Thursday, June 14, 2018

REVIEW: PIRATES OF PENZANCE.

As mentioned in my previous post, Uncle Fun was only the first part of our cultural doubleheader this past Sunday.  After that show, we hightailed it over to Evanston's Cahn Auditorium to see Music Theater Work's excellent show Pirates of Penzance, complete with giant cast and 26 piece orchestra. (That production plays on through June 17, and is a great production to make your child's first Gilbert and Sullivan- it's beautifully done, well-performed, and Pirates itself is a classic. And tickets for those 25 and under are half price! If you want to buy tickets, go here right now. Don't worry, I'll wait!)


GETTING THERE.

We had some setbacks getting there.  Uncle Fun started at 11:30 and was supposed to end at around  12:30.  That gave us an hour and a half to drive to Evanston, grab a quick bite, and get to the Cahn Auditorium (on the Northwestern Campus).  Plenty of time!  HOWEVER:

  • Uncle Fun was nearly filled, so they delayed the showtime to make sure everybody was seated (they completely sold out the other two screenings!)
  • There was an extra long Q & A, about 15 minutes long.
  • We had to park about a 3 minute walk away from the theatre.
  • We drove to Evanston, as we drove there, I estimated that our best bet was to get fast food (even though my son and I are not big fans)  I chose the Evanston Burger King on Orrington, since it's so close to the theatre.
    James Harms (Major-General Stanley) and ensemble.
    PHOTO CREDIT BY BRETT BEINER
    • My son was cranky, and elected to stay in the car and rest his eyes while I grabbed the food.
    • That Burger King is the slowest in the world.  They had one person doing everything, and even though there was one person ahead of me, it took me about 15 minutes to get our food.
    • When I got out to the car, it turned out that for some reason, my son had a bloody nose in the car and was panicked!  (He sometimes gets them when the weather changes, as do I!)  He did the right thing though, and found tissues and napkins in the car.  (He should have come out and got me, but he was afraid that the alarm in the car would have gone off)  I calmed him down, washed the blood off his hands, shirt and face, and drove the five minutes or so to Cahn, while eating our terribly greasy food.

      Larry Adams (Pirate King, center) and ensemble.
      PHOTO CREDIT BY BRETT BEINER
      • I went the wrong way and missed Cahn the first time (lots of one way streets in Evanston)  Managed to find street parking (also about 3 minutes away from the theatre) and we walked into the theatre's box office  at 2:01 pm. The show had not yet begun.
      • There was a lady ahead of us at Will Call, who was stubbornly asking how to leave a ticket for her husband who was parking.  She didn't seem to understand what the box office attendant was saying, and he had to repeat everything three times.
      • We made it into the theatre, sat down, and thought we made it.  That's when my son realized he had to use the bathroom.  
      • We made it back into the theatre as the lights were going down and the music was swelling up  (We took seats in the back row that weren't occupied, as we didn't want to disturb our seatmates twice.)
        PJ Wilborn (Sergeant of Police, center) and ensemble.  PHOTO CREDIT BY BRETT BEINER
        Whew!  That was a lot.  But we persevered, we showed adaptability, and more importantly, we got to enjoy a great production of Pirates.  And really, it's little adventures like this that make everything worthwhile, and will give us great memories of the time we went to see a show and everything conspired against us.

        THE REVIEW OF PIRATES OF PENZANCE.  FINALLY


        Everything we've seen at Music Theatre Works has been very well done, and this show was no exception.  Every actor had a great voice, they performed their characters clearly, the orchestra was all fantastic, the staging was well designed.  Professional is the word I'd use.

        Ben Barker (Frederic) and Cecilia Iole (Mabel).
        PHOTO CREDIT BY BEN BEINER
        This was my son's first Gilbert and Sullivan, and he liked it a lot, although he had a hard time at first understanding everything that was being said.  But he got into the language and the inherent silliness, and there were 5 or 6 laugh out loud moments for him, including a particularly good joke which I will talk about below.

         I am sure I've seen it before (perhaps a university production) but what struck me is how damned clever Gilbert and Sullivan are.  I knew about their word play and the camp/silliness factor, but what I'd forgotten that at times they can be downright Oscar Wildean.

        This was one exchange that both my son and I guffawed out loud when we heard the character say it.
        It's said by the Modern Major General, who talks about disappointing his ancestors.  The young man Frederic points out he just bought his house a year ago, and they weren't his ancestors.  This is his reply:

        Frederic, in this chapel are ancestors: you cannot deny that. 
        With the estate, I bought the chapel and its contents. 
        I don't know whose ancestors they were, but I know whose ancestors they are, and I shudder to think that their descendant by purchase (if I may so describe myself) should have brought disgrace upon what, I have no doubt, was an unstained escutcheon.
        This is a fantastic quip!  Worthy of Oscar Wilde.

        We also really laughed at the whole "But We're Orphans", and the farcical elements of following your duty even though it ends up ruining your life.

        All in all, the show took our minds off our previous hour of madcap insanity, and we left the theatre in a great mood, and what more can you ask from a Gilbert and Sullivan show?



        Tickets start at $34
        Age 25 and younger 1/2 price (suitable for 8 and older)

        REMAINING SHOWS
        Friday, June 15 at 8 pm
        Saturday, June 16 at 8 pm
        Sunday, June 17 at 2 pm
        visit https://www.musictheaterworks.com/pirates-of-penzance/Or call (847) 920-5360


        REVIEW: Uncle Fun: You're The One.


        We had a busy cultural extravaganza this past Sunday.  My 9 year old son and I went to see two pretty great (and radically different) cultural events, rushed around like crazy to make them, had a panic moment, and recovered.  In other words, the perfect Dad Sunday.  (My wife was at a conference all weekend, so it was all dad, all the time!)

        The first event was  the World Premiere of Uncle Fun: You're The One,  a documentary about the iconic but now gone toy store  Uncle Fun and its quirky owner Ted Frankel. It played at Chicago Filmmakers, a 30 year old center for budding and accomplished film-makers in my neighborhood.  (They've just moved into a new building about 8 blocks from my house)


        The second event was Evanston's Music Theatre Works excellent production of Pirates of Penzance, complete with giant cast and 26 piece orchestra.  (That production plays on through June 17, and is a great production to make your child's first Gilbert and Sullivan- it's beautifully done, well-performed, and Pirates itself is a classic.  And tickets for those 25 and under are half price! If you want to buy tickets, go here right now.  Don't worry, I'll wait!)  (and I review it in the next post!)

        In the meantime here is my review of Uncle Fun

        REVIEW UNCLE FUN YOU'RE THE ONE





        Uncle Fun You're the One was a quirky labor of love.  The filmmaker, Laura Scruggs,  a Chicago based actor and playwright, was an enthusiast of the store Uncle Fun and when Frankel decided to close, she decided to make a movie about this thing she loved.  Scruggs was not alone in loving the store. It had a whole band of enthusiasts (including me, who tried to go there every time I visited Chicago,) and I was really sad when we moved here in 2014 and it was closed down.  My sister in law, who is the prop master for Whose Line Is It Anway,  (and now lives in Evanston) turned me onto the store.  We were supposed to go to the movie together, but at the last minute she got ill and couldn't make it.  She will love it when she does see it!

        The quality of the video is uneven, the filmmaking narrative is a little weird, and there are moments of bizarre and amateur singing sprinkled throughout (see above trailer), but the love and care and meaning that Scruggs puts into the movie beats out all of those technical issues.  I'd much rather see a flawed artwork with heart and character than a polished artwork without a soul.  In fact, one could argue that this is in part, the message of the movie.

        Scruggs love of the store, its ethos, and the owner Ted Frankel showed through.  It was nowhere more evident than when, as a special surpise, Ted Frankel  showed up at the Q and A. (He has since moved to Baltimore, where he runs the quirky gift store at my favorite museum in the whole world The American Museum of Visionary Art.)

        I was on hand for the Q and A, and videotaped it.  I think you get a real flavor for Frankel and Uncle Fun and Scruggs through the Q and A.  (and my son is the one who asks the question, "What was your favorite part of owning Uncle Fun." and Ted Frankel answered "The Customers.")


        Laura Scruggs, filmmaker, with Ted Frankel and Laura's husband Jake.

        The movie sold out in 2 of the 3 screenings, and the management of Chicago Filmmakers said they were going to work on bringing it back.  It's a great, quirky film, and well worth seeing, especially if you were a fan of the store.  And even if you had never been, you get a great taste for the wonder that it was.

        You can find out more about the movie and where it will play next  at https://unclefunyouretheone.com/

        Sunday, June 3, 2018

        Important Safety Note: Water Testing Scam

        Chicago Department of Water Management

        Chicago Department of Water Management (DWM) Commissioner Randy Conner wants to warn residents of a scam where individuals pose as department employees to gain access to one's home by saying that they need to test their water.

        Please be aware that any official DWM representative will be wearing a neon yellow shirt or safety vest with grey metallic striping and carrying a City of Chicago or Department of Water Management issued ID. Additionally, a DWM tester will have the ten-digit reference number provided to residents who have called 311 to request lead testing. While DWM does offer  free lead testing of residential drinking water, it is done by appointment only. If any resident has not been contacted by DWM to set up an appointment in response to their request for lead testing, they should not admit anyone claiming to be a DWM water tester into their home. To obtain a free lead test kit, residents can simple call 311 and a kit will be mailed to them. The kit includes a number to call to set up an appointment for picking up water samples.

        If you have any further questions, please call Conner's office at 312-744-7001

        Friday, June 1, 2018

        National Donut Day 2018 (Chicago Deals!)


        A vat of Salvation army donuts. 
        I wrote this history of Donut Day last year, but am updating the deals below to reflect doughnut deals 2018

        First started in 1938, the first Friday in June commemorates the Doughnut Lassies, brave young women who were part of the Salvation Army's mission to provide emotional and spiritual support to our troops during World War I.

        Exactly 100 years ago, over 250 volunteers went to France to help. They lived in huts near the frontlines and were there to provide clothing, food, and support for the soldiers.

        Because of rationing and the conditions of the huts, it was difficult to make baked goods for the soldiers, but some clever volunteers of the Salvation Army (Ensign Margaret Sheldon and Adjutant Helen Purviance ) came up with the idea of frying donuts (7 at a time) in soldier's helmets. The soldiers loved them, it became a big thing, and the soldiers ended up with a new nickname (doughboys). One can probably trace this as the beginning of the American love affair with the donut.



        In the Chicagoland area, National Donut Day means some delicious and tasty snacks are for people who aren't soldiers also. And it gives an opportunity to perhaps give back a little also!

        Here's where you can get some special donut deals today.  (deals compiled from a few online sources)


        Salvation Army Doughnut Lasses. (photo courtesy Salvation Army)
        BomboBar
        desert concept walkup window will offer a glazed bomboloni (a wholeless donut fill with gelato) served with blue Cookie Monster gelato, all rolled in rainbow sprinkles ($7).
        Bridgeview BankThe first Friday of every month is free donut day at Bridgeview bank. Today is an extra special day because it is National Donut Day. Go in to any branch and help yourself to 1 Stan's Donut!

        The Dapper Doughnut
        Previously Beavers Coffee + Donuts- their food trucks and French Market store will offer three free mini sugar-dusted doughnuts.
        Delightful Pastries
        Head to Jefferson Park and buy two doughnuts to get one free. Specials include maple, strawberry with sprinkles, apple cider and chocolate and hot fudge with custard.


        This coupon is only good at Delightful Pastries. You can try other places.  But they will probably not honor it!

        Dinkel’s Bakery

        In honor of National Doughnut Day’s history, the classic bakery will donate 10 percent of doughnut sales on Friday to the Salvation Army.  You don't get the deal, but the Salvation Army does.  Seems nice to do good by eating poorly!
        Dunkin’ Donuts
        This behomoth among donut shops  is offering customers a free classic doughnut of their choice with the purchase of any beverage. Choose between Boston Kreme, Glazed, Glazed Chocolate and Strawberry Frosted with Sprinkles.


        Edible Arrangements
        Not really donuts, but they are shaped similarly, and I want to encourage fruit eating too!  These “Donuts” are really fresh apples dipped in chocolate and shaped into a circle with the hole in the middle, and they feature different toppings like chocolate-glazed, sprinkles, caramelized hazelnut crunch, coconut shavings, and almonds. Swing by any Edible storefront to pick up a complimentary treat on Friday.

        Some of the selection at Firecakes
        Firecakes
        Anyone who makes a purchase on Friday at one of their locations can enter a giveaway,  and prizes range in value from one free buttermilk old fashioned to four dozen donuts and can be redeemed June 2-30.


        Papa John's
        Purchase a pizza from this nationwide chain and receive an order of free doughnut holes for dessert. A new menu addition, these warm treats are coated in cinnamon sugar and filled with caramel crème. If you aren’t craving pizza on National Donut Day, beginning on June 2, you can use the promo code DONUT to add a complimentary side of these with the purchase of any two pizzas through the app. 

        The pizza chain is also holding a contest for one of their customers an eight-day, seven-night, all-expenses-paid trip for two to New Zealand’s Donut Island, which is shaped like a doughnut. Any customer who orders the new Donut Holes online or via the Papa John’s app between June 2 and June 30 can opt-in to the sweepstakes.

        Donuts are delicious!
        Salvation Army
        This charitable organization will be partnering with Entenmann’s, to host a series of “Do Good Donut Parties,” where they will serve over 10,000 doughnuts to 8,500 veterans across America. These parties will be alongside other Salvation Army events, including a Donut Eating Championship in Los Angeles and an annual free doughnut celebration in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Weirdly, there's nothing going on in the donut haven I live in , Chicago.  Get with it, Salvo!

        Somethin' Sweet Donuts
        This Belmont-Cragin doughnut shop will be giving away its signature red velvet variety for free with any purchase.
        Stan’s Donuts & CoffeeStan’s owner Rich Labriola said in a press release that this year, they plan to give away 10,000 doughnuts this year. All locations will offer one glazed donut with any purchase. Wicker Park, Streeterville, Lakeview, East Roosevelt and West Loop businesses open at 6:30 a.m. The Millennium Park store opens at 6 a.m. and the Mag Mile shop at 7 a.m.
        Uptown DonutsFrom June 1 through 3, sample $1 glazed donuts and special flavors including piña colada, strawberry shortcake and s'mores.
        Walmart
        All retailers nationwide are giving away complimentary whole glazed donuts to customers who enter their store on Friday.

        Weber's Bakery storefront.
        Weber’s Bakery
        One of the city’s oldest bakeries will offer 24 doughnuts, from traditional chocolate cake (88 cents) to two new flavors: a vanilla long john with Oreo on top (88 cents) and a maple bacon long john ($1.50).

        Wednesday, May 30, 2018

        Dads Doing Good and Making A Difference.

        I put out a call recently on one of dad blogger groups to see if any of my dad blogging friends are doing charity work or donating time in their community.  I was frankly blown away by the response that I got.  Despite everything else that dad bloggers are doing --writing blogposts, changing dirty diapers, doing copious amounts of laundry, cleaning up toys and making meals and snacks for the family, they still are finding time to do good in their community as well.

        It's not always big things.  Some of the folks are doing something as simple as participating in races to raise money for causes, others are participating in their PTA, or donating some time to a charity.  Many of the dads are on boards of non-profits, and a few of them have run for political office or even started non-profits.  Many of the guys formerly worked for non-profits, or are working for them now.

        I'm not slouching particularly myself (I recently joined the board of the Edgewater Development Corporation to help support small retail businesses in my neighborhood, I am a participant in discussions of the curriculum and marketing at my son's Sunday school, I administer a small family fund that my mom set up when she died to integrate arts into academics in Rhode Island, and I have taken over the facebook and website of our school's PTA. )  I say this not to TOTALLY toot my own horn, but to say it's possible and necessary to give back a little, even though sometimes those small commitments can add up.

        I had nearly 40 responses to my request, and I posted a handful of these just to give you an idea of the scope.  These are just a few of the bloggers/dads that I know that are doing good.  Also, you should note that this is not the sum total of what these guys do.  I am sure that they are also doing other good stuff.  This is just what they are organized about!

         If you know somebody else or would like to add your name to this list- put it in the comments below!


        SOME DAD BLOGGERS WHO ARE DOING GOOD WORKS AND GIVING BACK TO COMMUNITY

        Aaron Del Mar holds political office in Cook County. He also has a business helping non-profits plan fundraising events. which specializes in event planning, promotions, and marketing for fundraising events for non-profits. He also started a great non-profit called Fathers Helping Fathers, which gives free legal advice to dads in danger of losing custody to their children.  http://fathershelpingfathers.com/
        Victor Aragon Victor runs for charity and recently became an ambassador for the St. Jude's Heroes program  http://www.fandads.com
        City Dads Group The City Dads Group (over 30 chapters strong) organizes lots of ways for dads to give back, which does a lot of good stuff, including hosting Lemonade stands for Alex's Lemonade Stand, food drives for Good+ foundation , fielding a giant Movember team, and a lot more. http://www.citydadsgroup.com
        Chris Lewis is on his local school board. http://www.dadofdivas.com
        Whit Honea Whit works with Charlie Capen and Carter Gaddis on Dads 4 Change, a website that helps showcase great projects and causes for dads to support. http://www.dads4change.com
        Michael Moebes is on the board of a local theater, the local bar association, his law school’s health law society, and the local conservancy (overseas creation of parks /greenspace) http://www.dadcation.com
        Buzz Bishop Buzz has been running half marathons to help extinguish diabetes. By the end of the year he will have raised over $100,000 lifetime! http://www.dadcamp.ca
        Jeff Bogle and Brent Almond administer the Oren Miller scholarship program for Dad 2.0 Summit, which gives first time attendees who need a boost the chance to attend Dad 2.0.  https://www.dad2summit.com/scholarship/
        Creed Anthony is a middle school teacher. http://www.talesfromthepoopdeck.com
        Kevin McKeever Each year, Kevin (of Always Home and UnCool)  raises money for Juvenile Myositis (Cure JM Foundation) https://blogonkevin.blogspot.com/ 
        David Stanley is a Jewish guy teaching high school science in an Islamic academy.  He also wrote a book about his battle with melanoma.  http://dstan58.blogspot.com/
        Chris Bernholdt is an art teacher.  http://www.dadncharge.com/
        Jim Higley is one of the head honchos at Camp Kesem, a non-profit that gives free camp to kids impacted by cancer .http://www.bobbleheaddad.com

        Tuesday, May 29, 2018

        Grill Safe Out There!


        Memorial Day has come and gone, it's getting hot out there, and that means all around the country, people will be pulling out their grills and cooking outdoors.

        Most of those are safe uses, but on average there are over 16,000 ER visits each year due to grilling injuries, including 8200 thermal burns.  That's a lot of injuries!

        I got a recent set of safety tips from Larry Merritt of the Chicago Fire Department, courtesy of the National Fire Protection Association. (http://www.nfpa.org )so I thought I'd share.

         I have to admit, I do grill on my deck (as do half of Chicagoans, I'm sure) I'm going to be extra careful this year!



          General grilling tips:

        • Propane and charcoal BBQ grills should only be used outdoors and never on porches 
        • The grill should be placed well away from the home, deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches. 
        • Keep children and pets away from the grill area. 
        • Keep your grill clean by removing grease or fat buildup from the grills and in trays below the grill. 
        • Never leave your grill unattended. 


          Before you use your propane grill:

        • Check the major connection points between the gas (propane) tank hose and the regulator and cylinder, and where the hose connects to the burners. Tighten if loose. 
        • Check the gas (propane) tank hose for the potential (gas) leaks. To do that, apply a light soap and water solution to the hose using a brush or spray bottle. Turn the propane tank on. If there is a gas leak, the propane will release bubbles around the hose (big enough to see). If there are no bubbles, your grill is safe to use. If there are bubbles, turn off the tank and check connections, then have your grill serviced by a professional before using it again. If the leak doesn’t stop, call the fire department immediately. 


          When your propane grill is on:

        • As you are cooking, if you smell gas, turn off the gas tank and burners. If the leak stops immediately, get the grill serviced by a professional before using it again. If the smell continues, move away from the grill and call the fire department immediately. Do not move the grill. 


        Charcoal grill safety tips:

        • There are several ways to get the charcoal ready to use. Charcoal chimney starters allow you to start the charcoal using newspaper as a fuel. 
        • If you use a starter fluid, use only charcoal starter fluid. Never add charcoal fluid or any other flammable liquids to the fire. 
        • Keep charcoal fluid out of the reach of children and away from heat sources. There are also electric charcoal starters, which do not use fire. 
        • Be sure to use an extension cord for outdoor use. 
        • When you are finished grilling, let the coals completely cool before disposing in a metal container.

        Sunday, May 27, 2018

        Memorial Day- Honoring ALL the Patriots, not just the government approved ones.

        It's Memorial Day, and it's a good time to honor and remember the patriots who have given up their lives to defend our country and protect our country.

        I don't want to take away from those people who fought in honorable wars, defending ourselves from the enemies of freedom. Every war has victims and some give up their lives willingly for the cause, and some don't.  There are casualties and victims and heroes on all sides of wars, and we should remember them all, even those we fought against.  They fought for a cause too, and although it wasn't ours, they also gave their lives. And we should remember them all.

        Yes, that includes the soldiers who have lost their lives in wars that I don't approve of, or thought were immoral.  It includes soldiers killed by friendly fire, and innocent civilians who were murdered by soldiers on terrible orders.

        I also want to remember those that were killed in defense of our country.  A war isn't required to be a patriot, nor is a gun, nor a rank in the military. There are many civilians who have lost their lives while defending American values, or unwittingly as victims of those assaulting our values.

        I'm thinking about the activists that lost their lives defending the environment at Standing Rock, the students who were killed at Kent State, the victims of the airplane terrorism of 9/11, and the innocents who have lost their lives in Church bombings, school shootings, public place assaults (like the Boston Marathon bombing), the truck terrorism in Charlottesville last year.
        , and anywhere else where American values are being assaulted and insulted by racism, terrorism, and corporate greed.

        Nathan Hale, facing hanging for being a spy in 1776 said, "I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country."

        Let us hope that in the upcoming year it doesn't come to that, but let us remember those who have already given it up.