Archive for September, 2008

Paul Newman (1925-2008)

The Cleveland-born actor and anti-hero who passed away this weekend after a battle with cancer is being remembered in many ways: as a film legend (the Guardian); a humanitarian (Time); a race car driver (ESPN); a friend (Robert Redford’s tribute) and a living landmark (reflections from his hometown paper, the Connecticut Post).

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Odd Construction Site Findings

No golden shovels here. Crews excavating the World Trade Center site “have uncovered features carved into the bedrock by glaciers about 20,000 years ago, including a 40-foot-deep pothole”; in downtown Chicago, Donald Trump found he has no tenants in the four floors of commercial space at the base of his 92-story Trump International Hotel & Tower, which is still under construction (though this interactive page on the Tribune site does reveal some stunning panoramic views); and residents in California have found that their newly installed solar panels are vanishing from their rooftops in a bizarre rash of burglaries.

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Musicians, Deserving Another Take

While many towering band leaders who passed away this year have been properly immortalized in American newspapers and bible-thick British music magazines, a few important studio musicians and session players have passed away recently, with considerably less fanfare: jazz saxophonist Johnny Griffin, famous in Chicago for his “blowing sessions“; Buddy Harmon, the Nashville drummer who played on Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” and Tammy Wynette’s “Stand by Your Man”; Norman Whitfield, producer and arranger for Motown Records whose signature song was “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”; and Earl Palmer, pictured here, the New Orleans drummer who played on such rock classics as “Tutti Frutti” and “La Bamba,” as well as Phil Spector productions like “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” and “River Deep, Mountain High.” RIP.

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Saving Chicagoland Architecture

Although Chicago is primed to reclaim the title of possessing the tallest North American skyscraper and has recently unveiled, according to the New York Times, “perhaps the most aggressive plan of any major American city” to change building codes to promote energy efficiency, all is not necessarily good along the Lakefront: That is the sinking feeling you get when scrolling through the Chicago Tribune’s slideshow of “significant historical buildings that are in danger of demolition or substantial alteration” — the list, compiled by the non-profit preservation group Landmarks Illinois, includes works by such towering figures as Bertrand Goldberg and Frank Lloyd Wright. Click here for more from the Trib, and here for a link to the Chicago Architecture Foundation.

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Emmy for Awkward Awarded Early

Though not as excruciating as this notorious clip of a Dutch TV host laughing at his own guests, Greta Van Sustren’s recent interview with the “First Dude” of Alaska has earned its spot as one of the more awkward recorded conversations in recent memory (while difficult to surpass evergreens like Miss South Carolina or Tom Cruise on Scientology, the Dude clip can immediately join the ranks of David Icke proclaiming himself the son of God on a British talk show, a Spelling Bee champ eating screen time on CNN, or this white interviewer’s attempts to jive with NBA star Sam Cassell). True cringe.

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David Foster Wallace (1962-2008)

Tributes to David Foster Wallace, the author of Infinite Jest and numerous influential magazine pieces who committed suicide at his California home this past weekend, continue to post: Adam Begley of the New York Observer; Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times; LA Times; Salon; Slate; Guardian; Telegraph; Newsweek. For more on Wallace, revisit his 1997 interview on The Charlie Rose Show and his 2004 piece, “Consider the Lobster.”

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The World According to Ebert

Since leaving his post at Ebert & Roeper in July to focus on health issues, Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert has turned to advocacy in the pages of his flagship newspaper: First there was his thumbs-down rebuttal to departing sports columnist and provocateur Jay Mariotti (”Jay the Rat,” screams the headline), and now — following word that “a fellow critic yelled at him and whacked him on the knee with a program during a movie screening at the Toronto Film Festival last weekend” — comes an uncharacteristic analysis of a political phenomenon, “The American Idol candidate.” Click here to read Ebert’s interview with STOP SMILING in our Chicago Issue.

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Four Legs Good, Two Lipsticks Bad

The presidential race descends deeper into Animal Farm territory (pitbulls attack, chickens roost, barracudas bounce pass). A battle is now brewing over the phrase “lipstick on a pig” popping up on the stump, whether it be John McCain’s use of the term against Hillary Clinton earlier this summer (view it here), Dick Cheney’s use of the term in Hawaii in 2004 (view it here), and now Barack Obama has echoed the remark (view it here). Perhaps Matt Drudge knows something about this?

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More Than Just Moose Cravings

While election hunters have become crazed by moose burgers, some other animals have begun to bite back: “Taking advantage of a slump in local real estate,” the LA Times reports, “a family of bobcats has moved into a foreclosed Lake Elsinore home, lolling about on fences and walls and riveting an entire neighborhood”; in Utah, “a large black bear raided a clandestine marijuana growing operation so often that it chased the grower away”; according to the Daily Mail, “a former heroin addicted elephant has emerged from rehab clean after a three-year detox [program]; and winged cats — yes, winged cats — have been discovered in western China. Winged cats…

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In a World… With No Voiceovers

This year, as with every year, several cultural landscapes have been uprooted by the passing of irreplaceable spokesmen — think of Russian literature without Alexander Solzhenitsyn or rock ‘n’ roll without Bo Diddley: So how will the guilty pleasure of watching movie trailers (particularly those for overwrought, brawny action flicks and melodramas) ever be the same after the passing this week of Don Lafontaine, the “voiceover king” — and if you’ve seen a movie trailer, trust me, you’ve heard Don Lafontaine. Read more here.

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