Sunday, October 28, 2007

Stuff I can comment on because I have a blog but is otherwise unremarkable.

Dining Out
Thanks for all of the dining suggestions. We ended up at D'Arcy's, just as I hoped we would. My wife didn't want to go there because the last time her parents were in town, we waited over an hour for a table at Springfield's favorite Irishesque pub. With four kids in tow, this was not an easy wait. This time, we had a table in under 30 minutes. The roast beef ponyshoe and pint of Guinness were divine. And two of my favorite BFS commentors were bellied up to the bar.

Andrew Bujalski
If you like small movies (no car chases or actors you've heard of before), then take a rent on Funny Ha Ha and Mutual Appreciation. Both movies have lead characters that, after five minutes in, you'll swear that you'll despise. But get past that point, and you'll become captivated by their performances. It's really good stuff.

Sunday afternoons will often find us availing ourselves of Springfield's finest parks. We'll usually hit two or three, mastering the monkey bars at one before looking for a faster slide at another. Three or four hours later, we're ready for refreshment. The problem is, while the kids are craving a big scoop of ice cream, my wife and I are more in the mood for a pint and some chips and salsa. What's a family to do? Of course, you get the kids their ice cream and deprive yourself of a frosty ale. But why should that be?

If someone really wanted to take over the ice cream parlor market in this country, they'd add 31 craft beers to their selection. It amazes me that no one has adopted this business model yet.

Goodwill Hunting
I went to the Goodwill store last week to look for potential Halloween costumes for the kids. This in itself is a cause of discomfort because clothing that I might find scary or funny, some other parent might think is perfect for class picture day. I'm not above poking fun of people's fashion choices, but not when it comes to kids.

After coming up empty on potential costumes, I decided to browse through the men's clothing. There, among the flannels and other plaid clothing, was a rather hip-looking striped oxford from the Gap company. It was my size and in good condition. It was priced to move at $3.75. I walked out of the store with only the shirt on my back.

So I ask you, should a person of means feel guilty, as I did, of availing themselves of the affordable clothing at Goodwill? Can you partake of government cheese when your dairy crisper is well-stocked with Kraft Singles?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Wanted: Good restaurant for casual dining experience this Friday. Dinner, drinks, possibly dessert. Must adore children. No chain restaurants, please.

My in-laws are visiting this weekend and they want to take us to dinner on Friday night. We’re looking for a kid-tolerant restaurant that serves food that’s perhaps a step or two above the fare at TGITueBees. We'd like to be able to make reservations, but that's not a deal breaker. If you have any suggestions, I'd love to hear them. And please, be respectful of each others recommendations.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Should the Boss just shut up and sing?

I think so.

I have a friend, a frequenter of this blog, who is a big fan of Bruce Springsteen’s music. He isn’t, however, a big fan of Bruce’s particular brand of politics. Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem, except that he, Bruce, has become quite vocal about expressing his various points-of-view. So along with stories of Mary cross the Jersey shore, a Springsteen concert-goer must also be up for some progressive lecturing.

I can understand how Bruce came to this point. After millions of Americans misinterpreted the lyrics to Born in the U.S.A. and reacted as if it was a flag-waving anthem, he probably felt that in order to articulate his message more clearly, he would have to spell it out between songs so that it doesn’t get lost amidst a wailing saxophone solo.

But somewhere along the way to superstardom, Bruce has forgotten why people line up to see him. His fans don’t buy his albums and attend his concerts because they feel that his music will lead to a shift in the political landscape that will in turn evoke positive changes to our society. No, they do so because they feel that his music rocks and they like to be rocked or in some other way emotionally moved by the sounds emanating from the stage.

It’s good that musicians aren’t apathetic to the issues of the day and they have just as much right to let their views be known as anyone else. But they must remember that the stage isn’t a soapbox and that they didn’t earn their place on that stage because of their astute political musings.

I’m sure none of us would appreciate it if, during a routine physical, the doctor changed the topic of conversation from our health to her views on the environment. Even if we agree with those views, we’re paying her to find out if our 245 mg/dL cholesterol level means that we’ll have to cut down on buttered bacon nachos, not to learn the effect the Kyoto agreement will have on third world economies.

Yet more and more entertainers feel that, for the right to pay $100 for their concert ticket, we are obliged to listen to them offer up political slogans while the guitarist takes a moment to strap on the double-neck Stratocaster.

Pity the meat-eschewing metalhead who just once would like to hear Wango Tango live without being emasculated by Uncle Ted’s carnivorous rants. And, at the other end of the tract, I’m sure that many a rancher have been left weeping at a Smith’s concert by Morrissey’s none-too-subtle suggestion that meat is murder.

Musicians have always pandered to their audiences, usually by offering up a crowd pleasing, profanity-accented tribute to their hometown. While “Bush sucks!” is a fairly widespread sentiment, it’s not universal. So why would someone want to offend or irritate one of their fans over an issue that isn’t even relevant to the occasion at hand?

Granted there are exceptions. If you go to an Earth Day concert or see Steve Earle while he’s supporting one of his protest albums, then you should expect to get a heavy dose of ideological dialogue. Even then, to most in attendence it’s still about the music, not rocking the vote.

Whatever Bruce aspires to be, to his audience he’s the guy who sings some of their favorite songs. That’s a pretty good gig. He shouldn’t jeopardize it by playing political pundit while he’s on the audience’s dime.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


I intended to write about the Andrew Sallenger case last week, but just didn’t have the time. You’ll recall that in 2002 (okay, you might not remember the exact year) police were called by Sallenger’s family after he had began acting bizarrely and frightfully. After a long struggle with the police, Sallenger, who was overweight, mentally ill and had a heart ailment, stopped breathing. He was revived but died 24 hours later at the hospital.

I’m not sure that I have much to say on it except that it is a sad story. I can understand why the grief-stricken family believes that their brother and son had his life unfairly taken. I’m just not sure what the police should have done differently.

Since I didn’t hear the entire amount of testimony and wasn’t privy to all of the evidence, I won’t make a judgment as to whether the police are responsible for his death. But I would like to pose some questions of a more general nature to you.

What should the police do when a person refuses to be put under arrest? Are tasers or nightsticks too much? Is there a point when the police should retreat, similar to when a high-speed chase is called off? Perhaps wait until the person falls asleep or is in a more congenial mood.

If a person is an imminent danger to himself or others, should the police use different methods for subduing him if he is mentally ill? What if the person is drunk or on drugs, should that affect the degree of force that is used?

Should the police even try to ascertain a person’s mental condition while he is still posing a danger?

Is there anyway the police can tell when someone is resisting, not because he wants to avoid arrest or because he wants to hurt someone, but because he is so frightened that he doesn’t know how else to react?

I’ll hang up and listen.

I would like to make one brief defense for the police that I would have probably ended up making in the comments section anyway.

If you or I, as civilians, encounter someone brandishing a gun, wielding a pitchfork or who is in any other way acting menacing, we have the option of fleeing for our safety and then calling the police. The police don’t have this option. They must confront the danger until the danger subsides. I think this fact sometimes gets lost when Monday morning quarterbacking the actions of the police. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t question what the police do or that they are never in the wrong, it’s just meant to provide a bit of perspective that we may lack having never walked in their shiny black shoes.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Chicago, Beer, and Jenna Fischer

Run, Tammy, Run
My wife Tammy has been on a months-long odyssey that will culminate this Sunday when she will complete the Chicago Marathon.

When she embarked on this journey, at the urging of a friend in NYC who was looking for a figurative mountain to climb, I had my doubts that Tammy was up to running 26 miles. It wasn’t her fitness or determination that I questioned, it was the not-insignificant fact that she wasn’t a runner. Swimming, ellipticalling, yoga-ing, weightlifting – yes. But she didn’t run and didn’t really like running so the idea that she would be able to run a marathon seemed as likely as me being able to sit through a James Blunt concert.

Well, I’m about to be proven foolish once again. She’s already completed a 20-mile run during her training regimen, so barring an injury or an alarm clock with a confounding AM/PM button, she’ll be crossing the finish line sometime Sunday afternoon, and most likely won’t stop until she reaches the nearest saloon.

God's Speed, Tammy and Tara!

Wo der schadenfreude ist?*
I turned to the sports page this morning to see how the Cubs fared. After reading the score, I wanted to be happy that they lost again – honest I did. But there was something missing. Where was the spite? Where was the schadenfreude? What demon had invaded my soul, leaving me incapable of finding joy in the simplest and most common of life’s pleasures?

The truth is, the Cubs two games to none deficit has left me feeling conflicted. I think of certain friends, nephews and brothers-in-law – and, yes, even Ron Santo, the poster boy for pathos – and I can’t help but feel sad that they are being denied a chance to celebrate after suffering through futility for so long. Maybe it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if the Cubs finally won it all. But just once.

Imitation Friday Beer Blogging
I have an
article in the Heartland Magazine today on breweriana (beer-related items) collectors. They’re having their annual show at the Signature Inn tomorrow from 9:00 am until 2 pm. As you all probably know, the Signature Inn is on Stevenson, not Dirksen, as I mistakenly wrote in the article. I’m an idiot and have no excuse.

Anyway, if any of you bloggers-of-a-certain-age want to rekindle your passion for beer can collecting (it was quite the rage in the 70s and early 80s), or if any of you younger types are ready to moth ball those Pokemon cards and want to start collecting something more adult in nature, you should head on over to the Signature tomorrow. The people I interviewed for the story are really interesting and fun. Just don’t ask if you can drink one of their 65-year-old pilsners. Unlike wine, beer doesn’t become refined with age.

Love Office Style

I normally don’t get caught up in the romantic, will they or won’t they story lines that are woven into sitcoms. I’m in it strictly for the laughs. I must admit, however, that I was a bit touched when Pam and Jim were holding hands in last week’s episode of the Office. I really hope those two kids make it.

Isn't Pam just adorable?

*This was translated using an online program and as such is probably unintelligible to our German-speaking friends.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007


I’ve long harbored a secret desire to be an advice columnist, but I’ve never been one of those people who always know just the right thing to say nor are people particularly inclined to seek my counsel. But as a blogger I have a legitimacy that I lack as a regular guy, because I have a host of commentors who can bolster my shortcomings on any matter. So today brings us the first edition of Ask BFS, in which a real life person seeks our advice and we provide succor by sharing our knowledge and experiences.

(Clarification: the idea here is that you, the commentor, can contribute to the advice giving. So in this first installment, you would help Nancy find a song that tells a story of good triumphing over evil. Unfortunately, the first commentor felt that this would be an appropriate outlet to confess his most Dahmer-like feelings. It is not.)

Hey (BlogFreeSpringfield),

Mitch has an assignment for religion class to find and print the lyrics to a song that tells the "story" of good overcoming evil. Rob and I have thought of a few loose translations (several Beatles songs, "Racist Friend" by TMBG, etc) but I'm wondering if you can think of a more literal example.

I'm a little upset with the teacher in this class, because while I love the idea of incorporating modern music into a religion curriculum, the example that she brought to class was a Rascal Flatts song. I don't pay hard earned money for a Catholic education to have him exposed to that kind of musical blasphemy. That's what public schools are for. I feel a little violated that we weren't given a heads up that that type of music was going to just kind of wantonly be played during school hours.

Normally, Mitch is very open to alternative styles of music, so that's what we're looking for here.

Thanks for any help


Dear Nancy,

Tell young Mitch to go out to play, we at BFS are happy to do his homework for him.

An obvious example of good over evil set to music is Charlie Daniels’ the Devil Went Down to Georgia, but people don’t appeal to BFS for easy answers. Besides, to our ears, the devil won that contest.

So what other songs can we look to?

If you’re inclined to believe, as we are, that the crew of the Edmund Fitzgerald was inherently evil, then the “hurricane West Wind” could certainly represent the wrath of a vengeful god, and so, the crew’s ultimate demise is then the triumph of good. Of course this would make Gordon Lightfoot, who idolizes the fallen men of the Fitzgerald, a apostate, but that was already clear to us after the release of Rainy Day People. I’m sure Lightfoot intended his maritime story to play as a tragedy, but we say they got what was coming to them.

The Pina Colada Song offers a morality tale, of sorts. A man hell-bent on engaging in an adulterous and rain-soaked tryst, one fueled by copious amounts of a rum-based concoction, instead chooses fidelity as the result of an improbable quirk of fate. One is compelled to ask, however, if the two people in the story aren’t somehow defective, cognitive-wise. We find it hard to believe that not once in their relationship, prior to the secret rendezvous/reunion, one of them didn’t order a Pina Colada at TGIFridays, prompting the other to say, “That sounds good. I think I’ll have one too.” So it’s hard to say that this song is about not giving in to temptations of the flesh, so much as it is about two incredibly stupid people who are better off not mating outside of their already corrupted gene pool. That is good.

Depending on your perspective, The Beastie Boys’ Fight for Your Right to Party might fit the bill. Of course that perspective would have to be that cigarettes and porno are symbols of a more ethically principled system of beliefs than are “soda and pie.” That’s a tough case to make in any school, much less a Catholic one.

Then there is the cautionary tale of Bad, Bad Leroy Brown, reported to be the baddest man in the whole d*** town. If your take is that Leroy is a classic bully to be despised - along with being a philanderer, a philistine and a probable felon – then the comeuppance he receives at the hands of a jealous husband is a victory for the virtuous. However, as exalted by Mr. Croce, Leroy comes across as a sort of neighborhood hero, one that we secretly envy even as we cower in his domineering presence and gasp at his hedonist ways. If, in fact, Leroy is the protagonist of the story, then this is a tale of man’s inherent weakness. We think that it is fair to speculate that if Croce had been compelled to add an extra verse to his story, Leroy would have triumphed over his own flawed humanity by pulling out his “32 gun” and sending the dangerously-close-to-being-cuckolded husband to hell.

In Break(a) My Stride, Matthew Wilder seemed to have shaken off the oppressiveness of an unsatisfying relationship with a cold and compulsive she-devil who had figuratively “sailed away to China” for the purpose of getting her “laundry clean.” But what seems like a triumph of self determination (Never let another girl like you drag me under) is actually just Wilder’s way of telling us that he is now gay.

How about Yah Mo B There?

All Our Best,