Friday, October 28, 2005


Instead of an actual lunch, I devoted my lunch break to walking over the the White Sox World Championship Celebration Extravaganza that jammed up Wacker and LaSalle. It was a curious place to hold such an event, but I guess it's easier to get public streets at the last minute. (They wanted to hold it on Grant Park on Monday, but I guess all the players' leases end on October 31, so that wasn't good timing.)

In some respects, it wasn't as crowded as I anticipated. I was able to get as close as Clark Street, which is only a block away. On the other hand, I couldn't see anything, and the only thing I could hear was the occasional cheer from the crowd that was actually close to the podium. I'm fairly certain I can figure out how it went.

PLAYER: "But we couldn't have done this without all the fans here in Chicago!"


(Repeat 25 times.)

I'm still not entirely certain I believe it. I think it will truly sink in, I mean really hit people, the first time the Cubs and Sox play each other in 2006. Then the gravity of this is really going to hit people.

You see, Boston rode that whole 86-year losing streak based on one simple premise: we're so sad. This isn't about curses. It's about crafting a whole self-image based upon Murphy's Law. The purity of fandom rooted in the Book of Job. So for them, winning does truly feel like a great light has finally shone upon them. It's like being released from Devil's Island.

Of course, Boston used to have a rivalry. Well, another team, anyway, until the Braves packed up and moved to Milwaukee. But I'll bet if the Braves had stuck around, they would have turned out a little more like Chicago. Because Chicago's baseball teams have never resorted to being outright sad-sacks. Sure, the Cubs are lovable losers, and the Sox are tainted by cheating, but that never defined their status in town.

No, in Chicago, it's all about being for one team and being against the other. Consider that, until two nights ago, one city had the top two longest runs without a World Series crown. (We're also the longest without a Stanley Cup.) So no one team had a monopoly on being pathetic. So what's left? The other guy. As long as you're better than him, life is good.

This rivalry has been fought to a standstill. It's like the Cold War. Neither the Cubs nor the Sox truly dominated when it came to losing. But there's a clear winner. The Sox really did win. Which means that the Cubs must really, really be the most pathetic. They're The Biggest Loser.

So that first Cubs-Sox game should be very interesting. Because now, when the fans yell at each other that the opposition of them will actually be right.

Still pretty weird, though. I've lived in Chicago for almost 10 years, but I never really thought I would see a World Series in this town. And I certainly thought that if they actually did win a Series here, the resulting conflagration would rival the Great Fire of 1871. Boy, is my face red.

Your World Champion Chicago White Sox. Holy crap.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

RED ENVELOPES: Late Development

An unfortunate side effect of my limited television exposure for the past couple years has been that when a decent television program does come along, I'm probably not watching it. I saw -- I'm guessing here -- two episodes of Lost last season. (I've seen all of this season so far, but I don't know if my schedule will let me keep that up.) I've hardly seen The Sopranos at all. I was denied the joys of Alias until my friends at Netflix finally came through for me. This season, that's not seeming like such a bad thing.

Probably the biggest miss for me has been the magnificence of Arrested Development. Evidently I am going to remain a season behind for as long as Fox can be persuaded to keep producing this show. The schedule just doesn't work out. So when the producers of Arrested Development sit around ruing the fact that no one watches the funniest show on television, they can go ahead and take a momnet to blame me.

So I do the only thing I can do. I rent it from Netflix.

Season 2, Disc 1 came yesterday, and I plowed through it. If ever a show could have either rested on its laurels (an Emmy for Best Comedy after Season 1) or given up due to audience apathy, it's this one. And yet, they chose instead to keep being brilliant. Jason Bateman has the best deadpan on TV. The writing staff manages to be completely zany without ever becoming self-satisfied. Jokes from early in the first season pop up again and again, to great effect. And Ron Howard's work as narrator is surely the best thing he's ever done.

The pinnacle so far is found in Episode Four, "Good Grief!" A dejected George Michael (Michael Cera) is walking home after being dumped by his girlfriend. His head hangs comically low, and the mournful strains of "Christmas Time Is Here" play in the background. But the Charlie Brown motif is not complete. No, not until he walks by a red doghouse with a beagle sleeping on the roof.

My wife thought I had hurt myself, I was laughing so hard.

The makers of this show truly care. I admire that. Respect that. And I'm really sorry I can't watch it in real time. But I promise to rent it. As soon as Season 3 is available, it goes right to the top of the list.

I simply hope that Season 4 will be running at the same time.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

BRIC-A-BRAC: Foot on the Gas, Foot on the Brake

In a recent column about podcasts, Slate Magazine asked why it was so hard for people to keep producing episodes. I suppose the answer is because so many people treat it like a hobby. Like learning guitar or something. They spend the money, they read the books, they produce a show or two, and then they get bored and move on. The die-hards keep going, and they'll be the ones who get remembered somewhere down the way.

Clearly, blogs work on the same principle. You have to be committed. And in the early going, I'm not really giving this my all. I'll try and rectify that as we go along.

I have this romantic notion that there will be different kinds of columns. For example, this falls under the rubric of BRIC-A-BRAC, which is meant to signify a catch-all category. This posting could be about anything. And we've already kicked-off DIAMONDS AND HORSEHIDE, a column focusing on my interest in baseball. On the subject, two observations:
- I hate that title. I'm thinking of a better one.
- Go Sox. And go Astros. I will relish the chance to watch a series where I genuinely want both teams to win.

Anyway, I am hoping to get a few other columns started in the near future, relating to other interests and fancies. Among them:
- PAGE TURNER, a discussion of writing, especially my attempts to finish this blasted book I started two years ago.
- FINAL CUT, focusing on films, screen writing and moviegoing.
- TOMORROWLAND, which creates an unholy alliance between the space program and science fiction.

And several others. Including two that I'm particularly looking forward to starting, but can't just yet. I'm going to be a tease and save a discussion of them for later. When they're ready to go.

How silly is this? I'm teasing columns before anyone is actually reading this site. Pretty silly.

The point is, I need to write more. This is a decent place to start.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

DIAMONDS & HORSEHIDE: What the Market Will Bear

After the Angels eliminated the Yankees -- an act which made it that much harder to root against them -- I took a quick spin by the White Sox website to see what tickets to the ALCS were going for.

Without getting into numbers, let's just say that taking my wife for a night out at New Comiskey Park would cost me only slightly less than the total price of our wedding. Not counting hot dogs and Pepsi.

I try not to be bitter about these things, because it's bad for the psyche and because the television will show me every exciting moment. But I can't help think about the fact that more than half of the "fans" at tonight's game probably didn't attend a single regular season contest. People go because they can. It seems like people should go because they want to.

On the other hand, I attended a Gloria Estefan concert several years back. I would describe my feelings towards Ms. Estefan as "indifferent at best." And yet, someone offered me a ticket, so I went. It was fairly entertaining. And I may have deprived some rabid Gloria Estefan of the chance to see her perform.

I guess what I'm really saying is, I would like someone to offer me a ticket to the White Sox-Angels game.

Saturday, October 08, 2005


Sox win.

It's a bit disingenuous to call this the White Sox first post-season series victory since 1917. I mean, it's accurate without really being true. After all, we didn't have a League Championship Series until about 35 years ago, and we've only had the Division Series for a little over a decade. So it's not quite as futile as it sounds. I mean, lord, it's not good. But it makes them sound like the unluckiest team on earth. Except for the Cubs, of course.

This was a big deal two years ago, when the Cubs won their first post-season series since 1908. It didn't get them any closer to the World Championship they haven't had since 1908, but it made a lot of people feel good. So we may not have that World Champs banner flying in the Windy City. But at least no one can accuse us of not winning a playoff series anytime in recent memory.

In that respect, I've been pretty lucky to be in Chicago at a time when the local baseball teams have had reason to pop the champagne. It's been pretty bleak in Kansas City for a while now. If the Sox actually carry on with this whole winning thing, it could really change the baseball balance of power in this town. I don't just mean Cubs vs. Sox. I mean Baseball vs. All Those Other Sports.

No, that won't happen. Too many deluded Bears fans.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

BRIC-A-BRAC: The Saga Begins

At my wedding this past weekend, my best man finally came out and said, "You ought to have a blog."

I've considered this. I mean, there are harder restrictions on driving cars than there are on starting blogs.

This is my first attempt, so we'll be figuring this out at we go. I know there will be certain categories and topics that I want to address. But we can sort that out later. In the great tradition of the internet, we'll make it up as we go.

Please watch this space. Stuff will eventually appear here.

And no, I'm not a doctor. But some very kind people like to say that I am. And I'm okay with that.