I Laugh, Therefore, I AM
A humorous view of politics, religion, human behavior, and insights toward everyday happenings by a single guy living in downtown Chicago.
Friday, February 26, 2010
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Worth a Thousand Words
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
What Could Have Been
Okay, this is going to be one of those Hallmark Movie type of mushy stories. I'm giving you fair warning. . .
I remember very distinctly the moment I moved into the monastery on August 15, 1994. I had been looking forward to that day for over a year. Almost every day that year, I would get up at 5:00 am, drive to the monastery to attend Lauds (morning prayers) and Mass at 6:00 am. I longed so much for the day that I would be living at the monastery rather than attending as an outsider.
Finally, that day came and I began my postulancy at the abbey. I had moved my things in, got my room all settled, put on a CD of Renaissance choral music and opened the blinds. There, silhouetted against the sunset was the cross on top of the chapel as the beautiful music was playing. It really was one of the happiest, most beautiful moments in my whole life.
Well, seven years later I left religious life – for many reasons I won’t go into here. Some reasons were good, others, not so much. But there’s always a little part of me that longs for it; ever so often, there’s a pang of nostalgia over “what could have been.”
I lost that CD of choral music long ago, and I couldn’t remember the name of the piece that had been playing during the happiest moment in my life.
A couple of weeks ago at choir rehearsal, we began working on music for Lent. Rehearsal began with the music that we’d sing for Ash Wednesday which was a piece by William Byrd: Ave Verum Corpus.
The moment we sang the first measure, I recognized it as the piece that I played on my first day in the monastery. It was that piece!
I came home, downloaded it, and transferred it to my iPod. Now I had it again. Nice.
On Ash Wednesday as I was walking to church, I plucked out my iPod and began listening to this piece just to familiarize myself with it. Instantly, I remembered that first day in the monastery, and of course, there were the old feelings of regret over what could have been.
But then, something else happened.
I realized that in just a few minutes, I’d be singing this beautiful piece rather than just listening to it. Rather than longing for what could have been, I was overwhelmed with gratitude to, once again, have such incredible beauty in my life. Rather than Lent beginning a period of penance, it began for me with the purest bit of redemption.
I began weeping.
Right there on Wacker Drive among the rush-hour crowds in Chicago, just having a good old cry.
Yes, August 15, 1994 was one of the happiest, most beautiful days of my life.
But so was February 17, 2010.
It’s comforting to know they can still happen. . . .
. . . . See? I told you this was going to be a mushy, Hallmark Movie kind of story.
Oh, and if you’d like to hear Ave Verum Corpus, I made a link for you. Just click here and, maybe, have a good cry.
Monday, February 22, 2010
One dog’s pee can say, “I’m an alpha-female and I’m going to be in season in three weeks. Get ready, fellas.”
Another’s will say, “I’m just a beta-male and I’ve got the beginnings of liver cancer.”
Some urine will catch her attention while others will barely cause a pause. (It’s dog-spam.)
Portia seemed awfully interested in one tree every time we went out. That dog probably renally-relayed something like, “I’m a big, healthy, alpha-male and I can readily impart lots of puppies whenever I want.”
Like I said, every outing was so very entertaining for Portia. Even though it was cold and snowing, her doggie-doots had already been collected in a plastic bag, I always let her linger over her p-mail.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Bless Her Heart
Remember the exotic dancer who accused several members of Duke University's lacrosse team of raping her four years ago?
All during the lacrosse team rape investigation, her identity was kept secret, no photos were published. That is, until now. Here she is:
Why is her identity being released now?
Well, bless her heart, she was just arrested and charged with attempted first-degree murder, five counts of arson, assault and battery, communicating threats, three counts of misdemeanor child abuse, injury to personal property, identity theft and resisting a public officer.
To put it mildly, the girl's got issues.
By Buckner Wheat
May 20, 2006
DURHAM, N.C. - In order to capitalize on the Duke University lacrosse team scandal, GoldLine Tours of Hollywood, in conjunction with Duke University, is offering guided bus tours that focus on notorious sites in the Durham area related to the allegations of rape against several team members.
"My wife and I had just returned from L.A. and I remembered how much we enjoyed the tour of celebrity homes," said Brodhead. "I figured this would be a great opportunity to generate some much-needed revenue for the lacrosse team."
For $29.95 each ($15.95 for children under twelve), sightseers can board luxury buses at various hotels in Durham and embark on an exciting ninety-minute tour of locations associated with the rape investigation. The buses pass by notorious sites such as the lacrosse practice field, the ATM machine that Reade Seligmann used after the alleged incident, and the emergency room where the exotic dancer/university student sought treatment.
"I can’t believe we're really here!" exclaimed one tourist, Mindy Feingold, who drove eight hours with her husband, David, and their two children from White Plains, New York. "It looks just like it did on television."
"We were going to take the kids to see their uncle's name on the Viet Nam Memorial in Washington," said David Feingold. "But, historically, this is much more significant."
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Monday, February 15, 2010
This photo was taken at a teabagging convention in Texas.
Now, normally I would refrain from posting such a photo because the anti-teabaggers already have a reputation for attending these events with purposely misspelled signs. Or so I've heard.
But is "FALE" really a word in the English language?
Saturday, February 13, 2010
Back in 1972, I was in the seventh grade in my little bitty home town. My mom taught seventh grade life science and, being such a small town, I had her as my teacher.
Actually, she was a terrific teacher and the students loved her course. The only bad thing about having my mom as a teacher was that I was expected to make really good grades in her class. (Not such a bad thing when you think about it, but when you’re twelve, it's a big deal.)
Anyway, in 1972, she began showing this really sensational film called, “Future Shock” which was about the repercussions that modern society would have on us, especially with how fast it was changing. I’ll admit remembering how shocking it really was. Orson Wells was the narrator.
For those of you who are of my generation, you probably recall how exciting it was to walk into a classroom and see a film projector set up. “Cool! -- No class work!”
My mom would show this 45 minute film year after year at mid-term because it gave her a chance to sit in the back and spend a whole period averaging the grades for the mid-term report cards.
One time, my mom had the film projector at home along with this film. My friend, Tim, and I wanted to watch it again and asked if we could set up the projector in the living room to do so. After much persuading, she relented but only if we promised to be really careful with it.
I think you know where this story is going. . . .
Tim and I discovered how to run the film backward and spent the next hour in adolescent glee, watching the entire thing in reverse. A more entertaining activity for a 13 year old boys, I cannot think of.
The thing is, running a filmstrip in reverse damages the tracks in the film and the entire thing was ruined. Poor mom. She was due to show the film the next day. Needless to say, the decibel level in the house was up for quite a while. Tim and I are still in the dog house over that one.
Anyway, I found “Future Shock” on the Youtubes and watched it again today. It was really fascinating to see it again with all its dire warnings about the effect modern society would have on us. What was really interesting was to see how much things have changed since 1972. Even more so, how they've hardly changed at all.
So with that, I give you Future Shock.
(Part 3 shows a same-sex marriage ceremony. I remember thinking that the two men were "probably just really good friends" and just wanted to be together.)
I still love the cheesy synthesizer soundtrack in this thing.
Part 1 of 5
Part 2 of 5
Part 3 of 5
Part 4 of 5
Part 5 of 5
Friday, February 12, 2010
Last night, I went to The Symphony. Doesn’t that sound like a civilized thing to do? You’d think that as a musician, I’d be going to The Symphony all the time.
Wrong. Think again.
It was actually the first time I’ve ever even been to the Chicago Symphony and I’ve lived here almost ten years. Frankly, I just don’t care much for symphonic music. Or for instrumentalists for that matter. When I was in music school, the instrumental majors were always a scruffy, strange bunch of people. When you think about it, what kind of person dedicates their life to playing the bassoon, anyway?
Well, a friend of mine had season tickets to the Chicago Symphony, his partner couldn’t go, so I was invited to attend. Besides, a pianist was being featured (Brahms Piano Concerto No. 1) and that sounded pretty tasty to me.
It really was a very enjoyable evening. The pianist was flawless.
As I was sitting there intently watching all the musicians, I realized that here were sixty highly-trained musicians, the best in their field, all playing in perfect synchronicity, expressing the highest artistic ideals of humanity and conveying it all through music to a loving audience. It was truly the pinnacle of human evolution.
That’s what I was thinking. It almost brought tears to my eyes.
And then I thought, “They all have anuses; every one of them.”
The beautiful, young Asian violinist,
The handsome cellist,
The concert pianist,
And the scruffy bassoon player . . .
They all have anuses. Sixty of them, all on stage, covered by black and white formal wear.
I’m sure that’s a good thing that they all have them, too.
It’s funny how The Symphony can make you realize such things.
Labels: Chicago Symphony
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
De-Gerbilized -- Day One
Day One of Not Being a Gerbil: Success!
Yesterday, I wrote that I’ve been in a slump lately – of coming home from work, crawling under a blanket like a gerbil and doing nothing but watching TV. So, I’ve decided to go an entire week with no television which would, hopefully, entice me into more productive endeavors.
It has. I loved it.
Last night, I came home from work, downloaded some really cool music onto my iPod and really enjoyed twenty minutes on the treadmill. As a matter of fact, I was rockin’ out so well to my groovy music that I didn’t want to stop, so I did another 20 minutes – 40 minutes total.
One song that was totally kick-ass was Alanis Morissette’s You Oughta Know. Wow – I wanted to leap off the treadmill and just dance when I heard that.
I had sort of an aversion to Alanis Morissette after having lived in Toronto. Canadians seem to go way overboard with any of their celebrities (probably because there are so few of them – Canadians, that is.) I got so tired of hearing Morissette blaring non-stop out of every night club on Yonge Street, so I guess it took about ten years to get de-Alanisized enough to enjoy her stuff.
I also have Somebody Told Me and Jenny Was a Friend of Mine by The Killers on my exercise playlist. Really groovy stuff! Has anyone else been tipped off on how great this music is or am I the only that knows about it?
After my workout, I made a tofu curry with barley-lentil pilaf for dinner, worked on choir music for an hour, talked to Miss Healthypants, and cleaned the kitchen.
Yesterday, I mentioned that not watching TV would free me up to do a lot of other things, like going to an art museum or a zoo.
Well, a friend of mine called last night to say he had an extra ticket to the Chicago Symphony and would I want to go? (The Brahms 1st Piano Concerto is being featured.)
Isn’t that better than watching stupid people being held accountable by Judge Judy?
And you have to admit, that’s pretty auspicious. 'The Universe' picked up on the fact that I wanted to heighten the level of my leisure activities and, boom, I get a free ticket to the Chicago Symphony.
And after exercising for 40 minutes last night, I have to admit –
I really feel like crap today.
Tuesday, February 09, 2010
I'm a Gerbil
Today begins a huge, life-altering experiment in my household.
I’m turning off the television for one week.
I’ve decided to do this for several reasons, the main one being that my lifestyle has gotten pretty boring lately. My typical day goes like this:
Wake up to CNN.
Look at the weather report on the internet, shower, take a vitamin, go to work.
Eat a salad combo for lunch.
Neglect going to the gym after work.
Neglect going to the ice rink after work.
Go home, crawl under the comforter like a gerbil and watch TV for several hours.
Go to sleep with CNN on.
On Thursday nights, I go to choir rehearsal which has been pretty much the only variant. Let’s face it: When taking a vitamin is the highlight of one’s day, it’s time to re-evaluate your weekly itinerary.
When you think about it, I’m a pretty lucky guy and have done pretty well at keeping my life simple. I have no kids who have kiddy-activities that would impinge on my time. No spouse or pri-mate to concern myself with. No second job. So, just think of all the productive things I could do, even in my own apartment, instead of watching TV.
Make some more homemade laundry detergent. I love doing that.
Make healthy things to eat rather than shoving a Tombstone pizza in the oven.
Go run on the treadmill in the new gym facility in my building.
Download some really cool music to listen to while running on the treadmill.
Practice on the piano. I’ve often lamented the fact that I never became as good of a pianist as I could have been. Well, duh! Not when I’m watching four episodes of Judge Judy or stupid documentaries every day!
Let’s compare the intrinsic value of the following two endeavors:
1) Watching documentaries about Bigfoot
2) Learning Beethoven’s "Waldstein" Sonata.
Write that Great American Novel. I have a wonderful idea for a comedy about a middle-aged guy who learns the Dvorak keyboard and falls in love with his high school typing teacher. The title is “Qwerty” A Heartwarming Story of Love, Self-Discovery, and Typing. (A Basset hound will be in there somewhere.) Of course, it will be a best-seller and will also be made into a huge Broadway musical. Doesn’t that sound like the name of a Broadway musical?
Fame, riches, and awards, both Pulitzer and Tony, await.
And outside of my apartment, even more exciting things are there.
I’ve never been to Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo and I love zoos. I’ve lived here almost ten years and don’t even know where it is. Probably in the Lincoln Park neighborhood is my guess.
Get my butt on the ice rink before winter is gone. I’ve only been once this season.
Go to one of Chicago’s museums – like the one with the artwork in it. Never been there.
Actually going to the gym. I belong to this very nice gym with a membership very nicely subsidized by my employer – and I don’t go. Working out hurts and I make it a point to avoid pain. Why can’t I find a means of exercise that I enjoy? I’m sure the gym has something I don't find revolting, but I won’t know that if I’m gerbilized in my apartment every evening.
I’ll keep you posted on how my non-gerbil endeavors are coming along.
Wish me luck.
Monday, February 08, 2010
Working on a New Satire Article
I’m sorry, but this was so funny I had to post it.
It really does remind me of educational filmstrips from the 60s. (Be sure to watch it until the second half.) But I can't decide if the dialog reminds me of something from "Leave It to Beaver" or really bad gay porn.
Oh, and how did I find this video?
By doing research for a new satire article. I just found out that Carrie Prejean just got engaged to some football player. The comedic potential is HUGE.
Labels: Carrie Prejean
Saturday, February 06, 2010
My family's last name is "Wheat"
Friday, February 05, 2010
These Kids Nowadays
I may be a fuddy-duddy, but I just don’t understand the craze with tattoos these days. I know a lot of people have them, and I’m all for freedom of expression and all that, blah, blah, blah.
But they’re permanent.
I really don’t think these young folks who are festooning themselves with tattoos really have that concept in their heads.
That tattoo of a purple eagle on your neck? How’s that going to look when you’re a 50 year old executive at a Chamber of Commerce fundraiser?
The red and yellow swirls that cover your forearms? What if Michelle Obama had gone that direction?
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with, say, getting a tasteful little flower on your hip if that’s your thing. But these young people who go overboard with tat after tat after tat – it’s simply a display of instant gratification and a lack of self control.
I remember one guy who had just completed two months of in-patient treatment for substance abuse. Quite successfully, I might add. He was now very enthused with his recovery program. Fine and dandy.
But then, he got Narcotics Anonymous tattooed down the side of his neck in a big, black cursive script, thinking that would help him stay sober.
I wanted to remind him that his addiction was primarily due to lack of impulse control, but I didn’t. His tattoo was permanent.
Don’t even get me started on these ubiquitous tattoos that everyone gets. You know, the barbed wire around the bicep or the Chinese characters on the shoulder.
These guys think they’re getting the esoteric Chinese characters for “strength” and “spirit” emblazoned on their skin. In actuality, I’ll bet it means “sticky rice.”
If I was King of America, I would enact a law that imposed a six-month waiting period for any tattoo. You’d have to apply to get a “sticky rice” tattoo, wait six months, and then if you still wanted it, you could get it.
There would be a lot fewer tattoos and you know it.
Mark my words. In 20 years, the tattoo-removal industry will be a multi-billion dollar business.
I should buy some stock in it now. I’ll be insanely wealthy.
Thursday, February 04, 2010
How's That Work?
Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve had this inordinate desire to know how things work. Sometimes, it bordered on being an obsession.
Clocks got taken apart when I was little. Road construction was analyzed. Most toys like electric trains, an Etch-a-Sketch, a Lite-Brite, an Easy-Bake Oven and a G.I. Joe all got disassembled, rendering them useless. (And no, it wasn't my G.I. Joe -- like I would have ever had one of those.)
Another example: About twelve years ago, I lived in Toronto which has lots of streetcars. I was really curious how their electrical connections to the wires above could switch from one wire to another. You know, when the tracks of the streetcar would split, how did the overheard thingy connected to the electric wire above switch from one wire to another?
Here is the No. 504 streetcar in Toronto, one that I rode every day.
See the connection to the electric wire above? Whenever the streetcar would come to a split, as in a street intersection and the streetcar would turn the corner and change to another street, the connection above had to change from one wire to another. But how???
It drove me crazy. I almost got run over a couple of times while standing in the middle of an intersection, analyzing the wire connections overhead. (I finally figured it out – thank GOD!)
The other day, I saw a photograph of a San Francisco cable car. As you know, they operate by grabbing on to a moving cable under the street. In the photo, the cable car was approaching an intersection where two cable car lines crossed one another.
Oh my GOD! How did that work? If there are moving cables under the street and the cable cars are connected to those cables, how do they cross one another without getting tangled up?
Cable cars also switch from one line to another. Wow! That’s even more perplexing.
I immediately called a friend of mine who had recently moved to San Francisco and asked him how that was possible.
“I dunno. Why?”
I was incredulous. How could he not know? He lives there! Hasn’t he stood in the middle of an intersection to figure this out?
That would be the first thing I would have done once I got to San Francisco. Geez!
Thank god for the internet. I was able to find out how the cable cars negotiated crossovers and switches without having to fly there. (Here it is, just in case you're interested.)
Sigh . . . . Life can continue.
Wednesday, February 03, 2010
This Bugs Me
I’m usually a really upbeat person, but there are still things that really bug me.
Here’s a quick list:
Someone made really nice drawer labels in the employee break room at work. One of them reads PLASTIC WEAR
Texting: It’s got to be THE most inefficient means of communication -- the digital equivalent of smoke signals.
Pizza without enough sauce. It should be criminalized.
Australian accents. Those extreme diphthongs just grate on my nerves. The way the word “right” comes out “raaaweet”. That sting ray that stabbed the Crocodile Hunter? Can’t really blame it.
Football players who pray. Yeah, like Jesus wants your team to cause more concussions than the other.
Hotel Televisions: Why can’t CNN be on the same channel in every hotel?
People who proceed to give me verbal directions to a location after I tell them, “I can’t follow verbal directions.” (I really can’t and they refuse to believe me.)
Sean Hannity. Sean Hannity. Sean Hannity.
The garlic bagel that accidentally touched my pumpernickel bagel.
The pepper service in restaurants.
Al Fresco dining. Eating a meal on a city sidewalk = homeless.
The fact that the U.S. still hasn’t switched to one-and-two-dollar coins.
Curbside recycling isn’t available in Chicago.
-- surrogate lover.
Prostitution is legal in Las Vegas, so Markus made his services available to women willing to pay five hundred bucks.
Isn’t that nice? What's more, in another interview he even went as far as comparing himself to Rosa Parks.
Rosa Parks! That brave woman who made history by becoming the first African-American female bus driver. Can you believe that?
I don't know that this he-whore is worth five hundred bucks. Frankly, if you put a pair of glasses on him, he could pass for Ugly Betty's twin brother.
Now, normally I don't make fun of people on this blog. Not this much anyway.
But the dude just compared himself to Rosa Parks. The satirical gloves are off.
Anyway, at one point he mentioned that he loves cooking French cuisine. His favorite meal?
“Chicken cordon bleu,” was his reply.
That would have done it for me. I'm sorry, but if I had been a woman who had just shelled out five hundred bucks, I would have HAD to ask for a refund right then and there.
That is, after I had stopped laughing.
Monday, February 01, 2010
A Julia Child Celebration
Here’s a recap of the wonderful Julia Child Celebration meal that my friend, Steve, and I prepared this past Saturday evening. You know, the meal that entailed the lobster-killing.
For the record, I identify very much with being a vegetarian. Since I would be very uncomfortable killing a cow, a pig or a chicken, I don’t buy them at the grocery store for myself. I did not find any pleasure, whatsoever, in killing the lobster per se, but I did enjoy demonstrating a culinary technique. And like I said in the video, if you’re unable to kill a lobster, then don’t order one.
Anyway, here is the menu from Saturday night:
Oysters on the half shell
French Onion Soup
Preparations began by chopping four pounds of onions for the soup.
Peeling a pound of pearl onions for the bourguignon was pretty tedious.
Pear-Almond Crostata were prepared and readied to bake off.
Just like Julia says, dry the beef – otherwise it won’t brown.
See? It’s browning nicely.
The smell of beef browning in bacon fat is “dog-torture”. Portia remained by the kitchen door, ever so ready for a scrap.
Potatoes were prepped. Red, purple, yellow, and sweet potatoes, thyme, garlic, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Pearl onions sautéed in lots of butter, doused with chicken broth, and reduced until syrupy.
Oysters were shucked.
Lobster Thermidor: Lobster meat baked in a tarragon-béchamel. Normally served in a lobster cavity, we went for ramekins instead.
French Onion soup was dished up and broiled with the crouton and gruyere.
And here it is: Beouf Bourguignon
And not just any Beouf Bourguignon, but Julia’s Beouf Bourguignon.
It was also served with Steve’s famous Cheesy Poofs: gruyere-laden popovers.
Pear-almond crostata. This was the only item that was not Julia Child’s, (it’s Brian Boitano’s) but it is a favorite of ours.
There you have it. Dear, sweet Julia was with us that evening. Cooking all day and serving such incredible food to good friends – more enjoyable things to do I have trouble imagining.
For dinner the next evening: a cilantro-grapefruit smoothie.