Monday, April 30, 2012

The Merry (or Lusty) Month of May

Tomorrow begins May! And I just want to sing! But which song? The merry merry month of May according to Stephen Foster. Or if you prefer the lusty month of May as according to Lerner and Loewe (from their musical, Camelot). I know which I prefer. Either way May is an interesting and mixed up month, and my singing would just mix it up even more.

It's a month of opposites. It starts off cool and often wet as it is right now, to end hot and steamy as the beginning of summer races in on Memorial Day. It's National Hamburger Month AND National Salad Month. It's Foster Care Month AND Older Americans Month. Maybe that explains with it's National Blood Pressure Month.

But it's also is National BBQ Month. Yum! Next to pizza it's one of my favorite foods yet my home town is seriously devoid in great BBQ. What is it about Madison, WI that great barbecue restaurants never last? Maybe I should clarify that slightly. Why is it great BBQ restaurants never last on the West Side of Madison, close to my house?

The Capital seems to be the great divide. On the East Side there is Smoky Jon's , a favorite hole in the wall, mainly carryout, near the airport. It's well worth the trip but yet I rarely make it. There are also the chains like Fat Jack's. Downtown there is Brickhouse BBQ, a chain as well and fine, not great but it's more of a campus bar. There's a Famous Dave's on Park St and it's fine too.

Here on the West Side a number of BBQ establishments have tried and all eventually failed as today there are none.


The Best BBQ I ever had...
was in Memphis at The Rendezvous. Amazing ribs, so tender, so moist, I can see them flaking off the bone. [Damn, I'm drooling on my new laptop!] I am told that when Bill Cosby was doing his tv show he would fly in their ribs once a week for cast and crew. That the Rolling Stones would request their ribs when performing within the area. The Rendezvous even does mail order. Packed in dry ice they are flown overnight to wherever you want, but at $99 for 2 racks of ribs I'll have to wait a bit more. Maybe when I get rich and famous I'll fly some in for a book party. I just have to sell more than a dozen copies first.

What was your favorite BBQ ever?

Beside BBQ there's a lot happening in May. Here's a few of my favorites:

1 Mother Goose Day
3 Lumpy Rug Day
4 International Tuba Day and National Candied Orange Peel Day
6 No Diet Day (here we come Gigi's Cupcakes!)
8 No Socks Day (I'll really looking forward to this day because it must be pretty wild because the next day is...)
9 Lost Sock Memorial Day 
11 Eat What You Want Day (here we come Gigi's Cupcakes!)
12 Limerick Day (dedicated to that talented Lady from Nantucket)
15 National Chocolate Chip Day (here we come Gigi's Cupcakes!)
16 National Sea Monkey Day (
20 Be a Millionaire Day
23 Lucky Penny Day (maybe that's how you get to be a millionaire?)
27 Sun Screen Day (I hear the parade is fascinating)
29 Learn About Composting Day (the jokes here are all too obvious)
31 National Macaroon Day (here we come Gigi's Cupcakes!)

Now you'd better run away because I feel like SINGING  >>>>>>

Tra la! It's May
The lusty month of May!
That lovely month when everyone goes
Blissfully astray.
Tra la! It's here!
That shocking time of year
When tons of wicked little thoughts
Merrily appear!
It's May! It's May!
That gorgeous holiday
When ev'ry maiden prays that her lad
Will be a cad!
It's mad! It's gay!
A libelous display!
Those dreary vows that ev'ryone takes,
Ev'ryone breaks.
Ev'ryone makes divine mistakes
The lusty month of May!

(from The Lusty Month of May from Camelot)

Monday, April 16, 2012

Does Watching TCM Make Me... Republican?

Everywhere we look on the Internet, everywhere we buy something with a credit or debit card, everywhere we look someone somewhere is collecting that data. In a world of electronic convenience and quick and easy payments we are being targeted more specifically than ever before. Amazon recommends items for us based on past purchases, Google provides answers to our searches that it thinks we'll be most interested in based on past searches, our phone rings with electronic messages from candidates based on past contributions.

It's all getting too much.

An article in today's New York Times, "Let the Nanotargeting Begin", is a frightening display of just how specific this data collection has become, targeting specific groups, very specific groups that might swing more Democrat or Republican. Check out some of the charts. Many stereotypes are confirmed. But there are just as many surprises.

The first chart concerns information and entertainment. Democrats like The New York Times, MSNBC, and Comedy Central. Republicans like Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, and the Golf Channel. But it gets more interesting toward the middle. Can you guess the great unifier, the ultimate bipartisan television station? It's HGTV. I guess House Hunters International carries across the aisle.

Now let's look at it another way. Add if they vote regularly or not and the mix changes a bit. Democrats that rarely vote like to watch VH1, while big turnout voters like CNN. Republicans that stay home on election day are probably watching CMT, while steady voters like TCM. Now this just surprises me to no end. Turner Classic Movies is my favorite channel. But I'll never turn. Maybe it's because they show Atlas Shrugged or The Fountainhead?

Apart from our differences, maybe it's the similarities that surprises me the most. Democrats and Republicans alike both enjoy Cadillacs, Wendys, looking on the internet for movie listings, and the biggest surprise to me, while Democrats favor Budweiser and Republicans favor Miller Lite both prefer a nice pint of Guinness. Maybe the best thing we can do to settle things down in Washington DC is to tap a keg, send the pages out for some Wendy's burgers, and watch House Hunters International together. Maybe if we concentrate on our similarities the differences won't matter that much. Let's start with the biggest one and work up from there. Number One: We are all Americans.

Now I'm off to get another pint.

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And most importantly: Thanks for reading me!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Kurt Vonnegut is in Heaven

If there is one thing I wish you all have the opportunity todo it is to meet your idol, or at the very least see them and hear them speakin person. I'm not talking about this week's musical "phenomenon" orlast week's winner of the big game. Those people are here one day and gone thenext, only to live forever as the answer to a trivia question or in the back pagesof an out of date record book. I'm also not talking about your loved ones, yourspouse, partner, or friends. True, they can and often are heroes in your life,but you interact with them every day, you are on familiar terms,you need and expect their support.

No, I'm talking about that one person outside of your circlethat may have influenced you deep inside, that made you think about things youhadn't before, that may have shown what was bad and what was good with theworld, that may have lifted up an ideal of something you wanted to aspire to.It may have been a teacher, a coach, an author, an artist, or, yes, I can thinkof a few, a musician. Whomever they may be knowing about them and what they didfilled you with such respect and awe that you said to yourself, "I want todo that. I want to be like them."

Last summer my son, Shaun, had the opportunity to see,listen to, and even meet for a few brief moments his idol, the author TerryPratchett.It was at NADWCON 2011 and it was great fun. I've written about it earlier in this blog. I won't do it again here. Just know I will never forget Shaun's face during that weekend.

I never got to meet Kurt Vonnegut but I did hear him speak. He came to the UW campus in 2003. The lecture was free and Union Theater was filled to capacity that night. My wife, Laurie, expressed some curiosity and came along. We found seats in the balcony in the middle of hundreds of college students. I found this encouraging that not only did they know him but were reading him as well. It was in college I first discovered him as well. It was wonderful to see that same appeal in the students around us.

It was noisy in the balcony. You might have thought we were waiting to see a rock star rather than an author. Then the lights dimmed and everyone got very quiet. I held my breath, and Kurt Vonnegut walked out on stage. There he was, a man, an author, who had spoken to me through his work for over 30 years. He did exist. He was real.

He walked to the edge of the stage, looked out over the audience, and said, "Wisconsin. Huh? I thought there'd be more blondes." And he smiled.

With that single comment he won over everyone in the house that night, devotees and skeptics, even my wife. We were in for an unforgettable evening. I still have the program from that night.

In looking for pictures for this post I stumble across something magnificent. It was an article Mr Vonnegut (what do you call your hero? I can't call him just Kurt) wrote for In These Times the day after he gave that speech in Madison. It contains a partial transcript of what he said the night we saw him. Reading it over I can picture so clearly again. It is here:

Amazing luck to find that today. Or was it luck?

Five years ago today he passed away. It bothered me a great deal then, and still does. Your heroes aren't supposed to die, they aren't supposed to be mortal just like me, they are above that. I miss his writing, his voice, his understanding, his anger. I believe reading his work, fiction and non-fiction, has made me a better writer and perhaps a better person.

In his talk in Madison he explained what it meant to be a Humanist and told us the funniest joke he knows.
"I am honorary president of the American Humanist Association, having succeeded the late, great science fiction writer Isaac Asimov in that functionless capacity. We Humanists try to behave well without any expectation of rewards or punishments in an afterlife. We serve as best we can the only abstraction with which we have any real familiarity, which is our community.
We had a memorial services for Isaac a few years back, and at one point I said, ''Isaac is up in Heaven now.'' It was the funniest thing I could have said to a group of Humanists. I rolled them in the aisles. It was several minutes before order could be restored. And if I should ever die, God forbid, I hope you will say, ''Kurt is up in Heaven now.'' That’s my favorite joke."
 Kurt Vonnegut is in Heaven. It's selfish but I wish he was still here.