Friday, March 31, 2006

clumsy dance

Koolhaas' SPL
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
“But in his acceptance speech in Stockholm, Pablo Neruda, born Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto in the lonesome town of Parral, Chile, proclaimed that ‘there is no insurmountable solitude.’ He added: ‘All paths lead to the same goal: to convey to others what we are. And we must pass through solitude and difficulty, isolation and silence in order to reach forth to the enchanted place where we can dance our clumsy dance and sing our sorrowful song.’”

Can’t recall where I snagged this from originally, but I pull it up every once in a while to remind me where I'm going.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

I get my thing in action

I really got into the Existentialists when I was in school -- maybe it was the whole Paris angle and the thought of Sartre and de Beauvoir hanging at Les Deux Magots, but at the time I was convinced that it was the philosophy of doing that interested me -- that we are all about our actions. Or, assuming it was Frank Lloyd Wright who said it: "What a Man Does, That He Has".

Either way, it occurred to me not too long ago that the ideas behind Existentialism showed up on my radar much earlier than that philosophy class in college -- and that would have been on Saturday Mornings in the '70s, perched in front of the TV, watching HR Puffinstuff, The Boogaloos, Scooby Doo, and -- one of my favorites that no one I've ever asked can remember -- The Hudson Brothers Saturday Morning Variety Show.

In the bridge between shows Schoolhouse Rock would air. Loaded with goodness, packed with subversion, it taught me to sing the Preamble to my country's Constitution (which still makes me all misty) -- and it also taught me the fundamental underpinnings of Existentialism, by wrapping them in a little ditty called Verb:

I get my thing in action
To be to sing to feel to live
Verb! That's what's happening!
I put my part in action
To run to go to get to give
Verb! You're what's happening!
That's where I find satisfaction
To search to find to have to hold
Verb! To be bold!
When I use my imagination
I think I plot I plan I dream
Turning into a creation
I make I write I dance I sing
When I feel really active
I run I ride I swim I fly
Other times when life is easy
I rest I sleep I sit I lie
Verb! That's what's happening!
I get my thing in action!
Verb! That's what's happening!
To work to play to live to love.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


p87_5277__01069_250.jpgThis image was taken in 1909 -- in color. Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii took it under the employ of the Tzar of Russia (right: the last one) along with a truckload of others using a three filter RGB process: some just as beautiful; others more so.

If the turn of the century (the one before this last one) is recorded forever in sepia tones in your mind, check out his images to change that forever. Be sure not to miss the "Exhibition Schedule" menu -- categories include:
Ethnic Diversity (whadya wanna bet they didn't call it that then?)
People at Work

There also a whole section on how he created these images with three color filters -- very much like the way early digital imagery was captured.

Have fun. Be amazed.


paper towel palimpsest
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
Palimpsest is one of my favorite words, probably because of those plump plosives, but mostly because the thing itself (a piece of parchment on which the original work -- usually an illuminated manuscript -- has been scraped off so that the surface might be used again) says so much about the impermanence of creation and the created thing: The impulse to keep going, to do it again, to make and do and create even in the face of limited resources and a shortage of school supplies.

It whispers of a Tibetan Mandala inside the world of Western art: Make this thing now, lay it down with intricacy and attention and beauty, and then sweep its component parts into the stream where they can be shared with the world. Because the world needs them.

And then make something new. Start again.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

stranger than fiction

“Ruth her brilliant, frantic, wide-ranging I’m A Man (2000)...makes the connections between rock and myth absolutely plain (partly by using capital letters):
JIM MORRISON FOUND DEAD IN BATH IN PARIS? Wife Clytemnestra and lover murder Troy veteran husband in bath. MARVIN GAYE SHOT BY DAD IN BEDROOM? Oedipus kills father at crossroads. HENDRIX CHOKES TO DEATH IN HOTEL? Ajax stabs himself on beach. MANAGER ROMANCES BABY SPICE IN HOLIDAY HIDEAWAY? Zeus rapes Europa in Crete.”

Ian Sansom writing in the London Review of Books about Johnny Cash


driveby #2. blurred.
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
"Funktionslust, a German word meaning 'pleasure taken in what one can do best'."

David Gessner writing in the March/April issue of Orion

(Loving the subscription, Dad: thanks.)

Monday, March 27, 2006

waiting for yuschenko


Yuschenko's had a rough week already, and it's only Monday. Reminded me of our meeting with the man around this time last year -- excerpt harvested from a family blog, dated 11 April 2005 -- cameraphone montage is from the same vintage:
This last week I got the bright idea to schlep downtown to the Palmer House to see Viktor Yuschenko, the newly elected President of Ukraine, when he appeared at an event hosted by the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations. I thought we’d hear about the Orange Revolution or his near fatal dioxin poisoning – but I was wrong about that.

Instead, we had the pleasure of standing in line for over an hour to get in, and then waiting over two hours for the good man to arrive. (The event was scheduled to start at 7.30 – it got underway shortly after 9.30.) We spent our time with 1,398 other folks – most of whom were Ukrainians; half of whom were harboring a vicious flu bug that my sweetie promptly contracted and collapsed with 24 hours later. All good fun for only $25 a head.

When the good president arrived he showed a video clip of the footage from the election (generating the most moving moments in the 4 hour long ordeal) and then proceeded to introduce his wife (a Chicago girl) before he addressed the crowd – in Ukrainian. The crowd went wild. We didn’t understand a word. The translator soon kicked in and made it clear that there would be no cogent political insights this night: just a strong fund raising appeal and a big note of thanks to the Chicago Ukrainian community who supported him with 99.6% of their votes (a result that he compared to Soviet times).

Big lesson learned: By the time they get to the big chair, they’ve run out of interesting things to say. We’ll save our time and trouble for the struggling masses from here on out.

silly love songs

We’ve all been on the receiving end of one of those insufferable wedding compilation CDs full of enough sugary goo to put you off love and marriage for good. Having weathered several rounds of take-home treacle in the last few years, I was pleasantly, gratefully surprised to receive this little gem at the wedding of the most stylishly heart-warming couple of them all: Anne & Jay.

Jay did the mixing, and as you will see: Anne landed herself a goodie. I’m still listening and grinning like a goof eight months later.

I want you to be my baby • Louis Jordan
I’ve got a feeling I’m falling • Louis Armstrong
When U Love Somebody • Fruit Bats
Dream a Little Dream of Me • Mama Cass Elliot
Love is All Around • REM
Love Makes You Feel • Lou Reed
I want to be your mother’s son-in-law • Macy Gray
Ain’t That Love • Ray Charles
It’s Crazy • Sarah Vaughan
Summertime • Sidney Bechet
Near You • Marlene Dietrich
Dance Me to the End of Love • Madeleine Peyroux
A Thing Called Love • Johnny Cash
I Found a Reason • Velvet Underground
I Love Your Lovin’ Ways • Nina Simone
I’m in Love with a Girl • Big Star
Let’s Get Lost • Chet Baker
Not Given Lightly • Chris Knox
You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go • Madeleine Peyroux
Little Trip to Heaven (on the wings of love) • Tom Waits
My Little Corner of the World • Yo La Tengo
Such Great Heights • Iron & Wine
Love in Outer Space • Sun Ra

Languedoc: Where the Schist Hits the Fan

tasting notes
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
If I ever had any hesitations about terroir being for real (and I haven’t, but just for kicks let’s pretend I have) all I need to do is spend another Saturday tasting nothing but wines from one or two regions to be reminded that there are some qualities of the soil that unmistakably assert themselves within the grape.

For wines from the Languedoc, it’s schist. A metamorphic rock that makes up much of the soil in the Southern part of France, its calling card is a rocky, mineral taste that puts a memorable edge around the wines that are produced there.

We tasted Bordeaux alongside the Languedocs, and while the Bordeaux were lovely, they weren't as interesting. The Languedocs came across like the brassy, sassy sister to the quieter, more demure, probably blonde, Bordeaux. Bordeaux is a lady; Languedoc is a dame.

I'd rather hang out with a dame.

Here are a few of the winners (from a field of 10) that came across during Saturday’s Wine & Politics seminar with Tyler Coleman, aka Dr. Vino (he's a political economist), at the University of Chicago Graham School:

Red Wines
  • Mas de Daumas Gassac (Vin d’Pays) 2003 $30 • a bright and balanced Languedoc

  • Chateau Pichon-Longueville, Baron (Paulliac) 2002 $50 • just what you expect from a well-behaved Bordeaux

  • And a nice white with notes of honey and butter from Bordeaux (when you’re feeling lady-like)
  • Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte (Pessac-Léognan) 2003 $50

  • p.s. and for anyone who's interested: I didn't shame myself too badly with that Tinto Pesquera. It was pronounced "very good" by the table. (phew.) Dinner was at Riccardo's, a new Italian joint right next door to the eternal Grinder on North Clark that's still working on getting its liquor license. Until that fateful day (probably a few weeks away) there's no corkage fee.

    Sunday, March 26, 2006



    Theo Jansen evolves beach creatures out of PVC piping. For a living. And it’s one of the most extraordinarily beautiful things I’ve ever seen. On film, anyway. I’ve never seen them in person (although I did get to see Jansen speak at last year's GEL Conference), but it appears, from his website, that the next “open day” (for seeing the creatures propel themselves by wind down the beach, I'm assuming) is this coming Saturday, April 1st at Ypenburg in the Netherlands (and no, I don’t think the Dutch are into April Fool’s Day, so if you show up the odds are good hell keep his word).

    Regrettably, his site could stand to evolve some – the usability is really rough – so I’ve taken the liberty of linking in a couple of his critters here. Site of origin for all of these is, and there’s more where these came from.

  • Animaris Currens Ventosa
  • Animaris Geneticus Ondula
  • while walking

    toads croak in chorus
    summoning Spring to the woods
    I open my coat

    mello yello

    mello yello
    Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
    Sun today. Snow pack melting back at last, revealing last year's leftovers long trapped beneath the ice.

    n joy lfe

    n joy lfe
    Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
    “When I was in college, in the Vietnam- Watergate era, sullen mugs trumped smiley faces. ‘Happiness was very uncool,’ my friend Michael Kinsley recalls of his Harvard days. ‘There was a huge premium on being depressed.’ Leon Wiesteltier, who graduated from Columbia about the same time, agrees that ‘happiness was considered embarrassing, a mark of shallowness.’ He still calls joie de vivre ‘a sign that you’re not paying attention’.”

    Maureen Dowd writing in Saturday's New York Times.

    About the image: This license plate threw me a little bit. I'm a Western girl so I'm used to this kind of talk -- heck, I've got family in the Bay Area -- I'm just not used to encountering it with such unbridled enthusiasm in Chicago.

    Saturday, March 25, 2006

    ligatures & loveliness

    Buick Sky Hawk V6
    Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
    Jan Tschichold was a hard-core typographer in Germany during the first part of the 20th Century. How hard-core? The Nazis sent him to prison for practicing his trade the way he wanted to practice it. He called it “New Typography”. (Actually, he was German, so he called it “Die neue Typographie”. And the imprisonment? There was some noise about Communism too, but that would take longer to blog about.)

    I vaguely remember reading something he wrote about ligatures, so I went diving into The Form of the Book to ferret it out to illustrate this image. (Realize it's not a traditional ligature because it unites two words, but it still makes me melt -- the way the descender on the "y" creates the stem for the "H" -- it's so lovely.)

    Couldn’t find the passage, but did find this, which I think beautifully sums up the role of the designer – know your craft; make it lovely, useful and good; and then get out of the way. (And yeah, it’s a little bit over the top. But that’s Tschichold.)
    Immaculate typography is certainly the most brittle of all the arts. To create a whole from many petrified, disconnected and given parts, to make this whole appear alive and of a piece – only sculpture in stone approaches the unyielding stiffness of perfect typography.

    For most people even impeccable typography does not hold any particular aesthetic appeal. In its inaccessibility, it resembles great music. Under the best circumstances, it is gratefully accepted. To remain nameless and without specific appreciation, yet to have been of service to a valuable work and to the small number of visually sensitive readers – this, as a rule, is the only compensation for the long, and indeed never-ending, indenture of the typographer.

    Jan Tschichold
    The Form of the Book
    (Well this is interesting: It appears that my Hartley & Marks paperback copy of The Form of the Book is now out of print and the few that are left are retailing for $100 on Amazon. Nice return on a $22 investment.)


    monticello cellars
    Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
    What to bring to a BYOB dinner with Dr. Vino? I have no idea.

    This one was good, but now it’s gone. Twenty years old and, according to the friend who brought it by, 5 years older than it should have been. (Yeah, but so was that philosophy professor I dated as an undergrad, and I didn't mind the extra miles on that one so much either.)

    So for tonight it’s either a Tinto Pesquera 2002, or I’ll cop out with something that Dr. Vino served up at his Wine & Politics of Spain, Argentina and Chile seminar last year. List below. They’re all good, and they’re all pretty cheap.

  • 2003 BenMarco Malbec, Argentina $19

  • 2003 Nifares Toro, Spain $10 (smooth like buttah)

  • 2004 Martin Codax Albarino, Spain $11

  • 2000 Casa Silva Carmenere "Los Linguas", Chile $15 (merlot look-alike w/o the "Sideways" stigma)

  • 2001 Lacrimus Rioja Crianza, Spanish $19

  • Friday, March 24, 2006

    talk to me, langston

    What I'd rather be doing today, instead of schlepping to work: Listening to historic recordings at the Poetry Archive »

    [update] Scratch that. Site keeps crashing Firefox.

    of long tongues & flying carpets

    crown fountain on cameraphone
    Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
    Besides a public terrace and restaurant on the third floor, the addition has sprung a long tongue of a bridge – 15 feet wide and 620 feet long – that it’ll stick right up the ass of Millennium Park.

    No one knows more about all things visual than the Art Institute, so I must be mistaken in thinking that this attenuated ramp, which rises in a straight shot at a five-degree angle from the midsection of the park to the third floor of the new wing, will be a blight on the eastern horizon. (I’m also probably getting the wrong signals from the extruded aluminum sunscreen over the east pavilion’s glass roof. Piano has dubbed it a ‘flying carpet,’ but to me it whispers ‘patio enclosure.’)

    Deanna Isaacs writing in: The Magic Bridge: The Art Institute believes an elevated path from Millennium Park will bring newbies to the museum in the Chicago Reader

    I haven’t seen the plans for the AI addition so I’ll reserve comment for the time being, but to your question, b1-66er: Rants like this are one of the reasons I dig Chicago.

    Thursday, March 23, 2006

    chicago politics

    "If people running for office had to believe everything they said, we would have mimes running for office."

    A Chicago politico on the radio this morning, during a recap of Tuesday's Primary Election.

    I think Pirandello would get a kick out of this town.

    mexican hot chocolate

    mexican hot chocolate
    Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
    For those of us in Chicagoland who thought a Vernal Equinox was enough to bring on the Spring, I offer consolation along with today's (and Friday's and Saturday's) forecast for snow flurries: One last chance to cuddle up with a mug of hot chocolate before we bid this whole blustery mess good-bye.

    If you've never tried Mexican Hot Chocolate I recommend Ibarra, which is easy to find in most grocery stories along the "ethnic" aisle. Cheap too: usually not more than $2.50 or so for a box that'll keep you going all season long. It comes in lovely chunks that are ready to go: Chocolate blended with sugar, cinnamon and ground almonds.

    Just scald some milk, drop in a few chunks of chocolate, pull out the hand blender and whip it up to frothy goodness. Then find a comfy spot from which to sip contentedly while you curse the endless winter.

    Wednesday, March 22, 2006

    who's your daddy?

    Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
    In this picture I’m 6. I’m modeling my new Garanimals (remember those?) for my dad and step-mom. I’m vamping. I feel unabashedly beautiful (and this may be the last time I feel so unabashed – feeling pretty gets complicated as you get older).

    Behind me is my dad’s stereo, flanked by his JBL speakers. It’s the only thing against the wall. It was one of the few things in the room.

    My dad was in the music business and the stereo was the hearth of our home. And just like a log fire, the kids weren’t allowed to touch it – but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t frequently ablaze. He’d lay down the demo tracks with keen anticipation (they arrived on our stoop with almost the same frequency that the milkman delivered dairy) – whether it was vinyl on the turntable or tape on the reel-to-reel – and, if it was good, he’d turn it up loud, saying: “Listen to this. Do you hear that? Just listen.” And we would, and the amp tubes would glow like embers while he pointed out the riffs and rhythms and beauty of it all.

    I got my rock and roll education from my dad – which made things complicated when I hit high school and needed to rebel (I took the jazz route and I’m sure he was laughing at me the whole time, knowing how easy one transitions into another). But now I appreciate classic rock like a kid coming back to the Mother Tongue.

    Nothing soothes me like the Doors’ Light My Fire; nothing quiets me like the Eagles’ Hotel California. And no memory is quite as precious as that of my dad lowering the needle to the vinyl to listen again to a well-loved track, gently, like a priest placing the sacrament on a parishioner's tongue, saying “Listen to this. Just listen.”

    in loco parentis

    "When operating the diopter adjustment control with your eye to the viewfinder, be careful not to put your fingers or fingernails in your eye."

    Nikon Digital Camera Quick Start Guide

    Thanks for the tip.

    Tuesday, March 21, 2006

    bad feng shui

    Mrs. Cheney
    Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
    And of course we've all heard the story: Frank Lloyd Wright's dear Mrs. Cheney was killed along with her children at Taliesin, their beloved home in Spring Green, Wisconsin, one day when he was away.

    A couple who worked for the family locked the doors while they were dining, doused the perimeter with gasoline, and set them all ablaze. Wright was devastated by the loss and, as I understand it, insisted on burying Mamah Cheney alone, on his own -- or nearly so.

    It's hard to imagine the imperious Wright digging the grave with his own hands -- but maybe he did. To see her simple stone huddled against this elder tree made me believe in the possibility that a man not much given to manual labor might put his shoulder to the blade in an effort to quiet the rage and the ache.

    stranger things have happened

    central camera on cameraphone
    Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
    "Think Mamet will ever play Harold Pinter in a movie?"

    The non-sequitur that George, the affable old guy at Central Camera, lobbed my way when I told him we were on our way to see the Mamet one-act at the Goodman.

    I dunno, George, but just for making that kind of small talk I'm gonna buy a big beautiful Nikon from you.


    John H. Stroger Jr, re-election candidate for his seat as President of the Cook County Board of Commissioners, is in a bit of a political bind.

    He suffered a stroke last week – a bad one -- and was promptly rushed to Rush University Medical Center, one of Chicago’s best. Folks want to know why he didn’t opt for treatment at John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital, the facility that bears his name and is, oh, just a block or two from Rush. Stroger nurses are particularly upset and made their voices heard at a recent press conference.

    Mr. Stroger was unavailable for comment (something to do with the fact that he had just had a STROKE, folks.)

    Monday, March 20, 2006

    what a man does

    signature tile
    Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
    What a Man Does
    That He Has

    Inscribed over the doorway of the Apprentices' Studio at Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin in Spring Green, WI

    movie date

    File this one under Movies I Love Even More than I Might Because of the People I've Loved Them With

  • Masters of Light* because of TD4, who turned me on to John Ford skies and was never without his light meter

  • Shane and Zorro (the one with Tyrone Power, 1940) because my Bompa would declare a movie night whenever they aired on the networks and we'd stay up late in our PJs to watch (and because it tells you in an instant what he valued most)

  • Kitchen Stories because of my darlin' companion and the kick he got out of watching that old bachelor farmer drink his coffee in the kitchen (it's a Norwegian thing); this is one of the best movies about friendship ever -- if you don't mind subtlety it'll wreck you good

  • *I'm having a hard time finding an online reference to Masters of Light, a documentary that I saw a long time ago at the Seattle International Film Festival, although Amazon features a book with the same name and subject -- a series of interviews with Cinematographers -- which I have to assume is based on the film. I'll keep looking.

    Sunday, March 19, 2006


    I want to thank you for all the generous advance coverage you've given me in anticipation of a successful career. When I actually do something, we'll let you know.

    Barack Obama, Junior Senator from Illinois, addressing the Press at the Gridiron Club's Annual Dinner on March 11th.

    Full disclosure: I heard Obama speak at a stump stop during his run for the Senate, and promptly fell into a swoon -- and not just because he's easy on the eyes.

    getcher Mamet on

    mamet at the goodman
    Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
    It’s fashionable to knock David Mamet, but I’m not gonna do it.

    Mostly because the show I saw last night at the Goodman – A Life in Theatre – doesn’t give me much ammunition. But also because I like his plays for the way they map out human relationships and transformations – and because they give me a window into a world that fascinates me: the World of the Guy.

    Last night’s show – a one-act from the mid-70s that’s running as part of the Goodman Theatre’s Mamet Festival – lacked the hyper-staccato dialog that punctuates his works like Glengarry Glen Ross and Oleanna. There was plenty of parlay back and forth, but it was quite fluid and, as always with Mamet, a single phrase delivered just so can really pack a wallop.

    So about this guy thing. Not being one, I have rare opportunities to observe it in action. Being a girl I skew results as soon as I enter the room – that too, fascinates me about the World of the Guy – that a whole clutch of them might change their behavior in response to one of us – in response to the awareness that a woman is present (a change that some guys negotiate better than others). But that’s not what this post is about.

    It’s about power, and how men wrestle for the reins. (Women do it too, but I would argue that we use different strategies.)

    Mamet cross-sections into that world – one example of it, anyway – so that I, as observer and audience, can watch the boys be boys. (Come to find out: Girls like to watch too.) And while it might be impolitic to say it: Virility, and the powerplay of virility, is thrilling to watch.

    The play is concerned with two actors: an older gentleman whose career is waning; a younger one whose career is taking off.

    By the time the play is done we see them run through all the stages of relationship – from the young man’s awe at the elder thespian’s prowess, to his growing success as an actor as he comes into his own power; and we see the older man at first strong and then fading, forgetting lines, decaying with time, with age. We see them respond to one another: first there is deference on the younger man’s part, some condescending on the elder’s; it evolves through a pissing match and finally, inevitably, mythically, we witness the transfer of power.

    As with so many of Mamet’s plays there’s a hint of homoeroticsm, and here it’s the moment when the younger (we learn later that he’s straight) cleans a dab of makeup from the elder’s neck after a show, before they head out for the evening they’ve agreed to share. But even here Mamet’s working the guy thing: We suspect that the elder man sees an opportunity in this sweet young thing -- but we learn later that the younger man saw his opportunity too in this same moment of sweetness – and that he’ll use it, and what it foreshadows, to come out on top at the end.

    Of course, it’s not all the younger guy’s doing: Age undoes us all, and it works its way here too. A case could be made that these two characters are two views on the same individual – the younger man will get to the older man’s chair soon enough, and the next young Turk will move up in the ranks. But I won’t go there, because I’ve already taken up enough of your time.

    So to all the folks who contend that Mamet does something a little too fierce and hyper-masculine on his stage – that he should rein in the yang and bring in some yin -- I say shoulds are for sermons, and thanks, but I’ll hang out with Wendy Wasserstein when I’m looking for girl talk (which I need in just as steady a supply, thank you very much).

    But when I need me some yang, I’ll go look up David, ‘cause he knows how to bring it home.

    Saturday, March 18, 2006

    what picasso knew

    "My father knew that bulls have two testicles, in addition to something very masculine."

    Picasso’s daughter, Maya Widmaier-Picasso, when challenging the authenticity of the drawing Picador in a Bullfight (which lacked the aforementioned), listed online as an original Picasso at for $146K. The question came up as part of a dispute involving another questionable Picasso that sold on consignment through for $40K.

    So when did Costco start listing Picassos?

    so many splendid sundays

    little nemo
    Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
    Right around Christmas time Sunday Press issued -- well here, let me let them tell you:

    “Winsor McCay’s masterpiece, Little Nemo in Slumberland, as it has never been reproduced before. A magnificent hardbound volume of Nemo's best Sunday pages from 1905-1910, in FULL original size.”

    This is no small thing -- full original size comes out to be 16x21 inches. I picked one up, chiefly on the recommendation of Chris Ware, one of my local heros (although now that the New York Times has picked him up for their Sunday Magazine he may well have moved, like his buddy Ira Glass, to New York, where they’ll love him less but pay him more. But let me check my facts on that before you quote me.)

    About the book: it’s eye candy for the soul. It’s awkward, of course. It’s difficult to find a spot on the shelf for a book of that size -- I finally had to relent and display it on a small bookstand. (But that makes me nervous because I don’t want it to fade, sitting out in the light.)

    The book itself is a piece of work -- the large-format puts it over the top -- but it’s McCay’s artistry that swallows you up when you peel back the pages -- both the detail of each individual panel and the flow of each panel into the next to create the entire strip. He's a master. And, as I understand it, one of the first to really nail this genre. (see: Understanding Comics for more about that -- the genre, I mean.)

    If you have an interest in these things -- graphic novels, the way comics work, American artists -- run, don’t walk. Do this for yourself.

    (Still on the fence? View some sample pages. And p.s.: The color fidelity of the pages shown online? Not even close to what you're gonna see in print. These shots are a little bit blurry, too. Doesn't do it justice.)

    the daily grind

    Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
    I love Chicago. But it’s not because of the coffee.

    You can find an occasional good cup -- Uncommon Ground never disappoints. But they’re far and few.

    I worked for a guy in college (making coffee) who told me that the perfect pull had as much to do with the day’s relative humidity as it did with the grind, the timing and the water heat and pressure -- which makes me wonder if that isn’t why there are certain places in the world where a cup of coffee is usually just about perfect. (And other places where it's not.)

    Every once in awhile I wax deeply nostalgic (and what is nostalgia if it isn’t grief for lost perfection, real or imagined?) for my give-me-this-day-my-daily-joe at Vivace, on Broadway, in my old Seattle neighborhood.

    Today’s one of those days.

    Friday, March 17, 2006

    lovin' the low-res

    after hours
    Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
    "low-res photography is the pinhole camera of the 21st century"

    b1-66er, reigning english haiku slugfest champion of the world

    More low-res »

    Thursday, March 16, 2006

    Hello, Beautiful.

    first daffodils
    Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
    Daffodils are the Arnold Horseshack of spring. Eager, arms in the air, the first to show themselves as the weather warms; the first to point out to the rest of us Vinnies that they know something we don't. What they lack in looks they make up for in raw enthusiasm.

    Spotted these little guys poking their noses out of the ground as I headed to work this morning. Of course, Chicago being Chicago, the snow started falling this afternoon.

    field notes from a catastrophe

    It may be that we’re not going to solve global warming, the earth is going to become an ecological disaster, and, you know, somebody will visit in a few hundred million years and find there were some intelligent beings who lived here for awhile, but they just couldn’t handle the transition from being hunter-gatherers to high technology.

    Prof. Marty Hoffert of NYU, cited today in the NYT’s review of Elizabeth Kolbert’s Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature and Climate Change

    the missing mr. lincoln

    Pullman's monument
    Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
    Anyone familiar with Chicago bossman George Pullman knows that he was so concerned his grave would be defiled that he went to extreme measures to reinforce it with lead and concrete so that no one would be able to steal his body after it had been laid to rest at Graceland Cemetery in Chicago.

    I heard a fellow speak on the Pullman neighborhood not too long ago – the company town that Pullman built to support his business and that erupted into a historic strike when his self-serving policies at last got to be too much for the folks in his employ -- and when the lecturer mentioned this well traveled trivia I asked him: Was there a good reason for Pullman to feel this way? Was there a precedent at the tail end of the 1800s in Chicago for people to dig up the graves of folks they despised? (And I was thinking: Or was Pullman, like so many men with extreme power and wealth who believe the world revolves around them, just nuts?)

    Sure, the lecturer answered: Lincoln’s body had been stolen not too long before that.


    Turns out it was actually only almost stolen.

    Of course, Pullman outfitted the Pullman Car that carried Lincoln across the country on his whistle-stop corpse tour after the assassination (I mean no disrespect –- I have a huge crush on Lincoln -– but according to Sarah Vowell in Assassination Vacation the tour turned out to be a highly successful endorsement for the nascent embalming industry -- they were at it for a really long time), so I’m going to do some more digging. Could be that something unseemly (and entirely intriguing) happened along the way.

    Wednesday, March 15, 2006

    strong, brave, tender and true

    Allan Pinkerton's epitaph at Graceland Cemetery reads in part: "He was the founder in America of a noble profession. In the hour of the Nation's peril, he conducted Abraham Lincoln safely through the ranks of treason to the scene of his first inauguration as President. He sympathized with, protected and defended the slaves, and labored earnestly for their freedom. Hating wrong, and loving good, he was strong, brave, tender and true."

    Graceland Cemetery
    Chicago, IL

    green river

    pic from

    St. Patrick's DAY? That's for amateurs. In Chicago St. Patrick's runs all week.

    To kick things off, they dye the river green.

    Near as I can tell, noone knows how they do it.

    The story I heard was that the Plumber's Union owns the task, and they're careful with the secret. It's passed down to just a few knowing souls. There is a known substance that plumbers use that turns the water in pipes green so they can track its egress -- the best guesses pin it on this. But the plumbers aren't talking.

    Having emigrated from West of the Mississippi where an environmental impact statement is required to build a doghouse, every year I expect the uproar: someone to speak out and complain and demand that we identify what's going into the water and whether or not it's going to hurt anything downstream.

    Make that upstream: Many years ago Chicagoans decided they would change the way the river flows. It's been flowing upstream ever since.

    And I haven't heard anyone complain about it yet. Or about the green river. has posted pics for the curious »

    Tuesday, March 14, 2006

    aric mayer

    Copyright (c) 2005 Aric Mayer

    Full disclosure: This is an unmitigated plug by an unapologetic fan.

    The photographer Aric Mayer is a dowser. Like a man with a willow branch searching out sweetwater he finds and captures the shot at the just moment it runs clear and pure. Potable; pellucid; powerful.

    I’m lucky enough to live with two of his pieces -- Moon, Eureka Valley and Beach, Mojacar. They’re residents here; they breathe life into the room.

    But don’t take my word for it: read a little bit more about the work he did for the Wall Street Journal down in New Orleans after Katrina blew through, and then take a look for yourself, at

    sucking chest wound

    “This is a sucking chest wound when it comes to litigation.”

    A law professor commenting on the radio yesterday after proceedings in the Moussaoui case were halted because government lawyers had violated the judge's order not to coach upcoming witnesses.

    mistaken identity

    Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
    In 1914, Othenio Abel, an Austrian paleontologist, suggested that the Cyclopes of Homeric legend was based on fossil elephant finds in antiquity. Abel, who excavated many Mediterranean fossil beds, related the image of one-eyed giant cavemen to the remains of Pleistocene dwarf elephants, common in coastal caves of Italy and Greece. Shipwrecked sailors unfamiliar with elephants might easily mistake the skull’s large nasal cavity for a central eye socket.


    In profile, the elephant skulls do resemble grotesque human faces, and the vertebrae and limb bones could be laid out to resemble a giant man. Anyone who saw such an assemblage would try to visualize how such a creature looked and behaved when alive. Since Cyclopes lived in caves, the ancient Greeks imagined them as primitive troglodytes who used rocks and clubs as weapons. The great piles of bones on the cave floors might be the remains of ship-wrecked sailors – the savage Cyclopes were probably cannibals!

    The First Fossil Hunters: Paleontology in Greek and Roman Times Adrienne Mayor.

    Monday, March 13, 2006

    cambrian animation

    cambrian animation
    Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
    One of the coolest features of the new Evolving Planet exhibit at the Chicago Field Museum is a computer animation of a Cambrian seabed circa 543 Million BCE that runs in an extended loop on a gi-normous surround screen (three panels, actually). Fantastical creatures reconstructed from fossils swim through the seascape and do all kinds of clever sea-creature like things.

    Lower the lights, put Dark Side of the Moon on the turntable, and come back for me in morning. Beats the heck out of those laser lightshows we had when I was a kid.

    Niles: It's All Here

    Niles: It's All Here
    Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
    Beg to differ.

    Like signs?
    Here's some more »

    Sunday, March 12, 2006

    baby's got legs

    "As with women, the legs tell you nothing of real importance about the quality or complexity of a wine."

    Karen MacNeil, Wine Author and Educator

    (as cited in

    first signs of spring

    bud: first sighting
    Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
    Sat next to a guy who worked for a gardening cataloger at a business dinner not too long ago. He threw out the question: “Guess where our best customers live?” My guesses were all wrong, so he took pity and gave me the answer: The Midwest.

    His theory? The winters are so harsh here that we greet the Spring with a fierce "give me dark earth, let me grow something now" welcoming. (Okay: so those weren’t his exact words. But that was the gist.)

    I’m beginning to feel it. We hit 70 this weekend. Just briefly. But long enough to remember how the sun feels when the planet swings round and skirts that near point of the elliptic. When green things bud and the birds return.

    french card money

    hard luck. low light.
    Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
    "The first paper money on the North American continent was the French card money, a brainchild of the Canadian Intendant Jacques de Meulles. In 1685, he arranged to have ordinary game cards cut into quarters, each quarter was stamped with the French crown and lilly symbol, then signed by the governor, intendant, and treasurer of Quebec. The people were ordered to accept this makeshift money as valid tender."

    From Early Chicago (2000)
    Ulrich Danckers & Jane Meredith

    Saturday, March 11, 2006

    Stocks & Blondes

    Stocks & Blondes
    Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
    I don't smoke, trade, or bleach (or even drink all that much) but this is my kind of bar.

    True Chicago.

    Friday, March 10, 2006

    weese seats

    weese seats
    Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
    Toured Harry Weese's 17th Church of Christ Scientist (1968) on Wacker Drive this last Monday with Docomomo and Rolf Achilles.

    These seats have a particularly cool feature. Come to find out the Christian Scientist church shares an extemporaneous speaking tradition with Quakers, so these seats are rigged: When a congregant stands during a service to speak, microphones in the immediate vicinity are triggered by their weight, and amplify whatever it is they have to say.

    meat on my greens

    meat on my greens
    Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
    If you’re gonna eat nothing but a salad there oughta be a little meat on those greens.

    The first time I encountered salad with meat (well, okay, it was fish) I was traveling in Paris on no money at all. For most of the trip we ate bread and jam, except for one brief moment of terror when we mistook a can of paté for a human-consumptable (come to find out that sometimes, in French, “paté” is “pet food”).

    One night we splurged on a prix fixe meal at a place that I vaguely remembered was called something like “Joan d’Arc la Nuit” (or maybe I got that wrong). Twenty-five bucks a head. At the time it was a huge sum.

    The salad that came with my meal was adorned with smoked salmon, pickled herring, and two or three other permutations of Northern European preservation methods applied to fish varieties. Whatever it was, it was wonderful. And it convinced me that this was the right way to eat a salad.

    Last night I arrived early at a place called Rhapsody to meet litwit for a drink. I missed dinner, so I ordered this little baby while I waited and choka’d a bit (not on the food – with a legal pad. follow the link to figure that out). Arugula, frisee, generous shavings of jicama, and cold slices of duck, topped with a “macerated” kumquat (or so says the menu). Yeah. It was good.

    Accompanied by an unremarkable Pinot Noir, but that was my own damn fault. (The waiter recommended it, I suspect, because everyone loves their Pinot since Sideways hit.)

    When I’m eating meat on my greens at home I often rustle up a version of Patricia Wells Smoked Haddock and Spinach Salad (from Bistro Cooking, 1989), but I usually wind up swapping in smoked salmon for the haddock (the kind that you buy by the pound from a fish vendor – my preferred digs used to be the Pike Place Market). Or, if the pickings are slim (like they are here in my adopted Chicagoland) I go for a nice smoked trout.

    L’Aquitaine’s Smoked Haddock and Spinach Salad
    Patricia Wells, Bistro Cooking

    2 tbs fresh lemon juice
    1 tsp fresh Dijon
    1/3 cup peanut oil
    2 tbs crème fraiche or heavy cream
    salt and cracked black pepper
    8 oz new red-potatoes, scrubbed
    1 lb of smoked fish (see above)
    1 lb tender young spinach, washed and ready to go

    Whisk together the lemon juice, salt and mustard. Slowly whisk in the oil and then the cream. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

    Cook the potatoes in plenty of salted water, until just tender. Drain, and when cool enough to handle (but still warm) cut into thin slices. Toss slices with a few tablespoons of the dressing.

    If you’re using haddock, poach it in a couple cups of milk for about 10 minutes. If you’re running with a nice chunk of smoked salmon or trout don’t bother.

    Wells recommends cutting the spinach into a “rustic chiffonade”. Right. In America we just toss it up. So do that, with the dressing that remains, and then top it with the potatoes and the salmon.

    Very nice.

    Thursday, March 09, 2006

    love me

    north hollywood by cameraphone
    Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
    In the Paradox of Choice Barry Schwartz recounts a marketing experiment about jam –- in a series of experiments employing a table laden with jam samples and discount coupons for said jam, the table with many, many samples (upwards of 20) led to many, many people stopping by to sample many, many jams.

    But when it came time to buy? (That holy act known to some retailers as "conversion" and to others as the carnal "consummation".) The jam sample table spread with only three jams actually “motivated people to buy.” That is: more folks picked up a coupon and actually bought a damn jar of jam when there were fewer to choose from.

    To the retailer, the storefront window is sacred space; the visual merchant’s only responsibility is to create a scene that evokes love at first sight. Anything else is failure.

    Passing by this window in North Hollywood, crammed high with the back ends of shoes (only one third of the window is shown here – it extended in either direction with more of the same) two thoughts came to mind. The first was: Cool shot.

    The second: A sad, unsettling feeling that, if the shop were open, I would walk inside and find a merchant barricaded behind his wares, breathing the quiet dust of desperation and pleading “Please. Buy something. Anything. I have it all.”

    Like the woman wanting to be loved by anyone, for any reason, and in the noise of being everything, becomes no one.

    Wednesday, March 08, 2006

    taggin' it

    taggin' it
    Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
    On the morning after the Oscars the Arts page of the New York Times sported a design that (more or less) emulated flickr's tagging paradigm. The caption reads: "Each word is scaled proportionally to the number of times it has been used in acceptance speeches at the last six Academy Award ceremonies."

    Interesting to see how the digital domain influences print design.

    Tuesday, March 07, 2006

    miesian escalators

    miesian escalators
    Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
    Sure the light's poor and I knew before I shot it that it would come out grainy at best and maybe blurry too. But what would you have done if you were passing through Mies' monumental IBM building late, after everyone had gone home, and the sinuous lines of his coupling escalators caught your eye? I bet you would have found a way to frame the shot even though the cleaning guy's yellow signs defiled the travertine. I bet you would have shot it too.

    Chicago, IL


    After Divorce
    Things settle
    Friends, families, pets
    Choose their corners

    Vast silences
    The white dwarf

    Whole countries
    Faces loved
    Places lived
    Stories told
    And depart

    We will not visit the old places
    We will not tell the old stories
    We will not kiss the closed-lid lashes of the ones we loved

    Divorce is death without ceremony,
    Condolence, or hot dish

    the demon dog

    Resurrected from a July 2003 post on another, retired blog, before the Demon Dog was put down by an evil developer sometime in the Summer of 2005. A tribute.

    This is a demon dog.

    It's about 6 inches long on a wonder white bread bun. When you order it "with everything" it comes with mustard, raw onion, pickle relish & hot chilis. "Everything" doesn't include ketchup. Ever.

    With fries it'll set you back $1.80.

    Here's the whole thing >

    When you bite into the dog it gives just enough to squeak. The Italians would call that al dente -- "to the tooth". Chicagoans don't call it anything. They just expect it to be that way.

    The fries are perfect -- if you're lucky enough to catch them just as they're lifted out of the vat. (You usually are.) If you look close you can see the salt crystals in the picture. (When they ask if you want salt on your fries, say yes -- they'll take good care of you.)

    This is THE Demon Dog. >

    It's snugged under the Fullerton El Stop in Lincoln Park, right around the corner from Depaul University -- whose mascot, not incidentally, is the Blue Demon. (It's hard to see in this picture, taken through the window of the Starbuck's across the street -- look for the bright flash of light just to the right of the cast iron column that supports the El. That's the Demon Dog sign.)

    The walls are covered with signed celebrity photographs and lots and lots of Chicago memorabilia (the rock band, not the city). When I was there last Journey was playing through the sound system, intermittantly punctuated by the El Train as it rumbled by overhead.

    Recently there was some flak about the Demon Dog shutting down -- I think the holder of the lease was going to boot them in favor of some higher paying tenants -- but that hasn't happened yet, and so far they're still turning out the dogs, aka red hots.

    Like this one.

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