Sunday, December 27, 2009

A Moderate "Engagement Status" suggestion for Facebook

To Whom It May Concern (aka that young jerk who built this site and is worth the price of a small country...)

I have been a Facebook user for about a year now, and I wish to register a complaint. Your "relationship" possibilities are severely limited at best. In truth, they stink. You have "single," "married," "in a relationship with," and "bitterly divorced from." In my current situation, this will not do, as I am planning a wedding with a woman who hates the terms "engaged," "fiancee," and "willing to be seen with him in public."

I have compiled a list of possible relationship statuses I might be able to use, as opposed to the ones you already have. Please consider them as friendly suggestions and not irritable rejoinders to an otherwise shoddy social networking site.
" chained in impending matrimony to ..."
This would work well, as "chained in" seems to me a more accurate verbal phrase, connoting duty, fidelity and, yes, the mandatory.

"... is successful in boozing up and weakening the marriage-related resistance of ..."
As it happens, I had to pour about two gallons of Thunderbird down her throat before she would even agree to sit quietly while I spelled out a life together. After that, all she required was mimosas.

"... is temporarily insane regarding legal commitment to ...
What was I thinking? Dear God in Heaven, what was I thinking? I already got her to pick up the tab for dinner; I don't need that again!

"... is pushing his luck concerning commitment with ..."
As she never fails to remind me. Which reminds me. I'm pushing my luck.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Bullets in Madison Emotes at the Empty Bottle

Special to the Flannel Diaries

It's about seven-thirty on a Tuesday night and I'm being dropped off at the Empty Bottle on Western Avenue on the beautiful West Side of Chicago. My girlfriend, the Woman who Holds the Bottle Opener to the Beer That Is My Heart, has an annoyed, peeved look on her face. I get that look a lot. It's a masquerade for true love. Especially for when I make her drive me around the city.

"So...have a good time," she intones, checking her watch and thinking about cookies. "Enjoy the show. Don't stay out too late."


"Tell the band I'm sorry I couldn't make it, but I had to, you know, whatever."


"And be sure to take out the garbage and walk the dogs when you get home."

"Abso....wait. What?"

Before I can protest that I surely will get back late, that I won't enjoy the show, and that I have no plans to be in any condition to do anything productive upon my return, she speeds away, still holding the keys to the car that I realize, belatedly, I'm supposed to drive home that night. Screams after her are unheeded. Frantic calls to her cell phone remain unanswered.

This sort of shit always happens to me when I'm sent to review a Bullets in Madison concert. Of course, none of it is their fault. I mean, it sort of is when you figure that if they didn't play these dives at these ridiculous hours, and if they would only spring for a press limo to take the reporters like me home...actually, it is all their fault. Bastards. I will make them rue the day they even formed a band. I have that power.

I am a music reviewer. I review music.

And occasionally, I listen to it.


I stalked into the Empty Bottle surly and mean. The place looked like the kind of joint BiM loves to headline: walls and a ceiling. I sidled up to the bar and growled at the guy behind the counter, "Gimmee a whiskey. Double. Leave the bottle."

He casts an eye over me, measuring me for manliness and ability to control strong drink. "I think you might want a nice Lemon Wedge," he offered. "They're tasty and nutritious, and there's nothing like--"

"Whiskey," I growled again. John Wayne doesn't have shit on me, I tell you. "The bottle."

"You're going to be on the floor in twenty minutes."

I ignored him, and eventually he went off to fetch it. It's at this point that somebody comes up to me. "Hey, man. Nice to see you again."

I cast a bleary eye in his direction. "Who the hell are you?"

"Brendan. Brendan Losch."

"Oh, great. But I already ordered my drink, so..." I made hand motions indicating that he could leave me alone.

"No, I'm the guitarist. For the band? We've spoken before. You've interviewed me like twenty times."

"Oh, Bren-DAN Losch. I thought you said BREN-dan." I made a face that I hoped looked friendly. "So. Uh, what are you doing here?"

Brendan made an effort to be patient. "We're doing a show tonight. You're reviewing it, right?"

"Right. Right." I made a mental note to do just that. "But you can't get me free drinks, right?"

Brendan stared at me. "No."

"Oh. Well...good. Got to support the economy, right?"

He eventually stalked off, looking pissed. Man, musicians and their big heads. I made another mental note to make a comment in my review about his shoes or something. However, before I could compose a pithy bon mot, I was interrupted by the bartender, who returned with my whiskey. I downed it in one gulp, just like they do in the tough-guy movies. Blech. It tasted like paint thinner.

"That's bad for you," the bartender remonstrated. "You're going to have the megrims."

I ignored him.

"Sure you don't want that Lemon Wedge?" the bartender offered.

"Go away," I muttered.

Three or four more whiskeys later, the house lights came on and the crowd started cheering. The show was apparently starting. And I was ready to review the show. After all, I am a Music Reviewer, right? It's what I came here to do, yes? So here's the body of my article, compiled straight from my painstaking notes during the performance:
Bullets in Madison rocked the joint. They really did. We Became Your Family When You Died is one hell of an album, I tell you. Full of...meaning and...vibrancy...junk like that. Man, my head is killing me...That trumpet thing they do? Woo. Powerful stuff...Don't know about all the bugs on the wall, though...This band, they've got rhythm...they've got music...who could ask for anything more? Ha. What is with the moving walls, though? Now they're moving and they've got bugs on them. Crap. Why didn't that jackass bartender just give me a Lemon Wedge? I hear those are good. Well...oh, man, I love this song! "Wiiiild thing...You make my heart..." ...wait...that's the must be over. What did I miss? Damnit. Oh well. I'll get some stuff about them from Wikipedia or something. Maybe I can go get some after-show interviews right now...Ugh. Floor won't stay steady.
Unfortunately, before I could corral any of them for additional comments, the band had sped off in a hired limo, champagne and caviar practically flying out the windows, Losch tossing a few oyster crackers in my direction and laughing as I scrabbled on the pavement for something to eat.

After a moment, they were gone, the last remnants of their esoteric performance ringing in my ears.

I was alone in Chicago. No review written. No car. No money. And a seventy dollar bar tab with a smug bartender waiting for me inside.

The perfect setting for a closing paragraph:
In a top single from their new album, "Sarah is a State of Mind," vocalist John Morton sings, "You slam the door shut to break it through / No one hears you." That may apply to Sarah, whoever she is. But BiM has slammed the door shut, doublebolted it, and set fire to it, which makes their breaking through it all the more impressive. Not to mention the fact that it is impossible not to hear them.

WBYFWYD is an album that pulses with a heartbeat never heard before in the Chicago indy rock scene, and a melody that grabs you by the lapels and throws you off your seat. The more BiM tours and gets this music out there, the better.
There. That should do it.

Now...where's a hotel?

Oh man. I should have taken the bus.

Monday, December 21, 2009

This new phone is a total time suck. I waste more time on stupid crap than I ever did and I'm reading less than ever in my life. However, the voice blogging is pretty cool.

Friday, December 18, 2009


These accounts are not invented. They are written here verbatim. Especially #3301.
These are my students.
I am their teacher.
We are all so screwed.

Teaching Moment #1826

ME: Okay, open your books to page 23.
KID: What page?
ME: Twenty-three.
OTHER KID: Okay. Wait, what page?
ME: I quit.

Teaching Moment #1827

ME: Some of you forgot to put title pages on your papers.
KID: You didn’t tell us to.
ME: It says so right there on the assignment.
KID: But you didn’t read the directions to us.
ME: So I need to type up the directions and read them to you?
KID: We’d definitely do better.
ME: I quit.

Teaching Moment #1894

ME: You understand that the transition in this paragraph doesn’t apply to--
KID: Doorknob!
ME: What?
KID: What? I didn’t say anything.
ME: I think you just said…doorknob.
KID: (sarcastically) Sorry!
ME: That’s it. I quit.

Teaching Moment #2002

KID: Is it true Shakespeare was a fag?
ME: I quit.

Teaching Moment #2003

ME: All right, let’s open our books to—
KID: Is it true you’re a fag?

Teaching Moment #2157

ME: Now, for film criticism. We have to be analytic. So what did you guys think of the film Zombieland that just came out?
KID: It sucked!
ME: (writes “It sucked” on board) What else?
KID: You fucking suck!
ME: I couldn’t have been as bad as Zombieland. Let’s not say things we can’t take back.
KID: Okay, you’re right. I’m sorry.

Teaching Moment #2897

KID: I’m sorry, but I just don’t like cops.
ME: Why not?
KID: They hassle you. Even when you’re not doing anything wrong.
ME: So you’re basing your opinion of an entire group on the actions of a few? Sounds to me like what racists say about blacks.
KID: Yeah…Yeah, you know what? I think I changed my mind. I don’t hate cops.
ME: Good for you.
KID: What?
ME: Kid, it’s a beautiful thing to be able to change your mind. As the poet Taylor Mali once said, “changing your mind is one of the best ways of finding out whether or not you still have one.”
KID: Mali? He’s a fag.
ME: That’s it. This time, I really quit.

Teaching Moment #3010

ME: Movies don't deliver as much info as texts. In fact...
STUDENT: Yeah they do. I was watching Dodgeball, and--
ME: No. No no no. You did not just deputize a Ben Stiller movie into your argument.
STUDENT: It rocked. And it had a deus ex machina in it.
ME: So what is a deus ex machina?
STUDENT: The deus ex machina, man! It was…it…
ME: Yes?
STUDENT: Forget it. I quit.

Teaching Moment #3194

KID IN HALL: (to friend) Hey there, bitch.
ME: Ahem.
KID: Oh…sorry…I meant, ‘Hey there, ho.’
ME: I quit.

Teaching Moment #3209

Kid: What are we doing today?
Me: It’s on the syllabus. And the board.
Kid: Man, you always say that!
Me: And it’s always true, right?
Kid: But still!
Me: Yes? You have some further point to make?
Kid: That’s it. I quit.
Me: No no…I’ll race you to the door.

Teaching Moment #3301

ME: So in the Ninth Circle, Satan is gnawing on the heads of the three worst sinners in existence, right?
HONORS CLASS: Yeah, yeah…(writes this down in notes)
ME: And what might Dante be implying with this particular choice of sinners?
HONORS KID: He’s telling us…it’s wrong…to eat people?
HONORS CLASS: Yeah, yeah…(writes this down in notes)

Teaching Moment #3307

KID: What’s this word supposed to mean?
ME: “Anecdotal,” right? It means hearsay.
KID: What’s hearsay?
ME: You heard it through someone else’s account.
KID: What’s an account?
ME: It’s a telling of…wait a minute, why are you not looking this up yourself?
KID: Look it up where?
ME: …
KID: You just quit again, right?
ME: Shut up.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Ode to Jackson, MI


The night is wrapped like a woolen blanket
About a pair of irritated feet.
Three a.m.
The women in doorways beckon to their men,
One hand behind the back
While shoving them through the door.
I have seen them all before
In some dimly lit, half-forgotten place.
I have heard the story
Of forgotten glory
And a newly remembered face,
But this is a book I couldn't complete
Before its return-by date
And a movie I couldn't finish
Because it was a school night
And I couldn't stay up that late.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Doug, from MTV's "The State." True teenaged angst.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Andrew Hicks is back! Check out the reposted A Year in the Life of a Nerd. He's no Jay Pinkerton, but he's good for a chuckle.