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My Shady Bent

I have always been attracted to stories about the Mob. We have a farm in Southern Illinois and, down there for summers as a kid,  I heard first hand accounts about men like “Black Charley,” the Birger and Shelton gangs, and Old Shawneetown’s Helen Holbrook. Friends pointed out the roadhouses used for bootlegging, prostitution, and notoriously poor behaviors. These tales were the stuff of local fascination. Even respectable townspeople discussed them, awe mixed with a hint of local pride.

I live near Chicago Heights, a south suburb of Chicago with extensive Mob connections. Big Al’s aunt lived in “Da Heights,”(as it is known here) and Al Capone was no stranger to the town in the 20’s and 30’s. The head of the local Teamsters told me about the soup kitchen Mr. Capone set up during the Depression and he showed me the house where Big Al would throw nickels from the balcony to the kids gathered below. He was one of those kids catching coin. Regardless of murders and mayhem, illegal activities, and wicked deeds, Big Al holds a fond place in my heart. Like New Yorkers’ soft spot for Gotti, many Chicagoans enjoy the notoriety Big Al brought, and brings, to our town.

In my high school, a Catholic school in Da Heights, many of my peers were Mob kids. The President of our Senior Class was a kid who wore starched shirts, black trousers, and a silk tie to school, in an age of madras and Beatle haircuts. He even wore a diamond pinkie ring. In high school. He  is now living out west, and doing well I hear, under the auspices of the Witness Protection Program. Another kid’s dad was a local lawyer for the Mob, found shot execution style in the trunk of his Lincoln.

Lately my allure for the Mob has surfaced because I am binge watching Lilyhammer, a Netflix series about an American mobster in Norway, played brilliantly by Steven Van Zandt.  My husband does not hold with my attraction at all. He grimaces slightly when I show him my extensive brick collection from dismantled locales in Illinois where legendary Mob misdeeds occurred.

Easily influenced, I think I need to temper my enthusiasm, somewhat.  Last night in bed, after I had watched a couple of episodes of Lilyhammer on my iPad, my husband came in to update me on the current winter storm warnings.

Hub: Hon, Skilling just said we may get up to 12 inches of the white stuff tomorrow.

Me: Fuck me. (Accent is on “me.” Mob version of “Dang.”)

 

 

 

 

 

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shame on me

I really enjoy playing games on my computer, sometimes.  Gin rummy, Solitaire, Canasta, and Dominoes are my favorites. On the website where I play, one wins badges and gets tokens for accomplishing challenges. There are sound effects that accompany the games, like the shuffling of cards, and bugles blaring to celebrate a win. The graphics are very well done, colorful, cartoony but not overdone. One can choose an avatar to represent oneself that is humanlike, selecting facial expressions, skin color, eyes, hair (color, style, and length), weight, etc. There are avatars with disabilities and avatars in uniform. One can buy clothes and pets and different destinations for it to go with the tokens you win. I make mine look like a younger, slimmer me with cute dogs.

According to the site, there are over a million and a half subscribed players from around the world. It costs roughly 35.00 dollars a year and I have been a subscribed player since 1999. It is rather horrific to think of the number of hours I have spent playing games throughout the years.

As I said, I enjoy playing games on my computer, but only sometimes. During the years I have played, I have learned a bit about myself, not all pleasant. It takes me back to the times, I must have been about 10, when I dumped all the pieces on the RISK board, letting them fly hither and yon, when my brother was about to take over the world. Now I can only play with robots. I used to play with people, strangers, also members of the site, but that was awful. The competition was fierce and oftentimes people would berate and insult me if I won. It was too upsetting to interact with real humans.

So my time with robots has taught me how competitive and petty I can be. I have had to face that I do not like to lose, even to a robot, if indeed it is a robot and not some very underpaid illegal. My computer screen gets full of spittle from the spray of razzing when I win. If I lose, the robot is lucky; if I win, I claim skill.

It is dreadful to face one’s shortcomings, especially when one has no intention or desire to change. I am a bad loser and a bad winner. And, I am glad I stay away from other competitive ventures where I would only disgrace myself.

 

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The Times, oy.

2.4.2014

It’s has only been a couple of days since the Super Bowl, a stupid spectacle in my eyes, and the Super Bowl commercials, which are somewhat less irritating. This year I saw the Bud Light one with a retriever puppy and the Budweiser Clydesdales that reduced me to tears. Blubbering after a 6o second spot that promotes the drinking of beer is the height of lunacy but I succumbed.

What was far more annoying was when I heard about the Bob Dylan commercial for Chrysler. I didn’t watch it live, but my husband came into the bedroom after the game and told me about it. He was mildly surprised but I almost gagged.

Bob Dylan, the scrawny anti-hero of my youth. This was the guy whom I have looked up to as the King of Cool, rough around the edges, scornful, and cynical. At the last concert when I saw him live, he refused to even look at the audience but kept his back to us the whole time. Arrogant but at least in keeping with his disdain for convention and his jaundiced view of humanity.

I said, “Chrysler?”

“Yeah,” said hubby, “and it lasted almost two minutes. Weird.”

Then yesterday I watched it. Well, I watched half of it. I could not watch more than one minute. His grizzled grey hair was dyed brown and his accent, very fake cowboy. I tried to believe that he was singing for Detroit, the underdog city. I wanted to believe that he was donating all the money from the commercial to rebuilding a city that deserved to survive, but not because of General Motors, or Dodge, or Ford.

I was just fooling myself. When he started singing about the greatness of America, I wanted to yell, “Hey, what’s wrong with you, you dick? Did somebody tie you up, drug you, threaten you, and force you to get a dye job? What happened to the rebel who knew that this rhetoric about America The Great is bullshit?”

He just sold out. Like Dennis Freaking Miller. One day, a frothing radical, the next a Fox show host.  He became like his own lyrics. He serves somebody, but somebody that smells like a goddamn Republican.

“You may call me Terry, you may call me Jimmy
You may call me Bobby, you may call me Zimmy
You may call me R.J., you may call me Ray
You may call me anything but no matter what you say.

You’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.”

Dylan_The_Times_They_Are_A_Changin_front

The Times They Are A-Changin’. They certainly are. Fucking A.

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The Art of Repose

Sometimes I worry that when I retire I will never get dressed again. I will just stay in pajamas, really a nightgown, all day long, wandering from room to room, showering occasionally, playing with the dogs.

I hate it when I am obliged to do anything. A commitment to go somewhere, to a play, to a gallery opening, to a party, usually sets up an attack of Dread.

Dread is not reserved for Sunday afternoon; it can extend itself to anything that involves corporeal effort. The mere thought of exercise is abhorrent. I detest doing physical activities. When my husband and I watch the Winter Olympics, I am amazed that people like to do those things and that they can do them. I groan when I have to get up from the couch.

Even when I was a kid, I remember my mother urging me to go out and enjoy the fresh air, when all I wanted was to nestle in bed with my latest Nancy Drew mystery.

During gym class for four whole years of high school, I hid behind the bleachers. A couple of times, Ms Knuth, a very bulky Swedish woman, would find me and force me to climb a rope or balance on a beam. She was an evil madwoman.

Now when people ask me what I do for exercise, I tell them I wear Dr. Scholl’s and chew gum. I just want to play. I relish the time to take photographs or work on them. I like to watch movies and read books. I like to pet the dogs.

What is wrong with that? There are so many groups defending human rights, can’t Relaxing be a civil right? Can Inactive People not be regarded with such open disdain? I have always been willing to sacrifice for my non-sporting lifestyle. I eat less. I occasionally cut out carbs.

One day, I dream, just lounging around will be appreciated.MarilynReading

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the Now

I am slowly emerging from a dark space. To make art and to live Now are the only escapes really.  A friend wrote that “life has a delicate beauty that can inspire and destroy.” Indeed.

I have never learned to live Now very well. It is the past that occupies so much of my mental space. Not the painful past, mind you, just visual memories that come and go. Our minds are so curious.

That is what draws me to the photograph: the fleeting moment caught in time, a fugitive memory made permanent. And, then, if that were not miracle enough, we can view the illusion of three dimensions on a flat surface. One can return to a piece of paper that defies and transcends time and space. Such magic.

I really love snapshots. There is a freshness and honesty that lightens my spirit. I will leave you with a few I found that make me feel good. They are so Now.

Womanditchsmaller

FishingNetgirl

HappyCleaners

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01.02.14

So odd how photographs of winter and snow can be so appealing especially during the summer, and less so in winter.

This leads me to think about types of pictures I do not like:

  • Pictures of naked people in bed. If that is the cover image for a film, it will never make it to my queue.
  • Nudes in general. I am not prudish but I do not like seeing the idealized human figure unclothed, be it female or male
  • Boring images that look very good
  • Boring pictures that look bad
  • Abstract images, unless the photographer has been very clever and non-imitative
  • Photographs that reveal nothing about the photographer

Picture types I do like:

  • “Snapshot Aesthetic” street images, if the composition and dynamics are perfect
  • Images from extreme angles and perspectives
  • Images with unusual composition, that at the same time, have a deeper meaning or context
  • Images with different kinds of humor, dry, ironic, etc.
  • Boring pictures that look very bad
  • New approaches to the usual, showing me things in ways I have never seen before

Mind you, these are just broad categories.  Do not attempt to see if your work fits in one or the other because I may love your image or hate it, despite what I said above.

 

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Happy Birthday to me. At 8:52am I turn 65. I am a senior citizen. I can get Medicare. I am retirement age. All of those facts could depress the bejeezus out of me, were I not so happy.

I have nothing but gratitude to the Graces for my life and good fortune. Not material fortune, mind you; my credit score bites. My family, friends, students, and photography bring me vast joy.

My husband and I have the honor of caring for our two doggos, Mango and Blue. They are siblings but oh, so different. Mango, the female, is alpha, and reacts more aggressively to everything. Blue is a slow poke, physically as malleable as putty, double jointed, and has a jealous streak. They are Jack Russell mixes and are rescues.

They have become my furry muses when neither my camera nor I can bear to brave the bitter winter winds.

I photograph them and invent stories about them. I will share one of a series I am working on. They possess a magical ability to enter works of art and return, telling wondrous tales. Here is the most recent image, called Blue and Mr Rothko Get on Famously and Discuss Friedrich Nietzsche and Things.

I will work on these images with the intention of writing and publishing a small book. I have gone so far as to purchase the ISBN and rights to an eBook. Such is the plan.

BlueupsidedownMoving2 copy

For those of you who may think I hate digital photos, you are wrong, wrong, wrong. I even like taking pictures with my iPad Air. Any and all ways of making pictures are swell.

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