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