Benny Jay: AOL Sucks!

April 24th, 2014

As you probably already know, my AOL email account was hacked twice last week.

I was, of course, not alone — millions of AOL users have been hacked.

If AOL knows who did the hacking, they aren’t saying. In general, there’s not a whole lot of communication between AOL and me. For instance, I had to read in the papers when AOL cut its gazillion-dollar deal with Arianna Huffington.

That’s the deal where Arianna agreed to provide content for AOL’s home page, and AOL agreed to pay Arianna untold millions of dollars.

In case you didn’t know, Arianna Huffington is the genius who figured out how to make millions by getting other people to write for free. As a general principle of economics — you can make a lot of money, if you find someone else dumb enough to do the work for free.

In fact, it’s a business model that Milo and I have been struggling to replicate — without much success — right here at The Third City!


Arianna — our role model!


Alas, somehow Arianna can sweet talk rich and powerful people — like President Clinton, Scarlett Johansson and Matt Farmer – to write whole columns for free. But we’re luck to get Farmer to send us a Twitter post.

Back to AOL…

I think we can all agree that AOL is pretty worthless as corporate entities go. In my case, they haven’t bothered to send an email of sympathy since my account’s been hacked.

If I write or call to complain, they’ll tell me to change my password. You know, like I did something wrong.

In general, there’s not a whole lot of sympathy for victims of this AOL hacking.

In my case, the general reaction has been along the lines of: You dimwitted, old fuck — that’s what you get for using AOL!


Mike Klonsky — back in the day…


It’s definitely a generational thing with people below the age of 30 promoting Gmail as the brand of choice.

As far as I can tell, the leading advocate for Gmail is a 20-something year old public relations genius I will call Joanna Klonsky.

She happens to be the daughter of Mike Klonsky, who at age 70-whatever might just be the oldest basketball player in America. Talk about hackers.

Joanna says my life will immeasurably improve as soon as I switch to Gmail. She says so many nice things about Gmail, that I’m starting to wonder if she’s on the the Google payroll.

Talking to Joanna about Gmail v. AOL is phase one of actually switching servers.

Phase two consists of me discussing the matter with my mother, who’s even older than Mike Klonsky. Sample conversation goes like this…

Me: Ma, I’m thinking of switching to Google.

Mom: What’s that?

I think we can say with certainty that whoever hacked my AOL account it was definitely not my mom.

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Benny Jay: Wizards Fans

April 22nd, 2014

Many years ago I met a fellow I’ll call Kevin B. It happened at the Chicago Reporter, where we used to work.

We became instant friends as we both loved the same things — sports, politics and eating lunch. Though not necessarily in that order.

We went to tons of games together. In 1985, in fact, we drove all the way to Indianapolis to watch Michael Jordan play in his first NBA all-star game.

Got stuck in a blizzard and everything. That’s dedication, folks!

There’s only one problem with Kevin B…

He’s a Washington Wizards fan. As in the NBA team now battling my beloved Bulls in round one of the playoffs.

For the record, I hate those sorry motherfuckers!

Sorry, that outburst of profanity was most uncalled for.


Kevin B. looks a little like this…


Now, while it’s true that I really don’t like any team in any sport that’s not from Chicago, I am capable of liking people who root for different teams.

For instance, one of my friends — another Kevin, coincidentally — is a Packers fan. I believe it’s cause he was dropped on his head at a very young age.

Another friend — let’s call him Ajax — loves the Lakers. There’s no rational explanation, other than his wicked crush on Kobe Bryant.

Kevin B, on the other hand, has an excuse for his Wizards worship. He grew up in Maryland just outside of Washington, D.C.

As such he roots for all the Washington teams. Don’t get him started on the Redskins.

BTW, Washington — you really should insist the owner change that team’s name.


Hey, Bulls — feel free to cover this guy!


As I said, I love Kevin B dearly. He remains one of my oldest friends.

But his Washington affinity is hard to take, especially since game one on Sunday, whose outcome I still refuse to discuss.

Immediately after the game, I received a text message from Kevin B along the lines of “Too bad Macaroni’s not on the team.”

That would be a reference to Andres Nocioni, who used to play for the Bulls.

It’s also a subtle reference to the Bulls/Wizards playoff series of 2005. The Bulls were up by ten points late in game six. And…

Actually, I’d just as soon not talk about what happened next. You know, I heard a lot from Kevin after that game, too.

As you probably figured out, Kevin tends to get very chatty when his beloved little Wizards do well.

But after the Bulls whoop their sorry little asses tonight, you watch — it’ll be a different story.

I won’t hear a word from my old friend. It will be like his cell phone got hacked like it was AOL.

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Benny Jay: More Creative Accounting

April 20th, 2014

I’m having lunch with Monroe, my friend the blogger, when he breaks the bad news…

“Most web sites have to have one thousand hits before Google pays them five dollars in advertising.”

I’m not sure I hear him correctly so I say: “Say that again…”

He speaks a little slower — like he would to a child. “Okay, every time someone comes to your blog that’s a hit — right?”


“You need 1,000 of those hits before you get five dollars…”


“So the ratio’s like –  one-thousand to five?” I ask.


I think about that for a moment.

“Shit,” I say.

“Tell me about it.”


Me `n Milo have a staff meeting…


After lunch, I call Milo, the brains behind this operation. “Bad news,” I tell him. “Monroe told me we need a thousand hits to make five dollars out of The Third City.”

“How many hits are we getting now?”

“I dunno – couple a hundred a day…”


“That’s what I said…”

“Well, get cracking,” says Milo. “We make five dollars and we’re in the high cotton.”

“Milo, I can’t live on five dollars a day….”

“That’s why we got to figure out a way to cut Randolph out of the take,” he says.

“But, Milo — I’ve known Jonny since the `80s…”


Artie looked a little like this…


“Fuck that. Five dollars divided two ways goes a lot further than five dollars divided three ways…”

“You got a point….

No Blaise, too…”

“Geez, Milo, she’s one of my daughter’s oldest friends…”

“And while we’re at it — cut off Rolando. Fucker would just wastes the money on reefer and shit.”

“But, Milo, you smoke more reefer than all of us…”

“Now, that I think about it, what we really need is a sleazy accountant to doctor the books….”

That gets us talking about Artie Brisket – the chubby, little man who used to do my taxes. He worked out of the dusty basement of a bungalow in West Rogers Park, overflowing with boxes filled with musty, old tax returns. You’d sit down there, shivering against a draft, and watch Artie total up numbers on his adding machine.  Artie knew the IRS code inside and out – he was always telling me about how he maneuvered his richer clients into a lower bracket. It’s a miracle all of them didn’t wind up in prison.

As I recall, I met Artie through Milo who met him through this sleazy publisher Milo used to write for. I think that publisher still owes Milo money.

We could learn a thing or two from that guy. Maybe we should get him and Artie to run this blog.

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Benny Jay: Hacked!

April 17th, 2014

It has come to my attention that my AOL email account was hacked.

I don’t know who did the hacking.  I presume it was some malicious little fucker in eastern Europe, though I have not rule out Rahm Emanuel as a suspect.

Just kidding, Mayor Rahm.

l learned about the hacking from several email friends, who wrote or called to say something along the lines of — “Hey, man, you’ve been hacked.”

With an occasional f-bomb dropped here or there.

Apparently, the hacker or hackers sent emails to every address in my  address book, saying “Hi! news.”

That was followed by a link to a site which, for all I know, exposes someone to various forms of credit and/or identity theft.

I think it’s pretty obvious that I did not send out an email that says, “Hi! news.”

But just to be sure, allow me to issue the following statement…

I was hacked!

I hope that clarifies things.


For all I know, the hacker might have been this guy…


The episode raises some interesting questions about how one is supposed to respond to a suspicious message from a computer that’s obviously been hacked.

Some people were irritated, as in — “hey, fucker, stop sending me shit.”

Others were apologetic, as in: “You probably already know this, but just in case…”

Others responded as though I had done something wrong: “It’s a good idea to change your password every once in awhile…”

Others used it as an opportunity to rail against AOL — like Steve Case did the hacking himself.

Others took the opportunity to say something nice, like: BTW, how are you doing? Let’s have lunch.


Or this guy…


And, of course, there were a whole bunch of robo messages along the lines of — “so and so will be out of the office until April 21.”

In other cases, the hacking was educational. At least, it was how I learned that several people had left their old jobs.

The real good news is that I changed my password. So I hope it will be at least a few months before I get hacked again.

For what it’s worth, I have been thinking of changing my email account. Kind of sick of the AOL home page.

Of course, changing the account seems like a lot of work.

If I know me — and I’ve known me for quite awhile — I’ll be thinking about changing my email for at least another ten years. At which point, I’ll think about it some more.

In the meantime, sorry about the hacking. Though I swear had nothing to do with it.


Editor’s Note: Breaking news! This just in!! Benny’s email has been hacked — again!!! This time he really might have to get out of AOL…


Benny Jay: Pack Mule Blues

April 15th, 2014

Saturday afternoon

I’m running late to drive cross town to meet my sister for lunch. I race to the garage, open the door, head for the car, only to discover…

The car’s piled high with boxes filled with stuff. My daughter’s stuff, to be exact. Shoes, blouses, shirts, pants, dresses, socks, books — you name it.

She’s moving from Chicago to California. And on Thursday my wife and I helped her move her stuff from her old apartment to the car.

At the time, they were giving me major amounts of shit. Saying I had a bad attitude. Said all I do I do is complain.

Can you believe this? Okay, maybe I did complain. But I had a legitimate point. Which was — I’m lazy. I mean, what’s so wrong with that?


I’d rather be doing this…


So we fill the car and drive home. And I tell my wife – let’s get this stuff out of the car now, so we don’t have to worry about it later. Only she says she’s too tired, we’ll move it in the morning. Promise.

And I say – I know you’re tricks, you won’t be around in the morning. And I’ll have to move it by myself. And she starts in again about my bad attitude.

Well, obviously, Friday morning came and went without her cleaning out the car.  Let this be a lesson to all you youngsters out there.

No matter what they tell you — you’re gonna be the one who does the heavy lifting.


I’m a mule — like Francis…


So here I am lifting shit out of the car and stocking it in the garage. And I’m sweating like a mule, cause it’s hot. And this shit is heavy.

And I get to the bottom of the trunk and what do I find?  A bag of kitty litter!

The kitty litter bag my wife bought — over my objections — weeks ago just in case we got stuck in the snow. Cause someone told her that kitty litter makes the perfect traction to help cars get out of snow.

As she dumped that kitty litter bag into the back of the car, I predicted that I’d be the one to find it, when the snow melted it.

I believe she said I had a bad attitude.

I haul the kitty litter bag out of the car and dump it in a corner of the garage. Which is where I’ll undoubtedly find it months from now when my wife tells me we got to clean out the garage.

Only guess who will be doing the hauling?

Fellas, once a pack mule, always a pack mule.  Might as well get used to it.

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Benny Jay: Cheap is Cheap!

April 13th, 2014

It’s the middle of the night and I can’t sleep — must have been something I ate — so I’m sitting on the downstairs sofa reading In Cheap We Trust by Lauren Weber.

It’s all about our need to be more frugal, so we don’t destroy the world by using everything up.

She makes a convincing argument, but I wish she used a different word in her title. To me, cheap and frugal are not quite the same. Frugality is a virtue — waste not, want not, and all that. But cheap is selfish.

Most cheap guys I know — and I’ve known a lot of them — aren’t cheap cause they want to save the planet. Hell, no — they’re cheap cause they don’t want to pay the bill.

Take Jamie, for example.  Cheapest dude I know. The next bill he picks up will be his first. When we go out to eat, he scours the menu looking for the cheapest thing he can buy.


Jack Benny was cheap…


“Jamie,” I’ll ask. “Why you only eating a salad?”

“Ah,” he says. “I’m not really that hungry.”

But tell him you’re treating? Fuck the salad! Next thing you know he’s ordering the steak.  It’s interesting how hungry he suddenly gets, when he realizes someone else is paying the bill.

Another notorious tightwad I know is Bill, an old college friend. He’s so cheap, he’d bogart my coffee when we’d go out breakfast, instead of ordering his own.

“Hey, man, ask the waitress for a refill…”

“Just order your own cup, you cheap motherfucker…”

“C’mon, man….”

When the check came, he’d go over it like a CPA, making sure I paid for the coffee. Cause, technically, he hadn’t ordered it.


And Tiger Woods is a notoriously cheap tipper…


I’ve told my mom that story at least a dozen times. She never tires of hearing it. She loves trashing cheapskates. Then she’ll tell my father: “You have to hear this one…”

And he’ll say: “Don’t you people have anything better to occupy your minds?”

My father’s really big on how we occupy our minds.

I think Lauren Weber would love my parents. As children of the Great Depression, they understand the need for frugality cause they remember when there was barely enough food to eat.

But cheap? It’s just the opposite. When the bill comes, my father’s quick like a cat — grabs it right out of the waiter’s hand. The man doesn’t have a cheap bone in his body.

My sister on the other hand…

The last time the family went out for lunch, she grabs the bill before my father can get at it, looks at me and says, “Let’s treat.” You know, like she’s the big sport.

So I get out my Master Card and she gets out her American Express. But the waitress says, “sorry, we don’t take American Express.”

I wind up paying the whole bill.

Come to think of it — I wouldn’t say she’s cheap. Just sorta slick.

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Randolph Street: The Montage

April 11th, 2014

Editor’s Note: Jon Randolph was last seen goin’ down to Mexico way, singing — “ain’t no hangman gonna put a rope around me.” We expect him to return next week. In the meantime, enjoy some of his greatest hits…









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