The 200: 34-17

Whoops. This was written, but never actually posted. So, we’re a little out of order.

We come to the Second Set of songs from the top, the real meat and potatoes here. Now, you have to pretend I said that last sentence in a historically gravelly voice, since it’s lifted from former WNEW-FM disc jockey Scott Muni when the station used to broadcast its annual Memorial Day Top 1027 songs of all-time.

Unlike the Modern Rock 500, broadcast by WOXY annually over the same weekend, the top of WNEW’s list barely changed from year to year. Stairway to Heaven was always No. 1, followed by Born to Run, Layla and Baba O’Riley. While only Springsteen was represented on my countdown, I like the Who and I can tolerate a lot of Zep. On the other hand, my life has been Clapton-free for a very  long time.


34           Breathe Me   Sia (You Tube)

33           Subdivisions         Rush     

32           Lovecraft In Brooklyn         The Mountain Goats

31           Here’s Where The Story Ends   The Sundays   

30           When Doves Cry    Prince

29           Another Nail In My Heart   Squeeze                             

28           Mighty K.C.   For Squirrels

27           Born To   Jesca Hoop (You Tube)

26           Sultans Of Swing    Dire Straits

25           Ears Ring   Rainer Maria

24           Deeper Into Movies   Yo La Tengo (You Tube)

23           City Of Angels      The Distillers 

22           Pop Goes The World   Men Without Hats

21           New Slang    The Shins 

20           These Days   R.E.M. 

19           Left Of Center      Suzanne Vega Feat. Joe Jackson

18           Ace Of Spades     Motorhead

17           Time After Time   Cyndi Lauper    


33. As alluded to in the intro, there aren’t many holdovers from my high-school era “Classic Rock” fandom period in my musical rotation today, but I’ll always have a soft spot for these Canadian boys.

25. In 2006, I attended a Rainer Maria show at Metro in Chicago, with 10-year-old Ian in tow (it was an all-ages event). It was his first concert. RM was the third of four bands on the bill, and we left midway through the headliner, as he was starting to lag. On our way out, I saw the charming lead vocalist for the three-piece outfit, Caithlin De Marrais, talking to some fans. I walked by, as I was wont to do. Only after I got out did I realize that Ian most certainly would have liked to get the chance to meet her, and she probably would have been amused to meet the only pre-teen in the crowd. When I got home, I sent her an email through the band’s website, and she responded with a nice note to Ian telling him how she saw us at the show, and hoped we’d stop by to talk. He liked that. The band is back together now, and I’d like nothing more than to go see them again, accompanied by a twenty-something Ian.

22. They weren’t one-hit wonders. They had two hits, and this was the much, much better one.

20. Not included on this list, but REM supplied the song for my 1992 nuptials. For our first song, Kem had this cool idea to invite the entire wedding party on the floor for the first dance. The DJ then played about 15 seconds from a sappy love song, before breaking into “It’s the End of the World As We know It (And I Feel Fine). The rest of the wedding party was stunned when it happened, while everyone else at the reception kind of crept closer to see what the heck was going on, including a bunch of little kids dancing just off the floor. It really set the tone. Also, if you give it some thought, it’s not a bad idea for a wedding song.

Oddly, years later I was reading a Chicago Tribune piece of reader-submitted fun wedding reception stories, and a couple mentioned how they had done the exact same thing, and I concluded they had to have heard about it from someone who went to our reception. It was just too damn identical in the details to be a coincidence.

19. I always felt no song did a better job of capturing that all-too common sense of alienation so many teens experience. The song was the highlight of my all-time favorite movie soundtrack, Pretty in Pink.

18. See 166.

Going Grateful


Today seems like a fine time to unleash my inner Anti-LaVar.


I’m thankful I get to spend four unfettered days with my wife. That guy* who came up with the equation that the lack of something produces a direct increase in the warm feelings sensed by the primary organ responsible for circulation sure was on to something.


I’m thankful my wonderful daughter is also here, and that I engaged in spirited conversation with her for most of the four-hour car ride home. That was a truly stunning development considering her preternatural ability to fall asleep the moment a vehicle is shifted into drive, and to remain that way regardless how long the car is moving.


I’m thankful that Cormac and I have managed to avoid any explosions, implosions, collapses, fractures, dislocations, 911 calls or visits from the I-Team 8 news crew since we’ve been on our own. Just one concussion, and that happened while I was out of state. Woo hoo, not my fault.


I’m thankful for my in-laws, who have never once treated me like anything but family.


Yes, they departed this world far, far too early, but I’m thankful I was undeservedly blessed with the two best parents a guy could ask for. I’d swap the 30 years and change I got with Pete and Mary Lou Markham over 60 with any off-the-rack progenitors.


I’m thankful that our house’s vacancies have been partially filled by Erwin, our guest from Guatemala, these past four weeks. His visit to the states will end far too quickly, but we’ll appreciate his presence here long after he’s gone.


I’m thankful for my sister Amanda, No. 2 in the line of Markham children, but a clear No. 1 when ranked in virtually every other way. I wish I got to see her more often.


I’m thankful that 100 or so days into his Latvian expedition, Ian has yet to spark any international incidents. Keeping those fingers crossed.


I’m also thankful that in a month’s time, the entire family will join him in the Baltics for a week. Unlike our globe-trotting son, this will be the first time overseas for the rest of the clan, so I’m hoping we’re not totally embarrassing. I can live with partially.


I’m thankful for good friends, both ones I see regularly and those whose existence is primarily digital.


I’m thankful for the fine makers of heavy equipment, ERP software and steel, aluminum and copper and brass products, and for the work they do in driving America’s manufacturing economy. It’s a shameless plug, sure, but they really do pay my salary.


Happy Thanksgiving.



*His name was Thomas Haynes Bayly, in Isle of Beauty. I bet you didn’t know that. I didn’t, until this morning.







They said what?

I’m not opposed to personal ownership of firearms, but I see no reason some common sense regulations can’t be placed on them. I also doubt the framers would disagree with that, or would get behind what we have now.
More notably, I liked this because it was a Washington “quote” that prompted this bit of silliness. There’s a famous GW comment on firearms, so famous that it’s been inscribed in granite some place in Texas. But there’s no evidence he said it, according to the curators at Mount Vernon.



Still Going Stupid

Fifty Years In, I’m Still Going Stupid
The entries in The Pursuit of Mildly Amusing encompass almost 30 years of writing, all but one completed out of professional obligation or simply for my amusement. But one didn’t fit in either category. The oldest entry in the book dates to my college days, an assignment from Professor Jerry Miller’s magazine writing class that somehow managed to stay in my possession after more than a dozen moves.
A quick digression from which you might not return. The aforementioned Prof. Miller was almost certainly the single most significant influence on me as a writer. He taught me the first rule of good writing – there are no rules, a maxim I’ve exploited to its fullest extent in all my capacities. But Professor Jerry Miller is surely not an example of the old saw that those who can’t, teach. For proof, I direct you to his page on this here Book of Faces, where he’s been chronicling an ongoing health issue. Visit his page and follow his journey through entries that deliver, in equal doses, fear, humor, exasperation and wisdom in a delightful brew. You’ll feel bad for enjoying it so much. I urge all who know him, and even those who don’t, to pop on over and read about the ass kicking he’s going to ultimately deliver to cancer.
OK, for those who have bothered to return, we press on. The tale I wrote in the spring of 1988 was a How To story on dealing with absentmindedness, a trait that has plagued me for all of my 50 years. Its presence in the book was not for quality reasons – this was not an example of superior craftsmanship. Rather, its inclusion was more anthropological, a sign of where I once was with the pen. It’s possible to see a decent effort lurking somewhere in that piece, though only if you’re an Olympic-caliber squinter.
In the story, I related my then 20-year struggle with losing items both large and small. It started with my daily failure to remember to replant my retainer after lunch in the second grade, leaving it in a small box on Mrs. Frank’s desk that Pete or Mary Lou Markham would have to retrieve sometime after school. The anecdotes ran up through my first day of college, which had served as the apex of my absentminded ways. On my flight from New York to Indy by way of Detroit, I was stuck in the airport in Motown, and during a phone call to my parents to inform them about my lengthier-than-expected layover, I left my wallet on the top of the pay phone. Not surprising, it was not there when I returned to reclaim it. Moments later, when I called to tell them about losing my wallet, I left my plane ticket atop the exact same pay phone. That was, fortunately, not pilfered during my brief venture away from the now-extinct communication device.
Which brings us to the present. On Tuesday night, I was in a conversation with Erwin, the fine young Guatemalan exchange student staying with us. Prompted by a friend’s text, Erwin asked where his passport was. I was stumped, not recalling ever having his passport in my possession. Erwin reminded me that on the night he arrived from Guatemala, his coordinator passed along an envelope containing the passports belonging to him and Paco, another boy studying at Marquette.
Quickly, panic set in. I had no real memory of such an exchange, though I couldn’t rule it out given that the six-plus hours I’d spent patrolling the terminals of O’Hare awaiting his much-delayed flight had left me thoroughly fried. And I had absolutely no memory of doing anything with such a parcel once we got back home. Over the next two days I scoured and rescoured all the likely places, to no avail. I was convinced that the passports were gone, a significant problem given he’s scheduled to return to Guatemala in a month’s time. Mr. and Mrs. Garcia were not likely to appreciate any forced confinement to the U.S., an unwelcome portation, as it were.
Yesterday, I took Erwin and Cormac to school. Afterward, I stopped to see the woman who handles the foreign exchange program to relate my all-too-familiar tale of woe. I confessed that I couldn’t find the envelope, and was pretty sure that I wasn’t going to. During the course of a spirit-boosting conversation, she offhandedly asked me if I’d paid for parking before leaving the airport. I acknowledged I had. Suddenly, it all made sense, in a supremely pathetic, history-repeating kind of way. On my way out, I stopped at the self-parking machine. I probably placed the envelope atop it and then walked away after completing my transaction. It was, I had to admit, just like me to do that.
On the bright side, if I’d engaged in such otherwise unfathomable boobery, there was hope. Lost passports were occasionally turned in to the TSA. She offered to call the airport to check on them for me while I dashed off to work. A few hours later, I received a text from Cormac explaining that the passports had been found. And yes, my misadventure from 30 years prior had played out again, only this time with a happier ending. The authorities at O’Hare had come through, retrieving the envelope and passing it along to one of the other schools where the traveling Guatemalans were attending. Thank God for the TSA (which, incidentally, is the first time in history that sentence has been written).

The Fallacy, and the Failure

It has become a common refrain, from Republicans who want to deflect responsibility to angry Bernie-loving Democrats to your garden variety against-the-grain think pieces: Donald Trump’s victory was the fault of Hillary and the Democrats.

Yes, it’s a bizarre type of logic to claim the people who didn’t vote for Trump are responsible for his election. But contrarian reasoning is how you get noticed in an overflowing media landscape, even though the argument is flawed in two distinct ways.

The argument proffered in the “it’s Hillary’s fault” camp is founded on the premise if the Democrats had simply nominated a better candidate, then Trump wouldn’t be president. Even if you grant that a better candidate would have won, and that’s arguable though not provable, it doesn’t naturally follow that this was the cause of the loss. This conclusion derives from a bit of flawed reasoning I call the Fallacy of the Isolated Factor.*

This logical breakdown is an idea I first came across in my days covering sports. Specifically, it was during a 1994 game at Purdue against visiting Seton Hall. The Boilermakers, who would go on to a No. 1 seed and loss in the regional final that year, beat the Pirates 69-67 on a Sunday in January.

After the game, one of the reporters, or perhaps it was SH coach P.J. Carlesimo, remarked that “rebounding was the difference in the game,” a comment based on the disparity in rebounding between the Glenn Robinson-led Boilers and the Pirates. However, the Hall had a chance at the end, missing a corner 3-pointer at the buzzer that would have won the game. Had that shot fallen, the rebounding disparity wouldn’t have been the difference at all. And Purdue’s fans and coaching staff would have looked at some other statistical disparity or stretch of play or individual breakdown, to find its own “difference.” The search for a single difference, very common among sportswriters anda anaysts, was a fool’s errand.

The same thing could be said about the 2016 presidential campaign. Yes, it’s possible the Democrats would have won the election with a better candidate (such as Bernie or Biden). It’s also possible the Dems win if Comey doesn’t make his surprise announcement 10 days before the election. Or if Podesta’s emails hadn’t been hacked. Or if white Midwesterners had a better understanding of the economic issues working against them. Or if Wisconsin and other states hadn’t successfully restricted voting in the years before the election. The point is, any number of factors could have swung the election the Dems’ way, even with a candidate as flawed (both real and perceived) as Clinton.

Now, it’s true that when you hold all the other variables firm and change the facts of a single one, you can see a different result, whether in a ballgame or an election or any other event. That’s particularly true in a situation where an outcome is closely contested. But the same is true if you change a different variable. The flaw is believing the single variable that you’re examining, the Isolated Factor, is the “cause” of a result.

There was no “single cause” for the Trump victory, as there is very rarely a single cause for anything. But we like to ascribe one, because as people we don’t like complexities when a simple solution can be suggested. And we like concrete explanations, even when the real answer is much less well-defined.

But running afoul of the Fallacy is not the only problem with the Dems Are to Blame for Trump theory. Because it also ignores the simple fact that the Democrats had no bearing on Trump winning the Republican nomination to begin with.

The 2016 race for the GOP nomination featured the largest field in memory, a 17-person roster stacked with all types of competitors. Former governors and senators and private sectorians. It offered rock-solid conservatives, Rockefeller Republicans and a rock star Libertarianish character. Republican royalty and Grand Old Party crashers. You had one guy who made his bones busting unions, another who did so busting criminal enterprises and another who busted her own company. Pragmatists and ideologues. A handsome, young Latino and a grotesque, beach-going Jerseyite. Policy wonks and seat-of-the-pants decision makers. You had your God-filled candidates (both the Protestant and Catholic Gods). You had various shades of brown people, and the guys who don’t like brown people. You had a second crazy fucker in the race, but a pleasant one. You had a genial idiot. And you had whatever radioactive gunk Ted Cruz is composed of.

And from that glorious smorgasbord of options, of delightful menu items ranging from heart-healthy entrees to decadently delicious desserts, Republican voters opted for the spoiled potato salad. Yes, the GOP looked over the entire buffet and chose to give the country food poisoning.

Republican voters decided the best choice was the thrice-married, proud adultering sexual deviant (and the only guy in the entire Republican party more icky than Bill Clinton); a long-time Democrat with no electoral experience; a thin-skinned bully who combines proud ignorance with unwarranted self-confidence and an awful temperament; a man with questionable ethics in every facet of his existence; a person who supports none of the traditional hallmarks of small-market conservatism, but expresses admiration for authoritarian and murderous dictators; a man who blasts foreigners even while he’s barely intelligible in his native tongue; a man with a history of racist comments and behavior, including five years of leading the unfounded claim that the previous office holder was not entitled to his position; and a man whose connection to Christianity can best be described as “at least he’s heard of it, I think.”

That wasn’t on me, or Hillary, or Debbie Wasserman Schultz, or the gang at MSNBC or George Soros (excuse me, I have to step away to pledge my undying allegiance to our dark overlord at any mention of his name)…………………………………….(cue dilly dallying music)………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… OK I’m back. Where was I? Oh, yeah, we didn’t have anything to do with the Tangerine Nightmare winning the primary, thus unleashing his brand of idiocy on a public who was apparently voting, en masse, completely stoned. When it comes to the ascendancy of 45 and the 180 we’re now doing, whatever factor you want to assign the lion’s share of the “blame” to, it starts right there.

(asterisk) The Fallacy of the Isolated Factor is almost certainly not my creation. I’m sure it has a much more sciency name and background, complete with graphs and proofs and even a few random Greek letters, rather than sharing blog space with photos of Rush Limbaugh and Chrissy Teigen accompanied by phony quotes. But as long as I don’t bother to investigate that possibility, I can continue to claim it as my own.

They Said What?


18z9jkmbbpg82jpgThe backlash against the NFL protests is one of those areas where two groups of people simply can look at the same situation and see two very different things. Foes see this as disrespecting the flag and the country and the people who fought to protect it. I see it honoring the flag and the country and the people who fought to protect it, because the lawful ability to remonstrate against the government is one of the very things that makes the U.S. what it is.

And I’ve always respected individuals who will stand up for something they believe, particularly if they put themselves at risk. And even more so if the risk they’re taking is largely for someone else’s benefit.

Colin Kaepernick, for starters, wasn’t protesting to enrich himself, but primarily to improve the life’s of others. He did so at risk to his career and his reputation. I respect that, just as I respect Tim Tebow kneeling during games to show his faith. And both of them suffered, in different ways, from that willingness to put their convictions ahead of their careers.

To others, Kaepernick’s act is beyond the pale, and he needs to find a more fitting place to protest. But protest is not supposed to be comfortable, and can’t be to work. It has to shake us up.


The 200: 84-67

84           Miss Misery   Elliott Smith

83           Life In A Northern Town  Dream Academy

82           Get a Gun             The Connells (You Tube)

81           That’s When I Reach For My Revolver   Mission of Burma                                                        

80           See These Bones    Nada Surf (You Tube)

79           Sheena Is A Punk Rocker   The Ramones

78           Voices Carry   ‘Til Tuesday

77           Shell-Shock   New Order

76           One More Time   Joe Jackson

75           Crank     Catherine Wheel

74           Orinoco Flow       Enya 

73           Weston Super Mare   Celebrity Pilots

72           Hopeless   The Wrens

71           Apply Some Pressure         Maxïmo Park (You Tube)

70           Future Foe Scenarios         Silversun Pickups

69           Crash     The Primitives (You Tube)

68           Hazel     Weekend            

67           Vapour Trail   Ride                                                                            


82 – With some bands on the list, it’s easy to understand why they remained obscure. Their music simply doesn’t have widespread appeal. Then there’s the Connells. In a more sensible, orderly world that recognized solid pop songcraft, they would have been stars, instead  of just some guys from Chapel Hill.


80 – I guy I knew online (and later met before a concert) who was in a band called IfIHadAHiFi. The name was a palindrome, as was the stage name of each of the band members. Nada Surf, the band behind “Popular” wanted to title an album with that name, but initially balked because of “some noise band from Milwaukee.” Eventually, they said screw it, and named an EP “IfIHadAHiFi.” The band responded by naming its next EP “Nada Surf.”


73. I wanted to provide a You Tube link for this song, but as with most Celebrity Pilots work, it’s incredibly difficult to find. I own the band’s first disc, but the follow-up is tough to track down, even in this era of access to virtually everything. ‘Tis a pity, as the Pilots created some damn catchy music.


70 – What Smashing Pumpkins might have sounded like today, if Billy Corgan hadn’t been so damn full of himself.


68 – Not to be confused with the third e gone Weeknd.


67 – Vapour Trail is the greatest fade out song I’ve ever heard. Ride recognized that in its original pressing of the Nowhere disc, though I’ve only got the one with the bonus tracks tacked on.