Sunday, March 30, 2008

The On Notice Board: Cubs 2008

Gary Louris review coming soon.

In the meantime, the Cubs will begin the 2008 season tomorrow afternoon. They will play baseball for six months, at the end of which they will almost certainly not win the World Series.

But being Cub fans, a lot of Cub fans have hope. For that hope not to be crushed, certain people and things need to be at their best.

That's why, thanks to Stephen Colbert (of the show The Colbert Report starring Stephen Colbert), I'm putting the following people and things "On Notice" for the 2008 season:

Rock Chalk Jayhawk

No... not that Jayhawk.

This one.

MPF will write a full review of Gary Louris at Metro soon.

To tide you over, I offer TM's Top-5 Highlights of Friday night's show:

#5: TM discovers Sam Adams White Ale (it's almost as good as Blue Moon)

#4: Opener Vetiver sets the tone for a fun, relaxed evening (MPF & TM purchase Vetiver album on way out of the show)

#3: Gary dusts off some old Jayhawk favorites including Save it for a Rainy Day and Blue (one of the best songs ever written)

#2: Gary rocks out with his new solo stuff (MPF & TM purchase Vagabonds on the way out of the show)

#1: Gary performs All the Right Reasons (a.k.a the song TM & MPF danced to at their wedding) as part of the encore. TM gets teary eyed.

And what are TM & MPF up to next week? Kathleen Edwards at Metro.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Sweet 16 Picks: The Results

Bear Grylls ain't got nothing on me: I put my March Madness picks up against Quigley, a 10-pound cat who sleeps all day and occasionally drinks water straight out of the faucet. I used human intellegence, analysis of teams, players and coaches, and general knowledge of college basketball developed over years of fandom. He used a patented animal kingdom-based method. I started at a small disadvantage, as I picked the Sweet 16 before the tourney began; Quigley picked the actual matchups after the first weekend of games.

So who won out?

Sweet 16: Man vs. Wild(cat)
MatchupMPF PickQuigley PickActual Winner
North Carolina vs. Washington StateNorth Carolina Washington StateUNC
Louisville vs. TennesseeTennesseeTennesseeLouisville
Kansas vs. VillanovaKansas VillanovaKansas
Wisconsin vs. DavidsonWisconsin DavidsonDavidson
Memphis vs. Michigan StatePittsburghMemphis Memphis
Stanford vs. TexasTexasStanford Texas
UCLA vs. Western KentuckyUCLA UCLAUCLA
Xavier vs. West VirginiaDukeWest VirginiaXavier

So there you have it....I edged a housecat, 4-3. Phew. (And if any HTML-savvy readers know how to get rid of that space before the table starts, I'm all ears. Thanks.)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Quigley Cat Picks the Sweet 16

Even though TM spends more quantity time with Quigley, I'd like to think that he and I spend more *quality* time together. For example, they could discuss every day what to have for lunch. (TM might have a sandwich or a cup or soup or a salad. For Quigley, it's always the same: cat food.)

Whereas, last night he and I discussed the NCAA basketball tournament games coming up this weekend. You wouldn't think he's all that aware of March Madness, seeing as how he sleeps all day and has never graduated from a single university*. But he's sharper than you know: even though he probably didn't see a single game from the first and second rounds**, he has made his picks for the Sweet 16. I tried to tell him about things like seeds and star players, but he didn't listen--he already had his answers based on his feline reasoning. And he shared them with me.

Look deep into my eyes. Hear my wisdom.


1) North Carolina


4) Washington State

MPF Analysis: Carolina, with Tyler Hansbrough and Ty Lawson, have been on a roll, destroying its first two opponents. Washington State shut down Notre Dame's high powered offense, holding the Irish to only 41 points. UNC averaged 110.5 points in its two games; Wash State averaged 66 points.

Quigley: Washington State is Cougars. Don't know what a Tar Heel is. I pick cats: Washington State.

3) Louisville


2) Tennessee

MPF Analysis: An exciting matchup between two talented, athletic teams. Tennessee felt cheated out of a No. 1 seed but has struggled in its two games. Louisville came on strong late in the season to tie for the Big East Championship. They cruised past Oklahoma in the second round.

Quigley: Louisville is Cardinals, a bird. Birds are my enemy. Don't know what a Volunteer is, but it's not a bird: Tennessee.


1) Kansas


12) Villanova

MPF Analysis: Villanova knocked off 5-seed Clemson and then topped upstart Siena to advance to the Sweet 16, led by star guard Scottie Reynolds. Kansas has cruised to 24- and 19-point victories in its quest to get back to the Final Four.

Quigley: Kansas is Jayhawks. That's a bird. Villanova is Wildcats. I can be a wild cat myself: Villanova.

3) Wisconsin

10) Davidson

MPF Analysis: The individual story of the tournament is Davidson's Stephen Curry, a sharpshooter who has exploded in the second half of wins over Gonzaga (30 of his 40 points) and Georgetown (25 of his 30 points). Wisconsin's plodding pace and stifling defense will try to contain him, the way they stopped Kansas State's star, Michael Beasley.

Quigley: I don't know what a Badger is. It looks like a scary, upright rodent. I don't like that look on his face. I pick Wildcats: Davidson.

Bonus picture of Bucky the Badger: "a scary, upright rodent," sayeth the Oracle kitty.


1) Memphis


5) Michigan State

MPF Analysis: Memphis had some trouble putting away Mississippi State but otherwise has looked the part of a top seed. Michigan State is the other Big Ten team still alive, using a strong performance from senior Drew Neitzel to oust Pittsburgh and advance to the Sweet 16.

Quigley: Memphis is kitties. Meow. What is a Spartan? He looks mean, he carries a sword, and his head is enormous. Memphis.

3) Stanford


2) Texas

MPF Analysis: Brook Lopez made a leaner with 1.3 seconds left in overtime as Stanford edged Marquette. The 7-footer and his twin brother Robin are a tough draw to defend. Texas also struggled in its second round game, allowing Miami to mount a comeback before finally putting them away. A.J. Abrams and D.J. Augustin are probably the most exciting backcourt in the country.

Quigley: Stanford is a tree. I like to climb trees, or I would if I went outside. Texas is a longhorn...a big, scary cow. I say "moooo" to that: Stanford.




12) Western Kentucky

MPF Analysis: After a dominating first round win, UCLA (pronounced "Uck-lah") had a harder time with Texas A&M. Everybody loves Love, as in freshman stud Kevin Love, relative of a Beach Boy. Western Kentucky had their "March Madness Moment" with a buzzer-beater in OT to defeat the 5-seed alma mater, then dispatched fellow upstart 13-seed San Diego.

Quigley: UCLA is a Bruin, a big bear. Western Kentucky is a Hilltopper. What is a Hilltopper? What do you do with a Hilltopper, just sit on top of it? I'm not even allowed outside to get to the hill. UCLA.

3) Xavier


7) West Virginia
MPF Analysis: Xavier, of the Atlantic 10, has looked deep and balanced in their games, with senior leadership that could take them far in the tourney. West Virginia scored a major upset by beating 2-seed Duke, with Jon Alexander playing the role of Kevin Pittsnoggle this year.

Quigley: Xavier is a Musketeer. He has a wispy moustache and a sword. What's with the sword again? Why is that necessary? West Virginia is a Mountaineer. I don't like these picks. I'll take the guy who looks like a bear over the guy who looks all snively: West Virginia.

OK, those are his picks! Watch the games to see how Quigley did, and if you want, I'll ask him to pick the Final Four next weekend.

* Not even obedience school.
** I don't know this for a fact. His catsitter may have flipped on the TV for him to scout the teams while we were out of town.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

March Madness

Hey people, the best Thursday-Friday combo of the year is here.

No pictures of the cat, no witty captions, no 1,000 word essays about The Hold Steady, just wanted to give everyone a look at the answer key.

In fact, I am so confident, I've titled it The Answer Key. View "The Answer Key" here.

The alma maters are five seeds. Notre Dame plays tonight vs. the George Mason Patriots, and Drake plays tomorrow noonish vs. the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers. You already knew that W. Ky. has a weird, scary looking mascot. But G. Mason is right there with 'em.

Good luck with your brackets, and enjoy the Madness!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Fuzzy Me

Some mornings, you just need a good laugh.

Check out more Get Fuzzy here

Monday, March 17, 2008

St. Patrick's Day 2008

Some pictures from the Chicago St. Patrick's Day parade:

The start of the parade.

The Chip O'tlay (Chipotle) banner.

The flying blarney-rito (burrito). (Not these guys.)

The Hamburg Athletic Association (where Mayor Richard J. Daley got his start in politics).

OK, if you were paying attention to that last picture, you realized these are not the 53rd annual parade, but the 2004 version. Readers of this blog may know (or could've guessed) I was looking forward to this for weeks. But, sometimes life intervenes.

[Non-cat people: skip this paragraph.] We had company in town from Florida this weekend. The six of us got home from dinner Thursday night and discovered Quigley had puked while we were gone. That stinks, but hey, it happens. (With Q, not much though. He's a good healthy cat.) Then it happened again, before we went to bed. Then it happened again, in the middle of the night. And the next morning, it happened again. Four times in about 12 hours, and we were a little worried.

[Details follow, if you don't want 'em, skip this paragraph.] Part of the worry was that the first two messes were watery, with a reddish tint. Even though it didn't look like blood (more like faintly colored water), what else comes from inside a cat, right? The third was undigested food (gross looking, but in and of itself not a concern if it were the only one). But then the fourth one was straight water, which I guess is a bad sign.

So TM took the Q to the vet, who wanted to keep him overnight. That obviously made us more than a little worried. We thought we might get him back early Saturday morning, but that conversation didn't go as well as we hoped it would. So we waited, and called back later in the morning. It wasn't until noonish when we could get him, and around 1pm when he and I got back from the vet's office. I gave him a little food and watched him to make sure he kept it down. TM and the tourists went downtown around 10:30 for the noon start of the parade. By the time I felt comfortable leaving him alone, they'd been standing downtown in the cold and wind for a couple hours, and were leaving the parade route.

So I missed the parade. It sucked, but it happens. I'll trade a happy, healthy Q for a parade any day of the week. Thanks to all of you who have asked about Quigley...he is back to normal and in fact, of this writing, is curled up on the bed sleeping happily.

Here's a bonus picture of the 2005 parade. I don't remember going to that one, and the pictures I took weren't as good as 2004. And for what it's worth, I missed the Chinese New Year Parade this year because of the insane cold. Do I have to move back to Paradetown just to see people walk in the middle of the street?

I joined the gang downtown for our traditional burgers at Monk's Pub, where this memorable photo occurred. Then we ventured back up to the North Side to continue the party. So that was St. Patrick's Day (observed): a lot of anxious waiting and worry followed by a lot of drinking that was mostly blowing off the steam caused by the aforementioned worry.

And now, let's focus on March Madness! The alma maters drew 5 seeds, the best EVER showing for MPF alma maters*. I think ND will win, but they got a tough draw in George Mason. The Bulldogs should have an easier road with Western Kentucky unless they get distracted by this guy.

Enjoy the March Madness, and let us know how your brackets are shaping up!

* --in the same year.

Toora Loo-Rye-Aye

Happy St. Patrick's Day!!!!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Sandwiches, Bitches.

Note: I am not in the habit of using that word to refer to the second person plural. If anything, I say "y'all."

To understand "sandwiches, bitches" you first have to read "Space, bitches."

Read it here.

(OK, anything that is even mildly complimentary to Meeechigan must be accompanied by this.)

Remember Meeechigan: You lost to THESE GUYS.

Heh heh. So that joke led into this one:

Read Part Two here.

So with that intro, I declare: sandwiches, bitches.

I went to a small college in the Midwest that hasn't been good in basketball since the early 1970s. They got good this year, and a fellow alum and I made a bet with two guys at work who graduated from Illinois State, not exactly a powerhouse but a good team in the same conference. The wager: the basketball game between the alma maters. The prize: a Jimmy John's sandwich.

So our school won, and we crowed a little about our impending sandwich. All had agreed in advance for a double or nothing when the two schools met again later in the season. And we won again. Two sandwiches.

Over the weekend the conference tournament happened, with my school seeded #1 and Illinois State #2. We agreed before the tourney started that if the two teams met in the tournament, there'd be another sandwich on the line. I figured hey, it's tough to beat the same team three times in one season, but worst case scenario, I come out with one sandwich.

You may have seen the game (broadcast nationally on CBS) on Sunday:

Sandwiches, bitches.

That's right. Four sandwiches. A bonus sandwich to taunt those poor suckers.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Steppenwolf Goes to New York

(Just Like TMMPF)

Readers of this blog probably know that TM and I lived in Chicago, then in New York, and then again in Chicago. We thought we would like life in New York, because New York is a big city, Chicago is a big city, and we liked Chicago. This proved to be what logic professors call a fallacy.

The New York vs. Chicago thing is a rich, fascinating topic that will be revisited over time here on TMMPF. It's been on my mind this week as I finally got around to reading last week's Chicago Tribune Magazine cover story about the Steppenwolf play "August: Osage County" moving to Broadway.

Ostensibly the article is about the theater, but for me it was about the differences between the two cities, the romanticized image of New York vs. the reality of daily life there, especially for Chicagoans.

"The idea, the fantasy, is that 'My life is going to change [by going to Broadway], that everything is going to be different,' " says Steppenwolf artistic director Martha Lavey, who had to find replacements for several "August" cast members that had been slated to appear in, or like Morton, direct other Steppenwolf productions this season. "Not only have many of us realized that is not true, a lot of them would say, 'I don't want my life to be different. I like my life here.' "

This line really stopped me in my tracks. For a long time I rebelled against the notion of New York as Number One. How can it be so great, I'd argue, if it doesn't have the Cubs. The people are mean. It's on Eastern Standard Time. Blah, blah. Then I went there, and after a while, and especially after leaving, I grudgingly admitted: New York is Number One for a reason. It's the capital of the world, the center of the universe. That doesn't automatically make it a good or happy or enjoyable place to live: this is one of the ironies and contradictions of life in Gotham.

Americans, being lazy and easily impressed by large numbers, tend to think that biggest = best. And yet no one would say that McDonalds is the best restaurant in America--just cause they have McChickens for a buck doesn't automatically make them the greatest. Chicago, and Boston, and Seattle, and flyover country as a whole, all need to acknowledge that NY's many assets don't necessarily add up to the best. It's just the biggest. Your home is cool, too.

Voted America's greatest restaurant by Gourmet magazine, right?

Look at it this way, out of about 303 million people in this country, 295 million of them DON'T live in New York City. That many people can't be wrong.

Another quote from actress Amy Morton:
And she was dreading the coming adjustment to tighter quarters--in her temporary home, and everywhere else in New York."I always feel like a bull in a china shop in New York," she said. "I feel like I'm three times the size I am. The apartments are smaller, the restaurants are smaller."
I don't know about bull in a china shop...but certainly out of place. (More on this in a future essay. English majors shall recognize this as "foreshadowing.")

Finally, I got a good laugh out of this line:

Unlike the sighs and long faces that greeted the news of a Broadway run, the "August" cast was thrilled at the thought of going to London-"because that's a fun city," as Morton put it.

Then I made it to THIS week's Chicago Tribune Magazine, and there was ANOTHER reference to the culture and attitude of the two cities. From the society page came this:

Q: What about Chicago's style? A: "This is my first day ever in Chicago and so far I'm a fan of everything I've seen. It feels like New York; the only difference really is that everyone seems to have a smile on their faces." -- Vaughn Vance

To Mr. Vaughn Vance: Glad you're a fan, but is that really the only difference you noticed? The wider sidewalks, uncluttered by piles of bagged garbage? The calmer pace, the lack of the killer instinct, the racial segregation, or many others I'll write about in the future?

Vince Vaughn: knows Chicago. Vaughn Vance: No fucking clue.

I will give you the benefit of the doubt that *I* didn't recognize every single difference right away ... but I certainly noticed more than that. At the very least, you should recognize that your "only" difference ... means EVERYTHING.

There were times when Quigley couldn't wait to get back to his hometown of Chicago. He would tell you watching the squirrels was far superior to those damn Manhattan pigeons.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Well, That Sucked.

This has been, pardon my French, one of the shittiest Februarys of recent memory. I know living through winter is part of the package deal of life in the Midwest. But this one was particularly nasty.

There was a graphic in this morning’s Chicago Tribune that I can’t get to online. (Thanks, Trib. Way to embrace the Internet technology.) In the absence of that visual, I turn to another noted weather expert, Fr. Hurlbert, who noted in this week's bulletin that at one point last week we'd had 35 days of measurable snow on the 11th straight day of below normal temps. Sigh.

Anyway, the graphic essentially showed how far below average the temps have been in Feb. 2008, and how much it snowed. The basics: normal temp is 27 degrees, actual was 23. That doesn’t seem so bad, but the graphic shows the daily temp line plunging below average, with almost every day significantly below average. It was so cold a couple Sundays ago that we had to cancel plans to go to the Chinese New Year parade, an old favorite tradition of mine.

And snow? Normal: 8.3 inches. Actual: 21.8. Add in crushing boredom and frustration at work, and it made for the longest 29-day month I’ve ever lived through. All in all, not a good time for the discipline of self-denial.

Much like Steve McCroskey, looks like I picked the wrong week to stop smoking cigarettes (and sniffing glue).

Alright, nobody wants to listen to total bitching, so here are three good things about the February that just ended:
And here are three nice things about March:

  • The NCAA tournament, “March Madness,” which for the first time ever, should feature EVERY SINGLE UNIVERSITY I’ve ever graduated from.
  • The St. Patrick’s Day Parade, another great Chicago tradition.
  • It can’t help but be warmer than what just ended.
O'Quigley gets ready to celebrate his Irish heritage on March 17.