Chicago theater continues to dominate

Sheet music to "Give My Regards"

Image via Wikipedia

Two Chicago Dramatist members have been nominated for Ovation Awards from the LA Stage Alliance. The LA Stage Alliance Ovation Awards are the only peer-judged theater awards in LA. Lydia Diamond’s play Stick Fly has been nominated for Best Production, Director, Ensemble, Lighting and Scenic, and rising playwright darling Keith Huff received two nominations for his play The Bird And Mr. Banks, for Best Actor and Best Sound Design. For you non-theater buffs, Huff’s A Steady Rain is raking in cash and praise over on Broadway right now (the casting of Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig doesn’t hurt).

Lydia Diamond’s Stick Fly is unusual as it provides a glimpse into the lives of wealthy African-Americans living in Martha’s Vineyard, and the humorous clash with their lower-class family when they come to visit. The play delivers a love story as well as social, political and historical discussion. Read a review of the show here.

Keith Huff’s The Bird and Mr. Banks has a small cast, but focuses on the male lead, a Mr. Banks with a penchant for blood and birds. Mr. Banks, like any good horror character  lives in a house resembling “Norman Bates Modern”. The play is a bit gruesome, and the Best Sound Scape nomination is understandable once you know the play’s synopsis.

And in case you haven’t heard, the duo that brought us the Tony Award winning Urinetown are doing quite well with their newest musical number Yeast Nation: The Triumph of Life.  Playwrights Mark Hollman and Greg Kotis chose the ancient primordial soup as the backdrop for Yeast Nation, and the play has been so popular that its run has been extended until November 8th.  Yeast Nation recently received a Joseph Jefferson Award nomination (the Tony’s equivalent of Chicago).


Apple goes underground

The heroine from Apple's 1984 ad, set in a dys...

Image via Wikipedia

Am I selling out by showing some love to a big corporation?

A CTA spokeswoman confirmed that the transit authority is in talks with the computer and iPhone behemoth about a deal that could net the cash-strapped CTA as much as $4 million in funding from Apple to pay for an upgrade of the run-down subway station at North and Clybourn.

via Chicago Sun-Times

Through this deal, Apple will have first dibs on all advertisement going up in the renovated station, and considering how attractive Apple ads are, I am having a hard time protesting this development.  Apple also has an impressive track record for this kind of thing:

In the past Apple has provided improvements to sidewalks in in front of their stores, and has agreed to heritage preservation of its buildings, mostly in Europe. At the Regent Street (London) store the company paid to restore an intricate tile mosaic on the storefront, while at the SoHo (NYC) store they retained the historic shell of a former U.S. Post Office. At the San Francisco store, Apple’s architects incorporated the subway entrance into the store footprint and enclosed it with glass and stone.

via ifo AppleStore

When you compare KFC’s failed bid to fix our potholes with questionable asphalt and spray painted logos, Apple’s estimated 4 million for renovations makes them look like a saint. Nice try Apple, but I still won’t buy an i-phone….


Ripped your stockings? It's ok, you're in style!

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Image by le via Flickr

It is now officially stocking weather here in Chicago, and coincidently also my favorite time of the year.  I love my sheer tights, my colorful and wool  stockings and my thicker leggings, so naturally  I love the trend of ripped stockings. I don’t like to admit that I am taking fashion cues from the runway, Miley Cyrus or the Olsen Twins, but in this case I will make an exception.  I realize the popularity in ripped stockings is due to the grunge look making a comeback, but I like to (naively) think this trend is a response to the recession.  Before, I used to be ashamed of my rips and tears, dutifully using clean nail polish at the sight of the first run. My inability to buy new stockings embarrassed me (oh, financial woes!), but now, it’s a-ok.  I can walk around the city in style.

If you plan on ripping your stockings, I’d recommend using a safety pin or a needle and removing individual threads. There are a lot of DIY websites that suggest using a razor or scissors to make large horizontal slashes, but I find this unnecessary as large holes will eventually grow to an unruly size and become uncomfortable. The long runs  and small holes look is something I can get behind, however. I’d also recommend holding onto your clear nail polish and plugging up those runs and holes when they get close to your toes: there is nothing that makes me as miserable as having a stocking hole constrict the blood flow to my big toe.


A new website: Republicans for Rape

Do you remember Jamie Leigh Jones? She was drugged and brutally gang-raped while working for KBR and then confined to a shipping container after the incident. When I say brutally, I am talking about lacerations in her anus and vagina, and a damaged breast implant. It has taken years  for Jones to get her day in court, because when she signed her KBR contract, the fine print had an arbitration clause that stated all matters would be settled in a secret court. Al Franken set out to fix this problem recently by adding an amendment that gives defense contractor employees the right to sue in case they are raped, thus holding defense contractors responsible for their employees actions.

Maybe because it was Franken, or maybe they were voting along Republican lines, but thirty old white male senators  voted against this amendment. Let the internet shaming begin! A new website sprung up last week titled Republicans for Rape, and has pictures of the senators  (and contact numbers!) who voted against this amendment (including Saxby Chambliss, John McCain and Lindsey Graham). The blog section is updated frequently with hilarious “pro-rape” satire, and even sports a fake letter from Sarah Palin in support of the website. A facebook page was created yesterday, has over 200 followers and the comments on the main page are down-right cackle-worthy:

Rape is the new Republican family value! Thanks, Senator Cornyn!   via Resa Harrison

If we let those liberal heathens take away our God given right to rape, what’s next? via Sean Huze

The conservative right has no moral high ground left after this.

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One homeless man's war against Naperville officials

While I know the suburban territory is best left for other trueslanters like  Hilary Shenfeld and Marjie Killeen I couldn’t pass this up:

The Naperville City Council’s 6-1 vote last week to ban sleeping, camping and storing personal property on streets and sidewalks in the city’s downtown was aimed squarely at Huber, whose installation under a large umbrella includes a rickshaw, a generator and a laptop computer from which he blogs.

via Naperville’s downtown camper at odds with new ban — chicagotribune.com.

Huber has been living on the streets for 8 years, and an earlier Tribune article mentions “he took to the streets in protest” over what he believes was tampering of his mail while he stayed at the local YMCA. It’s been 8 years, and he hasn’t received his  justice so I am going to assume  he’s protesting against “the man”. His history of arrests (over petty things like trespassing and jaywalking) and trouble with a pastor confirm this theory of mine. Keep fighting the good fight, Huber, whatever that may be!


Western Oddities

Classic Bodie Car

Image by brentbat via Flickr

While I realize some items on this list may seem normal to those who live in the western states of America, as a city slicker the following things puzzled and/or astounded me:

Everything is more expensive than I would have imagined. The prices for gas, food, clothing, toiletries, cooking supplies, etc all factor in the cost of transport. A sign in the local general store here in June Lake mentions they charge five dollars to hear how much cheaper other places are.

Gas stations are a hub of life, with cafes, restaurants, and gift shops springing up around (or often inside of) them. The Mobile Station restaurant, located by the entrance to Tioga Pass (highway 120), is by far one of the best places to eat out around here. This Mobile Station showcases bands in the summer and has a complicated trapeze contraption.

One of the only radio stations that you can pick up clearly is KMMT Radio, and they have multiple broadcast stations to transmit around the mountains. This radio station also airs lost dog information. Some of the animals have been missing for over a week and I have to wonder if it’s politeness that keeps the announcer from joking that the pet must be cougar food by now.

Despite the amount of snow on the ground, walking around in a t-shirt and jeans is quite comfortable. The sun at this high altitude is powerful, but somehow not powerful enough to melt all the snow.

There are an abundance of ghost towns, or abandoned and decaying buildings. A large one of interest nearby is the Bodie State Historic Park. 10,000 people lived in this town at one point, with the population dwindling dramatically in the beginning of the 1900’s.

Along the highway you will occasionally see a sign for a more scenic route. A more scenic route? What would be more scenic than mountain ranges and lakes?

Another highway oddity: little wooden framed signs that have a picture of a house burning, with a caption that reads “Could your house be saved?”


Nature the Ambivalent

I realized I need to stop personifying Nature; the Chicago Police Department can be benevolent or malevolent, but Nature will always do her own thing.

We started the day off by driving to Mammoth Lakes in search of the Devils Postpile, but the roads leading to the monument were not plowed. The gate was still open, but I was not up for a day-long hike in the snow. All around town, Mammoth Lakes businesses were preparing for the opening of the ski lifts.  This is the earliest the ski resort has opened since 1994.  At least all that snow was working for someone.

Don't be fooled by the prettiness!

Don't be fooled by the prettiness!

Having abandoned that particular detour, we decided to visit Wild Willie’s hot springs.   After a few wrong turns, we happened upon Hot Creek, a “river” that runs through Long Valley Caldera.  Only in this part of the country can you take a wrong turn en route to a geological wonder only to run into another geological wonder.  This 10 x 18 mile depression was formed over 760,000 years ago during a volcanic explosion that knocked 50 cubic miles of molten rock from beneath the earth’s surface into the air.  Today, the caldera is far from stable, with geysers erupting, the earth moving, and the water temperature reaching a scalding temperature unpredictably.  When you’re hanging out in the Travertine Springs, it’s easy to think that these “hot tubs” were made just for humans, but at Hot Creek it’s these same inviting small pools that will kill you. Warning signs are posted every where you look, and include pleasant tidbits like: “fourteen people have died or been seriously burned while countless others have been injured since 1968 and  arsenic levels in the water may rise to dangerous levels suddenly”.  Basically, no swimming.  We did see some steaming rocks though, and I got a short driving lesson on the way back to the highway (don’t ask me to go over 25 miles per hour.  I can’t do it!).

Once we found it, Wild Willy’s Hot Springs was thankfully tamer than Hot Creek, and was located off a long, rough dirt road.  Wild Willie’s has just one pool, and the bottom of the pool is  harder and rockier than the clay bottom of Travertine Springs. Wild Willy’s was also warmer, at least on the day we went.  The water that flows into Wild Willy’s

en route to Wild Willy's

en route to Wild Willy's

travels down a small waterfall and the sound is louder and more soothing than Travertine’s. The spring is located in the middle of a meadow so cow dung was everywhere, but the hot spring has a pathway that  resembles a narrow boardwalk. The pool itself has  hard edges with indents for bottles and cans. All these little details  convinced me again of nature’s benevolence, and the dangers at Long Valley Caldera were forgotten. The  pool I was bathing in was made just for that very purpose, right?  It seemed so until I spotted what I like to call a proverbial hot spring shark: clumps of mucous-y  algae, moss and other green stuff floating in Willie’s water.  It looked like God hocked a loogey directly into the hot spring. Any sort of movement knocks the goo off the wall, and after some getting in and out to take photos, pee, and get some drinks, there were  giant slimy green and brown “jellyfish”  just waiting to latch onto our arms and legs when we came to a rest. When one such “jellyfish” grew larger than a pizza, it was time for me to leave.

On the drive back to June Lake, we checked up on that deer carcass, and it’s amazing what California ravens can do  in 24 hours. The entire torso was picked clean, while the head and legs were still intact (I was going to post a photo but it’s pretty gnarly).  The deer still had her eyes in her sockets. The smell wasn’t too bad unless you stood 10 feet downwind. I was clever enough to pick some sage and hold it to my nose. Sage grows abundantly out here and makes about a quarter of the scrub in the lowlands, and by lowlands I mean about 7,000 feet. The sage worked so well in masking the scent that I had to wonder… no, it was just a happy coincidence.


Another public project the lost Olympic bid screwed over?

The most recent update on the Bloomingdale Trail, a project much like New York City’s High Line:

“I would expect to see at least a part of this open within 4 years,” said Andrew Vesselinovitch, the Chicago Parks Program director for the Trust for Public Land. “But I think that is even a little optimistic.”

via The dream of the Bloomingdale Trail still far from reality .

The Medill article goes on to mention:

Officials originally aimed for 2016 as a completion date, so that the trail would be up and running during the Olympic games. But with Chicago losing the bid, that aim is no longer necessary.

Much of the article mulls over how long this project is taking, but with funds being cut left and right (for more important things like youth and after school programs), grumbling about the lack of development over this trail is almost insensitive.  Yes, it’s true, this would be a nice addition to Chicago and would help in our attempts at dethroning New York City as King City.  I just hope they don’t make the Bloomingdale Trail as modern looking and soulless as New York City’s High Line. So far, it looks good. The Friends of Bloomingdale Trail website say they plan on building community murals and you would be able to bike on the Bloomingdale Trail, something you cannot do on the High Line.


Nature the Benevolent

Despite forecasts saying the  snow storm would last for two days, the skies were sunny today and the snow that kept us indoors melted as quickly as my disappointment (and I thought Chicago’s weather was unpredictable!). Despite not being able to access the park, my boyfriend and I explored the eastern outskirts of Yosemite. Our destination? The Travertine Hot Springs,  just outside the town of Bridgeport, California.

shotgun shells

shotgun shells just hanging out

We started the day by buying an ace bandage for my knee, which came in handy when we had to ditch our rental car at the shooting range halfway up the hot springs. If we had a truck we could have made it past the ditches and large potholes in the road, but our little Kia couldn’t handle such terrain. One of the most genuine gentlemen I’ve  ever met (a BLM ranger) suggested we take a short cut through the shooting range.  The gun-toting modern cowboys were nice enough to pause in their target practice and watch me gimp through their field of view. I’ve never been to a shooting range, but from what I’ve seen in movies it’s not usually a free-for-all with people bringing their own targets and leaving their bullet casings on the ground. Then again, when are movies accurate? The juxtaposition between the well kept hot springs and no littering signs versus the piles and piles of used ammunition nearby was not entirely lost on me.

Upon reaching the Travertine Hot Springs, my boyfriend and I promptly got lost looking for the group of four pools. There is one small pool right at the entrance, but we were looking for the secluded set. By climbing up some rocks, we were able to spot our springs and catch some folks in the state of re-dress. Not wanting to be mistaken as pervs, we made our presence known and the folks were nice enough to redirect us to the proper path.

Travertine Hot Springs

Travertine Hot Springs via my camera phone

Clothing is optional in the springs, but we kept our underwear on. The bottom of the pools are muddy in a clay sort of way, and smell heavily of sulfur.  Each pool has its own water supply and distinct temperature,  and investigating the source of the water atop the rock structures is fairly easy, even for wobbly me. We hung out in the springs for a good half hour or so, undisturbed, alternating pools when we got too hot.  Taking in the view took a while, as did the fact that this was all free, all public land. I own these springs, President Obama owns these spring, as does Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter and every American citizen! Even the echo of gun shots nearby couldn’t bring me out of my relaxed state. Everything was peaceful and right with the world.  The temperature of the hottest pool is said to be above boiling, so we did get a bit light-headed, prompting us to leave (or maybe it was the sulfur?). Nevertheless, the warmth stayed with us  and we went sans hoodie and jacket on the hike down to the car. The hotel concierge explained that the hot springs are popular at night; she herself has only gone after dark, and sees shooting stars every time.

Ironically, I saw more animals yesterday than I did at Yosemite. It was almost as if nature had heard my digital complaints. Off the side of the highway, we witnessed a freshly dead deer being shredded by six or so ravens. These ravens were surprisingly aggressive. When my boyfriend tried to take a picture of the carnage, they rose up around him in a circle, squawking manically and a scene from Hitchcock’s Birds flashed through my head. While walking to the hot springs, we startled a large jack rabbit and shortly thereafter discovered a newly car-crushed black and white snake. No bear or mountain lion, but I’ll take what I can get.

Thanks for honoring my wishes, Mother Nature.


Conversations with 'Goons,' a local street artist

“Goons” is one of the most original and enigmatic street artists  in Chicago.  He cultivates an air of mystery, won’t answer certain questions (he laughs if you ask him why he chose the name “goons”), and will contact you on his own time (trust me on that!).  Over the past couple of years, he’s developed a devoted following on flickr and his identity has been the subject of much debate.  The Viking, a member of his own crew, summed Goons up best by calling him “the most elusive reclusive alcohol abusive lurker of chicago streets.”

photo courtesy of fauxtank

fauxtank via flickr

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