Monday, October 31, 2005

(Not so) Happy Halloween Skulls!

I have been considering getting some cosmetic surgery to correct the facial anomalies that still remain from the calamity. In anticipation of going to talk to some surgeons, I ordered the CT scans taken at Rockford Memorial Hospital following my brain surgeries. The CT scans came today, just in time for Halloween! I was under the impression that a metal plate had been inserted to protect the depressed fracture the front of my skull. But it looks from these that there is no plate, but rather a series of metal sutures that join the network of skull fragments. Interesting. Enjoy!

Very "Terminator"-esque, don't you think?

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Sunnis vs. Shiites, Cubs vs. Sox

Unlike most of the nation, I have been watching the World Series (which, for those of you who couldn't care less, features the Chicago White Sox vs. the Houston Astros). Having grown up in Northern Illinois and lived in Chicago for more than 15 years, I tend to root for Chicago sports teams, despite living in Portland. Well, I don't really care about hockey, college football, or basketball, so I root primarily for the Chicago Bears, and, to a lesser extent, the Chicago Cubs. I generally pay a little attention to what the Chicago White Sox are up to, but not much.

Chicago is one of the rare cities that boasts TWO major league baseball teams. The clubs are eerily similar: both have been in existence for more than a century. Both also have a miserable record of ineptitude in regards to making it to the World Series. The Cubs last were there in 1945, and last won a Series in 1908. The White Sox last were in the Series in 1959 and last won a Series in 1917.

Think about that for a moment. Neither team has won a World Series since the end of the First World War.

Now, given this excruciating legacy of crapitude, one might think that, while there would be a friendly rivalry between the two clubs, if the Sox or the Cubs were to make it to the Series, the entire city of Chicago would root for that team.

One would be sadly mistaken.

White Sox fans have a long history of HATING the Cubs. Cubs fans tend to be happy to return the favor. This despite the fact that one is a National League team is one is an American League team, and thus each clubs' performance has no effect on the other.

The reasons for this animosity are complex. The Cubs play on the north side of Chicago and the Sox on the south side. So there is a regional aspect. Also, the south side tends to be more "blue collar" and the north more "white collar." So there's a social aspect to it as well...a plumber from the south side is likely to be a Sox fan. A marketing executive from the north side is invariably a Cub fan. Personally, I think a lot of the conflict has to do with Cub games being broadcast on WGN, one of the first cable superstations. Everyone across America had a chance to watch the struggles of the Cubs and relate to them, and thus the Cubs became a sort of "lovable loser" club -- the "Ziggy" of Major League Baseball. Meanwhile, the Sox sucked in relative obscurity, and Sox fans are understandably envious of the Cubs' notoriety. After all, it's not as if the Cubs have achieved a lot more success than the Sox. In fact, the opposite is true.

While I would prefer the Cubs to be in the Series, the fact that ANY Chicago team is there is a reason to rejoice. After all, historically a Chicago team winning the series has been more rare than Halley's Comet! Therefore, I will watch the games and root for the Sox. Don't get me wrong...I'm not going to run out and buy a Sox hat and a Paul Konerko jersey and yell "Woooo! I'm a Sox fan!" That would be, at best, disingenuous. But there are a few Cub fans I have talked to who can't STAND the idea of the Sox being World Champions. They would rather the Yankees win it again, which is akin to saying "I'd rather Bill Gates won the Powerball rather than my stupid next door neighbor! I don't CARE that my neighbor is a quadriplegic living in poverty!"

Now I understand what the new Iraqi government is up against. Tribal allegiances are artificial constructs, but nevertheless more powerful than common sense and rationality. But we can hope that the Sunnis and the Shiites have more sense than Cub fans and Sox fans.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

"Accept the challenge... that you may experience the exhilaration of victory!"

I don't if that little aphorism is from a notable source. I saw it on a plaque that a former boss of mine had in his office. Well, at least he didn't have one of those posters with a cat dangling from a branch featuring the infamous "Hang In There" slogan.

The challenge I am referring to in this post is that issued by National Novel Writing Month. Participants are challenged to write a 50,000 word novel between November 1 and November 30. The object is quantity over quality.

I thought this would be good for me because, while I am making SOME headway in my fiction writing, I know that I need to get over my tendency to niggle over every little thing, and focus on opening the conduit between my brain and the page. NaNoWriMo sounds like just the ticket to blow that conduit wide open. Or burn it up entirely.

Luckily, I'll have a LITTLE time to figure out what I want to write about -- will it be science fiction, fantasy, reality-based fiction or perhaps even autobiographical? The only real necessity is that the theme must be able to support an output of approximately 1700 words a day. For 30 days straight. So it may end up being a combination of all of those things.

If I succeed, I will post the results on my site somewhere. But I would not expect ANYONE to read it!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Homo-rock B-day!

Although my birthday was on October 3, I had to wait until last night for my birthday present...seeing Bob Mould at Doug Fir Lounge. Bob was the guitar player and driving influence behind Husker Du in the 80s (and Sugar in the 90s). Husker Du was one of my favorite bands during the Reagan years, and Bob was a major influence on my guitar sound and approach during a subsequent period in my punk band in Chicago. It was good to see the old guy in action again. I'd seen him twice before, once with Husker Du on their last tour together Then I saw him again on my -- ew, 37th? -- birthday in Chicago during one of his acoustic tours ten years later.

"Double-plus bonus" was that Bob's drummer this time out was from another one of my favorite punky bands of the 90s, Fugazi.

Bob is kind of a rarity in openly gay man with full-on punk cred. And he plays a Gibson Flying V! (Although he didn't last night, durn it!). His songs tend to be introspective and very loud at the same time.

So how was the show? Really good. Bob and the band were in fine form, and, as I expected, it was inspiring to hear his mighty guitar roar and unique chord voicings again. Doug Fir also was a great place to see him, as it's a pretty intimate venue. The room was perhaps 40 ft. x 40 ft with low ceilings, and we were not more than 20 feet from the stage, with a great view from some steps that lead down into a sort of "sunken living room/mosh pit". I'd seen on-line the set list that the band had played from previous shows, and he didn't vary much from that. Which was a shame...I shouldn't have looked at it because I might have enjoyed the show more had I been surprised by the selections. ("Ooooh! He's playing "Chartered Trips" from "Zen Arcade!") But that's my own fault.

The experience of seeing a live show for the first time in probably five years was almost as interesting as the show itself. First, it was a bit of an older crowd given the artist's long history. Argotnaut has already commented on the non-smoking crowd, which was a real blessing. The weirdest thing was that Portland folks seem to actually cue up in an orderly line at the bar. "In my day," (insert wheezy old geezer voice here) "ya had to elbow your way up to the bar and yell your order like a trader on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange!"

Unfortunately, I didn't bring a camera, because that's frowned upon in some venues and I was afraid it'd be confiscated. But I needn't have worried -- there were a few folks actually videotaping the show with camcorders! Perhaps that's another thing that's changed in the last few years, what with picture-taking cell phones and whatnot. So instead of Bob Mould, here's a photo of Buddy doing yoga on Argotnaut's new yoga mat. I'm sure Bob would be okay with this, since at least it's a photo of a cute boy!