Why I almost Burned my Friend’s House Down While Filming a Kung Fu Movie


The Movie: Eleven years ago, as a freshman in high school, I undertook a project that would become known as “The Kung Fu Movie.” This project was never finished, no part of it was particularly coherent and what little of the movie remains today is more a yearbook of a few misspent summers than a film (read video) that anyone would want to spend seven minutes and twenty three seconds watching.

The Device: My Brother Brian had told me at one point that if I could encase a ball of steel wool in a cage of chicken wire, tie that encased ball to a rope, light that ball on fire and swing that ball around my head I could have something that looked pretty cool.


  • Rope
  • Steel Wool
  • Chicken Wire
  • Fire
  • Fire Extinguisher

Moral: If you get steel wool hot enough that little bits of molten steel flame globules start dripping off it, it’s gonna be real hot.

The Story:

I spent about two months waiting to film this flaming ball of steel wool flying around my head, but there wasn’t any place for me to do it.  I was in the middle of Chicago.  I knew public places would be tough. There are always cops at the beach in the summer time and it is illegal to be in most Chicago parks after 10 (probably also illegal to have big flame balls of steel wool, but that is another matter.)

It developed that there was a girl who had a side yard (the size of a single lot) which was huge by city standards and, in my view, perfect for flaming experiments. She thought the scene might make more sense somewhere else, but I knew there was nobody else who I could sucker into letting me use their yard for Kung Fu pyrotechnics.  So my father and I, my father came to save me if need be, took a train to the north side with our steel wool, and fire extinguisher in tow.

Well, when we finally got there we were anxious to get the experiment under way when we found that steal wool does not catch fire easily.  We held it to the grill lighter and even put some paper in the cage, but it just didn’t seem to want to catch.  We were about to try putting kerosene on this ball of metal when the idea struck me that I might just start swinging this hot ball around my head and see what happened.

What happened?

Molten Steel.  A red-hot ball of molten steel whistled around my head.  It looked like a meteor with a tail of hot steel dripping off onto the ground. It was hot and heavy and beautiful and it was swinging around my head in Betsy Tangora’s yard.  I felt proud and powerful and, after a while, I felt concerned that this ball of fire had been flaming a long time.

In this yard there are 4 sides: a street, an alley, a great old wooden house, and a neighboring apartment building.  There were two things behind me: my father, and a tree.  When the fireball exploded out of the chicken wire it did not hit the wooden house, and it did not hit my father.  If it had broken even a fraction of a second earlier or later it could have hit either.  What it hit was the tree.

The tree was only a little on fire.

What the tree did to the steel wool (and we were probably lucky that it happened this way) was break it up in to a hundred pieces and spray those pieces all around the lot.  So now there is a slightly flaming tree and a lot of pieces of pretty flaming ground.  There was a lot of yelling about hoses and fire extinguishers but most of what we did was stomp on little flaming bits and hope that the tree would put out itself.  It did.

Dad and I got on the train to head home relieved.  We were on the other side of a big adrenaline rush and it made me kind of giddy to have escaped disaster.  It was in this mood that I turned to my father and said, “When we do this again we should…”

That was as far as that sentence ever got.

December 3rd Dinner Concert

Hear Ye Hear Ye
Thursday, December 3rd
7:15 PM
Dinner and Concert
2459 W. Wilson Apt#2
Featuring Singer Songwriters: James Farrell, Tom Fort, and Emily Clair Palmer
You’re Invited
Bring 10 Bucks to Cover Costs

Why a Dinner Concert

I love to feature local musician’s on the site.  I also like to bring you music in video and audio, but I always feel weird having somebody perform for me alone in my house.  Also, I have been talking about homebrew beer for month and been totally unable to share it.  I want to take the blog the people.

Enter the chef

All of this was in the back of my mind during a recent conversation with my friend Maren. After hearing that I was a home brewer my dear friend Maren Keeley suggested we host a dinner.  Maren is a cook at Uncommon Ground and an all around food ninja, capable of making all seasonal holiday-onal deliciousness.

After Hearing this I immediately hijacked the idea and suggested that North and Clark sponsor a diner concert.  Because there are a lot of musician’s I have been wanting to share with you guys on the blog.  They are…

The Entertainment

Our featured musicians are James Farrel, Tom Fort, and Emily Claire Palmer.  They are fantastic musicians who are described in depth in a previous post.

So Come on out

To cover the costs of dinner and other nonsense we are asking for people to pop for 10 bucks (I wanted to charge 20, but Maren insists).  Either way it’s a steal.

If this sounds good to you leave a comment or write me an email @ northandclark@gmail.com, but be quick about it cause we can only fit twenty five people and eleven of those spots have already been reserved.

So there are only 25 14 5 SOLD OUT.

See you there,

A Fantasy, Fixing MMA with European Soccer

The UEFA Champions League, M-1, the UFC, and the WEC are all in the midst of, just finished with or about to conduct major events, and its giving me a peculiar type of sports fantasy.

An International Soccer Primer for the U. S. Sports Fan

In the U.S. we are used to a one sport one league system.  For Basketball there is the NBA, for baseball there is the MLB, for Football there is the NFL, the list goes on.  There are other leagues that play these sports both foreign and domestic but they are little brothers — minor, or development leagues.  There may be players in European basketball leagues or Japanese baseball leagues who could play in the principle American league now or will one day play in that league but the leagues taken as a whole do not have the same talent as the major leagues.

Soccer operates under a different paradigm in soccer there are so many different countries with the desire to watch and a history of supporting club teams that rather than form into one organization like the NBA each country has its own league.  While players may come from all over the world to play each country has its own league with its own championship. Just as the Cubs players are not all from the U.S. many player on Manchester United are not from the U.K. Internally these leagues function similarly to American leagues the difference is in their cooperation.

Club teams in European soccer leagues (and soccer leagues around the world) compete against each other every year in tournaments. These games are not exhibition games but actual championships with prestige and serious monetary consequences for the football clubs.  In Europe where the best talent is divided between many leagues the clubs find a way to have the best compete with the best.Picture 2

Now Let’s Turn Our attention to Mixed Martial Arts

In its history there have been a number of different promotion agencies associated with mixed martial arts.  They have had different rules different fighters and covered different parts of the world.  Right now the dominant league (in terms of reputation, number of fighters and quality of product) is the UFC. Still, many Mixed Martial Arts fighters are not under contract with the UFC and fight for different promotion agency.  Notably Fedor Emelianenko (considered one of the best fighters in the history of the sport) fights with M-1 Strikeforce.

Many fight fans hope that the UFC will gain such dominance of the sport that they will become like the NFL and rival leagues will be unsuccessful, or simply become feeder leagues. The league has hosted a number of great fights, and is developing a good reputation by putting together regular and high quality events.  For now, however, the UFC lacks a monopoly on Mixed Martial Arts, and in some cases the best don’t all belong to the UFC.  For the fan this means the best don’t always fight the best.

The European Solution

Why not host a tournament of Champions?

To me this solution seems like it is tailor made for MMA and it has a precedent in the world of mixed martial arts. Take eight fighters from as many weight classes as you like and seed them to compete in a two day tournament.  These fighters wouldn’t have to sign with the UFC, Strikeforce, Dream or anyone else they would just be invited to participate in an event where they would be able to fight the very best in the world.

This Tournament like the UEFA Champions League would be overseen by representatives from each of the organizations involved.  It would not effect the title or championships of the respective leagues, it would only give them another bigger better stage to compete on. In Europe clubs dream of the chance to compete against the best in the UEFA Cup there is no reason that a similar tournament couldn’t entice fighters. Its heartbreaking the Fedor doesn’t fight the best heavey weights in the world.  Its also a shame that many of the greatest fighters in Japan never get to face off against their counterparts in the states. This tournament could fix that.

The Ugly Truth

Unlike European Club soccer leagues MMA leagues are young.  They are probably too new and too unsure of their own product and long term viability to host something like a Champion’s League.  But, if they do I will be the first one to tune in…

Especially if it’s not on pay-per-view…

And that’s another thing…

How to Get a Haircut

I used to hate getting haircuts.  I am not that good at or excited figuring out things like what to wear and what makes me look good.  I like to look good, but I don’t like the process of trying to make myself look good.  And getting a haircut was one of the most annoying unpleasant parts of the whole make me look good process.

Maybe at this point in the post it would be appropriate to say, part of me can’t believe I just wrote the title of this post.  What a stupid and easy thing it is to go and get a haircut.  But, I got a trick.

On the list of the many things in this world that I do not know or care about I would include the following things:

  1. What side do I part my hair on?
  2. Would I like my hair to be over my ears?
  3. Which Sex and The City Character am I most like?
  4. How long do I want my sideburns?

These are all things I have been asked or made a decision on at some point, but they are not important enough for me to remember them all the time, or even every time I get a haircut.  If this makes me an ogre or a slovenly man then I freely admit to being an ogre.

But, I don’t have to think about any of these questions anymore!  Here’s the trick:

  1. At some point get a haircut that you like. (It could be that you need to do this now and not use my trick until four months from now when you go back, but this first step is crucial.  If you have ever gotten a good hair cut and a picture of that hair cut even if it was a decade a go, as long as you still have the same amount of hair you are eligible for this trick.)
  2. Get a Picture of that haircut.
  3. Remember vaguely what the back looked like. (this may be wrong, but I think of the back of a haircut the way I think of the trunk of a car, important but ultimately very simple)
  4. Show that picture to the hairdresser, describe the back.
  5. Reap the fruits of your labor.

The End


Maybe, you can tell that I am holding out on you.  Maybe, you know that even though I just told you how to get an awesome haircut every time I still have a more convenient more awesome trick that I have saved for myself.  Alright fine I do.  But this one takes planning, and the inability to legally operate an automobile or lack of proper photo identification of some sort.Picture 3

So for you, gentle readers and true believers, I present step 2a. (this step is to be taken in place of step 2 in the rare cases that it is possible):

2a. Go get your driver’s license

If you can correctly carry out step 2a and after step 1 the world is your oyster.

There are two main advantages, first you have a reference point for what a good hair cut for you look like, and second, that reference point is in your pocket all the time. Enjoy your haircut readers, I do, every time.

Featured Musicians on North and Clark

In the coming month North and Clark is going to feature original music from James Farrell, Tom Fort, and Emily Claire Palmer. These musician’s are all singer songwriters and they are going to be participating in a performance for you, the gentle readers of North and Clark on the 3rd of December. I am excited about this performance but I can’t share all the details yet, because this is going to be a collaberation and we still need to iron out some of the details. In the meantime, here’s a little background on the artists:

James Farrell

What’s been said about James: “In his songs about love, loss, regret, sin and repentance, James expresses what we all think about in the shower but are too afraid to talk about once we’ve toweled off. He sings a simple message, in simple language, for a simple purpose: to get it off of his chest, and allow his listeners to do the same.”

His Site

Tom Fort

What’s been said about Tom (and his band Cobalt and Hired Guns):Picture 21

“…Incredibly charming, poppy, youthful music…” –Roctober Magazine

“They remind me of a band that would be playing at a party in a movie that is more fun than a party that would happen in real life” -Mike Raspatello of Kingtello Productions
“If you’re looking for a cool twist to Americana music, SouthSide recommends checking out Cobalt & the Hired Guns at their next show.” -SouthSide of the Town, Fearless Radio Blog

His Site

He’s also been here on North and Clark

Picture 22Emily Claire Palmer

What I am Saying about Emily Right Now: “Emily Palmer is a Chicago-based folky/indie singer/songwriter musician extraordinaire.” –Me, Right Now, Paraphrasing her website.

Her Site


Like I said at the top of the blog I am going to try and bring this to you in a different way than we I have been bringing you content here in the past.  I am still waiting on a couple of details, but if you are in Chicago and you are intrigued by any of these musician’s or like North and Clark you might want to consider leaving December the 3rd open.

I wish I could give you all the details right now but this is a collaboration with a bunch of different people and I need to make sure all the ducks are in a row before I make too many announcements.  If the suspense is killing you and you really want more details you can write me at northandclark@gmail.com.  Otherwise keep checking this space for more info.

Guest Post Round Up

Over the past few months a lot of the writing, some of it hasn’t appeared on this site.  Here is a list of the work I have done around the web.

Site Sketch:

I maintain a monthly column at Site Sketch 101 so my stuff is up there fairly regularly.

Incomes International:

Sustainable Electronics Initiative:

I also maintain the social media pages for Marketing to Moms Coalition this is their Facebook page.