25 January 2007

Found: Hooded Merganser with Identity Disorder

On a walk a couple of weeks ago, I was delighted to see that the Common Goldeneyes have returned to Belmont Harbor. We first noticed them two falls ago, and it still astonishes us that some creatures find winter in Chicago to be perfectly comfortable. This year, though, we were especially struck by the presence of a solitary Hooded Merganser keeping the others company. Certainly, the Hooded Merganser has much in common with Common Goldeneyes--black-and-white color scheme, fishy diet, diving talents--but why isn't it hanging out with its own kind? Turns out, it was probably born in a Common Goldeneye nest. Is it such a stretch to imagine it THINKS it's a Common Goldeneye?
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24 January 2007

Niagara Falls All Over Again

It had been a while since I'd read a good story. Instead I'd been reading nature stuff, political stuff, magazines, newspapers, but hardly any fiction.

Didn't want anything too challenging, though. Not to put too fine a point on it, I wanted to be carried away.

Elizabeth McCracken's Niagara Falls All Over Again does just that. This is the story of a fictional vaudeville comedy duo--one fat, one thin--that transitions to legitimate theater, film, radio, and television. The tale is told in the wistful voice of the thin one, born Jewish in small-town Iowa, who ran away to vaudeville as a teen to escape a future as a shopkeeper.

What makes a good read? Engaging, fast-moving writing, compelling plot, characters you fall in love with... I stayed up past midnight to finish this one, and the next day my groggy brain was full of vivid images--as if I'd been up late watching a movie, not reading a book.

You don't need to be an Abbott and Costello fan to like this, either.

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22 January 2007


I picked up tickets for this event via Goldstar (indispensable source of cheap tickets) without realizing that it was being presented by the Chicago Children's Theater. All I thought was: hip-hop, dance, fun!

I guess that's also what kids 6 and over think. But regardless of the audience, which largely skewed I-won't-say-how-many years younger than me, it was a terrific performance--just over an hour--of exhilarating dance, acrobatics, a bit of Three-Stooges-style silliness, very impressive human beatbox feats; most breathtaking--for me--were two champion rollerbladers, who sailed down one ramp and up the other, and into the air, as if they were birds rather than boys.

The show's only up for one more weekend, at the Harris Theater at Millennium Park. Whether or not you have children to entertain, this is worth seeing.

Chicago Children's Theater

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21 January 2007

The Sparrow

I'd heard about this play, put on by the acclaimed House Theatre, a while ago, but the synopses I'd seen turned me off. A play about a telekinetic high school girl? Seemed kind of over the top, and I was skeptical about how telekinesis was going to be managed in a storefront theater.

I will no longer be skeptical about anything the House Theatre chooses to do. With a talented cast, highly creative staging, a compelling script, good music, effects, and really moving performances, this group makes magic on its little stage at the Viaduct. Perhaps the story doesn't quite hold together 10 minutes after you leave the theater, but through the performance, you're riveted.

It's only around for a few more weeks, so go see it.

Viaduct Theater
3111 N. Western Ave

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