Palmer House Peacock Gates

Palmer House Peacock Gate

Palmer House Peacock Gate

Years ago, while we were still just dating in high school, my future father-in-law sprung for me to accompany his family to Chicago. The occasion was the King Tut exhibit at the Field museum. All I remember of it is seeing lots of gold. Anne and I have been back to Chicago again and we have taken our sons to the Field museum too, but we have never been back to the Palmer House where we stayed all those many years ago, at least until this week. I should mention, because Anne keeps reminding me of it, of how mortified were her youngest sister’s friends that said sister slept in a hotel room with a boy. Pictured are a pair of the famous Palmer House Peacock gates. There are a number of these gates situated about the hotel, but this pair came with a plaque:

This massive hotel, once the world’s largest, bears the name of Potter Palmer, one of Chicago’s most important businessmen. It is designed in the Classical Revival style with French Neoclassical influences. Interior spaces of note include the grandly scaled and elaborate hotel reception lobby [further photos to follow]. At the corner of State and Monroe streets is arguably Chicago’s finest-surviving historic retail storefront and interior, originally built for C.D. Peacock jewelers.

A Manifesto Against Momism

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Vintery, mintery, cutery, corn,
Apple seed and apple thorn,
Wire, blier, limer lock
Three geese inna flock
One flew east,
One flew west,
One flew over the cuckoo’s nest

In preamble I should state that I really hate this story! It viscerally tears at my psyche. Anyway, the kids did alright. Hell, they were fantastic. I loved McMurphy (Miguel Hernandez) and hated Ratched (Anna Wermuth). Please take no offense dear, it was your role, not your performance that offended me. You did your job to perfection. The rest of the cast also ably portrayed their characters. By the end of the show, I was glad that Anne had dragged me along, on Saturday night to see Maplewood-Richmond Heights High School’s production of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”.

Nurse Ratched, who is so inflexible, so unseeing, so blandly sure she is right, represents Momism at its radical extreme, and McMurphy is the Huck Finn who wants to break loose from her version of civilization.”, wrote Roger Ebert. “Cuckoo’s Nest” is much less about insanity and much more about rebellion to authority. I cannot think of a better staging local for such a drama than in a high school, because it is in high school where America’s future rebels are bred to question authority.

I was first annoyed, but then came to love the audience’s giggling, like whenever a cast member exhibited spastic behavior. This is a small close-knit high school, everybody knows everybody else’s business.

Running this school puts the real world facility’s talents for growth, in direct contrast to Big Nurse’s destructive reign of terror. She would have never condoned this play. The behavior of Big Nurse in another venue, say a prison or say Gitmo, would easily fall within the guidelines of torture.

Nurse Rat Shit made Billy commit suicide and then she first degree murdered McMurphy. Chief Bromden only later sort of unplugged the still breathing corpse.

I’ve vented here, but the play still portrays an evil woman, but then so are men. We are all sinners. In the real world, men are tagged as the perpetrators of most of this world’s wrongs. Men are still the world’s majority power brokers, so the blame fairly falls at their feet. This play illuminates the truth that women, given unchecked power are just as sure to abuse it as their male counterparts.

I’d rather have a bottle in front of me, than a frontal lobotomy.


San Francisco's Palace of Fine Arts

San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts

Anne and I watched the Academy Awards last night. Maybe watching is a bit of an understatement, because our take on the Oscars was quite interactive. We played bingo together and I ‘live tweeted’ the night away. We tuned into the Red Carpet show, interrupted our viewing for dinner, and then dove back in after clearing the dishes. We each had a pair of Red Carpet show bingo cards.

Much like the show itself, the squares on our cards were dominated with who they are and what they wore. Anne and I are of the same age demographic and we share similar tastes, so we were equally clueless about most of the fashion and likewise many of the Hollywood personalities. We waited for the Red Carpet interviewer to name the celebrity and then ask what they were wearing. I was amused that Anne Hathaway wore Prada. Fortunately, I strung together enough generic squares (sequins, feathers and lapel pin) and won with Hugh Jackman. Anne continued playing and was eventually awarded both second and third place. I balked at giving her fourth and fifth places and told her to give it a rest, when the awards show proper began. By that time I had switched to my Academy Awards bingo card.

I could tell that we were about to witness a slow-motion train wreck (three and a half hours plus), when Captain Kirk returned from the future. Anne wished she had William Shatner on her card, so that she could have crossed him out. I had to agree with her, what a pair of boobs. We had no idea who Seth MacFarlane was and it wasn’t until much later that the mystery squares, Stewie’s voice and “Family Guy” became clear. We were familiar with the cartoon show and its character, but we had no idea that MacFarlane was its creator. By the time that we figured it out, these blockers had become irrelevant.

Working through the animated awards, which we had seen the winners, “Paperman” and “Brave”, both Disney offerings, it was clear that Anne was in the lead. Then we sailed into the Academy’s doldrums that long middle stretch of technical and boring awards, before the big finale. Anne hadn’t trained for the Oscars like I had. I had a Sunday afternoon nap. Sometime after the “Les Miz” sequence, I noticed that her eyes were closed. I knew that she had tuned out, when the one square that she needed to win, “thanks the Lord” occurred without her noticing. Adele’s co-winner said, “God thank the Academy”. I woke Anne to the news and she responded with, “Bingo!” I did the right thing, but I would have won on the next award, when Jennifer Lawrence slipped while mounting the stage.

Half an hour behind schedule, the big awards came in a rush. I thought that Tarantino was an ass, but maybe that’s just his schtick. I thought that Daniel Day-Lewis’ gag about switching roles with Meryl Streep (his presenter), “I was all set to play Maggie Thatcher, and she was Steven’s first choice for ‘Lincoln’” was strange, but the rest of his acceptance speech was great. Mini Abe and I both liked this notorious method actor’s apology to his wife for the strange cast of characters that have invaded their marriage.

I was rooting for “Lincoln”, but the cards seemed to be falling “Argo’s” way. When it came down to the wire, I was as surprised as everyone when Michelle Obama came online to announce the winner. I held out hope that my wish would come true, but like so many other Hollywood wishes, mine were dashed. I’ll just have to rent, “Argo”, “Life of Pi”, “Silver Linings Playbook”, etc.

The Knitty Gritty

Sparty and Pooh model Baby Anna's new sweater and cap

Sparty and Pooh model Baby Anna’s new sweater and cap

Sparty is a Michigan State Build-a-Bear that Joanie gave us and Pooh just is. Together they model a sweater and matching cap that Anne knitted for Anna, the baby of the fourth grade teacher that Anne substituted for last fall. Anne’s knitting is quite intricate, especially on the cap. The photo, while cute, doesn’t do her handiwork justice. She has posted more photos on Ravelry. You can find them under RegenAxe. OBTW, the bears are seated on the backside of the LOVE quilt that she also finished last week.

Anne does a fair amount of her knitting in the evening, while watching television. I use to criticize Anne for her fondness for police procedurals on TV. I called them paranoid cop shows. You know the fare, the franchises Law and Order and CSI led the pack. I had read once that people who watch these shows have an exaggerated fear of crime, hence the paranoia stigma. I feel a bit chagrined now that I have adopted two police procedurals of my own. I don’t fear any paranoid influences from these shows, because they are both set over a hundred years in the past, but it still looks duplicitous of me. Oh, well.

BBC America has produced these two shows. I watch them on Amazon. “Copper” is set in New York City, in 1864 during the Civil War. Detective Kevin Corcoran is a rugged Irish immigrant cop. His beat is the notorious Five Points neighborhood. To his superiors, he is just another Irishman, albeit a resourceful one. To his countrymen, he is a copper.

“Ripper Street” starts in April of 1889; just six months since the last Jack the Ripper killing. East London is emerging into a fragile peace, hopeful that this killer’s reign of terror might at last have run its course. Nowhere is this truer than in the corridors of H Division, the police precinct charged with keeping order in the chaos of Whitechapel. Its men hunted this maniac; and failed to find him.

These two 19th century crime dramas retrace ground already well-traveled. Martin Scorsese’s “Gangs of New York” was set in the same neighborhood and time period as “Copper”. Echoes of the Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law Sherlock Holmes franchise are apparent in “Ripper Street”. And these are only the most recent antecedents in a venerable lineage that traces back both genres, almost to their inception.

While “Copper” centers around one main character, Kevin Corcoran, played by Tom Weston-Jones, “Ripper Street” is run by more of a triumvirate of leads. “Copper” feels like an eastern western. No more so then in the opening bank robbery sequence. Its moral turpitude is at times enough to make any of the denizens of HBO’s “Deadwood” blush. While “Ripper Street” is ostensibly about the legend of Jack the Ripper, it borrows liberally from Holmes lore, with a dash of Steampunk. The interesting twist here is that with three characters to work with, the salient traits of Holmes and Watson can be jumbled up among them, leading to more believable and less archetypical characters.

Tonight most eyes will be turned towards the Academy Awards. Midway through that show, you might find that none of the gowns are more interesting than some peculiar stain on the red carpet. All of the jokes fall flat, but there are no disastrous gaffes to pick up the slack and the acceptance speeches just drone on and on. In this eventuality, you might consider watching one of these archaic paranoid cop shows.

Anne’s LOVE Quilt

Just when you thought that all of last week’s romantic mushiness was over with for a while, it is time to drop the other shoe. I waxed on and on about Valentine’s Day last week, but now it is my better half’s turn to reply. Anne had hoped to have this wall quilt finished by the 14th, but that was not to be. She has had a four-day weekend to make good on her intentions though and had completely finished it by the time that I came home from work today. She used printed fabric to create this quilt and outline quilted around the pattern. We will hang it on our bedroom wall. On the back of it she added a tag, with the following dedication:

Love is a Work in Progress.
Today, tomorrow, forever,
Until the last project is finally finished!

Now that she has finished this project, she can concentrate on finishing her current knitting project. She has been working both projects concurrently. I’ll go out on a limb and predict, nay set as a goal that she will finish this project this week too. While just as lovely as the featured quilt project, this other knitting project is way more cute.