Friday, August 29, 2008


With the new semester getting underway, and a crazy couple of months on the horizon, I'm proud to introduce the first of a handful of changes to the blog. There's some tabs on the side that list other websites and there may be more little things like that on the way.

Also, I recently discovered a function that can email the blog to a reader every time there's a new post. It only allows for a few emails to get out, though, so email me soon [] if you want to be on that list.

More features and things like that are coming, so stay tuned.

Another change for the blog comes as I have made a very bold, very rash, almost McCain-esque decision to no longer ruminate and ramble on the events, candidates, or coverage of the 2008 election.

You may ask, what? Is Mark running from a fight? He can't stand the heat, and wants out of the kitchen?

Far from it. Like when any good argument fueled by ideology and whiskey gets to a certain level of intensity, men like to "take it outside". (Or at least, that's what I've heard, having never actually been in a bar fight). So I have decided to start ANOTHER blog, dedicated solely to the discussion of all things politics.

It's incredibly presumptive and elitist of me to think that any of you would have an interest in two blogs, but I guess the supporter's arrogant apple doesn't fall far from the candidate's tree. Its just that there's so much I'd like to say about what's going on politically but really want this blog to cover three things: my experience at USC, my experience as a Chicagoan living in Los Angeles, and the Chicago Cubs (who now sport their best record since 1945, the last year they made it to the World Series).

Besides, I won't be penning all the posts on my own. To keep things equal (or, if you must: "fair and balanced") I've invited a second contributor who displays his John McCain bumper sticker as proudly as I sport my Obama-Biden car magnet.

I won't say exactly who it is, but he's a lifelong friend, a stone cold conservative, and is responsible for some comment posts that rival Joe Biden in terms of length (but certainly not content).

[And, if anyone else out there fancies themselves a keen political mind, let me know (email above) and you too can contribute to the endless stream of self-important noise clogging the internet!]

The blog draws its name from the climax of a very close, very exciting, election that occurred 60 years ago (and caused a certain major metropolitan newspaper to have no small amount of egg on its face). For the inaugural post, I've decided to chat a bit about the coverage of things so far.

So keep a head's up for more changes, let me know if you want this emailed to you, expect a post soon about my first week of classes, and enjoy the first (and hopefully not the last) post on the all new, politically charged blog....


Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Big "O"

Don't worry, I'm not here to talk about the junior Senator from Illinois (but would he pick a VP already? McCain, too. These "veepstakes" has been about as exciting as a lecture about the merits of watching paint dry). 
No, I'm talking about the big "O" that has been populating the networks of NBC the past two weeks, and has taught America to develop a "Phelps Fetish", find a smoggier city than Los Angeles, and continue to find Tiki Barber annoying. 

It's the Olympics!

Now, unfortunately, I haven't been able to watch as much of the games as I'd like. It is great that many of the games are on really late: nothing like a bar full of guys watching 15-year old Chinese gymnasts at 1 in the morning.....
But the real underlying excitement for these games, at least from my perspective, is the "in-the-back-of-the-mind" thoughts about how great a certain city would be at hosting these very same Olympic games, approximately eight years from now.

That's right gang, it's time to get excited about CHICAGO 2016.

Now I think everyone is on the bus, but for those who aren't, let's picture how awesome this would be:
For two weeks (really, more than that) the eyes of the world would be upon our glittering skyline, the clocks of all nations would ignore Greenwich Mean and set their second-hands to the tick of Central Standard, the bars of our fair city would be populated with athletic, competitive young females from around the world, and would probably love to find some "American Boy" to show them around the city... 
Okay, probably not. But cute international girls are only one argument for why the 2016 Olympic torch should find its final destination in the Windy City. Infrastructure overhauls, international business attention, and a golden opportunity to revitalize the South Side are just a few more reasons we need to get behind this thing. 
And if anyone out there says anything like "oh my god, imagine the traffic" or "it's a waste of money" or "hey, I like Tiki Barber", well, you just sound stupid. And lame. 
Because cities hold Olympic for many reasons. Sometimes its because they want to move from obscurity to the world stage (Barcelona-1992, Los Angeles-1932), sometimes its because they want to show the world "Hey, we're not evil" (Berlin-1936, Beijing-2008) and sometimes its because someone lost a bar bet (Atlanta-1996). But Chicago 2016 would be more than that. It would be an opportunity for our city and our country to define the next century, much like Chicago did in 1893 with the World's Columbian Exposition.
For those who don't know about the 1893 World's Fair (first, Wikipedia it), then know that it was arguably the greatest feat ever accomplished by any city. It defined Chicago as the "Second City" that rose out of the ashes of the fire in 1871, and framed America as the world's leader in industry, ingenuity, and innovation. 

Now, I'm not saying that the Olympics would necessarily do all that, but in an America that is frighteningly fractured, and doesn't seem to have gotten together on anything since September 11th, wouldn't it be nice to put the flags out and get all "America: F#ck yeah!" again without there being a terrorist attack?
And wouldn't it be nice for Chicago, who, like in 1893, is setting new standards of architecture and urban planning, to be the showcase for what America is going to be in the next 100 years?

Plus, let's not forget about those sexy ladies of the Olympics. They can...

a) ...handle my javelin...
b)...bump, set, and spike me...
c)...smack my shuttlecock...
d)...mount my balance beam...


PS: Have any more sexually suggestive Olympic phrases? We need more! Send them to:

61 OZONE AVE, Suite #004
VENICE, CA 90291

Saturday, August 9, 2008

How 'Bout A Beer?

Well, it's been a few days since my long weekend (does six days classify as a "long weekend"?) trip to sweet home Chicago. Much fun was had: saw the Cubs beat the Pirates, Raged Against the Machine at Lolla, and spent some great times with friends and family.

Plus, its fair to say I had a drink or two. Maybe three.

Okay, so actually visited some local establishments: Hawkeye's, Joe's Be-Bop Cafe & Jazz Emporium, Butch McGuire's, Red Ivy, Easy Bar, Carol's Pub, The Dark Horse Tap and Grille, Central, the Old Town Ale House, Hawkeye's (again), and the Berghoff Cafe O'Hare Airport, to name a few.

Actually, that list comprises (to the best of my recollection) every location in Chicago I enjoyed a refreshing beverage of an alcoholic nature. While the list is not too impressive, I think my memory is. I'm sharing that list and posted some pics above because I wanted to say a few things about beers and bars.

One of the things about movin' out here that upset me - and continues to do so to this day, and probably will continue to in the future - is the bar scene in Los Angeles, or the lack there of. It's a fact that Chicago has more bars, and more bar-heavy neighborhoods than LA if you look at this chart from 2005, which Los Angeles is not even on. (Pretty embarrassing for a major city like LA, especially when Champaign, IL made the list).

Not to say that there's nowhere to have a good time or get a drink, but it's just not the same. The sprawling, car-driven nature of this city forces one to keep your alcohol intake to a minimum and makes the in-the-middle-of-the-street-hailing-a-cab-argument about what the next destination is a distant memory.

Plus, the typical laid-back Chicago bar where you've got beer on tap, sports on TV, and a guy in a t-shirt checkin' your ID is very hard to find in LA. Most places out here are clubs or bars that act like clubs, with large men in suits checkin' IDs and you can forget about getting an Old Style.

Another painful slap in the face when it comes to LA's ambivalence or outright belligerence of drinking culture is the 2 AM closing time. Citywide. Meaning, if you want a drink after 2 am in the city of LA you best go home, open your fridge and crack open a Pacifico.

The basic play-by-play of what happens at a typical bar in LA between 1am-2am is as follows:
1:15am - The bartender loudly calls "last call"
1:16am - You look at your watch in disbelief
1:22am - You finally get to the bar, get one last Miller Lite, and close the tab
1:30am - They turn on the lights
1:40am - A guy comes by and tells you its time to head for the door. You ignore him.
1:46am - A much larger guy comes and tells you to head to the door. You try to ignore him but then make up a BS story about waiting for a friend in the bathroom.
1:50am - The large man tells you again to leave. You plead with him to let you finish your beer.
1:52am- The beer is done, the bar is empty, and the large man is still near.
1:59am- The large man follows you and your friends to the door.
2:00am - As you spill onto the street the large man LOCKS the door behind you.

It's very frustrating at that point because you just stand around, all boozed up and no place to go. I don't know why the city is the way it is. The 2am call is probably to cut down on drunk driving, which I'm sure it does. The sprawl also makes it more of a chore to go bar-hopping. In Chicago one could expect to visit two to five bars in one night. In LA, its usually just one bar, maybe two; rarely three.

Now after reading all this I'm probably coming off as some red-nosed hiccuping souse who should really dry off. But as the pics above and my own experiences suggest, having a few (or more than a few) beers at a bar are a part of life. Going to a bar is such a fun, fantastic release filled with music, sports on TV, good friends, good drinks, and maybe a cute little something at that table who, it turns out, "has a boyfriend". Oh, really? Well where is he? He must not be a fun guy, leaving his girlfriend by herself on a Saturday night!

Sorry. Off-topic.

But I really do miss the bustling bars and taverns of the City of Big Shoulders. They are relaxed and fun and you never know who you might bump into. I will say I am very happy that a few of my good friends at USC share my love of the sauce and a good old fashioned beer and whiskey bar. The "Boozers" keep the Chicago drinkin' spirit alive out here on the west coast. And, like I said earlier, this place is not entirely devoid of bars and many a good time has been had and will be had in the establishments of the City of Angles. (I'm thinking I may blog a bit 'bout a few of my favorite bars in LA in the future).

In the meantime, enjoy all the taverns, pubs, ale houses, taps, bars, saloons and beer-halls that the Windy City has to offer (especially the late-night ones). I'll be joining y'all for a cold one soon enough, after the semester most likely. I'm going to get myself to be more focused and serious about what I;m doing here, and not allow myself to get distracted. But first...

how bout a beer?