Friday, February 26, 2010

Every Picture Tells a Story: 2/26/10

One year ago today, a flame went out that should still be burning warm and bright.

We miss you, Kaytee.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Adoresixtyfour: The Lost Files, Vol. 15

Another batch of long-missing essays--a couple more entries in the "Vanishing Chicago" series, and other pieces of my mundane life:

(Dis)comfort Food

Marshall Field's

Of Possums and Procrastinators

Saturday Night at the Laundromat

Every Picture Tells a Story: 2/18/10

A couple of sparkly, sparkly vampires...oh, and their dull, mopey human friend.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Every Picture Tells a Story: 2/16/10

The intersection of Jackson and State on a cold winter's evening.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Wednesday Miscellania

What better way to get over Hump Day than with random thoughts from me?

*sound of crickets chirping*


The last movie I saw: The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus. Terry Gilliam movies tend to be glossy messes overstuffed with imaginative, engaging visuals undercut by meandering, unfocused plots. They also tend to be star-crossed, with financing falls though, studios interfering with editing or, in this case, the lead actor, Heath Ledger, passing away mid-production.

Gilliam found a creative way around this sad problem, though: He cast three other high-profile actors--Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Ferrell--to fill in for Ledger in the scenes that take place within the imagination-made-sort-of-corporeal of the good doctor (Christopher Plummer). The device works reasonably well--Depp in particular gets Ledger's movements and vocal cadences down so minutely that it takes a moment to realize it isn't Ledger.

There are delights to be found here, including Tom Waits as a scruffy, smooth-talking Devil and Lily Cole as the gorgeous daughter the Devil here to collect from Parnassus. but the reality of Ledger's death impedes the fantasy and casts a pall over the whole production, especially since the script already contained musings on mortality ("Nothing is permanent," notes Depp's version of Ledger's character, Tony, "not even death").

Travel reading: Red Dragon by Thomas Harris. It amazes me that this book is nearly 30 years old. It further amazes me that, in all that time, I'd never read it. With all the graphic violence and psychological anguish on display, though, it was this passage that affected me the most:

[The note] said Birmingham police had found a cat buried behind the Jacobi's garage. The cat had a flower between its paws and was wrapped in a dish towel. The cat's name was written on the lid in a childish hand. It wore no collar. A string tied in a granny knot held the lid on.

In my case, there was no lid to tie on, only a towel--not a dish towel, but a royal blue bath towel I'd put in the "cat carrier" (really an orange milk crate with a hinged lid) so that Ms. Christopher would be reasonably comfortable. And it wasn't a flower between her paws, butt was her favorite kitty toys--one of those little burlap bags with the word "catnip" stenciled on the side that had long since its potency, though I'd rub it down with fresh catnip to make my Girlish Girl smile again.

Stealth Cattle Cars. This morning, I got a rude surprise on the CTA Brown Line. As I boarded the second car at Francisco, I looked around and realized that I was on a "Max Capacity" car--a car with seats removed to allow more standing passengers aboard, better known among regular riders as a "cattle car."

Usually, when I see that either the first two or last two cars of a train are "cattle cars" I dash to the closest "regular" car, but this time I didn't do that because I hadn't noticed the large orange signs indicating that it was a "Max Capacity" car. At the next stop, I got off and bunny-hopped to the third car of the train, only to discover that it was a "cattle car" as well. Furthermore, neither car had the typical "Max Capacity" signs on the outside of the car.

I didn't try scrambling down to the next car; I simply found a corner of the car, parked in it and fumed all the way into the Loop.

When I arrived at work, one of my coworkers who takes the Blue Line related a similar experience--she also wound up on a stealth "cattle car" and had to ride it all the way downtown.

Is it something CTA is only just doing because of the inclement weather (which usually drives up ridership temporarily), or is this a permanent shift in policy? If it's the latter--if I'm to play the part of livestock for every morning commute--then I'll be switching to Metra (the separate commuter rail system, which has two stops within long walking distance of La Casa del Terror) or trying to put together a carpool.

CTA may say that they don't have any options, that this is the best they can do. If that's truly the case, then their best isn't nearly good enough. Its true in retail, and it's true here as well: Serve the customer, or the customer will go somewhere else.

Every Picture Tells a Story: 2/10/10

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


To Mr. E on the passing of his kitty, Hazel , this past Friday night. I never had much contact with her--whenever I visited Mr. E's cozy abode, she generally kept her distance from me, though I recall one occasion where she not only came within arm's length of me, but actually allowed me to pet her.

That's not unusual--I know many pets who are shy around strangers, but who are warm and loving with their people. So it was with Mr. E and Hazel, and they had 16 1/2 great years together. There's not enough love in this world, much less unconditional love. 16 1/2 years' worth of time spent with a friend who smiled when her chin was scratched is worth quite a bit, it is.

Every Picture Tells a Story: 2/9/10

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Every Picture Tells a Story: 2/7/10

Two of my bus routes--the Irving Park Express and the Western Express--are being eliminated as of today. Service hours and frequency of service are also being reduced on nearly every bus and train line.

"The City That Works." Right.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Lack of Resolve

I hate making New Year’s resolutions. They feel like little admissions of defeat: "You don’t have enough self-control over what you eat or how much you exercise or how much you spend, so you have to make a list to remind you to do less of this and do more of that. Loser."

The sad fact is, though, that I really don’t exert enough control over parts of my life that should be well in my control. I should weigh less. I should exercise more. I shouldn’t owe as much as I do. I shouldn’t spend as much as I do. There needs to be more balance. There needs to be less stress.

So every year, I go back and forth, forth and back. Do I make resolutions? If so, would general goals be better than specific ones? Should I concentrate on one particular area for improvement--say, finances--or several--say, finances, health and creativity?

Most years, I decide against making a list--after all, I know what I need to do, so why not just get it done? Or not? While going through my documents folder on my work 'puter yesterday, though, I ran across something labeled "resolutions." From 2007. That I had completely forgotten I'd written.


With trepidation, I opened the document and checked out my resolutions from three years ago:

Use credit cards as little as possible; carry cards less frequently and pay in cash whenever possible. I rarely carry any of my cards with me, but large expenses the following year (especially relating to Ms. Christopher's illness) conspired to bring debt reduction to a standstill.

Eliminate at least one credit card this year, two if possible. I still haven't eliminated any of my cards, though one card cut my limit (while Christopher was sick--still haven't forgiven them for that) and another closed my account entirely.

Shop more for needs (groceries, clothing), less for wants (toys, DVDs). Sadly, this resolution has become reality. Shopping is now a most depressing exercise--it's not unusual for me to fill my basket, then walk around the store putting back about 75% of what I'd grabbed in the first place.

Make better use of economic assets: Sell off DVDs and CDs that get little use; continue to put spare change on transit card; cash in pennies at bank; sell items on eBay. I've sold off quite a few DVDs and CDs, but have yet to sell anything on eBay.

Bring lunch to work four days a week; set aside one day to go out for lunch. I bring lunch to work at least two days a week, usually three. Sometimes I make lunch and leave it in the fridge when I toddle off to the job. Sometimes, I remember to take the lunch out of the fridge, but leave it on the counter when I go to work.

Stay off of eBay unless looking for gifts for friends. I rarely buy gifts for friends on eBay these days, but I've cut way back on buying anything there, so there has been improvement in this area nonetheless.

Eat out less; go grocery shopping at least once a month. Other than occasionally ordering a pizza from Marie's or having an even more occasional dinner with friends, I usually make dinner myself. And by "make dinner," I mean "open a can of something and dump cheese and red pepper flakes on it."

Lose at least 20 more pounds. Er...I've actually gained weight since then.

Work out as least twice a week.I have bursts where I work out for weeks, then the routine gets broken for whatever reason--catch a cold, work late several nights in a row, etc.--and I never get back on it. Last month, I had two weeks where I worked out three times during the week, with many, many days where I didn't work out at all. This month? Two workouts--and counting.

Do at least 10 crunches every morning.Not so much. I do, however, do 40 crunches every time I work out, so if you spread those out over a month, it...still wouldn't add up to 10 a day.

Bring lunch to work four days a week; control portions.

Bring healthy snacks to work to augment lunch: Carrots, pretzels, dry cereal. I do this with the same regularity that I bring lunch--more often than I used to, but still not often enough.

Go to bed earlier—around 9:30 most nights. Ha! not even close. Most nights, I'm not in bed before 11, and not asleep before midnight. No wonder my dreams are so screwed up.

Get Canon AE-1 repaired and take more pictures. I did the first part--got Dad's old camera, which served me so well for so long, put back together properly. Wasn't cheap, but it was necessary. However, since Mom gave me the little digital camera that Christmas, I've rarely used the Canon AE-1, though I did recently dig it out when a friend said she needed head shots done. Its days may be numbered anyway--there aren't nearly as many film processors as there used to be, and the few that remain are shifting more and more toward digital.

Organize pictures better; make more large prints for sale. I only do large prints when friends request them and don't charge much beyond the procession cost. Not enough to pay my bus fare most days, much less actually supplement my income.

Update website at least twice a month; post movie reviews at least once a month. Well, the movie review thing fell to the side, but now that I upload photos to the bloggity nearly every day, there's fresh content on it far more often, though I now write essays on it a lot less. I have been working at getting old essays back up here, though. Looking back on my older writing has been somewhat revelatory--I like many of the essays and might just try collecting them in some sort of themed book, but I don't care for the movie reviews that much. Too much sass and snark, not enough analysis and informative commentary. In short, not all that well-written. No wonder I couldn't get a job as a critic--I'm not very good at it.

Every Picture Tells a Story: 2/4/10

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Oscar Noms 2010

In past years, I've written long, analytical essays about the Oscar nominations, either the day after they came out or, more likely, just before the Academy Awards ceremony at the end of February (or, as it happens this year, the first Sunday in March).

This year, though, is different. This year, I can say with absolute honesty that I don't give a damn.

It's not just that I've seen so few of the nominated movies and performances. I caught four of the Best Picture nominees last year, and most years that would mean something. Not so much now that the Best Picture category has been expanded to ten movies (from its usual five). This is not unprecedented--the Academy routinely nominated 10 pictures per year into the 1940s.

It's also not just that so many of the acting races this year appear to have been decided already. Jeff Bridges will win a long-overdue Oscar for Best Actor for Crazy Heart. Sandra Bullock will likely win Best Actress for The Blind Side.Christoph Waltz is a lock for Best Supporting Actor for Inglourious Basterds, and it would be a major surprise if Mo'Nique didn't win Best Supporting Actress for Precious.

I think it comes down to the ceremony itself. It just rambles, no matter how excited I am about individual nominees.

From time to time, the Academy tries different things to slim down the telecast, but nothing ever really changes--it remains the longest, dullest awards ceremony on television, and I just don't have the patience for it anymore. Plus, since I've seen so few of the nominated movies (hence I don't have anyone to root for) and so many of the races are foregone conclusions anyway, it would be a monumental waste of time for me to sit there for nearly four hours awaiting outcomes for which I care not one bit.

So for that Sunday night, I'll fine something else--something better--to do. Cook a nice meal. Play some jazz (my recently acquired copy of the Dave Brubeck Quartet's Time Out would do nicely). Channel-flip. Do my taxes.

Or, best of all, whether I go out or stay in, I can do the most appropriate thing of all: Watch a good movie.

Every Picture Tells a Story: 2/3/10

Monday, February 1, 2010

How the Cookie Crumbles

Wow! I made it all the way to February without being eaten! Yay! Who'd have thought...
Wait...why's it getting so dark?
Well...this just sucks.