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A Walk Among the Tombstones

Fans of the hardboiled detective, rejoice. Screenwriter-director Scott Frank and actor Liam Neeson, adapting the splendid work of crime novelist Lawrence Block, have brought a…

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The Zero Theorem

Terry Gilliam's first science fiction film since "12 Monkeys" is an inventively designed but oddly inert satire on technology, God and the future of humankind.

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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

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* This filmography is not intended to be a comprehensive list of this artist’s work. Instead it reflects the films this person has been involved with that have been reviewed on this site.

#180 August 14, 2013

Marie writes: Much beloved and a never ending source of amusement, Simon's Cat is a popular animated cartoon series by the British animator Simon Tofield featuring a hungry house cat who uses increasingly heavy-handed tactics to get its owner to feed it. Hand-drawn using an A4-size Wacom Intuos 3 pen and tablet, Simon has revealed that his four cats - called Teddy, Hugh, Jess and Maisie - provide inspiration for the series, with Hugh being the primary inspiration. And there's now a new short titled "Suitcase". To view the complete collection to date, visit Simon's Cat at YouTube.

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#172 June 19, 2013

Marie writes: Widely regarded as THE quintessential Art House movie, "Last Year at Marienbad" has long since perplexed those who've seen it; resulting in countless Criterion-esque essays speculating as to its meaning whilst knowledge of the film itself, often a measure of one's rank and standing amongst coffee house cinephiles. But the universe has since moved on from artsy farsty French New Wave. It now prefers something braver, bolder, more daring...

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The best bar in the world that I know about

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The first Chicago bar I drank in was the Old Town Ale House. That bar was destroyed by fire in the 1960s, the customers hosed off, and the Ale House moved directly across the street to its present location, where it has been named Chicago's Best Dive Bar by the Chicago Tribune.

I was taken to the Ale House by Tom Devries, my fellow college editor from the Roosevelt Torch. It was early on a snowy Sunday afternoon. I remember us walking down to Barbara's Bookstore to get our copies of the legendary New York Herald-Tribune Sunday edition. Pogo. Judith Crist. Tom Wolfe. Jimmy Breslin. I remember peanut shells on the floor and a projector grinding through 16mm prints of Charlie Chaplin shorts. I remember my first taste of dark Löwenbräu beer. The Ale House was cool even then.

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Ale test

The best bar in the world I know about

The first Chicago bar I drank in was the Old Town Ale House. That bar was destroyed by fire in the 1960s, the customers hosed off, and the Ale House moved directly across the street to its present location, where it has been named Chicago's Best Dive Bar by the Chicago Tribune.

I was taken to the Ale House by Tom Devries, my fellow college editor from the Roosevelt Torch. It was early on a snowy Sunday afternoon. I remember us walking down to Barbara's Bookstore to get our copies of the legendary New York Herald-Tribune Sunday edition. Pogo. Judith Crist. Tom Wolfe. Jimmy Breslin. I remember peanut shells on the floor and a projector grinding through 16mm prints of Charlie Chaplin shorts. I remember my first taste of dark Löwenbräu beer. The Ale House was cool even then.

I returned to the North Avenue drinking scene on New Year's Eve 1966, opening night of the legendary O'Rourke's, two blocks directly west. Its last call was 2 a.m. The Ale House had a 4 a.m. license, so many of us walked down the street to continue. O'Rourke's was the newspaper bar. The Ale House was the bohemian bar. Customers flowed freely between them.

The bar was owned in recent years by Beatrice Klug and her ex-husband Art Klug, who really did look like Paul Newman. Art was a movie fan so obsessed it was slightly alarming. The Ale House ambiance made an ideal outpost for Bruce Elliott, the left wing unemployed-by-choice gadfly and social spy. Art died. Then Beatrice grew ill, and was catered to and cooed over daily by Bruce, his wife Tobin Mitchell, and their daughter Grace Littlefeather Elliott.

At the reading of her will it was revealed Bea had given the bar to Tobin. Bruce could still preserve his proud record of never having worked a day in his life until his retirement at 65. (He did once, as a favor to a friend, drive a cab one Saturday morning during his San Francisco years, and has made a few bucks hustling golf for money on the public course in Jackson Park--a few times against Barack Obama, then a neighborhood organizer.)

Bea's gift inspired Bruce's blog, The Geriatric Genius, in which Elliott shows himself in the direct line of descent from the Host in the 15th century The Canterbury Tales. Chaucer's character is the central figure and narrator of the Tales, the one who knows all the others and is their common bond, yet rarely takes an active role during their pilgrimage. It is he who names them, convenes their nightly meetings, observes what they do, hears their secrets, and tells of their weaknesses.

And briefly, when the sun had gone to rest, So had I spoken with them, every one, That I was of their fellowship anon, And made agreement that we'd early rise To take the road, as you I will apprise. But none the less, whilst I have time and space, Before yet farther in this tale I pace, It seems to me accordant with reason To inform you of the state of every one Of all of these, as it appeared to me, And who they were, and what was their degree, And even how arrayed there at the inn.

The Host relates the stories of such as the Wife of Bath, the Nun's Priest, the Three Rioters and Old John the Carpenter, "who foolishly marries a lively young girl." Bruce's blog follows the nightly adventures of such regulars as Street Jimmy, Bruce Faggypants, Ruben Nine Toes, D Train, Porn Star, the Cougar, Buzzkill, Larry Asshole, Connie the Crack Whore, Craig the Drunk, Fatal Attraction, Sleepy John, Johnny Ale, and the Counselor, waging their battles against reality. Many people without code names also come in, including talent from Second City across the street and Zanie's comedy club around the corner, and yuppies, cops, robbers and respectable yuppies--whose tales don't interest Bruce. Yuppies visited the bar twice in the recent indie movie "Other Children," which completely failed to capture its character.

This is what the inane "Cheers" could have been, if a network had the balls. How could viewers prefer Shelley Long to Gracie Littlefeather? Nobody as boring as George Wendt's Norm has ever been allowed to anchor a regular bar stool. His code name would be Waste of Space. Bruce, is the house snoop, gossip, scold, vicious launcher of personal attacks, eavesdropper, sex guru, and the Host who tells a patron he's been over-served. Bruce is also chief of security. When the patron demands another drink, he commands a crack team of unofficial doormen to throw him out on his ass and pitch his coats into the street on top of them.

In addition to his other gifts, Bruce Cameron Elliott is a locally-celebrated artist. During the 2008 campaign, he received national publicity for "Nude with Hunting Rifle," his painting of Sarah Palin. Later "Strip Search" was painted after the arrest of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Both paintings have inspired Ale House t-shirts. I own Bruce's painting of Houdini, bound in chains and being thrown off a bridge on the river while Ale House regulars look on.

Bruce in his studio, in a Chicao Tribune video:

Bruce Cameron Elliott has mastered what Irv Kupcinet called the Lively Art of Conversation. In the silent years after I lost my voice, I have devised dinner parties simply to invite him. He needs a foil, and that usually means my best friend, John McHugh. It is Bruce's gift to know the dirty gossip about everyone I know, and many of those I read about in the paper. He specializes in the actionable, the salacious, the perverse, and personal secrets.

I read The Geriatric Genius every day. The Genius provides a daily chronicle of life in the Ale House. Bruce arrives early in the day, and will soon hear Street Jimmy's secret knock on the side door. He admits Jimmy, and enquires where he slept the night before ("the janitor at Moody Bible Institute lets me be sleepin' on the loading dock, but the janitor at Saint Michael's, he a cracker tight ass and throws me off the steps"). Bruce sends Jimmy to Walgreen's to bring him a bagel and the New York Times. At about this time Bruce Faggypants will arrive after his Meta commute from a Western suburb, and begin his job of sweeping out the bar. Street Jimmy, back from Walgreen's, is paid with a beer and a bag of BBQ chips dowsed with hot sauce the bar keeps handy for Bloody Marys, and Bruce Faggypants, who at 47 with his mother, will hand him a small brown bag containing an extra sandwich his mom happened to make. How his mother makes an extra sandwich seven days a week I cannot say. The mother and son sound a lot like the characters in A Confederacy of Dunces. After he enjoys his sandwich, Street Jimmy curls up on a bench to sleep.

Although Tobi owns the bar, the manager is Grace Littlefeather Elliott, who at 28 rules with a wise and sexy manner. I've known her since before her birth, and she would have been capable of handling the job after about the age of 10. Bruce and I met Tobi on the same frigid night in Pat Colander's apartment above the Four Farthings Pub as we snuggled on a sofa under a blanket. We were both groping, but Bruce's gropes went more sure and true.

So that's when I met the nascent Littlefeather. Tobin's big sister, Karen Conner, strongly opposed Tobi's marriage to the older and never-employed Bruce, who responded with biting sarcasm about her husband, who combed his hair back straight from his forehead, the better to display a good half-inch of silver before the shoe polish set in. Karen has since gone through a divorce. Tobin and Bruce's marriage has proven sturdy. Who were these parents Tobin obtained? Bruce I've described. Tobi taught in the Chicago schools to support Bruce in his new role as a stay-at-home dad. Gracie has incorporated traits from both.

Knowing the Elliotts over the years, I've observed how they raised Gracie as an equal partner in a grown-up family. Everything was discussed in front of her; given Bruce, anything else would have been impossible. She was always mature beyond her years, and blossomed with her mother's beauty and sardonic wit, and her father's untamed independence. She has her father's nose. She doesn't smoke, do drugs, or drink very much. In addition to managing the Ale House, she shows Arthur, one of her chooclate Field Spaniels at dog shows, and as I write she texted me from somewhere on the turnpike. Ignoring the urgent advice of both parents, she is driving into the face of the blizzard to show her dog at the Westminster Kennel Club's annual dog show. Also in her van is a rescue dog--to rescue her and the first dog, possibly. Note: Grace arrived safely ("Not a speck of snow on the highway") and and emailed a photo of Arthur inspecting the Empire State Building from Grace's window.

What do I know about Bruce? He was an original member of SDS. He was born in Downers Grove, known in the blog as Uppers Grove. His brother Scott, a dealer in the artifacts of Frank Lloyd Wright, lives in a Wright house in Benton Harbor, Michigan, having relocated there specifically to live in the house. Chaz and I have dined there several times, welcomed by Scott's wife Eileen Cropley, who was a principal dancer with Paul Taylor. She also danced with Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov.

We were shown around the house by Scott, an admirer of its low doorways and ceilings, which at times slanted lower still to suit the midget Frank Lloyd. We marveled at the way Wright sank a well into the ground inside the house so that in summertime electric fans could draw up cooled air from the ground, taking advantage of the location on the St. Joseph River. Bruce runs an art gallery in downtown Benton Harbor, and is a frequent Congressional candidate as a liberal Democrat. The district is permanently Republican, leading to McHugh's analysis: "Bruce, you've got your work cut out for you."

Bruce spent several years in Berkeley, whether as a student or not I do not know. He is formidably well-read. He returned to Chicago in the early 1960s during the Great Gathering of Drinkers. He met and was befriended by McHugh while running naked down Wells Street with nothing but the lid of a garbage can to shield his genitals. They became friends at the Old Town Gate about the time the dumb mick accidentally reinvented the Roquefort Burger because, although working as the grill man, he didn't know it was American cheese stacked inside those little plastic sheets. Bruce brought along his half-Indonesian girlfriend, a big-bosomed stripper named Indy--who, stranded without funds, one night offered to accommodate me for room, board, and a reasonable monthly stipend. "I'd take her up on it, Roger," said Bruce, seated on the other side of Indy at the bar in O'Rourke's. "She's an honest woman, and those tits are real."

Bruce walks all over Chicago. We've both lived in the Old Town and Lincoln Park neighborhoods, and I'd encounter him on my rounds. One terrible hangover morning, I woke in my attic apartment at the Dudak's house, yanked on a track suit, and walked directly outside with fear and trembling. Not feeling able to speak with confidence to anyone I might know on the sidewalk, I went down the back stairs and through the back garden, which Pop Dudak had graced with a small pond made by digging out a shallow basin, plastering it and hanging bright Christmas lights from the shrubbery growing above it. The pond's fountain was a non-functioning shower head. "Is only for show," explained Pop, the anachist Ukrainian playwright and window washer. The pond was occupied by a floating frog with a florescent orange golf ball glued to its forehead. "Honey, are you sure this is the best you can do?" my mother asked.

Walking into the back alley from the side of the garage, I saw Bruce Cameron Elliott approaching from behind St. Clement's School. "Roger has one of his haaang-ooovers," he cried. Drawing closer, he said: "Seriously, Roger, you've got to do something about your drinking. I'd have a shot of peppermint both schnapps, with a beer chaser."

Bruce gave their daughter the middle name of Littlefeather on grounds it might help her qualify for scholarships.

A MENU for these videos:

Introductions take place on the first video, made by me at our country house in Michigan. You will notice Bruce introducing everyone to a person he clearly doesn't know. That is Marie Haws of Vancouver, who edits and produces The Ebert Club Newsletter. She started reading Bruce's blog and became obsessed with the bar. In August 2011, I was living full-time at the Michigan house writing my memoir. My minder Millie Salmon was keeping an eye on me. Bruce, Tobin and Gracie have a house over near the Indiana dunes. I invited them for dinner, and had the idea of making a video introducing them to Marie.

I am the camera. On my left hand: Tobin, my best friend John McHugh, and Millie. On my right hand: Bruce, Gracie, and Mary Jo Broderick, John's love.

#11

These videos by Duane A. Gray (D-Train) show highlights from recent Ale House Winter Talent Shows. Then the regular customer Sergio. Then Gracie sings and dances with "Mein Herr." After the ambiance is established by the Aleers, with Bryan Hollowell on piano and a new drummer Gracie didn't know, Bruce Elliott introduces emcee Andy Shaw, the former Ch. 7 political reporter, now the head of the Better Government Assn.

Then the regular customer Sergio. Then Gracie sings and dances with "Mein Herr."

#1

An encore by Grace Littlefeather Elliott

#2

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#3

#5

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#5

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#8

#9 Gracie sings "Halfbreed." Wearing the white jacket at the bar is Ruben Nine Toes.

#10 Gracie Gaga

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Judy, Judy, Judy

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I only met Judith Crist once, but her career had an enormous role in shaping the world of the movie critics who followed her. She was the first full-time female movie critic for a big American daily newspaper, but set aside her gender: By her success and fame, she created jobs for movie critics where there were none before.

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'Twas the Night Before Pogo

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Walt Kelly was the greatest daily comic strip artist in American history. His Pogo strip was an uncanny mixture of laughter, high spirits and swamp intrigue, mixed with pointed political satire. His thinly-veiled villain based on Sen. Joseph McCarthy was one of several characters with political overtones.

Before, during and after my days at The Daily Illini, Pogo was the only strip we carried.

I met Walt Kelly once. He invited a group of visiting editors of college newspapers to join him in the big round booth at the front of a bar very close to the New York Herald-Tribune, where Pogo was one of the mainstays, including Jimmy Breslin, Tom Wolfe, Judith Crist, Clay Felker and others. He was a very nice man.

This material is copyrighted by the Estate of Walt Kelly. It has been posted on the web.

Visit the official site at PogoPossum.com.

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My drinking days, recalled in a noirish oil

The artist Marie Haws in Vancouver was drawn into a blog I wrote about the legendary O'Rourke's Pub in Chicago, not so much by the prose as by the photograph I used, taken by my pal Jack Lane:

Marie returned to the photograph and again, finding depths in it, and was finally moved to paint this oil inspired by it:

The photo shows me at the front end of of the bar talking with the writer Tom Wolfe. Neither Jack nor I can identify the man on the left, or Mystery Woman on the right. I've been told that M.W. resembles my girlfriend in the 70s, but there are two problems with that: (1) Ingrid never smoked a day in her life, and (2) M.W. in the oil looks like her, but M.W. in the photo doesn't.

Of course, camera angle can be deceptive, so I will forward this to Ingrid and her four children and see what they think. Nothing would please me more than to find out who I have my arm around.

I am quite fond on this painting, the only one I have of myself. I do have a nearly life-size bronze bust, but lest you get the wrong impression, I didn't commission it or pay for it. I posed for the class project of an art student whose assignment was to make a recognizable sculpture of a recognizable person.

[ 4:14 p.m. Nov 21, e-mail from Jack Lane: Mystery man on left is Dick Flynn, a mate of mine from the ad days. He and I were having a quiet Sunday evening drink and discussing worldly matters when a stranger entered the nearly empty bar. Dick said, a bit excitedly, that it was Tom Wolfe. I glanced over and disagreed, pointing out that the stranger was not wearing a white suit. Dick, who had been Wolfe's neighbor in NYC, persisted and went over to verify his assessment. And indeed, he was right. The three of us had an hour or so of pleasant conversation until a horde of noisy re revelers descended upon us and the rest, as you know, is history. Jack ]

Marie has been a treasured regular on my blog almost from the beginning. She is known for (1) recklessly inserting so many URLs into her posts that they mostly end up trapped in the Spam filter, (2) inserting "*chuckle*" every once im a while, and (3) attempted assassination of her fellow blog posters with the astonishingchocolate cake recipe published below these three examples of her wonderful work:

Girl in the Coat - 24" x 36" oil on canvas

Tuscan hill-top vineyard, Italy - 24" x 108" oil on canvas

Chianti region, Italy - 20" x 26" oil on canvas

...and then, on Sunday morning, Marie Haws posted this comment:

I love that we've discovered the name of mystery guy; it's D*ck Flynn! For how perfect is that?! Was there ever a name more ironic and thus better suited to be in a painting showing Roger Ebert at O'Rourke's - than one shared in the blog the very same week he runs a "limerick contest"? Smile. I regard it as confirmation from the Gods that indeed, everything is connected.

And as noted, it all started with a journal entry and Roger's memories of a pub in the dodgy part of Chicago, a place no longer there but when it was, of questionable repute; an Irish pub called O'Rourke's. I just want to be comfortable, you know? I just want to sit down, enjoy a Kilkenny, chat with friends, maybe play a few rounds and pretend I don't suck at pool, while catching a nice buzz. I don't want to have to worry about how to pay a fancy coverage charge (insert really bad word!) or navigating past stupid yuppies to reach the bar - none of that crap.

And the very week Roger posted his journal entry about O'Rourke's, was the same week "I" discovered the fate of my favorite watering hole: the "Irish Heather". They'd moved across the street. Seems required upgrades to the building had forced the owner to choose the lesser of two evils: close his business for one year, or move. And this is partly what was lost because of it: the back room conservatory in a photo by Stephen Dyrgas.... Arguably THE most perfect spot to drink in Vancouver.

An alley runs behind the pub and covered in red bricks. They'd simply enclosed part of it to make an extra seating area. God, how I loved that place. So I was in full empathy mode, when Roger heaved a wistful sigh as he recollected the passing of one his favorite places, too! That's how I could relate even though I'd never been there. I knew O'Rourke's because I'd known the Heather. It too, was also in the dodgy part of town; smile.

For that reason, my emotional attachment to the place was immediate - and then I saw Jack Lane's photographs! And suddenly, my next painting! But I needed better reference, which is how I got a hold of Jack's B/W photos; I pestered Roger and he sent me some. And when I saw the alternate shot of him with Tom Wolfe... BINGO! Two guys in the middle of a conversation we can't hear, flanked either side by mysteries for being equally as ignorant of what they were thinking, too.

Why does anyone go to a pub? To drink? I suppose, but not me. I think it's where you go to drink a "conversation" too! And what's better than a conversation you can custom tailor - for never knowing what was actually being said? It's a blank page on which the viewer can write whatever they want! You can imagine all sorts of things! They could have been plotting a murder. What?! Don't look at me like that - it's Chicago. And two writers are in a bar. Enough said. :)

And so I loved that shot. It was sublime. Although... true; it does look like Roger's groping himself in the photo, but I took care of that and changed it for the painting. And I dropped Flynn's hand as well - as it kinda looks like he's trying to punch Tom Wolfe in the jaw. But all minor stuff and easily dealt with. It took longer to paint than I'd planned - chasing the rent can be distracting - but I eventually finished it.

Actually, Roger got to see it as a work in progress. I was sending him photos in cyber dispatches while bugging him about the spam filter and stuff. So he knew weeks in advance how things were coming along. And then the day finally arrived when it was dry and ready to go to Chicago. I couldn't afford the shipping and so he actually picked up the tab for his own present! How nice was that, eh? (As he didn't make me feel like a cheap basterd; chuckle!) What?! I have to pay the postage on my own GIFT?! Jeeesh, and that's so typically Canadian, I swear, you people..."

Smile; instead he just told me how much he loved it and Chaz too. And there you have it; that's the story of the painting and how it came to be. I love O'Rourke's vicariously so. I love how Roger's memories of the place, feel. I love the conversations I get to imagine and the ongoing mystery of smoking girl and that Flynn's name sounds the way it does. And that right now, my painting is inside Roger Ebert's house; the same critic who didn't like Harold and Maude. What's that got to do with anything..? Rubbing hands together with a glee. (Or maybe I'm just f-cking with ya; laugh!) One thing however is not in doubt; how sincerely flattered I was by this. It caught me totally by surprise when you suddenly asked for a few pictures and my death by chocolate recipe!

I thought you'd just show the painting to Chaz and the kids, maybe Tom Wolfe and there you go! Note: that's why it took me so long to write that post, the one I'd lost; I was actually at a loss for words! A rare moment that and I've moved past it now, as you can see. :)

@ Roger wrote: "I informed Marie that the ghosts of the O'Rourke's Crowd still haunt the Old Town Ale House to this day. The owner is Bruce Elliott, a regular in those days. Marie, who loves Venice, might agree that a master of the Italian Renaissance would have been drawn to the same subject, albeit expressed in a somewhat different style, in Bruce's own painting "The Strip-Searching of Rod Blagojevich."

Oh absolutely. Without a doubt. Those dudes totally loved a bit of unpleasant business. Caravaggio for example, would have done a lovely job of it. Or whoever painted the rape of the Sabines. A strip search would have been a walk in park, chuckle!

@ Marta Chiavacci wrote - "Marie is not only an amazingly talented artist, she's an even more amazing friend." Awww! What a nice thing to say, Marta! But I'm still gonna tease you about wearing FIVE inch heels. As that's insane and what real friends would do. Roger? Marta gave me my very first Bialetti! Her parents moved to Canada in the 50's from Lucca, near Florence. And several years ago, Marta ironically moved to Lucca to live there! She fell in love with her second cousin, whose got a house near the medieval city.

She kept her place in Vancouver though and routinely travels back and forth; currently, she's in town. And get this - Marta Chiavacci, a female born in Canada, moves to Italy, studies wine and ends up beating all the guys and becoming FISAR's sommelier of the year in 2007. That's right - I know an award-winning Sommelier. The girl I met in grade 7. Naturally, Marta gets to pick the wine whenever we go out to dinner, as otherwise, I buy wine based on how well designed the labels are. At the moment, she's in the process of setting up her own wine business; guided tours of vineyards with a sommelier.

Marta's interesting to know in her own right, but as a relocated Canadian, I get a close-up view of another country now too, through her dispatches about daily life in Italy. The truth of things. It's like having my very own reporter on the ground! And the story of how she got a driver's license in Italy, is a thing to behold. It takes days to tell, as it's that serpentine a journey through their bureaucracy. Chuckle! And now you've got one of my paintings too, joining the club with Marta. Awesome.

P.S. now watch, I'll die and suddenly those paintings will be worth a fortune!

Marie Haws' online gallery. .

The blog entry that started all this, "A bar on North Avenue." .

I informed Marie that the ghosts of the O'Rourke's Crowd still haunt the Old Town Ale House to this day. The owner is Bruce Elliott, a regular in those days. Marie, who loves Venice, might agree that a master of the Italian Renaissance would have been drawn to the same subject, albeit expressed in a somewhat different style, in Bruce's own painting "The Strip-Searching of Rod Blagojevich."

The "DEATH BY CHOCOLATE" Recipe

8 oz high-quality bitter sweet chocolate (Valhrona is best!)

2/3 cup of butter

1/2 cup of white sugar

1/2 cup of brown sugar

4 eggs

1/3 cup of sour cream

1 teaspoon of vanilla

1/4 cup dark rich Dutch cocoa

1/2 cup of flour

1 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder

1/4 teaspoon of salt

Ganache glaze:

8 oz of bitter sweet chocolate (again, BEST you can find.)

1/2 cup of heavy cream (in Canada, in the dairy section next to the milk, you can find a pint of whipping cream. Americans call THAT heavy cream.)

Inside of the cake:

Raspberry liquor (or use a brandy)

1/4 cup of Raspberry Jam (or buy some fresh Raspberries and mash them up in a bowl and add 2 tbs of sugar (in case they're a bit tart) and use that - I do, tastes fresher!

Instructions:

In a heavy bottom pan or double-boiler, melt the chocolate and butter on low heat. While that's melting, combine the eggs and the white & brown sugars together, on medium speed in a mixer until somewhat light; you want the sugar to dissolve and not be sandy.

Check the chocolate. Melted? Remove from heat and stir. Set aside to cool a bit (you can use the fridge.) Once cool to the touch, pour melted chocolate in with the eggs and sugar and turn on the mixer for a few minutes to incorporate everything before you add the next ingredients...

To that, now add the flour, dark Dutch coco, salt, baking powder, sour cream, vanilla. Start on low speed then you can go a bit faster, and mix everything up, etc.

Preheat oven to 350F. Get a 9" wide, by 3 inches deep springform pan. Remove bottom from pan, wrap it with tinfoil, put it back in the springform. Lightly spray the bottom and insides with a cooking oil spray - or use some melted margarine and a brush etc.

Note: I always set a springform pan on a cookie tray in case there's any leakage, but you can also wrap the outside with more foil. Pour batter into Springform pan. Bake for 40 - 50 min. Test it with a toothpick at the 40 min mark etc. Done? Take it out, let it cool a bit before removing the top of the springform from the bottom.

Get your Raspberry jam ready. NOTE: if you don't want raspberry seeds, pass the berries through a strainer over a small bowl (mash them through it etc.) Add the liquor etc.

Once the cake is completely cool, trim the top. Use a thin, serrated knife. You don't need to remove the center bit. The top edge tend to be hardest and higher than the middle - so getting rid of that helps level things off. *DO NOT throw away what you cut off it case you need it, later.

Make the ganache: and make your life easier too, use a double-boiler. Most people don't own professional grade pots ($150 each!) Put chocolate and cream in a doubler-boiler and stir on low heat. Once melted, turn off heat.

You need to cut the cake in half now. I have a better way to do it than is shown in the video below.

Get some toothpicks (4 will do it) and stick them around the sides of the cake, half-way up. Get a LONG sewing thread - a light color so you can see it. Wrap it around the cake and "above" each of toothpicks (they help keep the thread from slipping down as you make sure it's positioned correctly. Tie your thread and slowly but steadily pull the ends. The thread will slice perfectly through the middle of the cake as you go etc. A trick I learned from a dessert chef. :)

Pull out the toothpicks, but stick 2 back in, on the sides: one in the top layer, another further down but right below it. This will help you when assembling the layers; a point of reference.

Get a serving plate for the cake. You're going to transfer the TOP layer onto that.

Note: I took the lid from an ice cream bucket last year, and with an exacto knife, cut the rim off. It made a plastic circle. You can also use the glass from an 8x10 picture frame, if you like. Point is, this method tends to NOT break the cake for better supporting the entire weight of it as you move it over.

The Top layer is now the bottom layer - and if the center looks too low, build it up with some of the stuff you'd previously cut off. Pour Raspberry Jam onto the cake; spread it around. Get the ganache. Pour less than 1/2 onto the cake, spread that around too.

Get the bottom layer of the cake now. Flip it over, and place it on top of the layer with the jam and ganache. Match the toothpicks up; then pull them out. Remove the metal bottom and the tinfoil. You have a cake with a perfectly, flawless top!

Heat the ganache back up, you're going to POUR the remaining glaze over the entire assembled cake. Use a long, wide spatula to help guide the chocolate ganache along and around the sides etc. Don't have one? Use the longest, widest knife you own. Use a less pointy knife for the sides.

Clean any mess around the cake, and et voila; you're done. Unless you want to decorate it too, based on what you see in the video.

Attention Helpless Males: step-by-step video instructions -

http://www.ehow.com/videos-on_687_make-death-chocolate-cake.html

And last but not least -

How to make a chocolate cake in a crock-pot:

http://www.ehow.com/how_2173304_chocolate-cake-crock-pot.html

GRIN.

Visit my website, rogerebert.com.

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Wall Street's dirty, rotten scoundrels

I am but a naive outsider. I don't fully understand the working of the "derivatives" and "credit swaps" that we have heard so much about in recent months. I'm not alone. But I'm learning. I gather that these are ingenious computer-driven trading schemes in which good money can be earned from bad debt, and Wall Street's Masters of the Universe pocket untold millions at the same time they bankrupt their investors and their own companies.

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A bar on North Avenue

O'Rourke's was our stage, and we displayed our personas there nightly. It was a shabby street-corner tavern on a dicey stretch of North Avenue, a block after Chicago's Old Town stopped being a tourist haven. In its early days it was heated by a wood-burning pot-bellied stove, and ice formed on the insides of the windows. One night a kid from the street barged in, whacked a customer in the front booth with a baseball bat, and ran out again. When a roomer who lived upstairs died, his body was discovered when maggots started to drop through the ceiling. A man nobody knew was shot dead one night out in back. From the day it opened on December 30, 1966 until the day I stopped drinking in 1979, I drank there more or less every night when I was in town. So did a lot of people.

Jay Kovar and Jeanette Sullivan behind the bar

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OK, maybe '102 Movies...'

Peter Sellers as Dr. Strangelove. True, he's no Jim Carrey, but...

My list of "101 Movies You Must See Before You Die" has generated some provocative e-mail. As I mentioned in my original posting, this was a list I came up with in 1999, providing what I'd consider to be the most important common cultural touchstones in films from the 20th century. It's not a list of the best films (some I don't even like much), or the most important films, or even my favorite films. (The latter list, circa 1998, is here -- and it needs some updating.) I could easily have listed 202 titles (or, perhaps, even 1001, as a certain book with a similar title does), but I limited myself to a short list. That wasn't enough for everybody, though...

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Hoffman shines in Truman show

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"I don't think Capote knew exactly what he was setting himself up for," Philip Seymour Hoffman said. "He said later if he'd known what was going to happen, he would have driven right through the town like a bat out of hell."

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