December 1, 2020

“Twelve Angry Men” in a restored TV Production

If you can convince your friends or family to watch an hour show together this holiday weekend, you might consider the restored version of “Twelve Angry Men” on YouTube.

The black and white television play by Reginald Rose was later developed into a stage play and movie, but this initial Westinghouse Studio One version broadcast has fantastic dialogue and acting.

Robert Cummings won the Emmy Award for Best Actor in a Single Performance that year, but the whole cast, including Franchot Tone and Edward Arnold, impress the viewer with their acting skills. I finally figured out that the jury foreman was a younger Norman Fell who later became the landlord on the tv show, “Three’s Company.”

The play is interspersed with 1954 commercials featuring Betty Furness and Westinghouse appliances and they are a hoot, especially the one featuring a turkey in a “new-fangled” Westinghouse refrigerator at the program’s 38-minute mark.

Several thoughts came to mind while watching this mid-20th century creation. Television shows were in black and white and broadcast live in those days so there is definitely a stage set feel to the show. Juries were predominantly male and white. Ironing, cooking and cleaning were the exclusive domain of women. People who have entrenched views of the world are always present. Some will resort to bullying and even violence to get their way.

After you have had your fill of turkey this weekend, perhaps you will also need some food for thought. “Twelve Angry Men” just may be that mental meal.

youtube.com.watch?v=HlaXebUi72A

Fairy Tales Are Not Just for Children

Die drei kleinen Schweinchen or Three Little Pigs

Have you ever read a fairy tale to a child? Did someone read them to you when you were young?

Cinderella or Cendrillon by Perrault

There are usually five elements to fairy tales; a moral lesson, a hero and a villain as stock characters, an element of magic, obstacles or tasks for the main character to overcome, and a happy ending. Fairy tales teach children what it is to be human and how they may fit into the world.

Let me point out two other great uses for fairy tales.

Language-learning can be greatly enhanced by reading and listening to these familiar stories. Pinterest has dozens of posts on fairy tales in French, Spanish, Italian, German and other languages. Some posts take you to paid services, but many allow you to use the material for free. There are even slow audio versions so you can really train your ear to hear the new language.

The Fable Cottage allows you to read fairy tales in five different languages for free; access to video and audio material does require becoming a member, however.

YouTube is another excellent source for fairy tales in other languages, but there is another use for English speakers: sleep enhancement. There are videos using readers with soothing voices to lull both children and adults to sleep. Some of the videos bill themselves as “Truly Boring Fairy Tales,” “Bedtime Story Fairy Tales to Fall Asleep,” or “Softly Told Tales.”

Then again, perhaps we should avoid some of the more gruesome tales by the Brothers Grimm if we want sweet dreams.

Buona notte! Bonne nuit! Buenas Noches! Gute Nacht! Good night and sleep tight!

The Fable Cottage web site which has selected fairy tales in five different languages:

https://www.thefablecottage.com/

“Truly Boring Fairy Tales” on the Casper Sleep Channel:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7p0B2MD11QI

“Bedtime Stories for Adults – More Viking Myths”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vNUbZtbi_HY

“Her Honor Jane Byrne” presented by Lookingglass Theatre and WBEZ Radio

“Her Honor Jane Byrne” is an original play by J. Nicole Brooks, presented by Lookingglass Theatre Company and WBEZ, Chicago’s NPR affiliate.

On March 26, 1981, Mayor Jane Byrne moved into Cabrini Green, a notorious housing project on Chicago’s near west side. Did she do this as a publicity stunt or to see firsthand how people lived in this rundown complex that contained 14,000 plus residents?

The dialogue is witty and the story will be of interest even to non-Chicago residents. Listeners hear about the travails of Chicago’s first female mayor. Residents, police personnel, activists, aldermen and a crime capo all make appearances in this fascinating theater piece.

Initially a stage presentation at Lookingglass Theatre in March 2020, the production was shut down by the pandemic. In collaboration with WBEZ, the historical production was presented as a radio play on Thanksgiving Day. A live re-broadcast will occur on Saturday, Nov. 28 from 2 pm to 4 pm (91.5 FM).

You can also access the two-hour drama from the WBEZ web site. Go to wbez.org. Click on the SEARCH button and type in HER HONOR JANE BYRNE. Scroll down to a WBEZ logo with the play title and click the LISTEN button. A player bar will appear at the bottom of your screen page with the play. (I am giving you step by step directions since the site would not give me a direct link to the radio play.)

J. Nicole Brooks

Thank you WBEZ for making this engaging radio play available. I surely hope Lookingglass re-stages this fascinating work by J. Nicole Brooks in the post-pandemic era.

https://www.wbez.org/

The Spice House

Did you exhaust your spice rack this Thanksgiving? Sage for your turkey dressing? Ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg for your pumpkin pie? Oregano, Tarragon, Dill, Basil or Thyme for vegetable dishes? The Spice House to the rescue if you need refills.

I last wrote about The Spice House in April 2015. The family-owned operation has always done a brisk business by mail, but the pandemic pushed that even further with online sales. Their periodic emails have recipes, gift ideas and blog posts.

Their spice bottles have beautiful new labels. I continue to keep single spices, as well as the spice blends on hand. A friend gifted me with “Lake Shore Drive Seasoning” with salt, shallots, garlic, onion, chives, ground green peppercorns and scallions. Yum! I myself regularly buy their fine selection of salt-free seasonings. The finely ground Telicherry Pepper (black) is my new favorite condiment along with their Egyptian Basil.

The Spice House is having a Black Friday to Cyber Monday sale. Use discount code BFCMSALE through Cyber Monday to save up to 20% on your order. That discount code will automatically increase the savings based upon the amount you choose to spend. Spend $150 and save 20%. Spend $100 and save 15%. Spend $50 and save 10%.

Their gift boxes of four to eight ingredients make the BEST gifts. Get your orders in pronto if you want your giftees to receive items before Christmas. This is not Amazon with two-day delivery, so you need to allow two weeks for shipping which is free with orders over $49.

https://www.thespicehouse.com/

Here is a link to my original 2015 article on The Spice House.

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/04/the-spice-house-seasoning-the-world/

The North River Trail: Foster Avenue

I discovered one of my new favorite parts of the North Branch of the Chicago River. My photos and directions will help you find your way to this bucolic setting which is not clearly marked.

Herewith a guided tour: North of Pulaski on Foster, park at the Irene C. Hernandez Picnic Grove lot (4498 N. Foster Avenue). Head for the bike trail towards the large tree pictured in the photo to the left.

Concrete barriers on either side of the bike path will mark your entrance point. Go to the right of the concrete barriers down a dirt path leading to a graffiti-covered bridge overlooking the North Branch of the Chicago River. You have several trails from which to choose.

A rough stone staircase leads to paths at river level, but there are multiple dirt paths leading to the water on both sides of the river.

We opted to bypass the river paths and went down a straight walkway going east. Two deer, a buck and doe to the left of our path, drew us onto a trail through a wooded glen.(Photo of the buck above.)

Even with fewer leaves now, this was a magical area with sunlight streaming through dense trees and foliage. There were a variety of paths we could have taken, and hope to check out more of these nature trails in the future.

You might encounter families with children and many people walking dogs, so mask-wearing is still advised. For about an hour, we forgot we were in Chicago as we communed with water, trees, foliage and wild life.

This area is part of the 20-mile long North River Trail from Foster Avenue in the city to Glencoe.

We hope to explore several entrance points farther north before the snow falls. Then again, we might just get cross-country skis out!

https://fpdcc.com/places/trails/north-branch-trail-system/

Frank Lloyd Wright Dream Vacation

Since many of us are confined to the locale in which we are currently inhabiting, I have taken to planning dream vacations for the time when travel restrictions are only a bad memory.

For you architecture buffs, I have found five Frank Lloyd Wright structures which are rentable in Wisconsin and Michigan, thanks to a site called “Plans Matter,” which features selected architecturally significant venues.

I would begin in Lancaster, WI, with two nights in the Kinney House, commissioned by Patrick Kinney, a local attorney in the early 1950s. Built of wood and limestone, Wright’s double hexagonal design, which features three bedrooms and three baths, includes a wing addition that was supervised by Taliesin Fellow John H. Howe. Jane Kinney, who grew up in the home, says school children called it a “space ship.” (Daily price $395; 2-night minimum; 5-person limit.)

Next up would be the Seth Peterson Cottage in Mirror Lake, WI, which qualifies as a tiny house at 880-square feet. Situated on a bluff overlooking Mirror Lake, the sandstone structure features floor to ceiling windows that blur the distinction between indoors and outside. (Daily price $250-300; 2-night minimum; 4-person limit.)

Built for a design project sponsored by “Life Magazine” and “The Architectural Forum,” Still Bend in Two Rivers, WI, was fabricated with brick and red tidewater cypress board and batten. The main “recreation” room in this 1940 Usonian home is sixty-five feet long and contains built-in bookcases and a fireplace. (Daily price: $295+; 2-night minimum; 8-person limit.)

In Ann Arbor, MI, is one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s finest later private residences, the Palmer House, made of brick and red cedar and ensconced on two, tree-filled acres. There is also a teahouse on the property with a fireplace, kitchen and bathroom. (Daily price: $350+; 2-night minimum; 6-person limit.)

I would wind up our Wright progressive vacation at the Eppstein House in Galesburg, M i. This property has been lovingly restored with new technology, but also has some of the original Wright-designed furniture. Three outdoor terraces allow you to soak up the beauty of The Acres, the 50-acre community designed by Wright in which the Eppstein House is located. (Daily price: $408 through airbnb; 2-night minimum; 6-person limit.)

Let’s honor one of the most famous Chicago architects by spending time in these Wisconsin and Michigan Wright-designed homes. Many of these properties are open now and following Covid protocols. For now, I will dream about staying in these Prairie-style dwellings when all is well with the world.

Click the link “View Architects” for the list of Wright homes available to rent:

https://plansmatter.com

Anish Kapoor, Sculptor of Chicago’s “Bean”

In my quest to know more about my city, I have been noting public sculpture and what is more popular in Chicago than “The Bean,” or what is officially called “Cloud Gate,” in Millennium Park.

Anish Kapoor, sculptor, has a multi-cultural background. Born in Mumbai/Bombay, India to a Jewish mother and a Punjabi Hindu father, he spent time in Israel living in a kibbutz and studying electrical engineering. He had an artistic epiphany of sorts and moved to London where he has lived as a sculptor since the 1970s.

His sculptural work can be seen all over the world, most notably “Cast Iron Mountain” in Japan, “Simcoe Place” in Toronto, versions of his “Sky Mirror” in Nottingham, England and Rockefeller Center in NYC, “Earth Cinema” in Pollino National Park in Italy and “Cloud Gate” in Chicago’s Millennium Park. Kapoor also collaborates on projects with architects such as Arata Isozaki, Cecil Balmond, Herzog and de Meuron, Phhilip Cumuchdjian and David Connor.

Kapoor was knighted in 2013 and received an honorary doctorate from Oxford University in 2014. Chicago has bragging rights for having Kapoor’s “The Bean” be one of the artistic centerpieces of Millennium Park.

Cloud Gate

5 Major Works from Anish Kapoor’s Groundbreaking Career

Sophia Loren in “The Life Ahead” on Netflix

Netflix’s offering of the movie, “The Life Ahead,” is creating quite a buzz. Not only does it feature the iconic Italian actress, Sophia Loren at age 87, but the director is her son Edouardo Ponti.

Is it the greatest movie ever? No, but it has enough redeeming qualities to invest roughly 90 minutes of your time. Momo, a Senegalese-Italian orphan played by first-time film actor, Ibrahim Gueye, has a natural presence that makes up for his inexperience as a thespian. We have noble plot lines galore. Loren as Madame Rosa is a survivor of Auschwitz and a retired prostitute who has been a foster mother to the children of working girls. She provides daycare for Babu, the son of her transgender neighbor, Lola, along with a Jewish boy named Iosif who was abandoned by his mother.

The heart of the movie is the friendship that develops between Madame Rosa and Momo. The young orphan is pulled in the direction of drug-dealing for one man, and doing more honest work for a kindly Arab artisan who patiently introduces him to his birth family’s Muslim faith.

As a side note, the American film world tends to retire actors as they age, and the tendency is even more stark for actresses. Try to think of women who have had major roles in their 80s. Maggie Smith and Judy Dench (both 85) spring to mind, but the big screen tends to be geared towards more youthful appearances. Streaming productions, however, have opened up new avenues for senior actors. Witness the success of Jane Fonda (82) and Lily Tomlin (81) in “Grace and Frankie,” or Alan Arkin (86) in “The Kominsky Method” and the late Max Von Sydow who was 87 when he was in “Game of Thrones.”

TWO WOMEN, Sophia Loren, 1960

Back to a final word on “The Life Ahead.” It certainly gives you a slice of Italian culture. I would also suggest you watch Loren’s Academy Award-winning performance in Vittorio DeSica’s 1960 film, “Two Women,” not to note how she has aged in the intervening decades, but to see that she still has the vibrant screen presence that has made her an international screen treasure.

North Pond Path

North Pond is an urban nature treasure north of Fullerton and the Lincoln Park Zoo and south of Diversey. Initially a leisure area of Lincoln Park back in 1884, the Chicago Park District started a renovation of the pond and surrounding land in 1999, with the project ongoing.

The .8-mile path loops around the pond and makes for a relaxing stroll through scenes of native plants and trees, ducks and geese on the water and shore, plus dog-walkers and children playing. Chicago’s sky-scraping skyline is off in the distance making for a pleasant dichotomy between bucolic and urban.

North Pond is on a flyway for migratory birds and contains local mammals, amphibians and insects.
I used to live a block away and watched a beaver industriously build a structure along the banks one winter.

Attractions include North Pond Cafe on the north bank and the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum on the southeast.

Parking can usually be found on Cannon Drive, the street east of the pond. Lake Michigan is within short walking distance. North Pond Restaurant is a gem and bears a revisit when the times allow.

“Great British Menu” on Amazon Prime

I still have more cooking show recommendations to check out, but “The Great British Menu” series caught my eye on Amazon Prime. British chefs compete by region in Great Britain to win the opportunity to cook for a celebratory dinner at the end of the season.

Previous chef winners judge three chefs per region in their bid to represent Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and other areas of England. Two of the three contestants win the right to present four courses to three esteemed food experts (one of whom is Prue Leith, a current judge on “The Great British Baking Show”). The culinary victor goes on to compete against other regional winners.

Outside of the competitive twists, the viewer is exposed to British dishes and regional food items. We see the contestants meet the suppliers who provide the meat, fish, produce, dairy and beverages in their respective locales. Chefs are given points for sourcing locally.

I watched “The Great British Menu,” Season 5 from 2010 where Prince Charles and his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, preside over a dinner honoring food purveyors from British National Trust properties.
“The Great British Menu” has 15 seasons with 45 episodes each, so one could have months of viewing ahead, if cooking competitions are your thing.