Wednesday, August 30, 2006

To Mad-Town and Back Again

(or Going Mad in Madison)

Clare and I headed up to Madison, WI this weekend to visit my old high school chum and fellow blogger, Chris. Clare and I had previously both been to Madison independently, but this time, we benefited from a local guide.

When he first moved to the gleaming paradise that is Madison, Chris worked at Real Chili. The owners are related to him in some way that escapes me at the moment (Sorry Chris). Point is, the first stop on our tour was the chili shop where Chris was kind enough to dish out heaping bowls of chili.

Chris with Chili maybe enjoying himself a little too much.

OK, I over did it, what's it to you!?

Clare got into the college town spirit and immediately began binge-drinking.

Saturday morning we headed out to the country for some biking. The area surrounding Madison is absolutely beautiful. The roads are nice for biking and there are a lot of other bikers around. Unfortunately, the rain cut our ride a little short. Also unfortunately, I didn't bring camera on the ride so you'll have to just trust me when I say that rural Wisconsin is beautiful.

Not the beautiful countryside, but there are bikes.

Saturday night we saw Snakes on a Plane. It was pretty much everything I expected it to be. Therefore, I was not disappointed. Note: this does not mean in any way that it was a good movie.

If you ever need to feel old, just go to Madison and stand on State Street on a Saturday night. Madison is, after all, a college town.

Apparently, there has been a rise in crime lately, so the Guardian Angels were in town as well. We didn't get to see any, but we were told they were there. There were also some Neo-Nazis in town for a march or some other nonsense. Unfortunately, they were from Wisconsin, not Illinois, so they didn't even provide an opportunity for Blues Brothers jokes.

Not much to say beside that. Madison is a nice town and Chris is a gracious host. A good time all around.

No trip to Wisconsin is complete without a picture with a GIANT COW!!

Friday, August 18, 2006

Don't Tell That to Mies!

As I mentioned in my last post, Clare and I recently toured the Farnsworth house in Plano, IL. This was a summer house designed by the famous modernist architect, Mies van der Rohe.

The tour is a pretty cool experience abet a slightly expensive one at $20. While on the tour we learned two things you apparently don't tell Mies van der Rohe:
#1 "That can't be done."
#2 "I'm not paying this bill."

The thing that kind of struck me was that the tour guide kept refering to him as Mies. As in, "Mies wanted the occupants to feel like part of nature." and "Mies designed this chair." and (most often) "They said it couldn't be done, but you don't tell that to Mies." It's like the tour guide was his buddy or something. When you tour Robie house, I don't think they would say stuff like, "Frank designed these stained-glass windows because that's what Frank wanted. You know how Frank is."

I thought it was strange until I read this article that says his birth name was Maria Ludwig Michael Mies. He apparently changed it when he became an architect. This pissed me off because it's not quite as funny when his last name is in fact, Mies.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Fox River Trail, Plano, Bike Film festival

My weekend started well with a trip to Pilsen to visit art galleries and get free wine. After that, Clare and I headed over to the Bike Film Festival at Columbia College.

Over all the films were pretty cool, but New York was way over represented. I think the folks running it were from there, so no surprise I guess. If you look at the program of all the movies, you'd think the only city with bike messengers was New York.

One of the films in the program I saw was imaginatively titled Bike Messengers. In the film, they took footage of messengers riding around the city and animated the messenger over the real back drop. It was kinda like Who Framed Roger Rabbit, but hipper. Apparently, it was supposed to illustrate the relationship between the messenger and the city. It ended up looking like a clownish and unrealistic glorification of bike messengers. I guess it didn't help that the main messenger they follow through the five minute film is wearing spandex from head to toe. I was sitting next to a friend from my messenger days who is still a messenger. He felt it was ridiculous too. At one point, the messenger gets doored and flies over the door and tumbles head over heals on the pavement. Then he gets up, wipes the blood off his leg, grabs his bike and keeps riding. Most of the audience cracked up at that point. I leaned over to my friend and said, "You would do that for your company right? Just wipe off the blood and get the package delivered, right?" He had a more realistic view of the situation and replied, "I just want to know how he didn't bend his wheel."

Don't get me wrong. I think the festival is a great idea. I did enjoy all the films even if it was only for comedic value.

The last film in the program was one about the Midnight Ridazz a critical Mass type group in Los Angles. Part of it was how the group overcame being constantly hassled by the LAPD. When the film ended someone in the back (I assume one of the organizers) yelled, "They had over a thousand riders last month and they ride tonight in an hour." You know like someone was going to yell back, "Lets go to LA, we're going to ride with them!! Quick to the jet!"

The thing I'm disappointed about was how under-represented Chicago was. We have a very strong bike culture here. Can't someone pick up a camera and film something?

Whenever I see something like that I get the urge to do something about it. I start thinking things like, "I should make a film about Chicago bike culture." Then I realize I have no idea how to do something like that. I'm sure someone in Chicago does.


Clare and I biked for a short time on the Fox River Trail on Saturday. Previously, we've ridden the path north from Aurora, but this time we headed south. It's not quite as nice and it ends a few miles away in Oswego. We had to take some country roads until we reached our destination in Plano, the Farnsworth House. By the way, I use the term country road pretty loosely. There we probably once surrounded by cornfields, but now they are surrounded on both sides by blooming new subdivisions. Luckily, most of them were still under construction, so the traffic wasn't that bad.