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May. 17 2010 — 4:55 pm | 303 views | 0 recommendations | 2 comments

If only my town were as serene as The Onion says it is

Wilmette House

Wilmette has charming homes, brick paved streets, and problems like everywhere else.Image by iagoarchangel via Flickr

A recent article about my town, Wilmette, IL,  has the village buzzing.  According to The Onion, Wilmette will be the basis of a new TV show created by David Simon that will vigorously probe our citizens’ pervasive contentment, affluence and use of good grammar (see article below.)

It’s a spoof of course – there won’t be a casting call for extras at the Village Hall – but the real implication is that nothing bad ever happens in Wilmette. If only that were true.

Yes, Wilmette is wonderful community to live in – it’s safe, friendly, clean and perfectly situated on the lake and  close to Chicago . But, like everywhere, bad things go down here too. I’m not just talking about rats and robbers. I’m talking about the big stuff. In the last 5 years we’ve had a number of shockers – a waitress gunned down on the street in front of her daughter, a murder-suicide next door to a church, drug busts, corrupt politicos, and far too many suicides.

My kids know that when there are  helicopters circling over the neighborhood, they need to get inside.

A heartbreaking situation that’s going on right now is the fallout from  a hit-and-run accident that occurred on Friday afternoon near New Trier High School. An 18 year-old Wilmette girl hit a 16 year-old girl from Glencoe in a busy intersection, then drove away. The injured girl is in critical condition at Evanston Hospital after having brain surgery. The driver (a high school senior) is in jail. From all reports, she simply panicked. Her bail was set at $500,000; her family can’t afford to pay the $50,000 needed to gain her release.

If only Wilmette were as problem free as the Onion makes our village out to be. It is a funny article though.

NEW YORK—Speaking at an HBO press junket Monday, acclaimed writer-producer David Simon, creator of the gritty urban dramas The Wire and Treme, announced that his next project will be an epic, multilayered examination of the contented and comfortable streets of suburban Wilmette, IL.

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Critics have praised the show’s true-to-life depiction of Wilmette’s occasional recycling-pickup problem.

According to Simon, the sprawling new series, tentatively titled The Township, will offer a searing and unsentimental glimpse into the happy social fabric of modern-day Wilmette, an area known for its deeply untroubled history and well-functioning political structure.

“As a writer, my mission is to tell a story that makes viewers think about how conditions in American cities are created,” Simon told reporters. “We can't just turn our back on the staggering levels of happiness occurring in a place like Wilmette and say, 'Well, that's not my life.' We have to confront this tranquility head-on and shine a light on the institutions that are responsible for it.”

Added Simon, “I want this show to be an unflinching dissection of how the system has in no way failed the people of this town.”

According to HBO sources, the novelistic series will chronicle the interconnected web of police officers, politicians, tradespeople, teachers, and ordinary families who are “all complicit” in perpetuating the cycle of institutional effectiveness that makes Wilmette the seventh best place in the country to raise children.

via New David Simon Project To Investigate Happy, Upper-Middle-Class Streets Of Wilmette, IL | The Onion – America’s Finest News Source.

May. 17 2010 — 2:57 pm | 98 views | 1 recommendations | 0 comments

Henri Matisse exhibits inspiring mistakes

Henri Matisse "Bathers by a River" 1909

Last week I went to see the spectacular Matisse exhibition,  Radical Invention 1912-1917 , at the Art Institute of Chicago where I was inspired by something unexpected – the artist’s mistakes.

During this period, Henri Matisse was exploring new ideas about form and structure and you could tell it didn’t come easily to him. Unlike his later cheerful goldfish paintings or the vivid, lyrical cutouts he’s most famous for, these paintings are heavier, darker, and fretted over.

Matisse had obviously made corrections to many of his paintings –  changed the position of a figure or improved its line. But instead of covering up his attempts, he left them partially exposed, like shadowy echos of his final subjects.  By “showing his work,” Matisse was saying that the initial efforts, while unsatisfactory,  were as important to the piece as the end result itself.

Seeing his creative process there on the canvas was fascinating. And motivating.

I mean, all of us, no matter what we are trying to achieve, only reach success after making a bunch of false starts, blunders and repairs. It made me happy to see all those missteps on Matisse’s canvases. The fact that even the masters mess up makes me see a lot more value in making mistakes of my own.

Henri Matisse said himself that his ideas about art were always changing, which certainly showed in his work.

I do not think exactly the way I thought yesterday. Or rather, my basic thought has not changed, but it has evolved, and my means of expression have followed. I do not repudiate any of my paintings, but there is not one of them that I would not redo differently, if I had it to redo. My destination is always the same, but I work out a different route to get there.

—Matisse, “Notes of a Painter,” 1908

You’ve got to see these paintings in person to really see what I’m talking about. Matisse: Radical Invention 1912- 1917 runs through June 20th here in Chicago, then moves to the Modern Museum of Art in New York City from July 18 – October 11th.

May. 10 2010 — 11:02 am | 181 views | 0 recommendations | 1 comment

Hope for Half Baked High School Slackers

Cover of "Half Baked (Fully Baked Widescr...

Half Baked - the ultimate stoner movie. Cover via Amazon

I was shopping at the Jewel last week and ran into “Tammy,” a woman who has a daughter the same age as my 16 year-old son, Nick. We were comparing notes on our kids and bemoaning the academic and social pressures they face in high school.

“Parenting teens is tough,” I sighed.

“No kidding,” Tammy retorted. “My older son is 18 and he’s half baked.”

I was taken aback. I mean, “half baked” means perpetually stoned, right? Like the movie? Could Tammy actually be confiding that her kid was a pothead? I was shocked, not that a high school senior might be getting high, but because Tammy’s parental honesty is rare stuff. Most parents I know are convinced that while everyone else’s kids may be half-baked, theirs are out there making good choices.

“Is he going to college in the fall?” I asked.

“No.” Tammy sniffed. “He wants to take a gap year.”

It’s possible that Tammy was not calling her son a weed-smoking wastrel, but was merely referring to him as immature – I was too timid to clarify. But either way, according to Barbara Brotman’s article in today’s Chicago Tribune, there’s still hope for the kid.

Brotman writes that lots of high school slackers go on to have brilliant careers – like Paleontologist Paul Sereno, Circuit Court Judge Eileen Brewer, and Brotman herself (see below.)  Despite underwhelming high school performances, these underdogs ultimately achieved success when they discovered their passion and motivation a little later in life.

See? A kid doesn’t have to have it all figured out by high school graduation day. What a relief for we parents – and especially for our teens.

All hail to the high school superstars — the kids who earn straight A’s, ace the SATs, play in youth orchestras, excel in sports, lead student organizations, master multiple languages, mentor fellow students and do substantive volunteer work.

They are fabulous, accomplished, impressive young people, and they deserve every honor roll spot, valedictorian designation and selective college acceptance they get.

But how about a shout-out to a group rarely mentioned in this season of graduation ceremonies and college acceptance letters? Let’s hear it for slackers.

Not for what they’ve done, which is by definition not much. Consider instead what they may yet accomplish. And no raised eyebrows: Many a successful life story includes a chapter titled, “Apparently Going Nowhere.”

Take Paul Sereno. In elementary school, teachers wanted to hold him back and make him repeat second grade. In high school, he copied from a friend's work to pass trigonometry. He did so poorly on the PSAT that he had to study the dictionary to get an SAT score that would get him into Northern Illinois University.

And then?

A master’s degree in geology from Columbia University, a doctorate in geology from Columbia University and the American Museum of Natural History in New York, and a meteoric rise to world-renowned dinosaur expert and professor of paleontology at the University of Chicago.

Or take Eileen Brewer. Bored in high school, she spent her time in class reading novels. Her grades were so bad that she was rejected by most of the colleges she applied to and ended up at a little-known Catholic college in upstate New York.

And then?

A master’s degree in history from Loyola University, a Ph.D. in the history of religion from the University of Chicago Divinity School, a law degree from Harvard Law School and a law career that led to her election in 2002 as a Cook County Circuit Court judge.

To read the complete article, click here: Graduation season: Hail to the slackers – chicagotribune.com.

Apr. 26 2010 — 2:27 pm | 115 views | 0 recommendations | 1 comment

Master your body with the Wellbox

Browsing through the Bliss website, which sells beauty and spa products, I came across this intriguing item – the Wellbox. Touted by Bliss as the #1 cellulite treatment in the world, the video (below) makes the device sound like sooo much more.

“Who has not dreamt of mastering their body?” purrs a female announcer over images of a beautiful woman writhing sensuously in her undies. “Wellbox, the body optimizer, was created to help your whole body feel good.”

The machine claims to improve your skin, face and body through “in-depth stimulation” and “improved fluid exchanges.”

At $1499 (on sale) the Wellbox is expensive, but if it delivers what the video promises, it sounds worth the price. And if it delivers what the video implies….. oh, my.

All I know is, I want one for Mothers Day.

Apr. 24 2010 — 4:30 pm | 526 views | 0 recommendations | 0 comments

Anthony Bourdain is a prime example of why men over 50 are delish

Anthony Bourdain being interviewed in the WNYC...

Opinionated Foodie-hottie, Anthony Bourdain, 53. Image via Wikipedia

Anthony Bourdain, noted foodie and host of the Travel Channel’s “No Reservations,” is performing at the Chicago Theater tonight. Performing isn’t quite the right word; he doesn’t really have an act. As Bourdain said in an interview with the Chicago Tribune, he’ll “just talk for an hour about what’s exciting (or irritating) at the moment.” Then he’ll take questions.

How I wish I could go hear him speak! I love men with opinions and the experience to back them up. At 53, Bourdain is certainly a guy who has experienced life. A noted chef, author and gourmand, he has not only been around the culinary block a few times; he’s been around the world a few times.

While filming the 100+ episodes of his TV show, Bourdain has traveled to some of the most remote (and dangerous) corners of the world. InEcuador he sampled the local delicacy, roasted guinea pig, which he described as “crackly, sweet, fatty, delish.” In 2006, he and his crew were trapped in Beirut when the Israel-Lebanon conflict broke out.

Bourdain chain-smokes, he drinks, he swears, he climbs mountains, he stares danger in the face, he’ll eat anything. The guy is dashing, sophisticated ,and rough around the edges all at the same time. And his height (6′4″ ) and full head of hair make him one good looking guy.

But the most attractive thing about Bourdain is that he isn’t afraid to tell it like it is – even if his opinions are controversial, which they often are. For example, here in Chicago, Bourdain calls our beloved deep-dish pizza “awful, ugly stuff” that doesn’t even qualify as pizza.

Also, he came right out and said he didn’t enjoy his meal at Grant Achatz’s highly touted Chicago restaurant, Alinea, saying,  ”Alinea didn’t thrill me. I was annoyed by the presentation of the food. I found it intrusive.”

Ah, contention! How refreshing.

Anthony Bourdain isn’t the only guy over 50 who’s cocky confidence whets my appetite. I’ll also happily devour any opinion that snarky Simon Cowell, 50, or hot head John McEnroe, 51, care to express. They might be criticized for being brash or conceited or mean or rude, but I disagree. As mature men and experts in their fields, they’ve earned the right to voice their opinion. And besides, someone with an opinion is always more interesting.

Bourdain thinks so too, and it hoping the audience asks some provocative questions tonight.

“I love a spirited debate as much as anybody,” he told the Tribune. “I even like being wrong, if someone can make a good case.

To read the complete Chicago Tribune article, click here.

Simon Cowell at the National Television Awards...

Music Exec and AI Judge, Simon Cowell, 50. Image via Wikipedia

John McEnroe at the premiere of War, Inc. at t...

Tennis great John MacEnroe, 51. Image via Wikipedia

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    About Me

    I'm a 40-something mother, wife and writer who took a long unexpected gig as a stay-at-home mom in the Chicago suburbs which, to my surprise, I liked. In addition to spending quality time with my two kids, staying home gave me time to hang out on the North Shore, act in community theatre, sing in a band, host a local-access cable TV show and go back to school. Now I'm relaunching my career as a writer. I have another blog about life after 40, and am a regular contributor to local magazines and newspapers. I look forward to bringing stories from my neighborhood to yours.

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    Location:Wilmette, IL - on Chicago's North Shore

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    Divorced & Dating

    I’m doing a series on dating after divorce for my blog about life after 40 called Forty Fabulous. Whether you’re single for the second time or happily married, it will make you rethink your relationship (and there’s some good dirt too.)