Monday, November 30, 2009


everyone together now: "Naaaaaaaw"

Friday, November 6, 2009

Be Afraid.

She won't actually get her license until the middle of next summer - by Illinois law drivers under 18 have to have a learner's permit for 9 months before they can get a license. We happened upon a really good deal on this little car. "It's such a girly car." Harry complained. "Dad, I'm a GIRL!" was Hannah's reply. It's my little car for the time being. I'll turn it over in a year or so when she has a reason to need to drive full time.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Cost of the Stealth Van

Original cost: $17,000.00 give or take a few. (used-26000 miles- summer 2001)

Maintenance: $8000.00 an educated guess – includes three sets of tires, numerous tune-ups, scheduled maintenance, and a couple of Big Fixes.

Gas: $15,500.00 a ballpark figure based on some back calculations from miles driven, gas mileage, and price of gas.

License fees: $675.00

Insurance: $3600.00 approximately.

Total: $44,775.00

Days owned: 3010

Cost per day: $14.87 per day.

Miles driven: 177,000 or .26 cents a mile

The moral of this story is that even normal, boring, frugal vehicles are expensive. Either walk and save a lot of money, or buy an awesome vehicle so you can really enjoy blowing all your money on transportation.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

New Project

Project of the day - really project of the winter is a new Fancy-Dance outfit for Hannah. She has been wearing Meredith's for a couple of years new, and since she is fully grown It'd time for one last mom made outfit. I made her a couple of fancy dance dresses when she was a little girl, but the last two have been hand-me-downs. Above is my table of craft stuff and the one rosette I finished today at the upper left. Along the bottom of the canvas you can see what will be a head band. (Paper pattern just below the tracing on the canvas.)

Here's a closer pix of the sort-of finished rosette. I'm changing around the colors on the other ones. These beads are different than any I have used before. These are 11o tri-cuts. They are very sparkly, but a pain to work with since they are a little inconsistent in shape. Lots of beadwork and satin applique on this outfit - but not as much as a competition outfit.

It took all of my free time for a week to make this one piece. It's going to be a long winter.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Bayou Renaissance Man: Unique music

Bayou Renaissance Man: Unique music

Peter is one of my favorite 'general' blog writers. After you're done watching this lovely video have a look around at his other offerings.


Saturday, September 12, 2009

Dumping Google.

I've decided to dump google as a search engine. I have a hard time believing that on 9/11/09 they did nothing with their home page to commemorate the terrorist attach that changed America forever. They change their graphics for things like M.C. Escher's birthday and the anniversary of the Civil Rights march in Selma Alabama - but say squat about 9/11. I'm checking out and as replacements. I also know about (all of which had memorials on their pages on 9/11)

do any of you have any other suggestions?


P.S. Yes, I realize that Blogger is Google. I've been pondering a move.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Contemplating a new week from 3am

The week woke me up. It's Monday Morning at 3, and the week came knocking at my unconscious brain - so here I am. I seem to have a lot jammed into the schedule this week. Some things are merely errands like going to the bank, filling the 'fridge, getting cat food, having the oil changed in the van - or chores like laundry, vacuuming and mowing. There is the mind-numbing route of taxi-driving that eats up the hours but seems only to fill the time with boredom and lack of accomplishment. Then there are the dozen or so tasks that I feel qualified to complete - but that take focus or talent, or some special know-how. I have to finish a small piece of an outfit on a sewing machine, I have to clean, repair and lubricate the lawn sweeper, I have to write a test that will assess a basic knowledge of critical reading skills and vocabulary, I have to pack for a weekend away at a Pow wow. But on top of that are the seemingly small, things that must be in place by a certain time or place that I must do that I have little idea how to accomplish. Those are the juggling balls that are most likely to bounce along the floor and make me give chase. The ones that make me feel stupid, incompetent in advance. Completely daunted. These little jokers might fall into place in 5 minutes, or might be major hurtles - you just never know. If I were a wage slave, I'd have a boss and a routine or some such 'job' with the paycheck to let me know that what I did was worthwhile and how well. But I don't. I am both COO and scullery slave, and sometimes it keeps me awake. I'm going to make a grocery list now. Sweet dreams to all you sleepers. ~M.E.

Monday, August 24, 2009


We just returned from a little summer jaunt to our Nation's Capitol. Washington D.C. is one of my favorite places - perhaps because it is easily accessible, I've gotten familiar with the city over the last couple of trips - or perhaps because there is always more to see, do, and experience even after several visits. The public transportation is easy to navigate and relatively inexpensive, and all of the Smithsonian museums and government buildings that you can visit are free. This visit was a little different from the last two, since we had a little trouble with the weather. Not surprising for August, I know, but it was HOT. Also HUMID. It was mid-90's thereabouts every day. I spent a week with sweat dripping, red-faced, guzzling water. Many of my well planned activities were ditched because we just didn't want to spend much time outdoors.

Harry managed to get no less than 25 geocaches while we were there. Mostly he hunted them alone in between his meetings because after the first afternoon where I followed him on the cross-mall caching death march I wasn't a good sport any more. Here's Hannah claiming the virtual cache in the fountain in front of the Library of Congress' Jefferson Building.

It did blessedly cool off a bit in the evenings. We were able to walk the west end of the Mall then. The west end of the National Mall, that mile-long space between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial isn't easily accesses by Metro or the Curculator Busses. So, unless you are willing to spring for a taxi, buy into the exhorbatantly priced tourist busses, or try and figure out the convoluted Metro Busses - you and your feet are on your own. Once the sun went down and it cooled to a balmy mid-80's we enjoyed seeing the monuments at night. The WWII monument was especially nice, since if you remained well behaved and respectful the guards didn't mind letting people put their feet into the pool of the fountain. Aaaahhhh!

We spent a morning visiting the Washington National Cathedral. I had wanted to do this since my first visit, but since it takes a combination of Metro and city bus to get there, we just hadn't wedged it in. Pity, since it is now one of my very favorite places in the area. It is a lovely Gothic cathedral that is also distinctly American. It is evident that it is no museum, like many of the great churches I've visited in Europe, but houses a thriving congregation while continuing it's mission of being a 'place of prayer for Americans of all faiths'. I love all of the chapels, big and small. This picture is of a cross made fron the rubble of the Pentagon after the 9-11 attack. It is in the Veterans Chapel.
I found it interesting that a few weeks back we visited Bloomington IN, and passed a large limestone quarry with the slogan -"Builders of America's Monuments" on the signs, and in Washington DC were able to see that many of those lovely buildings, including the Washington National Cathedral were indeed built from Indiana limestone.

I took this snapshot in the Smithsonian American Art museum. I wish it had better lighting, since it kind of distills the effect of art, and the atmosphere of creativity. The extra large abstracts and the open gallery space - along with the music running through her head inspired a little spontanious dancing - posing really - as she enjoyed art. I'd have been doing it too, if I weren't such a stodgy mom-type person.

We're back in good ol' springfield now. The weather is cool and the acedemic year started today. We figured it might as well since all of H Girl's PS friends went back to school this week or last. We'll get to Washington again, I'm sure. I still have too many things unchecked on my "A" list not to.

Cheers! ~M.E.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Crunching some Confusing Numbers in the "Cash for Clunkers" Game

My old van, a 2001 Dodge Caravan w/ 195,000 miles and an '18' on the government scale is on the top ten list of most traded in 'clunkers'. Worth $3500.00 on the purchase of a new vehicle with at least 22 mpg rating.

One of the vehicles I'm considering is the Honda CR-V. The semi-tricked out version runs about $27,500.00, after a skinny deal of about $1000.00 off the sticker price given by the dealer. (Plus TTL, but those remain the same, so I'll leave those figures out.) No other trade in money or deals will be offered.

This brings my van/CR-V trade deal to $24,000.00 with a 2010 model and the government cash-for-clunkers deal.

Lets look at something slightly different:

Looking at the Car Max site - with I typically use for real world used car values since I'm a Dave Ramsey fan, and have a hard time not letting someone else take the new car devaluation hit.

Here's a 2008 Honda CR-V that is tricked out like the new one I asked the dealer about. It's two model years old, and has 20K miles. ( History shows it was a 'fleet vehicle', which means a rental) The Car Max price is $20,998.00 Plus a drive to Indianapolis, where this example currently is parked. The website calculator says that I would get a $1250.00 trade in on the van.

This brings my van/CR-V deal to $19798.00 with the straight-up trade my old van for a newish CR-V.

One more comparison:

We looked at a Mazda RX-7 a couple of weeks back. Sticker price on that vehicle was about $27,800.00. The first 'deal' I was offered was $1,000.00 off the sticker price and $3000.00 trade-in for the van. That brings that comparable vehicle - brand new w/o the government program to $23,800.00.


New Honda CR-V with $3,500.00 government money $24,000.00

New Mazda CX-7 straight-up w/ trade in allowance $23,800.00

Slightly used Honda CR-V without government assistance $19,798.00

To me, this sounds like one of those screwed up math story problems where you 'lose' a dollar while seeming to be getting the best deal. Can you see where the dealer is getting $3,500.00 from the government, yet I'm paying about the same price for the vehicle? Maybe the 'cash for clunkers' program works better when you think of trading a Ford F250 for a Prius, or something - but the math just isn't working for me.

PS: I still want a Volkswagon Tiguan. But it's the same kind of 'want' as when a little girl says she 'wants' to be a princess. Ain't in the cards.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

No topic here, really. It's just been a while since I posted and the 3 people who read this expect something.

This summer has been an erratic combination of fast and furious, and bits of down time. It's also been a total budget-buster. Sorry, Dave Ramsey, but it seems that until September comes along with it's daily routines and predictable spending patterns, we've gone back to reactive money management. Since February we enjoyed (if you can call it that) planning out where our money would be working for us in the month ahead. We faltered in June, and July has been totally filling in the blanks after the fact to try and find out where the heck our money went. August will be no better with trips and summer treats and always the unplanned expenses. It's too easy to throw 'it's not in the budget!' out the window and just say 'what the heck? It's summer.' in these cases.

I started, and gave up on car shopping again. The Stealth Van has 197,000 miles on the odometer, and may be feeling it's mortality at any moment. I found out that what I'd really love to be driving is way more than I can afford - meaning that what I'd be giving up to purchase a $30,000.00 vehicle is of more value to me than the vehicle itself - so I will continue to drive the van and hope and pray that it continues on in good health because if I have to replace it, it will be with something that might be different, but not that much better - so why bother? I was thinking about those car commercials where one spouse surprises the other with some BMW or Lexus, and then the voice-over talks about payments and financing. How much of a gift is it if the payments have to be taken out of the family budget? I find it unrealistic in the extreme that there are more than a very, very few middle-class types like depicted on those commercials where one spouse has access to $50,000.00 or thereabouts to surprise the other with a luxury car without it adversely affecting family finances. Commercials that plant unrealistic expectations are part of what got us all into this mess. Well, not me personally - but our society in general.

We're visiting Washington DC again in a few weeks. I'm really looking forward to the visit. It will be our third in four years. This will be the visit where we are finally able to slow down a touch without the guilt of regretting what we might miss if we don't keep going full tilt. We will be able to see and do things that were on our 'B' list the last couple of visits - and finally finish up the 'A' list things that we didn't have time for. The National Cathedral, Mt. Vernon, Biking the Potomac tow path, The Holocaust Museum, and perhaps even some of the rest of the small art collections that dot the city are on the list. Perhaps even the Eastern Market and the National Zoo for the simple enjoyment of a morning or afternoon. We are staying the same place we have before, and we are pretty well acquainted with the transportation system - so those normal vacationing in a city adventures will be less noted.

Cheers! ~M.E.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


I wonder how we live at all in our nasty, germ-filled world. How is it that the nasties that constantly live around us looking for the least break in our defenses to climb into our warm, nutritious bodies and set up their own shop don't just take over? I do understand - at least in layman's terms - the functions and working of my own immune system, but it is all still a mystery to me.

Hannah is susceptible to the staphylococcus bacteria. Her immune system, which works overtime attacking things like cat dander, molds, and mildew spores is asleep in the watch tower when it comes to staph. Little breaks in her skin will randomly become raging infections over night. This morning it is one on her face - the worst place for your average teen. Three weeks ago, it came up in razer rash on her leg. We have the whole drill down about avoiding the bugs. It doesn't seem to have much of an effect recently. This is the third one in less than two months.

So, here I sit, waiting for 9am, so I can call the doctor. Will it be just another phoned-in prescription this time? Will they make us go see the prompt care doc? Will we actually get to see our own family doctor ?(who has become as busy as a one-armed wallpaper hanger since managed care took over, and his partner retired...) Only time will tell.


Friday, July 10, 2009

My historical love affair with Cedar Point.

Cedar point was the go-to amusement park from where I grew up in Michigan. It was feasible to get up and leave at about 5AM, be at the park when it opened, shut the place down at 9 or 10, and arrive back home at 3AM the next morning. It was the trip than made the summer in my teen aged years. although I have many vivid memories, they tend to blur into one another somewhat.
My first trip to Cedar Point was as a 10 or 11 year old. I was invited to go with a friend of mine - with her mother and grandmother. These weren't your cool mom and grandma, either. They were the house dress-and-sensible shoes wearing pentecostal lady types. I spent the entire day trying not to fly apart from excitement, while being expected to placidly walk along holding the hand of my assigned adult. I remember the best times were when they would take a break to sit in the shade, and my friend and I were allowed to ride the same one or two kiddie rides over and over until they were ready to move on. Back then the park still had a 'Fun House' that you would walk through - silly mirrored rooms, tilted rooms, glow-in-the dark rooms and such. My friend and I gave vent to our ten year old selves by running - howling and cackling all the way - through it several times while mom and grandma sat up our lunch of bologna sandwiches on a nearby picnic table. You could still bring your own food into the park then, I suppose. Those picnic tables are all gone now, and the price of food in the park makes gluttons diet.

My favorite trips as a kid were the trips in Jr. High that the kids in the concert band and select choir got to take. One Saturday in early June we were all delivered to buses at school and sent off with little adult supervision for the day. We'd get booted out with a stern warning to behave at park opening, and told to be back at the bus at 6PM sharp. In 1976, the year it opened, we waited 90 minutes to ride the Corkscrew. It scared us so badly with it's helical turns over the sidewalks where people were standing that we got right back in line to do it again. I think it must have been that ride where they first built the back-and-forth wait line mazes. The line we waited in was all along the midway, and policed by several uniformed officers to keep line-hoppers at bay. The next year the mazes behind the ride had been built. One of those years I inadvertently started some drama by purchasing a visor for a good friend of mine, Jeff, that had his name on it. I wore it throughout the day, starting a roomer that we were a 'thing' and was dismayed that when I gave it to him at school he had already heard the roomer, and hardly spoke to me for weeks. Then one day he wore it to school, and we were friends again. Funny how memories work, isn't it?
Each year when we returned, there was something new in those days. In 1978 it was the Gemini - a record breaking racing coaster, Then in 1980 it was a batch of new spin-and-pukes. Sometimes we went with families - I remember sleeping on the ground under the open wing of a pop-up camper, but can't remember for the life of me who was on the trip - and sometimes it was a batch of friends and whomever could beg the largest car off their parents for the trip. I know some of my fellow travelers from that era read this blog occasionally - you can add your own memories in the comments. The last of these trips was made in 1983, early the summer Harry and I were married. Back then the park only had 5 or 6 coasters, but riding the roller-coasters was still the Big Thing to do at Cedar Point.
The next time I saw the park was the summer of 2001. We had returned to the mid-west a few years previous, and although the intervening years had seen us riding the coasters at other parks, we had not made the now nine hour trip to Cedar Point again. By then the park had 12 major coasters, and was recognised at the Coaster Mecca of the US. Meredith was 15 and in the midst of her first crush, and so we hauled Dan along with us. The Harry, Marci, and Garrett part of the crew was the same as this last week. On that trip we had our first rides on Millennium Force, Magnum XL-200, Raptor, Iron Dragon, Mantis, and the Mean Streak. It was total coaster paradise, and we stayed two days. Garrett suffered from his now-famous coaster headaches, and Meredith had to rest in the afternoons. We found that having a room at the park was the best and most civilized way to experience this phenomenon. Swimming and napping from 2pm to 4pm was heavenly and made the early mornings and late nights easier on 40 year old bones.
In 2004 we returned again, but sadly, Garrett couldn't make the trip and we missed him severely. Nathan, who was a fixture in our lives then went with us, and if he ever needs a roller-coaster reference letter He'll have one with my name on it. He rides coasters with the true spirit of a fanatic. Hannah, on the other hand, was a sore disappointment as a 10 year old. I'll just say that she finally grew out of her reluctance, but spent plenty of time waiting at the exits back then. We had our first shots at Wicked Twister and Top Thrill Dragster that year.
That brings us up to the trip from whence we have just returned, and you have read about that in the other entries.

Now, find a place on your own calendar, and go to Cedar Point. ~M.E.

Coasters 2b.

This is the Blue Streak. I always thought that the local High School named their teams after the coaster, but found out while reading to write this that it was the other way around. The Blue Streak turns 45 in 2009. This is the coaster that started it all for me. A facebook friend from High School reminded me yesterday of one fateful ride where our lap bar didn't catch correctly and we thought we would fly out of the seat and die. This is still rated #48 on the great coasters in the world list because excellent engineering mean that Blue Streak has a huge amount of air time on its 9 hopper hills. Like an excellent aged burgundy, it is the true classic in the park.

Sorry for the tiny picture of the Magnum 200-XL. I didn't take a good one myself and had to snipe one off the web. The Magnum was built in 1989 - just shy of 15 years after steal coasters became de riguer. The designers of this coaster decided to go back to the old-school out-and-back hopper design, and prove that stealies were in it to win it, and could do a wood coaster design better than any ol' tree. In it's first year, it literally blew every former coaster mark to become the first dubbed 'hyper' coaster in the world. It was the first one to top 200 ft, and is considered the coaster that started the 'highest, fastest' record wars. about 2 million people ride it every year, and have since it opened. It's pretzel turn-around simply rocks, and if it weren't at Cedar Point it would be still be a super-star (still rated #7 in the world in 2008 by Golden Ticket voters..) it's a great re-rider because of short lines - everyone is already in line at Dragster, Maverick, and Millennium Force.

Last post tomorrow. ~M.E.

The Roller Coaster Report pt 2

Cedar Point has 17 roller coasters, and about 25 other 'thrill' rides. A person might go to Six Flags to see the shows, or Disney to hang around with the costumed charactors, but at Cedar Point if you aren't riding, you are the poor schlep sitting at the exit gate holding everyone elses crap. It's been voted the best ride park for 11 years in a row.
The Gemini is a roller coaster to ride for the sentimental value - if you are a hardened 'coaster addict. The racing coasters were built 1978, and were at that time the tallest and fastest in the world. It has two parallel tracks and two trains are sent out at a time to 'race' to the finish. The left track always wins. It is a good, old-fashioned bone jarring wooden coaster from the era just before the stealies took over. It still has it's claustrophobic 1 person wide queue fences - from the time before the psychologists found out that while waiting in line people are happier standing two wide. Rode it just once for the nostalgia.
Pictured here is the Gemini in front - and the Top Thrill Dragster (That yellow tower w/ crosspieces) The Dragster was built at a stunning price in 2003 to right a wrong. Back in 2000, the Millennium Force was built as the fastest, highest coaster on the planet - and not long after some upstart park in Japan built a coaster something like the Dragster, and stole the records. Cedar Point built the dragster to temporarily get those records back. The stupid thing is that "fastest, highest' is all it does. Period. The Dragster uses a hydraulic launch system something like is used to shoot planes off from an aircraft carrier, then it shoots the riders straight up 400ft. The trains go over the top of that loop, shoot back down (with one wicked full twist) and then back you go to the station for unloading - for a total of about 25 seconds. It's a ride to say you have done, and it is very cool, don't get me wrong - but not one that your average connoisseur would willingly wait an hour for more than once a park visit. I managed to ride it twice in our two day trip. One with Garrett, and once with the girls.

Part 2 B next since blogger ate the two other pix in this post. ~M.E.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Roller Coaster Report Pt.1

It's no real secret that I've been a roller coaster fan since I rode the Blue Streak as an impressionable 12 year old and it scared the crap totally out of me. I certainly don't get to ride them as much as I wish, but we certainly did it up well this last week. We spent two and a half days at Cedar Point in Sanduskey, Ohio. It is where you find the largest concentration of great 'coasters on Planet Earth. Some other place in the universe might have more great ones, but no place you and I can travel. Pictured are Garrett, Nicole, Me, Harry, and Hannah - The C.P. crew 2009.

This is the first hill on The Mellennium Force. This bad boy is so big, high and fast that they made up a new name - gigacoaster - and plunked it in a class of it's own. It broke almost all Roller Coaster records when it opened in 2000. That hill is 310' tall, the drop is 93 MPH at an 80* angle. It's totally smooth, has three rolling curves (overbanked turns that turn you almost but not quite upside down.), two tunnels, and three air hills. The cars rock, since you are only strapped in from the waist down, and there is no sightline restrictions, and total freedom of upper-body movement. 2minutes and 20 seconds of total, hands up, yelling all the way, awsomeness. It's still my very favorite ever. Rode it 6 times.

This is the Maverick. It's the new kid on the block, and since it knew it couldn't out speed, or out hight the Mellennium Force, it's claim to fame is it's double-linear moter launching systems, and the first drop of more than 90* - Yup, for a split second, that track actually curves under. This one flips and banks like a fighter jet, and adds extra breaks and accellerations just when you don't expect them. The thing about this 'coaster is that it never slows down. The 60MPH you reach flying over the first hill is maintained throughout the first half of the ride, then the second launch - at about 70 mph - lasts for the second half of the heart-pounding 2 minutes 3o seconds. This experienced rider learned to hold on tight to the bars near my neck throughout the whole ride. I think we managed 5 trips on this one.

More later ~M.E.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Favorites from The Art Institute of Chicago

Although I didn't get to take my own photographs, as I had intended on this trip, I thought I'd show you a few of the reasons I love returning and returning to the Art Institute of Chicago. To start the tour:

My longest readers have seem this painting before. This is The Enchanted Mill by Franz Marc. I love his color pallet, I love his figures, I love the juxtapositions of movement and stillness. I love this painting. Next:

St George killing the Dragon by Bernardo Martorell. This work is nostalgic more than anything. The second time I took Hannah to the museum she spent the first couple of hours just - looking for something. Finally she stops in front of this painting and lets out a rather explosive breath. "There it is!" she exclaims. "I've been looking for The Dragon all day!" She didn't remember enough about the painting to be able to ask about it, but the image had stuck with her. Now, every visit MUST include a visit with St. George and the Dragon.

The Cloisters, San Lorenzo Fuori le Mura by C.W. Eckersburg. This painting always sneaks up on me. I forget about it until suddenly come face-to-face with it in the gallery. It is pretty small, really only about 23x31, so it's hidden in a corner by a doorway. I love it because it reminds me of the cloisters at San Markos I visited in Italy, except these cloisters are inhabited correctly by the contemplative monks whereas san Markos was peopled by frowzy, dehydrated, overwhelmed tourists - including myself. I love the shading in the crossed over ceilings here, and the sunlight pouring in from the right that up lights the rest of the scene. Mostly I love the peace - the sense of firmness, timelessness, and grace that inhabits the entire work.

Mme. de Pastorette and her son by Jacques Louis David ( remember to pronounce it daVEED even when you read it to yourself, thank you!) I like this one because it has a great story, and it is the only David portrait I get to see on a regular basis. David's Mme. Julie Recamier is my absolute favorite, but she is in the Louvre. Mme. de Pastorette is unfinished because her husband starting talking politics with the painter and found out they were on different sides of the french revolution, so the sittings were discontinued. The baby in the crib grew up and eventually purchased the unfinished work from the artist.

It really is a world-class collection that everyone ought to look at - at least once. They even have audio guides for those who aren't sure how to look at this stuff by yourself.

Cheers! ~M.E.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

a few pix before the camera died.

This is a view from the second floor balcony across the atrim of the new Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago.

One of the spacious remodeled galleries where the Impressionists and Post-Impressionist collections are displayed. (these galleries used to contain the 20th century collection)

La Grand Jatte with a few admirers in it's new setting. The wall was painted to compliment the work. The only thing I miss is that there is no bench in front of the work anymore - so you can't sit and have a visit.

Extra Points for anyone who can correctly identify any of the works seen in the second photo, or the one on the periphery of the last photograph. ~M.E.

A Trip to AIC Pt. 1

I road tripped to Chicago yesterday to ease my museum deficiency. A good pal and I spent the day at the Art Institute of Chicago. It was the first time I had been there since they opened the new Modern Wing, and had finished remodeling all of the galleries on the second floor - where the European painting galleries are kept. The museum has been under construction since about 2005, but they seem to have finished for now. It was good to see Gustave Caillebotte's 'Paris, Rainy Day 1877' in its accustomed place, along with most of the Impressionist paintings that adorn that first gallery, but after that, everything changes and the Impressionism collection is hung in new galleries leading the visitor along a path that leads to the new wing, where their 20th century holdings are shown.

"A Sunday on la Grand Jatte - 1884" by George Seurat, the second Major Player in the collection, has acquired a very visible new space, where it can be viewed from as far away as about 50 feet back - but you can still approach and stick your nose a few inches from the surface. It is now shown together with the preparatory paintings, and the one other small work they have by Serat, in the same space ( they were separated before), along with a couple of other pointillism paintings by other artists. It makes it very easy to compare the works now. Good Job, AIC curators!

The brand spankin' new modern wing doesn't pretend for a second to 'fit' with the architecture of the old buildings: It's new, and not ashamed to let everyone know. It houses everything less than 100 years old, it seems. I had a hard time finding the European paintings from 1900ish -1950ish - but after a short chat with a smiling lady at one of the many information desks, they were located in the galleries on the very top floor of the new addition, all by their lonesome.

Just inside the door I gleefully showed my traveling companion one of my favorite reasons why I tell people that reproductions - no matter how lovely- too often don't tell the whole story. Pablo Picasso's "The Old Guitarist" is from his blue period, and was painted on a rather obviously reused canvas. In the original, the ghostly face of a portrait of a lady can be seen behind the figure, her eyes showing in the texture just above the bent neck of the old man if you can get the right angle to look at the texture of the paint. Once those are located, it is pretty easy to trace the oval of her head, and the sloping shoulders before the Old Man takes over the bottom of the canvas and she is lost beneath the paint again. Our stooping and pointing antics, OK, MY stooping and pointing, drew a bit of a crowd, and several other people were able to spot the ghostly lady before I quickly moved on with my laughing friend. I have never seen a reproduction where she is evident - maybe a little bit on the Museum's own hi-def I'm looking at right now - It is an 'easter egg' saved just for the astute viewer of the original painting, and far from the only example in the art world of this sort of thing.

To be continued... ~M.E.