Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Labor Day weekend picks


If you like your theater absurd, self-referential and British, check out Tom Stoppard's The Real Inspector Hound at the new Signal Ensemble Theatre in North Center. I caught the show the other day and found it more meta than most. Monica Westin's Flavorpill preview is here.

To celebrate the holiday weekend, tickets are 2 for 1 this Thursday through Sunday. Call the box office at (773) 347-1350 and mention the word "Myrtle." (Or tell them Ben Bass and Beyond sent you and your tickets will be 1 for 2.)


I urge everyone to enjoy the holiday by playing some tennis this weekend. It's a great sport and fun even for beginners. But let's talk for a minute about the professional tier of the game.

The U.S. Open tennis tournament opened just as Wimbledon did in June: with a Roger Federer first-round win over a talented young lefty from South America.

Alejandro Falla of Colombia gave Federer a scare in SW19, coming within one point of serving for the match, but the Swiss superstar cruised easily in Flushing Meadows, dropping just seven games Monday night in a straight-set win over 2010 Winnetka Challenger winner Brian Dabul.

The 96th-ranked Dabul looked good, but he had a tough draw. Like Falla, who played brilliantly at Wimbledon in a futile effort, the young Argentine might have enjoyed a round or two to show his stuff against fellow mortals before facing a tennis god.

There's blanket coverage of the tournament fortnight on ESPN, Tennis Channel and CBS, but make a point of enjoying the modern-day Leonardo while he's still in his prime.

Federer electrified the opening night Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd with a between-the-legs, back-to-the-net passing shot winner, a worthy addition to his already ridiculous career highlight reel and a nifty coda to the similar dart he hit against Novak Djokovic on the same court in last year's semifinal.

This time Federer was just a few feet from the back wall (with Dabul at the baseline!) when he pulled off the trick shot, causing Dabul to shrug and raise his eyebrows. "Only he can do that," Dabul later said, accurately.

Didn't catch it on Monday? Check it out now:

Want more on Federer's trick shot?  Christopher Clarey wrote this nice story in today's New York Times.


Chicago has long trailed Boston, New York and the Bay Area in terms of organized puzzle activity, but local enthusiast Katje Sabin has tackled that issue by founding the Chicago Puzzle Society. Her mission is to connect people who like puzzles, word games and trivia by throwing semiannual puzzle parties. Sounds good to me.

The Chicago Puzzle Society kicks things off with a Labor Day Puzzle Party this Sunday afternoon in the Norwood Park neighborhood of Chicago. For more information, contact Katje directly at mamagotcha [at], or visit the Society's web page here.


Labor Day is the unofficial end of backyard barbecue season, and by all means, enjoy it. But in case you  find yourself with a break in your busy social calendar, you might fill the void with a visit to Smoque BBQ. I love this place and bring people there all the time. Try the Texas sausage. Also, the brisket (you can and should request burnt ends). Also, their BBQ chicken is better than most. Also, they make their own peach cobbler and it's excellent. You should probably just order one of everything.

Speaking of the New York Times, they like it too.

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