Monday, July 29, 2013

Skydiver Hazard

Must be one of the odder ways
to end up concussed in a daze.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Ethnic Distinction Making

From an MSNBC dude:

Toure explained that Republicans are “talking about black-on-black crime to block the conversation around a Peruvian-American, not a Hispanic, a Peruvian-American shooting a black man.”

Of course, collectivists want to see individual disputes as being about group vs. group. But with multi-ethnic a individual, like Zimmerman, it gets even less plausible to make this into a conflict between the races.

Here's Zimmerman, with a German name,
and a mom who hails from Peru,
the categories all seem lame.
Whatever shall we do?

Swimming to the States from Canada

I find it hard not to like this guy:

A Canadian man who wanted to prove he could swim across the Detroit River to the United States after a night of drinking prompted an international rescue operation late Monday.

True to his nationality, he was politely apologetic about causing such a ruckus.

But it's not really clear he needed rescuing.

He had crossed the stream,
and was swimming back,
when the rescue team,
showed up in a pack.

Thursday, July 25, 2013


The politicians in Detroit
apparently were maladroit.

They drove their city in the lake,
then yelled, "Come help! For goodness sake!"

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Make Believe CPD

Not again:

Vincent Richardson, who made national headlines four years ago when he briefly was able to pass himself off as a police officer at only 14, has been busted again for pretending to be a Chicago cop, authorities said Wednesday.

He walked into a store that sells police uniforms, mentioned that he was a Chicago cop, and showed his driver's license. But the clerk got suspicious when he just kept mentioning that he was a Chicago cop. So the clerk did an internet search on his name.

Now the 19-year-old faces a felony charge of impersonating an officer.

Why can't he stop
pretending to be a cop?

An insanity defense
just might make sense.

Ghost Bike

Ghost bikes are a species of traffic death memorial, where a bicycle is painted a ghostly white and chained close to where a cyclist has died. I've been driving by this one lately:

(Image from here.)

I wondered who Ryan B. was. With a bit of research, I learned he was a bike messenger, who was hit by a truck, back in 2007.

I also wondered whether that was actually the bike he was riding when he died. I thought not, and it turned out that I was right.

Still, I find the image haunting.
Urban biking can be daunting.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Hungry in Tennessee

The Chicago Tribune today ran a Washington Post story about a bus in Tennessee that drives around poverty-stricken areas giving free food to children during summer vacation - when they're not getting free food at school.

I believe a lot of these children's home situations are miserable, but I wonder how reliable the story is. I was struck by two examples, from a single paragraph.

One young lady was described this way: "Desperation had become their permanent state, defining each of their lives in different ways. For Courtney, it meant she had stayed rail thin, with hand-me-down jeans that fell low on her hips."

Here's her picture, giving Mountain Dew to her baby sister:


Would you call this young lady "rail thin"? For a 13 year old girl, she appears, to me, to be at a perfectly healthy weight.

As for jeans that "fell low on her hips", I don't think that's because her hips have wasted away. They're hand-me-down jeans. I bet they never fit her in the first place.

Here's the next sentence: "For Taylor, 14, it meant stockpiling calories whenever food was available, ingesting enough processed sugar and salt to bring on a doctor’s lecture about obesity and early-onset diabetes, the most common risks of a food-stamp diet."

So, a "food-stamp diet" causes obesity and early-onset diabetes? What is a food-stamp diet? It's whatever food the stamp-recipient wants to buy, isn't it? There's really no such thing as a food-stamp diet, is there?

And can you really become obese from not having enough food around?

Of course, being hungry is perfectly compatible with being obese. Obese people, statistically, are often hungry.

I have a hunch
that providing free lunch
does less good
than you'd think it would.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Gang Warfare In Chicago

I periodically explain to people that most (almost all) of the shootings in Chicago are gang-related, and involve factions of criminals competing for turf.

Mostly they kill each other. But sometimes they kill innocent people who they mistakenly think are competitors. And sometimes they don't shoot so well, and a stray bullet kills... a 2 year old girl, for example.

I may then mention that it's relatively safe for me in those neighborhoods, because I will not be mistaken for a member of a competing gang. Why? Well, I don't fit the profile. Sixty year old white men are not generally involved in these affairs. The greatest gang-warfare-threat to someone like me is the stray bullet problem, also known as the poor aim problem.

And then today it occurred to me, I am benefiting from profiling.

Because I don't look like I'm in a gang,
they're far less likely to go bang-bang.

Saturday, July 20, 2013


I was looking at one of Neil Simon's memoirs: Rewrites. It's mostly about his early career - after he broke out of TV comedy writing, and became a Broadway playwright, in the 1960's.

After he wrote a play he did not have actors read it so that he could listen to it. Rather, he sent it to his agent, or to producers, and if these people liked it they lined up actors, and money... and into out-of-town rehearsals they went, with the playwright on hand to rewrite any parts of the play that "weren't working". Simon, who was writing 3-act plays at the time, seemed to have particular problems with his 3rd acts - with wrapping things up.

He says he never pre-plotted his plays, so I guess it makes sense that he would have particular trouble wrapping things up.

The audience doesn't demand that the wrapping be neat,
but they strongly prefer a sense that the play is complete.

Friday, July 19, 2013

What Happened

The City of Fort Worth explains:

"On July 12, 2013, contractors demolished the wrong property on Watercress Drive. The property to be demolished should have been 9708 Watercress Dr. The property that was demolished was a vacant structure located at 9716 Watercress Dr. City staff is meeting to determine what happened."

Yeah, they flattened the wrong house. At least it was vacant!

I wish the city staff good luck in determining what happened.

Be thankful, wherever you domicile,
that bulldozers haven't come through for a while.

Rehearsals Begin

It was the first night of rehearsals for this new play I've written.

It's very interesting to watch Anna direct. I mean, it strikes me that everyone directs differently. It seems to spring from who you are as a person.

For a decent start
at reading a script
just come equipped
with a brain and a heart.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Raven Victimized By Porcupine

Gets a helping hand from a human female:

Among the world's many ills,
I rarely think of porcupine quills,
mostly because I've had the luck
of never getting porcupine-stuck.

Monday, July 15, 2013

What A Pair

You've got to love a state where Spitzer and Weiner are in the lead.

From a satiric-rhyme-writing point of view, I hope they both win. What great material!

But as regards the fate of New York State,
I have to hope that neither does too great.

UPDATE: NY Post has a headline: "Spitzer, Weiner maintain poll position"

That's a pun, "pole position" in car racing is the most favorable position for starting the race.

Then I started thinking about other pun potential.

Is it possible the Post
is saying something droll
trying to get the most
meaning out of "pole"?

Sunday, July 14, 2013


The big problem for the prosecution, from the beginning, was that Zimmerman's self-defense story seemed plausible. From a study of the facts, such as they were, it was going to be hard for a jury to find him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Eric Zorn, a Chicago Tribune columnist who leans liberal, wrote:

Perhaps the jurors agreed with my basic outline of the story, that Zimmerman wrongly felt Martin was up to no good, got out of his truck to follow (not chase) Martin so he could lead police to him when they arrived, was ambushed by an angry Martin, was getting his butt beaten and panicked and shot him, then embellished his story in order to bolster what was already a legitimate claim of self-defense under Florida law.

Of course, it would have been nice if the whole incident were on tape, an issue which came up during the trial:

One of the officers who questioned Zimmerman, lead investigator Chris Serino, testified that he tried to bluff Zimmerman into thinking the clash had been recorded to convince him that he would be in more trouble if he lied.

“I believe his words were, ‘Thank God, I was hoping somebody would videotape it,’” Serino said.

In the future, perhaps our cell phones will be legally required to record everything that happens around us, so we will all have a complete record of our lives. Of course, we won't have time to listen to it all. And our right to privacy would be gone. But jurors' jobs would be easier.

A courtroom highlight reel
could really keep it real.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Bon Jovi at Soldier Field

I ended up last night standing on the field at Soldier Field, watching a Bon Jovi concert.

I had just intended to attend a sort of casting / read-through for my new play. But when I got to the theater, my director, Anna Menekseoglu, told me her father had tickets for the concert, which had fallen into his lap at the last minute.

Here's Anna taking a selfie with husband Jeremy and yours truly at the concert:

Here's the view forward:

Big crowd.
Unbelievably loud.

The concert should have come with a warning,
that I'd need to see an audiologist in the morning.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Crime in Italy!

Domenico Codispoti, a man of definite convictions, is roughing it in Milan:

After going in and out of jail, he was sentenced to house arrest in 2006, despite the minor detail of being homeless.

The judge gave him an assigned spot... outside.

His lack of a house, shack, or cave meant
he was sentenced to sleep on the pavement.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Fountain of the Great Lakes vs. Lilly Langtree


This is from the 5-figure fountain sculpture outside the Art Institute. I gather that the 5 women are the 5 lakes, but I'm not sure if the individual figures have all been identified.

The sculptor is Lorado Taft. His neoclassical figures run toward the somber and thoughtful, even in the midst of physical activity. Some people at the time reportedly complained that his women were too sturdy, or perhaps too stout of waist. As Wikipedia delicately puts it:

After one got past the symbolism of the ladies as lakes, complaints existed about the lack of recognition of the contemporary form of female representation in art and literature which had gone from the Lillian Russell-type to the Gibson Girl to the Lillie Langtry image while Taft had apparently chosen "packing house ladies" as his female form.

Here's what Langtry looked like:


As you can see her waist is rather... corseted I should think.

Corsets, perhaps, make passions seethe...
but tell me - can the poor girl breathe?

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Auditions Went Well

I was very pleased with auditions for the new full-length play I've written. We had loads of talented people show up. The director still has some decisions to make. For us, it's the kind of problem you would rather have: multiple strong contenders.

As I was sitting there tonight, listening to actors read my lines, it occurred to me that this was the first time I was hearing them read - that I had been so confident about this play that I had skipped the step of having actors read it aloud, which one does as a way to evaluate whether the play "works".

My first full-length play was initially developed while I was taking play-writing classes. It was read in class, by fellow writers and by actors, with classroom feedback. I also made various changes based on formal evaluations by experienced theater people. Then I had it read in 2 different organized readings by actors with outside audience members, and I made various modifications based on comments I received. I even changed the sex of one character. There was a big gap, 8 years, between when I started writing the play, and when it received a full production.

My second full-length play was written after the first was produced. I felt more confident. But, again, I organized a public reading by actors and invited audience members - friends and family members. The reaction wasn't quite what I wanted and I realized I wasn't completely happy with the ending I had written. Extensive rewriting followed, particularly of the final scene, culminating in a wild burst one holiday weekend. I liked the new ending a lot better, it seemed to flow more logically and definitively, and the audience enjoyed it the surprise resolution.

But this third full-length was written in a hurry, it was one of those "writing itself" experiences once it got going, and I felt unusually confident about it when I was done. So I jumped ahead toward production without having a reading. And sometime tonight, the second night of auditions, I realized I had been hearing these lines, outside my head, for the first time.

This was true for the director too. She said she had been a little bit worried about the style of the writing, but that it seemed to work fine when performed. The characters, individually, plunked down in reality, speaking as they do, would seem odd. But somehow, when they are on stage together, their mode of speech seems natural enough.

As we like to say,
in the world of the play,
it comes out okay.

Monday, July 08, 2013


I posted something yesterday about a "blast from my undergraduate past", and I got to thinking about that. I don't think that's proper usage, for me, since I never went to graduate school.

I think I should just say "blast from my college past".

What do you think?

I'm afraid I picked up the use of "undergraduate" from hanging about with people with more advanced degrees.

But, I cannot lie,
when it comes to college degrees,
I'm just a bachelor guy,
and that did not come with ease.

Chicago Reach For The Stars

We went to an OCON session tonight called Chicago Reach For The Stars, which seemed partly designed to introduce out-of-town conference attendees to some of the city's good points. There were 3 speakers, each with solid, lively presentations:

Shoshana Milgram spoke of Ayn Rand's stay here when she first came to America. She's working on a new biography of Rand, and has access to the estate's archives.

Stephen Siek spoke of the city's architectural development.

Jonathan Hoenig, a.k.a. "The Capitalist Pig," explained commodity trading, one of the town's major industries.

My wife and I are native Chicagoans, so in some ways we weren't the intended audience, but I wanted to hear Professor Milgram's talk, because I figured she would have interesting "new" details, and because I remembered her from years ago.

I hadn't seen Shoshana since we were undergrads, so it was a great pleasure to see her presentation and to speak with her afterwards. I also caught up with another couple of old friends that I knew from my college days.

I was kind of a blast
from my undergraduate past.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Mulberries As A Running Supplement

Mulberry trees are considered weed trees here in the Chicago area. They grow even when you don't want them to grow. And when their berries ripen, they drop and stain the concrete and street. You never hear of anyone around here baking a mulberry pie, although Wikipedia assures me the practice is common.

It may be the kind of mulberries that we have. I think it's this kind:

The fruit of the white mulberry, an east Asian species which is extensively naturalized in urban regions of eastern North America, has a different flavor, sometimes characterized as insipid.

Who would want to eat something with a flavor that's insipid?

Yes, you guessed it. Me.

Particularly today, I was out running for a couple of hours in the heat, and I would come up on some ripe mulberries hanging over my route, I was eager to partake. I mean, people, me included, sometimes pay money to carry things like Powergel packets on their runs. And what is in those gel packs? Sugar. Maybe some anti-oxidants. About the same stuff that's in mulberries! And how do you imagine those gel packs taste? Well, to me they're not even as tasty as mulberries. And the mulberries, when they're in season, are free for the picking.


But one drawback is plain.
Mulberries tend to stain.

Sides for Auditions

Tonight I've been preparing sides for auditions for my new play. What are sides, you ask?

Instead of the actors coming in and reciting a prepared monologue, they come in, read something you hand them, rehearse it a bit, and then perform it, script in hand, for the auditors.

The main challenge in preparing sides, for me, was that several of my characters only appeal in big multi-character scenes. You see, for practical purposes, for making sure every actor gets a chance to audition in a reasonable time slot, it's best if the sides only involve 2 characters. So you look for a scene that is mainly a conversation between Ann and Bob, and you try to yank out remarks that come in from Carol or Dennis. Sometimes you transplant a little, maybe giving Ann a line that really belongs to Carol.

The success of a play audition rides
on having an ample supply of sides.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Mystery of the New Lyric

I've known for decades that one of Ayn Rand's Chicago relatives owned a movie theater. Today I read, in an article, based on archival research done by Shoshana Milgram, that this movie theater was key to Rand's getting out of Russia.

One of the Portnoys’ children, Sarah, owned a movie theatre, which made it easier to obtain Communist Party permission to study film in America, as Vladimir Lenin had designated cinema as the most important art.

And where in Chicago was the theater?

Thanks to a movie diary that young Rand kept, it’s clear that she saw many movies at Sarah’s theater, known as the New Lyric in 1926 and located on West 57th Street near South Halsted.

But I have found other evidence online, at a site devoted to old movie theaters, that the New Lyric was actually located on West 47th, not 57th.

Open since at least 1913, originally known as the Colleen Theater, this small house, first operated as a nickelodeon by Hyman Lieberthal, stood on 47th Street at Emerald Avenue in the Canaryville neighborhood.

By the early-1920’s, the theater was called the New Lyric Theater, and by the late-1940’s, had been renamed the Mid-Town Theater. The former theater most recently housed a bar, but has since been razed along with most of the block it stood on and replaced by a condominium building.

The address given at the above site, 718 W. 47th, is indeed near Halsted. And 47th is a commercial street, whereas 57th is a residential street, so it seems a lot more likely to have been on 47th.

Just to add to the confusion, however, another online compilation of movie houses puts the Midtown Theater at 718 WEST 47th, but puts the New Lyric at 718 EAST 47th.

I suppose I could go and look up property records at the County Clerk's office. Or maybe look at the movie ads in old newspapers from the time when I know Rand was in Chi-town.

Maybe the article just reflected a typo. Maybe I am way over-researching this.

I don't mean to grouse,
but where exactly was this movie house?

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Ripped Off

Photographed on State Street, that great street:


The frame was locked, but due to theft,
it looks like only the frame is left.

People, lock your wheels,
for reals!

Tuesday, July 02, 2013


The NY Times insinuates that the motive is partly electoral:

That's the employer mandate. I guess the individual mandate (a.k.a. "tax") is still in place.

A bit of train wreck
has been delayed.

But as for the rest,
they will not be stayed!

Girl In White, Beast On Floor

My little vacation in DC is over. Most of it had been spent indoors, at the conference, until today, when we went traipsing around the city a bit, visiting the National Gallery and the Smithsonian.

Saw Whistler's Symphony in White #1, also known as Girl In White, which is kind of weird in its way:


It's a BIG painting (84.5 in × 42.5 in), and that dead beast at her feet really jumps out at you. There seems to be a question whether that's a bear or a wolf. The Wikipedia article on the painting opens with a claim that it's a wolf, and closes with a reference to it as a bear.


Is it a wolf, or is it a bear?
No, it's a rug. So there!