Thursday, July 31, 2003
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Partners In Crime [Rated P]

Did you know that if they ever (what am I saying, "ever" - of course they will) make a movie about the Scott and Laci Peterson case, I think Ben Affleck has the corner market on the title role. He'd play Scott, of course. Not Laci. The resemblance is almost frightening.

You know what else is scary?

J-Lo could play Laci Peterson in a pinch. Hell, I'm sure the movie would be better than Gigli, which scored a big fat zero on the Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer™.

Didn't Ben already play a straight man who seduces a very attractive, straight-looking lesbian? Now I remember. Chasing Amy. That was a good movie, especially when you're 20-something...it was the ideal distillation of the early 90's post-collegiate psychosexual zeitgeist [yes, perhaps that word salad may get tossed into a thesis someday] - but still, one does get a little cynical with age, non? I remember the movie being filled with simply stunning monologues - and I do mean stunning. As in "whacked in the forehead with a spatula."

It's not The Way We Were (which we watched last night), but it's something of a parallel film. Attraction of opposites, conflict, sex, conflict, heartrending anguish, bittersweet ending, interspersed with molto jaw-flapping. I must admit, Affleck makes a far more appropriate college-age character than a 40-ish Robert Redford ever could...talk about "suspension of disbelief".

Note: do take the above with a grain of salt...I used to think Joey Lauren Adams and Renee Zellweger were the same person back then.

Wednesday, July 30, 2003
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Politics On A Banana Peel: Bye-Bye PAM, Hello FMA?

Something is very wrong when agencies of the federal government try to set up a futures-market betting parlor for the purpose of wagering on terrorist attacks, deaths of U.S. soldiers on foreign soil and political assasinations [the now-dead PAM]. I'm glad that idea was given the bum's rush post haste. I reserved comment on this very sick, Strangelovian concept until today, hoping beyond hope that it was all some sort of hoax. Unfortunately, it wasn't.

How do you tell the families of military men and women lost in combat, or "keeping the peace," that their own government is running a dead-pool on their loved one's lives? How do you justify a government-sponsored casino where the payoffs are covered in blood?

There's also something else on the legal horizon I think we should watch out for - President Bush's proposed Federal Marriage Amendment, which would codify in the United State Constitution a ban on recognition of same-sex unions. The proposed amendment would define marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

Think about it: does this fact need to be set in the U.S. Constitution? Something tells me this piece of legislation is being skidded in on a banana peel for two reasons - Ontario and British Columbia's recent decison to allow gay marriages [our neighbors...good heavens!], and the Supreme Court's recent reversal of anti-sodomy laws.

Some say, "allowing same-sex couples to marry would take away from the rights of heterosexual couples."

How would someday allowing gay couples to marry - under Federal recognition - take away any rights from heterosexual spouses? I can't see any way that it would, any more than allowing women or African-Americans to vote took away from men's or whites' voting rights.

"It would take away the sanctity of heterosexual marriage."

The fact is, marriage in the United States is a civil matter, not a Church matter. Owing to the wise separation of Church and State our nation was founded upon, we [for the most part] don't make laws based on theological arguments. I won't get into discussions of religion or morality here, because that's just an open invitation to a endless flamefest...it certainly doesn't change people's minds from one side to the other, and whether you're for or against gay marriage, your opinions are probably very strongly felt; it's just that kind of hot-button issue.

But consider this: the proposal of the Federal Marriage Amendment should be of profound interest to Americans - of any affectional persuasion - who value civil rights, because it would mark the first time in history that an American Constitutional amendment would be enacted to take away rights from a specific group of people. The first time ever.

That, in my opinion, goes very much against the grain of the foundation of our nation's values.

It could happen. After all, we did have the Prohibition as a sort of precedent...which tells me that given enough fanatic groundswell, almost any idea, no matter how ill-concieved, stands a chance of becoming law. We can't just ignore a threat and say, "it would never happen." There's a little something we can do to help this amendment not pass. We can write our representatives in Washington; snail mail and phone calls still seem to get the most attention, but you can send a fax to Washington using the Human Rights Campaign website.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
A Spray A Day Keeps Mayor Daley Away

Ever had the overwhelming urge to grab a can of spray paint and tag a rail car - but too worried that Mayor Daley's Graffiti Blasters would dump yo' sorry a$$ in a sling?

Fear not. The LRPD Vandal Squad has a free online or downloadable app called Graffiti Studio [4.7Mb] that lets you cut loose and get Dali on a hi-resolution, realistic freight car - with dozens of options for paint cans, colors, masks and spraying distances. It even has "cap removal" and "can shaking" SFX.

The best part? You get to upload your tagged masterpiece on their site for all to admire.

Monday, July 28, 2003
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Ray Bradbury's Dandelion Wine

Until this weekend, I had almost forgotten.

As a child, and during high school I had read scores of Ray Bradbury's short story collections. From fright to fantasy, wide-eyed terror to wonder each tale had held me spellbound for a stretch. Some had confused and confounded, and some had left indelible heartfelt impressions and images ("Skeleton", "The Small Assassin", "...And Soft Rains Will Come") I still recall today.

After nearly two decades of absence from his works, I picked up a copy of Bradbury's 1950's masterpiece Dandelion Wine. It's a fast merry-go-round ride of a book, whirling and sparking a dusty mental light switch that reillumined a dormant room of my subconscious.

Now, during this hazy, greenly buzzing Illinois July far in time [but not far in space] from Bradbury's legendary Green Town of 1928, I saw it.

I understood exactly why this poetic, golden-green tale of a Waukegan childhood is not meant to be fully comprehended by a reader of the protagonist's tender age. Only in the oblique light of adulthood does this tale of memory, love and loss, youth and age, and friendship and time ripen to its full bouquet.

Like the potent 'bottled summer' that 12-year old Douglas Spaulding's grandfather employs to keep each day of the season perfectly capped in time, awaiting a winter's day for its release, I finally uncorked this deliciously fragrant tale at just the right place and time. Select a quiet weekend day to open the cover. You'll be mesmerized in moments, and likely finish the book in an afternoon...if not, just close it, but it on your shelf and try again next summer.

There will come a time when this book will be exactly the ticket to transport you, whether it is in one year or twenty. It will wait; literature of this caliber only improves with time. Each chapter, whether short or long, will appear to you first as a simple bloom: but like the dandelions in its title, these small golden blossoms contain far more than first meets the eye. Upon closer examination, each one's roots pierce deep down into the fertile unlit soil of the subconscious.

Dandelion Wine elicits emotions spanning the gamut of pure blazing noonday childhood joy that burns its image through smile-closed eyelids - to the clammy neck-stiffening fear felt walking alone through a black ravine at midnight, with half-heard footsteps echoing a few paces behind you.

1928...or, 1982?

It was a very good summer, indeed.

Thursday, July 24, 2003
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Welcome Back To Reality, Chum

Hello again...I haven't really fallen off the face of the earth, but I've been on vacation. Not out of town, mind you, but seven days of not working and just spending some fun relaxing time in town with my mom (who came to visit us from Upstate New York) was just the ticket. My partner says I look cheerier than I have in a long time; even my color is better (I imagine it's a cheery olive, rather than my usual drab olive, ha ha ha).

Seriously, it's been surprisingly enjoyable being a tourist in Chicago - even though we've lived here for three years. What are some of the touristy things we did?

A 3D IMAX flick at Navy Pier (Ghosts of the Abyss, James Cameron's superb return to the deep in eye-popping large format 3D - well worth catching while it's here), a 90-minute Wendella Boat Tour down the Chicago River and up the shore of Lake Michigan was also plenty of wind-swept splashy fun, and a quick jaunt up the Hancock Tower to the 95th floor lounge. We passed on the lunch buffet, opting for only a brief peek overlooking the lake. Caveat: don't bother going up one of the towers on a cloudy or foggy day - you're so high up you won't see thing through the clouds!

Oh - and lots of shopping. Good cheap stuff at thrift stores and book shops, like the Armadillo's Pillow on Sheridan Road - my favorite used book shop in town - and the cavernous, club-like Brown Elephant thrift shop on Halsted: far cooler and funkier than "Sal's Boutique" (and believe me, far more politically correct)...think Goodwill with three snaps in Z-formation.

Scored lotsa lushus swag (like some swell old jazz CD's) with proceeds for a good cause - the Howard Brown Health Center of Chicago.

Now that's a vacation.

Monday, July 14, 2003
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
The League of Extraordinarily Boring Gentlemen

On this blog's left sidebar, under the "fruits of the same vine" heading, you'll see a button labeled Reeling It All In. For about a year I'd been keeping up that movie-review site but unfortunately, due to time constraints I can no longer maintain frequent posts. Hopefully sometime soon I can resume, but not at the moment - so - may I regale you with a brief tale of a Sorta-Good Movie Gone Bad?

Last Friday we saw Sean Connery's latest, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. We arrived a full half-hour early to a near-packed theater, and were amazed at the variety of folk this flick drew in: an ethnically and generationally diverse group of kids, teens, moms and dads, retirees and everyone in between. Based on Alan Moore ("Watchmen," "V for Vendetta") and Kevin O'Neill's graphic novel (which I have not yet read) the concept looked interesting and seemed promising.

What a clever concept! Amalgamate a passel of "superheroes" and "supervillains" from classic Victorian fantasy literature, like Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, Captain Nemo in his original, more sinister Asiatic incarnation, Dr. Moriarty, the Invisible Man, an adult (Agent) Tom Sawyer, vampiress Mina Harker from Bram Stoker's classic...add proto-Indy Jones Allan Quartermain (Connery)...stir in futuristic-for-1899 (but not too futuristic) technological details like tanks, machine guns, giant submarines and fast cars, and you've got a guaranteed original on you hands!

Well, no, not really.

The film falls painfully flat, burgeoning into one long, boring, verbally dumbed-down pyrofest. Honestly, I haven't been this bored by an action film in a long time. I suspect what happened was the creators tried to compete with every other summer CGI-fest in the 'plexes, like T3, X2, and The Hulk: TLOEG's 'Mr. Hyde' ends up chewing the scenery - literally - looking like nothing more than Bruce Banner's chlorophyll-challenged great-great-grandpappy.

With this many classic characters on-screen, surely they could have written far snappier, more intelligent dialogue without sacrificing the action. What about the original Star Wars? Indiana Jones? Spoiler: a car chase through Venice?

Hello? Can anyone hire a screenwriter? Five minutes after walking out of the theater I found myself foundering for details on the movie's plot - and no, I wasn't having a "senior moment." It can't be Alan Moore's fault...(hint: Watchmen Watchmen Watchmen)?

I wanted to yell to all the people filing in to the packed theater - some sitting on the floor and standing by the exits for lack of seats - run, run while you can!

Tuesday, July 08, 2003
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
R.I.P. Laleh and Ladan Bijani (1974 - 2003)

"That's what learning is, after all; not whether we lose the game, but how we lose and how we've changed because of it and what we take away from it that we never had before, to apply to other games. Losing, in a curious way, is winning." - Richard Bach

Laleh and Ladan Bijani survived three decades of life as two souls, two minds and two bodies joined at their temples of their skulls. They not only survived what must have been an unimaginably challenging daily struggle for mobility, privacy and individuality, but triumphed. They both graduated from law school. As consenting adults they freely chose to undergo the highly risky, unprecedented surgery to separate their bodies.

Alas, the intricate, conjoined cranial structures Nature had made could not be successfully divided by the hand of man. Some would call the twins' choice for surgical separation a risk too great to undertake, even though recent medical tests had uncovered a dangerous underlying disorder - the blood pressure inside Laleh and Ladan's brains was nearly twice normal - a condition that might have led to a deadly stroke or aneurysm at some point in the future. They may have already been living on borrowed time before the surgery.

But given the choice of the physical life the twins had led to that point, versus the possibility of individual lives, the risk-laden procedure was a chance they needed to be allowed to make for themselves.

Do we question why astronauts allow their bodies to be hurled into space for the sake of science, discovery and glory?

Certainly these two brave women deserved no less of an opportunity to reach for their stars.

"You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.' You must do the thing you think you cannot do." - Eleanor Roosevelt

Monday, July 07, 2003
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Go Font Yourself, Buddy

It's done.

The much-vaunted (at least in this blog) CD-ROM collection of 1001 fonts is complete; actually more than complete, because somehow I ended up with about 2,600 fonts, give or take a few. What drives a person to spend hours collecting TrueType fonts like stamps, butterflies or the bellybutton lint of faeries?

Because they're there. Because you never know when you'll need a use a typeface like Red Circle, Saucy Millionaire or Dustbowl Clementine. It may be never, but never say never.

And, because they're charming, esthetically pleasing and many of them are absolutely free - they're like the gratis Coleoptera specimens of the World Wide Web. Do people actually trade fonts? I imagine they do, although I haven't plunged quite so far into the madness. Yet.

This year's world convention for fontophiles, font freaks, fontsuckers and typologists is TYPECON 2003, and will take place July 17-20 in Minneapolis, Minnesota...imagine - a world convention dedicated solely to the appreciation, art and science of type.

Just as clothes make the person, a font can make the message. Creative and juducious use of fonts can maximize the effectiveness of any message, and in some cases even define it: a typeface often becomes a logotype, viz, Coca-Cola™, IBM™...sometimes the font is more recognizeable than the product.

I love the House Industries Gothic 23 font collection - there's just something "right" and visually proper about that funky face, and their Simian font collection is very nice as well. It isn't freeware, but if you're a fonting professional the list price is probably well worth it. Apostrophic Labs is a source of high-quality freeware fonts, including the "world's largest type family," Republika, which boasts 300 individual fonts. Individual fonts I really like are Albertus (the Prisoner font), Adler, Medusa, Garamond...too many to name. To me, fonts aren't just a source of visual appeal. Fonts can be musical, sonic in nature: perhaps that's a touch of innate synesthesia. ESL Music would understand. Check them out.

"My name is Lenka, and I am a font freak."

(Flatly, in unison) "Hi, Lenka..."

Friday, July 04, 2003
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
SPAM By Any Other Name Would Taste As Sweet

Wednesday, July 02, 2003
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
The Roar of the Toilets, the Taste of the Crowd

Every year, over three million people gather here in this loud place to mill about aimlessly in greasy smoke, and to walk on tarmac crunchy with discarded bones and trash. Is it the apocalyptic future augured in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines?

No. It's the Taste of Chicago festival!

I wish I were more enthusiastic about the annual event, but after attending two in a row I've had my fill for a few years. We'll pass. If you've never been, the Taste of Chicago is a yearly congregation of massive quantities of food, people and music in the downtown park area. Note: quantity of any of the three components of the festival may exceed quality.

On the 'pro' side, it's a big gathering of like-minded folks (read: we like to eat) and a chance to sample the city's wares in one semi-convenient location, not to mention this year's array of musical performers is superb - Sheryl Crow, Erykah Badu, Elvis Costello to name a few. On the 'con' side, it's far too crowded, noisy and messy for my haute-gourmand esthetics. After admission, you buy strips of 50-cent tickets to exchange for items at dozens of exhibitor booths.

While the booths are intended to represent the broad selection of cuisines offered at Chicago restaurants, there seems to be a preponderance of fried, barbecued, grilled and blackened things that seems unfortunately restrained.

The most exotic flavors offered this year are probably from Grizzly's Lodge on Lincoln Avenue: Cajun alligator on a stick, ostrich burgers, wild boar meatloaf with gravy and fried catfish nuggets. But again note the key words: burgers, meatloaf, gravy, fried and "on a stick". Every exhibitor seems to offer something "on a stick." Even spaghetti.

Also...to be frank, anything you get visiting the actual restaurants will probably be far superior to the fare offered at the "Taste." I'm not sure why, but that seems to be the case; perhaps it's the mass-production aspect of the Taste.

Another downside is that the value of the food you receive in exchange for, say, 6 to 8 tickets ($3.00 to $5.00 on average) is often quite sub-par, and you can easily spend close to $40.00 per person trying a variety of food items - although you can obtain 'taste'-size portions for fewer tickets. It's a racket - more a matter of tradition than anything else - and if you're expecting a great deal for the price you may be disappointed.

However, it is a place to visit the Charmin On Tour Mobile Restroom truck - no need to patronize the typical row of smelly Port-o-lets™ featured at the Taste.
"The Charmin Ultra Mobile Restroom is an 18-wheel semi-tractor trailor truck that transforms into a comfortably clean oasis of 27 private, home-like bathrooms. This ultimate "Charminized" restroom on wheels is absolutely exquisite compared to the usual public restroom options at outdoor festivals and events.

Uniformed attendants are on hand to keep the pleasant potties in top Charminized condition and each individual, air-conditioned restroom features hardwood floors, fully functional sinks, wallpaper, and aromatherapy. And of course, each restroom is fully stocked with our soft, super-premium Charmin Ultra bath tissue. So whether you get your picture taken with the Charmin bear, or you simply take the time to enjoy this bathroom oasis, the Charmin Restroom will make your festival time a lot more enjoyable."
That alone may be worth the price of admission.