Sunday, April 29, 2012


I thought of a feat of strength I'd like to place on my bucket list. A triathlon: I will run up a mountain, where there's snow and varied terrain, so the next leg can be cross country skiing, eventually taking me to a lake where I can sail across. Hopefully a lake known for vicious winds so there's the physical challenge of hiking way back on the windward side to keep it upright. And before the sailing can begin, the boat will have been capsized and one must bail out pounds  upon pounds of water to get it afloat. 

I will probably attempt this when I can afford a mountain home. Chicago doesn't unfortunately boast mountains, and to moor a boat in this city I'd need to be a millionaire and if I was a millionaire I'd have my own mountain getaway home. It'd be more refreshing to do this feat of strength in the mountains. 

If you'd like to join me in such a triathlon, shoot me a message. This will probably be in the 10 year plan, as I get into my late 30s and such exercise comes to be a must to keep a balanced cholesterol level. And I can of course afford a mountain home.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Brewer Under the Bridge

Whenever I step foot in Wisconsin I tend toward gluttony. It happened several years ago when I had to go tend to management red flags at a Dells location the photo company I worked for operated. During the initial 9 days there to turn things around my colleague Matt and I would work a long day, forgetting to eat and pool our per diem into heavy food and drink. This would leave us lethargic, sitting in the hotel jacuzzi like beached whales. We'd soon call such spells of lethargy and ill ease with digestion "Dells Mode."

My girlfriend and I on occasion take a long weekend. We've done a trip to the Dunes, camping somewhere outside of Sandwich, IL, the Dells, and this weekend past, Milwaukee. The highlight of the trip was the Lakefront Brewery tour, located under a bridge by the river, usually a locale for some seedy concoctions, but the beverages here were a delight. And an economical venture into day drinking. For $7 you get the tour, 4 tokens for samples, and a coupon for a free beer at a local restaurant. And a pint sized glass. The tour guide had a Rollie Fingers mustache, and issued a dynamic comedic performance. After the tour we crossed the tiered bridge, looking as though it was left over from old days of carting product from the mills, and strolled down the Historic Brady Street to find a place on the list to eat and cash in on our free drink coupon. The street didn't look all that historic. We settled on a place called Crisp Pizza Bar and I tried macaroni and cheese pizza for the first time. After several beers and heavy pizza, I was hit with a dusting of "Dells Mode" and was ready for bed at the hour of 9pm. 

Deep hotel sleep was interrupted at some wee hour from some family shouting at each other down the hall. And some guy, we're not sure if he was part of it, shouting "shut the fuck up!"

Hotel brunch was good. We tried the hotel jaccuzzi and pool the next morning at the Radisson but they were on the cold side. We attended a Brewers game at Miller Park, and hot damn, that is a nice stadium. There was carpet on the upper deck corridor, the bathroom was clean, I could have pooped in it if I had to, and no troughs, so I didn't get pee shy when I went to relieve myself. And fireworks going off at an inside ballpark! They were done safely, no one was hurt, they must know what they were doing. And home runs were hit! I saw a batter get on base from bunting! No shit, that never happens, bunting usually seems such a weird move, like asking for an out, but I'm by no means an expert on baseball. When we left the stadium, I noticed everyone had the same body shape, stocky. Not to be cruel and point out such a thing, but Milwaukee being a beer-centric city (if you took beer out of its sphere of daily action, it would collapse economically) the vast majority of the inhabitants will probably accumulate a little beer fat. I wonder if they ever proclaim themselves suffering from "Dells Mode" or whatever label they may have for it.

We picked up some local Wisconsin beers to take back to the hotel later that night, and I made the mistake the day before of taking off my bottle opener key chain to organize my apartment keys to give to the cat sitter. I charmed the hotel bartender to let me borrow her's so I could pop open all the beers, run it back, and proceed to drink them all while playing the board game Betrayal on House on the Hill with some friends of ours that met us up for the weekend. It was an exhilarating game, yet complex, glad we had experienced friends explain it to us, and once again I felt my stomach blood vessels hog all the attention and send me into "Dells Mode." 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Biznix of Books

I had perused the site of the small press Two Dollar Radio and came across the mention of a book called The Business of Books by Andre Schiffrin. I'm glad I learned of it, and I'm glad I eventually read it. The book details the swallowing of publishing houses by a handful of corporations. Disney, Rupert Murdoch, Viacom, to name a few of the few that own all of the major presses, and books are chosen not by the excitement of an editor towards a new work, but by committees, and accountants. This probably isn't news. We've all felt it. Publishing is in a weird state, with such an oligarchy, and digitizing of books, that the best option for a younger writer certainly seems to be the path of pursuing a small independent press with a supportive community, or DIY self publishing. 

In the big houses risks are not being taken, if a book won't sell more than 20,000 copies in it's first month, then the idea of that book is not taken on, not given a chance. The accountants are creating the mass market reading lists. 

The following passage did strike me, as quoted from the German publisher Klaus Wagenbach:

Let's make this as explicit as possible: If books with small print runs disappear, the future will die. Kafka's first book was published with a printing of 800 copies. Brecht's first work merited 600. What would happen if someone decided that was not worth it? 

Whereas some bemoan the ease in which self publishing has made it to where anyone can put a book out there, and yes, there's some bad content that makes it out there, but I'm personally for a plethora of material, and sifting through some "garbage" to find quality, than having a trend towards lack of new material. And because self publishing caught a bad reputation for awhile because of this lack of editorial quality, I think we'll see that turned around, particularly by the DIY writers that want to be taken seriously. And those that pumped out a book as to have a commodity on the market place, because they were impatient, I think we'll see them drop off. We're keeping each other in check.

I'd recommend this book for anyone involved in creative production. Even though the book was written in 2000 and 12 years later the DIY and small independently owned companies have begun to create thriving communities, it's still an important reflection, because the big publishing industry hasn't changed, nor has the make up of industrial corporate structure changed. The Republicans all fight for hands off on business for the sake of "liberty" but the momentum of business growth and mergers, the swallowing and mushing of business into bigger, stickier balls of clay continues, so that we reach a point where censorship doesn't come from the government, but from accountant's suggestions to the big boss. But then again Republicans in some parts of the country are okay with censorship, so they should probably stop co-opting the term liberty. We're certainly not doomed, because arguments are happening. And I'm not by any means against profit. I'd just like to see less of the banks profiting from tricky financial risks, and actual risks being taken on creative stories getting some ounce of profit so they these ventures can sustain themselves.