28 November 2007

Hyperbolic Crocheted Beauty

At the Chicago Cultural Center right now is a remarkable exhibition of work created or curated by the Los Angeles-based Institute for Figuring. Fiber artists have managed to use crochet needles and yarn (as well as other materials such as discarded plastic) to recreate the forms and colors associated with coral reefs.

It sounds like a corny idea, I know, but this work is startlingly beautiful.

The only drawback of the exhibit is that you can't touch.

Fine Field Exhibits

Been to the Field Museum of Natural History a couple of times in the past few weeks and was able to see two excellent exhibits. One, in a small, new gallery, showcases manuscripts and other texts from the Field's collection, and includes a letter with Darwin's signature, a journal in John James Audubon's hand, and lots of other cool stuff.

The other is part of the vaunted 2007 Chicago Map Festival, and is full of really interesting objects, such as a map of ocean swells made of sticks, used by native Marshall Islanders; the London tube map (remarkable for its eschewal of accurate scale and angle in favor of navigational clarity); early maps of "the 4th part of the world" (North and South America; called fourth after Europe, Africa, and Asia), and narrative offering useful distinctions such as navigational v. network maps.

We plan to return to see the map exhibit again this weekend, as we didn't spend as much time there as we'd have liked; perhaps we'll also get a chance to see the Darwin exhibit.

We have such great museums. Was sad to realize I missed the Richard Misrach show (ended this weekend). No excuse for that.

The Man in the Chair

This is an amateur-ish movie about amateurism, even though the cast includes an array of pros (not least Christopher Plummer, who delivers a terrific performance), and the movie is ostensibly about a group of seasoned (if long-retired) professionals assisting a film-loving high-school delinquent in making his first movie.

But the most important thing about all of the characters in the movie is their love for their work--amateur by definition. The script even includes that old saw, "Love your job and you'll never work a day in your life." (The quotation is attributed to Churchill, which I could not verify; rather, the source seems to be Confucius.)

Regardless, it is a charming movie in the way that amateurs are charming; and annoying in that way also. The script isn't as good as it could be, the experimental effects are a little grating, the generation gap signals not so well chosen; however, the movie has a winning sweetness overall, and is finally quite moving.

Especially recommended for film buffs.

14 November 2007


It's been a little frustrating to see all the great reviews of Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, in spite of my pretty vehement reaction against it. Usually it's the other way (I like something and reviews don't). Makes me feel like I've missed the boat, but when I actually read the reviews, I feel like they have; they point out the parts that I agree were excellent(acting, dialogue) and ignore the whole, which--for me--just didn't hold together.

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01 November 2007


I have been holding on to a high school alumni newsletter for weeks because it reports the death of someone I knew. Not a good friend, but a boy I acted with in a play. Not a very nice boy, either--except for our scenes together I doubt we exchanged five words. Amazing that he had this whole other life (wife, kids, friends who remember him as kind and caring)--while persisting in my memory as one of many minor high school tormentors.

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