Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Jerry Lewis died on Sunday...

...at age 91 and you can count me among those who just didn't "get" his comedy. (Maybe it's because I'm not French.)

But his obit in the Times allows me to return to one of my favorite subjects, Nature vs. Nurture. Dave Kehr writes:

The experience of being passed from home to home left Mr. Lewis with an enduring sense of insecurity and, as he observed, a desperate need for attention and affection.

Really? How do you know that, Mr. Kehr?

In fairness, I feel like you see and hear things like that all the time. So-and-so was such-and-such because of some particular experience from his childhood. They never seem to add a "maybe" or any other qualifying word. No, it's usually delivered with a great deal of confidence, as if it's beyond question. But I always want to say, How do you know? Maybe that person is a certain way because of his DNA, not because of some life-shaping event from his upbringing. Maybe Mr. Lewis had "an enduring sense of insecurity and a desperate need for attention and affection" because he was born that way. Would you be surprised if one or both of his parents were that way? I'd be surprised if they weren't.

I thought I knew...

...a thing or two about '60s music and yet while watching Season 6, episode 10 of Mad Men last night I heard a song I had never heard before.* It's "Found Love" by the Fly Bi Nights. What? Who?

How come I've never heard of this song or this band? Turns out they don't even have a Wikipedia page! The best I could do was this.

So who found this song anyway? I agree with this:

How did the Fly Bi Nites record something as magical as “Found Love,” stick it on a B-side, then disappear into record-collector cult status?

* It's a cool scene; watch it here.

According to Beth Long...

...of the Sun-Times, Payton Thorne (above with his father and grandfather) is one of the Chicago area's top ten quarterbacks (my emphasis):

7. Payton Thorne, Naperville Central, Jr., QB (6-2, 180): First team All-DuPage Valley last season, threw for 1,623 yards and 23 touchdowns for Metea Valley. The junior has transferred to Naperville Central and will have to adjust to a new system. He has size, field vision and the ability to make the long toss. Thorne is capable of putting the ball on the ground, but is most dangerous through the air.

First team All-DVC last year and he transferred across town to Naperville Central? What gives? Did his parents suddenly up and move to a different school district?

Coincidentally, I received this email last night from a friend in Naperville. (It's lightly edited with my emphasis.)

Hope all is well, on the eve of another high school football season!

Some info to pass along you might find interesting. None of it is “insider info” these days, ha, but still might be interesting.

Payton Thorne transferred from Metea Valley to Naperville Central this year, and by all accounts will have the starting quarterback job at Central. He’s just a junior if I recall correctly. He played at Metea last year as a sophomore and is the son of Jeff Thorne, who’s the head coach over at North Central College, smack in downtown Naperville and oh, about 600 yards from Naperville Central, ha. Word is senior Thorne had a falling out with Metea’s coaches about how his son was being used (can’t confirm, all second hand), and that it was time to move on. Payton is listed at 6'2" 170 lbs or so, so could grow into a larger frame. By all accounts, Payton has a long, long, long way to go to develop as a quarterback, but interesting that he already has an offer from Western Michigan University. Oh, and WMU’s coach? Tim Lester, who was teammates with Jeff Thorne at Wheaton Central (now Wheaton Warrenville South), back in the day. Will be interesting to track young Payton’s development.

That picture at the top of this post was taken from an article last year in the Naperville Sun:

[Payton's] grandfather won four state championships in the 1990s during a 22-year run at Wheaton Central and Wheaton Warrenville South. He then went on to become North Central College's winningest coach before retiring after the 2014 season.

Payton's dad, North Central's current coach, starred at quarterback at Wheaton Central and Eastern Illinois before following John into the coaching business.

On the basement wall is a photo of his grandfather, John, hugging his dad, Jeff, after winning a state championship at Wheaton Warrenville South.

Oh, and yes, according to the piece young Payton was named after a certain Chicago Bears running back.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

In case you were wondering...

...I have all the maturity of a third grader. (And that may be an insult to third graders.)

Seriously, the look on that pitcher's face is absolutely priceless.

This is why I'll never...

...be a high school football coach.

In today's Sun-Times, Michael O'Brien ranks Waubonsie Valley No. 4 in the state. (MaxPreps has them at No. 10.) His piece features a wide receiver named Charles Robinson (above), whom he calls a "legitimate star, a game-changing force."

Mr. O'Brien writes (my emphasis):

Receiver Charles Robinson can bust open a defense at any time. It was all on display last season in the Warriors’ upset of No. 2 seed Hinsdale Central in the first round of the Class 8A state playoffs. Robinson lit up Hinsdale that afternoon, catching six passes for 214 yards with touchdowns of 34, 56, 65 and 11 yards.

[Robinson] has offers from several schools, including Mississippi State and Minnesota. He’s a serious contender for Player of the Year.

Six passes? That's it? Granted, Robinson scored four touchdowns in that game, but wouldn't you want your best athlete -- a legitimate Division I recruit -- at quarterback? Wouldn't you want that kid touching the ball on every play, instead of just six times all day? If he was calling signals, there's no telling how many touchdowns he could have scored, right? (Yes, I'm thinking of Aaron Bailey.)

I guess that's why I'll never be a high school football coach. (That, and the fact that I really don't know that much about the game.)

Prairie Ridge is ranked No. 1...

...in MaxPreps' preseason rankings and No. 23 nationally. Really? I've always loved this program, but that sounds a little generous to me. Could the Wolves beat a Loyola, say, or a Maine South? Doubtful. (Good football stadium, though, above.)

To save you a click, here's the rest of the Top Ten according to MaxPreps (with last year's records in parentheses):

1. Prairie Ridge (14-0)
2. Loyola (13-1)
3. Marist (8-2)
4. Maine South (11-3)
5. IC Catholic Prep (14-0)*
6. East St. Louis (14-0)
7. Sacred Heart-Griffin (13-1)
8. Rochester (13-1)
9. Lyons (8-3)
10. Waubonsie Valley (6-5)

* IC has a really good program, too; last year the Knights went undefeated en route to the 3A title. But let's get real here -- there's no way a 3A school like IC could compete with any of the teams listed below it in that ranking.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Joseph Bologna, who...

...starred in My Favorite Year -- a really underrated movie, I think -- died at age 82.

From his obit in the Times (my emphasis):

He combined comedy and the tough-guy personality, and received the best reviews of his career, in “My Favorite Year” (1982), as King Kaiser, a tyrannical 1950s TV variety-show host modeled on Sid Caesar. Kaiser may have been a law-abiding citizen, but his ego was criminal.

But that's not all. Does this story sound familiar?

Joe Bologna was the son, grandson and nephew of bootblacks. His grandfather Giuseppe Bologna was the author of “At the Feet of the Mighty: A Bootblack’s Biography,” and Joe’s uncle Pat Bologna recalled giving investment advice to Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. that helped Kennedy avoid the financial devastation of the 1929 crash. Kennedy remembered it with a slightly different point of view. “When the shoeshine boys have tips,” he said, “the stock market is too popular for its own good.”

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Glen Campbell is dead at age 81.

Did you know about his association with the Beach Boys? From his New York Times obit (my emphasis):

But his skills eventually took him into the recording studios as a session musician, and for six years he provided accompaniment for a host of famous artists, including Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Nat King Cole, Elvis Presley, Rick Nelson and groups like the Beach Boys and the Mamas and the Papas.

After playing on many Beach Boys sessions, Mr. Campbell became a touring member of the band in late 1964, when its leader, Brian Wilson, decided to leave the road to concentrate on writing and recording. He remained a Beach Boy into the first few months of 1965.

Since the news...

...is a little slow (thank God!) -- except for the part about launching a nuclear first strike against North Korea -- and since I just mentioned how I don't expect to go to many high school football games on Friday nights this year, I thought I'd take a look at this year's schedule and see if there are any good matchups on Saturday afternoons. (Fortunately for me, Loyola and Glenbard West still play their home games on Saturday.) And whaddaya know? It doesn't look too bad. (Last year's records are in parentheses and home teams are in CAPS).

Week One: Maine South (11-3) at GLENBARD WEST (10-3).
This one's a no-brainer: last year's 8A champ vs. 2015's 7A winner at one of the nicest stadiums in the Chicago area. Plus, I don't think the two schools have ever played each other. 

Week Two: Bye (I'll be at a wedding).
But if I weren't, Muskegon, Michigan (12-2) at STEVENSON (8-2) looks interesting. The Big Reds were ranked No. 6 in the state of Michigan last year by MaxPreps.

Week Three: Mount Carmel (8-5) at LOYOLA (13-1).
Should require no explanation, although Phillips (11-2) at SIMEON (8-6) could be good too.

Week Four: Bye (I'll be out of town for another wedding).

Week Five: Fenwick (11-2) at LOYOLA (13-1).
Could this be the year the Friars upset the big, bad Ramblers?

Week Six: St. Edward, Lakewood, Ohio (9-3) at NAPERVILLE CENTRAL (4-5).
St. Edward was No. 9 in the state of Ohio last year according to MaxPreps; the Redhawks, despite a losing record in 2016, are always tough. This could be a good interstate matchup.

Week Seven: Hinsdale Central (9-1) at GLENBARD WEST (10-3).
The Red Devils defeated the Hitters last year by only a point in Week Six for the first time in forever. Can they make it two years in a row?
Week Eight: Carmel (5-5) at ST. PATRICK (4-5).
Despite last year's so-so records, this East Suburban Catholic tilt could be a sleeper. And October 14 could be positively gorgeous in Chicago; don't sit inside and watch some random college game on TV!

Week Nine: Brother Rice (9-3) at LOYOLA (13-1).
Once again, a Catholic League Blue showdown like this should require no explanation. And what if both squads are undefeated by this point?

Have I missed any?

Monday, August 7, 2017

I finished Season Four...

...of Mad Men and there's a scene in the last episode in which two of the characters go to Whisky a Go Go in West Hollywood. My Doors antenna immediately went up, of course, and I checked in which year this season was supposed to take place. It's between November 1964 and October 1965, and the Doors didn't become the house band at the Whisky until at least 1966. Darn!

Oh, well, it's still a good opportunity to revisit the video above in which Ray Manzarek recalls the night the band was fired from the club. Worth a watch!

A few thoughts on a random...

...Monday morning about blogging, Twitter, high school football, New Yorker cartoons and whatever else happens to cross my mind. (The first of which is that that isn't even a complete sentence. Whatever.)

In case you haven't noticed, I've been blogging quite a bit less lately. Is it writer's block, bloggers' burnout (a term I just invented) after eight years at the keyboard, Trump fatigue (how is anyone supposed to keep up with the constant stream of outrageous news nowadays?), or is it something else?

And I'm guessing it's the last one. (Mostly.) Like a lot of people, I think, I've been quietly migrating to Twitter. Where in the past I may have read a good piece and written a blog post in reference to it, I now either quote key sentences of it on Twitter or make my comments while linking to the piece. It's probably not necessary to write an entire post around one central idea so I think I've been Tweeting my thoughts instead of blogging them.

While I'll still try to post my Names of the Day and recognize noteworthy obituaries, I really and truly believe the cartoons in the New Yorker just haven't been that good lately. It's not like I've forgotten them; I still look at them every Monday -- they're just not that funny and therefore not worth posting.

And then there's high school football. I've got my eye on that Maine South at Glenbard West matchup on opening weekend in three weeks, but I think I'm going to consider myself at least semi-retired on the subject. Friday nights are too hard for me to drive all over to see a game, and, frankly, I think I may have just gotten the whole thing out of my system (watching it and writing about it). We'll see.

So while I'm not ending this blog by any means (this is no Andrew Sullivanesque statement!), I think I have to acknowledge that I'm writing less and will probably continue writing less in the future. As I alluded in the second paragraph, eight years is a pretty good run. Thanks for reading!

Friday, July 28, 2017

June Foray, the voice...

...of Rocky the flying squirrel and others, died at age 99.

From her obit in the Times (my emphasis):

Ms. Foray began her remarkable 85-year career playing an elderly woman in a radio drama in 1929 at age 12. She portrayed scores of radio characters in the 1930s and ’40s. Over the next 60 years, she provided voices for animated shorts, feature films and television shows, as well as record albums, video games, even talking toys. Her last performance was as Rocky in a 2014 Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon produced by DreamWorks Animation.

At 94, she became the oldest person to win an Emmy, cited for her Mrs. Cauldron on “The Garfield Show,” and in 2013 she received an Emmy Governors Award.

The Name of the Day...

...belongs to Chapman Rackaway, a professor at the University of West Georgia.

(That's actually a picture of English actor Ian Carmichael.)

This is what Dr. Rackaway really looks like. But you were fooled for a second there, weren't you?

As I mentioned yesterday, I...

...just finished Season Three of Mad Men and they played a song at the end of Episode 13 by Roy Orbison, "Shahdaroba," which I had never heard before. (Shame on me?)

But I have seen the video above, and if you haven't, for the love of all that's holy, drop everything you're doing right now and watch it!

Recorded in 1987, the Big O is backed by Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Jackson Browne and some others whom I don't recognize. (Shame on me, again?)

Just enjoy it; the news is too depressing and I can't dance very well.

P. S. I posted this yesterday before last night's historic vote. Know hope!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Once again, the news...

...is just too depressing to comment on, but, despite what Skeeter Davis sings in the video above, it's not the end of the world.

The Republicans' "skinny bill," which may very well pass in the Senate, would be such a lame "replacement" of the Affordable Care Act as to be almost laughable if it weren't for the estimated 16 million people who would lose their insurance. After seven years -- seven years! -- the best the Republicans could do to "repeal and replace" the ACA would be to end the individual and employer mandates and the medical device tax? Seriously? (If I were a Republican I'd be pretty disappointed. That's it? That's the f***ing plan you've been working on all this time?)

It really comes back to something I and many others have been saying for the past seven years: if you don't have a better plan (and the Republicans clearly don't), why not just repeal Obamacare and then pass it again under a white guy's different name, say, Trumpcare? You know, "repeal and rename"?

Whatever. In the meantime, I just finished Season Three of Mad Men, and before I get to the last episode, here's a little Skeeter Davis from the end of episode 12 to cheer you up. Remember, if you can't dance, you can at least listen to music.

"The End of the World," which I think Ms. Davis is actually singing in that video, was released in December 1962 and peaked in March 1963 at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, No. 2 on the Billboard country singles, No. 1 on Billboard's easy listening, and No. 4 on Billboard's rhythm and blues. It is the first, and, to date, only time that a song cracked the Top 10 on all four Billboard charts. Billboard ranked the record as the No. 3 song of 1963.

Here's another one from Ms. Davis, a little more upbeat, that I also like. As they used to say in the '60s, Keep the faith, baby.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Most Frequently Misspelled...

...Name of the Day has to belong to Steven McCormack, a professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Oops, I misspelled it; it's actually Steven McCornack.

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Other Name of the Day...

...belongs to Ralph Regula, who served 18 terms in Congress and died last Wednesday at age 92.

How many times do you suppose someone spelled his last name as "Regular," with an extra "R" at the end?

The Name of the Day...

...belongs to Ty Cobb, the newest member of the Trump administration legal team. (In case you don't follow the news closely.)

And, yes, that's his real name.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

I'll bet you didn't notice...

...Misirlou playing in the background of Mad Men, Season 2: episode 11. (No, not the Dick Dale version, but one by some guy named Martin Denny.)

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

While the latest news...

...on health care "repeal and replace" is indeed encouraging, the Oaf is still in office.

So let's dance, or at least listen to "Telstar" from the ending of Mad Men, Season 2: Episode 10.*

Named after the Telstar communications satellite, the 1962 instrumental was written and produced by Joe Meek for the English band the Tornados. The track reached No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in December of that year.

"One of the first sci-fi-influenced pop songs," the record featured either a clavioline or the similar Jennings Clavioline, both keyboard instruments with distinctive electronic sounds. It was recorded in Meek's studio in a small flat above a shop in Holloway Road, North London.  

* Incidentally, if you're interested I've been following along by reading Alan Sepinwall's excellent commentaries on the series. Hat tip: Joe T.

I don't speak a word...

...of Japanese even though I spent ten years working for a Japanese Bank. (Okay, "hai" means "yes.")

But I still think "Ue o Muite Arukō" ("I Look Up As I Walk") or, inexplicably, "Sukiyaki," is a truly beautiful song. (It's featured in Mad Men Season 2, Episode 2.)

Ironically (or is it coincidentally?), Kyu Sakamoto, who recorded this hit in 1961, died in a plane crash in 1985 just like Pete Campbell's father in that same Mad Men episode.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Martin Landau died...

...on Saturday at age 89. Better known for his roles in Mission: Impossible and Ed Wood, I'll always remember him from Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors, in which he "played a successful, upstanding ophthalmologist and family man who gets away with the arranged murder of his mistress."

Crimes and Misdemeanors, released in 1989, may have been the last of Mr. Allen's great movies from what I would consider his best "period," beginning with Annie Hall in 1977. I'd also include Interiors (1978), Manhattan (1979), The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), Radio Days (1987) and Another Woman (1988) in that list. Okay, I'll throw in Match Point (2005), although it doesn't fit neatly into my narrative.

What preceded Annie Hall and followed Crimes and Misdemeanors is mostly forgettable, but for that brief twelve-year period, Woody Allen made some of the best movies ever.

P. S. For those Woody Allen fans who are positively indignant at the brevity of my list, just remember, nine great works of art (and even Radio Days may be a stretch) are about eight more than most geniuses are allowed. Think about it: aren't most artists essentially one-hit wonders?

Ray Phiri, a South African...

...who played guitar on "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes" and other songs with Paul Simon, died at age 70.

(By the way, you'd be forgiven if you were wondering what's happened to this blog. What started out as a vehicle to relay information about high school football to my out-of-town brothers -- with a healthy sprinkling of my opinions on other subjects, such as politics -- seems to have morphed into a music blog. Well, football is still about a month away, and as for politics, what can you say about a president who's a pathological liar, in way over his head and yet profiting financially from the office? It's a disgrace.

Like many of you, I'm sure, I'm trying to make sense of this current depressing time in American history. I'm beginning to think its closest analogue is the McCarthy era. I hope to elaborate on that soon.

Until then, keep dancing. Or listening to music.)

The Name of the Day...

...belongs to author/columnist Pagan Kennedy.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

As great as Bob Dylan...

...was (still is, I guess) I have to admit I like some covers of his songs even better than the originals. Sue me. (The Byrds' "Mr. Tambourine Man" and the Turtles' "It Ain't Me Babe" come immediately to mind.)* So when I heard "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" at the end of Mad Men Season 1, Episode 13, I was reminded of this rendition by Peter, Paul and Mary.** Is it better than the original? Probably not, but I like it anyway.

Remember, during these challenging times we have to dance. Or, in my case, listen to music.

* Oh, and speaking of covers, the Vogues did a pretty good one of "My Special Angel" in 1968.

** Even this version with Andy Williams (who drifted way, way to the right in his later years) isn't too shabby.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

In the middle of this song...

...John Mellencamp tells the audience:

Every time something goes wrong in my life I always just dance. Something goes bad, I dance. I get in an argument, I dance. I see the government doing something I don't want them to do, I dance. You'd be surprised at how dancing can just dance your problems away . . . See, you don't have to be very good, you just gotta be able to do it . . . Let's all dance and let the problems of the world just kind of slip away for about five seconds if we can.

Boy, if it were only that easy.

First of all, I can't dance very well. (Think Elaine from Seinfeld.) It's not my fault, though. Not only am I white, but Irish too. Double whammy.

So, as I alluded in my last post, when the news is this depressing, I'll just listen to music instead. (What could I possibly write about Trump that hasn't already been said?)

P. S. I especially like the violin in that video; it really makes the song for me. The woman's name, I think, is Miriam Sturm.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Who is your favorite...


P. S. I'm finally getting around to watching Mad Men; the news is just too depressing.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Name of the Day...

...belongs to Samantha Dravis, the chairwoman of the deregulation team at the E.P.A.

You don't suppose she's ever gotten any mail addressed to "Samantha Davis," do you?

Wouldn't you expect...

...a guy named George Rockwell to have a plaque memorializing him in a rock?

What, did you think he would have a statue or his picture on a wall someplace?

Hat tip: Kevin G.

What if Putin...

...decided to back Donald Trump, the least qualified candidate for president in 2016, and then spend his entire first term trying to weaken him? Wouldn't that achieve his goal of destabilizing America?

And then what if Putin decided to back the Democrats in the 2018 midterms? Wouldn't having Trump in the White House and a Democratic Congress weaken the U.S. further? Wouldn't that leave us mired in impeachment talk until 2020? (And wouldn't that lead to a bit of a rebellion on the right?)

Or what if Reince Priebus, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and Mike Pence were behind all these White House leaks in an effort to bring down Trump and install Pence? And what if they made it look like they were supportive of the president all along and it was the Democrats' and the mainstream media's fault?

Too House of Cards-ish for you? Seriously, would anything surprise you at this point?

Monday, July 3, 2017

My son and I finished...

...our "Western Avenue Project" yesterday by catching the inbound Rock Island train from the Blue Island-Vermont station.

The odyssey -- in four parts -- began in late February (can you believe it?) and took us until July to complete. (Click here to read Parts One, Two and Three.)

John and I left our new place at noon and walked west on 18th Street to Western Avenue where we caught the No. 49 bus to the 79th & Western Terminal, just a block or so beyond where we left off at St. Rita High School in April.

Does that mean we cheated by not walking the entire length of Western Avenue? (That'll keep me up at night.) And why does the Western bus stop at 79th? Why doesn't it go all the way to the city's southern boundary at 119th? I don't know.

While we were standing at the bus stop an older man (even older than me!) walked up and waited with us. He was on the phone with someone and although I was pretty sure he was speaking English it was with such a peculiar accent that it made me wonder. (John said he reminded him of Elmer Fudd.) He turned to talk to us after a couple of minutes and I really wish I had taken his picture. I don't normally take photos of people but I should have made an exception in his case. It would have been a good one for posterity.

After getting off the bus at 79th Street in the Community Area of Ashburn on the Far Southwest Side, we resumed our journey down Western Avenue, through the Dan Ryan Woods and into Beverly after crossing 87th Street.

In case you were wondering, yes, Ashburn got its name from the city's ashes, which were dumped here for many years. In fact, as recently as 1959 ash "heaps" were still visible in the area north of 79th Street. Ashburn was also the home of the E. M. Laird Airplane Company and the city's first airfield, which operated from 1916 until 1939.

Just across 91st Street is the Beverly Bike & Ski, which has this excellent sign outside. And, speaking of signs, Western Avenue is a veritable treasure trove of vintage signs:

Janson's Drive-In, at 99th;

Fox's Restaurant and Pub, at 100th Street;

Mr. Swifty Cleaners, at 110th; and

Beverly Woods Restaurant at 115th.

And even on into the suburb of Blue Island:

But I'm getting a little ahead of myself.

Just beyond the Bike Shop is the Bridgeport Coffeehouse -- Bridgeport? -- which is housed in this excellent example of Mid-century modernism. The north wall has something for everyone:

Light blue glazed brick;

As well as these colored glass blocks.

As long as I'm not going in strict chronological order, here's some more light blue glazed brick, in this case on a beige brick background, a little farther down Western.

We were getting hungry by this point, but we resisted the siren call of the Original Rainbow Cone, at 92nd Street. I don't like to have my dessert before the main course, so we dashed across the street (to the suburbs!) to Firehouse Subs in the Evergreen Marketplace. In hindsight it was a mistake -- we should have waited until at least Janson's a few blocks later -- but we were positively starving by this time. (And we were going to need our strength; the mercury topped 90 degrees yesterday!)

After lunch we continued on Western, into the heart of the Beverly community area, which extends down to 107th Street. Sparsely settled until the completion in 1889 of the suburban line of the Rock Island Railroad, Beverly came to be considered one of the more prestigious neighborhoods in the city.

Although it now has the highest percentage of black residents of any white-majority neighborhood, Beverly still has the feel of an Irish Catholic enclave. Along with Morgan Park to the south, it's the home of the South Side Irish Parade, which is held every year on the Sunday prior to St. Patrick's Day. Winding down Western Avenue, past such Irish pubs as the Cork & Kerry, above, the parade is reputed to be quite the spectacle. I threaten to go every year, but one of these days I promise I'm actually going to make it.

Across 107th is Morgan Park, named after Thomas Morgan, the area's largest landholder in the nineteenth century. It extends, of course, to 119th Street, where the city ends and Blue Island begins.

While John and I had originally intended to catch the Rock Island train at 119th, we had some time to kill until the next one arrived so we pressed on into Blue Island. My friend Kevin had told me it had a charming downtown so we decided to walk the extra two miles or so to the station at Vermont Street.

Blue Island dates back to the 1830s and its downtown looks as if it hasn't changed much since then. Really, if you wanted to shoot a movie that took place at almost any time in the past, Western Avenue in Blue Island would be perfect.

But what I really wanted to know was, how in the heck did they come up with the name "Blue Island"? There was no water in sight, and, believe me, I was thirsty! According to Wikipedia, the Chicago Democrat described the area in February, 1834:

Nearly south of this town and twelve miles distant is Blue Island. This name is particularly appropriate. It is a table of land about six miles long and an average of two miles wide, of an oval form and rising some forty feet out of an immense plain which surrounds it on every side. . . The ridge, when viewed from a distance, appears standing in an azure mist of vapor, hence the appellation "Blue Island."


We hopped on the train at a little before six and high-fived each other for slaying the Western Avenue "dragon." This weekend I hope to see the young man who first inspired us to undertake this task, the guy who hiked the entire street in one day. Can't wait to compare notes!

To sum it all up, John and I walked about 25 miles over four Sundays. We hiked through 15 of Chicago's 77 recognized community areas -- Rogers Park, West Ridge, Lincoln Square, North Center, Avondale/Logan Square, West Town, Near West Side, Lower West Side, McKinley Park, Brighton Park, Gage Park, Chicago Lawn, Ashburn, Beverly and Morgan Park -- from the Far North Side all the way down to the Far Southwest Side. Not sure I'd recommend it (some of the stretches are "sketchy"), but I'm glad we did it.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Wouldn't you expect...

...someone with a name like Hauseman to work with houses for a living?

Hat tip: Kevin G.

Gary DeCarlo, who...

...sang "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye," died at age 75. Released by Fontana Records under the band name Steam, the song reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1969.

Oh, and Stephen Furst, who played Flounder in Animal House, died last month at age 63. (Still getting caught up.)

The Name of the Day...

...is a tie, between Monkey Chan, a Hong Kong nursing student (above), and author Jon Ronson (below).

The first one requires no explanation, I assume, and, as for the second, well, you don't suppose anyone ever mistakes it for Ron Johnson, do you?

Thursday, June 29, 2017

I guess one cure...

...for writer's block would be shorter posts.

Last night the guys and I took our weekly Wednesday evening Hike through Bridgeport, had dinner at Morrie O'Malley's, walked past Sox Park (with my Cubs hat on!) and around the surprisingly nice campus of IIT (Illinois Institute of Technology). How come I had never been there before?

That's the "Man on a Bench" sculpture at the top of this post which sits in what is thought to be Chicago's smallest official park.

And one of the more interesting structures on campus is the Robert F. Carr Memorial Chapel of St. Savior -- also known as "the God box" -- designed by Mies van der Rohe in 1952, above.

The Name of the Day...

...(yes, I'm still here) belongs to Brian Sugar, the founder of PopSugar Inc.

Friday, June 23, 2017

I'm still alive, in case...

...you were wondering. Just really depressed about the state of the country.

How did we go from the greatest president of my lifetime to the worst president ever? How could that happen?

In so many ways, the United States is in the worst shape of my life. Worse, even, than the Vietnam - Watergate era. It's not a particularly good time to be an American.

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Name of the Day...

...belongs to Patricia Knatchbull, a great-great-grandchild of Queen Victoria, who died this week at age 93.

Lady Patricia, also known as Lady Brabourne and later Lady Mountbatten, was the daughter of Lord Louis Mountbatten, who was killed by the IRA in 1979. (The name Mountbatten was changed from Battenberg, originally a German name, during World War I due to anti-German sentiment.)

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

This video is one of the strangest...

...things I've seen in one of the strangest years of my life what has to be the strangest year of my life.

How on earth did this get choreographed? Did President Trump tell everyone how this was supposed to go down before the cameras went on? ("Okay, I'm going to go around the room and I want each of you to tell me how great I am. Got it?") And just check out the looks on Rex Tillerson's and James Mattis's* faces! (Are they sending us secret messages in Morse code with their blinking eyes? "Help! I'm being held hostage!") How could anyone with any self-respect at all serve in this administration? The only possible answer is that they are there to protect the country from a president who is clearly unfit for the job.

And how about all that crazy stuff coming out of Trump's mouth?

A record-long delay in the Senate confirmation process? The vast majority of jobs are waiting to be filled by the administration!

And "passed more legislation?" Trump has passed no significant legislation. None. Granted, a really awful tax cut for the rich health care bill could still emerge from Congress this year but tax reform and infrastructure are at best a figment of the president's imagination.

(The only thing Trump has "accomplished" so far is selecting a name for the Supreme Court from a list he was handed. But this was really Mitch McConnell's "W," wasn't it? After all, it was the majority leader that kept Merrick Garland off the Court last year and ended the filibuster to pave the way for Neil Gorsuch. Anyone could have "appointed" Gorsuch after that maneuver.)

Job creation? It's actually down a little -- certainly not up -- since Trump took office.

OMB Director Mick Mulvaney's budget? Double counts $2 trillion. "Taking care of the people that have to be taken care of"? No, just the opposite: it throws them to the wolves.

As the president went around the room and listened to everyone all I could think was, what do they say about him in private? To their spouses? "You wouldn't believe what this jackass said today..."

After watching this I can honestly say that my job suddenly looks a lot better -- a lot better. At least I don't have to embarrass myself on national TV! (What could Reince Priebus have possibly told his wife when he got home? "I know, I know, but I'm playing the long game! Just don't let the kids see that, okay?")

Seriously, is this America, or North Korea?

* I heard Mattis singled out by some commentators for praising the troops and not The Leader. He has to be on thin ice now.

The Name of the Day...

...belongs to Clyde Sniffen, Assistant Attorney General of Alaska.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Adam West, who played...

...Batman in the eponymous TV series from the 1960s, died last Friday at age 88. Really, it's hard to overstate that show's impact during its two and a half year run.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

A final look from...

...our balcony on 1256 W. Lexington Street at Arrigo Park in Little Italy:

And a first view from the deck of our new loft at 1111 W. 14th Place, about a mile south:

Ranting Blogging should resume shortly.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The other Name...

...of the Day belongs to Michael Sprinkle, a Nevada legislator.

While the surname Sprinkle isn't so bad in and of itself, when preceded by the name Michael it doesn't exactly roll off the tongue smoothly, does it?

P. S. All kidding aside, Mr. Sprinkle is the author of a very interesting "Medicaid for all" bill in the Nevada Assembly. Worth a read. (Isn't Mr. Sprinkle's plan far preferable to the current Republican "plan"?)

The Name of the Day...

...belongs to Reality Winner, a contractor with Pluribus International Corp.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

"Manuel Antonio Noriega, the...

...brash former dictator of Panama and sometime ally of the United States whose ties to drug trafficking led to his ouster in 1989 in what was then the largest American military action since the Vietnam War, died Monday night in Panama City. He was 83."

So reads the first two sentences of Manuel Noriega's obituary in the New York Times today. If you squint a little, though, it could have just as easily read:

"Saddam Hussein, the brash former dictator of Iraq and sometime ally of the United States whose ... ouster in 2003 in what was then the largest American military action since the Vietnam War..."

And my point is that I've always thought that President George H. W. Bush's invasion of Panama in 1989 served as the model for his son's invasion of Iraq fourteen years later.

Read the following and substitute "Saddam Hussein" and "Iraq" when necessary (my emphasis):

Mr. Noriega, who became the de facto leader of the country by promoting himself to full general of the armed forces in 1983, had a decades-long, head-spinning relationship with the United States, shifting from cooperative ally and informant for American drug and intelligence agencies to shady adversary, selling secrets to political enemies of the United States in the Western Hemisphere and tipping off drug cartels. Whose side he was on was often hard to tell.

“He craved power and became a tyrant,” Mr. Koster and Mr. Sánchez wrote in laying out Mr. Noriega’s ultimate undoing. “He craved wealth and became a criminal. And the careers came in conflict.”

Mr. Noriega’s two-facedness was known to American officials. But they saw him as useful in helping them maintain influence in Panama at a time of leftist uprisings in Central America. He provided, for one thing, an important listening post in the region.

He grew more belligerent, however, and by 1989 American patience had run out

The United States Senate in 1986 overwhelmingly approved a resolution calling on Panama to remove Mr. Noriega from the Panamanian Defense Forces pending an investigation of charges of corruption, election fraud, murder and drug trafficking.

“That was enough,” President George Bush said in announcing the invasion, which included more than 27,000 troops.

A White House statement as the invasion got underway said the United States had acted “to protect American lives, restore the democratic process, preserve the integrity of the Panama Canal treaties and apprehend Manuel Noriega.” Political commentators assigned other motives, including a way for Mr. Bush to shake off perceptions of weakness; his poll numbers rose significantly after the invasion.

Panamanian forces were overwhelmed as Mr. Noriega escaped into hiding, surfacing days later, on Dec. 24, at the Vatican Embassy in Panama City. Twenty-three American service members were killed and more than 300 wounded in the invasion; casualties among Panamanians have been disputed, with the Panamanian government at the time estimating that several hundred soldiers and civilians had died, while some human rights groups insist the toll was much higher.

He surrendered on Jan. 3, 1990, and was flown to jail in Florida, leaving behind a new president sworn in on an American military base and a new era for Panama.

If only Iraq had been that easy! But I think that was how it was supposed to go down: invade Iraq, be greeted as "liberators," capture Saddam Hussein and install a new Western-style democracy all within a month. Beautiful!

Spoiler alert: it didn't happen exactly that way.

But the bottom line is this: If you're a foreign leader and you piss off an American president named Bush don't be too surprised to find your country invaded and its leader (you) jailed or, worse, put to death. The corollary to this, of course, is that if you're an American president named Bush don't think this will all go quite as smoothly as it did for your dad. While history often rhymes, it is under no obligation to repeat itself.