Fatal Porch Collapse in Chicago Kills 12

I had a link to this story in the Sun-Times, but of course it’s expired by now�

Isn’t your first reaction to think “those people should’ve known better than to…?” Just like with the nightclub tragedies of a few months ago, it’s our way of compartmentalizing people different from us (in those cases, urban black clubbers and/or mulletheads, in this case Lincoln Park yuppies) and convincing ourselves that we would have better sense than to join 100 other people and a couple of kegs on a wooden fire escape.

But when herd mentality takes over, a lot of us will go along with the crowd, because if they’re doing it, it must be all right. Just like Mom suggested: if all my friends jumped off a cliff, maybe I might, too. I would also think that the building where this party was held had a rickety-looking metal fire escape, there might not be so many people on it. But we’re now pretty much conditioned to think that a structure built with treated lumber, that resembles the decks now built onto many homes, is a deck, and therefore we move the party there without a second thought. I’m sure quite a few decks on single family homes have collapsed over the years, but because many are no more than a few feet off the ground, there are usually no fatalities like this one.

To compound the case, the local news last night made frequent mention of the fact that the owners of the building were based in Canada and �could not be reached for comment.� Now that sure makes them sound like a couple of greedy absentee slumlords. But gee, maybe the owners couldn�t be reached because TV reporters were trying to call a business office on a Sunday?

Time to play a little catch-up:

The Homebrewers Conference was a lot of fun, even though I didn’t win anything in the National Homebrew Competition. Thursday was Club Night, at which I helped man the BOSS booth. At least I got people to sample my Chile Beer and agree that there is such a thing as Chile Beer that doesn’t suck. Also brought a crock pot of my Green Chile Pork Stew, which was halfway eaten before somebody remarked that it was still cold� the specialty outlets at the hotel didn’t work right, and I needed an electrician to bring a power block (even then, one attendee told me it was “still the best food here!”).

I was registered for all day Saturday, but my pal Nelson wanted to go, and I talked Barb into coming, so long as it was just to the “Real Beer Real Food” night. I not only can’t rememebr how many beers I had, I’m not sure I remember how many different kinds of beer I had. A lot of mostly sausages and cheeses were sampled, not to mention Eli’s Cheesecake.

“Actor and Star Trek alum William Marshall passed away last week. He was 78.”

You know, it pains me to admit that I had never associated the actor who played Blacula with his guest role on Star Trek (as Dr. Daystrom, who built “The Ultimate Computer” which took over Enterprise and screwed up a war game by shooting at other starships for real). Somehow I just never encountered that little piece of trivia in all my years of Trek geekdom. Worse yet, I didn’t know he had also been The King of Cartoons in Pee-Wee’s Playhouse.

Some years ago, an acting friend of mine played Roderigo in a Steppenwolf production of Othello opposite Gary Cole as Iago. The night I came to see it, Marshall was there after the show because the actor who played Othello was a friend or a student of his. I didn’t say anything to him I didn’t think he wanted to talk to some fanboy who had nothing interesting to say. Oh yeah, and Cole went from that production straight into his own TV show, Midnight Caller. Now he’s better known as the “new” Mike Brady (But he’s also Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law!).

I do remember Marshall had one of those wonderful, oratorial speaking voices, being as he was of the time when black actors had to get years of cred in theatre roles in New York or London, which usually meant more than one Othello, before Hollywood would even think of putting them on TV in a dignified role. Thus any black actor on TV before The Mod Squad had that Ossie Davis style of precise and declamatory speaking that added extra gravitas to their roles. I think that at that time, if a producer was willing to use a black actor at all, at least it would be in a positive role.

The National Homebrewers Conference is next week. I’ve sent my chile beer on for the final judging in the National Homebrew Competition. It’ll be a tough sell, because it counts on there being at least one judge who’s a real chile-head. Designed a small label for the commemorative mead that attendees will receive, and I’ll post it after the conference.

One reason I’m posting all of this is to put a few more links on the web to my new Cafe Press page, where I’m selling T-shirts, beer mugs and other items with my homebrew beer labels. A link like this one will help push my site up a little in Google searches, so they say.

Repeating an oldie but goody: Car Shows

This was one of my earliest posts, from June of 2002 (ah, memories). I accidentally deleted it from the Blogger interface, but kept fudging the template so it still shows in the archive. Now that I’ve switched templates, I’m just re-posting it so it won’t end up overwritten.

This past weekend (June 15), I discovered a little custom car show being held in a local McDonald’s parking lot. Along with the rather out-of-place stock Prowler and Viper (maybe there was Chrysler money involved), was an interesting, albeit usual assortment of restored and customized cars. Like a 1966 Ford Cobra, a low-rider car whose owner happily demonstrated its hydraulics, all the way back to a ’26 Ford Model T. Some, like the Cobra, needed only to be restored to their original condition to impress; others were chopped, lowered, revved up and otherwise refitted into impressive street rods. Some had extra banks of batteries in the back to power a honkin’ sound system. There was even a Rav 4 fitted out with both video and DVD players (running “The Fast and the Furious,” natch). Continue reading “Repeating an oldie but goody: Car Shows”

What I’m wasting time reading these days:

I was finally induced to pick up the Oxford American, a magazine of “Southern writing,” because it was the annual music issue. It comes with a CD of over 24 interesting artists who are each profiled in the magazine. It’s a great eclectic mix, all the way from a Blind Willie Johnson waxing from 1926 to My Morning Jacket, who are headlining this week here in Chicago; as well as the requisite early Willie Nelson song (the accompanying article makes clear that Willie is America’s Spliffmaster General. And one time in your life, you’re going to need to hear Del McCoury’s bluegrass rendition of Richard Thompson’s “1952 Vincent Black Lightning.”

Also finally subscribed to Cool and Strange Music, the fan magazine of any and all types of estoeric and odd records. My first issue cover featured Rudy Ray Moore, but more interesting was the profile of “Josie and the Pussycats,” which turns out to have been quite a boundary-breaker for Saturday Morning cartoons. The web site linked above also has many links to some of the best wierd and bad music sites on the planet. Getcher dose of Shatner and Nimoy singing all at once!

Oppose the War: You Must Be Out of Work!

My father has been forwarding every e-mail he is sent supporting the war, and containing stories of some unwashed anti-war protrester getting a can of Shut-Up opened on him by someone whose brother died in France (those ungrateful wretches!), etc. I was finally compelled to send this reply:

Here’s a story you can also forward to everyone on your list. You do forward them, don’t you, or do you actually agree with everything you send on?

Anyway, I know this one is true, because it happened to me! Continue reading “Oppose the War: You Must Be Out of Work!”

A Poem for Pop-Corn Days

Schaller, Iowa Pop Corn Days 2002
The Jaycees Beer Garden

A local band blangs away
  from a flatbed stage
In a beer garden walled
  by semitrailers

The singer channels the Foo Fighters
  like him, we’re “Lookin’ for the sky to save me,
   “Lookin’ for a sign of life”

In front of the stage
 a young mother “dances” with her daughter.
She’s wearing a tank top and not-quite-Daisy-Dukes
 so is the three-year old
Clinging tight to Mom’s hip.

Everyone is back in high school.