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What We're Loving: Forgotten Presidential Impressions, Culture, Numbers, Dutch Angles

Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week David Allison dusts off an unappreciated gem, Jonda Robinson lets pictures doing the talking, Amanda Hahn crunches numbers, and Ryan Callahan laughs inappropriately.  tumblr_inline_mh1n65gYIj1r8uzczIt’s very common for performers to become under appreciated as time marches on. Icons to the people that lived through their reign only to be forgotten (Or even worse, remembered for a stupid project that they simply did for the money) by the rest. One of the best examples of this sort of figure is Chris Elliott. Most comedians have heard the name and could probably pick his face out of a lineup, but in no way does he get the credit he deserves. Some of the best examples of his work would be Get a Life, Eaglehart, and his guest spots on Letterman. But there’s a sad chance that you don’t have a spare week of your life to watch all of that, so I’m going to recommend that you check out one of his strangest projects that just happens to be my favorite. This week, I’m loving Chris Elliot’s FDR: A One Man Show.

If one was to turn on FDR: A One Man Show expecting to see a pitch perfect impression of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, they would be sorely disappointed. But you’ll quickly agree that it’s much better that Chris Elliott’s FDR wields a lasso and can’t remember his lines. If that isn’t enough, Marv Albert plays the part of the announcer, consistently providing updates on the big high school basketball game happening simultaneously. Oh, and Eleanor is a trombone. Please check out this video so that you can start to appreciate this man. ADORE HIM. - David Allison

Chicago_Art_InstituteYesterday I had the chance to explore the Art Institute of Chicago. Now, I don’t know a ton about art, but one of the beautiful things about it is that you don’t have to have a thorough knowledge of it, or the ability to create it, to enjoy and appreciate it.

There were many pieces that I was excited to see up close and in person: Georges Sauret’s A Sunday on La Grande Jatte--1884, Gustave Caillebotte’s Paris Street; Rainy Day, and one that has always interested me, Grant Wood’s American Gothic. It was the visiting exhibit, Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926-1938, that really captivated me, though. I entered it not really knowing what to expect, other than that he was the guy who did the interesting self-portrait that features him in a suit and a bowler hat with a green apple obstructing his face. I learned, though, that he’s a Belgian surrealist artist who has a style that is all his own. It’s vivid, it’s sharp, it’s grotesque, it’s shocking, and some of the pieces make you want to look away instantly, but you can’t because you also feel a need to see them more clearly.

Because a picture (or a painting, in this case) is worth a thousand words, here are some of my favorite paintings of Magritte’s that I had the pleasure of experiencing. I’ll let them speak for themselves.

I know Magritte’s style is not for everyone, but for me, his works are incredibly intriguing because they take the reality that we are used to and alter it so that it becomes unknown and engaging to us. If you find yourself with a free afternoon to fill sometime, I highly recommend visiting an art museum near you. You just might run across something that speaks to and inspires you. - Jonda Robinson

550_information_is_beautiful_2nd_edition_UKIt's no surprise I’m a nerd, by now right? One of my favorite things to do is analyze data. One of my second favorite things is to absorb data. If you have data, I want to know about it. I’m also a firm believer that the better you’re able to explain something very complicated in a very simple way, the more you probably understand it and the more I will trust that you're correct. I also like pretty things.

All of this comes together with Information is Beautiful. Writer/designer David McCandless loves data too. And he too likes pretty things. So he made this website. There are a lot of websites out there that show data on pretty graphics and call it science, but it’s tricky to take them seriously because you don’t know where the data came from or if they’re interpreting things correctly. What I like what Information is Beautiful, is that the data, or at least where it came from, is available for you to see for yourself! (I’ve never taken the time to do this, but it’s nice to know that I could). Now, you wouldn’t be able to make any scientific claims from any of this, but it’s still fun to quickly learn a little bit about your world.

I’ve already learned so much! As a former obsessive calorie counter, one of my favorites is this caffeinated drink to food calorie comparison. Vizualizations are the best. I now know without having to even read much that a Frappucino has as many calories as an order of French fries! Neat!

Or you can see when people break up the most according to Facebook. Guard your heart right before Christmas and Spring Break, guys.

Or save your life by checking out your odds of dying in a plane crash. Another fun fact I learned from this chart is that I have a .000003% chance of dying while blogging right now. Consider me a daredevil.

Have fun learning a little something, kids. But of course, make up your own mind about how you interpret anything. - Amanda Hahn

jpegI'm in the middle of Herman Koch latest book, Summer House With Swimming Pool. Koch's previous book,  The Dinner, was one of my favorite books of last year. When I first read The Dinner, I knew it only as a wildly popular, controversial book, an international best seller describe as "a European Gone Girl." No one said it was funny. I found it hilariously funny, consistently entertaining - it was a book that I wish I had written.

Perhaps it is a coping mechanism, but I tend to find the most horrible things - death, people set on fire, genocide - when delivered in a deadpan, straightforward way, hilarious. On stage my choices run to darkness. Rare is the sketch I pitch that doesn't end with death or murder or wildly inappropriate sexual congress. Reading The Dinner was like connecting with a long lost uncle, a family member cut from the same DNA. The book was a revelation.

Summer House With Swimming Pool has many similarities with The Dinner: the structure, mounting mystery heightened by madness; the tone, wicked, gleeful misanthropy; the prose, short sentences that provide for easy reading. The Dinner told the story of a former professor, his politician brother, and a potential  scandal involving their children. It dealt with the dynamics of interpersonal power and the inherent darkness inside all of us. Summer House With Swimming Pool tells the story of a doctor to the quasi-stars who may have been responsible for the death of a famous stage actor. It deals with the dynamics of interpersonal power and the unavoidable decay of the human body. I realize, in writing those words, that I am not describing what sounds like a particularly amusing book. All I can say is this: Comedy is subjective. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have more terrible things to laugh at. - Ryan Callahan

 

 

What We're Loving: Mertz Jigs, Trash-Talking Puppets, Incidental Comedy, Book Shelf Documentation

Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week Ashley Bright needs your help, Julia Cotton sets the hoop on fire, Tim Brewer leaves his preconceptions behind, and Ryan Callahan corrects a false assumption.  i-love-lucy-logoMy entry this week is a bit of a selfish plea for help, but I'll get to that the end. Because they say the end is typically the best place to put a call to action. And by they, I mean high school English teachers.

Years ago, I was with a really good friend of mine in a hotel room. I don't recall the context or location and that's unimportant. What is important is that we were watching I Love Lucy.

I am a huge fan of I Love Lucy. I grew up watching it on Nick at Night and I'd watch it early in the morning before I went to school. I even enjoyed the Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour, when the whole gang moved out to Connecticut. Of course, I was a huge fan of Lucy herself. But I am and was a huge Fred Mertz fan. I loved Fred's sass. I loved his switch between childlike giddiness to old man grump. And let's not forget that William Frawley had the voice of an angel.

Let's jump back to the night in the hotel room. I cannot for the life of me remember the episode that was playing. But Fred had a hat. He tipped his hat and did a jig. It was one of the best jigs I've ever witnessed. That 15 or so second scene has replayed repeatedly in my mind since that night.

But I haven't been able to re-watch it because I do not know what episode it's on. I suppose the diligent thing for me to do is to watch every single episode in order. Maybe I will do that.

But for now, I'm putting out a call to action: if you are ever watching I Love Lucy and Fred Mertz is standing near a fireplace, tips a bowler hat, and does a very funny jig, please note the episode and immediately let me know. Thank you. - Ashley Bright

timthumbSo, the Spurs won the NBA Championship this year...and I don’t care. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever been more indifferent about an NBA season than this year. Perhaps this is just another sign of me getting old. I remember when I first fell in love with the NBA, though. It was around the time I fell in love with real boys (by “real” boys, I mean my older brother’s friends) who loved basketball. That time was the mid 90s. That was the best era of the NBA for me for many reasons: Hip hop became super influential (all the way down to the uniforms); My home town Rockets got to win a couple of championships while Jordan played baseball; NBA Jam allowed you to break the glass goals, set the nets on fire, and put Robert Horry and The Fresh Prince on the same team; Jordan made a triumphant return leading the Bulls to three-peat championships...and also Space Jam.

One of the best products of the NBA in the mid 90s, though...was Lil’ Penny.

Lil Penny was Anfernee ‘Penny’ Hardaway’s loud mouthed, wise cracking puppet side-kick voiced by one of the greatest stand ups during the mid 90s, Chris Rock fresh off of the success of his Bring the Pain HBO special .

Watching the YouTube replays of these commercials made me remember when I cared about the NBA and would actually tune in every season. I’ve only been disappointed by it more and more each year. Turned out “real” boys were still just boys. My kids play video games that are way more complicated and less fun than NBA Jam. Basketball goals aren’t even made of glass anymore. Will Smith makes movies like After Earth. And, NBA players try to manufacture three-peats by negotiating trades to get themselves on teams with other high profile players. It’s cool, though. It has left room for me to be more and more excited by comedy each year. While the Spurs were blowing out the Miami Heat in the finals this year, Chris Rock announced his next comedy tour, Black Plague, will begin later this fall. - Julia Cotton

Screen-Shot-2014-05-01-at-12.36.22-PMI am obsessed with ridiculous, offensive rap. I am also a comedy geek. That being the case, I cannot stop listening to Riff Raff’s debut album, Neon Icon. Riff Raff can be very confusing for many people - Is he a rapper? Certainly. Is he a comedian? Perhaps incidentally so. Regardless, with Riff Raff, it’s best to leave your preconceived notions aside.

If this article is your introduction to Riff Raff, AKA Jody High Roller, AKA Rap Game James Franco, you are either one of those fancy “adult” types, or have a particular aversion to Youtube. I highly suggest cutting your teeth on my favorite song of his - “Bird On a Wire” featuring another "underground" favorite, Action Bronson.

Riff Raff grew to fame circa 2007 starring on shows such as MTV’s From G’s to Gents, and being associated with Andy Milonakis and Aziz Ansari. These days, however, Riff Raff is probably most famous for being the most enigmatic, polarizing figure in music. Everything about him has the ability to make people turn away in disgust or become entranced and fascinated. His hair is often in corn rows (he’s white), his facial hair is almost always cut in the tackiest pattern imaginable, his voice makes most cringe upon an initial listen and he has an affinity for enormous Flava-Flav style chains that feature everything from a jewel encrusted Slimer from Ghostbusters to Tony the Tiger. His track titles only compound the confusion, divisiveness, and hilarity (see: “Versace Python”, “Kokayne”). Even his real, legal name, Horst Christian Simco, is unbelievable.

Riff Raff is often dismissed by most people as a joke, and has been accused of parodying rap culture as a whole. But what I love about him, is that even if he is a parody, he’s so unapologetically so. From a comedic perspective, what makes him great is that even if you wanted to make fun of him, you’d have to outdo him in ridiculousness, which is simply not something that can be done. A lot of people say they “can’t tell if he’s serious or not”, but fans of Riff Raff know that it’s exactly his blurring of so many lines which makes him magnetic. It’s best to appreciate Riff Raff in a state of suspended disbelief and just bob your head and laugh. - Tim Brewer

20121118-095356Do you ever have something in your life, something that you make part of your daily routine, something that is so ingrained in your life that you assume it is familiar to everyone else and you don’t have to bother talking about it because doing so would be redundant, akin to talking about how the day is brighter than the night or how we’re always breathing oxygen? For me, Biblioklept.org is that kind of thing. I assume everyone knows about it. It only occurred to me today that you might not.

Biblioklept is an art and literature blog created and curated by Edwin Turner. The site features curated short stories, poems, pieces of art, daily pictures or paintings of people reading, videos (sometimes whole movies), as well as original, non-fiction pieces. The curated work, most of which is new to me, offers endless inspiration throughout the day. A visit to Biblioklept and a scroll down the page feels like a visit to a quirky museum that I have all to myself. The original pieces appeal to the book lover in me. The “Books Acquired” feature, in which Turner writes about his recent purchases, always features some cool new book that I’ve never heard of but now need. His “Riffs,” basically stream of consciousness reviews of books, usually written as he’s working his way through them, offer idiosyncratic and personal takes on well-known and obscure literature. My favorite recurring feature of all was Turners fifty-three part book shelf series, which featured photographs off all the book shelf sections in his home, each accompanied by a short essay.

If you’re a fan of books, or words, or ideas, or art, you’ll probably find something on Biblioklept to enjoy. If you’re like me (and I pretty much assume you all are), you’ll find yourself visiting the site three or four times a day, dipping in whenever you need a break from all the noise and junk on the internet. - Ryan Callahan