Monday, June 29, 2009

Stolen Bikes Ride Faster

(subtitled: But You Get No Where with Your Bike Locked to Your Porch, True Story)

Bike Incident '09 is OVER!

I am not really good with bikes. I mean, I can usually navigate them from point A to point B and I generally get on with them well enough as long as I don't have to do anything mechanical. Maybe it's that I'm not really a mechanical person. But I think the bigger issue is bikes.

Case Study A: It took me forever to learn how to ride. Or at least, that's the way I remember it. Like any young tot, I excelled when there were three or four wheels in contact with the ground (tricycles and training wheels respectively). However, when it was time for the superfluous wheels to come off, I found them rather...necessary. I fell a LOT. And I was learning how to ride on a gravel driveway. So...OUCH.

Case Study B: For my...11th, I think...birthday I specifically stated that I wanted anything EXCEPT for a bike. So of course my gift was going to the store and picking out a bicycle and a helmet. It turned out well enough, I had that fancy mountain bike for years even after downgrading to a used street bike. On the other hand, while living in Madison, bike number two was stolen piece by piece. C'est la guerre (the bike guerre anyway).

Case Study C: In lieu of replacing a broken pedal on bike three (aforementioned used street bike, belonged to my mom when she was young so it was "vintage" - read OLD) I opted to get around town hoping my foot wouldn't slip off the pedal post. And later, when taken to a bike shop to repair the broken brakes yet again, I was summarily informed the mechanic could spend a whole day working on the bike and still have plenty of repairs left. Whatever, just because a bike HAS gears doesn't mean you have to USE them.

Also, a confession, I've only once taken a bike to a shop for a tune up, and that was in Middle School. If it isn't broken... And by broken I mean completely impedes the bicycle's intended purpose (locomotion)....

So, the spring after moving to Chicago I finally bought a new used bike. And I love that bike. We've been through some tough times, like when I had to pay $100 to replace a stolen wheel, but we've forged on. Until I locked it to the porch this winter.

Not really a smart idea, actually. Given that it's the Midwest and therefore snowy and given that the porch is outside I didn't really put any forethought into "what if the lock rusts shut?" Which it did.

I tried everything to remedy the situation (after discovering it two months later). It's been an epic battle. I called several bike shops for suggestions and got nowhere so I started improvising. Over the course of several weeks I tried bike chain lube then some charcoal stuff and finally I soaked everything with repeated dousings from a bottle of WD-40. All for naught. I was getting desperate. The sun was beautiful and I no longer wanted to walk everywhere.

Yesterday I gave up on the thought of salvaging the locks (I was using a combination of U-lock and steel cable to secure the bike) and went to buy a hacksaw. After explaining the situation to the clerk, I was informed that a hacksaw would snap under the pressure (kind of like what I was about to do). Alack. Also, as I explained the situation the clerk treated me more and more like an incompetent, would-be bike thief. Which I resent, given that only the first half of that is true.

So anyway, with no further options, I turned to Google.

Why was that not my first thought?

Google taught me the wonder that is PB Penetrating Catalyst.

This stuff is AMAZING. I went to the nearby auto-shop this morning and bought a can. Within half an hour I had the bike unlocked, easy-peasy.

Then I used the rest to clean the rusty chain, spokes and assorted parts. And now I have my bike back! Thanks, PB Penetrating Catalyst!*

*Seriously though, this is the best rust remover ever. EVER.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Contents of Lincoln's Pockets

I recently stumbled across this site called Face Your Pockets. It's pretty cool.

Basically you're supposed to upend your pockets, purse, messenger bag, or whatever onto your scanner, find a spare bit for your face, and take a picture.

Things that are living in the pockets of your bag, jeans or jacket: travel and pay checks, old cigarette pack that just looks interesting, sugar lumps and all the stuff that has found home in your pockets. They are all the treasures our project is looking for! Our goal is not only bring all this objects into light but show the owner of them. - F.Y.P. Team

There's more information on how to take and submit your own picture on their site alongside pictures other people have submitted.

In My Bag on 4/28/2009

"My Booky Wook" by Russell Brand
a 'zine entitled "Because We Cannot Lie All Night Together"
A Rhubix Cube (solvable in under 6 min.)
Two Pens
Mobile Phone
iPod w/headphones
Oragami Creatures (Trout and Crane)
$0.53 in coins
Drivers License, Bank Card, Library Card, Bus Pass
Lip Balm


Thursday, April 2, 2009

Life Is Hard. Hooray Life.

One of the cool things about my old apartment was that it allegedly abutted the residence of the Lawrence Arms. I never actually saw anyone from the band in the neighborhood but I figure we ran in different social circles so the internet probably wasn't lying to me. However, not even that bit of celebrity could convince me to stay in that place for another year. Anyway.

On Sunday night/Monday morning as I was leaving the radio station I happened across a field of tiny American flags. The sort we used to tack to our bikes for the Fourth of July parade as children. I thought this odd so I doubled back to check out the sign which explained that each flag represented an aborted fetus. I could not roll my eyes hard enough at the ridiculousness. And I probably wouldn't waste the time drawing attention to this supposed social commentary were it not for the conversation Sarah-Sarah and I had the following afternoon wherein we have decided to re-frame the pro-choice/anti-choice discussion.

Let's face it, things get pretty heated on both sides of the fence. So we have decided, in typical fashion, that we are going to stop using the word "abortion." Because, really, it's much more positive (and we really ought to maintain a positive outlook even in the bleakest of times) to henceforth refer to said medical procedure as a LIBORTION.

Instead of saying you terminated your pregnancy or murdered your unborn child, isn't it so much nicer sounding to say the fetus was LIBERATED? I think it is.

Libortion: the new term for abortion. What do fetuses want? FREEDOM! When do they want it? DURING THE GESTATION PERIOD! (from Sarah-Sarah's twitter)

Anyway, so I was back at the radio station this evening for a meeting. And because I am horrible at timing transit routes, I was a wee bit (half an hour) early. And because it was so nice out, I decided to hang out on the steps which meant staring directly into the mass of flags. Fortunately the sign had blown over so their purpose was unclear. (It also appeared as though some of the flags had been liberated-awesome!) And then the true scope of the situation's humor struck me.

"Abortions for some, tiny American flags for others!" (-the Simpsons. Although I first encountered this decree via a Lawrence Arms' song, hence the anecdote at the beginning of this post.)

Regardless of whether the flags had been chose as a nod to the Simpsons/Lawrence Arms or not it pretty much made my day. Life is just awesome like that sometimes.

In unrelated news, I saw Bishop Allen last night thanks to Ms. Jodi and scored a bookshelf off the Sportz Night neighbors who have fled their lease like thieves in the night. Things are looking up.

p.s. Don't fear, Sarah-Sarah and I plan to continue the Sportz Night tradition by putting the George Foreman on the porch and throwing bean bags at the wall. It's for the greater good and a fitting tribute, I think.

Friday, March 6, 2009

I want to be let back in the house.

"Well, should I get married, should I be good, should I astound the girl next door with my velvet suit and my faustushood and not take her to movies but to cemeteries and tell her stories of werewolf tongues and four clarinets..."-Troy (Reality Bites)

I'm not entirely convinced I would be the protagonist in the movie of my life. I don't know. That sounds weird but I think I've always sort of seen myself as more of a sidekick. But if my life were a movie not entirely of my choosing it might most closely resemble Reality Bites (however, were I to pick, I'd opt to star in The Science of Sleep, for the record).

This is telling both of my admittedly terrible, terrible taste in movies and of my clearly self-involved bullshit angst. I'd request you not judge me but let's be realistic.

I just feel like I'm at the point in the reel where Lelaina is hanging out on her couch all day (only in my case "all day" translates into "for years"). Not insomuch as I'm feeling all woe-is-me sorry for myself (because I'm not, really) but this is not where I thought I'd be. (And please don't quote the whole "life is what happens when you're busy making plans," because I KNOW, I know.)

And I'm usually pretty okay with just sitting back and enjoying the ride but sometimes I hit that "what the hell am I even doing?!" road bump of a quarterlife crisis and I don't have someone like Ethan Hawke around to spout pseudo-intellectual cliches like "the only thing you need to be by the age of 23 (or 25) is yourself" and remind me that the only things I need are "a cup of coffee, and a little bit of conversation...You and me and five bucks."

Which is not to say that I want someone to come along and save me. I don't. That is very much not what I am looking for. I never really wanted to be the princess as a child even though I had the dress (it was a super cute Halloween costume one year). I wanted to be Atalanta. Don't Google it. My understanding of her at the time was based on the "Free to Be, You and Me" book/tape. And basically the only relevant part is that she was pretty clever. So when her father held a race with the thought of marrying her off to the winner, she entered and then spent that afternoon hanging out with the only guy who matched her pace. Afterward they both took off separately to explore the world. Also, she got to ride a horse and I was pretty keen on that as a kid.

I think I'm mixing my metaphors. Certainly I'm digressing.

I get that we're all supposed to identify with Lelaina. She's the protagonist, after all. She's like the character of Mark from Rent. Maybe the challenge is also being Troy at the same time. Maybe we're supposed to be sort of assholes to ourselves and push our own buttons and fail a bit and then turn around and be awkwardly, hesitantly gallant to ourselves when we really fuck up and get lost. Ok, I don't know, the argument all sort of breaks apart when Lelaina and Troy hook up. Or maybe that part demonstrates how sometimes we inevitably but unintentionally fuck ourselves over and it's okay to forgive it when it happens. Or maybe it doesn't. I like to read too far into things. I'm kind of tired and this probably makes no sense except in my own head where sometimes buildings look like robots and the made up stories are the most telling truths.

I guess I'm just trying to say I'm sorry if I've been a little bit "blargh" recently. I'll get over it. I'll figure it out or it'll figure itself out and either way I'll laugh at my own ridiculousness very soon. Rinse and repeat.

"What happened is that um, I kinda got this arcane glimpse of the universe and the best thing I can say about that is... I don't know."-Troy (Reality Bites)

Maybe let us never speak of this entry again.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Epic British TV Post Part 2 - Doctor Who

I am perhaps not the best person to explain how awesome Doctor Who is (both the show and the character) as this is another of the shows my roommate campaigned heavily for me to watch before I finally capitulated. C'est la guerre.

But briefly, Doctor Who:

"is a British science fiction television programme produced by the BBC. The programme depicts the adventures of a mysterious alien time-traveler known as 'the Doctor' who travels in his space and time-ship, the TARDIS, which normally appears from the exterior to be a blue 1950s police box. With his companions, he explores time and space, solving problems, facing monsters and righting wrongs."-wikipedia

The show has been around for ages and has had several actors portray the Doctor. My favorite Doctor is David Tennant (a popular choice, I know). You may recognize him from the Harry Potter movies.

*David Tennant as Barty Crouch Jr.*

David Tennant is quite expressive and as the Doctor he's also quite hilarious even when the situation doesn't warrant mirth.

See what I mean?

While out gallivanting on adventures, he often brings a friend. Road trips are more fun when shared, I guess. Most recently he has been traveling with Donna Noble. She is my absolute favorite companion. She's brash and stubborn and very sassy. Also, she's not in love with the Doctor as some of the past companions have been (which was all well and good but it also got old after awhile). Here's a non-spoilery clip.

The thing is, Catherine Tate (who plays Donna Noble) is awesome in her own right. She had her own comedy show for awhile and one of her recurring characters was a student named Lauren Cooper. This clip has David Tennant in it (along with a myriad of Doctor Who jokes). It is both funny and relevant for this post.

I enjoy the Lauren Cooper skits most of all and can often be heard quoting from them with Sarah-Sarah while we traverse the city on public transit.

Because Doctor Who is on hiatus and shall soon be mixing things up casting-wise, I gave into temptation and checked out the spin-off Torchwood. John Barrowman (who plays Captain Jack Harkness) is pretty amusing in his own rights. Two warnings I should have kept mind: Torchwood is pretty cheesy (but kind of enjoyably so) and there is a lot of sex on Torchwood. Like, really a lot.

If you're looking for something more family friendly, there's "The Sarah Jane Adventures" which features an earlier Doctor Who companion. It's also kind of cheesy but whatever. Sarah Jane is pretty cool, I get the feeling she was more of a Donna Noble type back in the day.

And this pretty much concludes my recent foray into British TV. So, in conclusion: if it can be tied back to Noel Fielding or David Tennant it's probably pretty awesome.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

For Hair Tying Emergencies, Presumably

I know I sort of promised a British TV post part two but that will have to wait because I had a super awesome day on Saturday and I am going to blog about it now for your alleged enjoyment.

1. I got my hair cut. It's ok. I'm like 80% satisfied with it. For the first time in a long time I went to a real salon instead of letting students hone their skills at my expense (I mean that literally, as in I pay for such service, and not in a mean way). The lady was nice and quick but I think she was a bit aggressive with her scissors. Especially in the bangs area. I requested swoopy type bangs and they sort of are but in the way that they sort of swoop an inch or so above my eyebrows making me look like a 12 year old whose mom trimmed her hair for school pictures. I don't really need a lot of help looking younger at this stage in my life.

However, I do like the way the rest of my hair turned out (for the most part). I'm really picky and, as I mention in my 25 Things About Me list (forthcoming, probably), I have only really liked one hair cut I've gotten ever. 80% approval is pretty good, actually. I'd probably go back and/or recommend it to friends.

Speaking of which, Big Hair (the salon), does not in fact have scissors that cut every third hair as I was promised. The stylist gave me an odd look when I inquired so I had to explain that the source was in rare form when she said it. I was still disappointed.

2. Walking around all day was fun. It was a balmy 50 in the city on Saturday, perfect for exploring new nooks and crannies which included an awesome toy store with Playmobils. So much fun.

3. In the evening I attended the sold out Los Campesinos! show with Sarah-Sarah. They. Are. AWESOME. I dancey danced awkwardly and sang along with great enthusiasm. It was one of the best shows. I'd never been to the Logan Square Auditorium before and was impressed by the venue.

The opening band Titus Andronicus was also terrific. In a high school band way. That sounds like an insult but it very much is not. When I was in high school, we only really had one local band (it was a small town). They often wore Hawaiian shirts and played music that was vaguely ska (it was a small town) and everybody loved them even if they'd never actually heard the band play. They were not like the bands we'd journey into the big city to see on the weekends. We knew that the local band would eventually make it big (ed. note: they did not) but in the meantime we liked their songs (or the idea of them) and their potential. They were rough since no one had tried to mold them into a marketable gimmick and we enjoyed that.

In the same way, Titus Andronicus seemed a bit rough but all the better for it. Sometimes they raged like Tim Kasher, sometimes the sound was mellow with harmonica. I liked both ends of the spectrum enough to buy their record (with free digital download) and got to hear the lead singer tell some kid just to steal the music online. The singer also had nice hair. That's completely unrelated, though. The very best part was that they did a cover of the Modern Lover's song "Roadrunner." It was very, very good.

And then they handed over the stage for Los Campesinos! Hooray!

I missed Los Campesinos! the last time they were in town which I regret now. They put on an enthusiastic show. As one might guess from listening to their albums. And even though we were not in the middle of the dance pit, we danced. Or, rather, I did my awkward shuffle thing that is as close to dancing as I get. I don't know what else there is to say about the music itself. They stayed pretty true to their recordings but with maybe slightly more energy. Oh, and at one point a line was changed to something pretty obscene...but it was funny in a cutting way so...

The between song banter was pretty spot on as well. At one point someone shouted that they couldn't understand Gareth (background: Los Campesinos! are from Cardiff and thus have a bit of an accent, unlike us Midwesterners) which led Sarah-sarah and I into a bout of quoting the Lauren Cooper sketch featuring Doctor Who (we're dorks) which also led us into making Doctor Who/Torchwood jokes/references (we're major dorks. background: Doctor Who and Torchwood episodes are routinely set in Cardiff where there is a disruption in space/time). Oh, also, despite announcing the band was from Cardiff Gareth also said they were British, which Sarah-Sarah corrected (quite loudly) which led Gareth to concede the point while simultaneously pointing out that he would clearly win any further argument because he had the microphone.


Then they played some more including my very favorite song "Knee Deep at ATP." I was elated. So there was more dancing/shuffling. Sadly, the evening drew to a close not long afterwords. Instead of honoring my silent request to play all night, the band did a one song encore before leaving the stage for a final time. However, I can't begrudge them since they closed with "Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks" which seemed like the most appropriate choice. By the time the last note sounded, most of the band were up on the monitors, singing at the top of their lungs. I think they had almost as good of a time as the audience.

We stopped by the merch table on the way out where I made purchase of aforementioned Titus Andronicus record, two Los Campesinos! EPs and possibly the coolest fan-zine ever. Gareth, who was manning the merch station and chatting amiably to the patrons, explained he made 100 of them to sell on tour. Mine is titled "Because We Cannot Lie All Night Together" (chosen for the car picture on the front which reminded me of my 25 Things list). Apparently the line is from a poem by B S Johnson. The 'zine contains a mix CD with 14 songs and correlating short stories. It's fantastic and well worth the investment. He was also asking for vegan restaurant recommendations and though I didn't say it to him, I will tell you that I firmly recommend Cousin's. Not the sub chain but the local raw/vegan restaurant on West Irving Park (in Chicago). For $9-ish you can partake in their truly excellent lunch buffet and sit on the floor while you eat it (I'm really into sitting on the floor of restaurants). Seriously amazing. I digress.

After the show we lingered out front to retrieve winter-wear from our bags and also to await an expected phone call. This is when we were accosted by an intoxicated young man (but clearly not a gentleman at all) who tried to slap Sarah-sarah's hand whilst knocking out my front teeth. He did not know the secret to the perfect high-five (look at your partner/opponent's elbow) and was recalcitrant in learning it from us. His loss. Somehow this led to him towering over my slight-of-stature friend demanding to know if she found him trustworthy. I'd like to also point out that he did not seem to be good at telling when people were lying. Fortunately his friends called him away soon after and we did not encounter him on the train nor on craigslist's missed connections board.

Meanwhile, still loitering around the venue area, we stumbled across Logan Square's video exchange. It's really an reclaimed newspaper box housing hundreds (or 20) of home-taped movies. We borrowed two VHS tapes with artsy titles. Well, mine had artsy titles scribbled on it, Sarah-Sarah's has a rap star/actor namechecked on the label. I originally gave it to a passerby but he was gentleman enough to exchange it for another when Sarah-sarah requested it back. In my defense, I hadn't actually looked at what was on it before handing it over and probably (but not definitely) would not have been so cavalier in giving it away had I known its contents. I do think we all managed to avoid going home with porn so win-win-win.

Then, just when I thought the night wasn't going to get any better, Sarah-Sarah pointed out a tall bike. My jaw hit the ground. I am super fascinated by tall-bikes and platonically enamored of anyone who rides one. It was lucky that we are scouting locations for a super-secret free CD exchange for the Chicago area. To take place in our neighborhood area, roughly, for convenience. Details to follow.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Epic British TV Post Part 1 - Noel Fielding

In all the time I've had off "work" recently, I've succumbed to what has been a long campaign waged by my roommate to get me to watch British TV. It has been an epic battle partly because I am, on occasion, stubborn just to be stubborn. Sometimes you have to say "no" so that your "yes" has more meaning.

The major deterrent was my inability to appreciate the British version of the Office. I tried to watch it several times. I clenched my jaw through the first few episodes of the first series (for some odd reason, in the UK a television season is called a series. I suppose it’s classier.) However, the boss on the show made me so uncomfortable I had to stop watching. Had I not, I would have been forced to dig out my eyes and eardrums. So, back to square one which was ignoring British culture.

And then I got bored. And under the constant barrage, I became intrigued.

I relented slowly at first. After being sent numerous clips from Never Mind the Buzzcocks, I developed something of an affinity for a certain guest captain Noel Fielding. He appears in only three episodes (series 21 episodes 2, 3, and 4) and he is hilarious. For the uninitiated, Noel is the dark haired bloke who looks a bit like a British hobgoblin in this clip (which is my favorite of him):

So score one point for NMtB (well, one for Noel Fielding, really). Unfortunately, there is only a limited amount of Noel material available on this show. On the other hand, as you can see, the host of the show is also awesome. His name is Simon Amstell. And, as he pointed out, he has fact based jokes. But I suspect he'd be funny even without an autocue. Like he is here:

That is my second ever favorite clip from NMtB. It's funny! The BBC had to put up a disclaimer!

I digress. So Never Mind the Buzzcocks clearly snowed me. It took a bit to understand how the quiz itself worked since it appears as secondary to the chaos and chatter. As near as I can tell, NMtB is like 10% random British trivia, 10% quiz on aforementioned trivia and 80% British celebs (and sometimes American) screwing around. It's fun when guests take themselves too seriously (like when Preston stormed out). It’s also fun when guests refuse to take themselves seriously as seen here with Josh Groban. Note: on Youtube, all episodes are in three parts.

Thus, I had to grant that Sarah was correct about British TV.

But, despite being entertained by Simon Amstell, something was missing. I missed Noel Fielding and his ridiculously awesome hair. And then I discovered that he was also a contestant on the Big Fat Quiz of the Year 2006 and 2007. With Russell Brand serving as his partner-in-crime (or partner-in-goth-detectiveness, you'll see what I mean). AWESOME! This is a clip from 2007. The really funny bit starts around 2:40. But watch it all! It's worth it.

The Big Fat Quiz of the Year show is not nearly as hard to understand as Never Mind the Buzzcocks. I highly recommend watching the 11 or so parts that comprise each quiz. They’re very funny.

So after watching all of that, I was ready to try out Sarah’s original recommendation: the Mighty Boosh. This is Noel Fielding’s main comedic outlet (yes, we’re back to him, whatever, he’s awesome!). In the Mighty Boosh, Noel and his friend Julian Barrett play friends Vince Noir and Howard Moon and have an Ernie and Bert type of relationship. Clearly, because he's shorter (and more awesome) Noel is Ernie. This clip is from the first series. They used to do intros before the insanity ensued in the zoo (they played zookeepers, then in the second season they inexplicably didn't.)

See, just like Bert and Ernie. Julian/Howard even has a bit of a paperclip fetish in the second season when he builds Stationary Village. I am obsessed with Stationary Village! It’s super cool.

I’m not sure what else to say about the Mighty Boosh. I guess you could compare it to Flight of the Concords if you were so inclined. Like Flight of the Conchords, the Mighty Boosh has a lot of singing. Except they call it “crimping” but it’s basically the characters making up random, spontaneous songs. I like to do that too! Of course, my songs are nowhere near as quality as theirs. All the episodes are online to watch. I recommend because sadly, the Mighty Boosh DVDs are only in region 2 format which means they probably won't work in your DVD player. Alas.

And, in case you haven’t quite had enough Noel Fielding, he appears in a couple of episodes of the IT Crowd (but not in the clip below). Actually, another Mighty Boosh character stars on the IT Crowd as Morris (the poofy haired bloke). I like the IT Crowd because it makes me feel technologically adept. Somewhat, anyway.

Essentially, the show is about the IT department at a major British Corporation. It's staffed by two main geeks and overseen by their computer illiterate lady boss. There's a lot of chaos on this show, too. Here's a clip:

So that basically sums up why British TV is so awesome these days, in my opinion. Almost all of the good stuff can be traced back to Noel Fielding. Hooray. The stuff that can't is probably related to Doctor Who/David Tennant. We will cover that in the next post.