Chicago

My first-ever trip to a very awesome city. I left my house earlier than usual because I’m 150 years old and like to move through the airport like the Dalai Lama. I was sad that after I first arrived, while taking the elevated train into town, I had to remind myself to stay off Twitter, and… y’know… gawk at the architecture. It was easier with my feet on the ground.

I was surprised at how cool The Bean was. Glad I got to catch it at a few different times of day.

Took a few hours to hit the Art Institute. Gotta say, Magritte is not my thing. I’ve rarely been so bored in an art exhibition. By far – by far – my favorite thing there was a collection of Ethel Stein’s weavings and textiles. It just blew my mind. Can’t believe that had that tucked away in a lower corner.

Lake Michigan is absurdly lovely. I wish Atlanta had some water nearby. I get it. While I was making my way down the Lakeshore Trail one morning, I stopped in the Chicago History Museum. I’d totally forgotten they had that Vivian Maier photography exhibit. The rest of the museum was just okay. But that Maier stuff and the Ethel Stein I mentioned earlier were my favorites from the trip. So glad I stumbled on those.

I also got to eat a Chicago-style hot dog before my next museum stop, so that was another huge victory. I’ll probably be making those at home.

The David Bowie exhibition at the MCA was cool… but it also made me realize I don’t care *that* much about his work. I’d never heard that he’d used a Verbasizer (Burroughsian custom software to remix text for lyrics and ideas), so that was a nice surprise. And the final room where there had three giant screens and a loud soundsystem for old concert footage? Very cool.

The Signature Lounge is at Hancock Tower is a total waste of money and time.

I can’t recommend The Experts at iO highly enough. Such a great improv gimmick: invite an outside expert/research/writer to lecture about their pet topic. The audience learns, the performers riff for 15-20, and then a round of direct Q&A leads to a few more shorter skits. Enjoyed it so much we got some more beer and got tickets for another show there later that night. So great.

I’m not much for pastries, but if you put food on a wooden board, you can usually count me in. And so we got a pastry board at Bristol to eat before I ate even more. Walked off the brunch through various neighborhoods I can’t remember and then a movie-nap. Never underestimate the vacation movie-nap.

Later highlights that afternoon were the big dumb Ferris wheel at the Navy Pier and dumb tiki drinks.

We woke up early to watch the Chicago Marathon, which, for a few minutes at least, had me convinced I should do a marathon. I’m about 95% sure that one of the runners was a bouncer at Signature Lounge. Kind of like how I saw one of the iO actors at a bar later in the weekend. Big city/small town. Seems like an amazing place to live. But it’s not my town. But I’m still excited to go back some day.

The Devil in the White City (review: dnf)

It hurts so much when you want a book to be fantastic, but it’s not. Before I go there, I’ll mention a couple saving graces for The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America. There’s a great quote from one of the main characters, architect Daniel Burnham: “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood.”
And there’s a cool literary connection. The book takes place during the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. The main grounds were known as the “White City” for the use of pale stucco on the buildings, and the first widespread use of streetlights. If you’ll recall, there are a bunch of flashback narratives in Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth that also take place during the Chicago exposition. So it was cool to read Devil with some of the sense of wonder and awe and hardship in Chris Ware‘s comic.

I couldn’t finish the book, though.

I hate it when authors don’t trust the story or trust the audience to follow along without prodding. One example I’ll never forget is in the film The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Evil armies are on the march, folks are going to take refuge in Helm’s Deep. Gandalf has to run an errand, but he says to Aragorn, “Look to my coming, at first light, on the fifth day. At dawn, look to the East.

And what do you know, a couple dozen scenes later, evil is at the door and prospects are bleak. But then Aragorn looks at a window with the morning sun shining in, and you get this ham-handed, idiotic Gandalf voiceover… “Look to my coming at first light on the fifth day. At dawn, look to the East.” Uggghhh. Easily one of the worst parts of the whole trilogy. No trust in the audience to remember a great line, no subtlety.

In that vein, Devil author Erik Larson (no relation) does two things that drove me nuts. For one, he subdivides chapters into even smaller chunks. That doesn’t normally bother so much, but his mini-sections get as small as a paragraph or two, or even a lone sentence. Too choppy. The second nuisance—and this is what killed me—is the frequent use of a teaser phrase at the ends of these mini-sections.

  • Why anyone would even want a soundproof vault was a question that apparently did not occur to him.
  • But even he did not, and could not, grasp what truly lay ahead.
  • But again, that was later.
  • It was one more sign of a gathering panic.
  • Which terrified her.
  • Hays grew suspicious and watched Mudgett closely—albeit not closely enough.

Come on. The book’s jacket tells me there’s a serial killer in there. Foreboding is already built-in, no need to pile it on.