Fear of the Butt-Bomb

Going through security at the airport is a big enough hassle, what with the scanning and the wands and the possibility of a strip search. But thankfully, it looks like cavity searches for explosives will not be coming in the near future.

The possibility of blowing up an aircraft with a strategically hidden “keister bomb” is still only a terrorist’s homoerotic wet dream, according to experts who talked to the Kansas City Star:

A month ago in Saudi Arabia, a terrorist named Abdullah Hassan Tali’ al-Asiri reportedly walked past palace checkpoints with a small bomb inserted in a body cavity. Judging by the al-Qaida video featuring him proudly holding a device before committing the deed, it was about 3 inches long.

He wanted to blow up a Saudi prince but succeeded only in blowing off his own bottom half and destroying the floor, killing himself in the process.

“The force of such an explosion would be in the direction of the easiest exit,” said the Missouri University of Science and Technology researcher and inventor of explosives, who more or less laughed off the threat.

“The rest of the body would work like a sandbag against the blast… though it would be a mess.”

The article is worth reading for the readers’ comments at the end. Nothing brings out the sophomoric humor quite like exploding suppositories.

Seriously, is that any way that a martyr would want to show up in paradise? My guess is, once he’s in the front gate and has been patted on the back, the questions would start — “The bomb was where? Did you put it there yourself, or…..?” — and wouldn’t end for all eternity.

My First Post for true/slant

true/slant is a very interesting new site for news and opinion. My friend Lou Carlozo has been posting there for a few months now, and he helped me get connected with the site. It’s quite a lot of fun to bounce around and see what the writers are thinking and commenting on one another. A few are journalists you’ve heard of–Matt Taibbi, Jamie Malanowski–and some are unknown but reporting from all over the world. It’s worth checking out.

Now for the next few months (at least), I’ll also be a contributor to the site. I’ve posted my first commentary and think you’ll like it. (If you’re sniffing around my site now, you know what to expect from me. No much reasoned analysis, lots of infantile humor.) If you like the essay, please register with true/slant and mark me down as someone you’re following. If I get enough readers following me, I get a pony.

Here’s the link for the essay, and an excerpt is below:

Dear Hugh Hefner:

I don’t know whether to thank you or sue you. For decades you’ve been blanketing America with acres and acres of pink, blemish-free female skin. You’ve been hawking the Playboy lifestyle of sophistication, erudition, and expensive electronics. You’ve been responsible for more elevated mattresses than Serta, Sealy and the Craftmatic Adjustable Bed combined.

But you had an agenda. You were trying to make me gay, weren’t you? (And I thought that’s what Details Magazine was for.)

Game Over for Milton Bradley

Posted this morning on Bardball:

Milton Bradley got into Trouble
Caught in the Wrigley Field bubble.
A Payday enormous
For such poor performance.
Now his Career’s nothing but rubble.
Sorry, Milt, that Chicago’s blunt fans
Made it seem less than a Candyland.
That’s the Risk that you take
Living Life by the lake.
It’s like permanent Ants in the Pants.
Is the Aggravation because you are black?
Balderdash, Milty, You Don’t Know Jack.
We all had a Clue
This is what you would do.
Last Word: Your Cranium‘s cracked.


Ernie Harwell Salute Tonight in Tigers Game

I just read in the Free Press that tonight, Ernie Harwell will be saluted during the game between the Tigers and the Royals. Harwell, one of the premier baseball broadcasters and a staple in the lives of anyone who lived in Michigan in the past 50 years, was diagnosed with inoperable bile duct cancer last month. (For some readers’ reactions to the news, check out this article in the Freep. Have a tissue ready.)

I wish I were able to tune in the game tonight in Chicago to see the message. I’m sure Ernie will be his gracious self and thank everyone for their well wishes and for making his life in Detroit so full. Whereas, in reality, he was the one who enriched our lives, with his skill, his great storytelling ability, his humor, and his seemingly endless goodwill for everyone. It’s hard to write about him without seeming maudlin, but if the world still values humility, graciousness and respect for your fellow man (all of which certainly have taken a beating in the news for the past few years), then every day should be a salute to his example. He lived a long, full life, and he made everyone’s lives better who came in contact with him.

A couple seasons ago, I sent a letter to Ernie to tell him about our new baseball poetry site, Bardball.com. I don’t know why, but I imagined he would acknowledge it in some way, because until felled with illness, he always had time for everyone. I was floored when he sent the postcard below AND mentioned us in his regular Free Press column. And dig that! “I appreciate your support. Enjoyed your verse.” I was over the moon when that arrived. And how cool is it that he used a Mickey Mantle stamp on it?

And now, news of his declining health makes me feel negligent, as if I haven’t searched out his books, or read his column as religiously as he deserves. I probably thought he would go on forever. That’s the kid in me, the one listening to Ernie and Paul Carey on the clock radio real quietly on a school night as the Tigers muddled their way through another game.

His books are great, but a little too anecdotal, which makes them a little choppy. Ernie’s not Roger Kahn, after all, but none of us are. He was best enjoyed in the moment, when the game was unfolding and he was talking about Sparky or Gibby or John Wockenfuss, or whether the pitcher had his best stuff that night, or the fan from Amherstberg who caught the foul ball. I’ve tried working on a poem for Ernie for Bardball for a couple years now, but have never been able to get it quite right. Maybe soon I’ll finish it, but it won’t be nearly adequate to describe the man. To get a full measure of him, for those of you out-of-towners, imagine his spicy baritone on Opening Day, when he would read from the Song of Solomon:

For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone;
The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.

All the sweetness of creation. And with that, another season began, and the world was new again.

How many broadcasters can give you that?

UPDATE: You can watch Ernie’s speech by going to Bless You Boys, and you can see the video highlight reel shown at the stadium last night at the Tigers website here.

“Daily Show” No Longer a Daily Requirement

The beginning of fall means getting back into certain routines around the homestead. Homework after school. Theater tickets. Public drinking. And more TV watching. After going cold turkey from TV for at least two months, the chance to catch up on old movies, “30 Rock” and The Simpsons is a vegetative delight.

But it also causes me to worry about “The Daily Show.” I thought the writing was getting a little weak in the spring. Jokes just didn’t have that certain “snap” they needed, and things didn’t build during their segments. “Colbert Report” has changed almost completely into a personality-driven show. I still love it, but don’t feel the need to catch it every single day. Now, I’m starting to think if I have to choose between the two, “Daily Show” might be more topical, but “Colbert” is always funnier.

Even the asides of wackiness are stronger on “Colbert”. Take last night, for instance. Colbert’s assertion that Kanye West was really out to pick a fight with him at the Video Music Awards? Weird, funny, psychologically dead-on.

Jon Stewart in a fat suit? Edging very close to Steve Allen.

I’d hate to think they can’t bring the show back to its former state, but maybe in our new era of earnestness, they’re feeling an urge to educate and not mock. Just because some flawed surveys say that young people get the majority of their news from “The Daily Show” doesn’t mean it should become the slacker version of “Grammar Rock.”

Sara Paretsky Reads Tribute to Mark Fidrych

Back at the Printers Row Lit Fest in June, after we appeared on a panel to discuss baseball and Cubbie Blues, I cornered Sara Paretsky and asked her to read a poem for Bardball.com. She was nice enough to agree to it, and looked over the 8 or so poems I just happened to have printed up. Just my luck, she chose my poem “Wings of the Bird”. We found a little vacant lecture room in the Harold Washington Library and taped this below. Hope you like (apologies in advance for the clumsy editing).

If you’re a Sara Paretsky fan (and of course, you should be), her new book starring V.I. Warshawski is coming out on September 22. You can find more info on the book, Hardball, at her webpage here.

The Olympic Bonanza

Satirists are usually of two minds about bad ideas. While bad ideas might be detrimental to society, the economy, or individual people’s lives, they generally lead to pretty good jokes.

So when I read that the Chicago City Council voted unanimously to guarantee any potential cost overruns for the 2016 Olympics, I was distinctly ambivalent. Bad idea? Sure. Funny material? It starts with the picture of all those clowns standing up and applauding like the Bulls just won in overtime. And the notion that this somehow proves that the Olympics have popular support around here.

This morning on WBBM, Stephanie Streeter, the chief executive officer of the US Olympic Committee, wanted to put a little fire under our collective seats by saying that Chicago is not the front runner for hosting the games. (Again: Good news? Bad news? Please don’t t’row me in dat Briar Patch!) She went on to say that we could really turn things around in time for the October 10 vote:

“What you want to do is be in the lead on the last day, after the vote is taken, not necessarily going into the competition,” she said, in an exclusive interview with WBBM.

Streeter said she believes Chicago is peaking at the right time. She called the Chicago bid “spectacular,” said Wednesday’s unanimous Chicago City Council vote to make financial guarantees erased one potential obstacle, and said the unanimity speaks far louder than the recent Chicago Tribune poll that showed Chicagoans nearly evenly split over support for the bid.

There’s another laugh for you: that the City Council vote represented a unanimity of spirit for the city as a whole. I assume she’s visited the city numerous times in recent years, and knows how things work. So, she’s either deluded, or she’s having a little wry laugh at the expense of the radio audience.

In their enthusiasm, the aldermen must believe the mayor’s assertion that everything’s covered, that in the unlikely event of an overrun, the city’s insurance will take care of it. The aldermen certainly have a hunger to crunch budgetary numbers–just look at how well they scrutinized the parking meter lease deal. These guys LIVE for their fiduciary duties!

The rest of the city? Forgive us if we’re the teensiest bit skeptical about this whole deal. Unless we see some real improvements in the city–most notably with mass transit–we’d like to know exactly what we’re all getting for the half-billion dollar bill we might end up footing.

But at least some of us cynical ones will get some material to work with.

Son Joins the Hordes of High School

It didn’t hit me yesterday, because I wasn’t the one who drove, but today I got hit with it smack in the face: Number One Son is in high school. As he left the car this morning, it looked as if he were entering a literal stream of young people, heading upriver (or down? Lousy metaphor), flapping around in the water, headed toward that ravenous monster, the future. Kids from all backgrounds (except I guess neglectful ones), dressed in all sorts of clothes (didn’t see many headscarves at the Catholic grade school), armed with enthusiasm and intelligence and a little blind naivete that likely is necessary to get a jump-start on adult life.

His anxiety was strong in the car, as he tried to bury himself in a thick biography of Emerson, Lake and Palmer. On Tuesday, enough things went wrong to alert him that he’s no longer at the parish school around the corner. His newfangledy tablet computer (which he got through an experimental school program) went out on him twice. He forgot his locker combination. And he came to realize that he might actually have to pay attention through his whole 90-minute classes and do most of his homework at night. At least there were no snafus on the CTA bus coming home.

He’ll be fine in a few weeks, I’m sure. But we’ll need to keep an eye on his stress levels, because they have a tendency to get bottled up until they explode. I’d blocked out of my mind, at least a little, how difficult the first weeks of high school were. One thing I do remember is, back in the day, I got myself so worked up with nerves and the fear of failure that I made myself sick for a few days. The only people I knew were my brother’s friends and the dorkiest kid in my grade school who was following me there. It was a school full of traditions and demanding standards and a lot of all-boy school machismo, and I really thought that I’d never make a friend there on my own terms. Of course, I eventually made some of my best friends there, some I still stay in touch with. But the immersion was more than my 14-year-old spirit could handle.

I had a dream a few days ago that I still had my handsome fat baby boy in my arms, and I was blowing neck farts on him. He smiled and laughed, we probably even talked about things in a dreamlike way. Damn, he was a handsome baby! I woke up satisfied, not sad or wistful. But oh if it were possible to hold your kids one more time in your arms, if only for a day! How much would any of us pay — how many years off our own life would we sacrifice — if such a thing could be done? It aches just to think about it. Sometimes it’s hard being a sentimental old fluff like me.

(Below is a family portrait that he drew when he was four years old, and his little sister was a caterwauling babe-in-arms. Note the monsters and space ships on the frame, and the pile of hair on his head. I think this was drawn when “Monsters, Inc.” had just come out.)

Having a Smoke Outside Tim Horton’s

On our trip to Canada in August, an old man having a smoke outside the Tim Horton’s in Baden, Ontario, noticed our Illinois license plates. “From the States, eh?” (Gotta say, stereotypes aside, this was the one time I heard an “Eh?” for the whole trip.)


“They don’t treat their old folks too good down there.”

Well, there you go, a great way to start a conversation. I could callously agree and get on with my cruller-eating, or disagree and get into a discussion with someone who had obviously made up his own mind. Where are you now, Dale Carnegie?

Despite the misconception, Canada does have one national language, and it is politeness. So I had to actually try and converse with him. It really didn’t go anywhere, as he just wanted to tell me he pays $4 for his prescriptions and he knows all about the US because he and his late wife used to golf a lot in North Carolina.

But one reason to stop and talk was to get an outsider’s opinion of the whole health care “debate” now devolving. I hadn’t seen any of the town hall shouting matches, but I don’t think I needed to. If I wanted to see a bunch of middle-aged white guys shouting, I could go to a demolition derby. Unfortunately, I’m pretty uninformed about the topic. Which generally doesn’t stop anyone from having an opinion, but I’m kind of old school about such things. I also don’t like arguing with pensioners. Bad form.

But to explain to him why the arguments were happening the way they have been? Sort of impossible in a casual setting. If he didn’t know that America is more dog-eat-dog than Canada by this stage in his life, he’s not paying attention, and to make the point felt like self-flagellation. Which isn’t covered by my insurance.

I haven’t bothered to watch many of the town hall screamfests now that I’m back with a TV and broadband access. I mean, what’s there to learn, except that a huge portion of my country has been pounded by economic and social change and doesn’t like it one bit, and has decided that aligning themselves with the pharma-insurance industry will improve their lives? Today, I did watch the video clip from the NJ meeting, when a woman in a wheelchair with auto-immune problems was heckled and mocked because she might lose her home. Was it cruel? Yes. Surprising? No.

Because a large portion of Americans have no big objections to watching people’s lives collapse. Not a majority, I don’t think, but certainly a good chunk. As long as they’re not personally affected and their corner of the world stays the same, everyone else can just go to hell. You can dress it all up in flashy principles like small government, no creeping socialism, and all that, but that group of people really doesn’t mind watching others suffer. “The devil take the hindmost,” they think, and one more day when someone else is the hindmost is a good one.

Trying to explain that to a nice old Canuck in front of a donut shop isn’t easy. I didn’t try.

But at the end of our conversation, as a way of sign-off, he said, “Well, regardless, you guys seem to get things done in the end. You find ways to get it all together.”

Sure we do, as long as you don’t tally up all the costs.