Thursday, September 22, 2005

Parsley, Sage, Rosenbaum and Time

I read it, scratched my head, and read it again. Suddenly, I saw a flash of lights before my eyes and felt myself hurtling into an infinite vortex, as if the very fabric of space and time had somehow come apart. ... Night followed day like the flapping of a black wing. ... I saw trees growing and changing like puffs of vapour, now brown, now green. ... I saw huge buildings rise up faint and fair, and pass like dreams. The whole surface of the earth seemed changed -- melting and flowing under my eyes. ...

Then I blinked. No, I hadn’t fallen headlong into an H.G. Wells novel. It was merely a very badly worded sentence at the start of a Jonathan Rosenbaum movie review:

I first saw “Winter Soldier,” a 1972 documentary about the Winter Soldier investigation held by Vietnam Veterans Against the War in Detroit in 1971, shortly after it was made.

No, fair reader, Rosey isn’t saying he’d seen the 1972 documentary ... in 1971. He just means that the Winter Solider thingy took place in 1971 and the film about it came out in 1972.

I think.

That is, I hope. I don’t want to imagine a world in which Rosey has the power to travel through time. He’d probably use this power to do some really perverse shit, like force us all to sit through endless -- literally endless, like ETERNAL -- experimental Iranian Yak-herding documentaries. We’d have to send a ruthless cyborg back from the future to hunt him down like the dogmatist he is.

Time travel aside, I’m still a bit confused about those Vietnam Veterans Against the War in Detroit. I mean, Detroit’s a pretty crappy place to live, but I had no idea we were actually at war with it. Who’s winning?

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Another day in the life of...
Liz Armstrong - Girl Reporter!

Beep. "Armstrong!"

At the sound of the intercom, Liz looked up from the latest issue of UR and shuddered.

Beep. Beep.

She reached for her Sofia Mini champagne-in-a-can and found it empty. Pity. She had a feeling she'd need alcohol after she answered this particular summons.

Maybe she could pretend she was out. Hide behind the desk and let everyone think she was at some Ukranian Village art party, doing her "job."

Beeeeeep. "Armstrong. I know you're in there. ARMSTRONG!"

Sigh. "Coming." Leadenly, she made her way into the Nag Champa-steeped lair of her boss, Editor-in-Chief Alison True.

"Armstrong! Two words: Katrina. We gotta get some 'K' coverage this week," True barked. "What have you got for me?"

Liz blinked.

"Katrina? You want me to cover Katrina? Alison, I'm your social columnist. As in, parties and gossip here in Chicago. Not disasters in New Orleans."

"Don't give me excuses, Armstrong! We haven't got a lot of columnists here. Miner's high on the hills with a lonely goatherd, so that leaves Joravsky and you."

"But -- "

"You heard me. Get me something. Anything."

Three hours and eighty-one phone calls later, Liz dragged herself back into True's office. "OK, boss, I did my best. But I don't think you're gonna like it."

True kicked off her Day-Glo Birkenstocks and began massaging her toes. "No whining, Armstrong. Just run it by me."

"I've got a couple that moved from Chicago to New Orleans a few months ago. The guy is a photographer and his wife is an 'aerialist,' whatever that means. And when they fled their flooded apartment they made sure to grab a machete and a tarot deck."

"Good, good. Any tattoos?"

"I guess I could check..."

"Get back to me on it. What else?"

"Another ex-Chicagoan who plays music on an instrument he invented himself. His wife puts on puppet shows, and they used to run a kitschy nightclub in their basement. Before it filled up with human-waste-tainted floodwater, that is."

"I guess that's OK. What did they grab when they fled?"

"A ferret --"

"Golden! I knew you could do it. Write all that up, with lots of boho flavor -- do any of them have tattoos?"

"I'm going to check on that, remember?

"Oh, right. Well, Armstrong, you came through in the close. Get back to your keyboard -- I want the story in an hour." True leaned over and hit the intercom button. "Stop the presses, ladies and gentlemen! We have COPY!"


Monday, September 19, 2005

Michael Miner's European Vacation

Mystery solved! ‘Scoops” Miner’s column was Katrina-free last week because, like a certain somebody in the White House, he was on vacation when the levees broke. The Reader editors could have saved me a lot of confusion had they taken a moment to explain:

Michael Miner is on vacation. This week’s column is just some crap we found on his hard drive. We mean, besides all that tranny porn.

So now that Scoops is back from flouncing around Europe, he’s on the case, right? Well, not really. Though he devotes the whole column to Miss Katrina, the only actual research he seems to have done was to read two op-eds. Beyond that, the rest of the column consists of gaseous emissions and badly-worded restatements of the obvious. So we learn that (and I quote):

Europeans tend to believe in government.

And that:

New Orleans was a disaster waiting to happen.

Thanks, Scoops!

We also learn that Miner’s sense of humor was not improved by his European Vacation. The first third of the column is given over to Miner’s waggish speculations on what a funny bathroom book on Katrina would look like. I won’t say more, because it’s too horrible, except to note that Miner’s notion of a funny title for the book is: “Easy Does It: Drowning in Incompetence in New Orleans.”

Get it? Easy, like the Big Easy! And "Drowning" because people, like, drowned, in the Big Easy! Because it was flooded! See, it's funny because, oh never mind.

Miner also believes such a book would make a "quick fortune." Yeah,with a title like that, what could go wrong?

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Katrina Who? Part the Second

Our story continues. In my search for Katrina-related stuff in the Reader I flipped over to “Scoops” Miner’s column. Surely he’d have something to say. Something stupid and impenetrable, probably, but SOMETHING. I mean, a month ago, he devoted a column to the question of whether or not we’re safer now than were were before 9/11. And then back in July, he offered up this little gem:

If and when terror strikes Chicago, the corpses – yours and mine perhaps – will be carted away. But as the BBC will undoubtedly assure its audiences, Chicago – the city that burned to the ground in 1871 and sprang back up more pugnacious than ever – will go on.

So this time? Apparently Miner likes his disasters man-made and hypothetical, because he’s got nothing on Katrina. Heck, given what’s in his column this week it’s possible he’s not actually aware that New Orleans is even a little bit soggier than usual. He starts his column off with a not-very-interesting-or-relevant story about a crusty news veteran taking over the Tribs’s web site.

And then, well, he just seems to veer off into another dimension altogether, offering up a transcript of a surreal discussion he had with a supporter of Intelligent Design -- who’s actually, as far as I can tell, just a voice in Miner’s head.

Here’s a snippet of their “humorous” “conversation,” offered without further comment because, well, what the hell can you say about something like this?

What about disease? I said.

“Poor Elvira Johnson!” Eyre said. “She was two years older than the rest of the class and she left her boogers everywhere. Whenever I read about an epidemic I can’t help but remember Elvira Johnson.”

KEYWORDS: Michael Miner, Crusty, Surreal, Auditory Hallucinations, Boogers, Liz Armstrong, Man Boobs, Penis, Katrina?

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Katrina Who? Part One

Long before The Onion was a gleam in its editors’ eyes, the National Lampoon did a brilliant parody of a preposterously parochial small-town paper, the Dacron Republican-Democrat. On its front page, in giant type, a headline blared: “TWO DACRON WOMEN FEARED MISSING IN VOLCANIC DISASTER.” Right below it, in much smaller type: “Japan Destroyed.”

I would have thought it impossible to get much more parochial than that. But then I saw this week’s Reader.

Aside from a small list of Katrina money-raisers in Section Three, the only mention I could find of the K-word in the Reader this week came in, of all places, Deanna Isaacs’ arts column -- a brief item about how Katrina was forcing Redmoon Theater to rethink its plans for a flood-related “spectacle.”

You’d better get your hankies out. Apparently the “script and a bunch of commissioned props [will] have to be scrapped. ... only two of ten original pieces of music and two of nineteen costumes are salvageable


Monday, September 12, 2005

Things I learned from this week's Reader (9-12-05 edition)

Surprisingly funny and/or informative this week. Puzzling...

- Responding to reports that many Katrina survivors lost everything in the disaster, Bush said, "Only when you work hard and chew desperately on your own footwear can you live the American dream."

-The Iraqi constitution gives the Kurds the right to establish casinos and bingo parlors in their territory, free of state regulation.

- Citing pre-existing conditions, the White House's health-insurance provider terminated Dick Cheney's coverage Monday.

-The fall TV schedule includes a truly credulity-straining array of insults to the human spirit. There's ALIENS (ABC's Invasion, NBC's Surface, CBS's Threshold); RANDOM SPOOKY WEIRDNESS (WB's Supernatural, ABC's The Night Stalker, CBS's Ghost Whisperer); LAWYERS, LAWYERS, LAWYERS! (three indistinguishable chunks of adipocere) and SOMETHING FOR THE LADIES (Martha Stewart's Apprentice, Geena Davis as the Commander in Chief, and Related, in which "Four sisters have wildly different lifestyles and personalities.") Lovely.

Hey, wait a minute. I've been reading The Onion, not the Reader! Oops!

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Letter? I barely know her!

There are only so many hours in a day. Twenty, twenty-five? Somewhere around there. And we at The Reader Sucks have had pretty full schedules lately: watching Katrina coverage, wailing in impotent rage, looking for embarrassing pictures of Tara Reid online, and putting in a full day’s actual work. Yes, our meager stipends as staffers at The Reader Sucks have not been enough to support the lifestyles we’ve become accustomed to. So we’ve had to supplement them a little.

For example, I now work as a duck salesman. Yes, that’s right: I sell ducks. Who on earth buys ducks? you ask. That is a very, very good question, and if you know the answer please contact me as soon as possible. There’s poop and feathers everywhere, and I think the landlord is beginning to suspect that the loud quacking noises coming from the apartment are not, as I have assured him, the sound of Nurse Bettina and I engaging in boisterous lovemaking.

Anyway, I am setting aside my duck sales work for the moment to return to The Reader. Specifically, its letters page.

Reader staffers are not exactly known for their elegant prose. But they rarely deliver up turds like those that float to the top of the Reader’s letters page on a regular basis. The oafish prose transcends political boundaries. On the right, you get this.

On the left, you get the letter from David Peterson in this week’s Reader, a response to last week’s cover story. Peterson starts off with a bang:

“After we introduce some controls over the pissing-match variable around which so much revolved in Jeffrey Felshman’s ‘Whose Holocaust Is It Anyway?’, what do we find?”

I imagine Mr. Peterson answers this question later in his endless letter, but my brain is still stuck on the whole “pissing-match variable” thing. Whaaaa?

Last week, a letter from Joshua Kilroy offered up a similarly baffling little nugget:

“I have always felt like the Reader existed in a slightly utopian space, where if we were just a little more tolerant of other people’s quirks the world would be a better place.”

And no, that didn’t make much more sense in context.

Want to buy a duck?

Friday, September 02, 2005

A Moment of SIlence for Trent Lott's House

We at The Reader Sucks feel compelled by recent events to set aside our normal Reader-related japeries.

A moment of silence, please.

For Trent Lott’s house.

We learned of the house’s unfortunate demise earlier today in a statement from one George W. Bush, speaking at the Mobile Regional Airport:

BUSH: We've got a lot of rebuilding to do. First, we're going to save lives and stabilize the situation. And then we're going to help these communities rebuild. The good news is -- and it's hard for some to see it now -- that out of this chaos is going to come a fantastic Gulf Coast, like it was before. Out of the rubbles of Trent Lott's house -- he's lost his entire house -- there's going to be a fantastic house. And I'm looking forward to sitting on the porch. (Laughter.)

GOVERNOR RILEY: He'll be glad to have you.

For the remainder of Bush’s edifying speech, click here

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Nattering Nabobs of Narm

Actually, this post isn't about Six Feet Under. I just like saying Narm!

It's about negativism. As you may have noticed, we here at TRS are not above a little gratuitous hostility in the same way that the sea is not above the clouds.*** But, hard though it is to believe, there are actually times when crankiness is not helpful.

Like in a theater review, sometimes. I love a good pan as much as the next woman. But when I was skimming through the Reader's theater section to find stupid stuff to make fun of, I noticed a weird disparity among the reviews. (Make that reviewlettes. Post-redesign, we need no longer toil through the well-developed ideas and relevant information that larded up the old 150-word boxed reviews. Thanks, Reader!)

Anyway, these reviewlettes. Almost without exception, the positive ones tended to be short and kinda dull. Except when they were unintentionally funny (see "Giving Sorrow Words" below). The negative ones, on the other hand, were usually much longer, more polished -- even entertaining! Viz:

--Raven Theater's American Rock Anthem: "Starts off as a supposedly humorous paean to absurd 1980s movies about disaffected teenagers, but the humor is on the sitcom level -- a laugh track would have helped." --Jennifer Vanasco. (2 1/2 column inches long, more or less.)
--Bailiwick's A Kiss From Alexander: "Undone by lame camp humor, swishy stereotypes and a callow portrayal of the Macedonian conqueror. Read Mary Renault's The Persian Boy instead." --Albert Williams. (1 3/4 column inches)
--Victory Gardens' The Living Canvas 2005: "The projected images reduced the performers' mostly hairless, fatless, uniformly young bodies to a soft, rather lumpy backdrop." --Laura Molzahn. (2 column inches)

--Steppenwolf's The Pain and the Itch: "The production is clean, well-paced and engaging, and there's some bravura acting." --Kerry Reid. (1 3/4 column inches)
--Second City's Big Bad Wolf vs. Lord Underwearface von Schtinker: "[A] quick-witted, quirky show." [What, both at once??] --Jenn Goddu. (1 1/4 column inches)
--Giving Sorrow Words at Loyola: "Smoke & Mirror Productions rages at the dying of the light in this adaptation." --Mary Shen Barnidge. (1 1/2 column inches)

Hmm. Those pans do a great job of telling me why I should avoid the shows in question. Only problem is, the picks do an awful job of telling me why I should go. Why would I allow my taste to be shepherded by someone who can't think of any better descriptors than "clean" and "well-paced"?

I should add that the editors are to blame for this, not the critics. It's a lot easier and more fun to pick on something than praise it (I ought to know). But when a show is good, it deserves to be reviewed with all the eloquence and detail the writer can muster. If the reviewer doesn't deliver, the editors ought to ask him or her for more.

Then there's the length issue. The Reader has newsprint to burn -- literally! -- but you wouldn't know it from the length of some of the picks. Meanwhile, the pans go on and on. It's like a perverse joke on would-be theatergoers. "What show should we see tonight, honey?" -- "Let's get the Reader. (Paper rustles.) Well, not that one, obviously. And certainly not that one. Maybe this one, but with only 7 words describing it, it's really hard to know." -- "Yeah, I'm stymied too. Wonder what Tivo's got saved for us?" (Curtain)

***Get it? get it? BWAHAHAHAHA! Though in The Restaurant at the End of the Universe that phrase referred to Vogons, not bitter bloggers. And how great is it that Wikipedia's entry for Restaurant is longer than its entry for An American Tragedy?