Thursday, July 26, 2018

Newberry Library 34th Annual Book Fair (and Bughouse Square Debates!)


Shopping for Books at Newberry Library Book Fair
Every year, the Newberry Library, one of the top independent research libraries in the world (and based in Downtown Chicago) offers up one of the largest used book sales in the country.  There are over 135,000 used books, movies, and records in more than 70 categories, many priced less than $3.  And admission is free!

All proceeds directly support the Newberry's mission to build and care for their extraordinary collection of books and share it- free of charge- with thousands of people from diverse backgrounds each year.

The book sale starts today and runs through Sunday.  Thursday and Friday it is on from noon-8pm and on Saturday and Sunday it is open from 10 am- 6pm.


The Environmental Encroachment Brass Marching Band will play

In addition, on Saturday, the Newberry will host The BugHouse Square Debates from 12 pm-4pm, an open forum for people to speak their views, (sort of like an organized Speaker's Corner in London)

This event, which is held in the park across from the Newberry, features music, performances, and most importantly lively debate.  There will be several organized talks/debates, where people can freely agree or disagree with the scheduled speakers.

Last year's winner of the coveted Dill Pickle Award.

A soapbox speaker
There will also be some open soapboxes, where people can stand and declaim about whatever suits their fancy (and get heckled for it).  The Open Soapbox is hosted by The Society Of Smallness, an art group that believes in the power of small actions.  There will also be a Youth SoapBox that kids can sign up for.

The Soapbox speakers will be judged, and a Dill Pickle will be awarded.

Admission is free and open to the public.

To get all of the information, including schedules, check out the following links:

BugHouse Square Debates.

34th Annual Newberry Book Fair

The Newberry Library is located at 60 West Walton Street.

Bughouse Square is also known as Washington Square Park, and is located at 901 North Clark Street, across Walton from the Newberry.  It's off the Red Line (about a 6 minute walk from Clark and Division)

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

SPONSORED: Streamlining Your Electronics Collection.

Please note: This post is being sponsored by Best Buy and HP.  I am being compensated to write this post with product and/or cash. Nevertheless, all opinions are my own.  I take my integrity seriously, and so should you.

If you are like me, you've got more electronics and computing power in your possession than you know what to do with. Phone. Computer. Tablet.  Camera.  Laptop.  Video camera. Smartwatch.  Backup Laptop. Drone.

And that's just me!  My wife has almost all of the above as well, and my son has most of these things also.  Our house is one large hotbed of electronics!  Thank the lord that we only have one child!)

 (And I'm not even including all of my legacy electronics.  I have a MAC PLUS that I bought in 1991 with a 10MB hard drive!  it still works, but I can't figure out how get the data off the hard drive-- I no longer have SCSI capabilities, and there's no internet/ethernet capability.)

Anyway, if you are looking to streamline your morass of electronics, HP has an interesting solution-- The HP Envy x360 series.

  The HP Envy x360 laptops are 2-in-1 devices that  transform from a laptop to a tablet in seconds. These are touch-screen laptops that come with a keyboard, Windows operating system, and Windows Ink capabilities so you can write on the screen with your stylus. They use a standard AMD processors and they are (as are most computers these days) fast and thin.


Through July 28, Best Buy has a special deal for an extra $100 off.  In reviewing these offers, I thought it was interesting that the 13-inch models are more expensive than the 15-inch models.  You pay a little extra for smallness.

Check out the offers here:
HP Envy 13in: 

HP Envy 15in:

Features for these laptops include:

Full HD touch screen
A 1920 x 1080 resolution with impressive color and clarity. Finger-touch navigation,  IPS technology for wide viewing angles, and an energy-efficient WLED backlight.

8GB system memory for advanced multitasking
Substantial high-bandwidth RAM to smoothly run your games and photo- and video-editing applications, as well as multiple programs and browser tabs all at once. Models come with either 128 or 256 SSD hard drive.

360° flip-and-fold design
Versatile functionality with laptop, audience, tabletop, presentation and tablet modes.

Windows 10 and Windows Ink
Windows 10 brings back the Start Menu from Windows 7 and introduces new features, including Windows Ink, which allows you to quickly jot down notes and ideas with ease.

While I have been firmly a Mac guy for almost my entire life, I have to say that these babies have me tempted to switch (or at least to add on to my already impressive collection.)   

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

MILESTONE: The Boy Goes To Sleepaway camp

Well, he's off for 14 days of non-stop adventure at Jewish sleepaway camp.  He's going to Camp Ramah in upstate Wisconsin, about 6 and a half hours north of here. We just dropped him off at the bus in Skokie, and the adventure has begun (for all of us!)

When I was a kid I went to a Jewish sleepaway camp as well, Camp Avoda, and had a great time.  I think I went right around his age-- and the first time my brother and I went for a month, and then after that I went for 2 months for a couple of more years before I wanted to go to basketball camp with my friends, and so didn't go to the Jewish camp anymore.  (Wow, just looked at the prices for Camp Avoda, and they are about1.3 times what we are paying for Ramah.  And I blanched when I saw OUR prices.  Don't let anyone fool you--Camp is expensive!)

Avoda is an all boys camp, and Ramah is mixed gender camp.  Wonder if that plays into the pricing?  Or just midwest vs. east coast kind of thing?

Here's the promo for Camp Ramah.

At Camp Avoda, kids pray in an outdoor chapel.  
This camp is far more religious than we are, and I think praying before and after every meal, eating kosher, discussing holiness, celebrating Shabbat, and learning about Judaism will be good for him.  I know it was for me.  It's where I learned a lot of the Jewish prayers (you sing them before and after every meal) and also got a sense of Jewish identity.  And really, it's where I started grappling with some philosophical issues as well about meaning and purpose.  And it was the first time I had hung out with a bunch of kids just like me.

While I am all about diversity and knowing about other cultures and ideas, I also think that knowing who you are and where you come from are important.  And bonding with kids just like you (especially when you are in a decided minority in your school) is also important.  When I grew up, I think I was one of only a handful of Jewish kids in my school- and even in high school- out of a class of 500, I doubt more than 10 of us were Jewish.  My son's elementary school has numbers that might be a little higher, but not much.

As I recall, I learned a lot more than just the prayers in sleepaway camp, including the joys of volleyball (newcome, the first year, where you got to catch the ball instead of hit it); tetherball, tennis, and what leeches were (we were on a freshwater lake in MA, and if you went swimming too far, you'd end up covered in leeches!)  And gimp bracelets, color war, and handmade wallets, and bug juice, and the joy of catching a frog for the first time (I was a sheltered city kid!) I also went to one of my first plays on a field trip there, and I think I acted in a play as well.  It's a time for growing up - a "Growth experience"  and I am so looking forward to finding out how it went for him!

My son (2nd from left) and his two friends and the bus director.
Getting ready to go on a giant camp adventure!
We packed and packed and packed and labeled every piece of clothing he owns (and several that he doesn't) and bought batteries for the flashlight and batteries for the other thing and batteries for the batteries.  His stuff fit into two large duffel bags. I also packed an old ipod (music players are allowed, but not ones with screens or connectivity) and some audio books and some regular books.  He will not be hurting for things to do this summer!

The bigger question is:  what are my wife and I going to do with our free time?  (Other than fret about the boy?) This is sort of an empty nest preview, and I'm not sure what we are going to do.  Go on dates?  Sleep in?  Have sex all day?  (Let's not go crazy!)

My guess is not much will change, and I'm not sure if that's a good thing or just sad.

 It's a little concerning-- I no longer have a ready-made excuse about why I was less than productive today!

What about you?  What happened when your kids went to camp?  Funny war stories encouraged in the comments below.

Friday, July 20, 2018

YIVO Festival Events All summer long

YIVO is a society dedicated to the preservation of Yiddish language and culture.  It's based in NY, but it's also got a pretty strong base here in Chicago.  As a result, YIVO this summer has been producing all kinds of Yiddish oriented culture events.  I missed the first half of them, but the second half are going on over the next 6 weeks, and they are pretty great.  Lectures about Jewish humor, Jewish music, and literature, as well as klezmer and other kinds of Jewish music performances will happen.  And they are mostly free!  Check out the full scope of what they are doing on their website:

TUESDAY, JULY 24 7:00 pm
Northbrook Public Library 1201 Cedar Ln, Northbrook, IL

Rabbi Barry Schechter, Congregation Kol Emeth, Skokie: “Yiddish and Laughter"

BARRY SCHECHTER, Rabbi of Congregation Kol Emeth in Skokie, is well-known for his Jewish humor presentations. His audiences have included synagogues and Jewish organizations in Chicago, Milwaukee and New York, Catholic groups in Chicago, universities in the U.S. and Britain, and Jewish organizations in Germany and Poland. Free and open to the public.

THURSDAY, JULY 26 2:00 pm
Northtown Library 6435 N. California Ave, Chicago
MUSIC Steve Gibons: “The Vanishing Worlds Project"

 More information to come. Free and open to the public.

Highland Park Public Library 494 Laurel Ave, Highland Park
LECTURE David Chack: “Jewish Americans and Their Music"

The American songbook is well represented by American Jewish songwriters, but rarely do we talk about the Jewish cultural influences they brought to the songs most Americans sing. From Harold Arlen's "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," to Paul Simon's "Sounds of Silence," to Carole King's "You've Got a Friend" - these great American Jewish music-makers brought their Jewish identities to their art. David Chack, a professor in theatre at The Theatre School at DePaul University will explore these and more historically, contextually and artistically. Free and open to the public.

Wilmette Public Library 1242 Wilmette Ave, Wilmette

 LECTURE Jeffry Mallow: Yosl Rakover Speaks to God: The Strange History of a Holocaust Narrative.

Jeffry V. Mallow is Professor of Physics Emeritus, Loyola University and Honorary Chair, Chicago YIVO Society. Professor Mallow has translated the Rakover book from Yiddish. He will discuss the conflict over the story's origin, its relevance to Christian-Jewish relations, and its possible connection to Holocaust denial. Free and open to the public.

Congregation Etz Chaim 1710 S. Highland Ave, Lombard, IL

MUSIC Bibi Marcell: “An Afternoon of Yiddish Nostalgia,” vocals with guitar. Gail Mangurten, piano More information to come. Free and open to the public.

Northbrook Public Library 1201 Cedar Ln, Northbrook, IL
MUSIC Lustik Duo: “Klezmer and Yiddish Songs,”

Eleonore Weill, Jake Shulman-Ment International Yiddish music power couple Eleonore Weill and Jake Shulman-Ment share an exceptionally expressive and intimate understanding of klezmer and Yiddish folk song. In this program, they perform songs, dances, and spiritual melodies. Combining music they have played since childhood with material they have collected along their many roads through Europe and North America, as well as original compositions, they explore the boundaries of Yiddish music with creative repertoire, instrumentation, and interpretation. Free and open to the public.

Morton Grove Public Library 6140 Lincoln Ave. Morton Grove, IL

MUSIC Duo Controverso: Kurt Bjorling, clarinet; Annette Bjorling, klezmer harp More information to come. Free and open to the public.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Sparking Goodness- One Tiny Action at a Time.

There's a book out there that gives some sage advice: "Don't sweat the small stuff." In this post I am not sweating the small stuff-- I'm celebrating it and recognizing its importance.


Mr. Alexander making a correction. Photo
courtesy of Wikipedia.
When I was in acting school, we studied the Alexander Technique, which is a method of thinking about the body and choosing to use the body in a very deliberate way. It was developed by an Australian actor who had a vocal illness that no doctor could cure. When prevailing medical wisdom did not help, he locked himself in a room and started studying himself in the mirror, trying to figure out what was causing his vocal infirmity.

Eventually, he realized that he had a habit of making a tiny imperceptible movement just before he spoke, and when he didn't do that - when he CHOSE not to do that movement - he did not have pain. He was amazed that such a tiny movement could have so big an effect.

And so it is in the world - a tiny thing can make a big difference. A small dam can change the course of a river, a well-placed word can be the deciding factor in a business deal, and yes, a butterfly flapping its wings can change the weather pattern.

Which is why I'm pleased to let you know about author T.A. Barron's campaign #SparkGoodness, whose central idea is that small acts of goodness can have an outsized effect.
50 ways you can spark goodness- you can download this list as a pdf.  Image courtesy of T.A. Barron

DISCLOSURE: I am not being directly compensated for this blog post. However, T.A. Barron is my wife's client, and she is working on this campaign, so I think it's the right thing to do to disclose that fact. I am also disclosing that my opinions are my own, and that if this weren't a great thing that I think my readers should know about, I would have not written about it. I take my integrity seriously, and so should you.


T.A. Barron.  photo courtesy of T.A.
Barron website.
If you don't know T.A. Barron, you should. He is a highly acclaimed, internationally bestselling author of more than 30 books, including the Merlin Saga, which is currently being developed into a film by Disney. He was awarded the de Grummond Medallion for “lifetime contribution to the field of children’s and young adult literature” and founded the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes, a national award for outstanding young people.

Barron's latest project, #SparkGoodness, has as its central idea that a lot of people doing small actions of good that will have an outsize effect on the world at large. To that end, he's offering children and their families ideas of actions to take and a means to catalog their sparks. Not all of these actions will catch fire, but some will, and collectively, these smaller actions will have a big impact. And some of them will have an amazing impact, perhaps even set the world ablaze.

This summer he’s especially encouraging kids to get in on the action, creating sparks of their own and tracking them throughout the summer. It’s a great family activity too! You can download the #SparkGoodness “50 Ways to Create Summer Sparks” list for inspiration, and there’s also a Summer Sparks Tracker for your kids to record their ideas and actions.

You can download this tracker as a pdf.  Image courtesy of T.A. Barron.

Some previous #sparkgoodness entries

(courtesy of the T.A. Barron #SparkGoodness Website.)

Did I mention that there are prizes?  

You will get this downloadable print at home
poster just for entering!
Image from T.A. Barron website
Once you and your kids have created your small sparks, you can enter them to win prizes! Each month until October 2018, Barron will choose one #SparkGoodness winner per month as an example and inspiration. He will also choose four runners-up each month. And just for entering, you will receive an exclusive print at home poster of The Great Tree of Avalon, a key character in Barron’s Merlin Saga series.

In November 2018, all monthly winners and runners-up will be entered into a bigger contest where all fans will have a chance to vote on the 2018 #SparkGoodness winner, plus four runners-up for the year.

To enter, visit the #SparkGoodness website. I can't wait to see what kind of amazing goodness your tiny actions bring!

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Hot Diggety Dog! National Hot Dog Day 2018

This was the sign in the dining room of Hot Doug's, Chicago's most celebrated
(and now lamented) Hot Dog Joint.
It's July 18, National Hot Dog Day!  It's usually celebrated on a Wednesday in July, and that Wednesday is today!

The hot dog is a Chicago signature food.  I've often thought about creating a review/rating site about Chicago Hot dog joints, and lo and behold, on searching for some deals for today's article, I found the website I wish I'd written.  It's out of date, and on further discovery, the founders live in Madison.  So, it's authenticity is in question.

Nevertheless, the content looks great, and they've got a fun style.

If you are looking for how to make a great Chicago style Hot Dog, Vienna Beef provides a great video:

Sign at the airport (Midway)
If you are looking for the redoubtable history of the weiner, look no further than here:

If you are looking for the list of America's best hot dogs, there are a number of competing lists.  There are usually a bunch of Chicago joints on there too.

Food and Wine List of Best Hot Dogs

The Daily Meal's 75 Best Hot Dog Places
(and Chicago Sun-Times shouts out the Chicago joints)

Thrillist's List of 21 great hot dogs in America

(This is just three of many lists)

And by the way, when in Chicago, it is NOT okay to put ketchup on a hot dog.  I personally think it tastes fine, but I prefer to obey all local laws.

If you are looking to celebrate the Tube Steak, many chains are offering deals of the day.  Not all of them are based in Chicago (list from USA-Today)

Here are a few deals of the day:

 Pilot Flying J  Download or open the myPilot app, and you'll have an offer waiting for you. It gets you a free hot dog or another item off the roller grill. That's it. Real easy.

Dog Haus: Download and register for the Dog Haus app and get a free Haus Dog if you're a new user. Only available on dine-in orders.

 Love's Travel Stops  Flash a barcode at the register, (available at the brand's social media channels) and get a free dog!

6 all the way. In Chicago that means onions, tomato, relish, sport pepper, pickle and celery salt on a Poppyseed bun.
7-Eleven  Pick up any of the convenience store's Big Bite hot dogs for a buck. That includes The Reaper, which is topped with a Carolina Reaper seasoning. Condiments like chili, cheese, pickles, onions, and relish are free.

Wienerschnitzel  It's an easy day to buy lunch for the office. You can grab five chili cheese dogs for just $5.

These are my favorite hot dogs.  New York System Hot dogs from the Olneyville WeinerMan in Providence RI.
The arm gives it a special flavor! Onion, mustard, meat sauce and celery salt. Wash it down with coffee milk!
Portillo's  Grab a pair of hot dogs for only $5 as Portillo's celebrates hot dogs all week long.

Hwy 55 From 2-5pm, you can get a 99-cent dog, reports WTKR.

Philly Pretzel Factory Grab a $1 pretzel dog all day long. Additionally, the first 100 people will get a card for a $1 pretzel dog every day in August.

And here is a pretty exhaustive photo of different styles of hot dog eating. Photo courtesy of Food Republic.  I would like to try them all!

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

NYC: International Center for Photography- Cartier-Bresson: The Decisive Moment

When I lived in NY, whenever someone would ask for a museum to go to, I'd always recommend the ICP (International Center For Photography)

It was at 43rd and 6th avenue, and whatever exhibit they had, it was always pretty fabulous.  I'd always see something I hadn't seen before, even if it was an artist that I was familiar with.  I usually wouldn't even look up what was there, I'd just go, because the curation was always pretty strong.

Walking around NY after a 4 year hiatus in the city, I happened across the ICP, which relocated a couple of years to the Bowery (250 Bowery to be precise) .  I of course checked it out, and I'm happy to report that while the address has changed, the strength of their curation has not.  They have 4 pretty great exhibitions going on right now.

All four of these exhibitions are on at the museum through September 2. 
I highly recommend them all.  (I've written my impressions of two of them below, along with some sample photos for publicity purposes)

Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Decisive Moment:  See below for my impressions.

Elliot Erwitt:  Pittsburgh 1950  See below for my impressions.

RFK Funeral Train: The People's View. On June 8, 1968, thousands of people lined the train tracks from New York to Washington, DC, paying their last respects to Robert F. Kennedy. Dutch visual artist Rein Jelle Terpstra has collected more than two hundred images, including snapshots and home movies of the train, and interspersed them with the official photos by Paul Fusco.

Multiply, Identify, Her:  This exhibition features an intergenerational group of women artists whose work explores representations of identity using photography, video, film, assemblage, collage, multipart portraiture, and avatars both analog and digital.  Artists include Geta Brătescu, Stephanie Dinkins, Christina Fernandez, Barbara Hammer, Roni Horn, Wangechi Mutu, Gina Osterloh, Sondra Perry, Lorna Simpson, and Mickalene Thomas

(PLEASE NOTE: Most of the above links are Amazon affiliate links.  If you purchase something from these, I will get a small stipend.  There is no pressure.  I am simply providing the links in case you want to find out more.)

THE DECISIVE MOMENT BY Henri Cartier-Bresson

Buy this book on Amazon
The main exhibit is called The Decisive Moment by Henri Cartier-Bresson.  I didn't know much about him, but he was an amazing guy.  Fought in World War II with the French, was captured as  POW, tried to escape 3 times (and succeeded on the third time.  He traveled the world taking photographs of people and places, and his eye (and ability to capture design masterpieces on the fly) is amazing.  He was published in books and magazines throughout his career, and the photographs he captured of every day life are nothing short of remarkable.

The photographs are amazing.  I'm attaching a few from the ICP website, but they don't do the silver gelatin prints justice.  (These photos are the press photos from their website and are being used for promotion) The two photos that spoke to me the most were not in that list.  A photo of a man walking in Marseilles with a cape on that miraculously turned at the right moment, and another one of a Gestapo informant being questioned in 1945.  The book is amazing (and $103 on Amazon)

Henri Cartier-Bresson, The Decisive Moment (Simon & Schuster, 1952), p. 19-20, Sunday on the Banks of the Seine, France, 1938. © Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum Photos. 

Henri Cartier-Bresson, The Decisive Moment (Simon & Schuster, 1952), p. 69, Henri Matisse and His Model Micaela Avogadro, Vence, France, 1944.
 © Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum Photos. 
Henri Cartier-Bresson, The Decisive Moment (Simon & Schuster, 1952), p. 25–26, Italy, 1933. © Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum Photos. 

Elliot Erwitt Pittsburgh 1950

Elliot Erwitt's photos of Pittsburgh
 60+ years ago.  Buy on Amazon
In 1950, 21-year-old photographer Elliot Erwitt was asked to help document Pittsburgh's change.  He shot hundreds of frames, but 4 months later was drafted into the army, and his negatives went to the Carnegie Museum.  They were recently uncovered, and the artist (now in his 80's) went through and chose and printed many for this exhibition.  The photos show a time gone by, much like Cartier-Bresson's work, and document these moments in time.

The photos are startling, and show people playing, at work, at football games, and some of the typical street scenes.

 It's amazing that the artist is alive 65 years later and is able to deal with some of his first works.  The book is available also on Amazon.

Elliott Erwitt, Downtown Hat Shop Window, Pittsburgh, PA, September 1950. © Elliott Erwitt/Magnum Photos, Courtesy of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh 

Elliott Erwitt, Children on Beelen Street, Pittsburgh, PA, October 1950. © Elliott Erwitt/Magnum Photos, Courtesy of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. 

Elliott Erwitt, Crowd at Armistice Day Parade, Pittsburgh, PA, November 1950. © Elliott Erwitt/Magnum Photos, Courtesy of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.