Thursday, June 30, 2011

This Week's Transit Reading

City Hall

I may be suitably appalled at the shenanigans that take place in this building on any given day, but there's no denying that the building itself is a honey.

On the Way to Work This Morning

Every Picture Tells a Story: 6/30/11

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Sharks in the Water

News trucks line Sunnyside Avenue, their antennas and dishes all tuned to transmit glimpses of newly convicted former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. Or maybe his wife. Or their children. Even a family pet would do.

For Dinner Last Night...

White borscht soup with Hungarian sausage. Mrs. Fluffy would be proud.

Every Picture Tells a Story: 6/28/11

Monday, June 27, 2011

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Week Is Over

When mighty Darkseid fell down face-first on my desk, I knew it was time to go home.

Have a good weekend, everybody.

Every Little Victory Counts

This morning, I paid off one of my credit cards.

This is a big deal for me. A huge deal, actually. I'd wanted to pay this particular card off for some time--not just because it would decrease my overall debt (which it has, of course), but because I bore this card a particular grudge.

You see, they cut my limit. Twice. The first time when I was unemployed (and leaning more on my plastic than usual), and I was doing a not-so-smart thing: Using balance transfer checks to stay afloat. I decided to pay off a large portion of one of my cards with a balance transfer check from this one, only to find they'd cut my limit, a move that not only restricted my financial movements, but also caused me to default on my payment to that other card. (That card has since closed my account; this incident was no doubt one of their deciding factors).

The second time came when I was using the card in question to pay Ms. Christopher's medical bills, which were, as you might imagine, quite extensive. The notice that they were cutting my limit (again) arrived just days after Christopher died. To say that I took this personally, at a time when I was emotionally raw, would be a vast understatement. It seemed then (as it does now) like they reviewed my account and said, "Hey, this guy looks likes he's down. This would be a really good time to kick him, don't you think?" And so they did.

I cut up the card that night.

It's taken some time and determination, but yesterday I was ready to finally shovel dirt onto this account. I stopped at the bank, drew the funds, and bought the money order on the way home. When I got there, I celebrated thusly: Two Italian beefs with American cheese and giardiniera from the newly opened Al's Beef at Wabash and Jackson (in the spot where the Burger King had been back in my Columbia College days).A low-key celebration, to be sure--to Olivia, it wasn't much different than any other Thursday night--but for once, I wasn't merely content, but happy. And I still am today.

That's one credit card down--only four to go.

RIP Gene Colan

When I started reading comic books back in the early '70s, I quickly became aware of the names of the artists who penciled and inked the adventures of the popular super heroes of the day and quickly was drawn (pun very intended) to certain favorites, for different reasons.

I liked the smooth, almost shiny lines of John Romita Sr. on The Amazing Spider-Man, the muscular dynamism of John Buscema on the Fantastic Four, the rough realism of Neal Adams and Dick Giordano on Green Lantern/Green Arrow, the epic scope of Jack Kirby's Fourth World titles, the visual energy of Gil Kane on pretty much everything he did.

Some of the artists were pushing the boundaries of graphic storytelling, while others were, in their own ways, maintaining the house styles of the Big Two cmic book companies, Marvel and DC.

One artist who never really fit anyone's house style, though, was Gene Colan.

"Mood" isn't a word generally associated with super-hero comics, but Colan's art was drenched in mood, which extreme angles and heavy shadows (which must have driven his inkers crazy). His Daredevil was a melancholy fellow--sure, he was a super hero with athletic prowess and amazing fighting skills, but he was also a blind man, denied the simplest visual pleasures the sighted take for granted. His Batman carried the emotional burden of his parents' deaths and all the criminal insanity he'd witnessed over the years more heavily than most artists' interpretations. His Iron Man didn't merely wear a suit of armor, but a seemingly living extension of the man inside the armor, bringing a humanity to the character that most artists couldn't reach.

Colan is probably best known today for his lengthy run on Marvel's mid-'70s horror comic, Tomb of Dracula--he was the only penciler for all 71 issues--and his style was perfectly suited to the material, with heavy shadows barely concealing the most terrible of things that did a lot more than go "bump" in the night.

One hero you wouldn't think suited Colan's style particularly well was Captain America, but he had a lengthy association with the good Captain (coming soon to a multiplex near you)--his first cover was for an issue of Captain America back in the 1940s,he had a lengthy run with the character in the '70s, and his last comic book work was on an issue of Captain America a couple of years ago. Even Colan's Howard the Duck--a character so ridiculous and cartoony that he was difficult to take seriously, even within the context of comic books--carried more weight and depth than most interpretations, strangely heightening the comedy in his run on the title.

Gene Colan passed away last night after lengthy bouts with a multitude of illnesses. He was 84 years old.

On the Way in to Work This Morning...

I was in a somewhat celebratory mood on the way in to work this morning (more on that later), so I stopped by Dunkin' Donuts and picked up an apple fritter to go with my extra-large cup of joe. Granted, it's not as good as a fritter from the Long Grove Apple Fest, but what could be that good, really? This fritter will more than do for this morning.

Every Picture Tells a Story: 6/24/11

Monday, June 20, 2011

Fog City, Part 3

The fog-shrouded skyline, with the lights of Wrigley Field just barely able to punch through, as seen from JB's living room window late Saturday afternoon.

Every Picture Tells a Story: 6/20/11

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Today for Lunch...

This month's birthday celebration at work had an Asian flavor (literally). My contribution: Orange chicken.

Every Picture Tells a Story: 6/16/11

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Fog City, Part 2

Just another cotton-shrouded early evening after work in Chicago.

Every Picture Tells a Story: 6/15/11

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Lake Theatre

That's where Mr. E and I were headed last night to take part in their fun and festive 75th anniversary celebration--they're showing movies from that opening year of 1936, like Modern Times, After the Thin Man and Tarzan Escapes. Last night's selection? My Man Godfrey, the classic screwball comedy starring William Powell and Carole Lombard. Two problems: I wound up working yesterday (instead of taking the day off as planned), so we were delayed in getting to Oak Park until I could get out of work for the day; and we didn't buy our tickets in advance.

Thus, we were substantially disappointed to find that the show had sold out. (Who expects a 75-year-old movie to sell out?)

Oh well. The series runs through the end of the year on the second Monday of each month. and Modern Times is the selection for July. Try, try again.

Every Picture Tells a Story: 6/14/11

Friday, June 10, 2011

Every Picture Tells a Story: 6/10/11

It's Friday--stop and smell the white roses.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


At the corner of
State and Madison
the heat has melted
much of the color
from the world
leaving behind
little but baked air.

On the Way in to Work This Morning...

It was 90-something Monday. It was 90-something Tuesday. It'll be 90-something again today. I'm wilting.

Every Picture Tells a Story: 6/8/11

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Friday Night at the Patio

Last Friday evening was the first Friday evening it about 10 years for the Patio, which the owners have repaired, cleaned up and reopened. The crowd was substantial--not capacity (which would be difficult, considering that it has 1,500 seats), but it easily counted in the high hundreds, so Mr. E and I had plenty of company. The size of the crowd was pretty remarkable, considering that the opening night movie was Thor, which has been out for a month. And for anyone doubting that the throng was there for the theater, not necessarily the movie, there was this: Everyone started applauding and cheering when the green "preview" frame came up on screen. The lobby has been beautifully refurbished, and many photographers (professional and amateur) were standing around snapping shots both before and after the movie. I've seen many ticket booths over the years--the one at the Biograph comes to mind--but this is the first one I've actually seen in use. This is a pretty lousy picture, taken while Mr. E and I were out the door, but if you look closely, you can see the ticket taker giving me an enthusiastic "thumbs up." Right back atcha, buddy.