Friday, October 31, 2003
Happy Farkleween! 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Halloween. These days, you can't just cut holes in an old bedsheet or put on a mask and call yourself "dressed up" - no, you have to go to vintage shops or novelty stores and sink hundreds of dollars on an elaborate costume just to be presentable. Remember - someone will undoubtedly puke punch on your costume at some point during the night...I think Halloween is now a close third to New Year's Eve or St. Patrick's Day in terms of alcohol consumption.

It's like Mardi Gras with more clothes.

Weirdest Holiday Display Award: last year, the downtown Marshall Field's department store in Chicago had a lovely (but confounding) cross-celebrational window theme - I was startled to see a mannequin-sized skeleton in a mock graveyard wearing a Santa Claus hat, carrying a bag. There was a fully decorated and lit tree behind this odd diorama.

I get a strange tongue-in-cheek over the official name of our town's October celebration: Chicagoween. That's what I like about the name "Chicago" - it's got pizzazz. You can play with it. I just can't imagine New Yorkween. Miamiween. Phillyween. San Franciscoween. Although I can see Burlington, Vermont doing a Queen City Ween.

So have fun, be safe, stock up on Alka-Seltzer™ and remember that the "poison candy" and "razor in the apple" stories are only urban legends. Really. But we're still not letting our black cat Nathaniel out for a walk tonight; no way in heck.

Speaking of legends, while Savannah, Georgia has the reputation of being America's most haunted city, let's not forget the Windy City's own highly supernaturally-charged air: check out Haunted Chicago, where you'll find detailed reports of hauntings and paranormal phenomena in the Chicago area.

One very eerie location in town (about a mile from our house, and it's a beautiful place to walk) that we've visited frequently is the Rosehill Cemetery, Chicago's largest burial ground and reputed home to many ha'ants. According to some sources, two of Rosehill's famous underground residents continue their bitter business rivalry many decades after their death: Richard Warren Sears and Aaron Montgomery Ward are both entombed in a large mausoleum, and Sears' ghost reputedly rises and walks between his vault and Ward's, no doubt trying to scoop his latest winter catalog fashions.

I've never seen a ghost in Rosehill myself, although I've seen two very strange things there. In the southeast corner of the cemetery, by the Metra tracks, there is a 3-foot diameter patch of hastily-laid concrete that appears to be sealing off some type of drain or access hole. It doesn't look like a very professional job, and the surface of the cement shows what looks like scratching or claw marks.

The other is even more bizarre: a hollow, pylon-shaped four-sided metal grave marker belonging to a Mr. Stewart - who died at age 28 in the mid-1800's - appears to have one side blown out, with sharp shrapnel pieces splayed outward. Not bashed in, but blown out from the interior. The strange part is that the other three sides of the metal marker are undamaged, even though it looks like a large firecracker or something of that sort blasted away the side facing the cemetery's south wall, about 5 feet from the grave. If someone placed a small explosive charge inside the grave somehow, how would the blast direct itself so precisely through one side of the marker without damaging the remainder?

Even stranger, if you place your ear close to the open part of the grave marker, it sounds like it's very deep inside. Much deeper than six feet.

Thursday, October 30, 2003
The Mason Jars of the Soul 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
For many reasons, autumn is an especially wonderful time for blogging. Not that you would know it from my rather sparse posts of late (I'll get into that later), but the range of emotions elicited during this season somehow deserves to be preserved...blogs are the Mason Jars of the Soul.

How time flies! Here is a post from my old web journal, Unzen Koans, from this week in October of last year:
Perhaps it is the subtle chill and shift of light at the day's bookends that triggers the familiar feeling: autumn has arrived on dusty windswept leaves, freshly packed schoolbags and windshield dew. It is both a subtler and a more pervasive state than "being in the fall spirit" or preparing for Halloween or Thanksgiving, much more than pulling woolly sweaters from cedar chests or arranging gourds artfully on front steps.

The closest I can describe it is a change of emotive color or frequency: an internal Doppler shift, seeing the world through orange colored glasses. The horizon ahead is clear, shadows pull further along the ground undistorted by waves of summer heat arising from the beleaguered tarmac: it is the time of gathering, a harvest of friends and acquaintances. English momentarily fails to deliver the proper term, but Japanese culture has a word for the phenomenon - kisekan, or "seasonal feeling".

Kisekan is a full moon made of a sliced hard-boiled egg, sitting atop a warm bowl of udon, and a trompe-l'oeil "horsechestnut" created from a fried sweet-potato ball rolled in broken somen noodles. It is deep crimson origami paper with a gold plum blossom motif. It is looking longingly at a statue's silhouette while browning maple leaves flutter before the burning sun.

This is the ripening of the year, coming full-circle like the ouroboros snake swallowing its tail. Here are more of the elusive delights fall brings…

Buying bags of colorful dried beans and legumes at the local ethnic markets for homemade soup.

The soups made therefrom; Adirondack pea, monastery minestrone, daal soup, black bean and others.

Comfortable warm socks, and shoes that don't leak muddy water.

Making fresh pots of steaming green tea.

New jackets.

Weatherstripping windows and calling the air conditioners home.

Used-book stores filled with volumes I used to own as a kid, or always wanted to; the Hardy Boys Mysteries, Golden Science Guides, old horror novels and Better Homes and Gardens cookbooks; The Devil's Triangle and Chariots of the Gods?

Japanese Nipponkodo or Indian Nag Champa incense roiling coils of smoke on top of a wooden bookshelf.

Watching old movies and TV shows on DVD because it's more fun to stay home.


Seeing the Chicago skyline in sharp, un-smoggy detail from our favorite beach just north of Loyola University in Rogers Park while sitting on the breakwater pier with a big cup of coffee, listening to the crashing grey-green waves of Lake Michigan.

Walking in Evanston just before going to the movies, pulling your collar up tight against the wind.

Listening to the wind howl through the 1920's steel-framed windows in my office, whistling as it passes over stone gargoyles' ears on the fifth floor.

Our neighborhoods coming alive as colleges and universities go back in session (yes, there is a difference, even in a city the size of Chicago).

Looking at childhood photo albums.

Fat candles with turned-down lips and deep pools of molten wax.

Waking up with your nose cold, hiding beneath a fluffy comforter, instead of coming to consciousness half-dehydrated in the sticky humidity of August.

The smell of hot coffee wafting slyly around the S-shaped curves of our apartment.

Autumn isn't an end, but a different kind of beginning; a season of which I never grow weary.
Aaaah. That feels much better.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003
Court OK's Death to Analog TV's 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
I love a headline like this one, that catches the eye, snags the Orwellian nerve receptors - then gently releases its panic-hold once you read the artice.

Yellow journalism? Nope. Just CNN.

Personally, I've gotten away from the TV watching habit...not that I'm some sort of radical Luddite, but right now there are no programs on the open-air channels we receive (clearly enough to distinguish faces from grass) that are really worth the time - "Reality TV" is an oxymoron, if I ever heard one. I love some of the older shows I have on tape or DVD, but the new stuff just doesn't do it for me...

So, "off with the analog TV's heads!" with glee!

Lileks of the Day:
" I get home from the office, I make dinner - no, scratch that. I assembled it. Had one of those Campbell’s Idiot Meal Kits that make you think you’re cooking - you pour the stuffing in the pan, add water, mash it around, heap it in the center, group pig slabs around the mound, cover it with gelatinous Cooking Goop, add the Crumbles, bake, eat, regret."

Monday, October 27, 2003
The Frodo Economy 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Yes, you read correctly - the Frodo Economy.

That's the name of the phenomenon that's helped boost the fortunes of many New Zealand residents, following the filming of the phenomenally successful Lord of the Rings trilogy. Everyone from sheep farmers to village herbalists are profiting from global interest in the lush land that hosted director Peter Jackson's motion picture.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003
The Gender Genie (Not the Diaper Genie) 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Oh my, this is interesting...The Gender Genie will divine the gender of a writer using a sample piece of text. You can try it for yourself at http://www.bookblog.net/gender/genie.html .

Go ahead - copy-and-paste in any text sample in the box. You can use blogs, documents, whatever...generally over 500 words works best. The algorithm is explained in a simplified manner at the bottom of the results page, but you can access the original paper by Moshe Koppel, Bar-Ilan University in Israel, and Shlomo Argamon, Illinois Institute of Technology if you want an in-depth look.

Right to Life? 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
This entire story is just sad, sad, sad.

You may have read some of the accounts of the Terry Schiavo case in Florida; Terry suffered a collapse over 12 years ago, and has remained in a coma, a so-called "persistent vegetative state" since that time. Her husband, Michael, who has acted as her legal guardian won an injunction to have her her feeding tube removed several days ago, which will eventually lead to her death.

Michael says that Terri's wishes prior to her collapse clearly included not wanting to be kept on life support under such circumstances.

On the other side of the case, Terri's parents - Bob and Mary Schindler - who still fervently believe that Terri can someday recover from her brain injury, and want to have the feeding tube reinserted. The Schindlers say that Terri is "alert, active, a live human being," but court-appointed doctors, and Michael Schiavo's attorney George Felos disagree. "If you look at a brain scan of Terri, where her cerebral cortex used to be is a black hole filled with spinal fluid," Felos said.

Now, Florida governor Jeb Bush - in his passionate "Right To Life" stance - has issued an overriding order to have Terri's feeding tube reinserted; never mind the fact that Terri's body was already "in the dying mode," so to speak, and reinitiating feeding and hydration would probably only extend the "death process."

Why on earth is Jeb Bush using his power to extend this woman's suffering? He is only feeding into the Schindlers' illusion of having such strong faith that they believe a miracle will happen - and Terri will someday wake up from over a dozen years of blackness and be restored.

While no one can ever say "never," the odds look very, very slim, indeed - and during this waiting, many people suffer. Wouldn't a reasonable, compassionate person realize that what is happening to Terri Schiavo is that her body is only being further tortured? The doctors, hospitals and insurance companies are undoubtedly making a million-dollar killing on her warehousing (it's a stretch to call it "care" at this point, I think), and the Schindler's mourning process is only further postponed.

Jeb Bush, in his zeal to appeal to Right-to-Life fundamentalists, is causing more suffering than healing. He's presiding over a private family matter as if he was granting an 11th hour pardon to a Death Row prisoner. What I'd like to know, is why now? Why terminate feeding after 12 years, and for that matter why was she on life support for 12 years?

This is the blurry leading edge of medicine, where in the interest of invoking God doctors, family and governors end up trying to play God. Terri is only alive today because of pumps, tubes, syringes, drugs and respirators...not God. What would people have done if Terri lived a hundred, two hundred years ago? They would have had to let her go....and they would have said her death "was God's will."

Just because we can keep the flesh alive indefinitely does not mean we are keeping the person alive; strong evidence points to the fact that the person that was Terri died back in 1990. Just because we can doesn't always mean we should.

If she truly is a "alert, active, a live human being" as her parents claim - and what parent wouldn't interpret any glimmer as hope, no matter how immaterial - then how can they justify extending her dozen years of suffering so?

Tuesday, October 21, 2003
With a Name Like... 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
As if we didn't have more important things to worry about these days...Stephanie Schwebel, a California woman with a self-described "sensitive palate" is suing Smuckers for false advertising.

Schwebel claims that the Smuckers™ Premium brand of strawberry "100% fruit spread" only contains about 30 percent strawberries, with the remainder composed of (supposedly "non-fruit") ingredients like fruit syrup, lemon juice concentrate, fruit pectin, red grape juice concentrate.

Call me a hairsplitter, but I think fruit syrup, fruit juice and fruit pectin still qualify as "fruit," at least in the broader semantic (and legal industrial norm) sense.

If the label had read "100% strawberries," I would have seen her point - but it doesn't. It says fruit.

F-R-U-I-T, fruit. This is probably a person who would sue a hot dog manufacturer that labeled their wurst "100% beef" because it didn't contain pure aged filet sirloin.

Monday, October 20, 2003
Whizzing on the Gübermental Electric Fence 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Somehow this makes me think of a cross between Geraldo Rivera and Johnny Knoxville from "Jackass" - the college kid who allegedly planted box cutters, bottles of bleach, and fake plastique in the toilets of some Southwest Airlines passenger aircraft to "challenge the TSA's screening procedures," and show just how easy it is to slip dangerous items onto flights despite new airline security measures.

Tabloidly enough, he had e-mailed government officials of his intentions prior to planting the contraband - but apparently no one listened. So who's the fool now?

Friday, October 17, 2003
Somewhere, Sigmund Freud is Laughing 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
There's a new Tallest Building in the World today.

The Taipei 101 tower in Taipei, Taiwan, achieved that status today with the addition of a 60-meter metal spire - bringing its height to 508 meters (or 1,674 feet). That's significantly taller than the previous record-setter, the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, at 452 meters.

The Windy City's own Sears Tower stands 1,353 feet (1,450 including its twin antennae) - but if the new World Trade Center designed by Studio Liebeskind is built, it'll trump the Taipei, at 1,776 feet.

I've always thought skyscrapers had a special power and mystique. They act both as receiving antennae and transmitters, to borrow from broadcasting; both in a literal sense - with radio and TV towers on top - and as visual and morphogenic beacons in their environs. The question is...do the cities in which great towers are built have their uhique energy because of the lofty structures, or is it the other way around?

The strange part is that their perceived stature seems to diminish when you live around one. I mean - the Sears Tower is still huge, but after a time, people get, ahem...used to huge.

I've had surreal moments driving or walking near the skyline when the skyscrapers seemed like I could reach out and move them like chess pieces...that could either be an optical illusion, or the venti triple-shot no-water Americano I was drinking.

For you fellow skyscraper fans, check out the World Federation of Great Towers site.

Thursday, October 16, 2003
Pumpkins, Again? 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
In the cold October light of day, the last games of the National League Championship Series look very different, and what seemed like a series-turning interference gaffe was really nothing more than a fan reaching for the ball.

Anybody would have done the same; even the Cubs say so. When emotions are heightened like they were in Game 6, it's easy to blame anything unusual for "breaking" a team's concentration...

I do really feel bad now for "The Fan," now revealed as one Steve Bartman (yes, I know...you remember the "Everybody Do The Bartman" Simpsons song) He's gotten beer and garbage thrown at him, now there's Chicago PD stationed outside his family's house. Florida Guv Jeb Bush offered him asylum in the Marlins' home state, half-jokingly. His face and name have been plastered all over the world in a day, thanks to the magic of the internet. All because he grabbed the ball that inched over the wall, and somehow broke the spell...or at least they think he did.

It may be evil-spirits-bunkum, but baseball is a game that thrives on its ghosts and spirits. Cinderella's coach is a pumpkin again, but it was feverish fun while it lasted.

"Just wait 'til next year..."

Wednesday, October 15, 2003
Panties In A Twist? 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
...over last night's Tragedy at Wrigley Field. First off - as a rule, I don't watch sports on television, and rarely attend games. But last night's NLCS game against the Marlins was different. This is about civic pride and tradition...it's about Chicago aiming high for the World Series! It's about...

...some schmoe grabbing the ball - that just inched over the wall - from Moises Alou. That was the moment the tide turned South.

Oh, the pain...I watched a few moments of this game in person, when the doors on my train opened at the Red Line Addison stop. The glare of Wrigley's lights, the roaring crowd; the smell of barbecue, beer, and a thousand hot dogs. Let me tell you, it's an amazing feeling to actually be watching a game that most of the city and much of the country has their eyes glued to. Very strange and powerful, indeed.

The Cubs had just scored a run, and the crowd - spilling by hundreds into the streets surrounding the park - went wild.

Moments later, the s**t hit The Fan.

Whoever that guy was that grabbed the fateful ball...now dubbed "The Fan"...he is officially the new "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow."

Speaking of which...Watergate had its missing 13 minutes, the Clinton-Lewinsky affair had it blue dress, and the Kobe Bryant case has its own smoking gun, er...panties.

Though I am currently taking a forensic science class, stories like this prove that the daily real-life work forensic scientists have to do is not my cuppa joe.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003
Stylin', Lo-IQ-Style 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
A little update on the previous post: SunnComm has (wisely, I think) dropped its lawsuit against Princeton student Alex Halderman for his published revelation that the company's CD copy-protection software can be disabled with a simple press of the computer's "shift" key.

I saw this little story on CNN.com - the hot new fad in auto accessories?

Fake bullet holes!

How did I miss out on that business opportunity?
"...[name], 21, placed 10 bullet-hole stickers on his 1994 Honda Accord to make it look as if it had been riddled with gunfire. 'A lot of people ask me about them and think my car got shot up,' [he] said Monday. 'I just try to be different.' [name], who works for a rubber and plastics manufacturer, said it was cheaper than, say, customized wheel rims. "I just spent a few dollars instead of $20,000," he said.
But of course. Nothing adds class to a 1994 Honda like 10 fake bullet holes. He should have just taken an evening drive through Hyde Park and saved himself a few dollars.

Saturday, October 11, 2003
$our Grape$ 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Days after Princeton graduate student Alex Halderman publishes a paper revealing that SunnComm's new MediaMax CD-3 CD-copy prevention software (which will soon be standard issue on new discs) can be easily defeated if a user simply holds down the "shift" key during disc load-up, the company files a lawsuit against him.

What a load of horse manure.

SunnComm should consider itself lucky the software's weakness was exposed before their technology became more commonly used and the problem harder to fix. Right now, they're getting heat from BMG, the first major label to use their system.

What if this little discovery was published after several other labels signed on? SunnComm would be in a much deeper pile of ordure than that they are now. It's isn't as if Haldreman developed and released a hack enabling people to deactivate the software - SunnComm had reportedly actually made a public statement saying that they were fully aware of the "shift-key" bypass, but released their CD copyguard system to BMG Music Group nonetheless.

To me, that sounds like the old deal when somebody trips while walking, then they say to passers-by, "oh, I actually meant to do that. I was testing a new dance step."

Sounds like SunnComm's doing the old soft shoe with a new twist.

Friday, October 10, 2003
Naive Trust: The Kobe Bryant Debacle 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Audiences just love to watch their heroes fall, and be exposed for the ordinary, fallible - even low - humans that they can really be, like the rest of us. We've seen it time and time again: President Nixon. Oliver North. Bill Clinton. O.J. Simpson. Martha Stewart. Rush Limbaugh.

What about Kobe Bryant? The athlete we used to believe a good role model and a gentleman, who is facing a rather severe fall from public grace with a rape charge? This one is going to be a hard call. By his own admission, Bryant did have sexual relations with the young woman, so there isn't the element of "it wasn't me."

Bruises and hospital photos notwithstanding, it is unfortunately mainly a case of he-said-said, of his-word-against-hers: Bryant's current predicament illustrates nothing so clearly as that two strangers making foolish assumptions about each other can have dangerous public consequences.

If Bryant did indeed not stop when his accuser said "no," and proceeded to have sex with the woman using force, then he is by definition, guilty of rape. The courts should punish him accordingly, regardless of his superstar NBA status, and the so-called "mutual flirtation" that occurred before the woman accepted his invitation to come up to his hotel room.

But if Bryant is guilty of rape, both he and the woman he raped are also both guilty of major-league poor judgement. It wouldn't be the first time that happened when a superstar athlete meets a starry-eyed fan. Having private bedrooms nearby only makes the situation easier to fall into.

I'd want to ask both of them: what the hell were you thinking?

To the young woman: What were you thinking when you accepted an invitation by a complete stranger to come up to his hotel room? You may think you "know" this famous NBA star you've seen cheered by millions on national TV - and certainly, catching his eye and attention must have been quite exciting at the moment. You must have felt quite special just then.

But the problem was, you didn't know him.

Would you have made the same choice if he was any other handsome, charming stranger you'd met minutes before at your job? Would you have taken the chance of going up to his room, and allowing him to kiss and touch you? But he seemed like such a nice guy.

Honey, they usually do. You took a real gamble that night in Colorado, and you bet wrong. That was naive.

To Bryant: What were you thinking when you began to get physical with this girl you'd just met? If she said "stop," why didn't you? Think of everything you had to lose in that moment when you decided to keep going. If you did use force, crossing the line over the legal threshold of rape, were you gambling on the assumption she would keep her mouth shut afterwards - or, if she did report you, that no one would believe her? Surely a millionaire NBA star's word carries more weight than a young, small-town hotel employee's, right?

Were your reputation, your marriage, your stardom and lucrative product endorsement deals worth that "five minutes"? That, too, was naive. Very naive.

The entire sorry mess will be a money machine for the media covering the trial, and for the lawyers. But regardless of the verdict, neither the plaintiff or the defendant will "win" anything. Bryant loses his gentlemanly "shine," and stands to lose some of his money, or his freedom. Maybe even more.

She has already lost something that even a guilty verdict can't return.

Thursday, October 09, 2003
Queens of De Nile? 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
[Sigfried] Fischbacher believes that the tiger was actually trying to help his mauled partner-in-magic, Roy Horn.

From the Random Surrealism Generator (see bottom of this blog): "A telephone a day keeps the peanut away. "

Decline of Western Civilization, Parts 256 and 257: Just Peachy 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
From CNN.com: ABC to import UK wife-swapping show. The Brit hit "Wife Swap" comes to the U.S. with the more family-friendly name, "Trading Moms." How about "Trading Presidents"?

Blair for Bush? I don't think so.

Speaking of trading presidents, the new "peach" $20 bills make their debut today...about $19 billlion dollars' worth hit the streets. I can see it now...it's All About the Jacksons, the Benjamins...

...and the Peaches.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003
California Guber Alles 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
This morning the alarm clock radio came on with NPR news coverage of Arnold Schwarzenegger's victory in the California gubernatorial recall election last night. Now, I tend to sleep like a log, so the victory speech weaseled its way under my REM stage cycle...just before I woke up I was dreaming of the crowd, Ahhnuld with both arms raised in the air Nixon-style...

[no allusions here, just free-association]

...giving thanks to the voters that have turned over the reins of America's oddest state to a political newcomer.

I hope he's a better businessman than actor, because California needs one. History will prove itself, I say. That, and I just like the word "gubernatorial." Say it with me: goober-nuh-tore-ee-al.

Wednesday's Child is a Shameless Fanboy Shill 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
James Lileks is my kind of writer. Anyone that can cook up "The Grooviest Motel In Wisconsin," "The Gallery of Regrettable Food" - and maintain an archive of Lost American Kitsch has my lifetime, card-carrying vote.

Sure, he's got a radio show now and all, but he's still a writer ferchrissakes. Every weekday morning I try to click my mouse on the Bleat, to see what he's cooked up for the day. He calls them "dashed-off essays," but more often then not there's a needle-sharp observation on the human condition hidden in his haystacks of curmudgeonly wit and blow-by-blow of new fatherhood.

Today, he continues his live coverage of a trip to the Big Apple, Two-double-oh-trey style:
Coming up 7th, around 26th street. A car is attempting to nose through an intersection. There are no other cars in front of it, but a large crowd has decided that it will just cross the street against the light. As the car inches forward at a rate somewhat slower than continental drift, a sullen young man with his arm draped around his girlfriend walks in front of the vehicle. The car continues to move forward, moving perhaps half an inch, attempting to imply that it does sort of kinda have, you know, right of way?

The young man glowers at the car. Bitch, he mutters, I outta blow you fukatta tha car.

The woman behind the wheel was roughly the same age and size as the girlfriend. Nevermind him; dime a dozen and overpriced at that. But what of the girlfriend? What goes through her mind when her boyfriend casually remarks that he feels like shooting someone who’s attempting to go through a crosswalk on a green light? Yes, yes, figure of speech. But not one that rises to the lips of a good man. Maybe that’s the attraction; wouldn’t be the first time. But you see them two years down the road - she has the baby, he’s gone, she’s blaming everyone but herself for what happened. Girl, that was your cue, right there at 7th and 26th.

Maybe she’ll heed it.
Now that's a couple of paragraphs only a hardass newspaperman with a toddler named Gnat could spit out...and dash off.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003
Newsflash from the Set of Proof - Open Casting Call 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
If you're going to be anywhere near the University of Chicago Quads on Wednesday, October 8th, you're over 30 and show up wearing subdued colors - but not black - for a funeral service scene, the crew of Proof has an open casting call at 10:00am. Details? Click here.

They need 150 people as volunteer extras. No pay, but you get food and beverages - and you might be in a major motion picture...it should be sunny and warm tomorrow, so no heavy trenchcoats for you ersatz mourners.

Just Another Day at the Movie Set..er...Work 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Today I got my first glimpse at a real, honest-to-goodness Hollywood movie set, as shooting continues for Proof here at the University of Chicago quads. What surprised me most? The lack of screaming fans and gawking passersby (well, granted, none of the stars were on the set yet...just dozens of setup crew and all those people whose names fill up the credits. The caterers, cable pullers, statue-dusters, etc.).

The weather is holding up beautifully - sunshine, about 70 degrees. The Miramax crew lucked out.

As I walked through the Divinity School to grab my usual vegetarian couscous for Tuesday lunch (after all, I do have a midterm tonight. I need the quality proteins) I saw a row of dark blue director's chairs set up in the lobby with the director's and star's names on them...Gwyneth Paltrow, Jake Gyllenhaal, Anthony Hopkins.

Probably for one of the press release video bits they'll release to "Entertainment Tonight," or include as a bonus on the eventual DVD release.

See? Now I have to go see the movie and buy the Proof DVD. I was there!

I could have reached out and touched the chair that they may have just sat in - or would sit in shortly - but I didn't - that's just too fanboy for me. That, and I would have looked like an utter creep and probably would have been banned from going to the Div School cafe tomorrow to get my vegetarian couscous.

No star's worth that...not even Hannibal Lecter.

Notes From The Chicago Garbage Crisis: Got Raccoons? 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Six days and counting...and the trash continues to pile up in Chicago during this massive trash haulers' strike. Unless you look at the alleys, you might not notice that anything is amiss. Since the weather is cooler, the eau de olde dumpster is much milder than, say, on a 90-degrees-in-the-shade day.

That's where I think the trash haulers got it wrong.

You want leverage, go on strike during the hottest weeks of the year, when the stench of rotting garbage assaults the senses and you need Vicks Vaporub™ under your nostrils - or some orange peels tied to your face - to get through the alleys.

On an August day, a ripe Chicago dumpster can smell like a combination of roasted dog droppings, beer belches, a bloated corpse and a vat of fermenting fruit - not necesarily in that order.

You'll hold Chicago's collective olfactory bulbs hostage, and get the City to cry "uncle" in the shortest span of time that way. They'll pay anything to get rid of the smell.

From USA Today:
"Dale Galassie of the suburban Lake County (Ill.) Health Department says,'...if you leave your garbage out overnight, particularly with chicken or fish in it, you immediately get raccoons,' Galassie said."
Let them eat ribs, I say. Then you get rats.

Or, as they say, something stinks at Wrigley Field - but this time it ain't the Cubs.

Monday, October 06, 2003
Take Five Lemons and Call Me in the Morning 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Let's see...I've got a bunch of last-minute web searches to do tonight for my midterms this week (I really shouldn't be blogging. but I couldn't resist)...Dave Brubeck's Take Five CD bubbles confidently behind me as I type.

What's the 411? Recent events remind me that everything is balance.

Downside? In the past week or so, my car's brakes have had to be fixed twice; the upstairs apartment's sink flooded, peeling parts of our ceiling off, and the bathroom tub is currently clogged tighter than an IRS auditor's bung.

But that's okay. (Stuart Smalley inflection here.)

Upside? Someone moved out of our apartment building recently, leaving behind boxes of VHS tapes, good books, and other interesting "alley treats." The landlord is taking care of the plumbing - so we don't have to - and they'll paint the watersoaked walls once they dry. Plus, my little order of musical instrument accessories arrived today. Little things to make you smile...it's all about the balance.

Tip? When life hands you lemons, "Take Five"...and fuhgeddaboudit. There's nothing that doesn't look sunnier in the light of a sunny yellow sax solo, smiling knowingly at Brubeck's classic piano chart. "Take Five." Truer words have never been spoken.

Bye. Time to study.

Thursday, October 02, 2003
A Herring of a Different Color 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
I understand that leaking the identity of a CIA operative can be dangerous, both to the person involved and to national security. However, the uncanny timing of this alleged White House leak flap makes me think of a burning city block with the arsonist yelling, "Help, police! That guy there's lighting up in a non-smoking area!"

Maybe I'm just cyniplistic.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003
And Now, for Something Completely Different... 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
I've been a die-hard Googler since the late, vaunted InFind search engine kicked the bucket a few years back - but if you're looking for something a little different in search engines, try this - KartOO, a "visual meta-search engine" with a "3D mapping interface."

At first glance it looks more like a video game than a search engine, with its bouncy genie mascot and colorful interface. But, if like me, you're a 'visual thinker,' KartOO is fun way to see the relationships between search results, easily add or subtract search terms, altering the resulting maps.

It takes a moment to get used to what you're seeing (and do tell your boss it's a search engine, not a game!), but the pleasing look and unusually intuitive result maps are especially useful for finding common ground between disparate pages and ideas, brainstorming, and the like.

Actually - if truth be told - the 3D visual maps KartOO generates look an awful lot like an overhead view of a Petri dish with shiny globular cultures, and antibiotic "inhibition zones" in between...ah, what the hell. It does look like a Petri dish.

It won't replace a text-based search engine, and you do need Flash™ installed for the visual effects, but it certainly adds an exciting new dimension to searching. try this experiment: go to the KartOO home page and type in your name, either in quotes or with a "+" sign between search terms - and see what appears on the screen!