Friday, July 31, 2009

Who Knew This Was a Problem?

When in Portland, watch out for zombie strippers!

Every Picture Tells a Story: Friday BONUS

"One martini. Two martini. Three martini. Floor." Dorothy Parker

Every Picture Tells a Story: 7/31/09

The African violet in the living room window of La Casa del Terror.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Every Picture Tells a Story: 7/30/09

A pretty darned happy-looking corn on the cob and burger at Russell's Bar-B-Q in Elmwood Park, IL.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Every Picture Tells a Story: 7/29/09

Two action figures guarding my medicine cabinet.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Monday, July 27, 2009

Friday, July 24, 2009

Friday is Bring Your Talking Chihuahua to Work Day

A dozen years ago or so, a fast-food chain ran what was intended to be a one-off commercial featuring a talking chihuahua who's heart's desire is--what else?--the fare of said fast-food chain.

The commercial was a huge success, even though some thought the depiction of a heavily-accented Mexican dog was stereotypical, and the chihuahua appeared in numerous other commercials for the chain over the next three years, always mouthing "his" pop culture-marking tagline: "Yo quiero Taco Bell." The chain even distributed plush toys of the chihuahua like the one pictured above, which speaks four different phrases, including a couple tying into the American version of Godzilla that came out in 1998.

Turns out the little dog wasn't a "he" at all, but a "she" named Gidget, who, after the Taco Bell campaign ended, made a few more appearances before retiring to a life of walking on the beach and sleeping in the sun.

This past Tuesday, Gidget suffered a stroke and had to be put to sleep. She was 15 years old--a pretty good age for a chihuahua.

Rest well, li'l pup.

Every Picture Tells a Story: 7/24/09

Not sure what kind of bird this is--maybe a really young robin? Anyway, it was about the size of a tennis ball and chirping its head off.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Every Picture Tells a Story: 7/23/09

Face on building (possibly a former movie theater), Fullerton & Central Park.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Every Picture Tells a Story: 7/22/09

Mr. Steer, on Milwaukee Ave. across the street from the Portage Theater; the restaurant has been closed for years, but the sign and building remain.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Monday, July 20, 2009

Every Picture Tells a Story: 7/20/09

Pattern on building, Irving Park near Albany.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sunday Afternoon

Seven sparrows
hop and dance

between and around
the black wheels of

the cart parked
on the green corner

where the man
in the white mesh

baseball cap and
blue golf shirt

sells elotes

Every Picture Tells a Story: 7/19/09

Circular patterns drawn on a steel plate covering a hole in a sidewalk in Uptown.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Friday, July 17, 2009


I was off work yesterday with a migraine. Today? My head still hurts, but if yesterday was a 10, today is a 3. Could be worse. Could be raining...oh,'ll be doing that later. Damn.

And now? A few random thoughts:

1. Dear Internets: Please stop showing me photos of gross, crooked teeth. Whatever the advertised product it--dental services, teeth whiteners, whatever--the nasty-looking photos are keeping me away. You're wasting my time and your effort and cash. So stop it. Please. Thank you.

2. While I have your ear, Internets...please stop showing me video of Michael Jackson's head on fire. The man is dead well before his time. Trying to figure out why he was (allegedly) addicted to prescription pain killers would have been a lot more useful when he was alive.

3. I like the cooler weather of fall and spring, but find it disconcerting in July. the average high for tomorrow in Chicago is 84; the projected high temperature doesn't break 70. That would be great if this were May or October. But in July? This worries me.

4. I really don't have a fourth thing to say. Maybe I could come up with one if my head didn't still hurt. But it does. Ow.

Every Picture Tells a Story: 7/17/09

The fabulous Portage Theater, home to the Silent Summer Film Festival (starting July 24) that was used as a stand-in for the interior of the Biograph Theater for the film Public Enemies (the Biograph having been converted in recent years into a live theater).

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Every Picture Tells a Story: 7/14/09

Two faces outside the Bank of America Theater (formerly the Schubert) in downtown Chicago.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Public Land, Private Gain, Part 5

In this week's issue of Crain's Chicago Business, columnist Greg Hinz reports that the plan to move the Chicago Children's Museum from its current home on Navy Pier to the northern end of Grant Park--strongly backed by Mayor Richard M. Daley, who rammed the proposal through the Park District board and the City Council with all the subtlety of a mallet pounding a square peg into a round hole--is in trouble, if not outright dire straits.

I'd love to say that common sense is making a big comeback--that somebody in authority somewhere along the line realized that cramming the Children's Museum, a private entity, into a mostly underground facility on a small plot of public land was a monumentally bad idea and threw the plan into reverse.

That, however, is not the case. The monkey wrench in the works is more basic--and more daunting.

It's the economy, stupid.

Donations to the Museum have fallen while construction costs have risen. A Museum spokesperson insists that the plan is "moving forward." But it's difficult for any vehicle to move forward without fuel, and the fuel in this case--cold, hard cash--is lacking.

Maybe this will put an end to this ill-conceived, politically charged plan. I wouldn't count on it, though. Mayor Daley rarely gives up on what he wants, and rarely has to, with a compliant City Council and electorate to work with.

One can hope, though. One can hope.

Every Picture Tells a Story: 7/13/09

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Every Picture Tells a Story: 7/12/09

Concrete stamp on Western Avenue near Iowa Street.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Every Picture Tells a Story: 7/7/09

A cold glass of Negra Modelo on JB's coffee table.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Vanishing Chicago: The Unvanishing

Most of Chicago's operating movie theaters are not, in the grand scheme of things, very old. Many are megaplexes built during the boom periods for such construction (from the 1970s on), and many of the surviving older theaters have either been repurposed (like the Biograph, the Chicago, the Congress, the Riviera and the Chopin, all of which now host live performances) or sit silent, awaiting revival or demolition (the Patio, the Uptown, the Esquire, the Ramova).

Some of the elderly movie houses have hung on. The Davis (opened in 1918) thrives as a first-run theater in Lincoln Square after being threatened with demolition/condo conversion and the Logan (opened in 1915) shows second-run movies in Logan Square.

One that stuck around for quite a while was a small theater in the Rogers Park neighborhood, which first opened in 1912 and operated under various names--the Regent, the 400, the Village North (when it was affiliated with the Village theater chain) and finally the Visionary--before shutting down in January of this year.

Usually, when such older theaters shut down, that's pretty much it--revival is, at best, a faint hope. And in the current economic downturn, such hopes are faint indeed.

But a faint hope is still a hope, isn't it?

I'd heard the rumors for a couple of months: the little movie house on Sheridan Road (divided from one screen into two, then four, many years ago) was being worked on. Somebody was trying to breathe life back into it.

So when I saw on Fandango that showtimes were listed for the New 400, I wasn't entirely surprise--but was completely intrigued.

My last visit to the theater, then under its Village North name, had been a resolutely unpleasant one. It was November, 2007. I was there to watch Stephen King's The Mist in order to write a review of it for a website I was associated with at that time. It was a cold day (as November days in Chicago often are), and even though I'd arrived only 15 minutes before showtime and the staff could clearly see me and a few other brave souls milling about outside, they kept the doors locked until five minutes before showtime.

Once we were finally let in, things didn't get any warmer--the theater was "having issues" with People's Gas, a note on the door said. The staff seemed to be extras from a George Romero movie, uninterested even in taking our money, much less selling us popcorn or answering any questions we might have had. All in all, it was a thoroughly miserable moviegoing experience, and I decided to never go there again.

(That may sound unduly harsh, but I'd had virtually the same experience at the Lincoln Village, also affiliated with the Village chain, just a couple of weeks before. By no great coincidence, the Lincoln Village also closed around the same time as the Village North; it remains closed today.)

But that was then and this is not, so I planned a trip to the New 400 over the Independence Day weekend.

I got out the door later than planned on Sunday--that'll happen when you sleep till noon--and CTA was about as cooperative as usual (you sure you want an Olympics here, Mayor Daley, when the transportation system can't handle the passengers it already has? On a perfectly clear Sunday afternoon?), but I still managed to make it to the theater just before showtime.

The New 400 was cleaner than when I last visited--not that it was a pigsty before, but the carpet looked bright (perhaps even new), the seats felt comfy (possibly also new), and the faint scent of fresh paint still lingered in the air.

The biggest change in the theater, though, was in the attitude of the new staff. They were friendly, lively, and helpful. They seemed glad to have me there. On my way out of seeing Public Enemies--a wonderful-looking take on bank robber John Dillinger and G-man Melvin Purvis that uses many Chicago locations and gets the period detail just about right, but never gets under the surface of either the criminal or the lawman (kind of like going to the most finely appointed wax museum you're ever likely to visit), the attendant thanked me for coming and wished me a good day.

On the way out, the clerk at the front was explaining the series of name changes the theater had undergone over the years to a patron--"...and now we're back to the 400," she concluded--and I swung over and added, "And we're glad to have the 400 back, too." She smiled with genuine enthusiasm and thanked me for the compliment--"Very good to hear!"

Very good to be able to say it, too.

Every Picture Tells a Story: 7/6/09

Thursday, July 2, 2009


So reads the headline, in huge white block letters, on the cover of today's RedEye. In slightly smaller type, though still in white block letters, it says "SHE'S NOT EITHER." And in smaller white type at the bottom of the page: "And chances are, neither are you. New sex stats are out--and Chicago is one frigid city."

I suppose I should take comfort in the fact that so many of my fellow Chicagoans also aren't getting any, though I doubt most of them have spent as much time on the windswept plains of the planet Dune as I have (12 years and counting).

But I don't.

Thursday is Bring Even More Patriotic Heroes to Work Day

Since the 4th of July falls on a Saturday this year, we get to have Friday off. And since we have Friday off, Bring Your Action Figure to Work Day moves up one.

As this is America's most patriotic holiday--celebrating, as it does, the signing of the Declaration of Independence--it seemed appropriate to bring in a collection of patriotic heroes, including:

The Shield, previously seen a few weeks ago, but not seen here because he's being blocked out in the photo above by...

The current Captain America, who took over after the original Cap was shot to death a couple of years ago (although Marvel Comics is, quite predictably, bringing the original back from the dead--as I told a coworker earlier today, "he's dead, but he's getting better"). This new Cap is actually Bucky Barnes, the original's sidekick who was long thought to be dead, but was actually a Russian assassin called the Winter Soldier who...OK, it's pretty damn complicated, but the current Captain America comic is one of the best-written on the market today, so go buy it or the series of trade paperback reprints of it. It's really good. Trust me.

There is also Steel, who also fought in World War II, but was created by DC Comics in the late '70s as a sort-of Captain America ripoff

The original Captain America stands in the middle, holding his old-school shield (as it appeared in Captain America Comics #1, but not thereafter--the comic book company that published the adventures of The Shield threatened to sue, so Cap's shield was changed to a round one with the second issue and has been round ever since).

Also carrying a shield (and a honkin' battleaxe) is Wonder Woman--technically not an American, but she wears the colors of our nation and also kicked Nazi ass in WW II, so she fits in perfectly.

Even Iron Man has been swept up in the patriotic fervor and is wearing red, white & blue armor (with coordinating shield).

On the end, we have American Maid from Fox's Tick cartoon. She cleans everything--including your clock!

And last, but far from least, we have, presiding over all, Uncle Sam himself, the living embodiment of the American spirit.

Happy Independence Day, everybody.

Every Picture Tells a Story: 7/2/09

A reissue of the classic aurora Mummy model kit, painted by yours truly back in the '80s.