Friday, September 30, 2011

About that football post....

I know I'm testing Bee's patience, and maybe yours, with so many sports-themed posts in a row. It's just the way things worked out.

And, speaking of how things worked out, remember that football post I promised a couple of days ago?

It didn't.

Work out, I mean.

It's a great story -- you'll simply have to take my word on this one -- but one that doesn't work nearly as well without providing details that could easily lead to the identification of some of the persons involved. That's kind of inconsistent with the anonymity thing I've got going here.

So, I'll pass on that story.

Besides, I am on trial this morning and must get over to the courthouse.

But the idea was to have a post introduce my change in Sidebar topics. I've decided to plumb the archives from time to time -- there are nearly 1,500 posts on Second Effort -- at least some of them must be worth reading -- and highlighting some of these in the Sidebar so that people who might be new to the blog can, voluntarily, sample more of the fare here. (I'm a dreamer, I know.)

I've taken down the back-to-school posts that were in the Sidebar and replaced them with football-themed ones. Different themes will go up from time to time.

Here are the new posts in the Sidebar:

Seasonal Stuff, Gridiron Edition
You see now why I was hoping to introduce these with a football story, right? Ah, well.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Fearless MLB playoff predictions

I haven't revealed my bold predictions for the baseball playoffs here on Second Effort for a few years now. My prognostication skills have not improved in the meantime. So, please take note: Reliance on these predictions, and particularly the placement of any sort of bet based upon these predictions, is, well, stupid. Second Effort is not responsible for any losses you may incur based upon these predictions.

National League Playoffs

St. Louis Cardinals vs. Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies have to get to the World Series this year. They have to win the World Series, really, or their season will be judged a disappointment. Meaning no disrespect to my fellow barrister Tony La Russa (he passed the Florida bar exam in 1979 when he was manager of the Chicago White Sox)
, Philadelphia should prevail rather handily.

Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Milwaukee Brewers. The Diamondbacks' Geoff Blum was a hero of the 2005 World Series while with the White Sox (he had one home run in the regular season -- but his homer in the top of the 14th inning of Game 3 snapped a 5-5 tie). D-backs ace Daniel Hudson showed a lot of promise in his brief career with the Sox but was among the players shipped to the desert in the trade for Edwin Jackson. Their closer, J.J. Putz, was sometimes effective in a set-up role for the White Sox last year. When he pitched well, people were perfectly willing to pronounce his last name as "pootz." When he pitched badly, however.... The Brewers have former Royals ace Zack Greinke, and Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder. They've been dominant at Miller Park and they have the home field edge. Milwaukee should prevail.

American League Playoffs

Detroit Tigers vs. New York Yankees. The Tigers finished strong. The Yankees, though, are still the Yankees. I hate the Yankees. But they will win.


Tampa Bay Rays vs. Texas Rangers. This should be the best of the divisional series. Joe Maddon has once again coaxed the best from his low payroll squad. Texas has had a great year and has earned its return to the playoffs.

Of course, Long Suffering Spouse still hasn't forgiven Nolan Ryan for pounding Robin Ventura back in 1993. I've always thought that Mr. Ventura more or less lost his nerve as he charged the mound that night -- but Mr. Ryan wasn't going to take any guff from this young pup.

Anyway, this will be the series that should be the most fun to watch. Even if Tampa plays in the ugliest stadium in the major leagues. (To think -- that's where the White Sox almost wound up....)

I don't even know who I want to win this one. I think, maybe, I'm rooting for Tampa. So I'll pick them to win, too. Which, if you're a Ranger fan, should be a great comfort.

Speculating on the ALCS and NLCS

If these predictions -- by some miracle -- come true, the Brewers will play Philadelphia and Tampa Bay will play the evil Yankees.

I don't want to say this, but I think the Phillies should wind up facing the Yankees in the World Series. (I'll be rooting for the Rays -- if they get to the ALCS -- but I don't think it'll do them any good.)

As a White Sox fan, I always root for the American League team in the World Series.

I make only one exception: If the Yankees are the American League representative, I will root for the National League team. Go Phillies?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

On the occasion of Mr. Buehrle's departure?

(Photo obtained from the Chicago Sun-Times)
I hope that Buehrle's not gone -- please understand -- but I'm very much afraid that Adam Dunn and Alex Rios have sucked up all the money that should have been available for Mark Buehrle's new contract with the White Sox.

If he is gone, it seems appropriate to recall some of Buehrle's White Sox career highlights. There have been many. I didn't watch his perfect game live -- it was a day game and, believe it or not, I was at the Undisclosed Location, working diligently at my desk.

Well... not really working. Long Suffering Spouse was relaying the play-by-play over the phone during the last couple of innings. People who don't live in big cities may not realize it, but we can't get an AM signal in any of the skyscrapers downtown -- so we can't listen to the ballgame on the radio at work.

Anyway, the perfecto was Buehrle's second no hitter. Second Effort covered the first. From April 19, 2007, here's an excerpt from "Buerhle's doing very well tonight, isn't he?" (and, yes, that link will take you to the complete post):
That's what Long Suffering Spouse said when the line score came up as the Sox broadcast went into a commercial break.

I looked up. I see what you mean, I thought -- but all I dared say was, "Yes, he is. I hadn't noticed."

And I hadn't noticed.

I'd gotten home late and didn't turn on the game until the 5th inning -- in time to see Jermaine Dye's grand slam. Dye's been hitting poorly of late and Youngest Son was threatening to cut Dye from his fantasy team. (Yeah, that'll teach him.) When Dye hit the home run I wondered if Youngest Son had made good on this threat -- making a mental note to tell him to cut all the White Sox from his team if he had. We could use the offense.

So I did not notice just how well Buehrle was doing -- until Long Suffering Spouse pointed it out.

Without saying any more than I've already said she said, of course. Because even in our den we might jinx it.
So we said nothing -- and, for that reason alone, no doubt, Buehrle was able to accomplish the near-impossible.

No, that's silly.

Actually, Buehrle was doing his best, that night, to jinx himself. While the other players shunned him in the dugout, in keeping with the best traditions of baseball, lest they disrupt whatever magic he had channeled into, he would sidle up to a group of teammates and say, "Did you know I'm throwing a no-hitter?" He did stuff like that all night. And he completed the no-no anyway. He must have been channeling contrary karma that night.

Anyway, Buerhle has long been one of my favorites -- long a favorite of most Sox fans -- maybe not of the beer vendors, since he works so quickly and his games tend to be a lot shorter than most -- and, if Buerhle has to go, I hope he knows he'll be sorely missed.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Let me add here that I'll miss Ozzie Guillen, too, but I'll save my favorite Ozzie story for the next time the Marlins meet the Sox in interleague play. Assuming Ozzie is still their manager then.

I can't understand why anyone would voluntarily go work for Jeffrey Loria. Joe Girardi managed the Marlins in 2006, was named the NL Manager of the Year, and was fired. From Wikipedia:
Girardi was nearly fired in early August when he got into a vocal (and visible) argument with Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria during a game. According to witnesses and video footage, the Marlins owner was heckling homeplate umpire Larry Vanover. When the umpire warned Girardi about the harassment, Girardi and his bench coach Gary Tuck then turned to Loria and told him to stop. Loria had to be talked out of firing Girardi immediately after the game.

On October 3, 2006, the Marlins announced that they had fired Girardi, despite him winning manager of the year. Girardi said only that he appreciated the opportunity to manage the club, a move that was seen as classy across the Major Leagues and kept him at the top of many teams' list of manager candidates.
Girardi has done well since, of course. Then again, he was smart enough to use the Cubs' managerial vacancy last year as leverage for a contract extension with the Yankees. He didn't push his way out of New York because there might be more dough in Chicago.

Things were not ideal for Ozzie in Chicago the last couple of years. If his kids didn't cause the rift with Guillen's boss, Sox GM Kenny Williams, they sure exposed it. Ozzie was expected to win it all this year, but Adam Dunn was a huge disappointment. Dunn was supposed to drive in runs. But by mid-season, fans reckoned a Dunn at-bat successful if he merely struck out and did not hit into a double play. Alex Rios was a hazard to navigation in the outfield and spent much of the year with his batting average hovering near the Mendoza line. And Rios' batting average looked good compared to Dunn's. Gordon Beckham regressed at the plate. I could go on... but this is painful.

Ozzie was underpaid in Chicago -- managers with far less seniority were making far more than he was here. And he wasn't the one who put Dunn and Rios in uniform. And he'll get a lot more money in Miami... but at what cost? Ozzie may soon regret that he pushed his way out of town.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Programming note: Now that baseball season is over in Chicago, I need to do a football post. I'd like to do my fearless baseball playoffs predictions post, too, but I make no promises. Besides, I don't want to test Bee's patience by doing too many sports-related posts.

Still, the football post should be next. I don't know that I'll get it done by the end of the week, however. I'm on trial Friday supposedly and I have stuff to do in anticipation of same.

Curmudgeon wasn't the only one miffed at missing out on a MacArthur Grant


It appears recovering lawyer Stephan Pastis is disappointed as well, judging by yesterday's Pearls Before Swine strip.

I only mentioned my disappointment in passing this year:
[O]nce again, I've been denied a MacArthur Genius Grant. If you follow the link, you'll see that a local architect, Jeanne Gang, who has won awards for "green" designs, was among this year's honorees. I can understand that -- but, I've studied the complete list now and found not a single anonymous blogger among the lot. How about a little love for us anonymous bloggers? We're struggling to make the world a better place, too, you know -- and/or secure a book contract, whichever comes first.
Losing out on the MacArthur Grants has become an annual disappointment for yours truly. But I don't think I really whined about it here on the blog since September 2007.

I think I've suffered in silence long enough: I hereby announce my candidacy for one of next years MacArthur grants. Want to join me in this quest, Mr. Pastis?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Reading a successful visit to the eye doctor's office

I don't mean the little chart

20 V C H K N O
(Blogger won't let me space the letters like the chart does anyway.)

I always guess one or two letters, but decades of reading fine print have made me a pretty fine guesser. And when they ask me to read the same line for the (weaker) left eye that I just read with the right eye -- well, my short term memory isn't completely shot. Not yet.

Today was my visit to the doctor who treats my glaucoma. I'm not his favorite patient. I entirely understand. I've decided how to take my eye drops, never mind the directions, and my vision has been pretty stable for 15 years or so. An eye surgeon can't put his kids through college on routine office visits.

"I've got so many interesting patients this morning," he told me as he walked in. His tone and manner made clear that I was not among these.

"Nice of you to take time out from all that, then, to come see me," I said.

He was a little embarrassed. "You don't want to be interesting," he said, maybe to me, maybe to himself.

"Not really." (Not to doctors, anyway. I still hope to be interesting to blog readers.)

The doctor's assistant had already taken my pressures and made observations of my frayed optic nerves. The doctor did have to sign the new prescription the assistant had written out for him, and he did so, then riffed through the chart indifferently. He turned on the little bright light and held a magnifier in front of his own eye and took his own quick look at my optic nerves. He made a notation on the chart: Stable again, darn it! (I'm reasonably certain that those weren't his exact words although I didn't actually check.)

But that's not why my visit this morning was successful.

I was actually on time -- a few minutes before my scheduled appointment time, in fact. That can happen in the morning, though hardly ever in the afternoon.

So that was good.

Better still, there was a reasonably recent edition of The New Yorker magazine in the waiting room rack.

As a life-long Chicagoan, I am deeply prejudiced against all things New York. But The New Yorker has long been one of my guiltier pleasures, even if I wouldn't let it in my house.

It's not just the cartoons. It strikes me that the long-form articles in magazines like The New Yorker are perfect for a doctor's office. It makes the inevitable delay much easier to tolerate.

I think that I got hooked on The New Yorker when I was a kid -- the magazine was available in the pediatrician's office. It was in the pediatrician's waiting room, in a back issue of The New Yorker, that I read my first Woody Allen essay.

Yes, I was a strange child.

I was so early this morning, and the doctor's other patients so interesting, that I just about finished a feature article on the Egyptian Revolution. I even got to study the pictures that accompanied the article and read all the embedded cartoons. That, I submit, was a successful visit to the eye doctor.

---------------------------------------------------------------
And, because this is a full service blog, I'll even link to a 2010 Woody Allen essay from The New Yorker, "Udder Madness."

Monday, September 26, 2011

There's a mouse in the house

Long Suffering Spouse harbors no animus toward any living creature, so long as said creature stays out of her house.

Thus, we enjoyed watching a number of skunks parading through our backyard at dusk almost every evening during the summer months now ending. They were on that side of the sliding glass door; we were on this side. We have also seen possums and raccoons and coyotes in our backyard. A deer was supposedly spotted in a neighbor's backyard, just around the corner from us. We saw a fox one night, too, crossing the street in front of the local hospital. All of these observations were made within the corporate limits of the fair City of Chicago and all of these were just fine, thank you, with Long Suffering Spouse.

Long Suffering Spouse even defends the rights of spiders and ants and other creepy-crawlies to exist in their own sphere. When she was on playground duty recently at her school, she chided kids who were seeking out and stomping on spiders in the bushes by the school building. "Leave them alone," she scolded, "they have a right to be in their home undisturbed by us. Just as we have a right," she added, "to be left alone in our homes undisturbed by them."

The kids looked at her funny. She'd gotten so intense, all of a sudden, and was staring off into the distance.

But you see where my wife draws the line. And it is a bright line, admitting of no fine distinctions. A spider, an ant, or any other bug is toast if it comes within my bride's line of sight inside the confines of our home. If she sees a centipede, she will scream before dispatching it -- or, if I am available, or if the centipede is too fat and furry, before I am summoned to do the honors instead.

"And wipe the stain off the wall," my wife will call, from as far away as she can get and still stay in the house. Centipedes leave a distinctive purple smear when they are squished. And -- here I share my hard-won expertise with you -- they are best approached at a right angle. Coming in ahead or behind the creature will send it scurrying -- and some of them can jump -- but, for some reason, a centipede never detects the approach from directly above it (directly beneath it if it is on the ceiling) until it is too late.

As you would certainly expect, given this description, creatures larger than a centipede -- and most mice are larger than even some of the megacentipedes I've dispatched in our basement -- are absolutely intolerable to Long Suffering Spouse.

When we were first married, living in an apartment in Rogers Park, my wife and I had a mouse problem. We had a mouse population explosion, more like, with seemingly endless brigades of little field mice. But until we were married, and the then-not-yet Long Suffering Spouse moved into the apartment I formerly shared with my friend Steve, I had no idea we had any mice at all.

But Long Suffering Spouse knew instantly. She could sense them. She didn't have to see them to know they were there.

And, ever since, on those occasions every so many years when a mouse does get in the house, Long Suffering Spouse has known immediately. She gets unbelievably tense, and the tension is contagious, I assure you. And this is before the little varmint is actually sighted.

Except for this time.

I was home Thursday morning. I'd had an errand out at the Rolling Meadows Courthouse and I'd stopped home on the way in. (It's on the way. And traffic was still miserable heading inbound on the Kennedy.) I walked into the kitchen to get a glass of water... and out of the corner of my eye I thought I saw something tiny and dark dart from behind the wastebasket (the one we've dedicated to recycling) and scurry underneath the refrigerator.

I have glaucoma. The corner of my eye, particularly my left one, doesn't pick up as much as most people's eyes are supposed to. And I wasn't entirely sure I saw what I thought I saw.

So I said nothing.

Long Suffering Spouse was in the kitchen Friday night making pizza. Younger Daughter had come over, with her faithful chauffeur Olaf, to eat the pizza. Then, after Olaf was sent on his way (Younger Daughter having elected to stay the night so she'd be better positioned to go out to breakfast in the morning with her Abuela), Younger Daughter and Long Suffering Spouse made cookies. I figured my wife's keen mouse-sense would pick up on the little bugger if indeed it was there.

But nothing happened.

On Saturday Long Suffering Spouse and I went up to the place I'm calling South Janesville College to visit Youngest Son and see his baseball team perform in its annual fall intrasquad game. But on Sunday Long Suffering Spouse was back in the kitchen, making cupcakes this time, because Younger Daughter's birthday is tomorrow. Younger Daughter came over, with Olaf, and we all had a pleasant time.

And Long Suffering Spouse heard nothing, saw nothing, intuited nothing.

I'd begun to think I'd imagined that little blur on Thursday.

But, then, this morning, as I walked into the kitchen to refill my coffee, I saw it again. The same blur, going the same way, right under the refrigerator. I exclaimed something. I don't believe I screamed like a little girl, but even if I did, this is my blog and I don't have to admit anything. I think I said something, however, like Pshaw! or Fiddlesticks! or perhaps something slightly more pungent. Whatever I said was sufficient to attract the attention of Long Suffering Spouse. "What did you say?" she asked.

"We have a mouse."

"What?" The tension level in the house spiked. I could feel my wife's cringing from several feet away.

"We have a mouse," I repeated. I explained what I saw.

For the next half hour or so I was treated to a monolog about how the mouse might have gotten in. Younger Daughter was named as a suspect; perhaps she'd left the front door open too long over the weekend. My wife's theory, clearly, was that the mouse must be a brand new arrival. After all, she'd not perceived it. Finally I had to break down and confess: I thought I'd seen something Thursday.

She may, eventually, forgive me for not having told her sooner about this. In the meantime, however, there will be no peace in my home until that wee beastie is destroyed.

Friday, September 23, 2011

All the experts are wrong (again)

If you've been following the news in the last couple of days you've no doubt heard the financial wizards debating whether the current market setbacks portend the start of a "new" recession. Some insist a "new" recession is underway; others insist that the latest Wall Street panic is merely a speed-bump on the road to recovery. (Some of these call this a "low trajectory" recovery, as if it were an aimed cannon ball or something.)

Rubbish.

All of these experts are totally off base. How can we start a "new" recession when the one we've been struggling with lo these past several years still hasn't ended?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The large law firm and the ant hill compared

You're looking at an ant colony here, the queen ant being tended by her faithful, anonymous, fungible worker ants.

A partner in a large law firm is much like a queen ant. Or, depending on the annual bonuses, a queen termite.

It's not a pretty sight -- but it's efficient as all get out.

The queen in the termite mound -- or ant colony -- or beehive -- has only one function: Lay eggs. But, then, there's usually only one queen in a termite mound, etc.

There can be lots of partners in a law firm. Partners in large law firms have only two functions: Bill time or generate business. The really big partners generate business; the lesser partners bill time. Either way, they must be surrounded by faithful, anonymous and largely fungible minions whose sole purpose in life is to maximize the productivity of their assigned partner.

The partner in a large law firm never has to clear a paper jam from a printer or copier. In a really large firm, the partners may not know where the copiers are located. A large firm partner never spends an afternoon filing. S/he has people who write checks, look up cases, locate witnesses -- whatever the partner needs to keep productive, and whenever the partner needs it.

Another key difference between the ant hill and the large law firm is that, in a law firm, some of the workers may someday become partners themselves. Not the clerical help, of course, but the associates, with their fancy Ivy League degrees. They may start out legal life as props, something that the business-generating queen, er, partner, can brag on to prospective clients ("we just hired the editor of the Yale Law Journal; we turned the editor of the Harvard Law Review down flat"). However, with sheer determination, tireless struggle, the occasional sacrifice of principle (sure, we can justify ignoring those oil rig safety standards), incessant brown-nosing and false bonhomie, at least a few of the associates can some day rise to the top of the anthill.

On the other hand, in the anthill, the young and fresh worker ants tend the queen and the next generation of workers. Then, when they're older, they join foraging parties. When the survivors of these adventures get too old for that, they become the nest's guardians, rushing out to absorb the attack of any invading predator. It is difficult for a worker ant to die of old age. Of course, ulcers and heart attacks claim a lot of law firm support personnel as well; others may be fired for failing to adequately serve or protect their partner.

The National Geographic website mentions that there is a third class of honeybee, the drone. "Several hundred drones live in each hive during the spring and summer, but they are expelled for the winter months when the hive goes into a lean survival mode." This is similar to the way that associates and non-equity partners -- and the least productive partners -- are expelled from law firms whenever economic conditions warrant.

Social insects, like honeybees, are considered more 'advanced' than their solitary cousins. There are bees, wasps, and even ants who do not live in colonies, but who try and do everything themselves. In other words, solo practitioners. Like me.

I remember when Blackberries first burst on the techno-scene. All the big firm partners had them -- increased efficiency, you know -- and each email received from the device proudly bore the legend, "Sent From My Blackberry."

Of course, if the message was spelled correctly and punctuated, chances are the message was typed by a worker ant.

The big firms were behind the efiling movement that has swept the federal courts -- and is gathering momentum in the state courts as well. And why not? The partners in the big firms did nothing different from what they'd done before. They waved their hands (billing 4.5 hours for the task) and minions crafted a brief. That the brief was filed differently than heretofore would not have registered on the big firm partner -- he or she had never filed anything before either.

The problem is, I can change an ink cartridge -- even in the postage meter -- and solve paper jams deep within the copier. Given enough time (we know, now, it takes a month) I can figure out why my office Internet died. I know where all the courthouses are and how to file papers in each. But, sadly, these hard-won skills are not valued.

Gosh, I wish I had minions.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Internet returns to the Undisclosed Location!

I am pleased to announce that, for the first time since August 23, I am blogging to you live from the Undisclosed Location. My Internet is back.

But regular programming will not resume this morning for two reasons.

First, I have to put my creative energies into a hate letter to my soon-to-be-former ISP.

Second, I'm still too bummed that, once again, I've been denied a MacArthur Genius Grant. If you follow the link, you'll see that a local architect, Jeanne Gang, who has won awards for "green" designs, was among this year's honorees. I can understand that -- but, I've studied the complete list now and found not a single anonymous blogger among the lot. How about a little love for us anonymous bloggers? We're struggling to make the world a better place, too, you know -- and/or secure a book contract, whichever comes first.

Actually, for a MacArthur Grant, I'd drop my cloak of anonymity. Which sounds ever so much more refined than saying I'd reveal my secret identity.

Meanwhile, on to the hate letter....

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Curmudgeon turns down some business

Still no Internet at the Undisclosed Location -- three weeks now. I think I figured out the problem -- no thanks to our alleged ISP. Which P has provided neither I nor S. I think we'll be changing providers in the next day or so. Someday, when I have the Internet back, maybe I will tell this story. But, meanwhile, this quick post from home:

The phone rang at the Undisclosed Location. I didn't recognize the name or number on the caller ID, but -- one never knows -- this could be the elusive million dollar case. I answered the phone.

"You the lawyer?" It was a woman's voice. Not a young voice. A smoky, raspy voice.

"I am," I said.

"You sound too sexy to be a lawyer."

I like to think this is a true statement. I've been told I have a pretty fair announcer's voice. Years ago, a female attorney told me I "gave good phone." But my vocal abilities were not the issue here. "How did you get my name?"

This is a question I ask any caller I don't know. I suppose that makes me sound like the old-time ward committeeman who told a young Abner Mikva, "We don't want nobody that nobody sent," but there is -- I hope -- a valid reason for my standard inquiry. A lot of my business comes by referral from other lawyers. I call the direct contact business "retail" -- and I'm wary of it. I've been burned on referral cases, too, but I almost always lose on retail clients.

"I got you from 411," the woman said.

"411?"

"I asked Directory Assistance for the names of lawyers in your building," she said. "I used to work there."

"Really?" I said. "I didn't know the operators were looking out for me so well." (I work in a building in which there may be 500 lawyers. Maybe more.) "Tell me about your case."

The woman recounted a sad story about a fall on the Labor Day weekend. She'd gone to a restaurant on the West Side of Chicago. She walked in and tripped, or slipped, and fell, hitting her head. "What happened to you? How were you injured?"

"I had a skull fracture," she said, "and tore the ligaments in my leg."

"Really," I said. "What did the doctors say?"

"I didn't see the doctors yet," the woman said. "I got some names from the emergency room, but I'm not going to them until I get me a lawyer."

"I see," I said, and I did. I reached for my office diary. "I don't think I can help you, ma'am, but let me give you a number you might call. The Chicago Bar Association has a Lawyer Referral Service. You call them and they will match you up with a lawyer who handles this kind of case."

"I think somebody already gave me this number."

I'll just bet, I thought. But aloud I said only, "Let me give you the number anyway. I think that might be the best for you."

"Alright," she said -- and I gave her the number.

I need business. And I know I'm a bad businessman. But I really don't think I need this kind of business.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Old as the Dickens -- or -- Curmudgeon learns to read

(Still blogging surreptitiously -- and quickly -- from home because my office Internet is still down. Yes, I am screaming, OK? You don't realize how hooked you've become on this Internet-thingy until you are deprived of same.)

Older Daughter -- the nurse in Indianapolis -- was, you may recall, an English major in college. Yes, English... not the most commonly trod path to a nursing career.

Anyway, on the bookshelves in the room that she shared with Younger Daughter are some paperbacks that, I would like to think, are souvenirs of her college classes. On the other hand, now that I think about it, given that these are books by DWG's, it is entirely possible that these paperbacks were assigned at the girls' traditional Catholic high school.

DWG's, as you may know, have been in bad odor for some time among college English professors.

Is the acronym putting you off? DWG stands for Dead White Guy. You know, like Shakespeare. Or Milton. Not the sort of thing that modern English students are encouraged to read at all.

Among the titles on my daughters' bookshelves were Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe and Charles Dickens' Great Expectations. I'd never read either. I'd seen the movie version of Ivanhoe somewhere along the way. I was never an Elizabeth Taylor fan, for some reason, but I liked her in that role.

Well, I read Ivanhoe and enjoyed it. So I decided to try Great Expectations next.

Now I realize that, as a supposedly educated person, I'm supposed to love Dickens. But I couldn't stand him.

My attitude may stem from an incident in childhood. I think it was in 5th grade, while I was a participant in the Junior Great Books program, that I was assigned to read A Christmas Carol. Oh, did I hate it. I was bored to distraction. Every page weighed a hundred pounds. I got through it somehow -- but I could never read anything by Dickens again.

I found out later that Dickens got paid by the word and also that his books were typically serialized in magazines -- and he had to structure his prose to refresh the reader's recollection from issue to issue. That explained a lot. But I still couldn't slog through one of his books. And, over the years, from time to time, I've tried.

And, now, recently, I tried again with Great Expectations. My own expectations were as modest as could be -- but I found that, with patience, I actually could read, and even enjoy, the book. I'm not saying I'm going to go out and look for David Copperfield next, but somehow I feel as though I've accomplished something here.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Resting from our labors on Labor Day

There's still no Internet at the Undisclosed Location. It's enough to drive me buggy. I have 90% of everything I need at home, 90% of everything I need at work -- and, wherever I am, whatever I need is in that absent 10%.

We had a very busy weekend, Long Suffering Spouse and I, involving all sorts of family stuff. On Saturday, for instance, our van, our cooler, and one of our tables got to go tailgating at the Notre Dame game. My wife and I did not go tailgating. We did get to drive Younger Daughter to babysit Oldest Son's dog. And at midnight -- after the weather-related delay -- when Oldest Son and his wife, Abby, and Abby's sister and one of their girlfriends from Texas all finally returned, and when Oldest Son finished unloading our van and sat down in his chair, asleep before his cheeks hit the upholstery -- we got to drive into Yuppieville again to bring Younger Daughter back to our place.

But Monday -- Labor Day -- was something else again. We didn't do anything. We had our coffee. We watched movies. We watched the Sox games. I worked on a post for the blog I put my real name on. Later, I played computer games. Long Suffering Spouse graded some papers and read a little. It was like a sick day without the inconvenience of being ill. I didn't feel a bit guilty about doing nothing. It was, after all, a holiday.

Now... why can't Christmas be like that?

Friday, September 02, 2011

Reuters says two of the ugliest public sculptures located right here in Chicago

This link to Yahoo! Travel will get you the Reuters article. Reuters, in turn, lays the blame for this list on an outfit called Virtual Tourist. I can neither confirm nor deny this assertion. I noodled around the Virtual Tourist site for awhile this morning and could not find the source list. But that's not to say that it's not there: The British press might hack your cellphone, but they wouldn't make up a list like this... would they? I figure it's more probable that my Internet skills have rapidly deteriorated in this now 9 days and counting of no office Internet.

But back to our story.

Two of the pieces of public art on the aforementioned list are situated right here in Chicago. One is temporary; the other is a permanent blot on the landscape.

The temporary piece is the Marilyn sculpture on North Michigan Avenue, in Pioneer Court, just south of the Tribune Tower.


My readers are likely to remember the inspiration for this statue, namely, Marilyn's performance, opposite rodent-faced Tom Ewell, in the Billy Wilder comedy, The Seven Year Itch.



This statue was put on display quite recently and has been controversial from the start. A few days back, your crusty correspondent decided to wander over to the North Bridge area to see for himself what all the fuss was about. (It's a healthy walk from the Undisclosed Location, but I will bear any burden for the sake of a possible post.)

Having now seen for myself, I can truthfully report that the statue rather creeps me out. As Tribune columnist Mary Schmich wrote in a July 15 column, "The original image is coy. Marilyn on the Mag Mile is crude."

It is all a matter of scale. In the movie, Tom Ewell can almost see what he should not; in the posters, we see only a glimpse. But when Marilyn is 26 feet tall, we get this sort of thing:

Marilyn will be on display -- and I do mean on display -- until some time next year.

Our other nominee for most ugly piece of public art is not going away any time soon. It is called "Monument with Standing Beast," something I never knew before the Reuters article (and something I am likely to forget shortly after I publish this post), even though I walk past this thing almost every day.

This piece is located on the plaza outside the State of Illinois Building, 100 W. Randolph, kitty corner from the Daley Center, at the northwest corner of Clark and Randolph.

I can't say I share the strongly negative views reported in the Reuters article ("This ten-tonne behemoth is said to represent an animal, a portal, a tree, and an architectural form, but to some it just represents bad taste"). But I would believe it if you told me that this piece arose from a misunderstanding. I can just see Helmut Jahn, the architect of the State of Illinois building, displaying a three dimensional model of the building he had yet to build. I can see him crumpling up a piece of paper, putting it on the southeast corner of his model and saying, yes, we should have a work of public art there -- and, somehow, that crumpled piece of paper was mistaken for the design of the piece to be placed there. You be the judge.



I think my explanation is as plausible as any other. Do you?