Sunday, December 28, 2014

Something to end the year

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

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

Sunday, December 21, 2014

2014 Retrospective

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

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

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Not Charlie Brown's Christmas Tree

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

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

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Taking pictures of people taking pictures, French edition

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

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

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

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

Beaux, oui Et heureuse, aussi.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Parisian panorama, please

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

La Défense, the largest business district in Europe

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

Galeries Lafayette:  Noel Monstre outside at night

Opéra Garnier, viewed from the Metro entrance

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

Sunday, November 23, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Making art across from Centre Pompidou.

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

Sunday, November 9, 2014


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

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

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

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


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

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Taking pictures of people taking pictures, part IV

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

Federal Plaza, 28 October 2014, about 5pm

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Taking pictures of people taking pictures, part III


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

From my personal archives, here are some selections:

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

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Views not otherwise possible

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Distasteful topics! Read at your own peril!

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

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

The two topics are these:

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

2.  Do you read in the toilet?

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

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

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

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

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

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


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