is solely the property of that child. It was air tight, unquestionable, just. Perhaps this is the sort of experience that is too early and too often imbued within us, leading to unrealistic expectations and bastardly senses of entitlement. We’ve entered adulthood; time to leave the kid rules in the schoolyard.

Nevertheless, I was pissed when I got home last night and saw that my markers—a bucket, box, and broom—were removed and someone had jacked my spot. I contemplated recourse. Should I, like the woman in the dubious story, call the cops and complain? Key the car? Piss on the locks? Break a window?

In the end, I found another spot (a frigid block away) and left a note under the wiper. I penned the first draft of this note, an angry screed employing four letter words and righteous indignation, in my car. This I revised after calming a bit—I thought it better to express my displeasure without great insult. I settled on “jerk” over “motherfucker.”

If there is a universal force that watches over us, perhaps I had offended it with my arrogance. Only a few hours earlier I had discussed this very subject with both my classes. The aim of this discussion was to spot both sides of an argument. I asked if it was fair to claim a parking spot. Almost all of my students said it was. I asked if it was right to assume that no one else should take it. They all seemed to agree with one young man who said it was dead wrong and that he would bust the window of a car if he found it in his space. Was there no argument against calling dibs? “I dug it out, so, um, it’s mine!” That summed it all up. One earns the right to claim the spot after spending all that time and energy. Or so we all agreed. A fine thing, a classroom—we solve so many of the world’s problems. Sadly, the real world does not recognize our authority.

So I’m done calling dibs. The one argument that I cannot beat is the one my brother once voiced: you live in the city, you take all that comes with living in the city, including high sales tax, “vintage” apartments, crime, the fallible CTA, bad winters, and, yes, parking difficulties. If you want a secure parking spot, then move to the suburbs. Suck it up. You choose to live here. You can’t call dibs on Lake Michigan and expect people not to go swimming.

Goddamn, Nick. I hate to admit it, but that argument is tough to beat.

Proof That I am Now a Dog Person

Some of us opted to skip the Super Bowl in favor of this.

PS: you’d be a dog person too if this is what waited for you every night.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Stairway to Theft?

The greatest (most overplayed) rock song ever… was it stolen? Decide for yourself:

PS: Thanks, Carla.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Dalkey's Blunder

A great not-so-little post at Three Percent from an author who had her story changed by the hands of an editor at the otherwise fantastic Dalkey Archive. Dalkey and Open Letter represent two of the better lit in translation sources, though there's a bit of bad blood under the bridge.

If you ask me, aside from New Directions, Dalkey is tops. They publish lost treasures and exciting new voices, champion the avant-garde, and insist that every book they publish stay in print forever. Their press boasts G. Cabrera Infante, Manuel Puig, Flann O'Brien, Carlos Fuentes, Dubravka Ugresic (though she's moved over to Open Letter), and a host of other notables. I am always excited to see new additions to their press and have a tall stack of their titles waiting to be read. (Retirement can't come quick enough.)

That being said (writ), this blunder looks bad. If this is Dalkey's regular practice and not a egregious error on the part of some editor (and Aleksandar Hemon, a Bosnian-American writer one would think sympathetic to such concerns, supposedly edits the annual collection of Best European Fiction), this does call into question the ethics of Dalkey. I understand they are small, busy, probably under-funded, but still, it's not too much trouble to send copy to the writer before printing, right? Let's just move on and assume this was a one time slip and that John O'Brien (who did once write a rather obnoxious essay about literature in translation) and Co. are better than this.