Darwin Exhibit at Field Museum

The family took in a preview of the new exhibit at the Field Museum last week, and had a terrific time. “Darwin” is a thorough profile of the shaggy naturalist who laid the bedrock of modern biological science with his “On the Origin of Species.” I heartily endorse the show, which runs through January 1. You’ll come away with it with a new appreciation of how hard he worked at what he loved, and how his inescapable conclusions about evolution gave him incredible grief (weakened his own faith, threatened his marriage).

My favorite quote from his letters came from a missive sent during college to one of his favorite cousins and fellow bug-hunters: “I am dying by inches, from not having any body to talk to about insects”

I wrote a post about it for the Huffington Post, which you can find here. In it , I present a modest proposal (really modest, b/c I didn’t feel like belaboring the point) to airlift these types of exhibits to the American hinterlands and not-so-hinterlands where cretins believe that God created fossils and other evolutionary evidence just to confuse us and test our faith.

Article of Ol’ Fashioned Summer Fun

I apologize for the lack of postings lately, but the blame lies squarely on outside impediments: The dial-up service I’ve been dealing with lately, and the fact that I’m trying to write essays, stories and other posts to give a little boost to the profile of Recut Madness in other markets, with other readers. Not that I don’t appreciate all 7 of you out there, but I need to spread the net a little wider to pull in some new eyes.

One piece you might like is in the new issue of Lake Magazine, in which nouveau riche bozos like myself learn about the best wine tastings and ice cream shops over on Michigan’s western shore. (Actually, it’s not a bad magazine at all, and publishes a funny writer named Wade Rouse from whom you will probably hear more in the future.) My article recounts the experience of buying fireworks in Indiana, then bringing them to the cottage. I was forced to excise a passage that hinted that this was illegal, even though it is, because the magazine needed to protect its brand image. It ain’t Outlaw Biker, after all.

Anyway, the first paragraph reads thusly:

Summer in Michigan promises many refined moments. Gallery openings. Wine tastings. Sunsets on the beach. But underlying all this elegance are numerous messy jobs that need doing, jobs that take grit, tenacity and steady nerves in the face of danger.

Somebody, after all, needs to buy the fireworks.

“You don’t need fireworks,” my wife has claimed, on more than one occasion. “You just want them.”

“But how will the kids learn about handling fireworks safely if I don’t teach them?”

And if you want to read the rest, click here. Enjoy.

Interview This Morning on WBEZ!

This morning WBEZ-FM will run an interview they did with me a couple weeks ago, regarding Recut Madness and various and sundry matters. So tune in to “848” at 9 am, or listen for the rebroadcast in the evening, or listen to it online. Whatever you do, don’t miss it or you’ll miss a clue about where I’ve hidden all of Joey The Clown’s loot.

UPDATE: Here’s a link to the program, where you can find the MP3.

New Poem for BARDBALL

In honor of the bare-knuckle fightin’ spirit of Cubs catcher Michael Barrett, I whipped up the saga below and posted it to Bardball today. If you haven’t checked out Bardball yet, click on that blue box on the right and get with it, baby!


This is the saga of Battlin’ Mike Barrett,
A tiger of a man with fists of ore.
He’d raise his dukes and take on all comers,
Regardless the color of jersey they wore.

His mighty hands landed many a blow.
He never backed down from a brawl.
But such hardened paws don’t do you much good
When your job’s to be fielding the ball.

Wide World of Sports

What’s with this stupid beanbag game I keep seeing? This weekend we drove by three different places where young guys were barbecuing and drinking beer on the stoop, and they all were tossing their beanbags at a piece of plywood with cut-out holes. (Except for a group near DePaul, who my wife pointed out were playing Toss-Across. The leaders of tomorrow apparently feel the need for the greater challenge of long-distance tic-tac-toe.) It’s starting to look like Romper Room with Leinenkugels out there.

Apparently this is a big pastime with Bears tailgators, while they hang around drinking schnapps on Sunday morning. Okay, maybe there’s not a lot to do in a parking lot in November for a couple hours before they open the turnstiles for you, so you get this thing out to play toss around, and maybe the beanbags are soft enough that when some boozer gets out of control, he doesn’t injure anyone with an errant toss. That I can understand. (Also, the fact that it doesn’t take a whole lot to amuse football fans.) But why in the name of Leon’s Barbecue would you do this in your own backyard? Is the art of conversation COMPLETELY dead and buried now? Are black-market Jarts too hard to find? Does Horseshoes require too much training and conditioning?

If you’re REALLY that hard up for something to do while waiting for the coals to heat up, may I suggest something in a more classic vein, like Russian Roulette?

Printers Row Book Fair

For anybody in the area considering a trip to The Printers Row Book Fair this weekend, consider this: I’ll be speaking with film critic and writer David Kipen on Sunday at 12:30. We’ll be talking about writers in the movies, as well as Recut Madness (I hope). David is the director of literature for the National Endowment for the Arts and author of The Schreiber Theory, which aruges that writers and not directors are (or should be) the driving creative force in film.

So stop by University Center, 525 S, State, at 12:30 for a good talk, some autographin’ and then bookstall browsin’ till you keel over from the heat and/or pile of purchases you’re lugging around.

“BARDBALL” Officially Launched

Ladies and Gentlemen, let’s play ball!

I’m proud to introduce to you all the official site of BARDBALL, dedicated to the art of spontaneous poetry about the national pastime. My fellow Hungerdunger Stu Shea and I have been talking about this type of site for about 6 weeks, and now, after the web craftsmanship of the mysterious Dan X., it is ready to take the field in its home whites.

The whole thing was inspired by gamma-ray-enhanced slugger Barry Bonds last spring. You might have seen the limericks penned by us and a few of our friends on this blogsite. Those poems came so easily that we kept swapping verse back and forth about any number of baseball items. And we got to thinking, “Hey, let’s get this going nationwide!” I’m still amused by the image of a grandstand full of people with pen in hand, searching for just the proper metaphor to describe how their team’s bullpen just served up 5 runs. (“A break in the dam? Swatting a beehive? Serving up the Hell’s Angels some tequila and greenies?”) And now that Barry has slowed down in his quest to make the whole country uncomfortable, we have the chance to squeeze in many more poetic tributes to his “massive 90-pound cranium.”

A hundred years ago, baseball writers routinely penned doggerel to publish in their daily columns. “Tinker to Evers to Chance” was one of the most famous, and arguably was a major reason those three players were inducted in Cooperstown on their first try. These days, with the advent of the blogosphere, everyone potentially has their own column inches to fill, so if they’re looking for inspiration, they could do worse than look to those noble bozos out on the diamond. One doesn’t have to be a baseball expert or statistics nerd to contribute to Bardball–casual fans have opinions and talent, too.

So check it out, and if you like it, tell your friends to visit Bardball. If we get enough entries, the entire season will end up documented, parsed and versified. Maybe we’ll bind them in a book somehow, and sneak a copy into the cornerstone of the new Yankee Stadium. Who knows? Stranger things have happened.

And to commemorate the launch of Bardball, I want you to click on this link for one of the best managerial tirades you will ever see. What happened this past weekend, with Piniella and Guillen and Jim Leyland getting the boot, was exciting, but for sheer imagination and showmanship, you have to doff your cap to Phil Wellman of the Mississippi Braves for his performance Friday night.