Here are some more words that make me laugh...
What about you? Which words just seem silly to you?
(Another post about this kind of thing from last year.)
Sorry, We're Closed
Here are some more words that make me laugh...
Damn, these are good.
The recent death of former All-Star pitcher Rod Beck, 38, brings into focus the oft-discussed problem of what happens to some athletes after the cheering stops…when they leave the world of sports and enter the everyday sphere inhabited by the rest of us.
My friend, the distinguished satirist and essayist Jim Garner, has an article in the Huffington Post concerning the Charles Darwin exhibit at Chicago's Field Museum. You can read it here. Good stuff to chew on.
I am so tired of this dickweed smug pseudo-President of ours. If it isn't starting a ridiculous war that has killed thousands of Americans (and Iraquis), it's balancing the budget on the shoulders of the working class, or today vetoing a stem-cell research bill that even most of Congress was able to agree on (in a rare show of bipartisanship).
An old friend passed away yesterday. It was not unexpected, but tragic and untimely nonetheless. While this poem, written by William Logan, doesn't speak directly to her (or my) situation, I thought it appropriate for this quite sad time.
Hey...my brother Tom will be appearing with the band Patent Medicine this Sunday, June 24, at the Pick-a-Cup Coffeehouse, 1813 Dempster, in Evanston. (Lots of parking close by.)
If you grew up in Chicago in the 1970s and listened to pop music, you knew all about Styx. Their hits—“Lady,” “Fooling Yourself,” “Renegade,” “Lorelei,” “Come Sail Away,” “The Grand Illusion,” “Babe,” ad nauseum, and I do mean nauseum--were all over the radio.
Aside from being, at times, decent radio fodder, Styx never did much for me. Dennis DeYoung's vocal histrionics were matched by guitarist James “JY” Young's self-conscious rocking out, while Tommy Shaw, who wrote many of the group's better songs, turned out to be a right-wing cheeseball, chewing raw meat with Ted Nugent in the unnecessary Damn Yankees combo.
For me, the best thing about Styx was the rhythm section, brothers John (drums) and Chuck (bass) Panozzo. The two began playing music together in their early teens, finding success in the band TW-4, which in the early 70s evolved into Styx.
But at the same time Styx was making its run to the top of the charts, bassist Chuck Panozzo was hiding his sexuality from his brother, the rest of his family, his other bandmates, and the world at large. Chuck was gay, trying to make sense of his life at a time when being gay was bad enough; being 1)a rock star, 2)from the south suburbs of Chicago, and 3)being part of a traditional Italian catholic family just made his hell that much deeper.
Chuck Panozzo's new book, The Grand Illusion: Love, Lies, and My Life With Styx (Amacom Books), co-written with Michele Skettino, tells his story from birth to the present day. The book is strong in many ways, weak in others, but I found it an engaging and often affecting read.
Styx' career is described in alternately deep and remarkably shallow detail. We learn plenty about the band's troubles with their first label, Wooden Nickel (including some good stories about label head Bill Traut, a seminal figure in Chicago rock history), and some tidbits about groupies (the band generally abstained), along with the story of how “Lady,” recorded two years earlier, finally became the band’s first hit in 1974.
Unfortunately we get very little sense of what influences, visions, or inspiration lay behind Styx' music. From what we read in Grand Illusion, it's as if the music just happened, which clearly isn't true. The band's arrangements and production were always detailed, to the point of fussiness, but we get very little sense of the creative spark that fueled their albums.
There are hints of the personal discord between band members, but it’s almost as if Panozzo doesn’t want to really talk about why Styx imploded—although he drops enough hints to let us know that Dennis DeYoung’s ego played a major role.
But if you want a personal story, this is the book. Panozzo takes the reader through his discovery of the gay scene in Chicago, at times humorously and often with heartbreaking results. His relationships, and those of his friends, before and during the time of AIDS, form much of the book's emotional center.
In addition to dealing with his own identity problems, Chuck Panozzo also had his mother's fatal illness to shoulder, which was then compounded by his brother John's out-of-control drinking habit, which got worse after Styx broke up in the 1980s and led to the drummer’s death in 1996. Again, these episodes are discussed in wrenching detail.
Chuck Panozzo himself was diagnosed HIV-positive during the nineties, and then with full-blown AIDS in 1998. Having watched many of his friends deny the disease and die in agony, Panozzo decided to become a survivor. He's become stronger physically and emotionally, wrestling his demons, finding a supportive partner, and getting back on the stage with a reunited Styx, first in 1999 and continuously over the years.
His interactions with his family and band members around the disease are telling. Almost to a man (and woman), those close to him accept him for who he is and love him for who he is—a lovely thing, but painful, perhaps, to learn after having shouldered guilt and fear of rejection for so long.
When he publicly outed himself in 2001, Panozzo provided us with a great lesson in the art of being yourself. The support Panozzo received from fans, friends, and bandmembers Shaw, JY, and even the curious DeYoung was clearly a source of strength.
One comes to the end of the book with an admiration for Panozzo's strength, but also a sadness that suffering has suffused so much of his story. I also wish that we got more of an insight into what made Styx' music, because it sure was popular for a long time, and some of it has endured.
Squish, squish, squish!
Let’s beat up on the Fish!
Nobody comes to their games anyhow
And you may find grilled marlin delish!
The Card: Collectors, Con Men, and the True Story of History’s Most Desired Baseball Card, by Michael O’Keeffe and Teri Thompson (William Morrow)
Those with even a cursory knowledge of baseball memorabilia collecting consider the 1909 Honus Wagner card, produced in a small quantity by the American Tobacco company, the “holy grail” of the hobby. This book discusses how the card came to be so rare (it was pulled from the market at Wagner's request), who has, in recent years, owned the best copy of the card in the world, and what the card’s ramifications are for the baseball memorabilia business.
New York Daily News investigative reporters O’Keeffe and Thompson also discuss the life and times of Hall of Famer Honus Wagner, the superstar Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop and perhaps the most beloved man in baseball prior to 1920, and how the attention given to the card has, in some ways, eclipsed the memory of the man whose face adorns it.
The description of Wagner is cursory—but then again providing a biography isn’t the authors’ mission. What they’re really doing is casting some much-needed light on the dark and often disgustingly corrupt baseball collectibles business, one that operates largely through the faith of the buyer since dealers are not effectively policed, either by the industry itself or by federal or state authorities.
The authors uncover the Wagner card’s recent history, in the process tracing the past 30 years of baseball card collecting. Their investigation leads the reader through a maze of deception and greed to find underhanded dealers, shady auction houses, vested-interest "card grading services," assorted hoods, a few whistle-blowers, and some very odd (and usually very wealthy) collectors.
O'Keeffe and Thompson also show us that Wagner’s home town barely celebrates him; that many of the Baseball Hall of Fame’s treasures were stolen and ended up on the market; and that celebs like Wayne Gretzky and Billy Crystal may have been ripped off by unscrupulous dealers looking to cash in on baseball fans’ love of the memorabilia associated with the game.