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.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Day off, just because

In my youth, I would occasionally call in sick to work just because I didn't feel like going there.  In between that time and this, and for the last several decades, I've become extremely responsible and if I am supposed to be at work then work is where you will find me. 

Having said all that,  I am taking today off from blog writing.  See you next week!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Taking pictures of people taking pictures, Part 2

Federal Plaza, after work on a weekday
 I am still fascinated by the notion of taking pictures of people who are taking pictures.  These two young men were being creative at Federal Plaza and they looked like two approachable people so when they were done taking their picture, I said, "Look, I took pictures of you taking the pictures."  I showed mine to them and they said, "Wow, those are great."  I asked if they wanted me to send them to a phone and they did.  Hours later they sent me a text saying, "Thank you."

You're welcome, guys!
More of the same


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Not about a fish

My coworker's sister's boyfriend wanted to go fishing.  He was trolling around on You Tube looking for information on that wily sportfish, the bass.  He came across "All About That Bass."  He realized it was not about bass fishing but watched it anyway.  He then got his girlfriend to watch and, in turn, told my coworker to watch it.  She told me advising it was very, very catchy.  She said you heard it once and it stayed in your head.  I said I would go home and look for it, which I did.

It went into my head and took up residence.

[In case you don't care about popular culture, "All About That Bass" is a tune sung by Meghan Trainor, a pretty and not-super-model-thin woman, and her pretty and zaftig pals in celebration of not being skinny or photoshopped and that we are all perfect and that according to this young person's mom, males like a little something to hang onto at night.]
 
Weeks go by.  I told my niece about it and saw that Jimmy Fallon and the Roots had had their way with it.  I could give you the all-in-pastel-colors original but want you to enjoy a popular song in the style of Mr. F and his Tonight Show band.  The instruments are those of an elementary classroom band.  Watch and enjoy and then go mental floss your head to get it out.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Brief but I mean it

Topics I considered for today:

1.  Dead trees:  Safety last in forest preserves, along the freeway, and on the streets of Chicago.

2.  Jay Cutler:  Ick

3.  My vacation:  You don't care?  Why the hell not?

Now, I could go on and on about how the city and the parks and the county and the state need to get it together and fell the dead trees because all those dead trees near streets and roads and sidewalks and trails near humans traveling in cars/walking/biking are a public hazard, but how does one put it?

How about this:  All those dead trees are a public hazard.

A local woman was killed last week on the North Branch Trail by a dead tree that fell on her when she was caught in a fast-moving storm and couldn't get to shelter.

In 1991, Kathy Huffhines, the film critic of the Detroit Free Press, died when a dead tree fell on the car in which she was traveling in Philadelphia.

If you see a dead tree in Chicago, call 311 with the address.  Call the state.  Call the county if it's in a forest preserve.  Call the Chicago Park District if it's in a city park.  Dead trees need to be removed so no one else is killed.

My vacation?  I am waiting for an airfare sale.

And Jay Cutler?  Ick.  Overpaid, undertalented, not well spoken, uncharismatic, stiff.  100% ick.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Stars of Lyric Opera 2014

The cozy hearth of Pritzker Pavilion lit up in the center
And so we were back to Millennium Park and the Pritzker Pavilion lawn this weekend.  The Stars of the Lyric Opera is a very popular event.  I've covered this in the past, about how thrilling it is, but this year we decided to view it from another vantage point:  the lawn.  General seating in the actual pavilion opens at 5:30 p.m. and for the last several years, we have arrived at 3:30 p.m. to get in line.  The closest to the front of this waiting line we've even been was two years ago when only two others were ahead of us.  After we race in and get our seats -- which takes all of 30 seconds -- we sit in those seats for another two hours before the show begins.  From those seats one could see the facial expressions of the singers and be stunned -- in good and bad ways -- by some sensational gowns worn by the female singers.

It was exhausting.  Four hours devoted to sitting before the show even began.  The sun was inescapable and mostly blinding where we waited for seats.  Even though I am not small, I ride public transportation every day and I know how to move if I want to get a seat ahead of the young, strong, and thin, but it was a nerve wracking 30 seconds.  Then you have to stay in your seat so no one else takes it.  At the end of the night, it felt like we'd spent most of the weekend in the park.

This year, we decided to arrive in a mostly timely manner (about an hour ahead), bring our folding chairs, and have our meal among the other fans of the opera on the lawn.

We got seats at the center back of the first section (the lawn is divided into two sections with a security pass-through in the middle), and everyone around us was polite and respectful of the performers and their fellow viewers.  (Someone brought a baby and the baby settled down at showtime and stayed settled.)  Right before it started, someone sitting to our left (who had two tables for their lavish spread) had gone to the restroom and came back to announce the park was closed.  The pavilion lawn, auditorium, and side viewing area were so crammed full of people that they allowed no one else in.

It was the nicest evening.  The weather was perfect.  When we arrived, the sun had already gone behind the sklyine buildings so our corneas were spared.  Chicken salad with tarragon and curry, grapes, and edamame that were washed down with nonvintage Piper-Heidsieck champagne.  The people with the lavish spread were having a birthday party and I assisted with lighting the candles and we joined their group in singing Happy Birthday.  They served each of us French bread with cheese and pate on top which was delicious beyond description.  (It had never occurred to any of us, two of whom are celebrated gourmands, to put cheese and pate together on bread at the same time, together.)  They had leftover cupcakes and shared those and yes, I did take a half and oh man, the Magnolia Bakery is wonderful.  The people with the lavish spread are very smart and nice, and were generous to the three of us, total strangers.

Oh, and the Stars!  A tenor who was to be the Duke in Rigoletto fell ill and they brought in another tenor from Seattle.  Tenor Robert McPherson's plane landed at O'Hare at 5:45 p.m.  (In order to get there at 5:45 in the afternoon, he was probably on a flight at 11:30 a.m. Pacific time.) He did a beautiful job as the Duke in Rigoletto, singing "La donna e mobile" at about 9 p.m.  The magic of the opera!  I personally thought the night belonged to three baritones:  Mark Delavan, Kyle Ketelsen, Mariusz Kwiecien.  As Leporello, the statue come to life in Don Giovanni, bass-baritone Ketelsen had me standing up with binoculars to get a look at the person sending out those tones.  The whole show was great but oh, those gents with their deep tones!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Chicago Jazz Festival 2014

WARNING:  MANY ADJECTIVES ARE USED IN THIS ENTRY

A view of the Chicago skyline north of Millennium Park
Chicago's skyline is one of the world's most beautiful, on an enormous lake with architectually memorable buildings near the shore, and almost all parkland between the lake and the buildings.  Off shore, yeah, while out on the lake in a boat, it's incredible to see.  It's equally incredible to be in one of the downtown parks experiencing it.

Chicago has various music festivals during the summer months like Blues Fest and Gospel Fest, to name just two.  This week the giants of jazz came to perform in Pritzker Pavilion for the 36th annual Chicago Jazz Festival.

Millennium Park, in spite of its massive production cost overruns, is a great park and home to the Frank Gehry-designed Pritzker Pavilion.  No matter how you put it -- a great sound system or fantastic acoustics -- it's a terrific place to attend a musical performance.  There is a large expanse of lawn behind the pavilion or else one can buy a ticket or, for a few events, queue up (sometimes hours) in advance to get a free seat closer to the stage.  I am a fan of the seats but they're not always easy to come by and so last night we sat on the lawn.

The sound system is very good back there in the middle of the lawn.  The jumbotron on the stage let those of us back there really see the performers.  It is a very good system.  What is not a good system:  the people around us who would not shut up.  On my side of the blanket, I was sitting closer to two married couples who had loud, animated conversations, including announcing in the middle of Dave Holland and Prism that the White Sox had traded someone they thought was a serviceable player and one of the women bragging about how someone hit on her when she was coming back from the restroom (and her voice could figuratively penetrate titanium although I had no titanium on my person to test to out, so it could have been literal but we will never know).  Behind us were a group of ladies who never stopped their ongoing descriptions of anything and everything.  Everyone actually managed to be quieter when Esperanza Spalding -- performing with Tom Harrell's Color of a Dream -- sang.  When we arrived, they were all paying equally little attention to Gary Burton with his young, talented musical co-conspirators (who were all very good).  The ground beneath the blanket managed to get even harder and lumpier.  It was still a very nice evening for a show.

The above is right at dusk, my iPhone angled up to not show much of the crowd in the panorama.  It's looks like how the night was in my imagination -- breathtaking, fascinating, peaceful, and awesome.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Black Dog Concerts Presents (and the alarm that is the Chicago Bears)

It is the preseason but my prediction about the maximum suckage of Jay Cutler seems be coming true.  It seems I have to add that Marc Tressman isn't making me fall in love with him either.  And what the hell, my man, Robbie Gould, did NOT get the one-point conversion because the score was 34-6 (6 means a touchdown and another 1 to that means a field goal) (but Robbie's kicking leg might have atrophied from waiting for his team to do something other than bite) (I cut maximum amounts of slack for R. Gould).  The Seahawks do not suck.  Good for Seattle!  They have something of which they can be super proud and I am envious.

Those in Seattle can be envious of me because I can go to the home of Americana music empresarios Van Delisle and Karin McCool and see a Black Dog Concert.  This month Bejae Fleming and Jackie Blount came from their home in Columbus, Ohio, to our city, Chicago, and put on a very happy, enjoyable show.  The artists were having a great time; the audience appreciated it; it was the usual smooth show experience from Van and Karin.  Bejae and Jackie are two seriously smart, lovely, personable performers and, of course, excellent musicians.  Van and Karin offer up nothing less than excellent performers.
Bejae Fleming at work
Here is a selection from last night (You Tube and I have agreed that I will do exactly what it wants and in its time).  I don't know the name of this song -- sorry, ladies.  The lighting is as bad as the cavern-quality I offered with Peter Cooper and Eric Brace (with Thomm Jutz) but the sound quality is quite good.  Enjoy!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Bears, preseason, and me

It's somewhat well known that I do enjoy the Chicago Bears.  I have been mostly embarrassed by my affection for them.  I started writing a blog so I could talk about football games which mostly got down to how much I dislike Jay Cutler.

I still dislike Jay Cutler.  I find him a minor quarterback doing the job of a major one.  Last year the Bears renewed his contract for seven more years and many millions of dollars and released Josh McCown.  Yes, the Josh McCown who ended the 2013-14 season as the third-ranked QB in the NFL, behind Peyton Manning and Nick Foles, and the best of any QB in Bears history.  When he was released, Josh McCown was snapped up by Lovie Smith and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  Jay did not have a record anywhere near that good and they kept him.

I often wonder what exactly goes through the minds of the Bears coaching and mangement staffs.  Hamster on wheels?  Bats on their way to a belfry?  Little kids on rollerskates?  Is it a hive-mind situation and they all share one brain?  I can't even begin to imagine that conversation.  "I think he's got what it takes."  "We just need a different approach!"  "This is the year it all falls into place!"  He's been here for years, they modified the offensive line several times, and Jay's pretty much the same.  Josh McCown had potentional he was realizing; Jay's, well, just Jay.

I wondered if I would write any Bears articles this year.  The answer is obviously yes.  Maybe I'm wrong about Jay but I suspect this year will offer more of the same including disappointment and heartache for the fans, of which I am one.  (If I am wrong, I will apologize to Jay in this blog which he doesn't read.  Wait.  Does he read?)

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Who did? Katydid.

Even in a big old city like Chicago, we get the opportunity to see lovely examples of nature.  The katydid was resting on the post outside a regular building and I was amazed!  This is the kind of stuff I used to see when I was a camp counselor in the woods in southeastern Michigan.  Katydids, walking sticks, praying mantis -- all right there to freak the hell out of a bunch of young women and girls.

Here are two pictures I took yesterday morning.  At one point it got sick of all the snaps we were taking -- I was not alone -- and it turned and flew at me.  I screamed like a girl because I am an old girl and while a lot of stuff no longer phases me, that made me scream and jump back.  It was not a good look, I assure you.

Looking like a leaf on legs

"Stop taking my picture, bitch!"

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Taking pictures of the people taking pictures

I went to Beijing for the first time in 2003, just me, no tour.  I had a splendid time by myself but I am very comfortable all on my own.  That's not the point of this post.  On that trip I realized that I was fascinated by people posing for pictures and found myself photographing people as they posed for others.  A couple of years after that I went through a period of taking pictures of people taking pictures of me (my friend, Michael, was also interested in this).  For the last few years I've liked taking pictures of people taking pictures (although pictures of people as they pose still sneak in taken from a different angle, usually one of retreat -- mine). 

I find it fascinating.

The pictures are about love, art, vacation, art on vacation, art of the one you love on vacation.  They're "Oh, yeah, I forget what this is.  It's in Chicago.  People just walk past it like they don't care it's there."  They care, they just have to get a train.

So here's a selection from my personal archive.  Next time you see someone taking a picture of someone or something, trying to take a picture of it and see what you get.  If that doesn't work, insinuate yourself into their picture.  My god, I love a photobomb.

Obama Rally, Grant Park, November 2008
Vacation + Art + Love = Profile at Sunset.  Flamingo, Chicago, 2014

What IS that?  Flamingo, Chicago, July 2014
Miro!  Miro!  MoMA, New York City, May 2014
You will look so good with that background!  Art Institute of Chicago, 2014
Look at Dad!  By an AMERICAN FLAG!   MoMA, May 2014
Pretend it's for your class when you really just like her.  Brooklyn Museum, May 2014
This is precisely what I look for!  02 Aug 14 at MCA, Chicago

Saturday, July 26, 2014

"Why don't you save us all some time and give up now?"

I had a whole other idea for this week's blog and then my aural and visual senses were first delighted and then assaulted by videos on the Web.

The delight was courtesy of Weird Al Yankovic.  This past week he released eight videos in eight days which made Mandatory Fun the first comedy album to debut in the Number One spot on the Billboard chart since Allan Sherman's My Son, The Nut in 1963.  It's a stunning achievement for a musician; it's monumental for a comedian, especially one who writes song parodies (much like Mr. Sherman).  I have discussed their merits with [the two] friends who've seen them all and for me, there are three standouts.

Pharrell Williams' 24 Hours of Happy (www.24hoursofhappy.com) is the song Happy lip-synched for 24 hours, around the clock, in various parts of Los Angeles by various locals.  I like the song, I like the video.  We have danced to it in one of my tap classes.  I've gotten people to watch at least some of it.  It's a damn catchy song.  Ah, Mr. Yankovic makes it more wonderful.  It's now Tacky and if you wear insanely mismatched clothing and do inconsiderate things and have some really bad manners and are not even mildly ashamed of it, you might be tacky, too.  (I admit that I include myself, y'all.)  Weird Al's version features Eric Stonestreet, Aisha Tyler, and Jack Black, to name just three, and is done all in one take.



GRAMMAR!  People have forgotten it exists.  Do schools even teach it?  Do people pay attention to it?  I try to pay attention and Weird Al definitely does.



As someone who blogged about sports for quite a while (and still does on occasion), Weird Al's Sports Song pleases me very much.  Unlike most of Weird Al's oeuvre, it's an original song.  I have probably watched Sports Song ten times.  It's smart and fun and all you have to know when you watch it is the mantra of sports fans everywhere:  We're great; you suck.


And now the assault:  Out of Berlin, Germany, has come a most WTF?, hipster-cool, keep-you-up-at-night piece of internet-only supermarket advertising.  It's from the German grocer, EDEKA, and it's called "Supergeil" (which I gather from a NY Times article is lightly obscene and translates to supercool).  Seriously:  what the fuck?  The moment at 1:33 is one of the top weird things I've come across all year long.  (No, I don't think Weird Al Yankovic is weird.  Weird Al is awesome.)



If you're interested and you've not read your ten articles this month, here's the link to the New York Times article:   http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/26/world/europe/Friedrich-Liechtenstein-supergeil-germany.html?module=Search&mabReward=relbias%3Aw%2C%7B%221%22%3A%22RI%3A5%22%7D&_r=0

You Tube offers a selection of the 30-second EDEKA TV spots featuring the same actor.  Below is a random pick.  Enjoy at your own peril!





Sunday, July 20, 2014

It smells like what, now? Part 2

I have a dear friend who is very well employed and sent all over the place by her company.  She is well thought of in her industry and is a terrific person for any employer to have in their corner.  She is also a great friend and we like hanging out, shopping, seeing a movie, splitting a meal (because she has a small appetite, I don't need to eat so huge, so we've been splitting things for years).  Today we made Woodfield Mall happy.

Yes, yes, there was shopping and things were purchased.  The Apple Store got to see us to do a repair on my friend's phone.  We split what we like to eat at the Cheesecake Factory.  We ducked in Brighton so my friend could send things in for repair (so reasonable that I can see why they are the Church of Accessories for some -- they back up the goods and don't gouge for watch battery replacements).  It was a very nice time.

And then we went to Victoria's Secret.

There is not a single article of clothing in VS that is for me.  My top is too ample and my bottom likes Jockey cotton.  My friend has none of these issues.  She selected some items and was waiting in line to pay and I said I would browse the fragrances.  I smelled one that was too sweet.  I smelled another that was too sweet.  A third wasn't terrible but a little too sweet.  And then I caught sight of the names.  My eyes became wide.  A huge grin planted itself on my face.  I dug in my handbag for paper and pen.  The jotting began.

These are the fragrance names (in no order at all):

Victoria
Body by Victoria
Heavenly
Love is Heavenly
Eau So Sexy
Very Sexy
Very Sexy Now
Forbidden
Sexy Little Things Noir
Sexy Little Things Noir Tease
Bombshell
Bombshells in Bloom
Incredible
Fabulous
Night
Dark Orchid No. 1 SEDUCTION
Rapture
Angel
Angels Only
Angel Gold
Angels in Love
Angels Forever
So In Love
Basic Instinct
PINK
LOVE PINK
Love Spell

Holy mother.  That's a whole lot of positive energy directed at wanting to feel glamorous, desirable, wanton,  luscious, and in demand.  Aside from the fact that I didn't like any of the actual scents, I don't think those names apply to anything I have going on in my life at present.

I thought long and hard about more suitable names for my current life situation and these are a few of the fragrances I will be launching under the Oh, I Think So umbrella:

Solid
Reliable
Took a Shower This Morning NEUTRAL
I Can't Seem to Give It Away
Maybe But Probably Not
Does My Head Feel Hot?

 [A scent that Oh, I Think So will never ever launch:  Regret.  Regret is for chumps.  Make a decision and live with it, I say.  (Regret would smell like old socks, bile, and the massage tent after a marathon.  See?  I can't do regret.)]

The next time you're cruising around Bath and Body Works or Victoria's Secret or even Nordstrom and you're bedazzled by all the clever names, think about the scents of your life.  What would they be?

Sunday, July 13, 2014

They're called Great for a reason

I grew up in Detroit, Michigan, near many of the Great Lakes.  There are five Great Lakes and some are less great than others but all are certainly impressive and large and vital to life in these United States and certainly on Planet Earth for our lifetimes and those of our children and their children, etc.

At the end of the last glacial period, 10,000 years ago, the Great Lakes Basin was formed when retreating ice sheets carved basins in the land that filled with meltwater.  

The Great Lakes are made up of Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario.  You can also think of it this way:

The Chicago River and the Calumet River (thanks to manmade alterations) connect to the Illinois River which then connects the Mississippi River to the Great Lakes Basin.

The St. Marys River (home of the Soo Locks) connect Lake Superior to Lake Huron.

The Straits of Mackinac (just five miles wide) connects Lake Michigan to Lake Huron.

The St. Clair River connects Lake Huron to Lake St. Clair (which might be considered a lesser Great Lake).

The Detroit River connects Lake St. Clair to Lake Erie.

The Niagara River, including Niagara Falls and the Niagara Escarpment, connects Lake Erie to Lake Ontario.  (The Welland Canal bypasses the Niagara River and the Falls and also connects Lake Erie to Lake Ontario.)

The St. Lawrence River connects Lake Ontario to the Gulf of St. Lawrence, which connects to the Atlantic Ocean.

Sounds complex?  Here's a map.

Image courtesy of the Internet
Lake Superior is the largest continental lake in the world.  Together the five lakes form 21% of the world's surface freshwater and 54% of the world's liquid fresh water by volume.  In other words, while aquifers in the south and west are running dry, the Great Lakes sit with more than half of all the non-ice water in the world right there.  

I like to think of it this way:  when the Zombie Apocalypse or the Great Drought or the Weirdness from Another Planet arrives and people are thirsty and just want to be around some nice fresh water, they will slowly make their way back to Michigan or Eastern  and Northern Wisconsin or Northern Ohio or Northern Minnesota or Western New York (and a little bit of Illinois, Indiana, and Pennsylvania) because if you don't have water, you'll die.  The Great Lakes will make that post-apocalyptic scenario a little less unpleasant.  The infrastructure from days of glory are watiting to be revived.  And Niagara Falls will certainly make the Weirdness from Another Planet say "Holy shit, will you look at that?"

Sunday, July 6, 2014

It smells like what, now?

This morning there was breakfast in a restaurant!  It's been months since I've gone to breakfast in a restaurant with my nearby family members and it was very nice to do it again.

On the way over to the restaurant, my brother-in-law mentioned a college jazz radio station they'd heard when they were in St. Louis the day before.  He and my sister said it was way better than the college jazz radio stations in Chicago and as an example they said they heard a trio called The Bad Plus play Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit."  They said it was great.  After breakfast (and a side trip to Jewel, Costco, and Nordstrom), I came home and found Minneapolis-based The Bad Plus' cover of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and I was plenty intrigued.  Who else has had their way with it?  It took another five seconds of looking to find plenty of artists who've covered Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit."  I've chosen five for you to listen to/watch and enjoy (or not - maybe you're a purist and only Kurt Cobain and Nirvana will do).  It's a diverse group -- Tori Amos, Robert Glasper,  2Cellos, Paul Anka, and The Bad Plus -- and for comparison and reference, Nirvana, just in case the 90s were a total blur for you.

First up, Tori Amos:


Next, Robert Glasper from a series called 1 Mike 1 Take (courtesy of Blue Note Records):


Here's 2Cellos:


Paul Anka?  Really?  The man can swing:


The highly-recommended The Bad Plus (videotaped at the Jazz Showcase in Chicago):


Nirvana, y'all:


Who did it for you?

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Black Dog House Concerts Presents ...

Van Delisle and his wife, Karin McCool, live by Loyola University in Chicago and about once a month they offer up the best possible evening of live music, that is, in their living room.  The musicians are about three feet from the front row of the audience.  There might be microphones and some percussive device and one musician that is joined by another and then another.  There might be three guys with no mikes at all, a purely acoustic set.  Van and Karin travel to Champaign, IL; Nashville, TN; various points in Iowa to hear their favorite musicians then they invite them to play an intimate concert set in their home between gigs.

Let's say someone has a show in Pittsburgh, PA, and another in Milwaukee, WI, three days later.  Van and Karin arrange for them to put on a show in their living room.  They give the musicians a free and private place to stay, a well-stocked fridge, and all the proceeds from the modestly-priced concert.  (As you can imagine, they have a very good reputation.)  Adoring fans can be among the crowd or just people like me who've known Van for many years and want to support any endeavor he has.

I've seen Nashville legends like singer-songwriter Phil Lee, charming singer-songwriters like Jon Byrd, singer-songwriter and master storyteller Rod Picott.  Even if the music is not your style -- I've written many times of my love of opera -- the evening is terrific and never a waste of time nor money nor energy.  Last night, Black Dog House Concerts presented Eric Brace and Peter Cooper with their special guest, Thomm Jutz.  It was a wonderful evening.

These are three handsome, talented, charismatic men who do a well-prepared show featuring their individual music or projects they've done with others as well as the music they've recorded together.  They and their music are both charming.  Their stories are delightful.  Every seat was taken.

A devoted fan requested a song and when they started to falter in the middle of it and Peter Cooper said they would play it privately after the show, the fan gave him the words he missed, they started again, she offered a few more lyrics, and they sang it through.  It was lovely.  You don't get that kind of refreshing imperfection in an arena show.  And at an arena show, you surely don't get one of the performers asking you if you're having a good time while you're waiting in line at the restroom.

Black Dog House Concerts are charming and Eric Brace and Peter Cooper (and Thomm Jutz, too) are charming.  Troll the internet for a Black Dog House Concert schedule.  Be delighted by one of the best evenings of music to be had.

Here's "Suffer a Fool" from Master Sessions:

Sunday, June 22, 2014

WORLD CUP of SOCCER

It's the World Cup of Football, y'all, when the best national players come home to play for their home countries.  Englishmen playing in Spain, Americans in Holland, Germans in the USA all return to do their patriotic duty.  The best of the best, kind of like almost the entire National Hockey League returning home to Canada to win the gold medal in Olympic Ice Hockey.

Four years ago, most Americans I knew were giving it all the big skip (or maybe they were appalled by the vuvuzela, that loud horn the crowd seemed to adore).  This year, Americans are congregating anywhere it's offered, and in my town they're broadcasting games on a Jumbotron in an downtown park.  Thousands of people showed up to watch the USA beat Ghana.  (Actually, they showed up to watch a soccer game and got the bonus of the win.)  People in my office are speaking about the games with great excitement and knowledge.  (Please note: These people didn't work in my office four years ago.)

Professional soccer players are tough customers.  They make players in the NFL seem like little fat kids with bad attitudes and not a lot of athletic prowess.  I love that comparison but I am sure most players in the NFL would take exception to it.  Yeah, I wanna see those muscle-bound oafs running hundreds of yards for 45 minutes straight.  They would be coughing up lung in short order.

Here is how FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association, based in Zurich, Switzerland) scoring goes in the words of my friend and blog subscriber, Suzy Forcella:

The World Cup consists of two stages: the group stage and the knockout stage. Initially the 32 teams competing in the WC are divided into 8 groups and during the group stage of the competition a team will play all the other members of their group (3 games total). Points are awarded to the team based on the result of the match: 3 points for a win, 1 for a draw, and 0 for a loss. After the 3 games are played the two teams with the most points in each group move on to the knockout stage.

Italy are in group D with England, Uruguay and Costa Rica. The current point standings are: Costa Rica with 6 points (they won against Uruguay and Italy), Italy with 3 points (they won against England and lost to Costa Rica), Uruguay with 3 points (they lost against Costa Rica and won against Italy), and bringing up the rear is England with 0 points. Italy and Uruguay are tied for 2nd place on points, so in order to break that tie they look at goal differential (goals for minus goals against). Italy has a goal differential of 0 and Uruguay has -1, so Italy is in 2nd place. In their final game against Uruguay, Italy only needs a draw to remain in 2nd place (they would retain the goal differential advantage over Uruguay).

England are done for, however. With 0 points even if they won against Costa Rica (very unlikely at this point) they would still only have 3 points and one of Italy or Uruguay will have either 4 or 6. 


Thanks, Suzy!  You're a good, clear writer.

And now y'all know what I know.

I think you know my preferred team.  USA!  U S A ! !

Sunday, June 15, 2014

OMG Hugh Jackman, All Over the Place and Hurray!



Behold this teaser for the PBS show "Kimchi Chronicles."  Jean-Georges Vongerichten and his wife, Marja, go to South Korea -- the birthplace of Marja -- and learn about Korean food and then come back and cook it with their neighbors, the Jackmans.  Sounds simple, right?

In my Thursday night tap class, the teacher, Bril Barrett, has every student name a tap dancer -- past or present -- as an homage to those who have danced before us.  Last week, suffering from Tony Awards damage, I named Hugh Jackman.  Bril said he'd not watched the Tonys but someone sent him the clip where Hugh tapped with the cast from "After Midnight," and then said, "Hugh Jackman tore it up!"  Then he added, "But to me he's Wolverine."

After class, I usually walk by myself to the CTA train, but last week walked with one of my classmates.  She said, "Oh you know there is a TV show where Hugh Jackman and his wife cook Korean food, right?  On PBS?"  My brain did what it always does when I hear something that right then and there makes no sense.  It was the same thing it did when my friend Michael told me about his friend who had a pet python during the period when Michael was Porky Pig in a production of "Bugs Bunny and Friends on Ice."  My brain went "What?  What?  What?  What?  Porky Pig?  On ICE?  What?  What?  What?  What?  What?"  It said it so many times that I had to ask Michael to please repeat his story.  My classmate told me that and many whats ran around my head.  When I got home, sure enough, I found "Kimchi Chronicles" starring Jean-Georges and Marja and their neighbors, Hugh and Deb Jackman.

It's great that Jean-Georges and Marja did all this hands-on research about Korean cooking but it's Hugh Jackman and his wife cooking Korean food with them.  HUGH JACKMAN IS EVERY KIND OF AWESOME!  (And most awesome is that he's a devoted husband and dad.)

Here's the link to the whole series:  http://www.kimchichronicles.tv

And one more time:  HUGH JACKMAN!!  (Regular readers of this blog know I will get obsessed with something/someone -- like Jacques Brel -- and feature it/him for a  few weeks running.  Yes, Hugh Jackman is the obsession du moment.)

Sunday, June 8, 2014

OMG THE TONY AWARDS STARRING HUGH JACKMAN

It's the best night for honoring the New York theatre and therefore THE WORLD of theatre!  It's the presentation of the 2014 Tony Awards starring that superhunk of excellent Australian man meat, Hugh Jackman.  Perhaps you've not heard of Mr. Jackman to which I ask, "What the f*ck rock is it you live under?" 

Mr. Jackman was Curly in "Oklahoma" on Broadway and he was Peter Allen in "The Boy From Oz," also on Broadway.  He is Wolverine in the popular X-Men series of movies.  He was Jean Valjean in "Les Miserables."

Hugh Jackman acts.  Hugh Jackman sings.  As evidence of belonging on the Radio City Music Hall stage, Hugh Jackman tap dances.  TAP DANCES, y'all!  As a student of the percussive shoe art that is tap, I can share that it's not easy.  It takes practice, discipline, and some not-cheap footwear.  We will be seeing Hugh Jackman TAP DANCE and I am very excited.

I love the Tony Awards and I would have gladly done with terrific Mr. Neil Patrick Harris as the host again (last year he jumped through a hoop -- literally -- with the cast of "Pippin") but Hugh Jackman is the complete package:  handsome, talented, and smart.  Case in point:  When I watch him being interviewed I don't want to smack him.

The show starts with a huge tap number starring Mr. Jackman and members of various casts, especially "Around Midnight," a show that features ... tap dancing!

It would be so off-the-hook, smack-my-face, steal-my-dinner crazy if one night Hugh Jackman turned up at Friday Night Tap Jam.  My less-than-stellar improv skills would go right out the window as I stared at the gorgeous specimen of human male.  I would try to not stare and giggle and blush and would try not to miss my turn.  But I assure you, if he happened to use my moves -- that's a big tap-jam thing, stealing the moves of others -- I would talk about that for the rest of my life, prompting my family members to tell me, "OH SHUT UP!!"  Hmmm, maybe Mr. Jackman at Friday Night Tap Jam is not the best idea.

TONY AWARDS!   TONIGHT!  STARRING HUGH JACKMAN!