Tuesday, January 31, 2012

On the Way to Work This Morning...

January has come to its end--please don't ask me where it went, for I do not know--and the last of the Christmas trees and holiday wreaths litter alleys all around my neighborhood.

The presence of the wreaths is logical, I guess--many people keep them up well into the New Year, and even the heartiest of the "live" wreaths has to dry up sometime.

I've always wondered about those trees, though: Do they sit in people's yards and gangways for days before someone summons the energy and will to drag them to the trash, or do people really keep formerly living trees up in their living rooms this long?

Granted, I saw a fully decorated white Christmas tree peeking out of the second-story window of an apartment building just last week, but that tree was clearly artificial. It may have been up well past the reasonable time to take it down, but it posed no potential hazard beyond annoyance. I've been there--once left my artificial three-footer up until around Valentine's Day.

But leaving up a real tree for that long? That's just asking for disaster.

Every Picture Tells a Story: 1/31/12

I've read tons of shit written about Lana Del Rey, yet have successfully (thus far, anyway) avoided hearing one note of her music. Even when I watched her (now-infamous) "performance" on Saturday Night Live, I did so with my headphones off; she looked stage-frightened at best and woefully unprepared at worst. Does her music suck that badly, or does it offend the eardrums of the populace because Del Rey seems to have been assembled via focus group? Her first album drops today, so I guess we'll all find out.

Monday, January 30, 2012

This Week's Travel Reading

(This week's photo was taken while actually in transit!)

One of the main reasons why I wanted, for the longest time, to be a film critic was that, as a resident of Chicago, I had the pleasure of reading Roger Ebert multiple times a week in The Chicago Sun-Times. I have all of his "Great Movies" collections--though, oddly, I bought the third one first, the first one second and the second one last. I always found him to be one of the great writers about film--an essayist first, a critic second--and his "Great Movies" books are filled with in-depth analyses of inarguable great movies like King Kong, Ran and the Adventures of Robin Hood; movies than need to have a case made for them, like Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia and The Man Who Laughs (which I reviewed here); and movies that are as repugnant as they are great; he does a splendid job exploring the dichotomy of D.W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation, at once a singularly vital link in the history of visual narrative storytelling and one of the most virulent examples of racism every committed to celluloid.

Every Picture Tells a Story: 1/30/12

Pigeons huddle together for warmth under the heat lamps at the Western Avenue Brown Line stop.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

This Week's Travel Reading

In case you don't know, Archer is an animated series on FX that spoofs the spy genre (self-)centering around none-too-bright not-so-secret agent Sterling Archer, his boss (who also happens to be his mom, with whom he has a, um, complicated relationship) and his coworkers. It's colorful, relentlessly and aggressively politically incorrect and often hilarious.

The companion book, which came out in conjunction with the 3rd season premiere of Archer last week and serves as a faux guide on how to be a super spy, certainly has its moments as well. It's written almost entirely from the perspective of Archer himself. The problem with that, though, is that there are no other characters to provide relief from Archer's sexism, racism, homophobia and general idiocy. On the plus side--the cocktail section provides actual recipes for drinks, so yay!

Every Picture Tells a Story: 1/26/12

Happy birthday to my best friend, JB!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

On The Way Home Friday Night...

It snowed vigorously enough Friday afternoon that my employer let us out early. Here's what I saw on the way home.

Every Picture Tells a Story: 1/24/12

Just because it's carved in stone doesn't mean it will last forever. Consider this cornerstone on the post office at Irving Park and Southport, where decades of wind and precipitation have worn away all but the largest names engraved there.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Every Picture Tells a Story: 1/23/12

It had been there as long as I could remember--the rundown-looking pizza place on Irving Park Road just west of Kedzie.

Even before I'd moved into the neighborhood, I'd known Manzo'. One of my best friends from high school loved the place, so we ate there from time to time in the dining room that, in my memory at least, was dark and ancient, the kind of place where wise guys would meet up with aldermen to deliver payoffs and marching orders, hoping to hell that that the booths weren't bugged.

The photo above was taken last summer. At the time, I didn't know it would be the last photo I'd take of Manzo's.

Last week, Manzo's was torn down.

I wasn't overly surprised. Like I said, Manzo's looked worn out, even from the outside, and the supermarket next door had gone out of business at least a decade earlier. After the barricade went up around the adjoined buildings, I looked at the sign on Manzo's front door. It thanked patrons for their 20+ years (Manzo's was much older than that, so this must have been a message from the then-current owners) and announced that they would reopen in a new space with a new concept and new attitude--in other words, another restaurant, but nothing like Manzo's.

A sign attached to the barricade announced that a Chase bank branch would be built on the site. Great. Yet another bank branch swallowing up yet another corner. Yet another corner that looks like yet another corner. No business with a personality--even a well-worn one--of its own.

No Manzo's.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Every Picture Tells a Story: 1/19/12

I'm not sure if this face is intentional art or happenstance, but it was peeking out at me the last time I went to the Davis.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Before the Thaw

Before much of it melts today (only to freeze over again tomorrow), here are a couple of snow shots from Saturday.

This Week's Travel Reading

Yes. I know. Christmas is over with. However, I must say that it's never a bad time to read a story in a bad Santa is dispatched with a shovel and the none-too-bright title character performs a yuletide miracle that goes horribly, horribly wrong.

Every Picture Tells a Story: 1/16/12

Friday, January 13, 2012

On the Way Home Last Night...

After what had been, up to Wednesday night, a surprisingly--even disturbingly--mild winter, reality finally set back in yesterday as we got hit with our first proper snowstorm of the season. It wasn't nearly as bad as, say, Snowmageddon 2011, but many buildings and objects looked like they'd been spray-painted white on my way home last night.

Every Picture Tells a Story: 1/13/12

The newest magnet on my fridgie seems appropriate for today.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Every Picture Tells a Story: 1/12/12

They can be found in every alley throughout my neighborhood, propped against garages or covered by large plastic bags or, like this one, lying on its side--the pines and wreathes and spans of garland, waiting for the garbage truck to lumber by.

Monday, January 9, 2012

This Week's Travel Reading

It's a shame that Dan Abnett spends a good chunk of the novel hiding the fact that the Ice Warriors are the main bad guys when somebody at the publisher decided to plunk a picture of the Ice Warriors right on the dust jacket. To be fair, though, longtime fan likely would have figured that out anyway, and seeing the fan-favorite monsters from the original Doctor Who series might entice said longtime fans to buy the book. (It worked on me.)

On the Way to Work This Morning...

Christmas has long since passed. New Year's Eve and Day as well. And now, January 6--whether you call it Epiphany, Three Kings Day, Orthodox Christmas or the 12th Day of Christmas--is receding in the rear-view mirror. So the time has come to take down the city tree at Daley Center Plaza. Ordinarily, this would fill me with melancholy.

However, since I was already filled with melancholy this holiday season, for various reasons, and was none too pleased with this year's official Christmas tree, the city crews winding up the lights and bringing the tree down will be met with a listless shrug.

Every Picture Tells a Story: 1/9/12

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Every Picture Tells a Story: 1/4/12

Random stickers on a lamp post near my apartment.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year's Day

The festive New Year's postcard above was mailed from someone in Minneapolis to someone else in that same city nearly 100 years ago, yet the card itself, featuring artwork by famed postcard illustrator Ellen Clapsaddle, looks like it could have been sent yesterday.

Happy New Year, everybody!