Sunday, August 26, 2007


This is a picture of Russell "Stringer" Bell from the HBO drama The Wire.

This is a show about The Game, it's players, and the Baltimore PO-lice assigned to the fight. It's about characters acting realistically, not as how television producers would want them to act. That last point, is not an easy one to accept.

String is my favorite character of the show. He is a unique entity that is in no doubt a stone cold bad man, but he is a renaissance man of sorts. He became my favorite character when he would conduct meetings with his lower level drug dealers and runners according to Robert's Rules of Order.

But you do not root for Stringer Bell. You do not want to see him to succeed.

This is the where The Wire separates itself from The Sopranos.

People watch Tony Soprano and want to BE him. They want to be alongside him at the Bada Bing (but more likely want to be at his VIP parties). People watch that show and root against the police. There is no "rooting" in The Wire. It's not a high school football game.

Watch this show. Get yourself a ticket to the front lines of the War in Baltimore and just watch and absorb. One bit of advice - find a friend (if you can) who owns the DVDs... The worst aspect of the show is how HBO packaged its seasons... Watching it off Net Flix or some other rental property will be an absolute tease.

I understand most people out there are not as addicted to me when they find quality television. Watching a full season per weekend is asking too much of the general population... But that's how I roll.

I do not know when Season 5 of this show will start. More importantly, I don't know when Season 4 will be released on DVD. All I know is that I'm gonna hustle to watch Season 4 in any way I know how to be current when new episodes hit the air.

Loyal readers know that the last two posts have included mentions of my friend's recently published short story. It is this same friend who was nice enough to loan me Seasons One, Two and Three of The Wire. This post is dedicated to the friend who directed me to this great show.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

A Flashback Into My 1998 Romances

In August of 1998 I left rural Prospect Heights to the urban setting of Milwaukee to pursue higher education. Marquette University invited its incoming freshman to campus nearly a week before classes begin for Freshman Orientation. This involved a battery of events ranging in various ice breaking formats.

One of the earlier events was bowling at the nearby university-owned "sports bar." Yes, MU owns a sports bar on campus and yes, there is one of the crappiest non-manual scoring bowling lanes in the nation in its basement. I was randomly assigned to a foursome that included "Europa." (Name changed to protect her innocence)

Before the night had ended I developed the first (sadly of many) crushes during my tenure at Marquette.

I signed up to go to a nearby mini-golf / batting cages place for the next night's activity. When I saw Europa in the Union minutes before she was about to depart to go see the IMAX movie, I instantly changed my mind. The IMAX movie was a refreshing 15 or so walk down Wisconsin Avenue to the Science Museum. I also remembered that I sat next to Europa in the movie theatre. I had no clue what we were going to do after the movie, but I was certainly looking forward to it.

Before we left the IMAX, Europa had to use the ladies room. I waited outside. Also waiting outside, for her friend in the same ladies room, was "Grim." (name also changed to protect her innocence)

One thing led to another and all I can tell you is that I left the museum with Grim and her friend. I can not tell you why I stone cold left Europa in the ladies room because I will never know myself. I still wonder what Europa felt walking out to see me gone, and that will also remain a mystery.

My crush on Grim was more solid than my crush on Europa. While the Europa crush was based in her physical beauty, Grim's ability to quote The Simpsons made me putty in her hands. My loss of self control around her resulted in many regrettable actions.

Allow me to pause this story for a quick flashback of the current culture in August 1998. For some reason, swing music became the cool thing. Dorm rooms were playing music by The Brian Setzer Orchestra, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Cherry Poppin' Daddies and Mighty Blue Kings. Students were renting every available copy of Swing Kids (on VHS back in that era) and dancing like Japan had just surrendered.


When Grim asked me to be her partner in a Swing Dancing class I accepted.

MySister loves to dance. As does my Father. I, not so much. It breaks MySister's heart, to see me not dance at family weddings. However, MySister has recently succumbed to the understanding that only a romantic interest will ever get me to dance.

I went to about three Swing Dancing lessons with Grim. Today I saw the below clip on YouTube, which looked nothing like our class in Brooks Hall:

The Swing Dancing lessons with Grim ended when she told me she didn't want to get into a relationship so early into her time at college. I also heard from her lips a line said to me for the first time in my life: "I don't want to ruin our friendship." Little did I know that would be a track stuck on repeat for most of the girls in my life... A track said out of a mutual deception, irony, torture and manipulation.

My actual friendship ended with Grim after two distinct phone conversations:
1) Grim calling me very excited about this boy she had a huge crush on and wanted to date. A boy in the Navy ROTC program and hoped he'd invite her to some dress-up-in-formal-whites-like-the-end-of-Top-Gun-and-dance Dance.
2) Grim calling me in tears because this very same Officer But Not A Gentleman wanted to dance out of his Formal Whites back at his dorm room.
Still, Grim did not see me as a legitimate romantic possibility. I stopped talking to her and pretty much stopped acknowledging her presence.

Speaking of not acknowledging one's presence:
In October my friend Stefan (who is not only still my good friend but also someone who's first short story should be bought and read by you) and I were riding down from our 11th floor dorm rooms to the cafeteria. The elevator stopped on one of the girl floors and the two of us were joined by Europa herself.

Europa began to put on a little elevator exhibition for Stefan and I. She leaned against the Elevator wall and gave her most sultry, Elizabeth Shue worthy, look while slowly inching up the bottom of her tank top to reveal a navel piercing. As the elevator continued its descent, she began playing with her navel piercing while continuing her "look what you left in the ladies room of the science museum you heartless pig" stare.

The doors opened on the ground floor. I bolted out of the chamber as fast as humanly possible. Stefan stopped me to ask, "WHAT?!....Was that?!" My telling of the story to Stefan occurred in near real time as my memory began flooding.

My path crossed again with Europa in the winter of my senior year. We both worked at the same campus job and had some nice conversations. All with my mind blackened my this freshman year atrocity. Finally, I confessed my sins and apologized to Europa. She had no recollection of the ladies room incident or the elevator show. This made her laugh hysterically and embarrassed me more.

I'm happy to say that I went on a few dates with Europa after that - none of them ending with me leaving her in the ladies room. The short courtship ended amicably. We actually continued to be friends because our "first date" was to go see the first Lord of the Rings movie, and in an odd sense of tradition the two of us watched the other two movies of the trilogy together in the theaters (even if I was already graduated and she was still in Wisconsin).

Today Europa is far away in Europe, living her dream of making-it in a culture more cosmopolitan and enlightened than our barbaric America. Grim remains far off my radar. In fact, is been years since I have even thought about her.

Moral of this story: Beware of YouTube - you never know what memories it can trigger.

Sunday, August 12, 2007


This afternoon I watched the Emilo Estevez written and directed film Bobby.
During this movie, I has an important (to me) realization:

Lawrence Fishbourne is the most underrated actor working today.

I used to hold William H. Macy to this acclaim. Macy is in Bobby too as a matter of fact. But Macy, although still great, is no longer underrated. Macy gets big roles and big nominations.

What I like about Fishbourne can best be summed up on two small but distinct roles.

His role in Bobby (which made the movie for me) and his role in Mystic River. [My friend Stefan was first to discover his brilliance in that Clint Eastwood film, you all need to head over to his blog and download his first published short story. If you think what I write has any meat - let me tell you that his is all muscle.]

"Fish" shows such an incredible amount of depth in the characters he plays. Depth that makes you want to know more about the characters he portrays - but not in an "I wish they'd make a spinoff movie around him." No, more in a "I want to have a meaningful conversation with that man and attempt to soak up the wisdom."

I also give Fish a lot of credit for taking these small roles. Lord knows he doesn't have to ever work again post Matrix. He could also be big-headed enough to only accept top billing roles.

Mr. Fishbourne, we first saw you when you were a nobody on Martin Sheen's boat in apocalypse Now. Now we've seen you give a highlight to his son's good and honest effort to make a film about Robert Francis Kennedy. In the meantime you've brought high quality in an unprecedented range from Cowboy Curtis in Pee-Wee's Playhouse to Jason "Furious" Styles in Boyz n the Hood.

Nobody may ever salute you for what you bring to your craft, but I will.

Thursday, August 2, 2007


"I need my angst. Keeps me sharp (snaps fingers), on the edge (snaps fingers), where I gotta be (snaps fingers)."

Al Pacino said that in Heat (directed by Michael Mann).

Speaking of Heat, it just became August 3.
I have not turned on the A/C yet this summer.

I'm sitting here, under the ceiling fan at full speed.
Next to the oscillating fan.
Thinking of my past.

Growing up in an air conditionless house in Prospect Heights, Illinois.

My parents don't live there anymore either. They live in a temperature controlled town house paradise near Lake Arlington. My mom rarely turns on the A/C.
To the chagrin of my Father.
To the amusement of her children.

She (my Mom) has called me out that I'm just like her - not turning on the A/C.
It's not because I'm cheap.
Well, I can't deny that its a function in a much more complex equation.

Heat was billed as a Los Angeles Crime Saga.
I'm billing this post as a TQ sleep deprived melodrama.