Chicago: My Kind of Town

I recently visited Chicago for the first time and, as Frank Sinatra famously sang, “Chicago: It’s my kind of town”.  The city is beautiful, exciting, and cosmopolitan.  It has fabulous architecture, a beach on the ocean-sized Lake Michigan, great food, outstanding cultural institutions, and so much more. There are grand avenues like Michigan Avenue, a river running through it with a foot path along side it and multiple bridges crossing over it, parks, zoos, and sports stadiums like Wrigley Field and Soldier Field.  I spent two days there, which isn’t nearly enough time to fully explore the city.  A re-visit in the near future is imperative.

My first stop was Millennium Park, which is one of the biggest attractions in the city. It is part of the larger Grant Park  and is home to sculptures, music venues, restaurants, an iceskating rink during winter months, and a theater. There is a giant sculpture called Cloud Gate, which is more familiarly known as The Bean.  As you can see, in the photos above, it is a sculpture that appears to be made of liquid mercury, resembles a bean, and reflects the Chicago skyline and the clouds above it.  In the era of Facebook and Instagram, it is the backdrop of millions of selfie-taking visitors, like my mother and me.  The park is also home to the Pritzker Pavillion, a music bandshell,  and a serpentine footbridge, which were both designed by the world-renowned architect Frank Gehry (featured in tomorrow’s post).. 

Chicago is my kind of town!

Love is Love is Love is Love . . .

        Love Is Love Is Love Is Love Is Love Is Love Is Love Is Love Is Love Is Love Is Love Is Love Is

        Love Is Love Is Love Is Love Is Love Is Love Is Love Is Love Is Love Is Love Is Love Is Love Is 

        Love Is Love Is Love Is Love Is Love Is Love Is Love Is Love Is Love Is Love Is Love Is Love Is

        Love Is Love Is Love Is Love Is Love Is Love Is Love Is Love Is Love Is Love Is Love Is Love Is

There was so much anticipation leading up to the 70th annual Tony Awards ceremony last night because of the general excitement surrounding Hamilton: the Musical and the number of awards that it was in contention to win.  Tragically, the ceremony was overshadowed by the horrific mass murder that occurred at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida early Sunday morning. Broadway stars had heavy hearts as they attempted to entertain the audience and collect their awards while grieving and showing respect for the victims of such a heinous attack.

Hamilton did, in fact, win many awards including Best Musical, Best Original Score, Best Book, and so many others. Lin-Manuel Miranda deserved all of the accolades that came to him. He is a genius — anyone who can conceive of a rap musical about a historical figure from the eighteenth century, write the book, the score, and the lyrics must be. He came to the Tony Awards, equipped with a sonnet about love, which he most likely wrote prior to the mass shooting in Orlando but which he probably adapted in the hours before the awards ceremony began. It was the sonnet heard round the world.  Here is the full text:

My wife’s the reason anything gets done. 

She nudges me towards promise by degrees. 

She is a perfect symphony of one. 

Our son is her most beautiful reprise. 

We chase the melodies that seem to find us 

Until they’re finished songs and start to play. 

When senseless acts of tragedy remind us 

That nothing here is promised, not one day 

This show is proof that history remembers. 

We live through times when hate and fear seem stronger. 

We rise and fall, and light from dying embers 

Remembrances that hope and love last longer. 

And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love; 

Cannot be killed or swept aside. 

I sing Vanessa’s symphony; Eliza tells her story. 

Now fill the world with music, love, and pride. 

I can’t wait to see what this man comes up with next.  I am sure that it will be nothing short of amazing.

 

Stop The Madness

(Photos compiled by the  New York Daily News)

I have been slow to comment about the mass shooting in Orlando because words have escaped me following such a heinous act. The facts are that a madman entered a popular nightclub and unleashed a torrent of gunfire that killed 49 people and wounded another 53, most of them gay. Was this a hate crime, a terror attack, or the kind of mass shooting that we’ve grown all too accustomed to, recently? The shooter, Omar Mateen, born in the United States to Afghani immigrant parents, pledged allegiance to ISIS, which immediately raised concerns that this tragic event was a terrorist attack, but the shooter has been described as unhinged, violent, and even gay. He was also known to law enforcement and had been under investigation on previous occasions in 2013 and 2014. Whatever the case, why was he legally able to obtain automatic weapons and enough rounds of ammunition to wreak such quick and devastating carnage on an unsuspecting group of partiers? Why should anyone be entitled – stable or unstable, terrorist or not – to purchase automatic weapons and so many rounds of ammunition? As I have written before, the founding fathers could never have fathomed that weapons would be invented that would be capable of killing so many people, so quickly, let alone be used so indiscriminately against innocent fellow American citizens when they wrote the second amendment to the Constitution, guaranteeing our right to bear arms. They must be turning over in their graves as gun advocates and NRA members continually use their words to justify the sale of weapons and ammunition that can and have been used to inflict murder on such a mass scale. 

I Am Woman

Courtesy Ethan Miller/Getty Images

I generally avoid online conversations about politics and religion, but I do post about newsworthy events. This post definitely qualifies as newsworthy because, for the first time in our nation’s history, a woman has become a presidential candidate of a major political party.  It certainly took long enough. Our country was founded over 200 years ago and it took more than 100 years for women to even earn the right to vote and nearly another 100 years before a woman was nominated for the office of the presidency. Hillary Clinton accomplished that feat last night, when she clinched the nomination after her decisive win in California. Many other countries have had female heads of state, such as Germany, Great Britain, Israel, Pakistan, Argentina, and others so it is about time that the United States catch up to their international counterparts. What happens next remains to be seen, but for right now, I hope that all females take a moment to bask in this accomplishment. 

Forever The Greatest

As legend has it, Muhammad Ali, born Cassius Clay in Louisville, KY, took up boxing so that he could beat up the thief who stole his bicycle. He channeled his anger over the theft into an illustrious career as a boxer, first winning an Olympic gold medal in 1960 and then going on to become the most famous athlete in the world.

His career was derailed when he refused to fight in the Vietnam War on the grounds that it was in opposition to his religion. He was convicted of dodging the draft, suspended from boxing for 3 ½ years, stripped of his boxing titles, and vilified by mainstream America. He returned to the ring after the Supreme Court overturned his conviction and the boxing commission reinstated him.

Muhammad Ali was undefeated but out of practice when he fought Joe Frazier in a hotly anticipated fight at Madison Square Garden, billed as the Fight of the Century of just the Fight. He lost that particular match, but went on to fight many others, including a rematch against Frazier called the Thriller in Manila, and a win against George Foreman called the Rumble in the Jungle. He probably boxed well past his prime and took too much pounding to the head that resulted in Parkinson’s Disease, a neurological impairment that left him with slurred speech, accompanied by tremors, and eventually loss of movement.  

Ali proclaimed himself The Greatest and then lived up to his own hype. In addition to his boxing prowess, he was confident, funny, witty, and caring. He was also a principled peace activist and a philanthropist. My father has always been one of his biggest fans. He proudly displays an autograph that he got from Ali, when he met him aboard a plane in the 1970’s. Ali gave autographs happily because he treated people in the way that he wished to be treated. President George W. Bush bestowed the Presidential Medal of Freedom upon him in 2005, the highest civilian honor, calling him a ‘man of peace’ and the ‘Greatest of All Time’. RIP The Greatest

Tragedy at the Zoo

(Courtesy Cincinatti Zoo)

There has been a huge public outcry over the shooting death of Harambe, the majestic, seventeen-year old silverback gorilla at the Cincinatti Zoo. Let me start off by saying that my family and I are ardent animal-lovers. We love our dog and we travel the globe to view (not kill) animals in their natural habitats. Having said this, I believe that the zoo was justified in the action that it took. Here are the facts of the case: A little boy, perhaps three or four years of age, climbed into the gorilla enclosure and was being tossed and dragged through the water by Harambe. The gorilla may have been playing with the child or trying to protect him, but no one can be sure what his intentions were. The gorilla handlers successfully called two female gorillas out of the area, but Harambe did not heed their commands. The zoo had two choices — neither of them good. The first choice was to shoot the gorilla with a tranquilizer dart, which would have agitated the gorilla and taken too long to take effect, possibly leading to the death of the child. The second choice was to shoot the gorilla to death and rescue the child. The zoo staff chose to put the life of the child before the life of the gorilla, a choice that while tragic, was the right one to make. I am saddened by Harambe’s death, but I completely understand why this was the only sound option.

People have been calling for the arrest of the parents and have been vilifying them in the press and on social media. Whether the parents are awful – I have no reason to believe that they are -is irrelevant. The gorilla enclosure should have been impenetrable — no ands, ifs, or buts — especially to children. There should have been absolutely no way to get into that exhibit. Children can tear away from any kind of parent — bad, good or great — for the seconds that it took for this child to climb into the unsecure exhibit. The zoo needs to re-evaluate its safety barriers and upgrade them so that accidents like this can never happen again.

We should mourn the loss of Harambe. We should question the legitimacy of zoos that fence in animals. However, we should not lay blame on the parents. I have read posts by people claiming to be super-parents who could never have an accident occur on their watches. I believe that this accident could have happened to any child or any parents. Let’s hope that better barriers are built to prevent future tragedies.

Splish Splash

Along Fifth Avenue at the entrance of Rockefeller Center, sits a very unusual site: a giant swimming pool rising upright from the sidewalk to the height of a four-story building. Unsure of why a pool might be situated along a busy stretch of Fifth Avenue, I discovered that it is not a swimming pool at all but rather a sculpture of a turquoise blue, mid-century, California-style swimming pool. The artists responsible for this sculpture are Michael Elmgreen of Denmark and Ingar Dragset of Norway, whose most well-known sculpture is Prada Marfa, a tiny replica of a Prada Store dropped in the desert 26 miles from the tiny city of Marfa, Texas (population 2000).  

Tishman Speyer, the owners of Rockefeller Center, commissioned this piece in conjunction with Public Art Fund, a non-profit organization that exhibits art in public spaces with the goal of bringing culture to a wide audience without any barriers of entry. The piece, when viewed from behind resembles an ear, so the artists decided to call it Van Gogh’s ear, named for the artist who famously cut off his own ear.

This piece will be on display until June 3, 2016 on Fifth Avenue at 50th Street.

Computer Age Couture


The Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art recently opened its 2016 exhibit entitled Manus x Machina, which refers to manmade versus machine made. On exhibit are approximately 200 garments ranging from haute couture pieces that were made by hand utilizing the precise measurements of the client to contemporary pieces made for the current spring season utilizing computer technology and other machine  techniques. Typically haute couture has been identified as being more exclusive and better made than ready-to-wear and machine made garments, but the advancement of computer technology has enabled designers to use new techniques, principally 3D printers, to construct unique, contemporary garments that are every bit as exclusive as haute couture apparel. Handmade and machine-made no longer have to remain mutually exclusive of each other, but can be complementary to one another.  

This exhibit will be on display throughout the summer, so be sure to check out these works of art. 

American Psycho

British artist, Cornelia Parker, recently installed a commissioned piece of art called Transitional Object (PsychoBarn) on the rooftop of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Two American icons inspired this piece: an old red barn and the eerie house featured in Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller, Psycho. The house, which appears to be a full building dropped in place on the rooftop, is actually just a façade like one that might be found on a movie set. Ms. Parker built the house out of reclaimed wood from a one hundred year old barn that was slated for demolition in upstate New York. The juxtaposition of this Victorian-style house against the backdrop of the New York City skyline is highly unexpected. The exhibit runs through the end of October.  

Disclaimer: I don’t know the woman in the picture, but she was wearing  a very theatrical outfit/costume, so I thought she would liven up my photograph.

A Day At The Races

Photos courtesy of the Kentucky Derby

 Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr., who was the grandson of American explorer William Clark of Lewis and Clark fame, founded the Kentucky Derby in 1873 after attending the Epsom Derby in England. He returned to Louisville, KY determined to build a similar venue for thoroughbred horse racing, stateside. He obtained land from his maternal uncles, the Churchill brothers, and built Churchill Downs, which he fashioned after Epsom Downs. The dress code at Churchill Downs is similar to its English counterpart with women and men, smartly and elegantly attired with hats complimenting their ensembles.The tradition of donning elegant millinery has continued to this day, with some women wearing elaborate creations festooned with feathers, ribbons, and/or bows.