July 28, 2014

Modus Operandi

Samuel Johnson portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds (Wikipedia)

In his book Human Accomplishment social scientist Charles Murray makes the case that the two greatest periods of advancement in the Arts and Sciences occurred during Ancient Rome and, to use his term, "Dr. Johnson's London".  Samuel Johnson presided over London intellectual life from the late 1740s until his death in 1784.  He often met with the learned ladies in drawing rooms both with and without other men in attendance.  For the men, Johnson and the famed portrait painter, and first president of the Royal Academy of Art, Sir Joshua Reynolds formed The Club which met initially in a tavern called The Turks Head Inn. Club members included the political philosophers Edmund Burke and Charles Fox, economist Adam Smith, dramatist Oliver Goldsmith, Corsican patriot Pasqual Paoli, and of course his celebrated biographer James Boswell just to name a few.
Dr Johnson with some club members at Sir Joshua Reynolds home. (Wikipedia)

The Club met once a week and members were permitted to bring a guest.  They discussed important matters of the day along with anything else that struck their fancy over beefsteak and brandy.  I can't help but think this cross pollination amongst men of high intellect but in different fields enhanced their creative output in their chosen discipline.

"There is nothing that has been contrived by man, by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern or Inn."
~Samuel Johnson

The just rebuilt and reopened Red Lion Pub in Chicago's Lincoln Park.
photo DNAinfoChicago

Only a couple of weeks ago, The Red Lion Pub (TRLP) reopened after having been closed for 6 long years. I have been a regular since I moved to Chicago in 1988. The old building had fallen into severe disrepair and had to be torn down and rebuilt while lawsuits and other complications were dealt with.  I should quickly add that I have no financial relationship or official involvement of any kind with TRLP, I wish to see it prosper the way it once did but with a more active spirit of Dr. Johnson's Club in mind only now also with women of keen intellect in conspicuous attendance. The Lion's Den blog will highlight cultural events, institutions, and people who make great things happen in Chicago.  We will encourage them to stop in at TRLP for refreshment and lively conversation in an atmosphere they will find welcoming and supportive.


July 22, 2014

Acknowledgements (Part III of III)

The Muse

The Muse, out on the heath

My final acknowledgement will simply be referred to as The Muse.  Her official designation in The Den is Mascot of the Muses to represent the many Muses that have come before her and to my mind have gone largely under-appreciated.  The Lion's Den will be on a crusade to elevate the Muse to her rightful place as a driving force behind great works of Art.  As an ambitious man who wishes his Muse to receive her just due, it will be highly motivating to produce something of high artistic merit so I and others can toast my Muse for showing the way.  Muses either by their own design or by some other mystical force nudge artists thru their often disordered life towards the beauty they can see, hear, and feel but can't quite get to without help.

The Muse departing hotel lobby to hunt wild boar in Sardinia

The Muse first came to my attention when I spotted her witty comments on another blog and that combined with her intriguing name and eye-catching avatar provoked more research.  As I combed thru the archives of her blog, I knew I'd discovered a fascinating personality with a sharp wit, a similar sensibility, and we were also the same age.  From then on, I eagerly awaited each new post to see what was on my dear Muse's mind.  Then one day nearly 2 years ago it happened. A hot off the press post had a pic of the young and precocious  Muse around age 6 that showed all the spirit and personality I had come to know distilled in a little girl.  It just so happened, I was in the process of developing a children's book series based on my boyhood adventures around the time I was 6 years old.  The timing couldn't have been better as I was trying to fight off the black dog and miraculously something appeared to give my little project renewed hope and purpose.  While I had about 8 storylines to begin the series with, my motivation was now fueled by getting the project to a 2nd phase that will include a girl based on The Muse at age 6.  I even had hopes of one day enlisting The Muse to have some kind of collaborative or artistic advisor role.  With the discovery of that young girl and everything it helped ignite, my children's book series had new life and now I had a way of thanking my dear Muse for being the special person who facilitated all this good fortune.

I always work backwards from a vision.  To pay homage to The Muse, I wished to directly connect her to the most beautiful sights and sounds imaginable.  I'll bet more than a few of you would agree that the most beautiful sound in the world is of a child laughing and that there is no more beautiful sight than the look on a mother's face when she hears her child laughing.  My vision was that one day The Muse was going to be walking through a park, airport, or lobby and overhear peals of laughter from a little 6 year old girl as she and her Mum read aloud and share a children's book that stars a character based on The Muse that she helped write about an amusing incident from her childhood.  I envisioned The Muse furtively slinking closer to see that mother's face as she hears her daughter giggling.


July 18, 2014

Acknowledgements (Part II of III)

The Beacons of Budapest

Jane Hattatt in Budapest Drawing Room

Lance Hattatt in Budapest Drawing Room

Hattattian (rhymes with Alsatian)
1. adj. to subtly elevate and enlighten
2. Hattattian Clause: in grammar, a clause in the middle of a sentence, framed by commas, that is traditionally referred to in the Style Manuals as "Non-Essential".  A Hattattian Clause is non-essential in the formal structure of a sentence but in Hattattian dialog it is essential to allow a reader/listener a moment to steady themselves in order to receive the rhetorical delicacy about to pass over them like a warm breeze.
It wasn't so long ago that I discovered The Hattatts while making the rounds at my usual blog haunts. Jane and Lance aka "Darlings Jane and Lance" had been out of circulation for a while (as regards to the blogosphere) and suddenly reemerged and their rapier wit quickly caught my eye and could gather by their always warm receptions that they were a pair to be looked into.  I ventured over to their delightful blog HATTATT to see what all the fuss was about, pored through the archives, and felt like I'd found something, and two someones, quite special.  More research only confirmed first impressions.
I felt a very deep connection to them as kindred spirits because they were already doing the things I wanted to one day undertake.  They lived quite well at their elegant lodgings in Budapest and Brighton, traveled to exotic locales always rendezvousing with dynamic and interesting people but what I most liked about them went much further than that and didn't require great wealth although they did seem to be rather well-to-do.  But I've known lots of people with ample resources, lots of fancy material possessions, and personal charm who didn't live nearly as beautifully as they did.  While I certainly became fascinated with their circle of friends and young artists they were introducing to the world, what impressed me most was how well they shared their experiences which in my case was in their wonderful blog HATTATT.
A post at HATTATT isn't like a post anywhere else.  I like to think of it as an elegant chamber piece where the reader is often introduced usually to some combination of interesting artist, destination, and cultural institution.  The Hattatts share this experience thru their eyes which, while well traveled and cultivated, still have an infectious enthusiasm.  You can't finish a post without wishing you were also there...with Jane and Lance.  One can't but be reminded of how participating in these types of cultural excursions in person enrich the soul.  As good as all of that is, for me what follows is even better as it reveals a glimpse into their character.  They are flooded with so many comments that it exceeds the capacity of the standard comment warehouse; they need a separate link to handle the overflow yet somehow they answer each and every comment always very thoughtfully with a nice personal acknowledgement of the sender while expanding on the point the sender made in a way that can't help but draw that commenter even closer to the topic at hand and their generous hosts.  Every reader is richly rewarded with an introduction and invitation to a new cultural experience and the intimacy of sharing an aspect of that experience with a gracious host.  How many times in your life have you come across people that take the time and effort to do that?...and with people they've never met?
Well it goes even further than that as many of you already know.  They also bring the same generous spirit, inimitable charm, and beautiful writing with them when they go visit their reader's blogs.  On a few occasions I've seen them stop in at a new blogger who had just posted something not especially original, well written, or in any way noteworthy yet they always manage to illuminate an interesting perspective and deftly reflect their keen insight onto the author.  The best part of this exchange is sensing that blogger's exhilaration of (a) having the Hattatts stop by (b) receiving a thoughtful and beautifully expressed gesture of praise (c) and knowing the exhilaration, because of this transaction, will carry over into other 'IRL' aspects of that blogger.  This is what I really mean by Hattattian and what I aspire to.


July 13, 2014


Acknowledgements (Part I of III)

On my first posts I wanted to recognize a few blog chums that have made a special impact on me.

But first, I want to thank the wonderful Jennifer Connolly from A Well Styled Life who was kind and generous enough to lend a helping hand to this lumbering Luddite and get my long overdue blog set up and operational.  She had a lousy client but showed remarkable patience in assisting me.  I am most grateful Jennifer.

BeBe, back in the day, about to head out West.



                                        The Co-Conspirator

BeBe from American Alconleigh

Bebe and I only first connected back in January as she had just begun her blog American Alconleigh and we ran into each other on other blogs and Pinterest.  I was struck by how in sync we were almost immediately. Via email and more recently on twitter we've been having this very modern age "relationship" albeit with my respectful acknowledgment that she's happily married to what my intel reveals to be a fine man who is a devoted husband and father.  Bebe is whipsmart, wickedly funny, and has an ear for dialog as good as anyone I've ever come across.  Furthermore, she has the makings of a great writer which I want to encourage her to pursue more diligently as her two beautiful daughters will soon be off at college and she'll then have more time to develop her great gift.

One Sunday morning a couple of months ago, I read an interesting article by the Chicago Tribune's chief Theatre critic, Chris Jones, who mentioned how well collaborative writing worked for those excellent cable series such as House of Cards, Game of Thrones, Mad Men, et al and a similar collaborative environment could also benefit the Theatre community. I immediately emailed Bebe the article as I just so happened to have a storyline that had been bouncing around in my head for a couple of years that had a male lead a little like me and a female lead that would be very well served  if she bore some resemblance to Bebe.  I started sending her summaries on scenes and she gave very helpful feedback and soon a rough draft for an outline took shape that I am hopeful we will one day soon complete together into a novella or play.  It was the excitement of connecting to a kindred spirit that kept the ball rolling as I always felt she was drawing the best out of me.

That collaboration with Bebe showed this Lone Wolf that we operate much better when we have others with which to hunt, share the spoils, and defend.  Mother Nature has always struck me as the most sensible of women and now I can finally see her logic behind discouraging isolation.


July 09, 2014

Grand Opening: Bastille Day 2014

                             PARDON OUR DUST

I hired her on the spot.

Yes, I know the layout is jacked up but this exercise is to learn how to fix it.