Living and Loving with Annotations


Nothing sets a man's heart aflame quite like some glorious footnotes. First you're reading something and learning stuff, and then you see a number and you go to the bottom of the page and you learn more stuff, and sometimes the footnote takes you to another book, which has more stuff, and maybe more footnotes, […]

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Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité

Fireworks around Le Tour Eiffel on Bastille Day 2011

Tuesday, July 14 is Bastille Day. Why does Bastille Day invoke so much pride and what is the meaning? The Bastille was a well-known prison in Paris built in the late 14th century. During the reign of King Louis XVI—and throughout the reigns of previous Louis—it was used to hold political prisoners, often arrested by […]

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L.A.’s Killing Streets

Police Line 1

In the eyes of John Skaggs, a homicide detective for the Los Angeles Police Department, once a person becomes a murder victim, they are no longer a gang member or a prostitute or whatever else bad they may have had in their past, they are somebody's child, and they deserve justice. I would say that […]

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Always Judge a Book by Its Title

Judge Books By Their Titles

It is, without doubt, juvenile and superficial to judge a book by something so insubstantial as a title. That's why I love to do it, and sometimes my poor judgment has led me to a worthwhile read. The classic example is Steal This Book, Abbie Hoffman's 1971 guide to living like a cheap, thieving hippie. I'm surprised […]

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Not So Pretty Pictures

Not So Pretty Pictures

I love me some gritty pictures. A few years back, when everyone discovered Vivian Maier's photographs of day-to-day life in Chicago, I couldn't get enough of them, but it doesn't stop with her. There's a lot of dirt in the world and plenty of photographers to capture it. Gangsters & Grifters is a series of gloriously reproduced newspaper pictures displaying the awful things […]

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Making Movies Is Hard

How to Make a Movie

Movies are fun. They have to be. They want your money. Making one, on the other hand, can be quite more difficult. That's why it's so entertaining to find out how a crowd of unrelated people pile together to set up pretty pictures on a screen. Pure Imagination is a genial retelling of the making of Willy Wonka and the […]

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Bright Lights, Big City, Great Books

Source: sfgamchick, Flickr

Neon signs—they put the bright lights in our big city. Garish and brassy, they beckon with color and light and martinis and stars. Subtle they are not. But still, I love them. Back in March, though, Preservation Chicago named neon signs one of the most endangered “architectural treasures” in Chicago. Since May is Preservation Month, it’s […]

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Sad, Sad, Sad, Sad Funny People

Sad Sad Sad Sad Funny People

If comedy has taught me anything, it's that trauma is hilarious. I have laughed much too often at the horrible things comedians do to themselves. When I read about their lives, they do their best to put a funny spin on awful things, and I just can't put the books down. Artie Lange made his name on […]

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What To Read After Missoula

Take Back The Night

Jon Krakauer is a master of writing about people in extreme situations, whether they go out into the wilderness in Into the Wild or follow Mormon fundamentalism in Under the Banner of Heaven, so it makes sense that he writes about sexual assault in a college town crazy for football. Missoula is home to the University of Montana Grizzlies, a […]

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Poor Memories

Famous People Lie

People, as a rule, are generally awful, and when people start worrying about their reputations, they instinctively stretch the truth to make their lives more appealing than they actually are. So it's fun to read books about famous people talking about themselves. When you worry what you'll look like in the light of day, reality starts to bend. […]

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