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Showing posts from January, 2017

Resistance

I'm having a difficult time writing lately.

I can trace it back to one moment: the U.S. presidential inauguration on January 20th.

Writing hasn't been the same since. I've tried to muster the energy and inspiration to write about things I love, but all I've wanted to do instead is write about the sorry state of a country I no longer recognize.

I'm an extremely political person with strong beliefs and ideas about the issues. I'm no shrinking violet when it comes to politics. For some reason though, I haven't written about politics much around here, at least not explicitly beyond a few posts over the last year or so. That said, I firmly believe that my politics are on full display in nearly everything I write because they're the underpinnings for everything. I can't help but express them, however subtly, in what I say or do or write.

My disappointment in my country since the November election has only worsened since the inauguration. I refuse to spea…

It Came From the '90s: Life in Progress

This series looks back at the 1990s and its influence on the generation of people who came of age during the decade.

There's a small moment, just a short scene, from the 1997 crime-comedy classic Grosse Pointe Blank that's always stuck with me. John Cusack's character, professional assassin Martin Blank, is attending his ten year high school reunion. He's catching up with an old friend who recently had a baby. She asks Martin to hold the infant. He hesitates. Once holding the child though, this hardened and cynical man, swimming in a sea of amorality in his daily existence as a hitman, is stopped dead in his tracks by the overwhelming power of holding a new life. Queen's and David Bowie's beautiful 1981 song "Under Pressure" underscores the moment perfectly.


When I saw the film in 1997, just before college graduation, the scene was a close proximity to how I'd have reacted if you handed me a baby: reticent, confused, awestruck. Over the years, I c…

Gonna make you, make you, make you notice: The musical constancy of the Pretenders

That's Chrissie Hynde's face staring back at you on this blog's header. I've written about Hynde and the Pretenders here on more than one occasion. So it was only a matter of time before I wrote at greater length about her music and influence. She's provided me with a lifetime of deeply personal music to which I can relate to and also be constantly surprised by. There are several other artists, writers, and musicians whose work I've been equally invested in over the years, but my affection for Hynde and the Pretenders goes back to my formative years and is so intertwined with my life that it's almost impossible to separate the two.

Their debut album, Pretenders, was one of the first rock albums I ever owned and, as I like telling anyone within ear shot, a stone-cold perfect album that I've been comparing other great records to ever since. It's a masterpiece and one of the most impressive debuts in rock history. It contains everything you need to kn…

It Came From the '90s: Myths and Legends

This series looks back at the 1990s and its influence on the generation of people who came of age during the decade.

Stories about him had been circulating since elementary school. It seemed like the legend had likely existed forever, probably first told by a roaring campfire in the woods one night, long ago. The kids who shared the tale did so quietly and ominously. Who was this man? How old was he? Was he immortal? A ghost?

The urban legend went like this: somewhere on the outskirts of our hometown, way out in the sticks, the boonies, lived a man who haunted the roads near his house. Every night he roamed, lurking in the shadows just off the road, carrying a flashlight or a baseball bat, or both. As cars drove past, he'd shine the light in the driver's eyes. Supposedly he made his nightly rounds with the express purpose of finding his deceased wife, or a surrogate for her, whichever came first. Thus he sometimes carried a woman's shoe, his late wife's, as the story w…

It Came From the '90s: The Shock and Awe of Divinyls

This series looks back at the 1990s and its influence on the generation of people who came of age during the decade.

Peeling out of the church parking lot after Sunday night religious ed class, Divinyls' "I Touch Myself" blasting from the car stereo. This makes the passengers giggle like the immature dorks we are, while the friend behind the wheel is grinning out the window at the religious education teachers. The rest of us, shy and non-confrontational, smile sheepishly from the backseat.

The teachers look extremely displeased. I think one shakes her head in disgust. Each generation looks at their successors this way at one point or another, it's unavoidable. The old timers, shocked and appalled, plus a little envious, when confronted with the temerity of youth.

While I'm just an accomplice in the car—I didn't know the driver was going to do that when he turned the ignition key and the song started playing on the radio—each of us has at least a little fun in…

It Came From the '90s: Chain Restaurant Hell

This series looks back at the 1990s and its influence on a generation of people who came of age during the decade.



"When you're on break, whatever you do, don't eat the food."

*****
It's 1992. I'm in high school, and working at a Ponderosa Steakhouse. We call it Pondo, or my personal favorite, Pondegrossa. Clever. This is a new franchise of the venerable restaurant chain opening up in our hometown. Word spreads through school: they needed an entire staff of new employees to open the place by end of summer. It seems like everyone I know both applies and gets hired.

It's mid-summer when we begin training. Yes, it's going to take several weeks of rigorous practicing to whip our sorry teenage butts into shape. They fly in a district manager from Ohio, or a "DM" to those of us in the biz. He'll oversee our indoctrination into The Ponderosa Way. We learn important stuff, like whenever the ketchup dips below the illustrated pickle on the side o…

Barely Making a Dent: January 2017 Books

In which our narrator tries to read his way through the endless stacks of books that are slowly overtaking both his bookshelves and his life.

*****
[The following conversation never happened, at least not between two people, but let's pretend it did anyway.]
Hey! How's that new tall bookcase working out for you?

Splendidly!

Lots of room for future acquisitions, I imagine.

Oh, yeah...well, it's already pretty full. You see, once I shifted some things around and emptied an old bookcase to set aside for the kids, I filled the sucker up pretty quickly.

Oh.

There's still room to fit more books, never fear. Plus the small bookcase next to it also has room. 

I bet that'll also fill up quickly, though.

[sighs] I need to start reading more on my iPad, huh?

But you love actual books.

True. I like reading on my device but I love the tangibility of books. I always carry at least one around in my messenger bag, nearly everywhere I go. I enjoy reading on a device, but switching away f…

It Came From the '90s: Kelly Bundy and the Alternative Family Ideal

This series looks back at the 1990s and its influence on the generation of people who came of age during the decade.

Very few television series in the 1990s were as polarizing as Married...with Children. People either loved it or they loathed it. TV critics and good upstanding Catholic families like mine fell into the latter category. Soon after it debuted during my first year of junior high in 1987 (not quite the '90s, but on the brink), my parents made it clear that we would not be watching. I believe the words they used were "vulgar," "unfunny," and, one of their perennial favorites, "risque." Of course, this meant it immediately took on a prurient appeal for me. Parents can never win, honestly.

Kelly Bundy—the talented Christina Applegate, who never gets enough credit for elevating the blonde airhead trope into an art form—only further piqued my interest. She was like the girls in school with the absurdly voluminous hair and ridiculously short ski…