Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Redefining "Cute" as opposed to "Sad"

As the chilly weather falls upon us, I would like to present to you, my readers, a short meditation on the ultra-fine line between that which is "Cute" and that which is "Sad" to keep you going until I have a bit more time to write about the last few weeks. Click on the pictures to make them larger/sharper if you need to.

Just something I was thinking about as I was sitting at my friendly local bakery, looking out the window on a late September day...

Monday, September 21, 2009

Something to Make you Smile on a Rainy Monday

You know, sometimes, when it's rainy and sort of nasty outside, you just have to get your sillies out. I choose to sort of dance/spazz out* in my room, or put on some especially corny music.

This woman, who (for reasons related to the circumstances of this recording) shall remain nameless, felt the urge to do that on stage at a certain very large and well known Chicago event with some large and well known Chicago personalities. I will present to you a cringe-worthy moment in jazz, and I will follow it up with perhaps why it was so cringe-worthy:

Wasn't that awesome?

Ok, so what's happening here?

Basically you have a tribute to a certain well-known songwriter in which the band and the vocalist (the guy who is throwing down on some Ginsberg-style poetry but slamming it) are INTERPRETING his work. The band is playing some really free-form jazz and the vocals are pretty political, BUT (and isn't there always at least one?), this woman, a blues singer, did not get the memo that they were reinterpreting the work. She set out to sing some covers, just re-singing the songs, and her improv skills were actually pretty rotten (I won't give her name, but I'll provide her myspace page to anyone who asks), so she was just singing covers over everything else, which didn't please anyone on stage one bit.

So the vocalist shouted her down in front of a massive crowd of Chicagoans, and she stood there for a few seconds. You could see the gears turning in her mind, trying to figure out what to do next, and she decided that this was probably the best move: To spazz out on the stage--nay--TAKING UP THE ENTIRE STAGE before not-so-gracefully exiting.

Moral of the story: There's always something more stupid that you could do when caught in a difficult position; this was it.

to spazz out- (v) (1) A reaction to something crazy or weird. (2) Another word for "freak out"

Friday, September 18, 2009

Snatching Hostility from the Jaws of Victory?

So I finally got an interview! It's for some kind of clerical position (I won't say the place in order to keep my chances), and it is in THE LOOP, so HUGE DEAL! Finally! Something going my way!

I woke up super early, printed the resume on nice paper, got directions, bought breakfast (scandal, I know! but INTERVIEW), and I got on the train with all the commuters, giggling like I was part of a big club! I was walking down State Street, snapping at ladies in suits going "Hey there! Going to work? Me too!" Well...not really...but in my head I was!

The office is in a big building some of you might actually know, and I took the elevator up to the DOUBLE DIGIT FLOOR (that's right) where a tattooed secretary set me up with some paperwork. After a spelling and some kind of cognition test an overly-made up lady I later was told was on painkillers that day took me into her office for the interview portion of the show. I was prepared for the questions and felt good, but there were a LOT of silences, and then came this:

"Frankly, I don't know WHY I picked up your resume"

Direct quote. She was trying to throw me off my game. So, what do you do with a hostile interviewer? I had an idea...

But, alas, I answered politely, just as I had planned out the afternoon before, and for my part, I handled it well, and the interview crawled to an end. We'll see...she wanted me to meet my would-be boss, which I take as an encouraging sign.

I loped out of the office, back into the city, and I took refuge for a few minutes at my favorite art supply store, where I bought some materials for an upcoming event (I'll write about it soon, I promise) and kicked around THE LOOP for a few more hours before going home, confused and maybe a little rattled. My southern graces might have saved me from that interview becoming even more awkward, so was it a FAIL? Not really...more a SECRET WIN.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Snark Level is Almost too High in This Entry

So no matter how crappy my job search was going, how many times I was rejected (too many, and that's all I'll say) I had that hope that the Foreign Service would pick me up. It kind of was my Plan B, and I KNEW it wasn't likely, but that hope was important, though tiny. It was like "well, I'm getting rejected for these bad jobs, but I might end up with something EVEN BETTER!" And today I present to you my translation of my rejection from the Foreign Service into dating language. I figure, I feel like I'm being dumped, so yeah, here's the blow-by-blow of a personally impersonal rejection of yours truly (their writing is written like this, and my interpretation like this):

Hey, chick
The QEP has completed its review of the files for the Foreign Service Officer candidates who passed the FSOT in June 2009.
I was totally going through my facebook last night to see what chats I'd missed.
A comprehensive review of your file does not allow us to continue your candidacy to the next step of the FS selection process, the Oral Assessment.
And after checking you out, I gotta say, I can't even imagine going out with you...seriously, dude.
Passing the FSOT and having your file reviewed by the QEP is already an achievement, however. Thousands take the test annually, but the number of candidates advanced to the QEP review is much smaller.

At least you got on my friends list...more than I can say for some broads. Applicants may reapply to take the FSOT only after approximately a year has elapsed since they last took the test.
If we run into each other a while, that might be cool, whatever...
The selection process is very competitive and many candidates apply more than once.
...but don't get your hopes up or nothin.

We thank you for your interest in foreign affairs and wish you success in the future.
Nice try though!

Seriously, though, Board of Whatever You Call It, and I'll say it in German so it's slightly less offensive (you'll remember, I listed on my application that I spoke FLUENT GERMAN, but I mean, that didn't seem too important to you)


Y'all acted like a pack of D-bags...

^^^This is y'all^^^

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Guten Tag North Side!

Oh, Chicago, when are you NOT up for a random ethnic holiday parade?

This time on the front burner was...

von Stuben Day!!!!

Who or what was General von Stuben?
Well, if you look at the figure of him in the parade, you'd surmise that he was a brunette 30-something who stood next to some ficus plants on the back of a truck and rolled through Chicago, ushering in the new Drinking Season.

Wikipedia, however, might not agree with me, saying:
Friedrich Wilhelm Ludolf Gerhard Augustin von Steuben
November 15, 1730November 28, 1794) was a Prussian army officer who served as inspector general and Major general of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. He is credited with teaching the Continental Army the essentials of military drill and discipline, helping to guide it to victory. He wrote the Revolutionary War Drill Manual, the book that became the standard United States drill manual until the War of 1812, and served as General George Washington's chief of staff in the final years of the war

What a shock, I know.

New York has a big to-do for it, but I consider the Chicago one more famous, having been featured in Ferris Bueller's Day Off (though they have it about 6 months wrong), and this year I was here during it, so I went. I took copious notes, and here's the Kate Kinda-Live Blog blow-by-blow of the 44th annual von Stuben Day Parade:

-ok, so there's a lot of Bavaria represented in this parade, which makes little sense to me, since the majority of Germans in Chicago would be from sort-of the opposite part of the world; I mean, the biggest organizer of this is the Niedersachsen Club (Lower Saxony)

-apropo the Club, I am sitting next to it, and there are a lot of older people, and they're the only ones I've heard so far speaking German...and it's High German, which also puzzles me, since Lower Saxony has quite the accent.

-There's a lot of public drinking going on even outside of the Schlager music-playing beer tent...I can dig this!

-Parade starts off with the Chicago Police's Emerald Society Bagpipers...I remember them from the Taiwanese parade Philippe and I went to, so I guess you can't do anything without these guys randomly showing up, even if they clash rather intensely with the whole theme

-Lots of choirs of various combination of German men, women, and Kinders. They're all folk-costumed out, and it's actually pretty cute.

-There is a Miss Niedersachsen float...I can't even start to list why that puzzles me. I chatted with her car afterward, and she doesn't even speak High German let alone the regional dialect...and I don't know if her crown is honored over in Niedersachsen itself, and if it were, is there an international governing body for "Miss __________" titles? So many questions.

-Ah, high school marching bands! What would a parade be without you guys and your awesome hats?

-There's a Miss Maifest! I think you guys might remember my Maifest entry as a bit violent and traumatic, involving lots of projectiles and fires in the streets. This girl does NOT represent that particular side of Maifest. She represents the site that no one who really celebrates Maifest gets to see, the one where everyone wears prom dresses and waves mechanically...and speaks English. I wish that's how it looked in Berlin!

-Speaking of Berlin! They have a presence in Chicago, the Berlin Bears, which I choose to see as an adorable tie-in with the Chicago Bears, and please don't tell me any different!

I think the Berlin group best got a folks costume that represented them as a state. See, everyone else just dressed like refugees from Munich, but these guys chose to reflect a town that was basically Petticoat Junction before they got in trouble for violating the Clean Water Act.

these are without a doubt, sophisticated "City Women" from a time when they would be seeing the "Crown Heads of Europe" and whatnot. Major points for creativity, Berlin!

-These guys represent a sort of punk-polka band called the PolkaHolics, not as great as Brave Combo, but they were all elecrtic guitars and battling nobley the "musik" coming from the float of the AM German "Musik" radio station. Hats off to the PolkaHolics!

-One of the two major German language schools in the area did this RAD float.

See, it looks deceptively like a standard school float of the cuter, maybe more involved kids, but then, on the back, right next to the name of the school, is a guy with a sign that says
and he's singing "Danke Schoen," to which I can only clap heartily and say, "No, sir, thank YOU!"

-This is a puzzling cultural display that I assume had something to do with Catholic Germany and the rite of Confirmation, but if anyone can explain why the girls are wearing ornamental head thingies and look mortified, I would LOVE to hear that Erklaerung!

This, like many of the floats, reflects nothing I've seen in all my time in Germany

-it seems like almost every West German state was represented, but there were definitely some gaps...I'm thinking...all of East Germany (Sorry Ossies) and Saarland of course (oops, forgot them!), but into this void in our hearts stepped two rather unlikely "heros" (I use the term loosely) EFFECT!

and, of course, whenever they're not invited...

oh, look, Austrians singing
yeah...that totally happened

-The south of Germany was really stepping up its game. I am not speaking of Bavaria (that's like saying Texas is part of The's just not, and I don't like to speak of Bavaria as a rule), but of BaWoot (BaWu, but said cooler). There was first the Swabian Club, which was just cute in a general sense.

You can't hate them; they're small in number at the parade and have awesome accents

and then there was this, which just made me so full of Tuebingen spirit!

These guys are on the Swabian Youth Soccer Team, which is cosponsored by IHOP, so all around! Lots of little kids who know generally what "Schwaben" is, and IHOP realizing that it's totally schweet!

-Obviously, there were a lot of bar floats, most of which took the form of a normal looking pickup with a sign draped over the sides and red-cheeked ladies in the back chucking candy at the kids while yelling "WOOOO! WE HAVE CHEAP SANGRIA!" which is I'm sure, one of General von Stuben's favorite drinks, so it only makes sense! There were also three inflatable beer bottles on trucks, which were pretty great too.

-Speaking of "places in Germany where I have spent more than a week," we now come to the Rheinland Mardi Gras (aka 11.11) group, which was covered in sequins (shiny!) and feathers (oooo!)

and something that was a little like Drum and Bugel Corps but with flag girls trailing them...sort of a meta-commentary on parading (like for Carnival) within a parade...whoa

when I first saw them I thought they were trying to do a
costume tie-in with the Revolutionary War which made
von Stuben famous. Maybe that's still true?

We totally have a coat of arms in Chicago! Check THAT out!

-The parade ended with the Water Commission's VERY shiny float, steered by someone who was clearly selected for her ability to get people hyped up for water.
a very interesting display from a rather random city organization, but then again, this was a very interesting (and large!) display from a rather random ethnic group in Chicago, it was rather fitting.

-The crowd reaction to the parade was pretty positive with a lot of people commenting on how much bigger it was than last years' or how the weather was better. They also managed to avoid a common mistake Germans make in large public celebrations (see: the 2006 World Cup) of being awkward rather than wacky and fun. These guys navigated some tough waters, but I gotta hand it to the Niedersachsen Club and the organizers of the parade, they did a great job, even though no one around me could tell me who General von Stuben was.

It's apparently a very old tradition that when these sort of giant flags go by,
you're supposed to throw money onto them, but I don't know if anyone,
including the people carrying it, got that memo.
It's just what an old German lady next to me said

maybe not entirely SHOCKING ADDENDUM!
The historical consensus on General von Stuben is that he was gay! Wikipedia says that evidence is inconclusive, but Human Rights Watch cites
Randy Shilts when he says that von Stuben was a Freund von Dorothy! I think I have heard of him before then...maybe...does anyone else remember that lesson in AP US History? I don't think the parade goers got the memo on that one

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Sporty Edition for my super awesome grandma

This entry is dedicated to my super-awesome Grandma who recently got her hip replaced and is making recovery from this hella-gross, hella-invasive surgery look easy.

One thing she's really into is college sports...of any kind really, but at this time of year is there really any other sport than

I thought not.

My dad had been up visiting for a weekend, and on Saturday we woke up early to have breakfast and see him off. I had known this was the first day of football season, but I wasn't planning on going to the game. I mean, I'm not organized enough to have a bunch of folks to go with, the tickets cost quite a bit, and Evanston is a jog away, but mom sent me an SMS saying something to the effect of:

I order you and Philippe to GO?TO?THAT?GAME

for some reason her question mark and spaces got messed up, but the spirit of it came across VERY clearly, and one learns quickly not to mess with the women of my family, regardless of age, so an hour and a half later, boyfriendo and I were on the eL to NU to see them kick Towson's rear end.

Question--Do you know what Towson is?
Answer--No, but I already dislike them!

Introducing foreigners to football is a lot of fun if you're into it, and I had a great time taking Phil around the stadium before the game started. First we got him outfitted in purple:

I LOVE guys who wear purple!

and then we hit the tailgates, which I explained to him were "chances for the older alumns to drink good alcohol and throw a football around before and after the games" but that didn't really convey the spirit correctly, so we walked into the VERY friendly territory, where I found this:


I asked the woman behind the flags what the deal was, how one family could be cool enough to sport German AND Norwegian flags, and the answer was sort of a letdown, "we have German and Norwegian heritage, and we want people to find our car." one's perfect.

From the tailgates it was on to Wildcat Alley to check out the beer tent and the games various NU sports teams throw for the kids (lacrosse was out in FORCE), and we were in our sideline seats by kickoff.

I won't go too into explaining the rules of the game, but I will say that it's a game with a lot of rules, but by the second quarter, Philippe understood pretty much everything except the penalties and was yelling along as we handed Towson their kiesters. I guess he's a professor for a reason! At halftime the peewee leagues took over the field for the least organized group scrimmage ever, and Philippe got to experience cheerleaders in training.

Actually, to him, cheerleaders were the big surprise of the game:

Them making pyramids and throwing each other aloft impressed him, I suppose because they think in Europe that cheerleaders just sit around and yell. In the video he's commenting on how our cheerleaders, after a touchdown, do as many push-ups as we have points, so when it was
21-3, they did 21 push-ups. At
28-14, they did 28. At
36-14, they did 36
Well, the game ended with NU winning 47-14,so they were quite tired, having done
7 + 9 + 12 + 19 + 26 + 33 + 40 + 47 push-ups!
They were hardcore! and, just in case you're counting, that's a total of 193 push-ups

So the game ended in gridiron glory, and we stuck around to sing the fight song with the student section (which is significantly more rowdy than the crowd, and that says something at an NU game), and then we walked through a very cheerful crowd to the eL. Interestingly, we got to see the Towson Tiger mascot:

He looks rather...funky if you ask me

walking back to the office where thye had his costume stowed, and he was lookin' quite close to extinction if you ask moi.

On the eL some UIC fan got a little mouthy when he asked "Did NU lose, like I hope they did?" but I guess some schools just sip on the ole' hater-ade more than others! Can't rain on the Purple Parade just yet, Illini!

More pictures will be up when boyfriendo gives me his, so for now, I hope that all of you, and grandma especially, enjoyed this almost uncharacteristically sporty entry.

Go U! Aren't we cUte?