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Union Special


River North usually gets a bad rap as being a vacuous playground for suburbanites, but at least the area has preserved its architectural heritage much better than the Loop has. Here is the main entrance for the old Union Special Machine Company building, at 310 W. Kinzie, right behind the Merchandise Mart. The building is now condominiums - which is far better than being demolished.

July 30, 2013 in Chicago Observations, History, Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fading Ad: Majestic Building


This fading ad is of the Majestic Building, at 18 W. Monroe. The building originally housed the Majestic Theatre as well as general office space, and is now the Bank of America Theatre, with the offices recently converted to a Hampton Inn hotel. Lately I've been enjoying taking city photos during the late afternoon, when the sun is lower in the sky and casts some dramatic shadows such as this one.

July 17, 2013 in Chicago Observations, Photography | Permalink | Comments (3)

"...the Bank had stopp'd payment at four..."

Edward Bulwer-Lytton ("It was a dark and stormy night...") has the widespread reputation of being a hackneyed writer. But his son Robert Bulwer-Lytton (aka Owen Meredith) appears to have been every bit his father's equal for that aspersion. His drama-in-verse, Lucile, is a monstrosity of almost 70,000 words and over 8,000 lines of sing-songy, AABB-rhymed poetry, which just a glance tells me I have no interest in reading at any length, nor even a few pages. The editors of The Stuffed Owl: An Anthology of Bad Verse were kind enough to include the excerpt below, which quite humanely spares us from having to read the interminable remainder. One thing I love about the anthology is its many examples of poets who tried to use, with virtually no success, such comically unpoetical subject matter as free trade, steam power and, in this case, bank fraud.

Sit down!
A fortnight ago a report about town
Made me most apprehensive. Alas, and alas!
I at once wrote and warn'd you. Well, now let that pass.
A run on the Bank about five days ago
Confirm'd my forebodings too terribly, though.
I drove down to the city at once; found the door
Of the Bank closed: the Bank had stopp'd payment at four.
Next morning the failure was known to be fraud:
Warrant out for McNab: but McNab was abroad:
Gone - we cannot tell where. I endeavor'd to get
Information: have learn'd nothing certain as yet -
Not even the way that old Ridley was gone:
Or with those securities what he had done:
Or whether they had been already call'd out:
If they are not, their fate is, I fear, past a doubt.

Reading this gives me confidence that if I ever write a fictional satire based on my years in banking, it won't be the worst finance-related literature ever written. Robert Bulwer-Lytton already has that covered.

July 16, 2013 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)

"...You lustful sons of lax-eyed lewdness..."

I haven't posted anything from The Stuffed Owl: An Anthology of Bad Verse in a while, but this one is too melodramatically awful to pass up. The following is from "The Roman: A Dramatic Poem" by Sydney Thompson Dobell (1824-74). The scene opens with a group of merry youth traipsing through the countryside, only to be interrupted by a rather glum monk, who claims they are literally dancing on his mother's grave, and remonstrates them thusly:

Who steps,
Steps first on me. I say there is a grave,
I say it is my mother's: that I loved her,
Ay, loved her with more passion than the maddest
Lover among ye clasps his one-day wife!
And I steal forth to keep my twilight vigil,
And you come here to dance upon my heart.
You come and—with the world at will for dalliance,
The whole hot world—deny me that small grave
Whose bitter margin these poor knees know better
Than your accustom'd feet the well-worn path
To your best harlot's bower. The turf is fair!
Have I not kept it green with tears, my mother?
You lustful sons of lax-eyed lewdness, do you
Come here to sing above her bones, and mock me,
Because my flesh and blood cry out, 'God save them?'

It should come as no surprise that Dobell and his cohorts comprised what was known as the Spasmodic School of Poetry.

July 14, 2013 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)

"...under heaven let it the highest be..."

In Guthrun's Lament (from The Poetic Edda), after recounting her life's many woes, Guthrun grimly foresees her own funeral pyre:

Raise up, ye earls,      the oaken heap,
under heaven let it      the highest be,
that fire may burn      the hate-filled breast's
carks and cares,      and quell all sorrow.

It should be noted that Guthrun's woes were largely self-inflicted. Every time a loved one is taken from her, she urges other kin to wreak revenge on the perpetrator, even though she knows that those kin will likely die in the process. And she personally avenges the deaths of her brothers at the hand of her husband Atli by killing the children she had with Atli, and serving their hearts and blood to their father at a celebratory feast. Then near the end of her life she laments that her kinfolk are all gone. Sorry, honey, but that's what bloodlust will do for you.

I really enjoyed The Poetic Edda, despite its fragmentary and often self-contradictory nature. Truly a classic of Western literature.

July 5, 2013 in Books | Permalink | Comments (2)

"Before him went the shriek of shells - Aerial screamings, taunts and yells..."

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the start of the Battle of Gettysburg. Here is Herman Melville's stirring poem of the same name.

O Pride of the days in prime of the months
  Now trebled in great renown,
When before the ark of our holy cause
        Fell Dagon down-
Dagon foredoomed, who, armed and targed,
Never his impious heart enlarged
Beyond that hour; God walled his power,
And there the last invader charged.

He charged, and in that charge condensed
  His all of hate and all of fire;
He sought to blast us in his scorn,
        And wither us in his ire.
Before him went the shriek of shells-
Aerial screamings, taunts and yells;
Then the three waves in flashed advance
  Surged, but were met, and back they set:
  Pride was repelled by sterner pride,
  And Right is a strong-hold yet.

Before our lines it seemed a beach
  Which wild September gales have strown
With havoc on wreck, and dashed therewith
        Pale crews unknown-
Men, arms, and steeds. The evening sun
Died on the face of each lifeless one,
And died along the winding marge of fight
        And searching-parties lone.

Sloped on the hill the mounds were green,
  Our centre held that place of graves,
And some still hold it in their swoon,
  And over these a glory waves.
The warrior-monument, crashed in fight,
Shall soar transfigured in loftier light,
        A meaning ampler bear;
Soldier and priest with hymn and prayer
Have laid the stone, and every bone
        Shall rest in honor there.

(Via Patrick Kurp.)

July 1, 2013 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)

Goodbye, Google Reader


Today is the final day of Google Reader, which I've been using every day for the past seven years to read blogs and other rss-delivered content. Google didn't offer much of a reason for Reader's demise, though my guess is that Google never quite figured out how to make good money off of it, and so it had to go. It's hard to believe that I once bookmarked each favorite site individually, and loaded them one by one from the pulldown menu of Internet Explorer, which I did every day before becoming a Reader convert.

I'm migrating to Feedly, which has both pluses and minuses: I greatly prefer the thumb-swipe navigation between posts on my phone, instead of clicking Reader's tiny button, but Feedly isn't available for Explorer, which means I can no longer read my blogs while eating my lunch at my desk at work. I would guess my volume of blog-reading will decline significantly after this point. It seems like blogs have declined in popularity during the last few years, especially with the rise of Facebook, Twitter, etc., and I can't help thinking that the disappearance of Reader will accelerate the trend even further. Sad, but I'm not about to complain about the loss of a free product.

July 1, 2013 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)