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Friday, June 30, 2006

Did you know?

Barack Obama's middle name is "Hussein"? For some reason that never came up in any of the conversations I ever had with him.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

a new foothold

So you guys like this blog?

Of course you do, because you're here. Unless you surfed in looking for some random info on the "American Demigods", the framers of the Constitution. Well I have some of that too: Alexander Hamilton's favorite horse was named "Snowflake".

But to the point, what's better than a Rory blog? Why two Rory blogs! That's right, I now regularly write for an all new portion of this globally reaching snare:

It's about advertising. Me and my roommate Reina write about TV ads and how weird they are. So far it's mostly me, because Reina's busy, but hopefully will change.

So go check that one out too.

There's no stopping me now...

Monday, June 26, 2006

Everyone's Fat...

That seems to be as good a moral as any to take away from one's ten year high school reunion. It was in general, a mighty good time. It was fun, I'm still mostly in touch with my best friends from high school but it was very cool to see, you know, my more mediocre friends again. Much like "Grosse Pointe Blank" I found myself reconciling with my high school bully! Kevin Conroy is really someone I would need to describe to you in person for you to begin to understand what he was like. Think Biff from "Back to the Future" and you might be sort of on the right track. He used to call my friend Tom Deluca "Tom Depukea". My recently married friend Nora related to me how she met Kevin on a bus, the summer after freshman year. She innocently showed Kevin a tape, saying "This is my favorite tape that I like to listen to...", Kevin immediately grabbed it and destroyed it, Nora spent the rest of the bus ride franticly trying to put the tape back in while he laughed. Oh, good times...

Anyway, Kevin got all huggy with me and told me how "Everyone grows up..." I suppose they do.

And then there was Tom Callahan, the incredibly strange kid who always used to grab people and furtively ask people if they believed in "the UFO's" What are you doing these days, Tom?

"I'm working at a SPY!"

Cute girls I was barely acquainted with gave me their numbers. That was nice...

Lots of people have reproduced. Madness.

I got very, very drunk. The most treacherous phrase in the English language may well be "open bar", the second most treacherous is "Your friend's expense account".

So the next day was major hangover time. I'm not a man who drinks to excess often, so I'm not much used to that feeling, but I'm sufficiently familiar with it to know I don't like it. So I started Googling "hangover cures". Did you know that milkshakes are hangover cures?

Shit, Negro, that was all you had to say!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Word of God is surprisingly lacking in punch

Overheard conversation at work:

"Jesus is my savior but the book is boring."

Tomorrow is my ten year high school reunion, I have to furiously look through my senior yearbook in the hopes that I will remember who the hell any of those people are.

Hopes that have been held since about one year after my graduation that the reunion would be anything like the movie Grosse Pointe Blank seem to have waned but they're not down for the count yet. Hiring a notorious Eastern European terrorist to impersonate one of my classmates and try to kill me on the dance floor is exactly the sort of stunt my enemies would pull. I've always envisioned beautiful movie starlets draped over my shoulders and throngs of adoring fans for this event, (definitely in 2016) I'm going to try to come up with something slightly more articulate than "Er, well I'm temping and uh...I still write plays..." and hopefully I'll in turn hear something more articulate than " were so *weird* in high school, I mean like, *really*, *really* weird..."

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

please stop

The Chicago Tribune, which for some reason, I read every day (it used to be the Boondocks) publishes a supplemental edition aimed at a "younger demographic" called the Red Eye. The Red Eye regularly makes me want to vomit with rage. The fact that it has published the writings of one T. Winters only makes it worse.

It's just mind bogglingly awful stuff. Anyway, a couple of days ago it had a frontpage story about how "manly men" were "back" "in" according to pop culture barometers i.e. beer commercials. The title was "Return of the Guy's Guy", the headline was something like "Obey the man laws: get tough, never wear pink, no more chick flicks."

Okay, here's me being tough: FUCK OFF!

Stop it. Just stop it. I'm really tired of reading about what my gender is supposed to be like. Stop it. Now. I'm not kidding. Stop it. It doesn't quite meet the standards of the revelation that two straight men going out to dinner together is apparently something unusual according to the New York Times but it's close.

Being "manly" is all about, I don't know...being an idiot. I do know lots of manly men, they're all stupid and unpleasant. The majority of men I know are in no way "manly" by the standards of beer commercials and idiotic lifestyle articles in pseudo newspapers.

I'm boggled by where this comes from, the people who have these ideas are either women or men who are hilariously insecure.

The best part of the article was a conversation with Leo Burnett ad execs (both women apparently):

"But Rose Cameron, senior vice president, planning director at Chicago-based Leo Burnett ad company, said the trend illustrates that men are struggling to adjust to gender roles that have become grayer as women strive for equality."

"Men are redefining what it means to be powerful or successful in a completely changed world," said Cameron, who conducted an extensive study last year on men's role in society. "The rules are no longer clear, they are in the process of being rewritten, and that's why you get things like the man law ad.""

I was born in 1978! I don't consider "adjusting" to the concept of female social equality to be a problem! Seriously, it's cool, don't knock yourselves out on my account...

"Marketers are playing to women differently, trying to talk to them as individuals-such as the Dove "Real Women" campaign-rather than unifying them under some universal female truths, said Denise Fedewa, executive planning director for Leo Burnett. "You probably won't see an ad with women huddled at a table declaring female laws, Fedewa said, because women are celebrating their differences."

Now this is funny, "This group of people over here, they're individuals, that other group of people over there however, is not."

"Men are sort of a group under siege," she said. "They're a bit down right now, feeling a little emasculated, while women are a little bit up."

Yeah, I wish I lived somewhere where men weren't under siege and got to be "a little bit up". Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia come to mind.

Listen, I've got a message for anyone out there who refers to himself as a "man's man" without irony, if indeed there is such a person:

I'm a straight man who talks about his feelings, I'd rather watch musical theatre than football, I love the cinema of Hugh Grant and John Cusack, I enjoy Jane Austen, and I could *still* kick your ass. Verbally.

Joss Whedon, who is far from being a "man's man" and is merely *the* man, has some brilliant things to say in this speech about gender equality:

I've forgotten how to link to things in Greymatter but cut and paste it, it's worth your time.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Modern Prometheus

Man, I just got all bitten up by a cat. What did I do to it, except pet it and stuff? I am almost as incompetent with nature as I am with artifice.

My neighborhood is filled with adorable dogs, and to a lesser extent, adorable cats, my roommate and I have both kind of adopted them. By maintaining good relations with their human overlords, we have managed to have all the good parts of having pets without the frequent drawbacks. Have I ever told you about my neighbor Lynn's dog Cody? "COODDDY" is all I have to say about that subject.

Anyway, I was playing with a cat in my building's backyard/parking lot, and the cat seemed all into being played with and started biting me a bit. Now I was okay with that at first, because I've always been told that cats bite playfully, and I've always been totally cool with cats biting me, and it has always felt playful in the past. But now I'm thinking maybe it's just my childhood friend who owns twelve cats and is determined to cast all feline behavior in a positive light that's told me that. I realized after a couple of moments that this biting wasn't playful. This biting was a futile, hubristic but damned if one doesn't have to sort of admire it attempt to kill and eat me. This beast either saw me as a threat or as the ultimate hunting challenge, or a bit of both. Although this furry bastard failed to take me down, it didn't leave me unscarred...And it lived to tell the tale of its battle with a homo sapien giant, which I think makes it one of the more powerful creatures of the 4951 N. Oakley community.

more plugging and meteorological notes

I'm a big fan of summer. It rules. So nice and green. I just walked around Winnemac Park, a nice little patch of ground around the corner of my apartment. Perhaps later I'll walk around Lincoln Square a bit. Yesterday was even better, walking and driving around downtown Evanston. Perhaps if I'm very good in this life, I will get to spend eternity in downtown Evanston in June.

So Keyhole Theatre has accepted my short play, "The New Models" into their "Built in a Day" festival. Like the Darknight Gallery, it's the kind of thing where the actors and directors go in completely cold the morning of (actually the directors have three days in DK) the show and put the thing together in twelve hours. I'm fond of the concept, but it's even more daring than DK because the directors are almost as cold as the actors and there are *three* performances in one night. Still, my hopes are pretty high that they know what they're doing. I like my play. I think it's okay.

Anyway, that's August 5, 2006 at the St. Josephinum theatre, 7:30, 9, and 10:30, ONE NIGHT ONLY.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

deserving of its own post

To weigh in on the argument I inadvertently started down there, humanities versus math/science, I of course view it to be a false and absurd choice, obviously, we need both, and there are different levels of aptitude and interest in them. But I quite understand why Michelle is sensitive on the topic. Because I'm probably much, much more sensitive on the topic. You see, all my life, I've been terrible at a lot of things, most things really, and I've always thought of myself, fundamentally, as very stupid. I'm very puzzled by the physical world and people laugh at me for it. I always did very badly in scholastic pursuits, pretty much from kindergarten on, my oldest friend and occasional web correspondent Anna mentioned how hard it was for me to color inside the lines...Actual neurologists from Loyola University Chicago examined my brain when I was in junior high and concluded that significant portions of it (like the parts that are in charge of higher math as well as very simple spatial and motor functions) don't work very well at all. So if I don't understand math and science (as well as a lot of much simpler things) it's not because I'm not interested or willing to work hard, it's because I have a built in barrier. So where does that leave me? Well, the humanities I suppose.

But in the preceding, I don't mean to give credence to the notion that the humanities are of less value. I like all of the people who flamed each other down there, except Pocket, whom I don't know from Adam, and they all have good points. Cavinicus points out that it is far easier to go through the motions of undergraduate humanities studies and come out with a degree than it is to do the equivalent with the sciences. Everyone knows that, the fallacy is that everyone who goes through that curriculum does. Michelle is proof of that, as she did in fact turn her English degree into a profession. I absolutely do not repudiate my English degree, I mostly loved earning it, although I really wish I'd double majored in Poli Sci, which I almost did, and would have come in handy when I discovered Barack before virtually anyone else in the world did. Maybe I would have gotten a job, that would have been pretty sweet.

I think Twinters actually had the wisest comment here, universites are about education, not vocation. That's how they began, you know, when professors were monks, and I think we can all agree that everything went downhill from there. It seems very American to turn education into a commodity, and since the rest of the world is emulating America these days (China and India want two cars in every garage) they're all seeing what learning can do for them in terms of profit generation. Understandable, but there's something very sad about that. I sometimes wish I'd gone to college prior to World War II, when it really was understood as a tool for creating cultivated young people (albeit mostly rich, white male young people) and it wasn't considered a tool of socioeconomic advancement for virtually every middle class yokel, most of whom honestly don't belong in a higher education setting, not that most of those upper class twits did either.

The real question for me, is "Did the English degree help me as a writer"? And the answer is that of course it did, because it allowed me to spend much of my time doing what's probably the most important thing for a writer to do, reading things. Although one can go much too far in that direction, the sage Kurt Vonnegut counseled against too many writers being English majors because "I find it tremendously refreshing when a young writer has something on his mind other than the history of literature so far. Literature should not disappear up it's own asshole so to speak." I think that quote partially inspired my friend Marc to get not one but two other degrees to supplement his English degree. Not because of supposed economic advantages, but because Vonnegut is very smart. And I would have double majored in poli sci...if I'd gotten around to it.

Anyway, on the more romantic side of the quotation game, Robin Williams' character in Dead Poets Society said "Law, medicine, business, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life, but poetry, beauty, music...these are the things that we stay alive *for*!"

I don't think much can be added to that.

Oh, but I would like to say it's occasionally embarrassing to have professional editors reading this thing, I do dash it off pretty carelessly, and sometimes I'll find clauses that make virtually no sense, like:

"Every now and then, I find myself writing something highly questionable on this website and it then the whole phenomenon of corporate HR Departments googling people"


Friday, June 16, 2006

The Gentleman From Illinois

Barack was Barack. You make a grown man cry...

The speech was in Dyche Stadium, or what is now known as the Welsh-Ryan arena. (Isn't the point of spending a lot of money on a monument to ensure that your name will live on through the ages? You're only setting yourselves up for the big hurt in a couple of generations, Messrs Welsh, Ryan)

This is where I graduated from high school ten years, two weeks and two days ago. And also where I marched in a 4th of July parade with Barack two years, eleven months and...let's just say three years ago. How far that "skinny guy from the South Side with the funny name" has come.

As one might expect, the speech was essentially a call to arms for a generation and all that. He made excellent use of that hoary old bit from Saint Paul about putting childish things away, which I've never much liked, but he made me like it.

Speaking of childish things, there was a maybe three year old kid running around near me, acting like a three year old. At one point he asked the very appropriate questions "What's going on?" and "Who is that guy?" I hope someday someone tells him who that guy was, and I hope he tells his grandchildren...

Another event to which I could use a date

Okay, last minute, a family friend is graduating from Northwestern in Evanston tonight. The commencement speaker is one Barack Obama. Family friend has given me two tickets, anyone else who'd like to come and is reading this in the next few hours can call me at 773 988 0850. The doors open at six but I'm sure the riveting speech will be later in the evening.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

A speech

This is making me cry, will someone in Chicago read this that's willing to pay me more than $11 an hour?

It's graduation time, and the rush is on to hire college graduates whose majors nicely fit the fields where they intend to make their marks.

As a college president, I am grateful that America needs students who are graduating with degrees in fields such as business and engineering. However, I'd like to propose another idea: Hire English majors as well.

In our technology-driven economy, those who use good grammar, who can write well and who have an appreciation for great literature aren't initially seen as great hires.

Later, however, these same companies realize that someone has to write the technical manuals that all employees must be able to understand.

Someone has to meet with representatives of other companies to make the sale and secure the business.

English majors are educated beyond employers' niches and can talk about what they have read lately, the state of the fine arts and the importance of effective communication.

English majors are great conversationalists. Why? Because they have something to say and they know how to communicate. Because they are well-read, their world is more inviting to friends, colleagues and potential business customers.

Everyone learns how rich the world of literature is from English majors. They read, they write, they communicate effectively, and -- unlike so many of us -- they have something to say that's worth hearing.

Because they love literature, they are destined to be lifelong learners. English majors make my heart jump for joy when their résumés cross my desk.

When we don't read outside our field, when we specialize too early in our educational journey, when we don't prepare ourselves to communicate in a global society, we relegate ourselves to a one-dimensional prison of close-mindedness.

English majors have other skills that make them desirable across a variety of occupations. These include the ability to think critically, to analyze, to evaluate and to do research.

English majors have gone on to successful careers in fields ranging from banking to state government.

Although success after college usually doesn't come immediately to those who major in English, they slowly but surely rise to positions of influence in their chosen careers and in their communities.

Why not go ahead and hire them now?

Jake Schrum is president of Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas.

Sunday, June 11, 2006


I am undefeated! I have participated in the annual Darknight Gallery short play competition for three consecutive years as both an actor and a playwright. As of last night, my record is 3-0. I am the greatest, I am the prettiest!

Actually, my friend Nora Best, whose record is 2-0 is probably the prettiest...

Thursday, June 8, 2006


A couple of nights ago, at an open mike night event that preceded a benefit for the Viola Project, the Shakespeare for Girls workshop founded by my roommate and another friend, I got to read the opening monologue of Activision before a bunch of folks, a play that I wish existed in full theatrical form but getting to read it to said folks is a nice little taste of how nice it would be if it did in fact exist. People seemed to like it, one guy even bought me a beer.

The monologue is basically the alienated feelings of a brokenhearted liberal idealist about America. It might not be stretching things too much if one were to speculate that in this scene at least, the character might be a touch autobiographical. Anyway, I thought of that when I started reading about ol' Ann Coulter's latest work. Provocation is what she loves I guess, so maybe she's winning by making me write about her. I don't really care. I suspect all her victories are hollow. This is the woman who laughingly mocks Max Cleland for losing three limbs in Vietnam from a friendly grenade instead of an enemy weapon. The woman who tells us her "one regret" about Timothy McVeigh was that he didn't blow up the New York Times building. The woman who tells us that all liberal women are "ugly". Those are just the more well known ones, my favorites are obscure gems like "The Muslims hate us? Fine, we hate them. The Japanese used to hate us but a couple of well placed nuclear bombs later, they're gentle little lambs."

She always calls herself a "humorist" and a "satirist", the defense that reminds you of the subtle junior high bully who rips you apart in front of your friends and then protests that she's only kidding. Her "comedy" brings to mind a brilliant bit from a recent New Yorker issue that talked about Adolf Hitler's (Godwin's Law be damned) sense of humor. It imagined the jokes he might tell like: A guy goes to a doctor, the doctor says "You have minutes to live", the guy says "I want a second opinion", the doctor says "Okay, you're also of an inferior race." then shoots him.

I knew who she was probably as far back as 1997 or so when she and her fellow blonde fascists were regular guests on Bill Maher's show and other infotainment outlets, but I think I first really noticed her breaking out of the pack in the aftermath of the 2000 election, when I read a column of hers that suggested the famously disenfranchised elderly voters in Florida were not true Floridians at all but rather "nostalgic Stalinists from Brooklyn, New York, transplanted to Florida in their dotage." My eyes immediately widened as I wondered how many words are really necessary in order to express the concept "Jews." To this day, I've never seen anyone else comment on that one. But it really demonstrated the sea change in terms of what's acceptable and not acceptable to say in the mainstream media. It used to be that vicious racial bigotry needed a little veil to cover it up. It still does. But the veil has gotten a lot shorter. In a way, I think that's a good thing. I think the full gamut of ideas can and should be expressed in public forums. But the veil should be taken off entirely. If you want to say Jews, say Jews...

The thing is, our mass media, which each side says is biased for the other side but I don't think is biased for either so much as dumb, tends to condemn Coulter but it has the same sort of half condemnation, half giggling appreciation for her that it has for Michael Moore. They put them in the same box, just a couple of crazy, colorful extremists. Now there's a lot I don't like about Michael Moore. In fact there's a lot I really dislike about the man, who has said some very unwise and immoderate things. But the truth is, you can get a lot farther into the stupid Left than Moore, but you won't see them on TV. And more apropos, he doesn't deserve to be in the same box with Coulter. Frankly no one does.

So the big, current controversy is about how she attacks a quartet of the 9/11 widows who had the audacity to support John Kerry's candidacy for the presidency on the heretical basis that he might do a better job of handling national security than the current president. And they called for a full investigation into pre-9/11 intelligence. (If Al Gore had been president on September 11, 2001, he would have been impeached by Christmas) Ann refers to them as "witches" and suggests that they have taken "glee" in their husbands' deaths. As usual, the newspapers only tell a fraction of the story, and I had to investigate myself. I picked up her book and I read about fifteen seconds before she made a joke about Bill Clinton (whom the widows interviewed and called "forthcoming) having sex with them. That's when I slammed the book shut.

Why is this woman, apologies to every woman in the world, why is this inhuman *thing* still given a place atop some of the most powerful forums of our republic?

More than the usual gang of idiots are talking about her this time. New York's Republican governor has issued words of condemnation for her book, as has a White House spokesman. This feels like the turning of the tide, her "Have you at long last no decency?" moment in which she is finally driven from the public discourse.

But it won't matter. The truth is she does represent the views of countless people who call themselves Americans. People who say the things she says in living rooms and backroad bars all over this country that don't bother cloaking it in fancy phraseology. But like I said, I wish the veil would come completely off.

I wish she could just say "Jews" when she means "Jews". Or "faggots" when she means "faggots". Or "niggers and spics" when she means "niggers and spics".

What I'm afraid of is that it wouldn't make much of a difference.

Monday, June 5, 2006

What I really think about Benny Hill

Dear Prospective Future Employers...

Every now and then, I find myself writing something highly questionable on this website and it then the whole phenomenon of corporate HR Departments googling people, seeing silly things by and about them on the Internet and then denying them jobs. We'll call the aforementioned phenomenon "The Walking Nipple Effect". While I think this is Orwellian bullshit, I would like to be hired for a job again someday, because a man's gots to pay the bills, so I humbly address this to you, Mr. and Ms. Corporate Overlord: I think of this website, not as a journal of mundane events or "blog" (more like blahg! Ha!) but rather as a continuous, ongoing literary work. A literary work that aims to explore the full range of the human experience, including the darker places. So when I write something in which I tell the reader I "hate" him/her and would like to see warm, red blood gushing down his/her chin, it's to be understood that I don't mean that literally. It's a fleeting expression of a bad mood and a usage of very dark humor.

"Harumph." you may say. "Well I don't see anything funny about the idea of warm, red blood gushing down someone's chin."

Well I don't see anything funny about Benny Hill but that doesn't mean I wouldn't give him a job.

Actually I wouldn't. But not because he wasn't funny. Because he'd spend all his time running around trying to pull women's dresses off. And that would be inappropriate for the workplace.

Come to think of it, Benny Hill is Hilarious!

Sunday, June 4, 2006

I could punch you in the mouth

I could punch you in the mouth and little red droplets of blood would be dripping down your chin. How would you like that? I bet you wouldn't but it could happen. If you see me again it might. The human race is a disease. I hate you.

Saturday, June 3, 2006

I'm cleaning my room...

11:30 AM: "Cleaning" being a relative term. When I'm done I don't think the room will be "clean" as the Western world traditionally defines it, but it will be less horrifying. I discover, every few months that even I have my limits...Oh God...How does this happen? Seriously, I'll just lay this piece of paper here and I'll pick it up later and I'll also hang my laundry up "later" so I can put my dirty clothes in the hamper instead of on the floor...It all starts so innocently...

11:45 AM: I have pushed myself far beyond the limits of human endurance. I have reached the summit of human knowledge...or the depths if you prefer. There is no food or water here...Please send help!

12:00: Most of my men are now dead or very near it. I myself suspect my own expiration is at hand... Posterity may well judge me a monster, a madman or a fool. I can only say for my own part that I am a man who set his course and did not deviate from it.

I remain, as ever, a humble student of the natural sciences,
R Leahy

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