Monday, October 30, 2006

Seven Is Magic.

Seven is magic.

There are seven ages of man.

There are seven seas.

There are seven deadly sins.

There are seven wonders of the world.

If you look here, there is an essay that calls out many more significant sevens, including the superstitious idea "In Iranian folklore the cat has seven, not nine, lives."

No matter what you believe, seven shows up in too many ways and forms to not be significant.

Seven is also the age of my marriage today. It's apparently the "wool anniversary", but we are treating it instead as the "pasta anniversary". We have reservations at Mario's tonight. It's easy to get last-minute reservations in Detroit on my anniversary, due to the whole "Devil's Night" paranoia that grips the suburban dwellers on this night. It's unfounded anymore; Devil's Night is more or less nonexistent in the city. That arsonists seem to have moved to Highland Park, a small suburb that has all of the blight of Detroit in a smaller area.

Reservations will probably be easier to get in the light of recent events in the news. Today, Detroit was named the second-most dangerous city in the U.S. We came in second to St. Louis. That's two second place finishes to St. Louis in one week! Always the bridesmaid...

Yarrrr! It was mutiny!
Originally uploaded by alpharat.

So Happy Anniversary to me! And thanks to Nicole for putting up with me all this time... here she is at our pirate-themed Halloween party this weekend, suffering the effects of a recent mutiny...

Thursday, October 26, 2006

World Series and Herds Of Ponies

I have tried to get this post up for a while, but every time I try, it gets delayed to where it's out of date, so I am just going to stream-of-consciousness it up here and go with it:

I was going to begin this post by apologizing again for not posting in a while, but:

A. I think you're all a bit used to that by now, and…

2. I just read this post where they compiled a bunch of posts of people doing the same thing, apologizing. (That 2 may or may not have been intentional, but I'm not apologizing if it was. I won't apologize for anything today.)

Things are whirlwinding right now. Two weeks ago, I was in Chicago. It was a blur of a weekend, and rather eventful and non- at the same time. I saw a lot of great old friends, drank a lot of wine, and even sat on the banks of a river, drinking Jager Bombs and watching beavers swim by at 4 AM (which prompted a phone call to ST, a phone call that I am not apologizing for today).

I like my new job a lot, as much as anyone can like a job. It may simply be the honeymoon phase, but I feel valued here, and while I may not be curing cancer, I am doing some things that are mildly important.

The World Series is off and running. How 'bout them Tigers? They may be down a game, but I think this is a series that will go back and forth.

It's exciting when we can get something like this in Detroit, just to get the city going and to pump some cash down there, but I'm done hoping this will be Detroit's big break. It seems like however many big breaks we give this city, they go nowhere. Casinos, new ballpark, new football stadium, All-star game, Superbowl, countless hockey and basketball championships, now a World Series… and then things will go back to normal, back to Detroit's quiet decay.

I just read this stat: in 1984, the last time the Tigers were in the series, Detroit's population was 1.1 million and climbing. Today? 868,000 and falling.

Why is that? Well there are a million reasons, but here's another then vs. now stat: in 1984, GM had 44% of the US market share, and today it's 24.7%. That's one big reason there.

I work downtown now. I work in a big building that was designed by Albert Kahn. His work is a decent example of what's going on in Detroit.

Kahn was a prolific builder, designing well over 1,000 buildings in his lifetime, many in Detroit. He designed buildings and factories, including the Packard Plant, the Donovan building (which housed Motown Records) and the amazing Belle Isle Aquarium. He's famous in architectural circles, has around 60 buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and people travel far and wide to see his work.
In Detroit, many of his buildings have been allowed to fall into disrepair, until they can't be fixed. The lucky ones are then condemned and demolished. The unlucky ones are just condemned and allowed to become silent hulks. Detroit - home of the vacant skyscrapers.

That being said, I do love this city, and I love working downtown. It has vitality still, but it's sick, and getting sicker. Hopefully somebody can find a cure before it dies.

Now that I've become thoroughly depressing, I do have some good news. Monday at St. Andrew's was the BoDog Music Million Dollar Battle Of The Bands, and although I had no idea who was playing Iwent, because I was asked to be a guest judge. It was pretty cool, plus I got some free drinks out of it. There are A LOT of awful bands out there, but I do think just about all of the bands that deserved it made it to the next round, especially In Erupt, a heavy group from Kentucky, who drove eight hours to do the show, and witnessed a knife fight when they got here. Welcome to Detroit. They were very talented and very friendly. I wish them luck.

Also, why does blogger seem to be getting less and less reliable about uploading photos?

Plus, once I again, I am getting so excited about the impending trip to Italy. Wow, Nicole's birthday in Italia? Last year was Paris, are we entering a dangerous upward spiral of birthday expectations? In a few years, I'll have to buy her an island with its own herd of ponies. Either that, or renting a roller rink for the afternoon. Either way, once I hit those two, I'll be tapped out of ideas.

Friday, October 13, 2006

And Now The News...

Blah Blah Blah... The Tigers are on a roll... World Series might be coming to Detroit... Some stuff happened... It snowed yesterday and it's frickin' cold out... Then some other stuff happened...

Fuck it all. I quit my job today!

Here it is, in better words than I could come up with:

I guess it doesn't matter anymore... I'm outta here, and I'm going to Chicago for the weekend.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Once More, Can We Say That Punk Cabaret Is Freedom?!?!

Currently, I'm laid up with a serious case of Short-Timer's Disease. For those of you who are unaware, it's a condition similar to LRB (Lazy Rat Bastard) Syndrome, but it's a bit rarer, as it only afflicts those who have posted their notice at their place of employment. Symptoms include lethargy, apathy and a distorted sense of perception in which time appears to travel slowly.

At any rate, while researching ways to combat they symptoms of Short-Timer's, I stumbled on this pretty little video from some of my favorite musicans and showmen, The Dresden Dolls. I love these guys, and I hope you do too.

They write the best songs and look great while they do it, no?

BTW, some of this was shot here in Detroit.

A Little One

This is Thumbelina. She's little. I like her very much.

I think many things are better when they are little versions of the big thing, don't you?

Some things aren't for sure, like drinks, burritos and monster trucks, but in this case, I definitely think she's awesome.

Monday, October 09, 2006

How Low Can You Go? The Pope Knows!

I wasn't really intending on writing another post on a heavy item. That's usually not what I'm about here. But you have to go with what strikes your mood, I guess.

What happens when you die? That's one of the heaviest questions of all. Some would have you believe you simply cease to be. Some believe that the good guys go up and the bad guys go down.

Viewing that as too simplistic, and trying to justify the existence of their bureaucracy, the Vatican like any good corporation sought to break it down even further. They added Purgatory and Limbo.

Purgatory was named in 1254. It's the place where you go if you weren't that bad, and you weren't that good. It's a halfway house and a waiting room. It's where you go to take care of the bad things you did and finish up the paperwork. If you subscribe to this view, it's where most of us will end up for a while.

Limbo is an odder place. Limbo is essentially a place where good people went who didn't get into Heaven. The reasons why they end up there are multiple, but mainly limbo is a place for babies who died without being baptized, and those who lived and died before Jesus came to wash away sin. Babies and caveman, swirling through space. It's not a bad place, they say, although I can't imagine a space predominantly filled with infants and cavemen is all that organized, either.

The new Pope is discussing abolishing Limbo. That would be nice, then the babies and cavemen can go to Heaven.

It would be nice to have the power to simply make a place like that go away. It makes me wonder what other powers he has. Could he abolish Hell, then? Should he? And what about Ohio?

Maybe I'll see if I can ask him when I'm in Rome next month.

Friday, October 06, 2006

What About The Bad Guys?

The prison system is an odd thing to me; I mean, I understand the need to take the bad guys and lock them up where they can't do bad things anymore, but then they just keep them there for a while (based on the bad thing they did) and then dump them back onto the street, where they do more bad things. Rinse and repeat as necessary.

The point of this post is not to get too deep on the nature of the prison system; I don't really know enough to get into that, but it doesn't seem like there really is any emphasis on making the person NOT do bad things any more. If anything, they seem to come out worse than they did before.

Is this revenge or is it reform?
I don't know but it shouldn't be the norm.

-I Object, "Intra Muros"

(If you've not heard I Object, you should really check them out. Serious hardcore band with a pissed off singer and really positive lyrics about all sorts of social issues. Anyway...)

Here in Detroit, it's not uncommon to see prison work crews in the city. In the summer, they're cleaning trash along the freeway. In the winter, they shovel snow - a necessity since a previous mayor sold off many of the city's snow plows without telling anyone (it wasn't discovered until a major snowstorm during a subsequent mayor's administration that the city had no snow plows and was too broke to get more).

Prisoners in the U.S. make license plates and pick up trash until they are released for the period of time needed to commit another crime and get put back in the system. It just doesn't seem like the best model for rehabilitation, does it?

In Australia, they're training prisoners to replace Steve Irwin. The Darwin Correction Centre is teaching inmates to "deal with crocodiles, repair crocodile fences, build enclosures and write reports." Aside from the report writing thing (then again, what job doesn't have paperwork?), that sounds like a sweet deal. Good luck finding someone around here to teach you to be a croc handler on the corporate dime! It's hard enough to get a student loan.

Australia has always been ahead of the game on the care and feeding of criminals; it's how they got their start, so it's no surprise that they'd still be ahead of us. But the whole idea of teaching prisoners a skill that's actually useful when they get out isn't a bad idea, but what is there to teach the American inmate? We don't have any crocs (although if we did, I might jaywalk or spit on the sidewalk a few times just to get in that program), so what is there? Sure, I know you're thinking that clownpunching is a great idea, and while I agree wholeheartedly, how would they make a living doing that when so many people are willing to walk around punching clowns and kicking mimes for free?

I can't think of any other job that could work that isn't run by an organized labor force. What are your thoughts.

Then again, maybe Australia isn't onto such a good idea. What happens when an organized force of hardened criminals goes on a crime spree supported by a brute squad composed of trained crocodiles? They'd be nearly unstoppable.

Is it time for another Australia? A prison colony where we could send the really bad guys and force them to forge their own lives? If so, where? Granted, we could fence off Wyoming, but that's a lot of chainlink to patrol.

An island would be the best solution. In Guatemala, there was a prison that was run by the inmates for more than 10 years. They produced drugs, lived in homes with luxury goods, and had stores and restaurants. The perimeter was patrolled by guards, but the inmates ran the inside. The only problem was that prisoners lived in luxury conditions and used cell phones to control criminal empires from within. Security forces took control of that prison last week.

I don't know of any islands big enough to be the next Australia, and I doubt the Australians would like to move so we can start over. Do we send the prisoners to space? That's probably too expensive.

So what's left? Where do we put the bad guys when there's no more room?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Just Playing Catch Up...

It's been a bit of a whirlwind of ups and downs lately. I keep putting off writing about them, but if I wait too long, they pile up and I can either opt to forget about them or cram them all into one post. Which is what I'm going to do now.

Mazzola and Hank III

This is Mazzola (eating the Kitty Shoe). He is a very old friend. Nicole has known him since high school and was a part of our wedding party. He lives in Chicago now, where he;s the drummer for Piel Plastica, an excellent band that was kind enough to drive out to Detroit to play the breast cancer benefit for free.

He is also a talented sound guy who tours with bands, which lead to him calling us on Saturday. He was at the Machine Shop in Flint, an hour from us, because he was on the tour with Hank Williams III. Did we want to meet up? Definitely.

Oh my God.

Hank III rules.


The guy played for three hours. He started his set with country (real country, the kind his grandfather played, not the watered down music of his dad), then went into hellbilly rock, and closed the set with a hour's worth of balls-out heavy metal.

It was tremendously sweet.

New Boots And New Contracts

Simply put, I quit my day job (not the gig) and got a new one. I think I'll like it much better. I don't think I can say more.


It looks like Nicole and I will be spending a week around Thanksgiving vagabonding across Italy. I have not started my Italian lessons yet, so I'm just hoping to be able to competently order a bottle of vino. Anything else is details...

Speaking of Vino...

If you're a beer drinker, you might want to think about switching. About a month ago, I wrote about a malting barley shortage in Europe, and the possibility of beer shortages and/or rising prices.

The situation has gotten worse. A warehouse fire in Yakima, Washington just destroyed 4% of the nation's supply of hops. This, I believe, is a conspiracy to get rid of good beer. My favorite beers are very hoppy, but a spokesman shrugged it off:
"I'd be surprised if there were any impact, because hops are a minor component in beer, and 4 percent is not an incredible percentage of the whole hops supply," said Ray Daniels, a director for the Brewers Association, a Boulder, Colo., trade group.

Sure, if you don't mind making fewer hoppy beers, and forcing everyone to drink Coors Light.

There, you've all been brought up to speed as succinctly as possible. Ciao!