Michael Gets Bloggy


ARE YOU READY FOR SOME SOUL SEARCHING?!?!?!?!

 

SOOO…

In a fit a pique right before the last Superbowl I sent a tweet to my followers (and copied the NFL on it) that if the NFL was still a tax exempt organization by the beginning of the next season then the Superbowl would be the last NFL game I would ever watch. At the time I knew that meant I would never be watching an NFL game again (if I held to my guns) because there was no way in hell they would voluntarily give up that status and for some reason nobody seems to be bothered by the fact that an organization that makes BILLIONS of dollars doesn’t pay a fucking cent in taxes.

After spending the last few weeks thinking about “walking back” my bold declaration (the season approaches and I do still have a primal love of American Football going back to infancy)- my mental pendulum began to swing the other way.

I’ve always been bothered by how much Sports in general (and the NFL in particular) are used to sell the lies of Hetero-normative Consumer Capitalism and the Military Industrial Complex [sounds like real GooGoo Lefty statement when I say it like that- but can you honestly say that it’s not an accurate one?] and how much the various Sports Subcultures have become bastions of ignorance and bigotry of all sorts.

Getting back to the NFL: this ongoing idiocy and continued resistance to changing the name of the Washington franchise has also bolstered my decision to drop my American Football habit. There several other sketchy/unethical things about the league l could list as well; but the recent incident where an NFL player beat his fiance unconscious in a public place and RECEIVED A 2 GAME SUSPENSION for his punishment is the last fucking straw.

Therefore, I will hold to my statements of last January and will not be watching any NFL games this season, even my beloved Green Bay Packers [might as well “come out” about that as well since I’m being all bold & shit! ]. I’m not going to avert my eyes if I’m in a public place and a game is on (I know that gives me a huge out but I’m not wearing blinders when I go drinking) but I will no longer willingly consume the product of the National Football Association until I can not feel like watching a game makes me Part Of The Problem.

The thought of doing this also makes me really uneasy, so that’s another indication that this is something I need to do.

In its purest form Organized Athletic Activity can be one of the most beautiful experiences a person (especially a young one) can engage in. It’s time to stop supporting those who use its inherent power to make untaxed fortunes, bolster the lies of those who are enslaving humanity and promoting the destruction of our species, and indoctrinate young men into a destructive cult of masculinity.

/stepping off soapbox

 

UPDATE:The NFL increased their penalties for assault to make it a harder slap on the wrist for a first offense and a possible lifetime ban for a second (just make sure there is video if you are cold-cocked by a player) , but there are still too many other issues they have to address before I’ll return to the fold.

 

UPDATE #2 (9/11/14): The same day I was having a moment of weakness and was considering letting the slightly enhanced penalties for assault allow me to just watch Packer games— the Ray Rice elevator video was leaked. Now I knew what was going to be on that video so I was not surprised (how did people think she became completely unconscious- he rubbed her belly like an alligator to put her to sleep?) but the immensely disingenuous and hypocritical response from the NFL (you have a world class security and investigative team and nobody saw or thought to ask for the elevator video?- PUHLEEZE!!!) and the sports media (just C’MON!) has furthered my resolve in this matter. Concussions, the Washington Mascot fiasco, Domestic Violence, Non-Taxed Status, etc etc etc—- It’s just all too damn much…

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This Is What I’ll Be Watching On ESPN 7…

The positive reviews keep coming!!!

First this one that Lori A May penned for Examiner.com:

http://www.examiner.com/review/book-review-hollywood-on-lake-michigan-100-years-of-chicago-and-the-movies

 

And this one from the excellent blog Chicago Review Of Books:

http://chicagoreviewofbooks.wordpress.com/2013/07/02/da-lights-da-camera/

YUNGMIKE

Makes the old inner child feel all gushy!!!

Spent the weekend recovering from the “After Party” but I wanted to mention that the Hollywood On Lake Michigan, 2nd Edition Launch Party at Centuries & Sleuths was a rollicking good time!

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Arnie and I dropped much Filmic Science and History upon the heads of those in attendance.

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Augie did his usual wonderful and gracious job of hosting a book launch event. Here he is posing with myself and Arnie “Three Books” Bernstein (as he will be known for the rest of the year!).

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Author Christopher Lynch dropped by to hear Arnie and I speak and to hip us to an old Jimmy Stewart movie that filmed at Midway Airport in the 1940’s and which Arnie and I were unaware. Here he is holding a few of his titles and posing with me and old “Three Books” Bernstein.

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Here’s the fabulous window display that Augie created for Senor Tres Libros and myself. Between the Printers Row Lit Fest Panel and this awesome event I now fully feel like I am a REAL AUTHOR. It was truly my Book Mitzvah!!!

Stop on by Augie’s Garden of Bibliographic Delights and say hello!!!

 

 

 

Hollywood On Lake Michigan, 2nd Edition Launch Party

Friday, June 14—— 7PM

Centuries & Sleuths Bookstore

7419 Madison St.

Forest Park, IL 60130

 

If you have never been to Centuries & Sleuths (or made the trek out to Forest Park) you will be in for a lovely treat! Augie the proprietor is a wonderful fellow who reminds me of a literary version of another famous Augie- the character that Harvey Keitel played in the great pair of films; Smoke and Blue In The Face. Although this Augie deals in fine books and not fine cigars, his establishment has that same feeling of openness, camaraderie, and a love of life, laughter and community. If you love books, history, and the World Of Ideas you will definitely feel as if you have come home. Although I don’t think this Augie takes a picture from the same corner at the same time every day!

And if you have never been to Forest Park, you will soon discover that one of Chicago’s coolest neighborhoods is actually a suburb! The area around Centuries & Sleuths is chock full of awesome bars, restaurants and other sundry establishments; many of which are extremely fond of having live music and other performances.

In fact, considering the small size of Centuries & Sleuths and the large number of people that may show— if the soiree is too crowded when you arrive just stroll around and check out the hood for a while and return a little later to the store. Arnie and I will be holding forth, answering questions and signing books all night, so lots of folks will be filtering in and out throughout the evening. Once we finish closing down Augie’s we will likely adjourn to one of those fine establishments!!!

Oh, and don’t forget to buy a ton of books while you are in the bookstore! Although if you love mysteries, histories, police procedurals, and detective novels as much as I do it will be all you can muster not to just back your car up to the place and fill the trunk!

So please stop on by and say hello! It’s gonna be a VERY fun time!!!

 

AugiePic

When you see this handsome fellow you will know you are in Book Heaven!!!

 

 

My Adventure In Authorland continues apace with this new wonderful honor: I have been invited to join The Society Of Midland Authors!!!

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Out of all the fabulous things that HOLM 2 hath wrought, this is the one honor which my late  Mother would have been the most impressed by.

 

This is a real old school “Chicago Renaissance” kind of thang. The Society Of Midland Authors was founded in 1915 by a group which included Clarence Darrow, Edna Ferber, and Vachel Lindsay. Jane Addams, Edgar Lee Masters and Lorado Taft were among the earliest members to join. Current members include bestselling authors like Scott Turow, Stuart Dybek, and Jane Hamilton; noted historians such as Anne Durkin Keating (OMG!), Melvin Holli, and Dominic Pacyga; and a “Who’s Who” of Chicago writers, journalists, publishers, and intellectuals.

I will be extremely excited and intimidated as hell when I attend my first meeting at The Cliff Dwellers Club (that’s right, baby- THE FREAKING CLIFF DWELLERS CLUB!!!).

Huge thanks to Arnie Bernstein for nominating me and SMA officer Thomas Frisbie for being so kind and accommodating to me. Although the whole part about new inductees sacrificing a goat whilst making a blood oath to The Muse Of Fire over the bones of Hamlin Garland was apparently a “Rookie Prank!”

HOLM 2 Book Cover

The Book Stork brought me a beautiful 3 Pound, 400 Page Trade Paperback today, and it couldn’t be cuter.

 

I was sitting down to write a couple posts today, when the UPS man rang with my 10 contractually obligated complimentary copies of… you guessed it— HOLLYWOOD ON LAKE MICHIGAN, 2ND EDITION, BABY!!!!!!!

If you thought that Booklist review got me Verklempt; I spent 3 hours sitting on my back porch gently cradling it in my hands, cooing over it, and getting weepy at times. Up until now, the whole thing has been just a really big WORD document and the project has felt like a gigantic term paper. But today sitting on that couch on the porch, it finally was no longer an abstract concept or this albatross like thing I bored my friends and family talking about but a BOOK— and a pretty awesome one at that— looking even better in reality than in my wildest Trade Paperback Dreams(TM).

Chicago Review Press did such a great job on it; from the layout to the quality of the printing and images all the way to how well the text reads due to those innumerable editing, fact checking, and proofreading sessions. All those questions and corrections to review, some which made me want to pull my hair and scream “Who the hell cares?!?!,” were worth every second of excruciating exactitude (and petulant whining) on my part. I give great thanks to Devon Freeny and his army of fact checkers and legions of lexicographic legerdemain practitioners; Cynthia Sherry for her work on the manuscript and for rescuing this project from limbo last year; and to Mary Kravenas and Josh Williams for their marketing and publicity expertise.

And of course, Arnie Bernstein for writing a brilliant book for me to draft off of and Sharon Woodhouse at Lake Claremont for bringing me on board this project in the first place.

In another few weeks, everyone will be able to see my pretty new baby!!!

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I can’t get over the feeling that this is some elaborate prank. But here is the Booklist edition the review appears in.

The following review of Hollywood On Lake Michigan, 2nd Edition appears in the May 1, 2013 issue of Booklist, the official publication of the American Library Association (their online site has a pay wall so I have just pasted in the whole darn thing):

Film lovers and Windy City fans will cherish this updated guide. Film historian Bernstein, who wrote the first edition, “brushed up the silent section,” but the heavy lifting here is done by Corcoran, for 10 years a tour guide whose Chicago cinema excursions are his most popular offerings. Bernstein’s “The Silent Era” traces South Side black filmmakers, including Oscar Micheaux, as well as more familiar North Side figures like Charlie Chaplin and Gloria Swanson at Essanay, spotlights early movie palaces, profiles silent film accompanist David Drazin, and traces the real murder mystery behind Call Northside 777. Corcoran shifts from history to geography, exploring the Loop and nearby areas, and then Chicago’s North, West, and South Sides and their respective suburbs. Each chapter mixes nuggets for self-guided tours, tales from the making of specific films, and chats with such Chicago-area film folk as Tim Kazurinsky, the Hoop Dreams and Barbershop teams, Harold Ramis, Joe Mantegna, and Irma Hall. A list of more than 1,250 movies, mainstream and indie, filmed at least partly in Chicago or its suburbs is included. 

Whoooooooooooooooooooooooeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!! OMG OMG OMG!!!!

Sorry, had to get that off my chest. This is the first official review of HOLM 2, and I have been waiting a long time for any recognition at all for my efforts, much less such a glowing recommendation.

Booklist is a publication beloved and respected by librarians and bibliophiles the world over, so this is huge in so many respects. First off, these folks live and breathe the printed word, so to get such a positive review from them provides a little more cachet than one from a regular entertainment publication (although that would be awesome too). Secondly, this is where librarians go to make decisions about what books to order for their collections; and aside from the extra copies a Booklist review can sell, it just gives me SUCH a huge thrill to think that a book I wrote is going to be available in Public Libraries— a place where I spent some of the happiest hours of my childhood.

Perhaps some dorky, lonely kid in a small town somewhere will come across it on his Library shelf and be inspired to become a writer or filmmaker— or at least be entertained for a few hours.

Thanks much to Booklist, Arnie Bernstein, Chicago Review Press, and everyone else who has helped me along this long and twisted path. I do believe I will go and have a little Happy Cry right now.

The following incident from my years in Rogers Park has been on my mind a lot after repeated viewings of The Interrupters:

I still remember how beautiful it was that day. A freak February thaw had brought a week of sunny skies and balmy temperatures to Chicago. Unfortunately, the weather coincided with an intensification of a long-simmering gang feud in my area, and the animosity between two rival neighborhood leaders had somehow spiraled out of control to the point where the honor of the entire Vice Lord and Gangster Disciple Nations became involved. A day before the shit had totally hit the fan, and cars and vans started streaming into the area dropping off foot soldiers from all around Chicago and vicinity. Groups of up to 50-60 guys armed with various weapons had been roaming the streets engaging in pitched battles.

This was something nobody (be they cop, citizen, or criminal) had ever seen before and myself and the other people in the fledgling CAPS program were on high alert (hell, everybody was on high alert). Rogers Park was one of the CAPS pilot districts and we had just put together a Beat Plan and were continually trying to organize against a full scale invasion of the neighborhood that had happened the previous Spring, but this was something completely beyond even what we had already been seeing. Ironically, it was the success of our initial efforts which contributed to sparking the conflagration that was now consuming the area.

The quality of the neighborhood had begun slipping several years before when a group of idiot douche bags (I met them once so I know of what I speak) bought all the big buildings in the area toward the end of the late 1980s “no money down” real estate craze. When the bubble invariably burst, they just walked away from all their properties, which went into foreclosure and were then abandoned and/or purchased by slimy slumlords. Over the next few years the neighborhood changed from a bucolic middle class polyglot of many races, ethnicities and backgrounds into an increasingly sketchy and distressed one, with friendly conversations on the sidewalk between neighbors being replaced by street drug sales and trashy assholes just hanging out drinking.

The slide turned into a plunge in the Spring of 1994, when a Vice Lord “District Manager” (for want of a better term) was released from prison and was given Rogers Park and Evanston as his territory. He was particularly ambitious and well organized; and one day there were suddenly five guys on every corner slinging crack, heroin and whatever else the street addict desired, as well as several 24/7 high volume crack houses around the vicinity- including one in the third floor apartment above my wife and I. Pushed into a corner, we began working with other folks in the neighborhood and various community groups under the auspices of the pilot CAPS program.

At first our efforts seemed laughable in the face of the entropy storm that had overtaken the area, but by the end of the summer our faction was starting to gain some traction as our dogged work and unconventional tactics (like putting up gaudy flyers to scare away drug buyers) were starting to bear fruit. The most notable change being that the District Manager (I will call him Bill) moved his “office,” which had previously been on the corner outside our first floor walk up apartment, a block south to avoid our scrutiny and constant (polite) requests to move himself elsewhere.

Unfortunately, this moved him right on to the turf line between his vast Vice Lord territory and that of a small enclave of Gangster Disciples further south on Damen Avenue (affiliated with a larger GD faction over by the Howard L). Friction between Bill’s crew and the GD’s soon flared into a brawl where the GD crew leader (Sean) got his face severely smashed in with a baseball bat. When Sean got out of the hospital several weeks later he was primed for vengeance and gun play became more commonplace, leading up to whatever situation it was that involved the honor of both Nations and the full out war that was now happening on the sunny day in question.

It was late afternoon and during that brief period right after the elementary school down the block let out where all the kids that weren’t involved with gangs (FYI-95%) would quickly scurry home. Battles had been going down all day, and these were not just random skirmishes, these were regimented. Earlier that morning I had watched a car with an open trunk filled with sticks and ball bats slowly roll down the street with two young guys walking behind calmly pulling them out and dropping them along the sidewalk and parkway, their demeanor like that of a couple city workers planting tulips in the median. That way soldiers roaming the area when a police car rolled by could just drop their weapons and move on knowing there would be another one strewn somewhere ahead of them (the quick melting of huge snow banks in the previous week had also left the ground littered with thousands of beer and liquor bottles which had been chucked into them). Several months of post-Bill-Invasion conditions (including occasional death threats from he and his crew) had steeled me to a lot of things, but this was some scary shit.

Not that the Police were anywhere to be found anyway. Already loath to respond to calls on those three blocks of Damen Avenue and their side streets that had been designated the battlefield, they had been pretty scarce since things had started the day before, only streaming in en masse after something so massive happened that the flood of 911 calls couldn’t be ignored anymore. Even our normally proactive and badass third watch beat cops seemed flustered by this unprecedented flurry of open warfare, not that I could blame them.

The instinct to get home before things started up again was being trumped by the unusually beautiful day, and a small group of 12 or 13 year old nerdy neighborhood kids were dawdling on the corner of Damen and Birchwood. I was sitting in the window of my first floor walk-up on the Northwest corner waiting for the next battle to start so I could call 911 and hopefully spur them into sending somebody. I had just gotten a call from a fellow CAPS person down the street that there was a big bunch of Vice Lords gathering at their rally point in a fast food parking lot at Howard and Damen, so I knew something was going to go down soon and I am wishing these kids would get their asses home. But they are fluttering about excitedly as tweens do; wired out of their minds by the end of the school day, the lovely weather, and the adrenaline from witnessing the insanely furious fighting of the previous day and night.

I don’t know exactly how many GD’s were in the group that came storming up Damen Avenue from the south. I heard over my police scanner several minutes later that someone who had called 911 apparently described it as “a million dudes” (the dispatcher had great fun imitating the guy’s voice) but I was so stunned by the river of rage rolling north that at first I just sat and dumbly stared. Damen Avenue was completely clear of cars because everyone was parking a few blocks away to try and avoid having a brick or a bat smash their windshield. A fast moving wave of guys standing shoulder to shoulder filled the entire street from building to building and stretching back at least a half block, all carrying golf clubs, bats, sticks, bricks and stones and literally screaming bloody murder. How many? Five hundred? A thousand? Two thousand? What the fuck is going on?!!!

The nerdy kids were stunned at first too, and one of them made a terrible mistake and ran west on Birchwood instead of north on Damen where he might have made his escape down an alley and away from the battle. A wave of the GD’s peeled off and surrounded him in seconds, thirty or so of them massing around to take turns kicking and stomping and whomping him as I sat horrified and paralyzed, making weird mewling noises like a panicked toddler.

After a minute or two they drifted away to rejoin the main group now facing off with the Vice Lords at the end of the block, leaving what looked like a bloody pulp laying on the sidewalk. I finally snap out of it and run to dial 911, thinking this kid has got to be dead. When I get through, I begin describing the situation and begging the operator to send an ambulance for him. “How do you know he’s dead?” she asks. More fun with 911.

While the operator is dicking me around and the battle is raging back and forth up the street, I see the kid’s mom and sister come from around the corner where they lived and carefully try to rouse him. Holy shit, he’s conscious and getting up! They help him to his feet and gently support him as he hobbles and limps away. At this point I realize that I wouldn’t be doing him a favor by getting him an ambulance, as he would face police pressure to testify and be in for more trouble no matter how it played out. I hang up.

I hear from my scanner that several calls have gone out and in another minute a swarm of police cars arrived and the remaining combatants (the battle had mostly subsided by then anyway) dropped their weapons and disappeared to the four winds. The battle had ended for now.

The war raged on for a few more days until a massive and slightly psychotic show of presence from CAPS people and other fed-up neighbors seemed to blunt the fever of the conflict and regular Chicago winter conditions returned, but that is a story for another time.

The nerdy kid eventually healed from his horrific beating. I would sometimes see him around the L station heading to or from the new school to which he had transferred after his recovery. His limp went away in a year but the haunted look in his eyes stayed long afterward. I still think about him when the weather starts getting nice and my residual anxiety at the approach of spring, still leftover from those times, begins to gnaw at me. Lately I wonder what might have happened if there had been someone around back then who could have actually tried to intervene when Bill and Sean’s tiff first began. Who might have interrupted the spiral of aggression before it became a tornado that consumed a neighborhood and turned a nerdy kid whose only sin was picking the wrong direction to flee into a bloody mass of tissue slumped motionless on a sidewalk.

 

 

 

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