Happy Inauguration Day!

Big doings in our nation’s capital today. The inauguration party heard ’round the world. Wee-J and I will be breaking the no television rule to watch the swearing in. She won’t remember this day, but I will.

And finally the media hype will come to an end and the work can begin.

Mortgage Crisis 101

Leave it to This American Life to explain the genesis of the recent mortgage debacle in a way that’s understandable and entertaining. This evening I listened to the podcast of the episode entitled “The Giant Pool of Money” (from May 9th) and for the first time, I understand the domino effect of the housing/credit crisis, from Wall Street all the way down to the foreclosed home down the block. If you’re interested, you can listen to it here from their website.

I Can’t Decide If This is Cool or Creepy

Have you heard about the 500-year-old mummy of an Incan girl that went on display in an Argentine museum last week? She’s a perfectly preserved mummy of a 15-year-old girl who was taken up to the edge of the Llullaillaco volcano and left to die as part of a sacrifice to the corn harvest. Discovered in the Andes in 1999 (along with the bodies of two other children), the ice preserved her in such a state that she looks like she’s merely sleeping. In a glass display cabinet. In the middle of a museum, 500 years after she died.

Check out the pictures. It’s amazing. To think that you can step right up and literally stare history in the face is awe inspiring. The history buff in me is fascinated. But it’s also a bit disturbing. Obviously there’s a lot science can learn from such a find, but as a tourist attraction, viewing an Egyptian skeleton is a lot different than looking at flesh and blood. Then again, how is it any different from folks parading past the body of a deceased dignitary? Or the embalmed corpse of say, Eva Peron? No, wait, that was creepy.

I don’t know. What do you think?

WBEZ Just Wants to Talk About Music

I was shocked to learn this weekend that Chicago’s Public Radio station, WBEZ, has announced they will drop all music programming beginning next year. Originally, the plan had been to boost the signal strength of their sister station WBEW and create an all-music public radio station, changing BEZ to all public affairs. Now, the word has come down that all music will be dropped from BEZ and BEW will become a second all-talk radio station.

That means that Chicago public radio will have no jazz or blues programming!!! Chicago, people! A town very much into its jazz and blues music. No Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz. No Blues Before Sunrise. No Coming Home. And hardest of all to imagine, no Dick Buckley!

It also means no more pledge dollars from yours truly to WBEZ.

Chicago without blues and jazz on the radio. Unbelievable. This was good stuff, music you couldn’t hear anywhere else on the dial. Slashing all music programming is a real blow to Chicago’s already pathetic state of radio. Time now for the college radio stations in the area (College of DuPage, Loyola and Northwestern) to pick up the baton and run with it.

Breaking News Two Blocks Away

Something’s going down in the neighborhood where I work. Every local news station has a truck camped out in front of a nearby condominium complex, all cameras pointed at the entrance like they’re waiting for a rock star or someone’s going to hold a press conference. There aren’t any emergency vehicles in sight.

No one around here knows what’s going on and a quick check on the internet comes up with nothing. The best guess so far is that one of the jurors thrown off the trial of former governor George Ryan lives there.

Update: (11:15 a.m.) Looks like the freed journalist hostage story has an Evanston connection:

The mother of American reporter Jill Carroll says she’s “thrilled” that her daughter is safe and free after nearly three months of captivity in Iraq.

Mary Beth Carroll sounded upbeat when reached at her home in the north suburb of Evanston.

She declined to say when or how she learned of her daughter’s release but said she would release a statement later today.

Redmoon’s Spectacle ’05

Lagoon as Theater Set

Talk about bad timing. For many months, Redmoon Theater has been planning their yearly outdoor theatre spectacle, a fable set in a flooded-out community. For weeks, they’d been rehearsing on set pieces sunken in the lagoon, water up to the rooftops. Sound familiar?

The story eerily foreshadowed many of the events that came to pass when hurricane Katrina slammed into New Orleans, and suddenly, as their artistic director states on the website “What once read as mythical and possibly even whimsical now reads as indelibly tragic.” So they did what any ambitious, creative, and socially aware theater company would do–they completely re-imagined their show.

I first learned about Loves Me…Loves’s Me Not on Saturday and saw it on Sunday. The audience was seated on the steps leading from the Museum of Science and Industry down to the shore of the Jackson Park lagoon (both created for the 1893 Columbian Exposition.) Folks munched on picnic dinners as the sun set. The sixty minute production is performed, for the most part, in pantomime and uses the length of the lagoon, going all the way back to a bridge in the distance. Stage lights and torches illuminate the lagoon, a neat effect that enhances the mood and helps to transport the audience.

The story, such as it is, concerns survivors of a flood who eek out an existence living on the tops of buildings, with little shelter and meager provision. A very pregnant woman and her husband celebrate when he brings home a box full of canned food. A man atop a gas station plays a funeral dirge on a mouth organ (remember the dead body?) A trio of shrieking women who look like refugees from The Pirates of Penzance marvel at the pregnant woman.

Other characters float through: An accordion playing angel sings a lament from her swan boat; a party guy and his girl enter on a floating canopy bed draped with sausages (yeah, you heard me right) and lead a rousing musical dance party when they hook up with a party barge, complete with multi-piece band. And way back on the bridge, a strange vehicle carrying white draped figures shines a giant spotlight down on the scene to the sounds of thunder and rain. What does it all mean? Who knows.

The sets are fantastic, the acting is expressive, and the entire concept is impressive. The only thing lacking is a solid story as engaging as the setting is entrancing. It feels like, well, they put it together in a couple of weeks…which is exactly what they did, so you have to give them a lot of credit. Redmoon definitely gets an “A” for effort, and even if the plot is so abstract that when the play ends the audience doesn’t realize it’s over–which is what happened on Sunday night–it’s still absolutely worth seeing.

That kind of experience that is Loves Me…Loves Me Not doesn’t come along every day. Like a category 4 hurricane slamming into New Orleans, it’s (hopefully) a once in a lifetime event that gives you pause and allows you to reflect on some bigger issues.

More Katrina Links

Six dolphins washed out of their tank and into the gulf by the storm surge are sticking together. Click on the aerial photo to see how the hurricane destroyed the Marine Life Oceanarium in Gulfport.

Slate has a great collection of political cartoons having to do with Katrina.

Headline: ‘Confused’ Chertoff Delayed Federal Katrina Response (thanks Karen)

A New Orleans native fires back at author Andrei Codrescu’s pessimistic view of New Orleans future.

There are a slew of Katrina sites that I’ve been regularly visiting these past few weeks. I thought I’d share them–top left hand column, below the photo of Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge in Alabama.