Sunday, August 28, 2011

A brief overview

Y'all!  It's still the pre-season!

The Bears LOST against the NY Giants last Monday at the Meadowlands.

The Bears LOST against the Tennessee Titans last night, Saturday, in Nashville.  Here is the thing that amazes me about yesterday's game:  I'd no idea they were going to be playing last night.  Oops.  Some fan I am.

Yesterday was a busy day.  In the morning, I went to an archery class and shot off many arrows at a target.  I got all the arrows onto the target sheet but I am pretty much the same kind of archer that I am a bowler, i.e. not consistent but with archery getting a slight edge.

After archery, I went over and fetched my pal so we could have a nice cheap hot-dog-and-soda lunch at Costco and gossip about things that interest only us.   I deposited him and drove out to the Westin by the airport to donate blood.

The Blackhawks sponsor regular blood drives and they give out stuff like tickets to the Blackhawks family fan day (first 10,000 people get a free Patrick Sharp (♡) bobblehead) and entries into drawings to win an autographed Blackhawks jersey, seats right by the Blackhawks bench during a home game at the United Center (megaWANT), or tickets to an out-of-town game.  As I've written before, I don't mind donating blood, I can squeeze out a pint pretty fast (yesterday's time:  5 minutes, 20 seconds), and it's one charitable thing I (or anyone) can do that will of 100% benefit to the recipient.  After the the blood drive,  I drove over to a hotel that was treating me to a complimentary night's stay.

I enjoy the occasional stay in a hotel.  Even if it's in the suburbs, it makes me feel like I was out of town for a couple of days, even if it's the Chicago burbs.  I prefer these visits when it's hottest because I like to set the thermostat to 63ยบ and get a chill down to my bones.  If others walk in and don't say, "It's freezing in here," then it might be too warm.  (An aside:  my landlady sets the thermostat in our building pretty low in winter and I've grown used to it.)  I cranked down the a/c, watched two episodes of "Adventure Time" on Cartoon Network, then twirled off to the mall across the street.

I had coupons and I wanted to use them but, alas, no coupons were used as no one had anything I wanted to buy.  I was looking for accessories which proved elusive or maybe I just didn't want to bother or maybe I didn't want to spend the money on something that was less than perfection.  That's the thing:  will I really use that or do I just want a little something new?  I walked from one end of the mall to almost the other end and then back (because my car was parked at the first place, y'all).  The mall was jammed even though it was after 5pm on a Saturday.  I fled to Jewel (for yogurt for my dessert) and Chipotle (my free-stay-in-a-hotel often features Chipotle for dinner) then settled back into my nice chilly hotel room where there were 60 cable TV stations, the best I've encountered in a long time.

Here was HBO, FX, TBS, Cartoon Network, MTV, VH1, way too many sports channels (Big 10? Really?).  I was cruising around the dial when I found the Bears game.  It was the first quarter.  Men were sweating and shoving.  There was grunting and I did what I used to do -- I just kept working the remote control.   Among other things, I watched "True Blood" which I found to be every bit as good as the hype makes it out to be.  The availability of many stations that are not paid for by me is a very interesting thing.  If I were married to someone with cable, I would not tell him to discontinue it but I would also make it clear that I loved him for himself and not for his 100 channels (and maybe his central air).  Anyway, I never went back to the Bears game and didn't find out the outcome until I went to the grocery store and asked the checker about the game.  "They lost by one," he said.  The difference between this young man and me:  he doesn't think Jay Cutler sucks too hard and he actually watched the game.  Which if I am going to write about football, might be a good idea unless, of course, there are free cable and a/c both.
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I have blathered in the past about buying things that are made in America.  I've been looking for new rugs for my bathroom and after exhausting both Kohl's and Target (why would I think the stock at a different stores would be markedly different?  Insanity, y'all, that's why ),  I went to K-Mart in a desperation move.

I am not a fan of K-Mart but I now have reason to give them a second look.  I found precisely what I wanted.  What I wanted was on sale.  What I wanted was made in the USA.  Thanks, K-Mart.
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Speaking of made in America, Craig Ferguson wasn't and it's always a great day in America for him.  I am a big fan of Craig Ferguson and his charming late-night talk show.  Here is Craig's tribute to "Dr. Who."  It never aired because someone forgot to get the rights to the "Dr. Who" theme first.  I came across it on icanhascheezburger.com and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.  And it's a great day in America, y'all.




Sunday, August 21, 2011

When there's not enough football

As Bears training camp draws to a close, Lovie Smith, Supreme Coach of All Bearness, on Friday stated that he thinks this is a really good team.  Well, seriously, what else is he going to say?  "Wow, there is some running and tackling stankiness going on out there and I just know they're going to tank all season long."  He won't say that.  I will, however, agree that this might be a really good team.  They won their first pre-season game last week which, frankly, bodes well, even though last year they sort of stank up the general rosters of football in the pre-season but did pretty well for themselves in regular season play.  Of course, next week the inner naysayer could emerge and there would be general complaining and misery anew.

The Bears play a Monday-night game tomorrow against the New York Giants at the Meadowlands in New Jersey.  Let's have a stroll down Memory Lane.  Last year, in regular season play, the Giants decimated the Bears and Jay Cutler was sacked to the point of concussion.  It's my fervent desire that there just be some good football tomorrow and no closed head injuries.  Next week's blog will feature blabbing about tomorrow's game and that of next week.
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Chez ouiseaux
Today we went out into the ultraburbs to Volo Bog which features walking through a bog for 2.75 miles and I DID IT and believe me when I say that I am not the fittest person under the Illinois sun and I DID IT!  Of course the point was to see the cool wildlife -- goldfinches, turtles, garter snakes, a great white heron, robins, shield bugs, frogs.  For me it was to walk the 2.75 miles of not straight, unflat terrain on a warm day when the sky is blue and the clouds look like they could be animals, or WWII Flying Fortresses, or amphibians and finish it and also see some cool wildlife.  I DID IT!  Here are some of the pictures I took on this lovely day.


The bog walkway is lightly anchored -- not precisely steady but very cool to experience.
Those are cattails along the walkway and they were taller than me.

Volo Bog from the nature-viewing hut at water's edge
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So when there's not enough football then what might give us something extra to discuss?  This week it's still Jacques Brel because am totally fascinated with him and his songs.  (An aside:  I won't talk about him next week, pinky swear.)  This week, I turn my attention to "Ne Me Quitte Pas," which was translated into English by Brel and Rod McKuen (yeah, that Rod McKuen; they were apparently great friends).  The English name is "If You Go Away," and the various interpreters, including Frank Sinatra, Nina Simone, Julio Iglesias, Tom Jones, country singer Ronnie Milsap, Neil Diamond, Barbra Streisand, and Cyndi Lauper do their utmost to convey their wish that their object of desire not dump them.  The more literal translation is "don't leave me," or to be perfectly slanglike, "don't quit me." 

I offer you two versions of "Ne Me Quitte Pas," by Dusty Springfield and Jacques Brel himself, respectively.  In the first, Springfield, with her exceptional voice of smoke, rasp, and heart, is a perfect comparison to Brel.  In the second video, Brel is skinny, sweating, not handsome with his suit wearing him, and looking into the camera (at the end of the song it sounds like someone is playing -- can it be?? -- the saw).  Once he starts singing, you forget about the physical (and forgive him the saw) and just consider not leaving him, ever.  (There is a slightly superior Brel version -- with a different English translation -- that refuses to be embedded but allows copy-and-paste:  http://youtu.be/za_6A0XnMyw)



Sunday, August 14, 2011

Here are YOUR Chicago Bears and A Belgian Guy

It was pre-season game #1 against the Buffalo Bills and the Bears WON!  Yes, WON!  The offensive line = lackluster (is anyone at all surprised?) but the defensive team looked good (again, I am sure none are surprised).  I watched exactly ten seconds of this game, for the score in the first, second, and third quarters.  I was doing some thrilling stuff instead.

Family members treated me to a 5:15pm showing of "Attack the Block," a sci-fi import from the UK about a 15-year-old gang leader who saves London from an alien invasion.  It is horrifying, gross, touching, and funny all at once.  Race to see it!

Then we went to their home where I was treated to a terrific meal of fresh sausage, made by a real butcher in his shop on Milwaukee Avenue and not by a machine in a factory in a different state.  There were beans with carrots, there was cabbage with apricots.  If you got this meal in a restaurant, you'd be bragging to your friends about the tastiness of it.  It wasn't in a restaurant but allow me to brag about how really good that meal was.  We watched "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," on the television which is why I didn't watch much of the game.  Harry and the wacky Hogwarts gang won!

That game?  Pre-season!  Doesn't count!  I read that Johnny Knox ran 70 yards on a return from the 1, so it certainly counted for Mr. Knox.  He was demoted this week -- Bears coaching baffles me, so don't look to me for answers on this one -- and said he started his professional career as a Bear and wanted to stay here and those 70 yards had to make the coaches go, "Hey ya!"  But not the Outkast song as they are just not that cool, those coaches.  Go, Johnny, you rub their noses in it.

10-3, Bears win.

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It happens to all of us.  A song or the performance of a particular song or a particular performer sings a particular song and the dances around in the recesses of your brain and stews and festers and jerks and twists and won't get out of your head.  For the past couple of weeks, two songs of the late Jacques Brel came to live in my cranium and there they remain.

The first song is "Jackie," also known as "La Chanson de Jacky."  The second is probably Brel's best known song, "Marieke."

Thanks to You Tube, it is easy to find any number of versions of various songs.  For me, "Jackie" --  a a guy singing about everything wonderful that could happen but wanting to reminisce about when he was young and all he wanted to be was good-looking and stupid -- has three different and great interpretations:  Scott Walker (of the Walker Brothers and "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Any More"); Mort Shuman (one of the translators of the songs for the long-running show, "Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris"); and, of course, Brel himself in this version where, if they had baseball in Belgium, he knocks the cover off the ball: 


Women sing "Marieke."  Men sing "Marieke."  People work the freaking heck out of "Marieke" -- it's a song about a guy who loved a woman named Marieke and he wants her to love him again -- but for pure passion and desperate longing, check out Jacques Brel himself in the You Tube link below.  Not the handsomest of men, especially by today's standards of perfection, Brel makes you want to find that Marieke and tell her to just give him another chance, for crying out loud.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A clever way to start the season

Bears Family Night is an annual tradition.  Fans buy tickets and go to Soldier Field to watch the Bears practice in the mothership, at Football Ground Zero, on a summer evening in Chicago.  A breeze can blow in off Lake Michigan and the evening ends with a fireworks display.   Fans were excited to be attending on Friday, August 5.

Except that is not how it played out.

The playing field was in such bad shape that it would have been dangerous for the practice to take place.  See that word?  Dangerous.  The sod has all shrunk up and there were gaps in the grassy playing surface.  Running players -- or even someone who was not looking down -- could trip in the gaps, fall and twist something or break something or worse.  Dangerous.

Attending an event of this nature is not cheap.  There is the cost of parking (roughly $20) or public transportation.  There is the admission ticket.  Food has to be purchased for each member.  Souvenirs may be acquired and the mothership offers few bargains in the gift shop.  One would think the Bears and the Chicago Park District would want to make sure field conditions were tippety top to give the fans a good experience.  One would, but apparently neither the Bears nor the Chicago Park District nor the groundskeepers at Soldier Field give a rat's rump about it.

It's like they've never seen grass before.  They can't blame it on the winter -- it is August.  They can't blame it on the lockout; Soldier Field had a major soccer event, played on that grass, just two weeks ago.  Someone obviously didn't think to check on field conditions and then be on whoever was responsible (and on them and on them) until they were assured things were perfect and then went and checked personally to ascertain that this was true.  The local media was calling it an embarrassment.  Yeah, it's that but mostly it's shameful.

The Bears packed up and went back to Bourbonnais where the practice surface is excellent.  That is right:  a professional football field is a piece of junk and this minor college playing surface is superior.  The fans were left with the concessions being opened but also provided free food and drinks, and, at 9:15, fireworks.  The Bears might have refunded the money, apologized sincerely, and said, "We are sorry, please stay for the fireworks and food.  Here is your admission price back."  Nope, they kept the loot, probably to pay for the fireworks because the knuckleheads just love them some profit.

From everything I've read, the Bears did not mix with the fans at all.  The Gods returned to their jerkwater Olympus without having to be sullied by the touch and smell of mere mortals.

Let's recap.  Bears Management, Solider Field groundskeepers, the Chicago Park District don't care enough about the fans to do their jobs correctly, i.e. treat the fans with respect.  The Bears players don't care enough about their fans to go out of their way to thank them for spending their salaries on their hometown team.  Management thinks overpriced nachos and exploding colors will make up for not seeing the team practice.

I am wondering what the terms of condition were on the ticket.  The fans bought a ticket that was a contract between the Bears and the ticket purchaser.  I am assuming rain or shine but I would suspect there would be a proper assumption of the appearance of players.  Of course, the Bears had the assumption that they would be provided with a safe work environment; they were not and retreated.  It was a bad situation for everyone except for whoever would monetarily benefit from this fiasco.  "Whoever" managed some nice profit.

UPDATEA coworker was in attendance and she reported back to me that they didn't let people in until 6:15 pm instead of 5 pm and told the fans nothing as they waited.  The Bears had already left for Bourbonnais when people were let in.  Food was free for all those who bought tickets (there were free tickets for vendors and suppliers but there was also to be a special food area for them).  Parking was free for those who drove (those on public transportation were not as fortunate).  The ticket price was refunded in full for those who bought tickets (no compensation for those who got free but they were free tickets, so be quiet).  The fireworks were pretty good.

Some Bears have Twitter accounts.  Robbie Gould, well known as my fave, said the ticket price should be refunded in full (which it was).  A large defending Bear who shall remain nameless said he felt bad for the fans.  Really, large defending Bear?  Chin music.  Last year this large defending Bear was among those Gods who never signed a single autograph at training camp. 

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Veteran Center and ex-Bear Olin Kreutz spoke of retirement after he was treated so shabbily by the Bears but has wound up with a one-year contract with the New Orleans Saints.  Led by Drew Brees, the Saints are solid players in a solid organization that could very well be contenders.  I think it sucks that we lost Kreutz and fear his loss will not bode well for the Bears.

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Congratulations are in order for ME!  On August 2, 2010, I wrote my first blog about driving to Bourbonnais to attend Bears Training Camp.  Since then I have determined that it really is a game and just because I watch it and they lose, doesn't mean I should be upset.  I have two whole followers (thanks, Suzy and Tulip) and a link to my site from a well trafficked food blog (thanks, Blue Kitchen).  It took several weeks to admit to my family members that I had a blog about sports (it was met with gales of laughter because the way I presented it was so ridiculous and serious) which I had to admit I was writing for myself alone.  I am still doing it for myself but if someone can say, "Well, yeah, that's pretty true," then I can have some satisfaction.  I am not going to retire the blog.  Why would I? The lockout is over and there's a lot of criticizing I can do and 300-pound, six-foot-eight-inch men to fascinate me.  On we go, then!  Thanks for reading.