Big Noisy Bug

I'm just glad I'm on our side…


Sox in Series, bully for them

The White Sox are going to the World Series. Yikes. At least it turns out that they aren’t playing the heinous Cardinals, which to my Cubs-fan senses might not have exactly rated as hell on earth, but would have been an ample substitute until the real deal came along.

When I was a kid, the White Sox were Chicago’s team. Bill Veeck owned them at the time, and he spared neither effort nor goofy scheme to put a fan in every seat. He imported the popular St. Louis announcer Harry Caray to do play-by-play, and Comiskey Park (the blue-collar original, not the baseball mall that replaced it) was nightly filled with drunken south-siders watching their favorite team. The hapless Cubs were Chicago’s also-rans–a bunch of perennial losers playing day baseball for bleacher bums on the north side. In fact, the original bleacher bums were pretty much just that: people with no jobs and lean prospects, who had nothing else to do during the day but buy a ticket in the cheap seats, drink beer, and watch the game.

Things changed in the eighties. Harry Caray was let go by the White Sox and drove across town to work his magic for the north-siders. WGN, which broadcast all the Cubs games, rode an exploding cable TV market to superstation success. Although they never made it to the World Series, winning seasons in 1984 and 1989 pushed everyone’s favorite underdog into the national spotlight. The Cubs became Chicago’s team, then America’s team. Wrigley Field became a tourist destination for yuppies everywhere. White Sox fans mutated into cranky old men. Even the young ones. Even the women.

I am something of an anomaly–a Cubs fan from the south side. The Cubs’ popularity has made that more common than it once was, which compels me to state that my affection for the Cubs is not transient, but genetic. My dad was a Cubs fan. My grandfather was a Cubs fan. My childhood baseball mitt had Billy Williams’ name on it. In short, I’m one of the natives.

Growing up a Cubs fan on the south side meant getting odd stares. Nevertheless, I learned to make peace with the concept. I allowed the White Sox their existence, and formed no hatred of them. Occasionally, I even went to the games and cheered them on. Their fans were my friends, and though I preferred the National Leaguers, the White Sox were from Chicago and I had no intention of rooting against the local boys.

I’ve recently heard other Cubs fans express similar sentiments. It’s good that the White Sox are doing well, more power to ‘em, support the Chicago team, rah rah rah.

Bunk. I used to feel that way, but no longer. Once, I could support or at least tolerate the White Sox, but I’ve heard too many insults from their fans to continue down that road. I have friends who laughed out loud at the Bartman incident. I know people who can’t drive through Wrigleyville without some sort of snide comment. I’ve been hassled about yuppies, ivy, rooftops, 1969, and Todd Hundley. One too many times, I’ve heard Sox fans tell us Cub fans to take our neighborly show of support and stick it. Well, I’ve stuck it. It’s high time to either reign in the hatred or embrace it with zeal, and I’m looking for a hug. I hope the White Sox fail, miserably and spectacularly. I want them to break the hearts of every Sox fan who ever turned to me and said “Sammy Sosa.” How I long to see Mayor Daley writhing in pain on the ground, wrinkled fingers grasping at the Comiskey Park home plate marker, tears welling in the cracks of the asphalt.

When it is all over, and the players have packed up their bats and balls and returned home to distant lands, I will find a Sox fan–a lowly, pitiful, broken thing. I will offer him my shoulder. I will look at him with sympathy and deep understanding, pat him on the back, and say the following words: “Wait till next year.”


Energy hogs are wrong kind of tough

The Ad Council brought us a new ad campaign the other day: the Energy Hog. It appears that energy is being wasted and President Bush has finally decided enough is enough. Decisive action needed to be taken, so the Ad Council, having done a fine job in the past with Smokey the Bear and McGruff the Crime Dog, unveiled a new character for the darker side of the twenty-first century. Actually, they’ve outdone themselves and given us not one, but eight new characters.

Unlike the friendly bear and crime dog, this new bunch does not coax our inner saint into preventing us from wrecking the world around us. These guys mean business–dressed in black leather, with punk hairdos, shades, facial hair, and other anti-social anomalies. They maraud and waste energy, taking long showers and getting in your way as you innocently try to lay down some attic blanket.

Now, I’m not planning on taking a poke at the Energy Hogs or the fine people who created them. There are plenty of others standing in line to do that. Truth be told, you’ve got to like any ad campaign that comes complete with a web site where kids can learn about the importance of window caulk. I probably didn’t learn the truth about window caulk until I was fourteen years old, and I had to pick it up on the streets.

My problem with the Energy Hogs is that, unlike the older characters I mentioned, these guys are negative stereotypes, presented in a negative way. Smokey wore a ranger hat and taught us how to not burn down trees. That was inspirational for kids in the 1960s, but appealing to the good angels sitting on our shoulders is far too twentieth century for the kids of today. The Energy Hogs come at us like a street gang, which the Ad Council obviously means to be scary, but what they fail to grasp is that kids today find that lifestyle alluring.

I’m not trying to say that the average kid living in the suburbs has a desire to deal drugs and spray innocent moms and children with gunfire. At least, I hope not. Similarly, the average kid growing up in the inner city, where gangs are a part of the environment, is probably more worried about avoiding them than emulating them. That’s not the point. Kids love to rebel–a fact of life which is a lot older than anyone reading this. If “gangsta” rappers and video games like Grand Theft Auto have demonstrated anything in the last few years, it’s that the grab-what-you-can, give-nothin’-back attitude is something that modern kids find attractive, even if it’s a little scary.

With that in mind, I would like to propose the following change to the Energy Hogs: Turn them into the good guys. Instead of frightening young children with their wasteful ways, they should be beating the living tar out of people who leave the TV on for their pets. Instead of peering into un-caulked windows, they should be shattering them and stealing DVD players. The Hogs’ leader, the Boss, who looks kind of like the biker love-child of Dick Cheney and Miss Piggy, already has the sort of scary charisma that could get children to turn in their no-good, non-recycling parents to the Department of Energy or SWAT or whoever handles such things.

In fact, I’d take the whole campaign one step further. Instead of the Energy Hogs being characters in a game on a web site, let’s make them real. We can solve unemployment and save the environment at the same time. I envision a day when reformed gang members, dressed as giant pigs, stand at every street corner, waiting for someone to drive by in a Hummer. First offense, they surround the thing and rip out its battery cables. Second offense, they brand an Energy Star logo to the driver’s forehead. In the unlikely event that the person driving the Hummer actually needs it for something other than ferrying groceries, we’ll grant dispensation if the vehicle has mud anywhere on it.

Now that’s a conservation program I can support.


Beware of the blog

I don’t consider myself to be a trendy person. More importantly, no one else considers me to be a trendy person. Yet, here I sit, typing the first words into my new blog. The question begs itself, simply because nobody else is around to do so: Why?

I have finally decided what I want to do when I grow up. I want to be a writer. I say this with some irony, since technically I am a writer, or more precisely, a technical writer. However, that’s not the type of writer I want to be. I want to be the type of writer who lives in Vermont, wears a turtle neck sweater, and smokes a pipe. I’d have a ‘60s-era Corvette in my garage (for the times when my publisher wasn’t sending a limo), and a large stereo in my living room playing classical music to inspire my wordy wisdom.

Scratch that. I have no interest in being that kind of writer either. Except for the Corvette, perhaps. And the stereo. And the limo, I suppose, although it would have to be a small one, because I don’t want to be ostentatious. Usually. Fresh maple syrup aside, I’m much happier in Chicago than I suspect I would be in Vermont, I find turtle neck sweaters uncomfortable, and don’t get me started on pipes.

Which leads me to this blog. After years or months or whatever of viewing such exercises with suspicion, I have finally broken down and find myself on the trailing edge of trendy. Yes, it turns out that I can’t even get trendy right, because the rest of the world has already moved on to podcasting, and I have absolutely no intention of getting involved in that. I have my pride, after all. For now.

So, what does writing a blog have to do with being a professional writer? The me of a few months back would claim almost nothing. I would have said (and probably did say) that if you want to write, great, but if you’re good enough, you’ll get paid and if you’re not good enough, you’ll write a blog.

And I do want to get paid. I’m not quite good enough for that yet, I suppose. Seems that my degree in audio arts and acoustics doesn’t exactly jibe with my goal of a writing career. I also lack a portfolio, or at least much of one. The blog allows me to cover two needs at once–I can practice my intended craft, and perhaps create a large enough pile of chaff to cull a few grains of literary wheat with which to demonstrate my impending greatness.

Pride forces me to mention that I have had a web site for around ten years as of this writing. Honesty forces me to point out that laziness has led to that web site being neglected for long periods of time. Using blog software allows me to now focus on writing instead of markup codes, even as realism forces me to confront the fact that almost no one will read these words.

It doesn’t matter. I have a blog now, and only myself to blame if I can’t keep it updated. I plan to spend a certain percentage of the space here detailing my attempts at jump-starting my writing career. Those who know me can probably guess that I won’t shy away from politics either, although I do not plan to turn this into some sort of rant fest. I have lots of other interests as well, like music, science, history, aikido, photography, coin collecting…well, you get the idea. Many of those things will probably show up here sooner or later, along with the occasional bit of fiction.

As an aside, it occurs to me that, however unlikely, my current employer could end up reading this article. I’d like to point out that, even in the best of circumstances, it could take a very long time for my writing career to take off, and there are no guarantees that I won’t fall on my face. Don’t fire me now, and I’ll try to remember you when I don’t need you anymore.