30 June 2005


Originally uploaded by raypride.
The ghost will be right back, he's just pulling the van around.

29 June 2005

28 June 2005

27 June 2005

White light, white heat: invisible Lou

Now, this counts as a good blog entry, via Kottke, one Adam Greenfield on sighting one certain celebrity: "We had biked over to the shadow-dappled streets of the West Village, where the continental-style bistros are so thick on the ground that you can pick one more or less at random and be assured of getting the experience you're looking for... We had just locked our bikes up and sat down to breakfast, when who should shamble in but a shabby-genteel Lou Reed, walking a poky-looking beagle. And it took everything I had in me not to flinch or violate his space or in any other way give myself away. About all I could think, for a good 5 minutes, was how glad I was that I hadn't, after all, worn my White Light/White Heat t-shirt.... See, Lou Reed invented me. I am, at root, nothing but a skinny Jewish kid from the suburbs. And if I'm sitting here with my shaved head, and my sunglasses and tattoos, and 20 solid years of cherished sensual, chemical and experiential escapades under my belt, it's because this man gave me permission to try all that on for size. If Lewis Allen Reed had not existed, had not written and sung about the things that he did, I'd probably be a flabby, thwarted associate at some Philadelphia litigation firm, bitterly serving time and wondering when life was going to kick into gear. Or—far more likely, really, given how much those songs meant to me at some very difficult... points in my life—I'd be dead. Never mind that, to all accounts, he's been lost in his own assholity for decades now, unwilling or unable to forge human connections with anyone who dares to express so much as a grunt of admiration for him. Hearing that voice a meter behind my head, muttering about utter banalities in the same monotone that once nullified my life and told me it was OK to make it anew, well, let me tell you it sent a thrill through me. And despite all the reasons I've enumerated above, I let it. And then—because this is, after all, New York, and because I find my wife still more fascinating than the proximity of any number of teenage heroes—I turned my attention back to our own table, our own food and drink, the buzz of our own conversation. We finished up our meal, we retrieved our bikes, and we rode away, into the ongoing rush and joy of a life given to me in large measure by the unhappy-looking man at the table behind us."

26 June 2005

Daily News

Has anyone published a book of photographs of "ghost signs" of the past century?

23 June 2005

Guy Maddin, man behind the curtain

AN O'HARE TRAIN RACKETS PAST as folding chairs are ferried across the rooftop behind Heaven Gallery. Both of the Milwaukee Avenue loft space’s rooms are filling up for “Like a Waking Dream,” the climax of 3 days of public appearances in Winnipeg wizard-of-film Guy Maddin’s latest Chicago roadshow. An Er-hu, a Chinese stringed instrument, is set up in the front room, and a harp and cello will be played in the other while Maddin comments on the imagery in over 600 stills he’s taken on his eccentric film sets, further exploring what he calls his “largely disused film vocabulary.”

“I hope this parade of images releases the powerful nectars of remembrance in its beholders,” Maddin enthused in advance, “that every last drop of flavour in life’s juiciest and most rancid moments fall upon their tongues! It is my most sincere hope I have helped you taste yourself in the process.” It’s 40 minutes past start time. “He’s around the corner,” a woman stage whispers, extending an arm toward the blackdrop cloth at the front of the room to one side of the screen. A tall young man with a foolish hat who was just bragging on a movie he’d finished in VHS-C, says, “It’s gonna be exciting, the air is so tense it’s strangling me!” “He’s a showman.” “The suspense!” A bald man with a gray devil goatee eyes the room, spooning custard Yoplait. At the back of the room, poet Thax Douglas conspicuously shifts from foot to foot. The screen at the front of the room plays vaguely sinister clips from silent shorts. The lights shift. Douglas moves to the screen and intones, “Guy Maddin #2.” Movieside majordomo Rusty Nails, one of the organizers, rushes past, “Not yet, Thax, tell 'em a different poem first, we weren’t ready for you, buddy!” The room lapses into a dull roar once more. Finally, Thax gets the cue, and reads one of his haiku-short pileups of imagery, including the reflection that Maddin is “broadcasting from the bottom of a bowl of cereal.” The instant he finishes, a dog barks and a previously unseen, surreally enormous black standard poodle is near the front door, bridling like a bronco. As the animal’s dragged into the darkness, the screen flickers. In tight close-up, face squared off by folds of black, the overlit image intones, “I’m Guy Maddin, welcome, welcome.” The framing suggests a 19th-century photographer’s head beneath a black velvet drop. Its reflection flickers off the press-tin Fleur-de-Lys pattern of the ceiling. He invokes a few words about loving Chicago and Heaven, especially the “smoking on the rear rooftop where I understand some magical moments have transpired.” He’s his customary apologetic self about the work we’re going to see: “It makes me blush to describe myself as a stills photographer” but “it’s an honor to be the subject of a photography event in a gallery.” Maddin says that this inadvertent autobiography of “my cowardly, sleazy heart” will also show “projects that never materialized.” Once he began, he says, “I soon became an assiduous documenter.” “I bet you most of them look better through the bottom of an empty beer bottle or wine glass so why don’t you do that?” Forty minutes of stills unfold. The gentle harp and strings echo between rooms, and throughout the piece, no one speaks, a word can’t be heard, yet there is one constant strain, as if a troop of 165-pound mice were afoot. The ancient floorboards creak without cease. It’s oddly right, considering the mad material of Maddin’s early movies, as if it were the sound of a rope bridge about to snap in a sudden gale in a fictional Alpine retreat. The pictures are gamy with grain and the blast of overexposure, Maddin’s eye like a Weegee of the damaged retina and the degradation of emulsion. There are stills from The Saddest Music in the World, but also form his percussive short, Sissy Boy Slap Party and his yet-unseen feature, Brand on the Brain. Intermittently, there’s the k-shnerppp of ringtabs on cans of Old Style, and a cell-phone rackets dully as if in the pocket of a corpse beneath the floorboards. Another blue Line train bullets past. But mostly: the waterfall of footfalls. Returning, Maddin’s close-up, resembling the floating head in Zardoz, apologizes for the “squalid” spectacle. “Most of my movies are about my pre-filmmaking life but the more I try to change, the more it stays the same,” the man behind the curtain says. Thursday night at the Music Box, Maddin had stayed and talked for hours, and he worried aloud the internet and about being “too frank” on “this magnificent trip to Chicago.” “I wish I could speak to you all one-by-one but I don’t think… it’s gonna be… possible…” He turns his head to profile, looks down, and glides into the black folds of night.

[Originally published in a different form in Newcity, 23 June 2005.]

22 June 2005

The Ray Pride Parade

IT'S THE ONLY TIME I CAN KEEP A STRAIGHT FACE, HONESTLY. I’ve done improv, I’ve acted, when I’ve been on television, everyone asks why I (unwittingly) smirk so much, but through years of practice, there’s only one performance I have ever been able to repeat. It happens every couple of weeks, someone will have a sly or shy smile, someone I’ve met or someone I’ve known for a while, they’ll say, “Hey… Did you know you have a parade every June? The…” They pause. “Y’know?” They want me to finish their sentence. “Y’know! The Ray Pride Parade?” And then they grin as if it’s the freshest pun on the face of mirth, and I react, the same performance, through rehearsal and repletion, “Oh god. In all these years! Surely I’d! You! My God, you are good. You’re funny. The. Ray. Pride. Parade. No. No, I’ve never heard that. Haha. Haha.” “It’s a made-up name, right, it’s a great name, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not your real name, is it?” And I have to explain it’s my mother’s middle name, and how my middle name is my father’s middle name, so watch where you’re stepping, mister, or sister. The only fresh twist after hearing that a hundred times or more was the time that Newcity was participating in some Halsted Street event and a promotions person asked if it’d be okay for there to be a sign, “You’ve Got Gay Pride, We’ve Got Ray Pride.” And as it goes with most bad ideas, I said right away, sure, yes, please, so long as I never have to see the sign or any pictures of it. I have enough Ray Pride issues as it is.

[Originally published in a slightly different form in Newcity, 22 June 2005.]

20 June 2005

9 minutes past Guy Maddin

It's all blurry but Julie's elbow.

18 June 2005

Public hanging

Art never suffers from overexposure. Taken while listening to Mew's "Snow Brigade," very, very loud.

15 June 2005

12 June 2005

Shooting Matt

Always the best thing to do on your birthday: get out and burn some video. Amy's shooting Matt Clark for possible inclusion in our show-opening trailers for the Chicago Underground Film Festival.

10 June 2005


I live under a flight path.


09 June 2005

lazin' on a sunny afternoon

Originally uploaded by christy-claire.
christy-claire plays at napping.

08 June 2005

Under pressure

SURELY SOME FRIEND WHO GREW UP IN CHICAGO and went to the Museum of Science and Industry as a kid wouldn’t resist: Wednesday night, wanna get drinks in a submarine?

But no one bites. After an action-packed ramble from the North Side and an extended trek through the building—is this the Mall of Science and Industry or what?—and a winding series of preliminary exhibits, you arrive at the massive, dry dock-like enclosure of the 35,000 square foot, $35 million construction and restoration of the U-505 Submarine that spent 50 long years out on the lawn.

Multimedia kiosks line the walls. Music booms. Forget if Kilroy was here, Jerry Bruckheimer’s influence certainly was—the music loops start to sound like promos for “CSI: North Atlantic.” Bill Kurtis’ voice booms up from one or more parts of the deep, “the monotony could last for days or weeks.”

The exhibit opens in two days. Apparently, the work’s not done. One employee asks another, “Are you sleeping here?” The vast space smells like a two-car garage and the paint aisle at True Value. Security cameras dangle like depth charges from the ceiling, smoky globes on gray stalks.

Black-tie servers stand at attention at black-draped tables. White Longiflorum lilies—trumpet-shaped funeral flowers—stand sentry above longnecks of beer and bottles of wine. Behind glass, typical rations: a newly discovered tin of dough-in-a-can is near a table of chicken- and beef-on-a-stick. Simulated waves of light play over the blue-and-gray surface of the only surviving example of the 252-foot-tall, 700-ton “Type IX-C” submarine.

In the expanse, calming in its hugeness despite the clamor of the educational displays, a man’s voice brays, “An acre of yard! It was the first time I mowed it! Amazing!” His trio of pals nods. I feel woozy. The red of a small Nazi flag is the only patch of color in view.

I duck into the entrance of the sub, realizing a moment later I’ve got my beer with me. The world is smaller here. Older. Simulating a brand new Nazi killing machine, the small bunks have fresh gray wool blankets. A manual typewriter is branded “Erika” in lovely old script. Several voice trumpets are in the center of the ship, each labeled, one “sprechen k├╝che”: Talk to the kitchen. A glass-front case is stacked with coral-red rimmed coffee cups. (There’s a display outside of the range of provisions that were carried on board.) The intimacy startles. Boys breathed, lived and died here. Handrails, freshly painted black, line the space. How could you shoot a movie in this claustrophobia? How would you fight a war? I grip the rail with my free hand. “Those were added,” an attendant nods, nods.

[Originally published in Newcity in a slightly different form, 9 June 2005.]

06 June 2005


Inside the Mall of Science and Industry at a pour for the press to relaunch the U-505 Nazi submarine exhibit.

05 June 2005

Parkitecture 2005: grazing Grant Park

THE SUN STILL SHINES ON THE FIELDHOUSE as the Grant Park Advisory Council convenes "Parkitecture 2005," a slide-and-pony panel on proposed development, including a seventy-two-story high-rise planned for 21-29 South Wabash, with a spire that would cast shadows across downtown and the park.

About sixty attendees fill folding chairs with a view of the park and a rickety projector screen. Bob O'Neill of the Grant Park Conservancy flops a novel-sized black leather organizer to the table. The images, O'Neill confides, play on "the same little portable computer" he'd shown to Mayor Daley. Old snaps of litter and graffiti and unimproved mud are matched by cultivated vistas today, marked by uniform JCDecaux bus shelters. "Mayor Daley has made downtown Chicago irresistible," he enthuses. At first, optimism rules about the future of Chicago's architectural ideals, and "Chicago's front yard, its jewel, its outdoor civic center." A tiny redheaded boy loops the rink outside. Behind the disused YWCA building at 830 South Michigan, O'Neill describes, there'll be "a nice restaurant and a grocery store and a spa.... A nice compromise" on the rules of the historical district. The goal, he says as he starts to introduce the other five architecture players, is to "bring people and activity and property taxes into the city." He reels off the academic and corporate credentials of "our distinctive, distinguished panel." Jack Guthman, a zoning specialist who represents developers from the Shefsky & Froelich firm, typifies the "This is my opinion, I think I'm right" contingent--a statement he later makes--saying with a smile, there's no need to talk about "the appropriateness of skyscrapers." "People don't come to Chicago to look at short buildings. It is a true laboratory. Tall is not a four-letter word!" James Peters, a planner for the Landmark Preservation Council of Illinois, leans into the matter, saying, "I guess I'm supposed to say I hate tall buildings." He sets right to it: that this glass-clad needle would be a dangerous precedent, with a height two-to-three times larger than anything around, "allowing zoning rather than character of a historical district" to define development. Outside, the sky goes to dusk and night birds dip and dart. O'Neill warns, "We want these to be productive meetings," before teasing the first questioner for being a "bird rescuer." John Lahey, president of Solomon Cordwell Buenz & Associates, says that "Good buildings sell better," and that "people want light and air but you can't count on that in an evolving city." O'Neill agrees. "The truth is there is no guarantee to a view." He adopts a mocking approximation of a woman's voice, "'My view from my bathroom's going to be blocked!' Maybe they're constipated, I dunno!'"

An hour and a half has passed. Spring beckons. The boy still skates. The streetlamps light up along the green span, all but one, the one directly behind the panelists' heads.

[Originally published in a slightly different form in Newcity, 3 June 2005]