Sunday, June 21, 2015

What would YOU do?

Courtesy of NBC, NHL, Chicago Blackhawks, and my TV
The Chicago Blackhawks WON, beating the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6.  YAY BLACKHAWKS YAY!

The Cup has been making its way around the city, turning up at restaurants and bars with the various players and going to Mr. and Mrs. Patrick Sharp's house for a team lunch on their rooftop deck.  There are Twitter Stanley Cup trackers and if you happen to go to the place where the Cup is visiting, you can touch the Cup and get your picture taken with it.  Most people are excited about the Stanley Cup and I am happen to report I am one of them. 

(We had a fire drill this past week and our building facilities manager ended the drill lecture by saying, "Be safe.  Go Hawks.")

Two million people came to the parade; the city doubled the length of the parade route to accommodate all the people they realized were going to attend.  There were 61,000 free tickets for Soldiers Field and Jumbotrons set up outside of it but they ended up letting in as many people as the fire marshalls would allow which made for a very exciting time for the Blackhawks and for the fans.  (Our mayor, Rahm Emanuel, was booed at his introduction.  Amen.  But they didn't boo Governor Bruce Rahner?  He deserves it just as much or more with his Sarah-Palin-One-of-the-People style of "talkin'".  He's a billionaire who still puts ads on TV to try to keep his opponents in the Illinois House and Senate down.)

Each member of the organization is allowed to have the Stanley Cup for 24 hours.  What would you do if you had it for 24 hours? 

For me, it would depend on my life situation, but right now I am thinking a romantic cruise for the me and the Stanley Cup, from Copenhagen to Oslo.  (Me, the Cup, and its two minders, that is.)  The Stanley Cup and I would wake up in Oslo Fjord.  We would have breakfast.  Then we'd go to see Edvard Munch's painting, "The Scream."  There would be a lunch featuring fish.  I'd cry when they took him away.

Or else I'd take him on the 56 Milwaukee bus.  That'd make the riders smile, I think.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Fingers crossed for the Stanley Cup

Maybe I am putting my puck into the net too soon but Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks!!!

GO CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS!

I have NOT been buying a t-shirt or a hoodie or a sweatshirt or an official NHL Duncan Keith jersey.  I WANT all of those things but if I buy one and they lose I will feel terrible so I hold my breath and talk to myself, saying, "Please, oh, please."

One more time I say Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks Blackhawks!!!

GO CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS!

Game 6 tomorrow night, the Hawks are leading the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 in a best of 7 series.

GO CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS!  And just so we're clear, I hope they win.  Going to a 7th game would make me all jittery and if they lost I would be so very upset.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

The wait's over

American Pharoah raced into the record books when he won the Belmont Stakes yesterday, earning racing's Triple Crown for himself.  What a stud!  No, seriously.  That piece of horseflesh is now worth anywhere between $20 - $100 million dollars.  For the right price, a few fillies will get to spend adult time with him and they will have his children and win big racing money and on and on.  There will be no pre-nup and he will not be paying child support.  Animals!  Whatever.

I know nothing about horseracing but it was very cool to see him cross the finish line ahead of his competitors.  The 37-year wait for a horse to win the Triple Crown is over!  His trainer was happy, his jockey was happy, I imagine his owner was bust-a-gut happy, and I was happy for them.

American Pharoah, smiling in victory.  Courtesy of Fox Sports.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Stanley Cup

For the third time in six seasons, the Blackhawks are in the Stanley Cup Finals.  GO HAWKS!!!

I HOPE THEY WIN!!!  GO HAWKS!!!

It almost embarrasses me to admit that I have a hard time watching games.  Baseball, football, hockey, it matters not -- if it's too exciting and my team still loses, I get very upset.  I don't like being upset so I just await the outcome while doing something else.  Then I can be delighted or horrified at the result but I won't be devasted and sad.

Here is the Stanley Cup with some fans: 
Photo courtesy of ??  Who knew Lord Vader and a Stormtrooper were fans?


















I said it before and I say it again:  GO HAWKS!!!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Two examples of "Wha'?"



And where is this wonderful thing?  Not in Vienna, nor Munich, nor Berlin.   It's in rural Minnesota.   I think the late Freddy Mercury would approve.  I certainly do.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
'Sup indeed
I went out yesterday in the late afternoon, driving down the alley from my garage to the street, and I spied the plastic Santa.  I thought it was great and had to have a picture.  This fine man came from out of nowhere and asked in an Eastern European accent if I wanted the plastic fellow.  I said, "No, but I want his picture."  He said, "Will you take my picture with it?"  "Sure!" I said with great enthusiasm.  He crouched down and put his arm around Jolly Ole St. Nick, I turned on the flash as I was shooting into the sun, and click!  I only had to take one picture and I am very proud of it.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

IGN

I recall the notion of good ideas for the blog earlier in the week.  I foolishly didn't make note of them and so today I GOT NOTHING.

In celebration of IGN, I am going to go out and do errands.

Remember:  La vida es rica; la vida es llena.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

What If?

I must like to make myself insane because the Bulls and the Blackhawks are in postseason playoff situations and I am excited!  I know better than to be excited as I don't like to get my heart broken but to maybe have two winning teams is a thrill.

The reason why I don't like to watch sports, especially in person, is because I start caring and become emotionally invested in what's happening and if the team for which I am rooting loses, then I take it personally, like they did it to me on purpose.  I am trying to be aloof about my feelings for the Blackhawks and the Bulls in this winning situation but it's difficult because, well, what if?

One of my work friends posed this question at work on Friday: "What if the Bulls and the Bears go all the way?  The city would have two parades!  There would be two rallies for the winning teams!  Wouldn't that be great if that happened?"

Yes, it would be.  My mind boggles with how happy sports fans -- and others -- would be.  It's a thrill.  When the White Sox won the World Series in 2008, there was an awesome parade and I got to throw confetti out the window of my workplace (we were in a building with small windows that tipped open just enough for me to put my arm out and let loose with crap).  The crowd was huge and I'll never forget the roar of the crowd when they turned from Jackson onto LaSalle.  It was thunderous, excited, thrilling, and divine.  When the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2010  for the first time since 1961, there was a huge parade and my work friend and I went behind the building to take in the parade.  Not many people knew the route went there so we got to stand right at the curb and had a very good view.  In 2013, lots of people found out about this spot on Washington, just west of the railroad overpass, and my work friend and I and everyone else in our office decided to stay away.  The same route was filled with parade goers by 10 a.m. but it was still cool and wonderful. 

I imagine a basketball series where we get past LeBron James and the Cavs then on to the next series.  I imagine the Blackhawks going all the way through to the conference finals -- which start on Tuesday or as late as May 17 -- and then on to the Stanley Cup finals.  I imagine two parades -- although who is going to pay for that? -- and the Art Institute putting a basketball jersey on one lion and a hockey helmet on the other.  I imagine the Lyric Opera congratulating both teams on their signs.  I imagine smiling because it would be such a lovely thing for sports fans and the city.  I imagine laughing because I can't believe it and I am so happy.

What if?  I would be delighted and maybe you would be, too.  Go Bulls!  Go Hawks!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

It came and traffic stopped

It took a week to get Draft Town in place and it proved to be every bit the clusterfuck that I'd imagined.  Entire bus routes were rerouted because of massive street closings.  Traffic was at a virtual standstill in many parts of downtown because of said rerouted buses, many more pedestrians, a glut of cars, a stronger police presence, the previously mentioned closed streets, and Draft Town itself.  Of course I had to go and check it out.

DRAFT TOWN:  Where the weak do not get autographs or anywhere near the Lombardi Trophy
Draft Town was free to get in.  A coworker was as curious as me, so we decided to go together.  There were things we wanted to see and just walk around and check it out.  We were there for 90 minutes which covered it all for us.  Almost everything was free:  Oikos was giving away yogurt,  Verizon was giving away $5 food vouchers (which we gave to a family), Bears players -- current and retired -- were at the autograph tent, with no charge for a signature.  There were massive crowds for the autograph tent.  There were massive crowds for the Bears tent.  There was a one-hour line to get next to the Lombardi Trophy (as everyone in the line wanted a picture with it).  There were running challenges, jumping challenges, and a place where you put on a special suit and helmet and then flew up into the air.  Lines, lines, lines for everything.  A line to get a wristband to get your picture taken and have your chosen current or former football player superimposed with you and a line to get the picture.  The main massive huge tent was set up east-to-west which was totally blinding as the sun came down.  I have good sunglasses and found it annoying and painful.  It also made photography difficult.  Now that I've been, I don't need to ever go again.

So I have suggestions for the NFL and the City of Chicago if Draft Town is coming here next year:

1.  Do not set up the main tent east-to-west.  Make it north-to-south so that people are not blinded.  The first two days it's held from 4pm to 10pm. What happens in Chicago from 4pm to about 7pm?  The sun starts going down, making photography and vision difficult.

2.  If you put a tent over a major thoroughfare, there will be median strips with which to contend.  Maybe put up your own signage in addition to the regular street signage already there.

3.  Put the team tents in the front to make them more easily accessible.  They didn't have as many crowds as the autograph tent, so it would help with general traffic flow.

4.  Put the autograph tent in the back.  There are always lines for autographs so take the crowds for that away from where people (1) enter, (2) get beer, (3) are trying to get positioned to watch the draft which is also in front.

5.  Have more free crap.  If they are going to participate, make sure they're giving away something to the attendees. Screwdrivers with a hotel logo, for example, would be much appreciated.  "Greetings from Draft Town" courtesy of Courtyard by Marriott Hotels, the chosen hotel of the NFL.  How much could that be?  It all comes from China anyway, so it can't be all that much for the hotel chain and the NFL to split.

6.  Don't make it so people's livelihoods are challenged because of it.  The American Rhythm Center, where I take tap classes, is across the street from Draft Town.  Because of the terribly screwed up traffic, they cancelled classes for three days.  ARC is only one of the places giving classes in that building so multiply it by several.  That's effed up.

7.  Find another location for Draft Town in a city that isn't this one.  Draft Town on the former grounds of the Michigan State Fair at Eight Mile Road and Woodward in Detroit might bring some needed dollars to that community, people could drive to get there, they don't need to charge for parking, and they could erect some temporary Draft Temple for the NFL general managers and owners that would be appropriately opulent for their draft duties.   I could totally get behind that.

But then, they don't ever ask me.

Because of Draft Town, people had to make a concerted effort to get to Buckingham Fountain.  I exited, let some tourists finish their thing plus took pictures of them with their cameras, and then I took a panorama with a smaller-than-usual crowd.  It was honestly the best thing I saw all night.

Panorama of Buckingham Fountain at about 6:30pm on April 30

Post-BF, I found my coworker had made friends with these two officers who smiled nicely for me


Sunday, April 26, 2015

It's coming and cannot be stopped

Yeah, yeah, the clusterfuck that is the NFL Draft is coming to my town next week, taking place at the Auditorium Theatre with a fan experience being created a few blocks away.  Called "Draft Town," it will feature Buckingham Fountain changing colors to that of whatever team just made a draft pick.  Traffic is being rerouted and temporary buildings are going up in the middle of Grant Park (and a few streets).  What a spectacle!  What sensational drama!  Who the hell is paying for this shit?

When this is all over, I don't want to hear how the NFL -- one of the most successful conglomerates in the world -- made Chicago pay for any of it, like when we found out just earlier in 2015 that Chicago itself paid out money for the Olympic bid when Mayor Daley swore it was being paid for with private contributions.  (Yes, he sucked so hard at the end of his many terms.)  If they're rerouting buses, if police have to work extra shifts, if Buckingham Fountain changes freaking colors, then the NFL should pay for it, and a little extra for the inconvenience, thanks.

I say this like a sourpuss who will be giving it a wide berth.  On the contrary, I am going first thing on Saturday morning.  I am going to capture the stuff and, as my sister said to me, I can take pictures of people taking pictures at Draft Town.  Team memorabilia on display; a large ass temporary building; football-fan tourists paying their respects at the Temporary Temple of the National Football League and doing what the NFL likes best which is spending money on any NFL related; Buckingham Fountain all colorful and cool (which I suppose is why the draft is mostly in the evening, so you can actually see the colors).  I am hoping there is free crap because I love free crap (stolen motto:  "If it's free, it's for me.").  Of course the taking pictures of people doing just that is my goal.  My fear:  A picture of me taking a picture of someone taking a picture turning up somewhere and just look ghastly wide from that angle.

Go Bears!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Stalking

Regular readers of this blog will remember that I love to take pictures of people taking pictures.  It fascinates me.  If I can get the photographer, what he's photographing, and the image on the screen of his camera, then it's heaven for me.  Even just the photographer raising his hands and aiming and me from behind and to the side so I can get him and maybe what he's trying to capture is also great.  It occurs to me that I might be out of control.

This week was a lovely week here with good weather and many sunny afternoons.  I went to Federal Plaza when I could -- there were demonstrations, one of which made the police cut off major sections of the Loop so they could control the crowd with out the impediment of cars -- and a couple of days there were people capturing each other by Flamingo, the huge outdoor sculpture by American sculptor Alexander Calder (I always thought he was Belgian so I am a big stupid and let's move on).  When the weather is mostly  good -- and it's Chicago, so let's agree it's lousy seven months out of the year -- I cut between the post office and Kluczynski Federal Building to get to the Blue Line entrance.  From this vantage point I can see people taking pictures.

But do I have my iPhone or iPod Touch out, ready to take pictures?  Hardly.  I am walking along thinking, "Buddy, at that angle, your wife's gonna be a little dot next to this giant sculpture," or "Really?  How much of that sculpture do you think is gonna be in the selfie with the five other people?"  Screw me, I then think, they're having fun.  I am almost upon them when it occurs to me I need to take out my device.  They have, of course, dispersed by the time I get close to them.

This week I came around the corner of Kluczynski Federal Building to go get a lottery ticket at my favorite place, and there was a man with a DSLR.  He seemed to know what he was doing and was taking pictures from different angles.  This was probably my sole opportunity to take a picture for the rest of the day.  I took out my iPhone -- no simple thing as my iPhone holder is a Zip-Loc plastic bag (don't judge; it makes me happy) -- and I raised it to take a picture.  Just then he stopped and decided to go another way.  I am not proud of this, I acted like I was fascinated by the Garrett's popcorn story that's kittycorner from this spot while he made more decisive moves.  He took some shots; I took a picture of him.  He whipped around and looked and me and I had already returned to the mode of "is-that-light-red?'  He approached the corner and had to wait for the red light, taking some pictures as he waited and I got another.  I beat feet through the green light because he was probably on to me.

You will be pleased to know that the light was in his favor and both pictures aren't as good as most of my efforts.  I won't say that I will swear off stalking photographers but it might be better for me to stick to what I know -- sidling up to the unsuspecting and stealing their image while they're thinking about something else.
My prey

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Where have all the unusual, affordable outfits gone?

In the days before Macy's became Everyone's Local Department store, there were local and/or regional department stores.  Growing up in Detroit, we had J.L. Hudson, which later became Hudson's.  We also had Crowley's.  People in Minneapolis-St. Paul had Dayton's.  In Chicago, the most venerable of stores was Marshall Field's but there were also Evans and Charles A. Stevens for well-priced, good value clothes for women, and Wieboldt's and Goldblatt's for less expensive things for the whole family (when I first moved to Chicago in 1978, I bought myself a t-shirt in the bargain basement at Goldblatt's on State Street for 88¢ and I just recently put it in the bag to give to one of the clothing boxes).  There were many different options, each store having different buyers, price points, points of view, and levels of taste.

It was a good time for shopping because there were a lot of choices.  I think one of the things that made America great is the vast number of choices we mostly have (and cheap produce).  Because of all the choices, I used to enjoy shopping in Chicago (or Detroit, when I visited there).  I no longer do.

Macy's is everywhere so the outfits/shoes/accessories you buy at Macy's on State Street are pretty much like the things you find at the store the Old Orchard Mall in Skokie, at Woodfield Mall, in Peoria.  The store on 34th Street in New York is still a very good and enormous store but when Macy's on State Street was Marshall Field's, before Target cut it loose, it was better.  The sales were better -- a couple of times a year they had a coupon in the paper that gave you 25% of everything including sale prices and if you used your Field's charge and racked up $400?  $500? in purchases, you got a coupon for a decent percentage off anything, including cosmetics and fragrances.  It didn't matter how long it took you to get to the $400?  $500? Once you got there -- after three months, after three years -- they sent you the coupon.  Once a year, Macy's sends a check to its best customers that is attached to their credit card statements;  I will never see it as I mostly don't like their merchandise.  They carry the same things as Lord and Taylor and that store always offers coupons for a percentage off, even full-priced merchandise on occasion.  The Marshall Field's merchandise was also better because it appealed to a broader array of customers and the quality was very good.  Yes, fine, the Macy's in Miami will never offer winter coats or probably coats of any sort but the merchandise is not that different otherwise.  It's still Macy's.

There is an Iowa-based store called Von Maur with a couple of locations in suburban Chicago.  They have some different stuff that might be worth investigating but lately I don't like driving for 40 minutes on the outside chance they might have something that might look good and might be affordable.  (Blow-it-out-the-door sales and coupons are not their thing.)  Mostly, though, their merchandise is very much like the merchandise at all the other stores.  Their thing is customer service and they do a decent job of it.  I don't need customer service as much as I need choice.  Seattle-based Nordstrom has one terrific sale a year, a semi-annual sale that is okay, excellent customer service, some decently-priced things, a modest sale rack, and some items that are priced to make one's eyes bulge out from one's head as the word, "Boing!" echoes in one's ears.  The variety is mostly the same in its stores with some locations carrying things the other locations don't have, like the British brand Evans.  (I got a great sweater in Seattle that was never carried at the Chicago stores.)

Last year I went to New York and was very impressed by the merchandise at Macy's on 34th Street and the Lord and Taylor on Fifth Avenue.  There were things the local stores weren't carrying because they've no doubt decided we don't want it.  Did they even try?  At least Nordstrom tries.

So what's my point and get to it already?  People need regional stores, places to shop that reflect the local market.  There used to be locally-owned clothing and gift shops around Chicago that have mostly gone away.  Yes, stores go out of business for various reasons but sometimes they're driven out by rising rents that chains and designers are more easily able to pay or they were made an offer they can't refuse.  Yes, that's driven by greed.  It's like what's happening to Manhattan restaurants -- chains are able to pay rising rents but individual restaurants are not.  What made Chicago shopping and Manhattan dining unique from other places has been forced out by what the market might bear and that gets no one an outfit or a nice meal.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The future of "Top Gear"

And so Jeremy Clarkson's contract wasn't renewed by the BBC who was put into a very bad situation when Clarkson yelled at producer Oison Tymon for 20 minutes and smacked him around for another five.  I discussed this with a non-Top-Gear watcher at work.  If someone yells at you for five seconds, it's pretty bad; five minutes, it's an eternity; 20 minutes is the length of an episode of "Thirty Rock" without commercials and the abuse.  Toss on the length of the "Queen of Jordan" episode followed by slapping and it's what-the-fuckery at its weirdest. 

Clarkson did it to himself and he knew it as he was the one who called his BBC bosses right after and admitted it.  They were already pissed at him for various reasons -- the N-word controversy, the Argentina special with the Falkland-Islands-War-homage license plate, using a derogatory word in the Burma special  -- so he was the rump roast who stuck himself with the fork and pronounced himself done.  Who might replace him?

This reminds me of Jay Cutler of the Bears.  Jay is a very less-than-average QB.  He is not an elite quarterback like Russell Wilson, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, the Manning brothers.   He might be better than average with the right coach but he will never be great.

I was at a party last summer and talked to my co-worker's partner about it.  I said we needed to get rid of Jay and this man said, "Yeah, we can do that, but who can replace him?  There is no one available.  There are kids coming out of college but they're not ready for the NFL.  None of the really good quarterbacks have contracts that are up.  We're stuck with him and they have to make it work."
The whole Jeremy Clarkson incident/debacle/idiocy/what-the-fuckery reminds me of the Bears and Jay.  How they are they going to replace Clarkson?

For me, they can't.  Maybe Clarkson, May, and Hammond can start another wonderful, exciting show about cars that gearheads and others (like me) will watch.  I can't see sticking in someone else instead of Clarkson because, much like with QB Jay Cutler, there really is no one else.  (To be honest, Jay can be replaced, there's just no one to replace him; Jeremy Clarkson cannot be replaced on "Top Gear.")  If someone else comes in there, it won't be "Top Gear" any longer.  It will be "BBC Presents BBC's Top Gear brought to you by BBC and BBC Americas" and it will be not just different, it will be weird and out of sorts, kind of like Jeremy Clarkson himself when he freaked about not getting a hot meal and ripped Oison Tymon a new one for twenty minutes and then smacked him around for another five.  (Note to Jeremy:  Always have a hot meal provision in your contract.)

Yeah, I know I said I was going to put "Top Gear" behind me but it's "Top Gear" and I honest to goodness love "Top Gear."

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Happy Spring!

Spring arrived in Chicago at 5:45pm on Friday, March 20.  In the spirit of Spring in Chicago, we are expecting about 2-3 inches of snow that will fall most heavily during tomorrow's morning rush.  "Effing swell," she said with great sarcasm.  "Effing wonderful."

So I will take today off to think about this and also watch some of the only season of "Firefly," Joss Whedon's 2002 TV show that really is Ye Olde West with spacecraft.  There are people living by their wits, struggling to make a go of it, fighting to keep their freedoms in a restrictive society.  The most respectable person is the registered Companion, a highly educated and trained woman whose profession is, in essence, prostitution.  She's the most respected person in any room, more trusted and admired than a doctor or a preacher.  If you've not seen "Firefly," watch it on Netflix.  Then rent "Serenity," the movie that tied everything up. 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

I was sick, then "Top Gear" news came over

Every fall for the last 20+ years, I've been getting a flu shot.  I've only gotten the flu twice -- once about five years ago when the Swine flu was not part of the influenza cocktail and the second time this past week.  I missed two and a half days of work, extraordinary for someone who prides herself on always going to work unless there's a fever involved.  (I took one day two years ago when I had a fever that went with a rattly cough.)  Well, I did go to work but my supervisor agreed I should go home after a few hours (and I offered to stay until lunches were over).  I talked to my doctor and he said it sounded like flu to him but if I should happen to cough up something dark-yellow-to-green in color, to call back and he'd give me antibiotics.  There was some considerable coughing once I returned to work but the solid evidence of it being an infection never came forth and I say now that it really was flu.

On Tuesday evening, after being in bed for almost 24 solid hours, I decided to see if I had any email of significance.  My very good friend, Suzy, left me a message about Jeremy Clarkson having a run-in with one of the "Top Gear" producers.

?????????

This is what happens when I get sick.  Things go all to hell and I hear about them days later.

It seems Jeremy Clarkson, the main voice of "Top Gear" along with James May and Richard Hammond, got into a fight with one of the producers after a taping in Newcastle.  From everything I've read, it seems it was a fracas of the fisticuffs variety stemming from the lack of availability of a post-production hot meal.

I blushed as I wrote that.  Yes, he smacked someone for not making sure they had some hot food when they were done with the taping.  And when the fight was over, Jeremy Clarkson called the head of the BBC and gave him a heads up that he'd done it.  I am blushing again because I'd learned that earlier this year, Jeremy had used a childhood rhyme from the early 20th century that, in the UK, used the "N" word.  My face is hot because I am so ashamed that I admire someone who would be so stupid as to use the "N" word at any time for any reason.  Americans are mostly politically correct always and the Brits are often not.   If you drop the "N" bomb here, you are basically dirt in the eyes of everyone and you remain dirt forever and ever.  No amount of apology can undo it.  BBC did not air that portion of the show and Jeremy was told that that was his final notice.

After the meal altercation, he was suspended from the BBC and the show will not be aired while they determine what to do with him.

Some people are pissed in both directions.  There was a petition on change.org to bring back Jeremy Clarkson which at least 911,861 people had signed.  There was another petition to get rid of Jeremy for good and hire a popular gay UK comedian named Julian Clary and got 6,198 signatures.  A third petition to simply sack Jeremy Clarkson for good had a puny 805 signatures.

Jeremy Clarkson doesn't seem to think before he talks and he likes to end the work day with a meal of hot meat and two veggies and is willing to pound lumps on someone to get it.  But the man knows cars and is really smart and very funny.  He is charismatic and the audience loves him.  They can sack him and bring in Julian Clary -- who is supposed to be great, smart, funny -- but does Julian Clary know cars?  Can he do a handbrake turn?  Can he tell stories about trying to impress dates with handbrake turns?

"Top Gear" has regular viewers of about 350 million.  It brings in a huge amount of money to the BBC.  In the USA if someone brought in that sort of money to their network, said network would be doing anything those hosts/presenters wanted to keep them happy.  From what I've read, the BBC doesn't  go out of their way for "Top Gear" in ways that they would here in the States, although that might be from the perspective of someone who could soon be sacked.   Has "Top Gear" reached the end of its usefulness?  Will all be forgiven and will that cold-food-providing producer be fired instead?

I have watched all of "Top Gear" that Netflix has to offer at the moment so all I am doing is thinking about whether or not I can let go of Jeremy Clarkson making big, fat, racist comments.  (I gather there was another comment he made about Asians in the Burma special and Richard Hammond made thoughtless remarks about the citizens of Mexico.)  I'm annoyed at being put in the position of having to abandon something I enjoy so much.

I do have a good suggestion, however.  If he makes any more comments of a racist nature, I will fly to London at the BBC's expense and kick Jeremy Clarkson in his testicles as hard as I can.  I will then see a play at the National Theatre (also on their dime), spend the night at the Savoy (did you think I would want anything less?), then after breakfast in the morning, I walk over to the Covent Garden tube stop and get on the Piccadilly line out to Heathrow to come home.  The BBC can reimburse me for the work I miss and Jeremy Clarkson can have ice on his naughty bits and be thankful that I don't have more power behind my kick.  My sister is pretty small and has really mighty legs.  She would send his testes way up into his body cavity where they would likely reside forever, giving him something to think about every single day.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Own it

I know you've seen them everywhere.  You've seen, I have, everyone has seen those diners who bring out large DSLR cameras and take detailed pictures of their food and that of the dining companion.  This angle and that, "tilt the plate ... there!"  Photographing and blogging about the food they order has become the primary event and eating the food is secondary.  You wish there were two of them so you could knock their heads and lenses together because when they're done with the photography, they sit back and look smug and satisfied with themselves.  "I have a camera," they seem to think.  "I took a picture of FOOD."

This morning I met my friend, Michael, for a late-morning repast.  Michael is a dear friend and we'd not had a chance to catch up for several months.  When our food arrived, Michael pulled out his iPhone and positioned the plates.  Then he said something that made everything charming and fun.  He said, "I'm gonna be THAT guy."  I laughed, he got the picture below, and we went dug in.

THE DIFFERENCE:  he doesn't act like he's the coolest, the most creative, the hippest (but he is extremely cool, creative, and hip).  He likes to do it.  He knows it bugs some people.  He charmingly apologizes.

Yesterday, I was in Costco and I asked the checker and the packer to please just stick it all back in the cart, "because," I said with a great smile, "I'm a big asshole and I like things packed a certain way."  They smiled, I smiled, I took the cart to the side, and packed my things the way I like them.

Not everyone thinks you're divine so just make it easy on the world and say, "I'm gonna be THAT guy."

It's a pretty good picture, n'est pas?

Svea's Viking Breakfast with a side of Swedish meatballs.  Courtesy of Michael McAfee

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