27 September 2010

Sunday in the Park with George

Yesterday afternoon, we went to see the Porchlight Music Theatre's production of Sunday in the Park with George, the Stephen Sondheim musical about Georges Seurat and the making of his masterpiece A Sunday on La Grande Jatte

It's a beautifully done show, extremely moving, with some sharp insights about artists and the art-making process and business. The whole cast does justice to the remarkable score, and the simple set is lovely.


Thieves Like Us

We started subscribing to the House Theatre of Chicago last year, with some trepidation.  There is so much great theater around town that it seems limiting to commit to a particular troupe, and we travel so much that there is a real concern about whether we can make every show.  On the other hand, House subscriptions are about as cheap as they could be, and go to support some of our favorite Chicago artists and performers.

This season's inaugural show is Thieves Like Us, based on a 1930s-era novel by Richard Anderson and adapted by local playwright Damon Kiely. Like most House Theatre shows, it features creative scene-setting and staging; for example, when main characters hop into their (invisible) getaway car, other cast members parade along the stage holding up newsprint drawings of the scenery the automobile passes on its journey.

Imaginative touches like these, and an enigmatic (and magnetic) torch singer who appears and disappears, like a phantom of protagonist Bowie Bowers' mind, elevate the show beyond its pulpy, noir material (nice guy falls in with the wrong crowd, gets in trouble, lands in jail, gets in more trouble, falls in love with nice girl, tries to get out of trouble, fails).  So do an array of fine performances from the cast who are--as typical at the House--terrifically energetic.

In spite of a sad ending, it's an invigorating show.

09 September 2010

Another Day, Another Gadget

Our new flat-screen TV is Internet-enabled, which means we can stream Netflix movies, and access Amazon Video on Demand, which is almost embarrassingly exciting.  But yesterday I realized we can't easily access video content from iTunes (which was embarrassingly disappointing).  Our Blu-Ray player has an iPod dock, but that only facilitates music play; it doesn't transmit video.  We have a cable to connect my iPhone directly to the TV, but that transmits only visuals without sound.

So after scouring the Web for hours, looking at cables, docks, and other devices, I've concluded that the easiest and most cost-effective option is an Apple TV.  It offers some redundant services (for example, Netflix streaming), but also offers the prospect of a better remote interface (using my iPhone via the Remote app), access to iTunes content, and ultimately (in November or so), the ability to wirelessly stream content from any of my devices to my TV.

So is the PC-user becoming Apple-fied?   Somewhat.  But after I had to replace my Airport Extreme because it couldn't sustain a VPN connection, I'm inclined to persist with a mixed environment.

08 September 2010


Did not want to put down this mystery. The protagonist, Lena, is a fingerprint expert confronted with a crime that might just be a statistical blip--a surprising number of crib deaths (SIDS) within a couple of months.  Because of her unexpected success resolving a previous child murder, Lena, almost pathologically private, is the target of enormous attention and expectation from the public as well as her colleagues.

While Lena is not at all sure there is a crime, to start, something about the case troubles her, and leads her to explore her own past more persistently (she was raised by foster parents).  As the investigation progresses, certain details and even pieces of evidence seem to point back to the mystery of her own origin. 

Beautifully written with a compellingly diverse cast of characters; convincingly set in depressed Syracuse, New York; a really terrific read.

03 September 2010


This is a beautiful, moving novel. The book is ostensibly a romance--a love affair between an Iraqi-American chef and an Iraqi emigre academic--but it is also about loss, and the power of rituals, like cooking, eating, and storytelling, to heal.

02 September 2010

Someone I Used to Know

I am reading a novel by someone I used to know.  Not very well; Diana was a grad student when I was an undergrad: I admired her from afar.  She was tall, blond, slim, and (to me) grownup and glamorous.  Her boyfriend--just as tall, slim, and handsome--was he a grad student in a different department?--added to the glamor.

She was the first person I ever saw wear black stirrup pants.  I remember asking her where she got them, and her bemusement at my admiration. Black stirrup pants became my uniform (under a white dress shirt) for at least a handful of years. (My husband periodically evinces nostalgia for them: "You used to always wear stirrup pants. What happened?") I remember mean-spirited voices criticizing her work as beautiful, but too opaque, difficult.  She is probably the person I most wanted to be when I was 19 or 20.

I never did become her, though. Never that slim, nor that alluring, and nobody ever accused me of opacity (quite the opposite).

But I became her reader, and happily find her work engaging, actually wholly delightful.

01 September 2010

Out Stealing Horses

This book was recommended by my friend Stephanie recently; she even offered me a money-back guarantee.  No refund was needed, however: Out Stealing Horses is one of the best novels I've read this year.

Per Petterson's novel demonstrates Hemingway's famous maxim, "The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water," as perfectly as anything I've ever read.  As I read I kept thinking the novel was about one thing, and it kept turning out to be about something else, also. This happened repeatedly. So a coming of age story about a teenage boy is also a story about an an almost-old man preparing for being old and alone, and it is also a story about the limits of human relationships, and it is also a story about how we cope with disaster, and it is also a story about resistance to Nazi occupation, and it is also a story about adultery.

Oh yes, and it is also a story about stealing horses.

I have read some online reviews of this book that complain the novel has no plot.  On the contrary, there is an astounding abundance of plot.  You just have to read almost as quietly and attentively as the author writes, or you could miss it all.