Sunday, April 20, 2014

Friday Night Tap Jam!

While I am neither beautiful nor pretty and while I am charming and clever, I am also a tap dancer  and not a particularly good one.  Last week I went to Friday Night Tap Jam at the American Rhythm Center in Chicago and it was awesome.  Bril Barrett, professional tap dancer, runs it and it is every sort of terrific.

How Friday Night Tap Jam works is like this:  Everyone gets in a big circle.  Each person has four bars and it goes around the circle, everyone improvising whatever tap moves they feel like offering at that moment to those four bars.  There are some sensationally talented, longtime students of the art who do magical ethereal things when it gets to them, people like Bril who runs M.A.D.D. Rhythms, the professional tap company, and a guy who had such flair and was so smooth and who brought out such different awesome steps each time it was his turn that I told my sister I wanted to marry him and she proclaimed him the Don Draper of the Friday Night Tap Jam.  There are fantastic young people who just want to dance and show their stuff in a supportive environment.  There are people who like to show off and have the skills for showing off but who have to look in the mirror to make sure it's right.  There are those who've never danced a step in their lives.  There are people like me who aren't that great but love being there and are glad to participate.  Around and around it goes for about an hour, Bril getting everyone very excited to add something to the mix.  Everyone leaves their attitude and being judgmental behind because Friday Night Tap Jam's about doing better for yourself not doing better than everyone else.

People come up with great combinations.  A gifted dancer may take something from a less experienced dancer and do a whole riff on it.  A total neophyte may just do digs and toes but it's done with great sincerity and he or she owns every bit of those digs and toes.  It's a great combination of people, young and old, rich and poor, highly trained, just learning, embarrassed and confident.  Some people think they are bringing nothing to the circle; I think being there and trying your utmost means you are bringing something to the circle -- your joie de vivre, your enthusiasm, your willingness to make a dang fool of yourself in front of people who make money tapping for a living.

If you're near the Fine Arts Building in downtown Chicago on the second Friday of the month, cruise by the American Rhythm Center on the third floor (call to make sure it's on).  Bring your tap shoes and your excitement, leave your judgment on the street, and join the circle for a thrilling evening of improvising on whatever music Bril has on iPod Shuffle that night.  Come stand next to me!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The potholes and me

Chicago is a city with a well-publicized hard winter.  Detroit, Cleveland, St. Louis, Kansas City, New York, Boston, Minneapolis-St. Paul also have well-publicized hard winters and Detroit does it without much salt and almost no snow removal to speak of.  Chicago likes to whine about it but the freeze and thaw (or freeze and freeze or freeze and salt into watery submission and then that whole mess freezes) situation creates some giant potholes.  Some neighborhoods are worse than others and mine might be one of them.

On North Milwaukee in northwest Chicago, there are at least three potholes I know of in a three-block stretch that are about six inches deep, eight inches long, and six inches wide.  The dimensions are stunning and if you hit one at the right angle, it can screw up your tires, the rims, and all that lies-below stuff that's underneath the car that you mostly don't want to think about.  Links, ball joints, your gas tank -- that stuff.

This year I've had $450 work of damage thanks to sunken manhole covers and potholes.  I have to work a long stinking time to earn that sort of money.  Both times I knew something was wrong.  The first time I didn't realize I had to go to the police and say, "give me a report, I am pretty sure this sunken manhole cover effed up my car."  When I found out how effed my car was, it was too late.  The second time was a pothole where you could see flames licking up from the bowels of hell.  I thought oh, it's probably okay.  I should have said -- out loud as there is no real harm in saying something out loud to yourself -- "Feck me!  I am going to the police station with this," and then gotten a police report for just in case.  I did not.  I was seriously effed on both occasions.

Yesterday, I went to my own mechanic for an oil change.  I have an honest mechanic and when he gives me an oil change, I ask him to look around for anything that looked wrong.  I gave him the heads up that I hit a pothole and didn't tell him which side.  When I drop the car off with him, I walk around or have a Starbuck's coffee and he calls me.  "Did you hit the pothole on the right side?"he asked.  "Yes," I said glumly.  And he gave me the bad news (plus the added terrible news that a gasket was blown and dripping oil).  He knocked off some dough for being a good customer and it's a 16-year-old car so gaskets will be blown but the pothole damage is not the cost of regular maintenance.

Now I slalom the streets of Chicago.  If I get to a street with many potholes that can't be avoided, I take my foot off the accelerator and let momentum move me along.  This works best on side streets.  I try to be alert for potholes but there are simply too many and I know another one is in my unfortunate driving future, waiting for me to be distracted by a kitty cat or thoughts of what I am going to have for dinner.

If you come to Chicago on a visit in your own car, take care!  If you drive in from the burbs to have lunch or maybe visit a museum, beware!  If  you come here and rent a car, you have been warned!  And for heaven's sake, if you hit a pothole, jot down the street address where it happened, go to the police and fill out a report.  If there's damage, make a claim against the city on the city's website.

Fore warned is fore armed.  Better safe than sorry.  Consider yourself advised.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Surprises are all around

Today was shaping up to be yet another day of nothing, nothing, and more of the same but I looked at my still-living fiddle leaf fig and decided it was a good idea to get it rebooted as the pot was solid roots.  I am not as full of my plant expertise as I once was -- I went through a serious black-thumb phase -- and called the place where I got the plant and asked if they'd repot it.

"It's the weekend," they said.  "It's super busy right at the beginning of planting season.  We might have to keep your plant overnight and you can get it tomorrow.  Or can you please come another time?"

"I can come next Saturday," I said.  "Right when you open!"

"No, next Saturday we're having a special event that will go on all day," they said.

"Sunday!"  I exclaimed.  "I will come on Sunday right when you open."

They sighed. 

"Come now," they said.  "We'll get it done."

They said it would be $5 to do the repotting and another dollar for the cheap plastic pot I wanted.

I have some things for a friend who lives not far from there and texted asking if I could swing by and give him the things. 

"Yes!  Please come by!  We're here!"

When I arrived at the garden joint, they were doing a lively business.  I went to the repotting area and asked the man there if he was the one with whom I'd spoken.

"No," said he.  "We're too busy to do that today.  You're gonna have to leave it."

"Well, okay, I can pick it up next week.  I don't live or work anywhere near here," I said.

"Yeah, we're too busy," he said.

"You're not gonna kill it, are you?" I asked.  I wasn't really kidding but I said it with fear and a little alarm.

There was great incredulity across his face.

"Really?" he asked as he moved his arms around, indicating the many lovely, thriving plants in the greenhouse area.

"Tell me how it's doing," I said, indicating the plant.

"This is not an easy plant and it's doing great.  Whatever you're doing, keep doing it."  Then he added as quickly, "This isn't a free service."

"I know," I said.  "The other person said it was five dollars and a dollar for the plastic pot I prefer."

"Forget that," said the man.  "I'll give you the pot."  He went to the spot where they kept their old plastic pots, chose one bigger than mine, and came back.  He scribbled "Repot $5" on a scrap of paper and said, "Take this to the cashiers."

I thanked him as he called over three guys and told them to please repot the plant.

When I got back from paying, one young man was repotting the plant, another was working on bagging a giant mother-in-law's tongue, and the third was hovering nearby to assist the repotter.  I offered to assist the guy bagging the plant -- it was a huge ass plant and the bag was ginormous -- but I was advised with a smile, "It's okay. I got it."  The repotter asked them to check his work, the other two added more dirt and patted it down, then they gave it to me, telling me to make sure I watered it well when I got home.  I gave them my receipt and thanked them very much.

It was done!  And I didn't have to come back!  Thanks, sirs!

I am not beautiful.  I am really not even pretty.  On my best days I am somewhat attractive but I know there are people who think I look severe and scary (and I am down with it).  I only have my personality to get me things and today it was a great day for charm. 

Pretty people everywhere take note:  Work on your personality.  One day your looks will go and if you have a personality like poo you will just be that weird old person who is so mean and unpleasant.

The second surprise was when I got to my friend's house, he invited me for coffee at his new local coffee shop.  We chose some very caffeinated selections (mine was called Red Eye which had to be 47 shots of espresso and some hot water) and sat and blabbed for hours.  His partner walked over and joined us for an hour of it.

What a surprise!  It was the nicest day.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The nature of funny

I used to work with two guys who had a joke between them and if they liked you they assumed you would also think it hilarious.  What was the cause of their hilarity?  There was a woman in the office who wore voluminous dresses that they termed caftans and they liked to rewrite songs to include the word caftan.  Dozens of songs, including obscure arias from operas that were no longer performed.  They are two sweet men who really shouldn't work together ever again because they wound each other up and kept winding each other up until the spring wound down and then they would wind it up again.  They were very proud of themselves about this whole thing except that it was funny to just them.  They found it so hilarious that they didn't understand why other people stopped laughing.  It amused them and it didn't hurt anyone but, really, only they got it.  I think I said Ha Ha Ha many times because they were quite clever but, again, it was their joke.

A few years before this I worked with a man who faked an English accent (faked it very well, too) and would tell people to pack their things as they were fired.  Every single day for months and months and months and months.  And every single time we laughed because it was charming and always said at just the right time.  If someone wasn't amused we didn't know about it because he was a very nice guy and quite popular with his coworkers and, seriously, it was a very good accent.

And so we touch on the nature of funny.  Not everything is funny to everyone.  Audiences went crazy for "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles," and I was sorry I spent money to see it but not as sorry as I was to see "Throw Mama from a Train."  (My friend called it "a toilet fish."  I didn't disagree.)  A friend suggested I might try "This Is the End."  That movie was every kind of wrong and hilarious.  When it first came out, a friend convinced me I wanted to see "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" at an evening show -- not my beloved bargain matinee -- and I had no expectations at all.  I was charmed and delighted and laughed and laughed. 

There is no telling what someone might find funny but there are paid comedy writers who do seem to get it right on a nightly basis.  Great gig!  Good for you all!  I am envious of your confidence and skill.  There are many very good comedy shows and sitcoms with stellar, smart writing that sometimes carries on for years.  But one man's love of Jon Stewart is another man's bitter pill.  I don't suppose a tea-party conservative would care for Mr. Stewart and his liberal views and for him, "He's not funny."

I am the only person I know who doesn't like the movie "Office Space."  Coworkers and dear friends quote from it and laugh about it and one of them is the proud owner of a red Swingline stapler in the original packaging.  They joke about wearing enough flare.  And I just don't get it.  No, maybe it's better to say that I get it but I don't think it's funny.  (Same with the hyper-longlasting "Two and a Half Men," which, for me, has never been funny for even 30 seconds.)

I took a class in college that one day brought out the point that "If it's real to you, it's real, to you."  Same thing with comedy -- I am happy you find something funny; be happy that I find something funny.  Funny is personal and we can't take it away from each other.  And the two guys with the caftan joke?  They still think the whole thing was insanely funny.  The end.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Sunday, March 16, 2014

So check it out

"Post Secret is an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a postcard."

That's the idea behind Post Secret.  Make an art postcard with your secret and send it to Frank Warren, the founder of Post Secret.  Frank gets hundreds and hundreds of secrets and he goes through and chooses which ones to share.  Secrets cover the gamut -- a woman who is annoyed that her mother-in-law buys her Costco muffins all the time and, two weeks later, that she was sorry she sent that secret because her mother-in-law is a wonderful, generous, caring woman; how someone didn't commit suicide and a year later was better; how someone wasn't sorry for turning in a criminal who  was doing hard time (it was a Polaroid showing the man celebrating at a Mexican restaurant, drinking a Margarita, and wearing a huge sombrero with a black strip over his face to protect his identity) -- and they're published by Frank every week.

It's the way to make some art, share your secret, get it off your chest, and go on with life and no one knows it's you.  It may or may not be published but the secret is gone and, in theory, out of your life (but is it?).  Frank now travels the world and has Post Secret evenings at colleges and universities.  From what I've seen on the blog,  after Frank talks about Post Secret and the work it does -- suicide prevention is a major cause for Frank -- people get up and share secrets.  For me, that's against the spirit of anonymity provided by the blog but I guess the audience loves it and people are relieved by finally sharing the secret.  There are stories of people picking up one of the published Post Secret books and finding a secret tucked into the pages by another store patron.  There is now a Post Secret play.  Post Secret is huge.

Every Sunday, Frank puts out a new selection of secrets and, recently, added classic secrets from Post Secret's early days.  I've been reading Post Secret for over seven years.  (I'm not a fan of the books because it's like being a contestant on your favorite TV game show:  You've just had too much of it at once and you need to walk away from it for a while and get back to normal before you can watch it again.  The blog is just the right amount.)  I have even considered being on Facebook so I can read look at Post Secrets on Facebook (but then, I just don't wanna).

As of right now, the visitor count is 659,387,941.  People love them some Post Secret.

http://postsecret.com

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Return of Flamingo

I find winter to be one long damn bummer day after another, the days bleeding into weeks leaching into months of little sunlight, too much snow, and impossible cold.  It is, however, what it is and I, like most others, try to make the most of it.  One icy cold, difficult to negotiate day at time, right?

This wintry mix lets us see things we always think of one way as something else altogether.  Behold!  Calder's Flamingo wearing a snow hat in the twilight-into-night of Federal Plaza.

Flamingo, wearing the winter well

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Oscars!

I love the Oscars.  I love the anticipation, the excitement, and the thrill of a host who has it together.

Oscar fashion is often subjective but I will say this to anyone who is choosing a gown for the event:  If the dress is wearing you, then it's not the right dress.

Who do I think will win?  Me!  I win!  Because I get to watch the Oscars!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

All this and the Ambassador Bridge

People who know me well will tell you that I am not a drinker.  In college I was more excited about being the designated driver than about missing out on booze.  "Does anyone mind?  I'll give you my keys right now."  I snagged those puppies right up because I liked going out and socializing but drinking in excess wasn't as cool as being trusted with the car of another.  Barring some isolated incidents of sensationally bad judgment in my past, I am mostly cold sober at the wheel.  If there's delicious champagne, either I'm spending the night, there's another driver, or I'm going to be in a cab or on public transportation.

In spite of that, I've lately been thinking about mixed drinks during evenings at home.  I like decent-to-fine champagne but a girl can't drink a whole bottle of bubbly without gross results, so I've taken to concocting drinks of my own taste.  As a cook, I don't have the patience to follow a recipe.  Same goes for alcoholic bevvies:  I just don't wanna.  And so I have my own creations, which I now share.  If you need to follow a recipe, then mark these down.

GOOD MORNING!
4 ounces of carrot juice
4 ounces of orange juice (fresh-squeezed is best)
Vodka to taste

Veggies!  Fruit!  ALCOHOL!  Ice is optional.  Enjoy the rest of your day.

MY OWN TOOTSIE ROLL
6 ounces of orange juice (fresh-squeezed is best)
2 ounces of Patron XO Cafe (Coffee liquor made with tequila)

Wake up and smell the Patron.  Knock off at night with Patron.  If you are feeling super frisky, toss in some vodka.  All times of the day are acceptable.  Stay off the streets.

I'm from Detroit, a city on the border with Canada.  I wanted to honor my hometown's spicy ginger ale and the whiskey that's distilled by our neighbors to the north (or, in the case of Detroit, our neighbors to the south) and I came up with this drink.  The perfect name was harder than the drink itself.  (Some rejects:  The Detroit River, Bridge-N-Tunnel.)

THE AMBASSADOR BRIDGE
6 ounces of Vernor's Ginger Ale (diet or regular)
2 ounces of Canadian whiskey (any will do but I've been using Crown Royal)
1 Marischino cherry (because why the hell not?)

Pour into a glass over ice.  Toss in the cherry.  Drink up and think of Belle Isle, Jackson Park
in Windsor, and both the bridge and the tunnel.  Sing an amalgam of O Canada and the
Star Spangled Banner (example:  "O'er Canada and the home of the brave").  Try not to drunk dial Kwame Kilpatrick in prison.  Eat the cherry and throw away the stem.  I don't want to hear about your nasty tying-the-stem trick.  Just enjoy an adult beverage.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Happy belated VD

Valentine's Day came and went and  the best thing I saw was at Mariano's Fresh Foods.  It was a big chunk of watermelon carved into a heart shape, shaved and rounded on the top and sides to make it look appetizing, amusing, and like it was true love's melon.  They put berries -- rasp, blue, and straw -- around the edges and parked it on a lettuce leaves for color.  It was hilarious, really.  I'd never considered that particular fruit for VD but watermelon might be the thing that says "I Love You" to someone who's very health conscious or else someone like me who finds it refreshing and a fruit pick-me-up.  The color, after all, is perfect.

I bought that watermelon heart for myself.  I should have taken a picture of it but I instead cut it in half and ate half yesterday and half today.  It was perfectly ripe seedless watermelon with just the right sweetness and texture.  Happy VD to me, I say!

And Happy VD to you, too.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Just Amazing

Maybe you think that Super Bowl XLVIII was the major darn blowout that it was and you are right.  And maybe you don't think that; maybe you think it was simply a bloodbath and WTF?  The game featured a small (5'11") Seattle QB and his team crushing -- really, all that remained was a bit of powder -- the Denver Broncos.  (I am not going to say the name of the Denver QB as, wow, what the hell?)  It started with a safety.  A safety almost never happens.  (When I first started with this blog someone mentioned a safety to me and I had to go look up what it was.)  (And so can you.  I still had to go back and reread what it is when the Seahawks got the two points this time and I think I get it but don't make me explain it.)  It went downhill from there.  After the halftime show, I watched "Downton Abbey," hoping things would turn around.  I got back to the game in time to see the Seahawks score yet another touchdown.  WTF indeed.

Here's the strangest thing of all:  Everyone agreed -- I did My Personal Straw Poll -- that the star of Super Bowl XLVIII was Bruno Mars and his halftime show.  A good 75% of those people said, "I wasn't a Bruno Mars fan and I wondered what the hell they were thinking getting him for the halftime show, but that was tremendous."  He brought along the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Bruno's big show backed them up.  (Does it look like the musicians are not playing?  They're not.  Flea of RHCP was told by the NFL in no uncertain terms that they can handle miking the singers (and Bruno's solo drums) but not much else.  Flea -- the one in the red pants -- decided it was great to be a part of this spectacle and went with it all the way.  See?  He's not even playing for real and he still gives everything he has and without a shirt in 40º weather.)  He ended with a 50-yard-line solo of his hit, "Just the Way You Are."  Bruno puts it all out there; regular readers of this blog know that a musician putting it all out there is one of my favorite things.  He can sell a slow song; he can put together a powerful big number with dancing horn players.  The MVP was Bruno Mars.

In honor of the real MVP and in case you missed it, here's the Bruno Mars halftime show:

Sunday, February 2, 2014

AMAZING and WRONG

Regular readers of this blog (and my thanks to you both) will know that everything about me -- museum-going, opera-loving, international-traveling, theatre-loving, ethnic-cuisine-loving, foreign-film watching me -- screams that sports are verboten as a topic of discussion or even as a fleeting thought.  Except, I like sports, especially football.  I like sports enough to be pleased if a conversation turns in that direction.  I can hold up my end of the discussion and I will probably enjoy it.  That I know what I am talking about is confirmed when known sports fanatics at my workplace seek me out to talk about some sports thing or other (and thank you, coworkers, for this validation).  I like football but not so much that I am in its thrall in all my spare time, but I do like it.  Multiple concussions and the knowledge that one day it will be banned forever for being too dangerous be damned!  I like it.

This brings us to Super Bowl XLVIII (48 for nonfans of Roman numerals) which is TONIGHT!  So much about this game is freaking AMAZING and WRONG.  So AMAZING and WRONG that I can barely type it all out!

WRONG because it's being held in a cold climate.  Northern New Jersey in wintertime sucks, blows, bites, stinks, and is generally terrible and miserable.  They get plentiful snowstorms with measurable precipitation.  Who the hell talked so fast and furious that this happened?  The players are OUTSIDE in the elements!  The performers are OUTSIDE in the elements!  It seems that the gods of the gridiron are smiling on Met Life Stadium; the weather at kickoff will moderate, a very balmy 48 degrees and it will be dry.  Renee Fleming's amazing operatic talent -- opera and football TOGETHER?  I may weep! -- will not be jeopardized by singing in extreme cold.   Bruno Mars -- whom I enjoy so much -- and the Red Hot Chili Peppers won't be turned into blocks of ice during the halftime show.  As for the players, sorry, pals, that's your job.  You're paid obscene amounts of money to get your head bashed and move a ball ten yards in four moves and if it's -5º, I only feel for the fans in attendance but even they asked for it, paying good money for the privilege.  (The Super Bowl belongs in a warm climate which affords the illusion that it's a magical time.  It's WRONG but what do you want from an illiusion?)

WRONG for NJ governor Chris Christie because he thought this first-ever Super Bowl in New Jersey would be the perfect springboard to his bid to be president.  HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!  Because of the Fort Lee-GW Bridge incident and his taking MONTHS to say he just found out about it (do you live under a rock in Trenton, sir?) and then adding a baffling amount of doucherie to this denial in just the last two days (because if Chris Christie thinks you're not on his side, you are dead to him and you should be dead to everyone else, too, personally, politically, and economically, and here's some more he has to say, and here's something he left out, and don't forget this).  HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!  Wrong for him because at Super Bowl Boulevard a/k/a Times Square converted to the annual Super-Bowl-themed extravaganza, featuring a seven-story slide (which I'd totally do), getting your picture taken with large exciting Roman numbers (XLVIII and, again, I'd do it), getting your picture taken with the Lombardi trophy (OMG!  GET OUT OF MY WAY SO I CAN SNUGGLE UP TO THE FREAKING LOMBARDI TROPHY!),  Chris Christie and NY governor Andrew Cuomo came to do the ceremonial handoff of Super Bowl duties to Arizona governor Jan Brewer (phooey), and Christie was booed and jeered.  Chris Christie loves to talk to a crowd but spoke for just 30 seconds, the Christie equivalent of being rendered mute.  Top that off with the new haircut that makes him look like a Chicken McNuggethead and it's just WRONG for Governor CC of NJ.

AMAZING for Denver (and WRONG for Chicago)!  In 2009, the Broncos and the Bears did a quarterback trade, with Kyle Orton (whom I liked and was pretty good) going to Denver and Jay Cutler (whom Denver really liked a lot; it's well documented what I think of Jay).  Denver fans were pissed and didn't think Mr. Orton played as well as Jay (whereas I don't think Jay has ever played well, ever, ever, ever).  (It's WRONG that so many women fans think Jay is a handsome man.  Quarterbacks don't have to be handsome; they have to be able call plays and accurately throw the ball. Thinking otherwise is WRONG.  And handsome is in the eye of the beholder and for me, he's just not; I look at him and think of a foot.)  From the trade, Denver got our place in the draft picks the next year and got a very good player from that but ultimately when the Indiana Colts believed their QB, Peyton Manning, would not be able to be the prime piece of meat he'd been prior to the neck injury that had him out for much of the 2012-13 season and they should trade him (Colts:  that was wrong, right?), Denver was able to secure Manning, one of the great NFL quarterbacks of all times, and now they are going to the Super Bowl.  Denver, with Manning as the quarterback, was the sole NFL team to have home team advantage in the playoffs.  AMAZING!  Back in Chicago, the Bears haven't been in the playoffs in years -- YEARS -- but the Bears organization re-signed Jay Cutler for another seven years.  AMAZING (mind-boggling might be a better description) AND WRONG for Bears fans like me who give a moderate crap.  (They re-signed Robbie Gould for four years which is AMAZING and right on every level.)

I like visiting Seattle very much and their Seahawks logo is great even though I couldn't live in Seattle because of all the hills but I hope, hope, hope the Denver Broncos solidly cream their northwest corn.  Peyton Manning is AMAZING and the thought of Denver losing is WRONG.  Please note:  I have been WRONG before and I will be WRONG again.

I am not offering what I think the point spread would be.  That'd be not just wrong but amazingly stupid.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

And why should I care?

The 56th Annual Grammy Awards is a big ass show that features hugely rich and/or popular musicians.  It's tonight on CBS and today I've been wondering why the hell I should care.  The results, just like the results of the Golden Globes or the American Music Awards or even The Voice or Dancing With the Stars having exactly zero bearing on how I will live my life or what will happen to me tomorrow.  The Grammy nominees have worked very hard in their jobs of bringing their music to the masses to enrich the lives of the masses, get fans who will continue to look for that music, and keep them from having to teach music or work in machine shops or be dance teachers or travel agents or administrative assistants.  Their hard work and perserverance has paid off and their record companies probably appreciate it.  (Macklemore and Ryan Lewis produced and distributed their own album which shows that it can be done if you're talented and one of you is a marketing genius.)  Now they reward their own.  And why the hell should I care?

I guess it's like the Super Bowl or the Stanley Cup finals or the Oscars.  There isn't a reason in the world that I should care but I kind of do.  I look forward to seeing what tricks are up the sleeves of the producers.  I want to see Ringo Starr and Sir Paul McCartney sing together.  I like Pink, Pharrell Williams, the aforementioned Messrs. Macklemore and Lewis, Daft Punk, and Bruno Mars.   I like them so much that I actually acquired their CDs -- buying one with my own money and not getting it as a gift or from the library.  Justin Timberlake and Tony Bennett are some kind of wonderful.  The notion of 82 categories boggles my mind.  We've been whipped into a frenzy by the media and anticipation is high and I'm as frothed as the next person who also seems to care.  To paraphrase Samuel Beckett, I refuse to care; I do care.

So today I pay homage to just one of the nominated categories, in this case Song of the Year.  I feature Macklemore and Ryan Lewis and "Same Love."  Love is love, y'all.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Thanks, NY Times and Pharrell Williams

I am a huge fan of the New York Times.  For the past two years I've managed to be vigilant enough to be just ahead of losing my fifty-percent-off subscription price and renewing at the discounted price.  Sometimes it goes for three months, sometimes four, but the most recent renewal lasts six months.  I can almost relax -- but not really because then I might forget.  I have stickies on my calendar at work.  This particular calendar -- I use three separate ones at work -- shows paydays, birthdays of peripheral work friends, my vacation days, and when the NY Times expires.  (Calendar two is just a calendar that shows the whole year; calendar three is my social, medical, and serious birthday calendar.)

On December 25, 2012, the New York Times wrote an article about Pharrell Williams and the video of his song, "Happy."  If you've not read your 10 free NY Times articles this month, you might enjoy it:
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/26/arts/music/round-the-clock-giddiness-in-a-24-hour-music-video.html?smid=pl-share

Pharrell Williams has made a video of his song, "Happy."  It's 24 hours long.  It has Pharrell himself singing the song on the hour -- yes, that is 24 times -- but the rest of the clock is filled with people lip-synching and dancing or just walking and grooving along with the song in various Los Angeles locations around the clock.   Check it out:
http://www.24hoursofhappy.com

Pharrell Williams had a very good 2013.  He wrote "Happy" for the Disney blockbuster, "Despicable Me 2," and the song was nominated for an Oscar (as was the movie).  He sang on the Robin Thicke megahit, "Blurred Lines."  (Yes, the video totally objectifies women; yes, there is that whole lawsuit unpleasantness; it's still a great dancing song.)  He was a guest coach on "The Voice."  He sang on the Daft Punk disco homage album, "Random Access Memories," including the major hit, "Get Lucky."  (Pharrell wears suit and tie on the video and looks very fine.)  Pharrell Williams made a 24-hour-long video of "Happy" which can't be played on any smartphone.  (I just got a smartphone and was pleased that it wouldn't let me watch it; a smartphone isn't enough of a venue for "24 Hours of Happy.")

Here in the Midwest it's cold and terrible.  In my town we're already 40 inches over the average snowfall.  Tuesday it won't be getting over 9 degrees.  Maybe "24 Hours of Happy" will give you a warm feeling.  If that doesn't work, try subscribing to the New York Times.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Post-Polar Vortex Break

The Mid-January thaw calls for the Mid-January break!

No pix, no vids, no nothing.  It's 38º and spring's a definite possibility in the next three months.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

My very own reality TV show

Except for the little I've seen about it on TV shows or read in some news piece or other, I know nothing of "Duck Dynasty."  I don't have cable; I'm not getting cable; I will never have cable.  Here is what I think I know:  four guys make duck calls for a living; they are married to really very attractive women; it all seems quite the hoax as the wives don't seem the types to be attracted to the sorts of men they present themselves to be.

Yesterday, I had the good fortune of having a late breakfast with my friend, Mike.  We've known each other a long while; we were coworkers who clicked and we became friends outside of work.  He's moved on to another job in the same company but we're still good friends.

Mike explained to me about "Duck Dynasty" and the recent media kerfuffle about what one of the elder ducks said causing some controversy in the media.  Mike is of the opinion that it was all calculated and timed to happen at Christmas when people are buying things including "Duck Dynasty" tie-in merchandise and also right before the start of their new season.  It numbs the mind and his opinion makes good sense.

I have decided that some network or other should have a reality TV show based on Mike and me.  It would go something like this:

Announcer's voice:  It's 4:31 a.m. on the northwest side of Chicago, but Lena's alarm clock says 4:40 a.m. when it goes off.  She hits snooze and then hits snooze another five times before she gets out of bed.  She turns on the TV and stumbles to the bathroom, where she relieves herself and takes her thyroid medication and then sets the timer for 30 minutes.  She can eat when it rings.  She turns on the shower to get the water warm.  While the water heats up, she checks her emails.  This announcer wishes she might start wearing something other than just a t-shirt to bed. 

Meanwhile, on the far north side, Mike's asleep with his partner, Sean.  (Show a dark bedroom with two figures under the covers.)

Back on the northwest side, Lena has showered and washed her hair.  She is applying men's-strength Minoxidil to her scalp, followed by Moroccan Oil to her hair.  She uses a wide-toothed comb to style it.  She puts on eye cream and some face cream, then a pinky-yellow hued eye pencil which she says makes her eyes pop, followed by mascara.  She finishes by putting on her glasses.

On the far north side, the two sleeping figures continue sleeping.

Lena walks back into the bedroom of her northwest side apartment and gets dressed.  She laid out her clothes the night before and doesn't rethink her choice of black pants, a black shirt, and black shoes.  Yesterday she wore a similar outfit.

Lena:  And it will be the same thing tomorrow.

Announcer:  Meanwhile, the two sleeping figures continue sleeping in their bed on the far north side.  One seems to snore; the other is not disturbed by it.

After breakfast of instant low-sugar maple-and-brown-sugar oatmeal with 2% milk, banana slices, and walnuts, Lena dries her hair and gathers the lunch she made the night before and then leaves, double locking her front door.  She walks three blocks to the catch the same bus she catches every day, run F463 of the 56 bus. 

The two sleeping people don't have to wake up until 7 a.m.  Lena will be almost to work by then.  We are not able to go into her job with her as she's still not gotten us a building pass.

Lena:  It's a secure place.  I don't want to gum it up.  See you at lunchtime.

Announcer:  At luncthime, she decides to eat in the office lunchroom with the coworker she's taken to calling her work Boo.  We are left waiting in the building food court and are questioned by building security, the Chicago Police, Homeland Security, three homeless gentlemen, and suburban visitors to the city wanting to know what famous person we're there to tape.  Between us we decide this is the worst assignment we've ever had.

Over by the Chicago River, Mike is answering phones and taking reservations.  His office is cramped and sunless yet overlit with fluorescent bulbs.  We decide to ask about his friend's office.

Mike:  It's pretty nice over there.  Fast elevators.  The layout of that office is well thought out.  There's a northbound view that will never be obstructed.  It's just the skeeviest building you'll ever come across.

Announcer:  When we ask why, Mike's gaze gets distant and tears seems to form in his eyes.

Mike:  No reason.

Announcer:  Mike quickly picks up the phone and calls an airline.

Yes, it's probably as dull as you think but if they want to toss many dollars at Mike and me, we can jazz up our lives so they're as interesting as people seem to think "Duck Dynasty" is.  Mike's working on a beard that rivals anything those Ducks are offering and if I give up visiting a Benefit Brow Bar, I have will some reality TV eyebrows going in no time.  We're perfectly able to make people love or hate us but I suspect they'd love Mike and hate me (which is right because he's a very lovable person and I make a concerted effort to be me).  For the right amount of money, I'm down with that.

Interested producers:  Send me an email!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Five things that are great and how could you possibly disagree?

HAPPY 2014!

We are keeping it nonsexual here, folks.

FIRST and above all other things including food and even birthday cake is my absolutely tip top favorite thing -- a hot shower.  Don't get me started.  The water, the pressure, the heat, the cleanliness.  Dear god in heaven, a shower beats it all.

2.  A performance by a musician who is giving everything and gives everything every time and has a great talent and a lot to give.  A musician who never ever phones it in, doesn't think you're a philistine because you don't like that kind of music, but here, it's all here, all of it and more, just in case you change your mind.

Third:  CHAMPAGNE.  Not Andre.  Not the expensive vintage stuff.  Solid, nonvintage champagne that can be found for $12.99 to $38.  Brut so it's dry yet a smidge fruity and as it goes down reminds you that la vie est vraiment belle, it really is.

4. Going to the movies.  I am of the group who goes to a movie to see the movie.  I don't eat.  (If you must have popcorn, I don't judge you.  Please chew quietly.)  I don't drink anything.  (I don't want to have to use the restroom in the middle of the movie.)  I don't talk much (if I even say a thing).  Going to see a movie in a movie theatre is a beautiful thing and as the director intended.

5.  PAYDAY!  Yeah, yeah, you've got money and you are rich.  How wonderful and lovely and special for you.  I don't envy you because I can experience the joy of realizing it is payday and there is again hard-earned cash in my bank account.  It is joy.  It is elation.  It is something simple, like a shower or a song by someone giving everything they have, that can make a questionable day much better as often as every other week.

-----

R.I.P. Chicago Bears 2013 Season.  In the last 44 seconds of the game, the Packers and Aaron Rodgers pulled pure talent and skill out of their rumps and scored a touchdown, leaving the Bears with 44 seconds to get it back.  It's Jay Cutler, y'all, so that was that.  (I really thought they had it won.  I need to not think so much.)  We have the better part of 2014 to dream of better.  The good news:  Robbie Gould signed a contract extension for four more years!  Four more years of magnificent kicking!  I should have included him in five great things and how could you possibly disagree.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Merry Christmas

My Christmas gift to me and to you:  No blog this week!  I wracked my brain about what the topic might be as I stood in line at Ulta to buy hair dye, lip balm, and lipstick at 20% off.  I thought and thought as I drove to Target to get a small infant gift for a newborn.  I considered and contemplated as I drove home.  I then realized that the best Xmas gift is nothing at all for any of us to think up or read, respectively.

Next week is the blog before the new year and some topics might be:

1.  Bears football (joy because the Bears are going to the playoffs or misery because they aren't).

2.  Resolutions for 2014 (last year I resolved to taste as many olives as I could and I did, too, by the end of January and they all taste like ... olives).

3.  Five things that are damn great and how can you possibly disagree?

4.  All/Some of the above.

Merry Christmas to all and for those who, like me, have to work on Christmas Eve until 5pm and then be back the day after Christmas at 8am, I say, "My sympathies.  I know your pain."

A picture of Santa Claus at the CTA station at O'Hare Airport:
Here comes Fatty with his sackful of crap

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Congrats and I am bushed

Massive congratulations to my niece, Claire, who graduated from Wayne State University in Detroit last night.  Summa cum laude, bitches!  It was a very nice event.  Her parents and sister and I all braved constant snowfall which added up to 7 inches.  Detroit has negative money, which mean snow removal on the other-than-main streets takes not just forever but the next part of forever as well or a mid-winter thaw or the arrival of spring.  I am pleased to report drivers were not driving too fast, they were mostly considerate, and we took our time and respected the situation.  And it was a great day!  My niece, Claire, graduated summa cum laude from college!

The snow was exhausting, however, I am going to knock off, unpack, and go to bed early.

And did I mention it?  My niece, Claire, graduated summa cum laude from college!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The city in the air

Where and what the F?

I have a new camera and I like it a lot.  Using it, I successfully got a couple of handheld photos of the moon.  I was hoping to get a cool picture of a city from a boat on the water.  I was unsuccessful and I was wholly successful.  I am disappointed and I am thrilled.

The disappointment comes from it not looking how it's supposed to look which is like downtown Seattle across Puget Sound.  (What did I expect?  The boat was moving fast, there was a lot of late fall wind, and the was a certain degree of rocking.)  The thrill comes from my wild imagination and what this picture could really be.

It's a city from the future!  It's from another dimension, a la The Golden Compass.  It's on another planet that I just happened to be visiting.  It's a mess and it's beautiful and it's stacked and it's electric.  It's welcoming and formidable and what is up with that cloud (the only thing that successfully moved over).  It's an utter flop and I could not hope for anything better.

And if it were an alternate planet or dimension or universe, what would I do when I got there?  Look for handbags, natch.