November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving 1997

This is the day that holidays and family started losing significance for me. You had been gone for a few days at this point. Gone to Detroit and to Windsor, to gamble and to buy whores. Mom sat at the set Thanksgiving table that had no food prepared for it and quietly sobbed for half an hour or so. She then she went to bed for the night.

The whole thing at first ached like the way it did when I learned Santa wasn’t real. But it was worse. Santa wasn’t just not real, he was this terrible presence that actually lived in the same house I did. Instead of presents there were just bow-tied bombs of misery that I (and mom) would get to open for years to come.

I stole 10 bucks from her purse and went to the Wendy’s that was open from noon ‘til five and had that for Thanksgiving dinner. I still feel bad for the people who had to work at Wendy’s that day; wiping grease stains off tables and coming home smelling like fried offal to their families who were hopefully not too ashamed to look them in the eyes. I can relate to the shame part.

October 18, 2013   2 notes

Something I really enjoyed writing for someone I loved

There is a certain open-air plaza along the levied, false shores of the Chicago River (it’s actually the one right by CDW’s headquarters) that I go out to on my lunch breaks. It’s not much. It’s a faux-brick plaza and there are modestly attractive, young professionals that smoke and eat and talk and worry. And there are gruff workers moving and lifting what cities need moved and lifted. And there are the homeless feeding pigeons and talking to themselves and their pigeons.

I am obsessed with the water though, I always have been and I walk to the railing along the edge of the river and simply watch. I watch as bubbles puncture the river’s surface; I watch as garbage is pushed to and fro by currents and counter-currents. I watch and wait for fish to jump and try to predict where they’ll next jump and make more ripples; I watch as greedy gulls glide and watch for anything they can eat; I watch as boats go by and rain or shine I stand there and watch. On certain days the sun isn’t out and on certain days the sun is out and there’s even a gentle breeze that’s so slight that I can’t tell if the wind is playing with my hair or if it’s just my mind telling me that my hair is being moved. Sweat forms on the back of my neck and the collar of my shirt absorbs it and I can’t look too far in this one direction because the glare from the sun’s angle bounces off the buildings and I can’t see the river. But the direction the sun allows me to look? I look and I notice my shadow bobbing and swaying with the never quiet waters of this river and as I focus on the water and as I think of my shadow and the sun and the breeze and the young people and the workers and the homeless (and the pigeons, and fish, and bubbles, and garbage, and currents). As I think of all of this —but mostly I’m thinking of the river and my shadow— As this is there as a moment and I’m so fixated on the water and my shadow, I know in my heart that the moment would only be better if your shadow arrived to keep mine company.

June 2, 2012   2 notes

The Time I Had a Stalker

2005 isn’t so long ago that it’s the Stone Age of the Internet. Social media’ing was all the rage —MySpace was king, some Luddites were still on Friendster, and the new, New Wave was all about poking friends on Facebook. Blogs were around and popular if not accredited sources of information (just like today! “Ba-ZING!”), and if you knew a cursory amount of HTML, had a few free hours, you could be web logging to all of your LiveJournal fans in no time. Craigslist had caught fire (for the web sophisticates of the U.S. Midwest) in 2003 and was a fascinating spectator sport.

In any case, as mundane as those examples seem, people-watching and —most reflective of the jaded 20-something I was— boredom set in quickly. And with the detached, bored, slack-jawed, webgazing and voyeurism came the need to share with friends. Now when I say “share” I don’t mean that there were buttons on a webpage to post to Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, et cetera, instead, I mean sharing via email or IM. Particularly with Craigslist there was a strong need to share the goofiness and madness of others, to wit (actual IM conversations ensue):

[My Yahoo! Messenger Avatar]: “Somebody actually is asking for free rent in exchange for blow-jays?” <Craigslist ad url>

[Friend’s Yahoo! Messenger Avatar]: “That can’t be real.”

[Friend’s Yahoo! Messenger Avatar]: “Check it out, this “crazy” person is just giving away their entire collection of Ranger Rick and Highlights magazines.” <Craigslist ad url>

[My Yahoo! Messenger Avatar]: “That’s nuts! Let’s go get them.”

While 2005 wasn’t the Stone Age of the Internet, there was a strong sense of brazenness to the whole thing. An earned (and novel) sense of the Old West to the entire concept of a social Internet.

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February 20, 2012

No One Wants To See A Giant Fall

"I don’t know a sound solution. I don’t know."

For years now, we’ve all soldiered blithely on. Too eager to believe that he would be back. That his brittle bones would somehow (through the magic of science? Wizardry? ANYTHING?) reverse their course and calcify with elasticity instead of more brittleness. And we were all far too naive. Too hopeful.

To do the same thing repeatedly and expect a different outcome, that’s a definition of madness, but damn if this wasn’t hopeful madness. To ignore a 19-year-old using a cane to conceal a hobbling, surgically reconstructed gait? To dismiss a track record that saw him play the totality of one regular 82-game season in four years? To think his oversized, sandstone frame would ever allow him to sustain through the rigors of one 82-game season? This was all madness.

Yet there was Oden, toiling with the labored sadness of an over-the-hill golden retriever. Eager to please, fully willing to please, but with a look of uncertainty, of pain, and most damning, a look of self-doubt. His ocean of talent, frustratingly, was trickled out in mini-sized bottle of Poland Springs. “Snake bit,” “star crossed,” it doesn’t matter. To label him a “bust” is a disservice. To consider him a “project” is, again, madness; for now we can only think of Oden as a man and one who has to consider a completely new trajectory than the one that saw him so completely capable of reigning dread on his opponents as frequently as the Fates have cursed his body.

February 18, 2012

Music: The Gremlins New EP (SEXXXXXY!!!)

I almost never write up or, heck, even opine about music unless it’s Destroyer/Bejar-related. It’s my thing and you probably have enough haughty sources for music reviews/ideas and I mean we can all agree that Bowie and Queen tracks are the BEST. In any case, I’m breaking one of my few codes and writing about music for you, the wonderful audience of IsMagical, translation: “Listen up.”

The Gremlins EP is amazing. Just unbelievably weird and sexy-as-all-get out.

Okay, so aside from the fact that I’m 99.99% positive the very first noises on “Introducing” are the chopped noises of the whale-Dory encounter from Finding Nemo (Brian’s favorite movie, Gettin’ Faded category) dig on the next track. 

Track Two: "Maim My Bitch" has that pull of listening to underwater sounds with your eyes closed, maybe you’re actually underwater or maybe you’re on Ketamine, in bed next to someone who you’re glad you know, but you’re nervous about knowing them in that way and you’re wondering “Who put this Blue Planet doc on?” In any case, welcome to the official IsMagical makeout track for 2012.

Beyond “Maim” the EP is just ridiculous. Slow, woozy, “Is the room moving or is the music moving, MAN.” “JonBenet” is probably my second favorite after MMB, and, well, lyrics about spider nests and JonBenet’s passing? [stamp of approval] Add a savage and wrenching guitar solo that almost seems like a throwaway, … enough! … I’ve had enough, Gremlins, you’re cool with me.

January 24, 2012

A Tale Of Two Killers

This weekend in the Premiership saw some killing by killers. Dempsey and Balotelli (who else?) so let us discuss the honors, distinctions and actions that separate these two from the rest and each other.

Mr Sturm Und Drang:


"Woulda Been A Sniper In Harlem"

The Original Winger has got the video of the game cincher, until FOX/Premmie goons take it down, but, “Umm, Yes! More of this.” First off, let’s talk about the stamp/stomp that was. “Balotelli is dirty,” [feigned outrage, rabble-rabble!] “Smarten up, dunny,” that just makes his legend grow more. Does he need to sublimate his own strife? Maybe. All he does is seek-and-destroy, he’s an agent of chaos that just so happens to be a top 5 talent in the league when he’s swimming in anarchy. Dude burns down his house with fireworks hours before the Manchester United match? “WHY ALWAYS ME?”, 2 goals and a United pistol whipping, he silenced everyone.

After stamping —aside, Umbro can you make a Balo shirt with Stampy from The Simpsons, kthxbai— Scott Parker, the penalty kick! Oh, the penalty kick! Balotelli’s stillness belies the fury and rage of his psychotic emotional maelstrom, watch that video. Watch and know anarchic genius, the mastermind of a pipebomber, of a revolutionary who, more than anything, “Just wants to watch the world burn, Master Bruce.” What cause does Balo need beyond humiliating Tottenham? “Keeper is a knocker, check my fake to the right and know my left, son!” Goal. “Audience, you are now my voice.” “Spurs? Hate me now.”

So sure, Balotelli sublimates and makes manifest his strife, more reasons to love the dude. Jordan sublimated (though not always manifested) maddeningly stupid disses from chumps on the 1991 Timberwolves just so he could win a bet against Pippen. The stamping, yeah, it was dirty, what’s your point? Moral indignation? Fury that he wasn’t kicked out of the match? He’s serving a four-game ban, for what isn’t that terrible of a stamp. [SIGH] “Yeah, I know it’s still a stamp, you’re missing the point.” Moralizing? That nonsense is for your churches and temples. Soccer is its own church with its own gods and Balotelli sprang forth from the skull of Cronus fully formed and ready to rule.

"Fuck a Carling Cup. You call me Bawse from now on, I kept you 3 up in the Premiere"

Balotelli is a fire-breathing, thunder and lightning combo of such raw power and cunning that he evades description. Drogba sorta packs the same Nissan truck frame with a bit more speed, but the Cote ‘d Ivorian doesn’t pack the brains and psychosis of our 21-year-old protagonist. Balotelli, a reiteration, is living the life the rest of us are too afraid to dream, let alone live. If you want your sports figures to be without passion, psychosis, goofiness, god-given talents made manifest in their own time and own way, buy a LeBron #6 jersey, punch yourself in the balls and reup on your Xanax ‘scrip.

Real American Hero:

"I Stay Icy On Purpose"

If Balotelli sprang forth from the skull of a Titan, life’s manuscript set ablaze with his own Zippo and smiling; Clint Dempsey crept in the backdoor a la Loki from Norse mythology and not Marvel Comics. Dempsey was the second-best child in a family of superstar athletes with a budget to only send one of the gifted children to the Yellow Brick Road of athletic lucre and that was his tennis-playing wunderkind sister. Broken mirrors, broken lives later and his sister is dead and Demps is the benefactor of that largesse and then forges himself into the nastiest American soccer player in a generation (or ever?) The story is the type of Horatio Alger mythmaking that went out of favor sometime between the 1950s and the 1980s (thanks, baby boomers!) but, yet it’s there. Trailer park upbringing, teammate’s families raising funds so he can stay on the travel team, Furman (Furman?), New England Revolution, to Premiere League. If you’re just now catching up with the narrative and the man, note too, Dempsey became the first American player to ever notch a hat trick in the Premiere League this past Saturday.

Goal one was a strictly a “right place, right time” tally, but the other two?

"Don’t Have To Go To Church To Get To Know Your God"

"Is Your Majesty Not Entertained?" The Yankee said with a droll affectation.

The other two goals were the sublime notches of a pure scorer. A learned scorer, who, unlike a Balotelli, or more accurately a Messi, honed his craft because he had to to keep up. Apprenticing and working with what raw materials he was given and forging them through external, brutal training and the foundry that a man’s soul only burns in the face of personal tragedy. Dempsey occasionally can come across as a bit “Favre-ian”* in his “Aww shucks-edness” and his largemouth bass-catching dreams and pics on Twitter, but never forget that he is an assassin. One who has spent his time learning and snatching at bits of knowledge to make his passes crisper, to make his movements more subtle. Whatever speed he’s lost, his knowledge is now paying dividends. He, amongst his multitude of skills, has that “Oh so American!” wolfishness about him, that predatory ability to piker away and then finally to strike and to vanquish.

*By Premiere League standards only.

January 21, 2012

Elegant Solutions

A few days back Nike dropped the FuelBand which they have been promo’ing very hard on Twitter with #MakeItCount. Since the tail end of December, #MakeItCount has been their jones, it’s everywhere on all of the Twitter channels —basketball, football (both kinds, kids), running, collect ‘em all— and Swoosh even dropped a mothership Twitter handle: Nike. Now we begin to see points of intersection, the picture becoming clearer, with what the company is planning for tomorrow’s United-Arsenal match at Emirates Stadium. Click.

Now we see that #MakeItCount wasn’t merely a lede for FuelBand, but a very aggressive 2K12 marketing initiative. Internet-ready marketing slogans stitched into cleats? Check. Star Swoosh athletes’ Twitter handles stitched into cleats? Check. This is how you work when you’re the biggest alpha male in your business and want to reinforce your dominance. “What’s up adidas? Meet my hammer. Boom.”

Nike hasn’t released anything saying that the players will be wearing FuelBands or if the shoes are equipped with the accelerometer and calculating device itself, but well, how far is Nike away from building this tech directly into the kits, cleats or pads of any player in any sport?

H/T to the indomitable @BSTO and the ever-dope Beautiful Gear.

January 19, 2012

FuelBand Has Landed

*Update: Agency that made the ad is R/GA. Interesting!

Nike has released their latest piece of technological marvel, the FuelBand. FuelBand —essentially Swoosh’s next generation of Nike+ technology— is a nifty, seemingly omniscient gizmo that provides you with feedback on how many calories you’re burning while working out AND while you’re just doing you. It measures your expended energy when you climb a set of stairs, walk to the bus stop, type on a keyboard, whatever. The technology is cored around two mighty impressive doohickeys/science things, namely: a three-axis accelerometer (to more effectively measure your body’s every movement); and a proprietary algorithm that takes into consideration your oxygen consumption, along with more standard fitness device metrics such as calories, steps taken and duration.

The above ad is the usual from Nike. Supremely well-packaged pop culture nods, interspersed with Nike’s own brightest moments and athletes that are at this point just as canonical to pop culture as the cover of “Abbey Road” or Homer Simpson. Again, just another gem in W+K’s(??)* crown as best agency out there.

The real intrigue about FuelBand is whether Nike will team up with Open Graph on Facebook or not. Facebook announced this week the 60 companies/apps that are teaming up with Open Graph in 2012 and there’s nary a Swoosh on the list. Already, there’s the standard “status updating” ability of the device, Nike has had this for years and was integral to Nike+ bands too. They promo-ed the hell out of the device with the #MakeItCount trending topic on Twitter, but I am surprised that there isn’t a deeper integration with Open Graph…for now. Or, and this is speculative conjecture on my part, maybe Apple* told Nike to hold back on fully integrating with Open Graph? There’s a growing rift between FB and Apple and this could very well be a tete a tete between those two monsters of e-commerce and community and Nike siding with Team iPhone. Which sorta makes sense until you remember that Facebook will likely have 1 billion users very soon. And again, I’m not seeing how there won’t be some deeper integration with Open Graph, and Facebook in general, in the not-too-distant future for the gadget. But, it’s kinda curious and fun to rumor-monger and say “huh” sometimes.

Additionally, Foursquare and Path teamed up with Nike. To what ends remains to be seen, “checking in” at stoplight on the corner of Damen and Wellington doesn’t really strike me as fun or, y’know, on my mind if I’m going for a run. So with working out it’ll be interesting to see if there’s another layer of seamless checking in or whatever for Path and Foursquare to harness.

*I’m not certain if that ad is W+K, but I’d be really surprised if it wasn’t. Again, it’s not W+K, but R/GA a London-based digital agency. Very impressive work.

*Apple and Nike have a very friendly relationship going back to Nike+ ver. 1.0 and Apple helped develop the Nike+ shoe chip, the Nike+ apps for iPhone, websites, etc.

January 16, 2012   1 note
"Hey, what&#8217;s up? Where can I get a filet -o-fish around here? You got any leads, man? Come on, seriously, I&#8217;m not kidding. I need that crispy, golden goodness like a smack addict needs a sweet ride on that pony express, The H-Train. 
I know, you&#8217;re all &#8220;What? A talking coelacanth?&#8221; Yeah, that&#8217;s right, I can talk, I can walk, I can SING! But what I really want to do is eat a fucking filet-o-fish, are you going to help with that or not? Because if you&#8217;re not in the mood for helping, I can go and find someone else to get me a filet-o-fish. I&#8217;m one of the oldest species on Earth, I have *lots* of friends. One of the few denizens of the deep that&#8217;s not my friend? The hoki*. Know why? Because it&#8217;s the delicious fish that&#8217;s inside of that deep-fried piece of culinary poon I call the &#8220;filet-o-fish.&#8221; Nota Bene, hoki: I grow up to 6.5 feet and you top out around 47&#8221;, so who do you think is going to win this clash of the food chain? Don&#8217;t think the Golden Arches didn&#8217;t consider this. You&#8217;re just lucky you live off the coast of New Zealand and I prefer to live in a deepwater pockets around Madagascar and Indonesia.
Look, so listen, are you going to help or not? Oh! You will? Excellent. Here let me give you a couple of sawbucks and you can nab me some &#8220;fishy burgers&#8221; and get yourself some fries or something. Oh, and I have a hinged jawbone that allows me to open extra wide so don&#8217;t worry about getting me too many.&#8221;
*I found this image on National Geographic&#8217;s Coelacanth page. I&#8217;m fairly obsessive about the coelacanth and think that they are absolutely one of the strangest critters in the briny depths. I just had no idea that they could photograph so poorly. In any case, this one really desperately needs a filet-o-fish.
*It&#8217;s pronounced &#8220;hokey&#8221; like the adjective or the dance, "Dooooo the hokey-pokey." And they are actually fairly threatened by the fishing industry that&#8217;s been built up around them. After the crash of the North American cod population in the late 1980s-90s American restaurants, primarily McDonalds and Long John Silver&#8217;s, needed a cheap, firm, white fish with huge populations. Shockingly, there&#8217;s not so much regulation and New Zealand&#8217;s fisheries officials say one thing, when biologists are saying another thing  &#8212;ripe for population crash. And let&#8217;s not even consider the impact of carbon footprint when we consider shipping frozen fish from a tiny rock in the far South Pacific. So yeah, think about not ordering a filet-o-fish the next time you&#8217;re at a McDonalds.

"Hey, what’s up? Where can I get a filet -o-fish around here? You got any leads, man? Come on, seriously, I’m not kidding. I need that crispy, golden goodness like a smack addict needs a sweet ride on that pony express, The H-Train. 

I know, you’re all “What? A talking coelacanth?” Yeah, that’s right, I can talk, I can walk, I can SING! But what I really want to do is eat a fucking filet-o-fish, are you going to help with that or not? Because if you’re not in the mood for helping, I can go and find someone else to get me a filet-o-fish. I’m one of the oldest species on Earth, I have *lots* of friends. One of the few denizens of the deep that’s not my friend? The hoki*. Know why? Because it’s the delicious fish that’s inside of that deep-fried piece of culinary poon I call the “filet-o-fish.” Nota Bene, hoki: I grow up to 6.5 feet and you top out around 47”, so who do you think is going to win this clash of the food chain? Don’t think the Golden Arches didn’t consider this. You’re just lucky you live off the coast of New Zealand and I prefer to live in a deepwater pockets around Madagascar and Indonesia.

Look, so listen, are you going to help or not? Oh! You will? Excellent. Here let me give you a couple of sawbucks and you can nab me some “fishy burgers” and get yourself some fries or something. Oh, and I have a hinged jawbone that allows me to open extra wide so don’t worry about getting me too many.”

*I found this image on National Geographic’s Coelacanth page. I’m fairly obsessive about the coelacanth and think that they are absolutely one of the strangest critters in the briny depths. I just had no idea that they could photograph so poorly. In any case, this one really desperately needs a filet-o-fish.

*It’s pronounced “hokey” like the adjective or the dance, "Dooooo the hokey-pokey." And they are actually fairly threatened by the fishing industry that’s been built up around them. After the crash of the North American cod population in the late 1980s-90s American restaurants, primarily McDonalds and Long John Silver’s, needed a cheap, firm, white fish with huge populations. Shockingly, there’s not so much regulation and New Zealand’s fisheries officials say one thing, when biologists are saying another thing  —ripe for population crash. And let’s not even consider the impact of carbon footprint when we consider shipping frozen fish from a tiny rock in the far South Pacific. So yeah, think about not ordering a filet-o-fish the next time you’re at a McDonalds.

January 9, 2012

BIG ANIMAL NEWS

Australian scientists have discovered, for the first time in the history of modern science!, that two separate species of sharks are capable of hybridizing. Now before everyone gets all in a tizzy about the potential for whale sharks and great whites to reproduce (a scary and bad prospect) it is very important to note that the two species that crossbred are sister species. The blacktip shark and the Australian blacktip shark are very closely related, although genetically diverse enough to be valid and different species —they look a lot alike, but the Aussie is typically a bit longer and they have differing numbers of vertebrae, plus genetic differences like allozyme and mitochondrial DNA variations and genetic markers.

The really exciting part about this news is that the team of scientists discovered that there are multiple generations of these hybrids patrolling Australia’s coastal waters. What does this mean? It means that the hybrid babies (F1* or first generation, if you will) of Mr Blacktip and Ms Australian Blacktip are they themselves virile and capable of reproducing, “y’know, “making babies.” F2 or second generation hybrids were discovered, which is really cool and sorta rare with hybrids. For instance, the mule, a hybrid between a lady horse and a gentleman donkey, is sterile. What’s not so cool, is that with reproducing hybrids, there’s the threat of one species (the Australian Blacktip in this case) disappearing. But if there are multiple generations of these hybrids out there and still healthy number of Australians (there are) that threat seems minor.

*F1 actually stands for filial one, which is science’s way of saying “first generation. “iPhone F1 came out in 2007, et cetera.” #ScienceNerd

H/T: The indomitable Andrew Thaler.