Thursday, May 30, 2013

Roses, Second Try ...

You know you've had roses on hand for a while when they start growing again.

Photographic Memory ...

The Chicago Sun-Times laid off its entire photography staff today.

When I first saw Romenesko posting about it, looking for confirmation from anyone who worked at the paper, I said, out loud, "What?!"

It had to be a spoof. It had to be.

A major metropolitan newspaper cutting its entire photography staff?

In an era where words have become less important – they take so long to read, the pesky things – and images have taken over?

But no. It's true. And entire department of a metro paper, wiped out.

It's gobsmacking.

The Sun-Times put out a statement:

"The Sun-Times business is changing rapidly and our audiences are consistently seeking more video content with their news. We have made great progress in meeting this demand and are focused on bolstering our reporting capabilities with video and other multimedia elements. The Chicago Sun-Times continues to evolve with our digitally savvy customers, and as a result, we have had to restructure the way we manage multimedia, including photography, across the network."

In a word: bullshit.

As one very astute commenter commented on one of the pages I was reading, she doesn't always have time (or, I reckon, the inclination) to watch a video, she just wants to see an image or two.


So now reporters will be expected to shoot images to accompany their stories.

Funny things about reporters: They're not photographers.

Yes, they can snap a frame or two with their smartphones.

But I'm pretty sure folks expect more from a newspaper than for it to look like their Facebook feeds.

What continues to baffle me as owners of papers cut and cut and cut is how they fail to understand that the only reason anyone has to pick up any publication is the content.

Cut the content and you give readers less incentive.

Give readers less incentive, readers will go away.

Down, down, down go your ABC numbers.

Down, down, down goes your ad revenue.

Bye bye, Sun-Times.

It's sad in a historical context, too. My grandfather worked at the Sun-Times many, many years ago. I worked there for a couple of summers in college, with my dearly departed friend Jeff Zaslow.

When the building on Wabash was sold and gave way to the Trump monstrosity, I eventually adjusted to seeing the paper's name stuck on the side of the Mart Plaza building. Times change. Papers move. The New York Times has new digs.

But this, today, this sounds like the death knell of the paper.

Just yesterday, I fired off an email to Jim Kirk, the editor in chief, inquiring as to any editorial opportunities there.

I haven't heard back from him.

But I'm pretty sure I have my answer.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Book Ends ...

I'd been looking at my bookshelves from the safety of my couch.

For quite some time now – maybe months – I'd been telling myself it was time for another round of culling.

And Friday became that day.

I grabbed a chair from my office (in lieu of a step stool) and pulled the first book off the top shelf.

I held it, debating the dust jacket. It was torn. It should go into the trash. I pursed my lips. I put the book back onto the shelf.

Friday, I quickly realized, was not the day.

But then Sunday was.

With no plan, no first-thing-in-the-morning "Today is the day I tackle my bookshelves!" resolve, I once again retrieved the chair and started pulling books down and sorting them into Keep and Not piles on the big leather ottoman in the middle of the room.

Sentimental though I often am, I was ruthless. The stacks grew at equal paces, becoming rather Jenga-like in their teeteriness, at which point I started filling other surfaces.

Sorting completed, I looked at my mostly empty shelves and thought, "Huh. I need more books."

And then I laughed. Way to entirely miss the point, Beth.

I reorganized what remained of my collection, leaving space on each shelf, needing bookends, which, happily, I had. My cousins had given them to me several Christmases ago, and while I used them to support a small collection of antique books decoratively, I was finally able to put them to their real use.

I was feeling a fine sense of accomplishment, until I remembered all the books that I had previously stashed behind the doors at the base of the bookshelves. So those were sorted, too. Some of them made the cut but stayed stashed. Many others were added to the teetering piles.

But then the bookshelves on the left side of the fireplace looked so ordered and airy that the bookshelves on the right side of the fireplace – the home of all my cookbooks – looked leaden and dense.

So I made a pass at those, too. Many fewer were culled from that collection, but I made room on those shelves as well.

All in all, 180 books were set aside.

Some, I will give away to friends who want them. Some, I will sell. Some I will donate to Goodwill.

And I am pleased to be free of the sense of "But what if I need that book someday?"

Then I will find a copy of it somewhere.

But I know that there is a 99.9 percent chance that I will not need any of those books again someday.

As coincidence would have it, not that I believe in coincidence, on Friday I watched a few minutes of one of Angelo's episodes of "Rate My Space." He was proposing a wall. The homeowners were reluctant. They liked their open space, even if it didn't function for their needs.

Angelo, ever the kind diplomat, said, "There's the dream of how you want to live your life: 'We want everything open and wide and big!' That's great. But then, how do you really live your life?"

They agreed to the wall.

So there's the dream of how I want to live my life – of course I'm going to read Doestoevsky's "Crime and Punishment" again! – and then there's the reality of how I live my life.

"Crime and Punishment" is in the sell-or-give away pile. Along with "The Brothers Karamazov."

And I feel all the lighter for it.

Monday, May 27, 2013

An Epiphany On A Grey Day ...


Wow. Wow.

I can't stop saying "Wow."


What an exquisite thing, this moment of clarity that's just arrived.


My friend Lynne posted a piece on her Facebook page, a bit of advice from Liz Gilbert. Yes, I know people have very strong feelings one way or the other about Liz and "Eat, Pray, Love" but on the topic of love, she offered a bit of advice to a man who was about to get married and wanted her input on how to be a great husband.

So she offered him some words of wisdom, kicking off with "Housework. Do it."

Indeed. Women dig men who'll do dishes or Swiffer the floors.

But it was No. 5 that really struck me:

5) Don't push her. Now here comes my speech, which I give to every man I know who is about to get married. Here's what you need to know about women. Women, as a general rule, love to be in love. Women tend to be very good at love, good at intimacy, good at forgiveness, good at tenderness. If a woman loves you, therefore, she will overlook your flaws, forgive your trespasses, cover for you, make excuses for you, always try to see you in the best light. Don't ever take advantage of that. Don't ever relax into that, and decide that you never have work on yourself, or work on the relationship, or deliver at all, because you've noticed that she will always pick up the slack and forgive you. Because here's the thing about women: A woman will forgive you and forgive you and forgive you and forgive you and forgive you and forgive you, often for years on end...until one day she's finally had enough. And the day she's finally had enough, she will leave you, and nothing you can ever say will win her back. This happens to men all the time, I see it happen all the time, and it always seems to take them by surprise. They never see it coming. DON'T EVER LET HER GET TO THAT POINT. Take care of her graciously and gratefully, and it won't happen.

That led me to recall a friendship that I had that I ended a few years ago. And I said to myself, out loud, "Well, in fairness, he was surprised because I never really spoke up while we were friends," at which point, I replied to myself and said, "If you would have, the friendship simply would have ended sooner."

And that's when I arrived at "Wow."


Yes, the friendship simply would have ended sooner. Because he wasn't interested, I now see, in really cultivating a true relationship with me. He was interested in the adoration, the distraction, the fun. But when I truly needed him in a substantive way, he wasn't there. When my parents were ill at the same time, when a dear friend of mine suddenly died, he was nowhere to be found.


And to reinforce the "Yes"-ness of this realization, I recalled another friendship with another man – though I now have to question whether either of them were truly friendships – and, indeed, so long as I played the role of admirer, things were fine, but the moment I turned to him in need, he wasn't there. And when I later brought that up to him, he got mad and walked away. And I followed him and what ensued wasn't pretty. It left me shaking. Partly out of anger and partly out of finally having stood up for myself.

So, yes, men, what Liz writes is spot on: Don't ever decide that you never have to deliver at all.

Because we will make a lot of allowances. We will justify behavior for a long, long time.

Until the day that we won't.

Which may seem terribly unfair. But it's not. Because here's the simple secret:

You need only make very small investments to reap very large dividends.

For most women, the smallest thoughtful gesture on your part will buy you an enormously disproportionate measure of appreciation on our part.

A sincere "thank you" for something specific goes a long, long way.

Really. We're not asking for much.

And every once in a while, flowers – just-because flowers, not I-screwed-up-and-I-have-to-fix-this flowers – are a really nice touch.

* * * * *

Slightly later the same day ... .

Did you ever see the movie "The Break-Up" with Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn?

Do you remember this scene?

Brooke: I just don't know how we got here. Our entire relationship, I have gone above and beyond for you, for us. I've cooked, I've picked your shit up off the floor, I've laid your clothes out for you like you're a four year old. I support you, I supported your work. If we ever had dinner or anything I did the plans, I take care of everything. And I just don't feel like you appreciate any of it. I don't feel you appreciate me. All I want is to know, is for you to show me that you care.

Gary: Why didn't you just say that to me?

Brooke: I tried. I've tried.

Gary: Never like that, you might have said some things that meant to imply that, but I'm not a mind reader...

That scene is the essence of what Liz wrote.

Women aren't asking men to be mind readers. Women are asking for the most basic of courtesy: for men to say "thank you." There is no magic here. That is something we all should have learned just about the time we began to speak.

Yep, it's really that simple.


And you'll remember, in the movie, Gary tries to make amends. He makes dinner for Brooke and finally tells her what he's feeling. And I really admire the writers of the film – men, by the way, and Vince Vaughn has a story credit – for drafting a scene so real. It was too late. She was done. Spent.

So, as Liz advises, don't ever let it get to that point.

Especially since the way to prevent it from getting to that point is so very simple.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Handsomeness Found ...

Always fun to fan through books and find things you forgot you were using as bookmarks. Hello, Bobby D!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Well, I'd Autograph Books For Strangers ...

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Choose Your Own Palette ...

Sorting through stuff on Sunday, I unearthed this treasure, colored for me by my niece years ago.

Thankfully, I had the foresight to date the back of it: August 2003.

I love that, for the most part, she ignored the color key at the bottom of it and used whatever colors she saw fit in whatever spaces she pleased.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Good Times, May Edition ...

The May cookie installment for the angelo:HOME blog features Cream Cheese Cookies with Lemon Curd. For Angelo to enjoy with tea. With Michelle Pfeiffer.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Really, Jayson? Really? Part IX ...

It was a lark, really.

I just popped over to the Jayson site to see if there was anything new and ridiculous.

Oh, silly me. Of course there was something new and ridiculous! It's Jayson!

This item damn near deserves a post all to itself, but I found a couple other items (one of which I saw when I was there recently) to include, too.

The star of the post, though, is this rugged fellow. "Hey," you might be thinking, "that kind of looks like a leather-covered cooler."

That is exactly what it is! A leather-covered Coleman cooler. Coleman. For serious. It says so right there in the description.

Yeah, a Coleman cooler. Just like the kind you can pick up at Target or Home Depot for $25 or so.

But this sucker is covered in leather. And that, apparently, makes it worth $1,495.

Now here's what I don't get: Who's the Howell plunking down $1,500 for a cooler? Because it seems to me that if you have that kind of cash to blow on a cooler, you probably have enough cash to cater whatever event others might attend with a cooler in tow. Though I suppose your leather-covered-cooler valets might tote it behind you. Would you use it as a coffee table once you arrive at your destination? Wouldn't it just look marvelous with a candelabrum on top?! Oh, just fetching! Really, top drawer!

Leather Cooler – $1,495

This little number makes the cut for two reasons: 1) Because it's a wee salt cellar for $120 – oh, do take it with you on your low-rent leather-cooler outing! – and 2) Because of the very amusing instruction "do not wash."

Rock Salt Cellar with Spoon – $120

And lastly, the Vintage Lucite Chair, aka The Chair No One Will Want To Sit In Because They'll Fear Breaking It And Also Because It Appears To Offer About The Same Degree Of Comfort As An Airline Seat Only Without The Benefit Of Arm Rests Or A Free Can Of Sprite. It's $2,495. There are four available, in case you have $10,000 burning a hole in your pocket.

Vintage Lucite Chair – $2,495

Monday, May 13, 2013

A New Adventure ...

For some time, I've been thinking that I should create a blog about the absurd craigslist ads I see. Today's the day.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Life With A Demanding Mother ...

My mom is very materialistic.

For Mothers' Day, she asked for rubber spatulas.

Friday, May 10, 2013

I'm Tellin' You, This Is Gonna Be Huge ...

A conversation I had recently led me to the idea that people who are prone to negativity might want to wear that on their chests (as opposed to on their sleeves) as a means of basking in their glass-is-half-empty-ness and also as a warning to others to not expect any pleasant encounters.*

So I spent about 30 seconds working up a logo, a la the Superman emblem:

* Yes, I'm joking.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Hello, Lilacs ...

It is a very pleasant morning. I spied these lovelies on a walk and returned with my camera to snap a few frames. To share. And enjoy when the blooms are gone.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

On Mothering And Brownies ...

I am not a mother, though my brothers used to complain, "Mom! She's playing mother again!"

I may have been a little bossy. But I had to have a means of defense. You don't want to know what they did to some of my toys.

In addition to bossy, I was also a Brownie. Yes, the beanie-topped variety. My uniform included a vest adorned with homemade merit badges cut from felt. My mom was a Brownie leader for a time. And mom taught me how to bake brownies.

So in all those ways, it's legit that I am part of Mothers Among Us, the second podcast installment of "Talking With My Mouth Full" on Leite's Culinaria, in which David, the site's namesake, his lovely editor-in-chief, Renee, and I tackle the big brownie issues: fudgy or cakey, frosting or no frosting, nuts or no nuts.

My brownies walk the line between fudgy and cakey, I slather on the frosting, and I stir, into the gloppy batter, an embarrassment of toasted walnuts that provide the perfect toasty, nutty foil to the cakey-fudginess of the brownies and the smoothness of the frosting. They're a textural extravaganza.

My thanks to David and Renee for inviting me to be a part of the fun, and for including me in a post about moms by stretching "the definition to embrace not just maternal figures but all those women who’ve taken it upon themselves to mother us in some fashion."

My mom loves to cook and bake for others. It fulfills her as much as it nourishes us. And that is one of the many gifts that she has passed along to me.

For Brownies and brownies and everything else you've done and do, thanks, mom.

I'll bake some for dessert on Sunday.

The image is from David's site, as you shall see. It was too much kitschy fun to not poach and use again here.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Jayson Versus Reality ...

The other day, when I was poking around Jayson, I spied a chair that looked nearly identical to a new chair in Angelo's line: scroll back, tufting, interesting finish on the legs. The Jayson chair has more tufting than Angelo's, but Angelo's chair features nailhead detail that the Jayson chair lacks, so in a details match-up, I'd give the edge to Angelo.*

Of course, given that I was in Jayson, I had to look at the price tag.

The Jayson version? $350.

The angelo:HOME version? $140, give or take a few bucks. The price may vary slightly by retailer.

In Angelo's mind, folks can pair various seating elements around a table, not just a set of chairs. But presuming folks will buy a set of six chairs, that works out, not including tax and/or shipping, to:

Jayson: $2,100 ($350 x 6)

angelo:HOME: $840 ($140 x 6)

Oh, and Angelo's chair comes in six colors. Jayson offers one. And if you spill something on the Jayson chair, you need dry-cleaning solvent – because we all have dry-cleaning solvent on hand, right? – to spot clean it. Angelo's fabric repels spills, which, in a dining room, is a pretty good idea.

angelo:HOME on the left, Jayson on the right:

* Yes, I'm biased.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Really, Jayson? Really? Special Edition ...

Today, I popped into Jayson in person to schmy around and behold the wonderment up close.

There was one piece I really loved, a rolled-arm, tufted-back sofa in gorgeously worn leather. I'd link to it but I don't see it on the site. It might be the Theodore, which is offered in a coffee velvet but which can be customized. Or perhaps it was a one-off piece. In any event, it was quite the honey.

And I saw this piece, which is rather genius, I must say, for a large apartment with an expanse of windows that needs something to fill the space underneath. Someone who lives in such an apartment surely entertains, and this bench would provide a perch for a lot of swank guys and gals, tony beverages in hand.

Field Bench with Back - 9' – $4,895

But the true "Jayson" moment of the day came right inside the front door. I spied a mirror and said, "Oh, that's nice." Subtle. Not at all blingy. Perhaps a bit old. Simple lines. I was with Doreen. She leaned in to peer at the price tag.

"Nine hundred and ninety five dollars."

"What? No," I said. Nearly one thousand dollars? What?

She stepped aside. I leaned in to peer at the price tag. Yup.

It is not from France. It is from Palm Beach. It dates to the '70s. The 1970s. And it's nearly one thousand dollars. Oh, Jayson.

Vintage Mirror – $995

And lastly, a bonus entry, a sub-entry, if you will, which I have decided to call "Jayson? Huh?"

Box of Chalk - Black – $6

Oh, and if you're looking for a gift for mom for Mother's Day, Jayson offers what appears to be a very typical orchid for $100. $100. No, I don't know why. Other than: "Jayson."