Aimee Mann performed last night at Pritzker Pavilion in Chicago's Millennium Park—for free! So naturally I went.
The weather couldn't have been better, so the picnic area was totally full. Which meant that the pavilion itself had plenty of seats. Which meant I got to see her directly rather than just projected on a big screen.
Just for posterity, here's her set list:
- 4th of July
- Little Bombs
- Patient Zero
- The Moth
- Humpty Dumpty
- You Can't Help Me
- You Never Loved Me
- Goose Snow Cone (which, she explained, really is about her cat)
- Save Me
- Going Through the Motions
- Borrowing Time
- Long Shot
- Encore: One
- Encore: Wise Up
- Encore: Voices Carry
I love Aimee Mann's songs. I am conscious, however, that when her songs become my life's soundtrack, things are seriously out of joint. Sample lyric, from "Long Shot," which opened her 1996 album I'm With Stupid: "You fucked it up / You should have quit / Til circumstances / Had changed a bit." Or from "Save Me:" "You look like / A perfect fit / For a girl in need of / A tourniquet."
Seriously good, but seriously unhappy.
But totally worth the ticket price, I must say. And now I need to download Mental Illness, her last album.
On this day in 1850, Chicago had its first (sort-of) professional opera performance. It wasn't exactly up to the Lyric's standards:
In New York, P.T. Barnum was paying Jenny Lind—“The Swedish Nightingale”—$1,000 a night to perform. Chicago’s first opera didn’t have Jenny Lind. But the local promoters were crafty enough to choose one of her biggest hits for their first show, at Rice’s Theatre. The opera was Bellini’s La Sonnambula.
Four singers are not enough for an opera. So the Chicago cast was filled out with local amateurs. A few of them had good voices, most of them didn’t. Rehearsals were—I think “confused” is a good word to describe them.
Just like in one of those bad old Hollywood movies, the show had problems. The audience kept applauding at the wrong time—whenever one of the hometown amateurs showed up on stage, his friends in the audience would stand up and cheer. Meanwhile, one of the extras named J.H. McVicker sang so loudly he drowned out everybody else.
It helps to remember that 18 years after the city's founding, it more resembled a frontier town than the international metropolis it became in the 20th century. Still, it sounds like a fun show.
And then the theater burned down the next day...
I've been reading a novel written in 1935 that, except for its contemporary cultural references, could have been written in 2015. Or, heaven forfend!, 2020.
I can't recommend Sinclair Lewis' It Can't Happen Here enough. Donald Trump isn't exactly Buzz Windrip, but he's too close for comfort.
The problem, of course, is that authoritarian demagogues follow a script, and if you've read that script, you know the ending. Worse, you know the chapters between here and there. Lewis's wife, Dorothy Thompson, covered Germany as a journalist in the early 1930s. In that decade, Americans worried more than we do today about fascism—even without knowing the truth about Nazism's final solution.
The novel has different pacing and dialogue than modern audiences might prefer. The protagonist also sounds a bit preachy. And don't get me started with the casual sexism of Lewis's worldview. But he was prescient. And he showed how, exactly, it could happen here.
The events of the last three years do too. Let's hope our institutions survive.
Since hearing about it on NPR almost 8 years ago, I have loved the book Hint Fiction. It's collection of short stories, none more than 25 words long.
The other day I had an inspiration and wrote one of my own:
She left the office, reading the paper again.
"This isn't possible," she thought. "Brad's not gay."
These may pop up here from time to time.
As I write this, my Ancestral Homeland's football team are up 1-0 over Croatia in the World Cup semifinals. This wasn't supposed to happen:
Since 2006, England’s performance on the world stage has been lamentable, a comedy of errors marked by group-stage evictions, racism scandals, and grifters. In 2016, after the abrupt departures of two successive managers, the former England player and manager of its feeder under-21 team Gareth Southgate was given temporary charge of the national team, a decision that seemed safe, if uninspired. Expectations for Russia 2018 were muted, to say the least. “Before the tournament started, I could not make a case for us winning it,” the former England captain Alan Shearer wrote, Eeyore-ishly, in a column for the BBC. “I just wanted to see some signs of improvement.”
What happened instead has been a surprisingly smooth path to Wednesday night’s semifinal against Croatia, as a youthful and undaunted England side swept away a nation’s pessimism. Southgate’s great accomplishment—aside from the manager’s natty collection of waistcoats—has been getting the squad to envision itself as a team, as opposed to a collection of surly prima donnas who’d rather be spending their summers on Roman Abramovich’s yacht. England has one of the youngest and most inexperienced squads of all the teams competing in Russia, with an average age of 26.
As England heads toward its Wednesday-night match with Croatia, the anticipation of a potential victory (and a spot in the finals for the first time in 52 years) offers some welcome relief from the turbulence surrounding Theresa May’s government and the ongoing gloom of Brexit. (Almost as perturbing as the England team’s current run of success is the fact that Sunday marked England’s 50th straight day of sunshine.) Waistcoat sales are cresting. Motorways and shopping malls are being abandoned. Even Southgate is daring to dream. “How far can we go?” he told The Guardian.“Let’s push the boundaries, let’s create our own history.”
We've got the match on in the office. Updates as conditions warrant.
The Washington Post enumerates them:
MYTH NO. 1
The Beatles objected to trading leather outfits for suits and ties.
“In the beginning,” John Lennon told Melody Maker, the British music magazine, in 1970, Brian Epstein, the Beatles’ manager, “. . . put us in neat suits and shirts, and Paul was right behind him. I didn’t dig that, and I used to try to get George to rebel with me.” Lennon later complained to Rolling Stone that by giving up leather for suits, “we sold out.” Soon, the story of the Beatles chafing against Epstein’s directives was part of the lore.
The other Beatles — and sometimes, Lennon himself — remembered things differently. “It was later put around that I betrayed our leather image,” Paul McCartney said in “The Beatles Anthology,” “but, as I recall, I didn’t actually have to drag anyone to the tailors.” George Harrison said that “with black T-shirts, black leather gear and sweaty, we did look like hooligans. . . . We gladly switched into suits to get some more money and some more gigs.” Lennon put it this way to Hit Parader in 1975: “Outside of Liverpool, when we went down South in our leather outfits, the dance hall promoters didn’t really like us. . . . We liked the leather and the jeans but we wanted a good suit, even to wear offstage.” To which he added, “I’ll wear a fucking balloon if somebody’s going to pay me.”
Yeah, that sounds like John.
I believed a couple of the other myths, too.
That's my guess for how often Chicago's weather looks like this. Today's forecast calls for cloudless 23°C skies and a cool, clear evening.
So, naturally, I'm going to try to walk 30 klicks.
And I'm totally not watching the England/Sweden match that's on right now. Nope.
I didn't have a chance to read these yesterday:
Now I'm off to work. The heat wave of the last few days has finally broken!
As I eagerly await the start of the England-Columbia World Cup match that starts in a few minutes, I'm taking a moment to absorb Emily Atkin's report on the political implications of encased meats:
[T]he rise of cheap meats—fueled by hot dogs but also salisbury steaks—fed into more nationalist sentiments, too. Americans began to feel as though they were better than Europeans, who didn’t have enough land for grazing to make meat cheap enough for the masses. “If you’re a working-class factory worker in Liverpool, you’re not going to eat as much meat,” Kraig said. “But working-class Americans could get it, and they knew that,” feeding a patriotic sense of superiority that played into late-nineteenth century American xenophobia, as well. In turn, “Most Europeans were absolutely appalled” by the level of meat-eating in early America, Kraig said. Hot dogs brought Americans together while setting them apart from the rest of the world.
But it was twentieth-century advertisers who turned hot dogs into a nation-wide, values-linked symbol of American identity. In the 1930s and 40s, The Visking Corporation—which sold “Skinless”-brand wieners—advertised them as a July 4 food; a food for fighting soldiers; a food that was good for rationing (since there was “no peeling or waste”; and a food that was good for kids.
In the middle of the century, patriotism, nationalism, xenophobia, and an emphasis on traditional family structures proliferated regardless of party identity. The values that fueled hot dog patriotism, however, are held most strongly today within the Republican Party, which perhaps explains the political leanings of the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council. The group—which promotes July as National Hot Dog Month, July 19 as National Hot Dog Day, and holds an annual hot dog lunch for Congress—was founded by the North American Meat Institute (NAMI), which sends 81 percent of its political donations to Republicans. For years, groups like NAMI have lobbied against federal nutritional guidelines recommending eating less meat. Once, NAMI called a criticism of the meat industry an attack on the “American way of life.”
Because everything today is about politics. Even a food made of pork byproducts.
The Uptown Theater in Chicago will reopen in a few years after developers raised $75m for renovations:
The theater, a Spanish Baroque Revival dazzler designed by the kings of movie palace architecture, C.W. and George L. Rapp, is an emblem of Uptown’s lost glamour. Graffiti mars its exterior. Near the top of its bright red marquee, some of the script letters that spelled out the names of its developers, the theater chain owners Balaban & Katz, are missing, like gaps in a row of teeth.
Little is known at this point about the plans of the new developer, Chicago-based Farpoint Development, which is said to have cobbled together $75 million in public and private funds to revive the theater, located at 4816 N. Broadway.
If the Uptown really does wind up being reborn, it will mark a major change from 1961, which witnessed the destruction of Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan’s Garrick Theater, a masterpiece of the first Chicago School of Architecture, and its replacement by a parking garage. Along with the demolition of the Chicago Stock Exchange Building in the early 1970s, that traumatic event helped lead to the creation of today’s strong preservation movement in Chicago and the Uptown’s bright new prospects.
Uptown, like Logan Square, has been "the next hot neighborhood" for about 20 years. I'm hopeful that the Uptown Theater will reopen soon, and revitalize the Broadway corridor once again.