In the Land of Lincoln


Boy Lincoln

Boy Lincoln

Saturday, Anne and I drove up the 55 to Springfield, IL. Our mission was to visit the “new” Lincoln presidential library and museum. In this sesquicentennial anniversary year of the man’s death, new here is a relative term. This new library is actually ten years old, but it was new to us and it was newer than our last visit to Springfield, which was back when Dan was still in high school. When we went to Chicago last month, we passed Springfield, twice and it put the bug in my ear to do this trip.

I’ve only visited one other presidential library. That one was Reagan’s. Anne’s uncle Lou took us there. This was years ago, because I remember that the boys were still young then. It is located atop a hill in Simi Valley and has a great view of the surrounding countryside. The building is circular in shape. In we walk and right inside the threshold Lou announces in a booming voice, “I didn’t like him as governor and I still don’t like him now!” Later, as we were continuing our trip south to San Diego, we passed signs for the Nixon library. Anne jokingly suggested stopping, but we both agreed that two Republican presidential libraries would be too much.

Fast-forward twenty years and we find ourselves in the first Republican president’s library. I joked that he was not only the first, but the best Republican president and that it has been downhill since him. In full disclosure, we got lost trying to get there. We ended up parking in front of the municipal Lincoln library. We ended up walking the few blocks from there to the presidential Lincoln library. Also, we didn’t actually visit the library, but rather the adjoining museum. I’m not even sure if the library is open to the general public and especially on a Saturday.

It is a nice museum. The building has a huge rotunda at its center, with wings radiating out from it that are arranged chronologically through Lincoln’s life. Pictured is a diorama portraying young Abe. The collection is a mix of historical memorabilia, dioramas and audio-visual displays. We spent a good three hours touring the museum. Afterwards, we grabbed lunch at a local combination coffee shop / restaurant / bar. Then it was back onto the Lincoln trail. Across the street from the Lincoln museum is the old rail station. It no longer serves its original purpose, but is now an adjutant to the museum. It featured sets and costumes from the Spielberg movie, Lincoln. This movie centers on Lincoln’s greatest legislative achievement, the Thirteen Amendment to the Constitution that abolished slavery. I found no mention of that other famous Lincoln movie, Abe Lincoln, Vampire Hunter.

We rounded out the day at the old Illinois statehouse. It is a compact, functional building that in its day housed all three branches of state government, all under one roof. In this building Lincoln worked as a lawyer, appearing before the state supreme court. He even argued before his future rival, Stephen Douglas, who was a justice then. Later, he moved across the hall and sat as a state representative. It is there that he made his famous ‘House Divided’ speech. More recently, in 2008, Barack Obama announced his candidacy for president on the front steps of this building. Doing so was more than just a hat tip to Lincoln’s legacy that he hoped to add to, by becoming the first black president. I tried to get Anne to pose on those same steps, but she wouldn’t cooperate. I guess that I’ll have to look elsewhere for the first woman president.

New Girl


New Girl's Exterior Shot

New Girl’s Exterior Shot

The building pictured in this post is used as the exterior shot for the Fox TV sitcom, New Girl. Starring Zooey Deschanel who plays the character Jess, “an offbeat young woman.” Jess moves into the pictured apartment building along with three single men. The IMDB synopsis tells us, “although they find her behavior very unusual, the men support her – most of the time.” This is the Binford Building that was constructed in 1906 and was converted into an apartment building in the 1980s. It is located in LA’s Artist District, home for over 900 movie shoots a year. It also happens to be across the street from Pie Hole, Dan’s favorite LA pie shop, so we had plenty of time to study it while we munched on great pie, washed down with good coffee. Deschanel has often been tagged a Manic Pixie Dream Girl (MPDG), a typecast that imagines women as bubbly, but ultimately shallow creatures that exists solely to help brooding, soulful young men to embrace life. In her movie, 500 Days of Summer, this is how co-star, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character Tom sees her, much to his eventual chagrin, when he finds out that his fantasy is not true. In New Girl, Deschanel continues to explode the MPDG stereotype, at least, within the confines of a Fox TV sitcom.

Green-Eyed Toad


Green-Eyed Toad

Green-Eyed Toad

I heard a new term of art today for the evolving New England Patriots scandal, Ballghazi. Still no word yet, whether or not Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA) will be jumping on this investigative bandwagon too. In a press conference today, Patriots quarterback, Tom Brady, weighed in on the controversy. The following paragraph is a mashup of Brady press conference quotes about balls. One thing you have to admit about this situation, no matter which side that you are on, this is some of the best Super Bowl hype ever.

“Our equipment guys do a great job of breaking the balls. To me they’re perfect. … I don’t want anyone rubbing ‘em. … I wouldn’t want anyone touching those. … Whatever feels good that day … I’m not squeezing the balls. It’s not part of my process. … Breaking the balls. … Some guys like old balls. … I tell them how great they are.”

The photo with this post is of a toad not a Tom. This particular toad, well frog actually, but toad has more alliteration here than frog. Anyway, this organism has been genetically modified. The frog’s eyes are green because scientists inserted a jellyfish gene into the frogs’ DNA. Scientists engineered the gene so that it would only work in the eye. Hence, this post’s title, “Green-Eyed Toad”.

I’ve been having problems lately with another green-eyed toad. This one yells at me a lot and for no good reason, at least as far as I can see. He’ll also physically brush me aside in the hall, if I don’t jump out of his way. In short, he is a bully. None of this behavior is overt enough to warrant me calling him out on it, because I’d have to have a much better case than I have now to go down that route. I’ll just have to bide my time and keep a wary eye over my shoulder. Besides time is on my side. I expect that his past will soon catch up with him.

Hold Their Feet to the Fire


Don't Fall In The Fireplace!

Don’t Fall In The Fireplace!

“I have no more campaigns to run.” [Republican applause] “I know, because I won both of them!” – President Barack Obama

To my dear Republican friends, you are wrong, but I still love you, in spite of yourselves. This sentence could apply summarize President Barack Obama’s sixth State of the Union (STOU) address. It was an impassioned speech, a departure from the usual dry laundry list that these SOTU addresses have devolved into as of late. While his speech was overtly partisan at times, he also beseeched his Republican colleagues to join with him in the spirit of bipartisan cooperation. This is a plea that he has been making since he first came into office and it has consistently fallen on deaf GOP ears. Now that they control both houses of Congress, they will have to go through him, if they want to get anything done and he made it abundantly clear last night that he is not about to rollover for them, but rather he is fully prepared to hold their feet to the fire.

What does Bill Belichick and European central bankers have in common? They are both worried about deflation.

In addition to Republican legislators, another organization that should have their feet held to the fire are the New England Patriots. They are cheaters, plain and simple. Their latest scandal, dubbed deflate-gate, involves the leaked finding that 11 of the 12 Patriot supplied game balls to last Sunday’s AFC championship were under inflated, making them easier to pass and catch. The losing Colts later claimed that this was also the case in November, when the two teams last met. The Patriots were actually found guilty of cheating and subsequently penalized, in what was then dubbed spy-gate. They were convicted of filming the play signals of the New York Jets. They are also supposedly the reason that on field coaches now hold a card up in front of their mouths when speaking. This is done because it was suspected that the Patriots lip-read the opposing coach’s speech. Now everyone has to suspect and defend against this illegal practice. The list of allegations against Patriot’s head coach Bill Belichick doesn’t stop there though. The day before the Super Bowl both teams hold private practices on the field where the game will be played. Every time that the Patriots have won the Super Bowl, they were the second team to practice. In order to prepare for their practices, Patriot personnel were allowed to set up video equipment to tape their practice, while the opposing team was still running theirs on the field.

Hundreds of Trumpeter Swans!


Hundreds of Trumpeter Swans!

Hundreds of Trumpeter Swans!

Anne had MLK Day off and I took it off too, just because. The weather for this January holiday weekend has been simply fabulous. Martin would be pleased with it too, but who wouldn’t. Even if we did spend his day eyeing honking honky birds. Sunday we did the old loop-de-loop bicycle ride in Forest Park. We saw Bill the Mad Doctor. He was going the opposite way. Today, we took Joanie to the Riverlands. I don’t think that she has ever been there before with me. It was pretty quiet, except for one small section of Ellis Bay. The main channel of the Mississippi was relatively ice-free and there was no ice to be seen on the Missouri, but this back bay was still pretty much frozen over. Except for relatively small pools that the hundreds of trumpeter swans and some Canada geese have kept open. The trumpeter swan is the largest waterfowl in North America. The bird sighting board in the Audubon Center had sightings of 200+ swans, both today and yesterday. Click on the photo, it really is quite large. Looking at it, I estimate that there were closer to 500 swans. When the Riverlands first opened as a bird sanctuary there were less than a hundred trumpeter swans seen that year.  Speaking of the Audubon Center, the Corps has finally gotten around to landscaping the land between the center and the water. It looks great! We also saw one American Bald eagle. After our birding adventure, we headed across the river to Alton, to dine at Just Desserts. All pies are made that day and they calculate to sellout each day by four. We arrived at two and placed our order, just before the wait-staff started to erase the no longer available pies for the day. The first time Anne and I went there, we ordered lunch and then we ordered dessert, much to our chagrin. The pies we had been eyeing were no longer available. We’re older and wiser now. Eat dessert first, because life is short and uncertain, especially at Just Desserts.