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Jenny McCarthy

Coming to the James VanOsdol show later this afternoon (5/23): Jenny McCarthy.

She’s an author! Activist! Actress! Model! And, um, this girl:

Jenny and I talk about her work for Generation Rescue, her upcoming Playboy pictorial, how she takes her hot dogs, MTV, and her upcoming NBC shows (that’s plural).





The Thrill of Watching Movies from My Couch

I watched Morgan Spurlock’s new documentary, Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope, Friday night On Demand.

I love the ability to see a movie that’s currently in theaters from the comforting confines of my own home. In fact, I really hope these opportunities become more frequent. Say what you will about the “shared experience” of seeing a movie with hundreds of theater-goers, I’m perfectly content to watch a flick all by my lonesome.

The problem with going to the movies, concerts, or any public event, is that some jackass in the crowd always ruins the experience for me. Take, for example, when I went to see Van Halen at the United Center in February. I was behind a row of fratboys who drove up from Bradley (as was loudly proclaimed many, many times) who couldn’t hold their liquor. When the opening riff of “Unchained” kicked in, the fratboy in front of me yelled to his dumb buddy, “Fuck it, I’m taking my shirt off!” And with that, he proceeded to tear his shirt off, Hulk-style. He high-fived and fist-bumped his way through the rest of the concert, topless and brainless, funded by his parents who are likely none the wiser.

The moviegoing experience can be just as frustrating. Somebody’s always texting, Facebooking, or loudly fake laughing to the point of distraction. On a somewhat-related tangent, the next time you’re at a movie, check out how many people are on their mobile devices rather than communicating with the person next to them. I’m floored by how many couples don’t actually talk with one another, choosing instead to update and tweet statuses and Foursquare locations.

As for the Spurlock movie: I really enjoyed it, but keep in mind that I’m a guy with dozens of longboxes who can happily explain the differences between Neal Adams and Neil Gaiman. I couldn’t directly relate to some of the featured players, who were chosen because of their more intense fandom, but the movie sure felt familiar.

The Self-Publishing Chronicles: Part Three

Because I have absolute control over Off the Record Collection, I don’t have to adhere to a deadline or strict timetable to get it into production. It’s both a luxury and crutch.

Life got in the way of progress this month, and my efforts all but stalled as I was otherwise distracted by family and work commitments (happily distracted, I should note).

While it’s true that I don’t have to worry about a deadline, I feel a bit sheepish about the fact that things haven’t progressed much in the last 30 days (my last blog entry on this topic was from 2/26/11).

Here’s the latest:

Cover art

My talented cover-artist friend remains committed to creating a cover for the book.  Problem is, inspiration hasn’t hit him yet.  I’m more than happy to be patient…especially considering my recent pace.


One celebrity has committed to blurbing the book, and I’m still waiting on response from others.

Manuscript and rewrites

I’m never totally happy with anything I write, something that’s especially true with OTRC, a collection of previously-written material.  I’ve been fussing with the copy during odd free moments, rewriting some of the contextual
frameworks which set up different stories, pieces, and observations.

Haaf-Onion Omnimedia

My publishing imprint has a starter web page, which is screaming for content.  I’ve yet to start mapping out what sorts of things to include there.

to be continued

Stealing Florence: How I Made Tyler’s BBQ Sauce

We had my parents over for Christmas Eve this year, and I was in charge of the menu.  For ease, flavor, and comfort, I chose ribs for the entree.

Specifically, I went with Tyler Florence’s “Ultimate Barbecued Ribs,” which I’d made once before to great success.  The complete recipe can be found here

My gas grill bit the dust this summer, which means I have no choice but to contain all my cooking indoors.  Florence’s ribs are as good as oven-cooked ribs can get, and the homemade sauce is better than most of the sauces you’ll find on the shelves of your local Jewel or Trader Joe’s.

Should you try to follow the recipe, know three things:

1. The sauce is sweet, and without kick.  If fire is what you’re after, add your standby spices to the round of ingredients that includes the preserves, paprika, etc.

2. Remembering how much I liked the sauce the last time I made it, I decided to make a double batch this time around.  A simple doubling of all the ingredients yields the same flavor.

3. Tyler Florence is insane in thinking that the ribs should only cook for two hours.  Start checking at two and a half hours, and plan for three.

The only true work in preparing the ribs is creating the sauce, which is simple enough for even the most kitchen-challenged of my friends.  The work is justified from the very first step:

Fresh thyme bundled in bacon.  Anything wrapped in bacon is a bundle of joy.

Here are the ribs in their pre-sauced, let’s-jump-in-the-oven, naked, glory:

And the finished product:

Within 15 minutes of serving, I walked back to the kitchen with plates of picked-clean bones.  
It was a Christmas miracle.

Found at a Metra station: The Invisible Man

There’s a bookshelf inside my local Metra terminal that’s used for book sharing.   The idea’s simple:  Read a book, then pass it on.

I’d rifled through the books before and never found anything worth a second glance; Harlequin romance novels, old textbooks, and outdated self-help books half-lined the shelves.  Nice idea, just nothing there worth picking up.

As I waited for my train yesterday, I again looked on the shelves.  To my surprise, there among the romance novels and Chemistry textbooks, sat one of my favorite books from childhood, “The Illustrated Man” by Ray Bradbury.  I hadn’t read it in decades, and the sight of it made me anxious to read those stories again.  I grabbed it and headed off to the train platform.
This paperback version is from 1967.  The pages are yellowed, but otherwise in fine shape.

When I opened up the cover I saw a handwritten signature.  An ink stamp at the bottom of the page read,


Someone close to this man, perhaps a son, daughter, spouse, or friend, thought to honor his memory by passing on a book (and I assume there were more than just this one) that he enjoyed.

I hovered over the man’s signature for a while before I dug into the book, as I contemplated a simple fact that we all tend to lose sight of.  Once we die, what we accomplished at work or school doesn’t really matter.  Vincent M. Lizzo reminded me that making a lasting, positive impact on family and friends is a true measure of success.

I Googled Vincent M. Lizzo and learned that he was a writer, with published articles in both the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Reader.  

Most importantly, he was someone who was deeply cared about.  

The Damned Things interview

p>The Damned Things didn’t play at Q101’s Twisted 2010 show on Sunday night, due to awful weather which kept 1/3 of the band from being able to make it into Chicago on time.

The rest of the band managed to make it to the House of Blues, and I got to interview them backstage before doors opened to the public.  Note that a properly-mixed and shot version of this video, produced by Q101, is expected later this week.

Of particular interest to Anthrax fans is the (brief) discussion of the “Big 4” tour, which Scott Ian deftly avoided with a smile.

The Damned Things debut, “Ironiclast,” comes out today.  Get it.  Rock it.

“We’ve Got a Situation Here”

Mud Bug OTB

My office held its annual holiday party last night.

The party’s
start time was a relatively early 6 p.m., which left my friends and I at
a loss for things to do in between the time our office closed and the
party started.  Staying at the office wasn’t an option. Our solution? 
Go off-campus and bet on the ponies.

Shortly after the office closed, we jumped on the red line and hoofed it
from the Clybourn stop to Mud Bug OTB on Weed Street.  Strangely
enough, I think it was my idea to go to the OTB, even though I’d never
before set foot in an OTB facility.  Beyond that, I’ve never been much
of a gambler, period.  My horse racing history includes less than five
trips to Arlington and one trip to Maywood (which was to hang out with
the Jesus Lizard). 

Walking in to the OTB, I expected the air to
be thick with smoke and sweaty desperation.  I also assumed that bar
would be lined by guys who looked like Ernest Borgnine on a gin bender. 
To my surprise, the facility was much cleaner and more orderly than
what I’d expected.  The customers looked non-threatening and were at
least a few bad experiences away from desperate.  I wouldn’t say Mud Bug
was comfortable, but it wasn’t sleazy, either.

I immediately
preferred the OTB environment to the vibe of a casino.   I don’t like
the dark, time-stands-still, outside-world-doesn’t-exist, aspect of
places like Harrah’s.  When I last set foot in a casino, I quickly felt
isolated and disoriented.  Once I perched myself in front of a slot
machine, zipping through credits in a hypnotic state, I was completely
cut off from everything else.  There’s nothing truly *fun* about the
casino experience for me, which makes the inevitable losses I incur feel
all the more damaging.

If nothing else, the OTB felt more
connected to the outside world than a casino, and it was definitely a
more social experience.   My friends and I dropped anchor at a table
near the windows and ate, drank, and made stupid conversation for a
solid two hours.  During that time, we’d occasionally race to the
electronic betting kiosks to recklessly place $2 bets on longshot horses
to place or show.  We never put ourselves at risk of traumatizing
financial loss; the gambling was done at a very conservative level, and
was really just a backdrop to our hanging out. 

Apparently, there are always races going on somewhere
I’m pretty sure I bet on a horse race in Costa Rica, and mostly sure I
bet on a few more in California.  Closed-circuit monitors line the walls
of Mud Bug, piping in horse races from tracks around the world.  
Rather than succumb to sensory overload, we picked a few tracks to zero
in on, and the process became more manageable and fun. 

It was
fascinating to watch the hardcore gamblers in the room.  They were
easily spotted, based on their beverage of choice:  Water.  My friends
and I assumed the hardcore group drank water to both avoid
alcohol-fueled bad bets and to keep expenses down while gambling.  The
hardcores had their daily sheets splayed across their tables, allowing
them to scrutinize every last detail of every race.  There’s a science
to mastering the minutia of details like track type, historical
performance, and jockey stats.  As far as I’m concerned, I’m perfectly
happy picking a horse because its name is “Lunar Fleet.”

total, I lost around $30.  It’s not like I had $30 to burn, but I’d
budgeted that money for “entertainment expenses,” so the loss was
okay-ish.  We had a great time, and more importantly, we didn’t sit
around the office, waiting for the party to start. 


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