Friday, August 02, 2013

Father Knows Nothing

This week's Father Knows Nothing column was about a very unusual birthday gift.

You can read it here.

Tweeting Scores A Sitcom Writing Gig

The guy who goes by the twitter handle Modern Seinfeld takes today's headlines, and creates a one-sentence situation of how that could have shown up in a Seinfeld episode. For instance...

Modern Seinfeld ‏@SeinfeldToday 24 Jul
George is briefly implicated in the latest Anthony Weiner scandal because his OKCupid handle is Carlos Danger.

Modern Seinfeld ‏@SeinfeldToday 22 Jul
Elaine's obsessed w/ the Royal Baby. Kramer takes bets on its name. J:I don't know. Ralph? K:Ralph?! You're throwing your money away, Jerry!

Funny, right? The producers of Fox's "Us & Them" agreed. That's why they hired him.

Brian Williams

What do Brian Williams and John Records Landecker have in common?

Both are taking time off for knee replacement surgery, and both of their knee injuries date all the way back to a high school football injury.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Attention: Rick is leaving the basement

I'll be appearing at the Hidden Shamrock tonight (2723 N. Halsted Street in Chicago) at an event sponsored by the Chicago Writer's Association and the Illinois Women's Press Association from 6:30--8:30. It's a free event, so swing by if you're in the neighborhood.

The full list of the luminaries attending can be found here. And yes, if you've surmised that they lured me by staging it in a bar, you would be correct.

Bat What?

A few years ago this would have cost MSNBC $300,000.

Snowden Granted Asylum in Russia

The NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden was allowed to leave the airport in Moscow, and was granted asylum to stay in the country for a year. With that status, he cannot be extradicted to America to face trial.

He may be happy about that, but he'll also soon find out that August is not exactly a typical weather month for Moscow. Snowden's from North Carolina. Just wait until he experiences a Russian December, followed by a Russian January, and a Russian February, and a Russian March.

The bad news for him is that he'll freeze his butt off. The good news is that his one year of asylum will feel like twenty.

Joe Collins

This month's Illinois Entertainer media column has been posted. The subject of my piece is the very brave traffic reporter Joe Collins.

You can read it here.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Eckhartz Press Family Has Suffered A Loss


Shortly after we announced the formation of Eckhartz Press in 2011, we were contacted by Felizitas Sudendorf about a book project she was working on. She called it "A Reluctant Immigrant" and it was the story of her traumatic childhood in wartorn Europe, and the very difficult choice of becoming an immigrant.

I knew a little bit about her life story because she is my mother's cousin, and I thought it would be a good idea to publish it. At the very least, I figured, it would be a way of preserving family history. We created an imprint called Helgard Press (a mixture of my mother and my co-publisher's mother's names--Helga and Hildegard) for projects of personal significance like this.

When I got the manuscript, however, it was much more than I thought it would be. Felizitas really immersed herself in this project. She wrote from the heart about difficult and emotional times. And she did something else I thought was brilliant--she turned the second half of the book into a cookbook. Now it was a story you could you see, smell, and taste.

By the time "A Reluctant Immigrant" came out last December, I was very proud of it. And the German community in Chicago really responded to it. Before I knew it, Felizitas had ordered another box of books because everyone wanted a copy. The German-language newspaper in Chicago, the "Eintracht", published a nice piece about her. Every time I went to German events in Chicago (I go to many), people stopped me to say that they were really touched by the book, and thanked me for publishing it. Felizitas had done a remarkable job. She had truly captured the experience of immigrating to the United States during that tumultuous time.

Just last weekend I ran into one of my father's old friends at a soccer tournament, and he pulled me aside to say: "I have to talk to Felizitas about her book. I loved it. It was like she just changed the names and places of my own life story. I was reliving my life on every page." After talking to my father's friend I realized that I needed to bring a copy along to our family picnic in September for her to sign. Ironically, I had autographed copies of every book we've published except for hers.

Unfortunately, that's no longer possible. My mom was really shaken up when she called me to tell me the news. Felizitas had died suddenly and unexpectly in her home. She was only 75 years old.

Her wake is tomorrow, and her funeral is Friday. I'll be there, of course, supporting the family. If you've read her book you know how much tragedy her family has already had to endure. It breaks my heart that they have suffered another loss--especially this one--the matriarch of their family. But thanks to her hard work, her intelligence, her diligence, and her writing ability, she will always live on in the pages of "A Reluctant Immigrant".

That's an incredible gift she has left behind for her children and grandchildren, and I'm so happy that we published it.


Hey Jude

From Bob Dearborn's The Olde Disc Jockey's Almanac, this little nugget from 45 years ago today...

July 31, 1968…At Trident studios in London, the Beatles recorded four takes of "Hey Jude." A 36-piece orchestra was added the following day.

When I went to London Trident studio was on the Beatles walking tour. It's just an empty storefront now. Hard to believe this incredible piece of history came from that little place...

Broadway Joe Does Some Podcasting

Broadway Joe Namath is the latest name to enter the podcasting world. From this morning's Radio Online...

Legendary NFL Hall of Fame quarterback and sports icon Joe Namath will join Sports USA for the 2013 season with an exclusive weekly football podcast. Namath will analyze all things football beginning in mid-August and will continue through Super Bowl XLVIII.

Weiner Campaign Imploding

As if it's not bad enough to have the whole sexting scandal, on Monday an ex-intern in the campaign went public in the New York Daily News about the behind-the-scenes tumult. The way that the campaign responded is really unbelievable. From Talking Points Memo today...

TPM called Weiner’s communications director Barbara Morgan to discuss an unrelated story Tuesday and she went off on a curse-filled rant about Nuzzi, describing her as a fame hungry “bitch” who “sucked” at her job. Morgan also called Nuzzi a “slutbag,” “twat,” and “c**t” while threatening to sue her.

That's the response of the communications director. Turn out the lights, Weiner. It's all over.

ABC News is #1

NBC (Brian Williams) had the #1 evening newscast in America for the last five years. That is no longer the case. ABC (Diane Sawyer) is now beating him.

The New York Times has the story.

A Story That Will Make You Cringe

I'm not going to make any comment about this story, other than printing the headline with a link to it if you'd like to find out more information.

Dog eats paralyzed man's testicle

PCs Outsell Tablets in College Dorms

I wasn't terribly surprised by this news, but apparently Marketwatch was.

Why would a dinosaur like the PC outsell something as slick, new, and impressive as a tablet? Ask any writer you know, and they'll tell you. This quote from the article probably says it best...

“Unless you’re shooting for a degree in Angry Birds, tablets are a horrible back-to-school purchase,” says Louis Ramirez, senior features writer on “You can’t write a 10-page research paper with an iPad.”

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Fine Mess

My latest "A Fine Mess" column for Shore Magazine is called "Dress Code for the Golf Course".

You can read it here.

Today's Best Tweets

Here are some tweets that caught my eye today...

Bill Ruthhart ‏@BillRuthhart 9m
Mayor Rahm Emanuel is warm to a #Wrigley RF party deck over Sheffield, says #Cubs & rooftops agreed on it:,0,4882487.story … #Rahm

Al Yankovic ‏@alyankovic 25m
You know, the word “genius” gets thrown around a lot these days, but man, I gotta tell ya, that Albert Einstein was kind of a genius!

Crain's Chicago ‏@CrainsChicago 12m
College bookstore chain Follett signs Chicago area's biggest suburban office lease of 2013.

CollegeHumor ‏@CollegeHumor 27m
If every hat company reminded us to take off the hologram sticker we'd all look smarter.

Josh Marshall ‏@joshtpm 14m
Bradley Manning Convicted Under Espionage Act, Acquitted Of Aiding The Enemy Over WikiLeaks … via @TPM

jimmy fallon ‏@jimmyfallon 38m
Brian Williams Raps "Good Vibrations"

Rick Bayless ‏@Rick_Bayless 17m
Processing 25 bags of fresh farmer corn in Frontera kitchen! Gorgeous!

Funny Or Die ‏@funnyordie 40m
50 Things You MUST Do Before Summer Ends:

Phil Rogers ‏@ChiTribRogers 2m
Dodgers' signing of Brian Wilson follows their attempt to reconstruct Carlos Marmol, who appears on thin ice after 2 outings.

Taegan Goddard ‏@politicalwire 2m
Anthony Weiner won't answer a direct question about whether he's still sexting with women online …

As the Rupert Turns

Another twist in the soap opera that is Rupert Murdoch's personal life. His wife Wendi has switched lawyers to settle their divorce.

Buckle up, Rupert. This ride is about to get a little bumpy.

The Ventures

45 years ago today, the Ventures recorded this song. I don't think I had ever seen them perform it before...

Reporter Fired for Blog Post

Her name is Shea Allen and she was a television reporter in Alabama. She wrote a blog post that admitted a few things her bosses didn't like (like "I've gone braless on the air") and they asked her to take it down. She did, but then had second thoughts about it, and reposted it. They fired her.

The full story is here.

I'm torn on this one. On the one hand, I don't think she was exactly admitting horrible things (except maybe the last one). On the other hand, she did directly disobey her bosses. I think she had the right to post it, but they also had the right to fire her for it...even if I think it was a bit of an over-reaction.

Is that wishy washy enough for you?

Time Warner Temporarily Removes CBS in Major Cities

This little hissy fit just got serious. From the NY Times...

CBS stations were temporarily removed from cable systems in millions of homes in major cities — including New York and Los Angeles — about midnight on Monday, after protracted negotiations between CBS and Time Warner Cable over fees collapsed. But after an exchange of recrimination-filled statements, and less than a half-hour of cable interruption, the cable company announced that it had halted the blackout of the stations at CBS’s request.

Read the whole article. It's all negotiating maneuvers, with the consumers once again, just an afterthought.

Amazon Will One Day Rule The World

I've been making the claim of that headline for awhile now, and others are coming to the same conclusion. This is from a piece in The Scholarly Kitchen (a website dedicated to scholarly publishing) about the new gatekeepers...

If we were once concerned about the power of Gannett (who?), what are we to make of Amazon, which, depending on who’s counting, now has around 60% of the domestic ebooks market and between 20-30% of the print book market? When you get outside the trade publishing segment, those numbers move around. For some university presses Amazon’s share is around 50% of all books sold. Ebooks today are about 25% of all trade books sold, a number that reaches 60% for such segments as young adult fiction. Academic books today are still largely a print business (90%), but that is changing rapidly. As more and more books are consumed in digital form, Amazon’s overall market share for books will continue to rise.

And no one can stop them.

You can read the whole article here if you're interested. The piece also contains a pro-amazon point of view.

Late update: Here's another company Amazon is trying to crush:

Monday, July 29, 2013

Happy Birthday Geddy Lee

He's exactly ten years and one day older than me. He turns 60 today. Here he is singing my favorite Rush song...

Today's Best Tweets

Here are some tweets that caught my eye today...

Pope Francis ‏@Pontifex 5m
What an unforgettable week in Rio! Thank you, everyone. Pray for me. #Rio2013 #JMJ

Rolling Stone ‏@RollingStone 6m
The new #StarWars trilogy will feature music by composer John Williams, who scored the previous movies:

Before 1963, mail was largely sorted by street address. Here are some notable ZIP codes: #snapshots

Traveling Ted ‏@travelingted 10m
The Best Places to Drink Beer in Milwaukee via @JasonsWriting

The Daily Show ‏@TheDailyShow 13m
Exclusive footage of the Daily Show writers room: … #WritersRoom

Joe Caruso ‏@JoeCaruso1 26m
Where have I been? Finally, something to watch. RT @Carson360 Tonight, don't miss the final 5 interviews of "Carson on TCM" #CarsonOnTCM

Patrick Mooney ‏@CSNMooney 37m
#Cubs clubhouse erupted watching Soriano's HR, a genuine, unscripted moment for a team searching for a new identity:

Dave Wischnowsky ‏@wischlist 37m
The bikini photos of Anthony Weiner's sext buddy are ... well, they're something.

Paul Sullivan ‏@PWSullivan 41m
Junior's here. Time to see whether he can play in the Wrigley spotlight.

Matt Spiegel ‏@MattSpiegel670 43m
RIP George "The Boomer" Scott. Loved him as a kid. 271 homers, and 8 gold gloves too. Baseball heroes aren't supposed to die.

Religion & Politics

This interview is an embarrassment. To agree with the take of the interviewer, you must reject the entire concept of historical study.

Cumulus Planning to Drop Limbaugh & Hannity

Cumulus is the nation's second biggest radio company (it's gigantic), and they now air Limbaugh and Hannity (syndicated by the biggest radio company--Clear Channel) in about forty or so markets. According to Politico, they are making rumblings about dropping them.

A few notes about this. #1--This could just be a negotiating tactic. #2--Even if they are dropped (including in Chicago--WLS is a Cumulus station), they won't be replaced by anything that cleans the toxic airwaves. Cumulus is talking about adding outlets for the likes of Michael Savage and Mark Levin instead.

That would be like mopping your kitchen floor with a bucket full of oil.

Great Cover

A picture is worth a thousand words...

Terminally Ill 'Simpsons' Co-Creator Vows to Give Away Fortune

His name is Sam Simon, and he left The Simpsons in 1993, but retained the title "Executive Producer". Because of the show he has riches beyond any of our wildest dreams. Unfortunately, he also has terminal cancer, and when he was diagnosed Simon began to give away his fortune to charity. The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

I applaud him for his efforts. He really shows us all that the old adage really is true--you can't take it with you.

Kidd Kraddick

His name is not really known in Chicago because I don't believe he ever cracked this market, but in Dallas, radio personality Kidd Kraddick is about as big as it gets. The entire radio world is in shock because he passed away this weekend at the age of 53. Read the article in the Dallas News to get a feel for his impact on that city.

I didn't really know him, although I've admired his work from afar. Now that I'm 50 years old, I also get a little freaked out when people my age just drop dead like this.