Sunday, March 1, 2015

March 1st reflection

It is the first day of March, there is a lot of snow on the ground in Chicago, and the coldest February on record in this town is for the record books.  So long yesterday morning being -7ºF at 7 a.m. and kiss my ass!  I am filled with measured amounts of hope and expectation.  I am hoping it won't be as cold as last month (or last year at this time, for that matter) but fully expect to be disappointed.

Therefore, I take the day off because all things being equal -- which they are -- I would love to talk about "Top Gear" some more but even I could not bear it.

See you on the 8th! 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

"You can try but there's nobody else here and I have a shovel."

 Okay, okay, "Top Gear" has its grip on me.  I watched the episode below where the challenge is Jeremy and James driving to the North Pole and Richard going via dog sled.  Jeremy and James drive in a Toyota Hilux, moving slowly over frozen sea water, getting stuck in a field of snow boulders, having to get out using a chainsaw.  Richard, skiing next to the sled, running next to it, exposed to the elements for days, growing impatient, who, when asked by his very optimistic and cheery female guide if he wanted to try on the lead dog harness as she's looking for a new lead dog, says, "You can try but there's nobody else here and I have a shovel."

If you're easily freaked out by a wintery scenario, it is as scary as anything you can imagine.  And yes, I want a Toyota Hilux and a pair of Icelandic mechanics following me wherever I drive.

You Tube/Top Gear/Not Me has removed it from this blog.  Here is the You Tube link:
http://youtu.be/WNkvASxfEWQ?list=PLACF1A0132C919F87
http://youtu.be/m9MfnKoTM6c?list=PLACF1A0132C919F87
http://youtu.be/q0hoPNmY4oU?list=PLACF1A0132C919F87

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Me + Top Gear = Some kind of love

Just today I had lunch with a friend who was talking about the cable TV options that are available to him and his husband.  He wanted BBC News but that was only available on the premium option.  The middle option had BBC Americas which he said he really didn't like because, "the only thing that seems to be on is 'Top Gear.'" He was shocked when I then said, "Oh, my god, I love 'Top Gear.'"

I am not a gear head, a car lover, an automobile know-it-all.  I know a smidge about cars but not enough to impress anyone at all, not even myself.  At work when I get a client into a rental and I don't know what it is, I will tell them, "I don't know because I'm a girl."  I say this several times a week.  I can't drive a stick and if some rental genius tried to get me to take a car with a manual transmission, I would certainly refuse as the car would be nothing more than paperweight and/or a hotel room.  Ixnay on the ickstay, say I.  So what the hell is up with my affection for "Top Gear," one of the most popular TV shows in the world?

I'd heard about "Top Gear" over the years.  The CBS show, "Sixty Minutes," did a piece on them a long while ago.  I finally saw an entire episode when I was staying at a hotel out near the airport the night before a very early morning departure for Seattle.  It was 100% car driven (pardon the sick pun) and these guys were obviously thrilled with themselves and their jobs.  I should've hated it.  Dear god in heaven, forgive me, but I enjoyed the hell out of it.  Then Netflix started offering it on their instant streaming option and, well, it's a guilty pleasure.

Here's the premise:  Three men test drive cars.  They discuss the pros and cons of said vehicles.  They sometimes take the cars out on the roads and wreak havoc.  They will build hybrid vehicles and wreak havoc.  (The BBC must pay a huge amount to people for repairs of things busted by their new frontiers of havoc.)  They seem to have their own permanent test track which appears to be either adjacent to or on the runways of what used to be a small airport.  They have a "Star in a Reasonably Priced Car" segment where they have celebrities drive the current reasonably-priced car at their disposal around a designated track for a time to see if they could beat the time of another celebrity.  They call each other morons and idiots.  They get cross and play practical jokes on each other usually involving a car.  There is a studio audience, everyone standing among the cars,  excited to be there. 

This show does two things for me:

1.  It makes me laugh out loud.  I laugh more at "Top Gear" than at some sitcoms.  The three hosts -- Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May -- often act like three total boneheads (case in point, the India roadtrip special).  They're also very charismatic and knowledgeable and loads of fun. 

2.  They are a remarkable sedative.  It's the middle of the night.  I wake up for no good reason and how will I get back to sleep?  "Top Gear" on Netflix is how.  The openings strains of the Allman Brothers song, "Jessica," come on, Jeremy Clarkson talks about what's on that night's show, and I grin because I know this sedative will help me to soon knock off.  But please refer to #1 above as during daytime hours I will go back and watch what I missed so I can have a nice solid laugh.

"Top Gear" might make you forget what was bothering you as you watch and think, "What. The. HELL?"

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Super Bowl Sunday!!

Today is the day of Super Bowl XLIX, except let's argue about Roman numerals.  Considering it is 49, and if the I is put in front of a numeral in order for it to be one less, then should it not be IL?  As we have no actual Romans to consult and Latin scholars want nothing to do with this, then we can agree to disagree.

SO!  Patriots or Seahawks?  Gisele Bündchen's husband or Russell Wilson?  At work, the two of us who talk football decided it was Russell Wilson.  While Tom Brady is every kind of great QB and very handsome, Russell Wilson seems like the sweeter guy and wow, that guy is built, so GO SEAHAWKS!!!

Old lady lust is not an exact science.

In honor of Super Bowl XLIX, a good friend told me about the clip below.  Marshawn Lynch has been all over the media for not wanting to talk to the media on Media Day, preferring to say that he was there so that he wouldn't get fined.  He said it in response to every single question.  Watch the clip from the Conan O'Brien Show in which Conan plays a new version of Mortal Kombat with Marshawn Lynch of the Seahawks and Rob Gronkowski of the Patriots.  Not what I expected at all (yes, I laughed out loud).


Sunday, January 25, 2015

Gisele Bündchen's Husband's Balls AND French TV spanks Fox News

Did you seriously think I was going to let something as wonderful as this go by without comment?  Long story short:  Somehow the footballs used by the New England Patriots in last week's final playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts lost air pressure.  This is a big deal because a deflated ball is a ball that is easier to catch and throw.  The QB can get a better grip on it when he throws and whoever catches it also can more easily grip it.  Famed, very, very rich and very, very beautiful supermodel Gisele Bündchen's husband, the very, very rich and very, very beautiful Tom Brady, is at the center of the controversy because allegedly he is the most logical person to have taken air from the balls.  More mysterious still, the balls seemed to gain pressure in the second half of the game.

1.  If the ball is found to have been tampered with, the result of the game will not be reversed.  The Pats will still have royally creamed the Colts' corn and they will still go to the Super Bowl.  If anything, they may lose future draft picks.  NFL season and post-season rules differ wildly it seems.

2.  Dear god in heaven, Tom Brady is a fine, fine, fine, fine specimen.  He's tall, handsome, and is very passionate about how he selects a game football, which he abbreviates.

3.  Balls deflate then reinflate thereby proving that the New England Patriots control all things related to the physical sciences in Boston during game play.

4.  I don't know if they cheated, I don't know who cheated, I don't know why they would want to cheat; I just want Tom Brady to talk about balls some more.

Below is a "deflategate" clip:



-----------------

Fox News is not a news station.  It's a cable channel manned by people who say things they probably don't mean at all but they get paid well and have so many commercial sponsors that they keep saying outrageous crap so they can keep making money.  Their "journalists" like Christmas in Vermont; they enjoy fine shoes and clothes; they like April in Paris (but they probably don't go all the hell around Paris on the Metro or by bus, which is something I do, sometimes by accident, usually on purpose).

The whole thing about various parts of Paris being as bad as Iraq or Afghanistan is outrageous, dangerous, and, really, defamation.  The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, talks of suing Fox.  (Yes, please!)  The French TV show, Le Petit Journal, took to the the streets of Paris in its own way.  I am officially in love with Le Petit Journal.



Merci.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

I won't get fooled again

Chicago's many fans of the Bears are rejoicing because there is a new head coach -- John Fox, who has taken the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos to the Super Bowl -- and there is a new general manager -- Ryan Pace, who started as a very young college graduate with the New Orleans Saints organization.  There is already much speculation about how soon the Bears will be going to the Super Bowl again.  People are happy!  Joyous!  Delighted!

Hold your horses, I say.  We still have Jay Cutler as our number one QB.

Maybe Mr. Fox can make a silk purse out of Jay's ear of sow, but I am so wary about all this that I just can't be so elated.

So these points:

1.  Phil Emery did the stanky bad deal of the century when he extended Jay for so many years with a guarantee for two years.  (Jay's agent?  Really very bright, that one.)

2.  Marc Trestman was not a very good fit with the Bears.

3.  It will be a building year.  (I am weary of building years.)

4.  Jay Cutler is not now nor will he ever be an elite quarterback.  This means he will not be one next year either.  I'm just sayin'.  Maybe John Fox can get an offense that features Jay's strengths but that remains to be seen.  Hell, the schedule isn't even out yet.

I am cautiously, guardedly optimistic, wary, and, if I give it too much thought, oddly tense about it all.  But I won't be fooled by false hope again.  And yet I say Go Bears!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Here's where

The Paris march against terror earlier today started from the Statue of the Republic -- whose name is Marianne -- at the Place de la République.  According to Le Figaro, 3.7 million people turned out for the rally in the capital, including 40 world leaders who walked arm in arm.  To encourage people to attend, subway rides in Paris were free.  (Bus rides might also have been free, but with 3.7 million people clogging the streets, would you want to be on a bus?)  In Lyon, 300,000 turned out; 150,000 in Toulouse; 100,000 in Bordeaux; 60,000 in Marseilles; 115,000 in Rennes; 100,000 in Grenoble; the list goes on.  In just the provinces, 2.5 million people turned out to march against terror.  The population of France is 66 million.  At least 10 percent of the population -- all religions represented -- turned out to say they were against terror.

Here is the Statue of the Republic, taken on that one November vacation day when it didn't rain. Allons enfants de la Patrie, etc.

Marianne, from behind, Place de la République, Paris

Sunday, January 4, 2015

It's been a while

Yes, it's been a while since I yakked on and on about the Bears but it's the new year and the topic needs to be put to rest for the rest of the season.  Why?  The playoff season's just getting started, you might say.  Not for the Bears it isn't.  This year they plumbed the depths of sucking.  The Bears are known for their defensive line.  The defensive line bit.  The offensive line, on the other hand, brought out at least three real stars -- Kyle Long, Kyle Fuller, and Alshon Jeffery.  Jay Cutler, much reviled by me, has proven himself to be as poor a prospect as I've been saying he is.  The coach, Marc Trestman, so popular and successful in the Canadian Football League, was a flop.  The general manager, Phil Emery was a flop because he brought in Trestman and gave Jay Cutler such an impossibly-good-for-Jay-bad-for-the-Bears contract (seven years, $126 million, with three seasons of guarantees) that the Bears can't really get rid of Jay.  They were fired the day after the regular season was over.

Marc Trestman really seems like this nice, soft-spoken man.  If a nice, soft-spoken man can't get the team to work with him and each other, then there's no room for him in the NFL.  Jay Cutler can't go because, honestly, who would they get?  A quarterback position is very hard to fill as there are not that many great quarterbacks lying around.  QBs come out of college and often tank.  I think we need to find a coach who can work with Jay's few strengths (which are not getting rid of the ball, throwing the ball accurately many yards in the direction of the goalpost, and finding the wide receiver at all).  Phil Emery, well, dude, you screwed your own pooch.  When I heard the deal you negotiated with Jay last year, where Jay was getting so, so much money and a guarantee of much of the loot, I thought whoever did that deal must be out of his mind.  Phil, you were out of your mind!  Where would Jay go?  Who would want him?  Nowhere, man, and no one.  Jay should've paid the Bears to be a quarterback.  True, there's not a lot of choice but maybe  no one would choose him and the Bears could've turned a tidy little profit.

For Bears fans, the true believers, this is a very exciting time.  All fans look to Hallas Hall to see what George McCaskey and Ted Phillips do with advice of Ernie Accorsi, whom they hired as a consultant via the NFL Career Development Advisory Panel.  We do know that Virginia McCaskey, age 91, is pissed off with mediocrity.  Unlike Mrs. McCaskey, I have no monetary gain from the success or failure of the team and I see her point.  Except they're not mediocre -- they have just sucked. 

So it's another "building year."  I am sick of "building years."  Fingers crossed that this time they get it a little closer to right.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Something to end the year

A few years ago I spent several weeks giving props to the late Jacques Brel -- to the passion, the talent, the face like a foot.  Below please find the link to a live 1966 concert at Olympia in Paris, part of a series of farewell concerts.  It ends with Ne Me Quitte Pas, Jacques all sweaty with Those Teeth and me hoping that maybe she might give him another chance.

Enjoy the master singing his own tunes and a happy new year to you.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

2014 Retrospective

Another year has been kicked in the crotch and left in a pile by the side of the road or did another year hit me about the head and neck and leave me concussed and stupid?  Either way, I am taking the rest of 2014 off.

I wish you happy holidays and a wonderful 2015.  See you on January 4, 2015!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Not Charlie Brown's Christmas Tree

The City of Chicago has managed to get trees donated from area residents the last few years.  (They used to lash together many smaller trees to make the bigger one and I thought that was pretty ingenious although labor intensive, i.e. expensive.)  Two or three years ago, they had a tree that was just terrible -- thin, rangy, not anything like bushy.  I thought I was alone in this estimation but I had a bus driver going east on Washington past Daley Plaza who opined, "Where did they manage to get Charlie Brown's Christmas tree?  That looks terrible."  Since then, the donated, former-front-lawn trees have been improvements and this year's looks kind of pretty.  I went to Christkindlmarket at Daley Plaza this year with coworkers for a private thing (hardly a party; it was a thing) in one of the rent-a-tents.  I ate and ducked out early and took this picture of the crowd and the tree before I got on the El. 

The annual Christkindlmarket in Daley Plaza, Chicago.  Let the sauerkraut reign!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Taking pictures of people taking pictures, French edition

Taking pictures of people taking pictures.  I love it so.

 
Just married, just finished raining.  Place des Vosges, Paris
Making art inside Church of Saint-German-des-Prés
Smile for your parents (might be an unintentional photobomb from me)
Courtyard at the Louvre and no, he didn't fall in

"We can send this to your mom saying we didn't fall in."

Full figure and no, he didn't fall off
A full-sized tripod:  a novel concept for me as I don't like to schlep
The gentlemen below were taking pictures of each other with their own cameras.  I offered to do the deed with their cameras so they were all in each picture.  When I was done, they insisted I take their picture with my camera, too.

Beaux, oui Et heureuse, aussi.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Parisian panorama, please

The Courtyard of the Louvre, hotbed of people taking pictures of each other


La Défense, the largest business district in Europe








Lunchtime at La Coincidence, Rue Mesnil, near Place Victor Hugo
La passage des grand cerfs:  Once you see the cat, everyone sees the cat.

Galeries Lafayette:  Noel Monstre outside at night

Opéra Garnier, viewed from the Metro entrance










 
Galeries Lafayette has just one ornament, but it's a monster
View of that ornament from below, non-panorama
Place de la Concorde, standing on the traffic light divider
Yes, those cars were shaving my legs
Air France Terminal 2E, the one that collapsed and was rebuilt -- now quite solid

Sunday, November 23, 2014

I went to Paris and all I got was pictures of people taking pictures of people (and things)

Yes, I went to Paris and was gone for a whole week.  Here is what it did in Paris:  It rained.  When I went out to dinner without my camera, it would suddenly stop and all the clouds would clear from around the Eiffel Tower and I would see it in the distance, looking fabulous with the twinkling light show on the hour.  When I brought my camera hoping the rain would clear out, it wouldn't clear and would, instead, rain.  I went to the Christmas market on the Champs Elysees -- way tackier than anything you could imagine in the States -- and it seemed so clear that I decided I'd walk to the Arc de Triomphe, get some pictures, then walk to the Eiffel Tower from there.  Instead it rained with great purpose and I went soggily back to my hotel. 

There were, however, pictures to be taken.  The Saturday I walked from Rue Réamur down to the BHV then all around the Marais was a few hours that even offered a little blue sky and sun.  The day before I left was great, too, with no rain at all.  When I got to the Eiffel Tower that last day, fog (la brume) encased it, making it look romantic, enshrouded, mysterious.  I am not a fan of a romantically enshrouded Eiffel Tower of mystery.  I like crisp, clean pictures but, alas, after standing in the dampness for 30 minutes, I gave it up and went to eat duck confit (as tasty as I'd hoped it would be).

SO ROMANTIC!  I'd have preferred crisp, cold, and clear.
Of course, there were lots of people taking pictures of others but I also got into taking pictures of people who were standing there.  One guy saw me and took a powder (after I waved at him and he waved back).  A mom and her daughter at the Musee du Carnavalet were delighted and would have sat doing pose after pose.  Then there was the cat in La Passage des Grand Cerfs which everyone loved.
They were happy to have their picture taken.  Beautiful faces, oui?
La passage des grand cerfs:  the shadow at the top is indeed my finger.

And once you see the cat, everyone sees the cat.

My fave is still taking pictures of people taking pictures or even making pictures.
La passage des grand cerfs gave us this.

Over by Centre Pompidou, this man apologized to me because he thought I wanted a picture of the same wall art.  No, sir, I want your picture with the wall art.

Making art across from Centre Pompidou.

The Louvre Pyramid was a hotspot for taking pictures of people taking pictures.
I really enjoyed taking panorama pictures with my iPhone.  Those will be for next week.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

ANNOUNCEMENT

I am going off on vacation, but before I do, let me say these few things:

1.  Brian Urlacher is right:  Jay Cutler is not an elite quarterback.  (Brandon Marshall personally attacking B. Urlacher -- talking about the man's personal life -- just makes B. Marshall look like Jay's bitch.)

2.  Marc Trestman may be a good coach -- he was very successful in the Canadian Football League -- but their bottom-of-the-division standing makes me wonder what the hell is going on at Hallas Hall (besides Jay being the head QB).

3. See you in two weeks with pictures, including more pictures of people taking pictures.

AFTERWORD

Yesterday I followed this person on Belmont for many blocks.  Yes, that's a howling wolf in the picture window:
I beg to differ.


Sunday, November 2, 2014

Taking pictures of people taking pictures, part IV

It wasn't yet dark in Federal Plaza as a miracle got me out of work early on one of the last warmish  days of the year.  The young photographer was asking her model to rock back and forth, front and back as she was posing, seemingly to get the illusion of movement in the picture.  P.S. We're all wearing wool and light down jackets now.

Federal Plaza, 28 October 2014, about 5pm

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Taking pictures of people taking pictures, part III

OMG, OMG, OMG!  WHY DOES IT FASCINATE ME SO???

Much like the beauty of a filled wastebasket at work, people taking pictures continues to capture my imagination.  Now when I arrive at Federal Plaza in the evening it is either dusk or dark and picture-taking there is over until spring but there will be other options.  Yeah, that's a hint.

From my personal archives, here are some selections:

I like this so much that it's now my desktop wallpaper -- MOMA, NYC, May 2014
And waaaaay off in the horizon, is her boyfriend. - Federal Plaza, Chicago, May 2014
Nighttime at Cloudgate:  The Bean is a neverending source of others snapping pix -- August 2014



Sunday, October 19, 2014

Views not otherwise possible

Open House Chicago 2014 has come and gone, affording views not otherwise possible for those of us who lead normal lives.

And so voila, for you we have a few things I got to see and capture, over which I can sigh in the future.

Yesterday was the first time I saw this 2nd floor elevator call signal

The occupants with this view know they're lucky
String instrument workshop, Fine Arts Bldg.
Venetian Court, Fine Arts Bldg, open just for Open House Chicago

Venetian Court panorama
The Studebaker Theatre, down to its backstage bare bones

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Distasteful topics! Read at your own peril!

I am not the newest bowling ball in the alley and in my time I've met a lot of people with a lot of opinions.  Sometimes it's best to keep one's opinions to oneself, like when religion and politics are concerned.  Other times, it's interesting to hear what one has to say, but that's an opinion and not a fact or a complaint.  People often can be made to change their minds about an opinion, it's true, except for two differing yet similar topics.

People are pretty passionate about both of them.  They will not waiver from them.  They will argue their point vehemently.  It's always surprising.

The two topics are these:

1.  Do you put the toilet paper over the top or down the back?

2.  Do you read in the toilet?

Really.  I am not kidding.  Assuming you're not some stuck-up, arbiter-of-good-taste mope, if you bring up either of these topics (assuming, too, that those with whom you're discussing the topic are not also stuck-up mopes), people will have a solid opinion on both of these topics.

I asked a friend once if he read in the toilet and he was puzzled as to why anyone would want to do that.  It's never in his life occurred to him.  I contemplated this as I cracked open a fashion magazine in my home loo later that day.  My family all read in the john when I was growing up and I do, too.

On the other hand, I used to work in an office where I was located just outside of the men's room.  All day long guys were going in there with reading matter:  newspapers, journals, and, once, the Advertising Red Book.  I pointed this out to one of them and he said, "If you see me with Ad Age, you know I mean business."  Over in the ladies' room, no one ever, ever, ever went in with reading matter.  Girls at work use the restroom and go back to work.  I asked my boss, a lady who'd been there for decades, if she'd ever seen any woman go into the restroom with anything to read and she instantly said, "Never."  Where I am now, it's the same:  There might be hair-combing or teeth being brushed but never reading.  (The men in the office don't read or primp or brush their teeth, I've been advised; they do their thing, wash their hands, and go back to work.  My present job is pretty strict about time away from one's desk.)

Many years ago I went on a vacation where I saw a friend and his new girlfriend, newly living together.  She said they'd almost broken up when she realized that he hung the TP differently from how she liked it.  They finally decided that whoever changed the roll determined how the paper fell; they were actually happy to take care of this task so each could have their way.

As for me, I live alone and I like it from the back but when I stay in a hotel and it's from the top, I leave it that way.  They're taking care of it and that's how the maid was trained, often folding the paper into a lovely point.  In a hotel, I am thankful that I don't have to attend to the tidiness in there and go with the program.  I just make sure I take my magazine out and that I leave a couple of bucks every day for a job well done.