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July 31, 2007

The [Tuesday] Papers

"Scholars in antiquity began counting the ways that humans have sex, but they weren't so diligent in cataloging the reasons humans wanted to get into all those positions," the New York Times reports this morning in its Science Times section. "Darwin and his successors offered a few explanations of mating strategies - to find better genes, to gain status and resources - but they neglected to produce a Kama Sutra of sexual motivations.

"Perhaps you didn't lament this omission. Perhaps you thought that the motivations for sex were pretty obvious. Or maybe you never really wanted to know what was going on inside other people's minds, in which case you should stop reading immediately.

"For now, thanks to psychologists at the University of Texas at Austin, we can at last count the whys. After asking nearly 2,000 people why they'd had sex, the researchers have assembled and categorized a total of 237 reasons - everything from 'I wanted to feel closer to God' to 'I was drunk.' They even found a few people who claimed to have been motivated by the desire to have a child."

Springfield Shuttle
"State Employees Told To Show Up: Despite lack of budget, gov tells them to report for work."

Can maybe one of them pick up the governor on the way?

Daley Shuffle
"There's a whopping $217.7 million hole in [the mayor's] 2008 budget that can only be filled with revenue hikes, layoffs, spending cuts, or a painful mix of all three," the Sun-Times reports.

Four views:

1. "During the election year, everything is fine. The following year, when they sit down to negotiate contracts, there's always a black hole," said Fraternal Order of Police President Mark Donahue.

Memo to Donahue: Not entirely untrue, but it's not always about you.

2. "Ald. Bernard Stone (50th) accused Chief Financial Officer Paul Volpe of shoving the bad news under the rug until after the election. 'This doesn't happen overnight,' he said."

Memo to Stone: Nobody shoves bad news under the rug without the permission of the mayor, so be a man and blame the guy at the top.

3. "Volpe countered, 'We've always been open and honest. There's nobody who could have predicted such a slowdown in the real estate market."

Memo to Volpe: Yes, nobody saw that coming!

4. The mayor knew the city was in trouble but kept it from the public during his campaign because that's what dishonest politicians do. Now he will use the bad news to club the police union and others into submission while letting Volpe take the heat. And he will skate by without ever being held accountable, fending off press questions because he knows he can do so without penalty. Result: We'll all pay more, one way or another. And the mayor goes merrily along his way.

Filling a Hole
"I don't know how we are going to make up for the shortfall, but we are going to have to find a way to do it," Stone said.

A) Mayor reverses position; increases foie gras fines.
B) Hello, congestion tax!
C) Corruption Tax Stamps modeled after Drug Tax Stamps.
D) Bake sale.

City Council Follies
"16% of Chicago Aldermen Can't Read a Calendar or Use a Computer," the Better Government Association has found.

"Despite fairly simple and straightforward reporting standards, Aldermen Leslie Hairston and Willie Cochran have, as of today, failed to file their most recent semi-annual report of campaign contributions received between January 1st and June 30th. In addition, Aldermen Sandi Jackson, George Cardenas, Latasha Thomas, Howard Brookins, Billy Ocasio and Brendan Reilly failed to file their semi-annual reports by July 20th, the reporting deadline.

"Alderman Reilly has the dubious distinction of both filing late and filing on paper despite that fact he managed to file all other previous contribution reports electronically.

"'The citizens of Chicago are expected to comply with all the various laws that Aldermen impose upon us every year and non-compliance usually results in a stiff fine or penalty. It would be nice if the Aldermen could lead by example and obey the laws that govern their campaign fundraising and reporting,' said Jay Stewart, Executive Director of the BGA."

Arresting Figures
"In the 11 years that Dick Devine has been state's attorney we have charged at least one police officer a month. That's more than 130 police officers who have been charged," said Devine spokesman John Gorman.

Whoa. One a month? That sounds like a pretty rotten police department.

Michael "Sneed" Spilotro
Pat Spilotro, brother of Tony and Michael, told Sneed: "I promised my mother 21 years ago that I would find the men who did it; who butchered my brothers and tortured her sons."

Apparently he didn't promise the mothers of his brother's victims the same thing.

*

Meanwhile, unabashedly reported by Sneed, Pat Spilotro, the good brother, performed dental services for various members of the Outfit for 35 years.

Denmark Pissed
This (second item) is a parody of political incorrectness, right?

Camera Shy
The Tribune and other news organizations are protesting a new NFL policy requiring sideline photographers to wear the league's corporate-sponsor emblazoned vests while working. The NFL's media relations director wrote to the Tribune today that "The Reebok and Canon logos on the NFL vests are very small and not visible to the television audience."

Then why are Reebok and Canon paying to have them there?

Remembrances
* "Ingmar Bergman found bleakness and despair as well as comedy and hope in his indelible explorations of the human condition," according to Wikipedia. "He is regarded as one of the great masters of modern cinema."

Also, Ingmar Bergman made a little-known film of the opera "The Magic Flute." Our Marilyn Ferdinand has the story.

And, Michelangelo Antonioni, "whose films are widely considered as some of the most influential in film aesthetics," is also dead.

* The Bill Walsh Coaching Tree.

* Conan O'Brien salutes Tom Snyder.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Any position you like.

Posted by Lou at 07:58 AM | Permalink

Chicagoetry: Peace Frog

PEACE FROG

Blood in the streets the town of Chicago!
PLEASE don't let

me
interrupt!

Let's take five for James Douglas Morrison . . .
Hunter Thompson got

his ass kicked at Michigan and Balbo.
FUCK! I digress.

Bloody red sun of fantastic
L.A., righteous.

Blood is the rose
of mysterious

union, OK?
Let us now

praise famous
men: Len

O'Connor, Ray
Rayner, ORION MOTHERFUCKING SAMUELSON!

My Naperville mornings
began

with Amiben.
I had

no clue!
TINY TOV?!

No
CLUE!

Mesmer-
ized . . .

-

J. J. Tindall is the Beachwood's poet-in-residence. He can reached at jjtindall@yahoo.com. Chicagoetry is an exclusive Beachwood collection-in-progress.

Posted by Lou at 06:32 AM | Permalink

July 30, 2007

The [Monday] Papers

The Tribune introduces its first front-page ad today.

Jesus, Back To Bed is the best you could do? A mattress dealer?

*

Ad copy: "Tonight, get the sleep you dream about."

Yes, take the Tribune to bed with you!

*

I wonder if the powers-that-be thought a BP ad would be too hot to start with. Late last week and through the weekend, BP ads ran on the Trib website within pixels of the paper's stories about the oil company's controversial plan to increase the amount of crap it dumps in Lake Michigan from its Whiting, Indiana refinery.

*

The Sun-Times resumes its Product Placement Program.

What, is it National Mattress Week or something?

*

Scott C. Smith's disingenuous Publishers Note.

Rejected version: "Our obscene margins are slipping so we sold out the front page so our executives can keep raking in millions of dollars a year to maintain their jet-set lifestyle at the expense of the public interest."

*

Smith writes that "The revenue generated by new ads also will play an important role in funding the first-rate journalism and customer service we are committed to delivering each and every day."

Why am I skeptical that even a penny of the ad revenue derived will find its way into the newsroom?

*

A better idea.

*

Life's Great Questions
Among those Ask Marilyn's Marilyn vos Savant found too "special" to answer:

"Do you think daylight-saving time could be contributing to global warming? The longer we have sunlight, the more it heats the atmosphere."

Executive Privilege
"We have the most protected, covered, cautious and public relations-barricaded generation of leaders in history," said Jeffrey A. Sonnefeld, a professor of corporate governance at Yale."

Kill Me Now
"Today, the Sun-Times kicks off a monthlong look at Chicagoland's babies . . . "

Oh Lord!

Findings: The most popular name by the richest 25 percent is Michael! As it is for the bottom 25 percent! But "you're 10 times more likely to find a child named Jack in a richer ZIP code than in a poorer one."

Alert the media!

Er, I guess they already know.

*

News meeting that took place somewhere other than the Sun-Times recently:

Editor 1: Hey, let's have one of our reporters go to an expert and see what her name says about her!

Editor 2: Look, we're in high school now. This isn't the junior high paper anymore.

Indian Giver
Will the new "progressive" Sun-Times editorial pages continue to include the comic cartoon stylings of Jack Higgins?

I just find his work to be a bit incongruous with the new tone. Take his cartoon on Sunday of controversial former University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill.

"Who was that masked man?" Higgins has Churchill saying looking wistfully at a Lone Ranger in the distance. "Does he need a sidekick?"

Get it? Because Churchill is (supposedly) an American Indian. Like Tonto.

For further effect, Higgins has Churchill holding a piece of paper saying "Ward Churchill Fired - New low man on totem pole."

Get it? 'Cause Indians use totem poles and stuff.

I guess there was no room for a rain dance and a bottle of liquor.

Kill Me Now Again
Oh Lord, My Boys is back!

"There is so much wrong in this show I don't even know where to start."

"How hard does My Boys suck? Pretty hard."

"I actually look forward now to watching My Boys every Tuesday night so I can continue to crusade against it."

"It's not that I'm obsessed with how bad My Boys is, is that it's so bad I keep watching out of amazement."

Union Buster
So it turns out it may not be illegal at all for Cook County prosecutors to unionize. It may just be that Dick Devine doesn't want them to.

Hardy Har Har!
My Boys ad copy in full-page Sun-Times ad today: "When the two seasons in Chicago are winter and construction, let's face it, you could use a laugh!"

Rush Job I
What in the world is Bobby Rush doing talking about holding hearings about the alleged NBA gambling scandal? Well, it turns out he can hold hearings on anything he wants.

For example, if he wanted to hold a hearing about politicians and their relationships with companies whose bills they vote on, he could do that.

But really, shouldn't congressional hearings be about the public interest, not a congressman's interest?

Rush Job II
Rush has sent a letter to NBA commissioner David Stern asking for a personal briefing on the alleged gambling scandal.

The Beachwood has obtained a list of other folks Rush has sent letters to asking for personal briefings:

* Matt Groening, for a briefing of The Simpsons.
* J.K. Rowling, for a briefing on Harry Potter.
* Angelina Jolie, for a briefing on . . . Angelina Jolie.

That's Manny!
First Ward Ald. Manny Flores continues to smooth the way for developer financing of his congressional campaign.

History Lesson
"I really believe the Olympics movement sets aside politics," Daley said. "Otherwise, we would never have an Olympic movement. They'd be caught up in politics."

Like the time Hitler used the Berlin Games for propaganda purposes, or the American boycott of the Moscow Olympics and the subsequent Soviet boycott of the Los Angeles Olympics, or Herb Brooks saying the Lake Placid hockey victory validated our way of life, or Steven Spielberg considering pulling out of the Beijing Olympics because of China's culpability in Darfur.

But yes, otherwise the mayor is right.

Wages of Gentrification
Percentage of every dollar spent at a locally owned Chicago store that is retained or recirculated in the city: 68.

Percentage of every dollar spent at a chain store in Chicago that is: 43.

- Harper's Index

The Beachwood Tip Line: Insert ad here.


Posted by Lou at 09:14 AM | Permalink

RockNotes: Inside Funkytown, USA

Two new rock 'n' roll books are on my radar, one that chronicles how a terrific music scene can spring up and prosper in an unlikely place and another that takes a clear-eyed look at the perils and rewards in the everyday lives of rock world working stiffs.

1. I know the Beachwood is a Chicago thing, like Jake, the so-called "Neighborhood Guy" says on those never-ending Old Style radio commercials they play during the Cubs games. "The Spindle. It's a Chicago thing." "The Outfit. It's a Chicago thing." "Horrible watery beer made in Wisconsin. It's a Chicago thing."

But I also like to think that broad musical tastes are a Chicago thing as well, which is the justification I'm using to take this opportunity to relate a few highlights of a new book about Minnesota's rock music history. Full disclosure impels me to say that I'm a St. Paulite by birth and current residence, but also a former Chicagoan who paid his dues with all the "neighborhood guys" hanging around outside the group homes at the Bryn Mawr Red Line station, so, yah know, there yah go, okay? I know you like Minnesota bands, you really can't fool me, so let me tell you a bit about Music Legends: A Rewind on the Minnesota Music Scene by Martin Keller.

For anyone who wants a quick but skilled primer on the strangely prodigious rock, soul, folk and pop music output of this isolated, wintry outpost of a state, Keller's 128-page softcover is good place to go. It's the first of a planned two-part effort: Part Two will be devoted to Prince, the Jayhawks, Soul Asylum and others. Keller, who as a Twin Cities alternative weekly music writer in the '80s was about as involved as you could get in the what was essentially the state's second golden rock era, gives us what's clearly the Cliff's Notes version of his prodigious knowledge base. It's kind of a beginner's guide to the subject, but still just comprehensive enough to whet any music fan's appetite for more details about what's undeniably a musical heritage way out of proportion for a state with such a modest population.

Of course, there's Dylan, and Keller gives him his due as one of only two artists to get his own chapter in Music Legends ("Funkytown" writer/producer Steven Greenberg is the other). There really isn't too much you can add to the man's legacy in a couple of pages, but Keller does relate an amusing anecdote once told by fellow Minnesotan Bobby Vee on National Public Radio. Vee gave young Zimmy his first shot in a professional recording studio doing keyboards and hand claps, but he was under the impression the kid's name was Elston Gunnn (sic). A couple years later when Vee was in New York, he saw a poster hawking a performance in Greenwich Village by someone named Bob Dylan, and he remarked, "Gee, that looks a lot like Elston Gunnn!"

soma.jpgBobby Vee and the Replacements pretty much bookend Keller's survey, and they share something in common - they both were signed to independent record labels that defined the two golden ages of Minnesota rock 'n' roll. In Vee's case, the label was Soma Records. Founded by a pair of middle-aged brothers who got their start in the 1940s by distributing jukeboxes and "rack jobbing" at retail stores, they decided in the late '50s to create the "content" for their music distribution channels as well, and so founded one of the earliest and most successful indie record labels in the country. The Heilicher Brothers established a recording studio on Nicollet Avenue and used it to create the state's first real hit: Bobby Vee's 1959 recording of "Suzy Baby."

But the record that really put Minnesota on the rock 'n' roll map was Soma's garage rock classic "Surfin' Bird," by the Trashmen. The 1963 smash reached No. 4 on the national charts and stayed there until it was bumped out by a new combo called the Beatles. Keller writes that the first day in the stores, "Surfin' Bird" sold out its initial pressing of 1,000 copies, then 10,000 copies were sold and Mercury Records picked up the distribution. One million records later it was still a phenomenon. The Soma era was summed up in the issuance of a pair of compilation albums in the mid-60s: Big Hits of Mid-America Volumes I and II.

At the other end of Keller's book, that same Nicollet Avenue recording studio also became the focal point of the state's second golden rock age: the late '70s and early- to mid-'80s, a time dominated by another seminal indie label, Twin/Tone Records, home to the Replacements and a slew of other great bands that turned the Twin Cities into one of the hottest local scenes in the country. This time, the scene was also centered on a record store, called Oar Folkjokeopus, and the bar across the street, the C.C. Club on Lyndale Avenue. The record store was where one of Twin/Tone's founders, Peter Jesperson, worked when he wasn't "sort of" managing the Replacements.

"How else could you explain it, that time between 1976 and 1984, other than to throw some kind of quasi-cosmological South Minneapolis spin on it?" Keller writes. "Something like: The bars were aligned with the record store and label, the rock rags, studios and impresarios, the film crew and hangers on, all reeling under the shakin' firmament in the House of Rock.

"It was the best of times. It was the best of times."

Those bestest of times sort of came full circle in 1980 when Twin/Tone issued Big Hits of Mid-America Volume III, in honor of its Soma forbears. It included songs from The Suburbs, The Suicide Commandos and The Jets, among many others. And It marked the starting point of a brilliant half-decade run that gave the world a model for how a local indie music scene could succeed in ways as-yet unimagined, a model that Seattle took and ran with in the '90s.

Music Legends, though modest in ambition, nonetheless has, in spots, some of the same cool style that Keller displayed during his essential stint as the best music writer in town while at the alt weekly Sweet Potato (now City Pages) starting in 1979, so that's very fun to see. But even more important is that he packs a lot of names and crucial basics about so many great-but-now-forgotten bands into the book's slender frame, it might be the best-ever place to get a start-up knowledge of the subject.

Jiggs Lee? Chameleon? The Wallets? Augie Garcia? Doug Maynard? Yep, it's a Minneapolis thing.

Okay, Chicagoans. It's safe to come back out now.

2. Meanwhile in New York, one of the foremost rock compilation disc assemblers, Bruce Pollock, has taken a break from his duties putting together the "all original songs" for those ultra-comprehensive Time-Life Records CDs to do essentially the same thing on the printed page with his own extensive trove of interviews with both the superstars and wanna-be's of rock 'n' roll. The idea he's going for in Working Musicians: Defining Moments from the Road, the Studio and the Stage is a gut-level, all-glamor-barred look at how the workaday realties of the rocking-as-a-job lifestyle can be unsurprisingly hard, especially for those who are less than supremely talented, but also extremely weird and funny.

KISS_fire.jpgPollock has patterned his book as a series of long interview quotes built around several quintessential rock 'n' roll themes, such as the first gig, the first album, life on the road, show presentation, picking set lists, habits that breed success, etc. The overall effect varies quite a bit depending on who's doing the telling, whether it be Gene Simmons talking about how he almost burned himself to death during KISS' first big show or Andy Partridge explaining the joys and agonies of writing a song. Taken as a whole, it's a pretty sobering look at the price that needs to be paid to earn a music paycheck.

Among the book's more interesting quotes:

* Dawn Silva, a back-up singer with Sly and the Family Stone, tells of her first encounter with the enigmatic Sly. She was recruited by Cynthia Robinson to come out to his recording studio in Sausalito. Very nervous, she trembled at hearing his disembodied voice barking orders over the darkened studio's PA as she struggled to sing. Later, she says, someone invited her to a back room, where she saw "an enormous bed that took up the entire room. It was shaped like a mouth . . . the mattress looked like a swollen tongue. There lying in the center of the tongue, was Sly, surrounded by four women. He was wearing a large Afro wig . . . He introduced me to the four women. All of them looked me over suspiciously, except for Cynthia, who said, 'Welcome.'" Silva had officially become part of the Family Stone.

* Peter Tork of the Monkees recalls having Jimi Hendrix as an opening act during a tour of England and how when the rock biz heard him, they all thought turning up their amps would make them just as good, a mindset he calls "mistaking the finger for the moon. You point at the moon and somebody looks at your finger. It's inevitable." He also maintains that Capitol Records would have signed the Monkees on their musical chops alone, even without the TV show, and that Mickey Dolenz was so unnecessarily dubious of his own drumming skills that he always wanted to quit.

* Kenny Withrow of Edie Brickell & the New Bohemians: "'What I Am' got milked for everything it was worth. It was out too long, so people became, in my opinion, sick of us. We made four videos for our first album. Somebody could have been there to tell us not to make that video. We were ill-advised, and we wound up not making any money."

*

Go on, treat yourself.

Posted by Don at 02:16 AM | Permalink

What I Watched Last Night

If you're going to get a hankering for a good black-and-white horror flick, just after midnight in that time that bridges Friday and Saturday is as good a time to get it. The folks running the Independent Film Channel certainly get it, because they had the presence of mind to present This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse, the subtitled 1967 sequel to At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul by Brazilian macabre master Jose Mojica Marins.

This one's even better than At Midnight because Marins demonstrates growth as a filmmaker - which basically means it's even more Felliniesque, there's considerably more screaming and cheesecake, the women are hotter, and Zé now has a hunchbacked assistant named Bruno.

Marins starred in and directed both films, which revolve around creepy town undertaker Zé do Caixo (also known as Coffin Joe). Interestingly, Marins is still an active director; over the past year, he's been working on the final installment of the Coffin Joe trilogy, Tomorrow At Midnight I'll Repossess Your Car.

The credit sequence of This Night opens with Zé looking quite dead from his previous encounter with soul-stealing. But soon enough, Zé comes strolling back into town, his trademark black top hat, cape, unibrow and curly-long fingernails shined up and looking unsettlingly like a whacked-out 1970s Burt Reynolds. For a corpse, Zé cleans up remarkably well, and he's still got one mission on his mind: to find the perfect woman who will immortalize him by giving him a son. His legend among the townsfolk is certain to outlive Adolf Hitler's because of all the sadism and murder Zé dished out in At Midnight, but still. "Immortality is in the blood," he proclaims.

Zé gets to it by setting up six village beauties in his undertaker house so he can decide which will be the perfect woman to bear him a son. The women aren't entirely happy with their current lot in life as daughters, wives and fiances, so it's pretty easy for the village's biggest dick in history to pull off something like this. If you've ever had your wife run off with the asshole building an addition onto your house, you can see how shit like this happens. His choice becomes clear when only love-hostage Marcia (Nadia Freitas) shows no fear during Zé's "test of courage" where the women are covered in their sleep by scores of crawling tarantulas. Zé's love hostages are the heaviest sleepers in history, so it takes them a good 10 minutes to feel their naked skin oozing with huge spiders (giving Marins plenty of cheesecake devotion time), but when they wake up, boy can these women ever scream and complain.

"Enough! I hate dramas," Zé yells. Zé apparently isn't too bright, because drama is pretty much what you ask for when you stick six women in the same room, with or without a giant box of tarantulas. His hunchback assistant Bruno is even dimmer; he takes Zé's gift of one of the love hostages, carries her off to another room, and promptly strangles her before he's actually able to do anything with her. "She was screaming," he says, just before pulling out his shopping to-do list and penciling in "duct tape."

Since Zé was in a giving mood, he could have gifted Bruno with the remaining four love hostage castoffs, since even bigger morons and Bret Michaels could work with with those sort of odds. But Zé's a sadistic cocksucker, so he promises them "peace fortune, and supreme happiness" by leading them into a room that ends up being filled with snakes in a very bad mood. If the snakes weren't bad enough, he makes them watch his seduction of Marcia through a sliding window next to the bed.

"You will never have a son!" screams one the love hostages - looking a lot like a Stone Ponys-era Linda Ronstadt - who manages to place a curse on Zé while being strangled by a boa constrictor." And before you can imagine, I will retun and avenge my death . . . Be afraid, for at midnight I will possess your corpse."

Zé heard nonsense like that in his last go-around, and he came out none the worse for wear. So he finds this whole curse business tremendously amusing. Marcia gets annoyed at watching women die before her eyes, so she breaks it off with Zé, who with the help of Bruno dumps the bodies of the dead love hostages in a swamp. Later, village beauty Laura returns from a long stint at community college and is immediately impressed by Zé's manhandling of village strongman Truncador, a bald fellow with a crazy eye who appears to have fallen off a circus wagon. Laura's an even bigger love connection than Marcia because she shares Zé's atheistic tendencies and belief in "the union between two perfect people," so she agrees to meet him in a dark alley at midnight. Dead Linda Ronstadt fails to show up at the promised hour for Zé's soul or corpse or even a new singing career. "I don't mind being the mistress of the devil," Laura tells Zé. She doesn't even mind having a razor put to her neck and drawing blood either, so off they go to his love nest.

School girls like this in the world and people actually need to wonder why the Girls Gone Wild series is so damn popular.

Meanwhile, Zé deals with his biggest neighborhood detractor in typical sadistic fashion by crushing his head between two huge blocks of granite after trying it out first on a white mouse. "If you end up in heaven say hello to the angels. And if you end up in hell, give the devil my address." The hapless fellow, lacking a utility belt to get out of the same exact jam Batman and Robin found themselves in so many times, gets his head squished in fine, bloody fashion.

However, the highlight of the film is Zé's vision/dream - filmed in color - of Hell, where everyone who isn't chained to a wall crawls around naked getting flogged and stuck by demons with pitchforks or getting whapped in the forehead with a hammer and a chrome spike. I'm not sure which of the nine circles of Hell Zé landed in, but it snows there, the walls are lit up in groovy-colored lights and have moving limbs growing out of them, and there's plenty of uninterrupted, anguished screaming. So lock up any acid and peyote that might be lying about.

If there's a Hell there must certainly be a Heaven, so now Zé's a seriously torn man. The rest of the movie features a mob scene complete with burning torches, Zé's decision whether to save Laura or their love child, and Zé meeting up in a swamp with the remains of either his love hostages or some townspeople who had been chasing him earlier - I'm not quite sure which. Either way, Zé would have been better off pleading for the village priest to toss him a rope or a life preserver instead of a crucifix.

For good measure, Marins closes the film with "fim" instead of "fin" so there's no mistake in anyone's mind that you didn't just spend all this time watching a French film.

*

The Discovery Channel's always-popular Shark Week kicked off on Sunday. In a brilliantly creative promo spot, Richard Dreyfuss voices over an underwater scene of men crowded around the outside of a life raft.

"When the USS Indianapolis sank in open waters, her surviving crew prayed they would be found. Unfortunately . . . (dramatic pause while a shark swims past) . . . they were."

Jose Mojica Marins would give it a thumbs up.

*

See what else Scott Buckner and the Beachwood TV Desk has been watching.

Posted by Lou at 12:20 AM | Permalink

The Cub Factor

Cubs fans may be feeling a bit giddy these days, but after a thorough analysis by the research staff here at The Cub Factor, we have determined that there is still plenty to worry about. To wit:

* The Cubs still have too many second basemen.

* Traffic. It keeps getting worse, doesn't it?

* Taxes. They keep going up, don't they?

* Alfonso Soriano. He still doesn't make enough consistent contact as a leadoff man.

* Gas Prices. On top of the taxes, and then you're just idling in traffic . . .

* Fat. You just keep gaining weight, don't you? And then you're just sitting in traffic all that time . . .

* Jim Hendry. This is so no longer his team. But he still has the power to ruin it.

* The government. It's still there, right?

* Your back. Geez, does it ever hurt. It's getting worse, too. What's up with that?

* Jason Marquis. Turns out he's Jason Marquis.

* Your job. It still sucks.

* Your mental health. Turns out you required more hugs than you received as a child.

* The inevitable Matt Murton-as-Brant-Brown Noooooooo! moment.

* The media. God they suck.

* Cubs third-base coach Mike Quade. 'Cause the third-base coach always gets blamed.

* The state of popular music these days. I mean, c'mon!

* The weather. We talk about it, but nobody ever does anything to fix it.

* Organized religion. It's like it has a death wish or something.

* Inevitably, a new Jim Carrey movie will be out soon.

* Ryan Dempster is not a legitimate closer. And neither is Bob Howry.

* Harry Caray impressions that are more like Will Ferrell doing Harry Caray than Harry Caray doing Harry Caray.

* Ryan Dempster's version of Will Ferrell doing Haray Caray, which we'll inevitably see each time the team plays on Fox.

* All the stories we'll have to read about The Curse and that damned goat when the Cubs inevitably blow it again.

-

Week in Review: The Cubs took two of three on the road from the Cardinals and the Reds each. The only downside is that life on the road can get pretty dull when no one is in a slump, because without slumps, there is no slumpbusting.

Week in Preview: The Cubs come home for four against the Phillies and three with the Mets. Some say we'll see who the Cubs are this week because the Phillies and Mets are not the Cardinals and Reds. I say it doesn't matter how hard the wood is when the saw is sharp and spinning. And in this analogy the Cubs are the spinning saw and the Philles and Mets are the hard wood. Just to be clear.

The Second Basemen Report:Mark DeRosa got two starts with Mike Fontenot getting the other four. Even with Derrek Lee back off suspension and the Cubs bringing up Ronnie Cedeno the second base position has stabilized. I hope Lou Pinella is reading this because he is really screwing the Second Baseman report over and to be honest he's screwing with my whole damn column. I'd like to see Lou try being creative when all the team does is win. My only hope is for an infield with Cedeno at third, Theriot at shortstop, Fontenot at second, and DeRosa at first. The all-second baseman infield. With ex-second baseman Soriano in left. It could happen . . .

In former second baseman news, Delino DeShields is partnering with Dennis "Oil Can" Boyd in an urban baseball league designed to revive interest in baseball among African Americans. He is missed.

Sweet and Sour Lou: 78% sweet and 22% sour. Lou is up another two points on the Sweet-O-Meter. Due to more winning baseball. Just like your crazy old drunk uncle, Lou is living the high life. He finally straightened out all that junk in the garage and even got the old Ford to turn over. He's still got some work to do under the hood but everyone at the plant said he'd never get it running again.

Beachwood Sabermetrics: A complex algorithm performed by the The Cub Factor staff using all historical data made available by Major League Baseball has determined that the Milwaukee Brewers are tighter than a really fat guy's belt.

Over/Under: The number of games at Wrigley that don't sell out for the rest of the season: +/- 0.

The Cub Factor: Catch up with them all.

Mount Lou: Mount Lou is so dormant that birdies and bunnies are back frolicking where they once feared to tread. Global warming experts detect a worldwide drop in temperatures. However, skeptics note that several fault lines still run through the base of the structure and lava-producing capabilities are still strong if provoked.

mtlou_green.gif

Posted by Lou at 12:20 AM | Permalink

Chicagoetry: I Want To Lick Tequila Off Your Thighs

I WANT TO LICK TEQUILA OFF YOUR THIGHS

Mourning Dove,
Town Crier,

Awaken to your
Power.

Sometimes all you do
Is moan

Bloody
Murder!

BUT YOU
PURGE US!

Attend: Your grief
Is your grace!

I'll say it
To your face!

I dream it
Every night, nightmare

Of bliss,
A soft, quiet

Kiss . . .
Bleed

My six o'clock
Blues.

Liberator!
SING IT AWAY!

Say: Once we all
Bleed

We can
Breathe

Again.

-

J. J. Tindall is the Beachwood's poet-in-residence. He can reached at jjtindall@yahoo.com. Chicagoetry is an exclusive Beachwood collection-in-progress.

Posted by Lou at 12:17 AM | Permalink

July 28, 2007

The Weekend Desk Report

Sorry I've been gone so long this month. It took me a while to get over the Baconator.

A New Low
The Weekend Desk Sports Book would like to issue an apology. It appears we closed the betting on the Lunatic Attorney General race a touch too early. We honestly didn't think anyone could top the Patriot Act, Son of the Patriot Act and that whole freaky calico cat thing. But you've got to admit, brow-beating your predecessor in his hospital room is going to be pretty tough to beat.

Shift of Power
Vice President Dick Cheney will undergo minor surgery this weekend to replace the battery in his cold, metal heart. President Bush will assume control of the nation during the procedure.

A Note of Clarity
As we've noted frequently in this space, it can be difficult to distinguish between the mess being made in Iraq and the mess being made by Lindsay Lohan. Just remember, in Iraq people are getting jacked and car-bombed. In Malibu, Lohan is getting bombed and car-jacking people.

The Other Sister
Tired of being overshadowed by Lohan's spectacular implosion, Nicole Richie has announced she will drag all 23 of her South Korean hostages off to the friggin' big house with her if that what it takes to get a little damn attention.

Defensive Tactics, Part 1
Meanwhile, LiLo's defense team has hit on a novel strategy to solve her latest legal hiccup. Lawyers now contend her alcohol-fueled car chase was simply preparation for an upcoming film role.

Defensive Tactics, Part 2
Worn down by months of bad publicity, NASA has now admitted it sometimes lets astronauts get their payload on. However representatives of the agency contend that, given the rather high likelihood the rickety old tin cans the crew are piloting will fail catastrophically, it'd be rather cruel to keep them sober.

And Finally . . .
We're not sure what the hell to do with this. We're not even sure it's funny. Oh, wait. Actually, yes it is.

Posted by Natasha at 12:48 AM | Permalink

July 27, 2007

The [Friday] Papers

"Pepsi agreed to change labels on its Aquafina bottled water to show it comes from municipal taps," the Sun-Times notes in a brief business item today. "Pepsi will spell out 'Public Water Source' on bottles of Aquafina, the largest U.S. bottled-water brand, after pressure from an advocacy group that said the snow-capped mountains on the bottle implied the source was spring water.

"Aquafina's label currently reads, 'Bottled at the Source P.W.S.,' which stands for the public water sources. Aquafina is bottled in several U.S. cities.'"

*

According to Wikipedia, Aquafina "is standard tap water but goes through an extensive purification process that includes charcoal filtration, reverse osmosis and ozonation."

1. There's charcoal in our tap water?
2. The reverse osmosis is a marketing technique that occurs in the grocery aisle.
3. Ozonation occurs when the water is exposed to air.

*

"Aquafina uses PepsiCo's own purification system, which it calls HydRO-7."

See, that's why I prefer the Coca-Cola's counterpart, Dasani, which uses HydRO-8. Why cheat your customers out of a HydRO?

GROANER: Spinal Tap uses HydRO-11.

*

"Aquafina is an official sponsor of Olympus Fashion Week."

Yes. It is Fashion Week's Official Breakfast and Lunch.

Aquacocaina is the Official Dinner.

*

"PepsiCo produces several other products under the Aquafina label:

- Aquafina Sparkling, carbonated flavoured water, available in Berry Blast (Raspberry), and Citrus Twist.

- Aquafina FlavorSplash, flavoured water (without carbonation), available in Grape, Citrus Blend, Wild Berry, and Raspberry.

- Aquafina Alive, a low calorie, vitamin-enhanced water beverage, available in Berry Pomegranate, Peach Mango and Orange Lime."

Coming Soon: Aquafina Mercury, a sludge-enhanced flavoured water with fuel additives and a clouty kick available in BP Twist and Indiana Green Tea.

And Aquapedia will allow users to add their own ingredients prior to drinking.

Book Patrol
Real library trustees don't need no stinkin' badges.

Best Library Cop Ever
"Well, let me tell you something, funny boy. You know that little stamp that says New York Public Library? Well that may not mean anything to you but that means a lot to me, one whole hell of a lot."

- Lt. Bookman

Character Study
Minor in name only.

Ad Man
The best advertisement I've seen yet for AMC's Mad Men is Lewis Lazare's pan today in the Sun-Times. Give it a read and tell me you can't wait for the next episode!

Kiss Off
Then again, Lazare doesn't like the new Dunkin' Donuts ad because he finds it unrealistic that "anybody with half a brain would think to employ [Kiss guitar player Ace] Frehley in an office job to begin with. Which is why this disjointed, hopelessly heavy-handed commercial simply doesn't work."

He's also troubled that "It tries to juxtapose Frehley with a perfectly pleasant looking female office worker who looks to be giving a board room presentation. We see very little of her and her presentation, however, while we are treated to way too much of Frehley's showy guitar riff as the buttoned down corporate executives look on."

Yes, show us more board room presentation and less guitar!

Hey Lew, stop trying to impress the Tribune.

Our Tribune
"But it was a controversial decision in 1990 that sensitized editors about considering race, ethnicity and class, as well as rethinking the role of pop culture on the front page," the Tribune's public editor, Timothy McNulty, writes today.

Until 1990, the Trib didn't consider race, ethnicity, class or pop culture when considering what stories it put on the front page!

"That day both Jim Henson, creator of the Muppets, and singer Sammy Davis Jr. died. Jack Fuller, then editor of the paper, decided to place Henson's photo and obituary on the front beside a photo of Davis that referred readers to his obituary inside the paper.

"Fuller later wrote in a book titled News Values that while Davis was "the first black entertainer to present himself publicly as the social equal of white entertainers," he believed that Henson was more significant as a seminal figure in the evolution of television as an educational force."

If Fuller were black, or more enlightened, he might have seen Davis instead as a black Jew of a Puerto Rican mother accepted by a New Jersey Italian and his pack of infamous Hollywood lounge rats as not only an equal as an artist but as a friend whose symbolism of the meritocratic melting pot of America was so great he was used in one of the all-time classic sitcom episodes on the groundbreaking All in the Family.

Plus, he was The Candy Man.

Henson wasn't even one of the puppets!

(Yes, that's Sammy doing a loose Moonwalk 42 seconds in.)

Hiring Freeze
"Mayor Daley has said for the last three years that he does not know who appointed [Angelo] Torres to head the Hired Truck Program," the Sun-Times notes today.

He's filed a Freedom of Information request with the city but they aren't complying.

Dot-Com Bomb
Capitalizing on the success of the debate it co-sponsored with YouTube, CNN announced this morning that the CNN/Google Debate is next.

Questions will be solicited from citizen searches, excluding cached versions and supplemental results.

Prosecutorial Discretion
After appearing with Todd Stroger on Chicago Tonight last night, Cook County State's Attorney Dick Devine said he would no longer meet with rogue dictators looking to score propaganda points without preconditions.

That's Todd!
"The problem with the media is that they report on issues but they don't have all the facts," Stroger said on the show.

No, really. He said that. It's not a punch line.

And then he stonewalled about the budget.

I kid you not.

Obama vs. Clinton
Rival campaign spokesmen David Axelrod and Howard Wolfson were up and down the cable dial yesterday. Decide for yourself, without prejudice.

Annoying Advice
Track your symptoms and see if Yaz is right for you.

Site Bite
The Tribune's new website is so powder-puffy. Plus, they seemed to have removed the news. But the ads sure pop out.

The Beachwood Tip Line: You can even eat the dishes.

Posted by Lou at 08:26 AM | Permalink

T-Ball Journal: Rubbing It In

We won our first-round playoff game a lot of runs to a little on Saturday. Noah's and my 8-and-under Dodgers were playing a team we had tied during the regular season so the result represented some progress. On the other hand, the head coach of the opposing team had apparently left early for summer vacation. And if the coach was gone that meant one of the best players (the teams I've coached have yet to face a squad where the coach's kid didn't qualify) was absent as well. I don't want to go overboard but it was goofy the guy wasn't there no matter what the excuse. How do you coach one of these teams for almost three months and then when it's time to sprint to the finish line, you're nowhere to be found?

Yikes.

In about the fourth inning I heard one of our kids ask what the score was and then repeat it loudly/incredulously/derisively. It was that special mocking tone that some kids this age so endearingly employ altogether too frequently. I promptly called the squad together and told them sternly we wouldn't be talking about the score any more, that first and foremost we are all about good sportsmanship. And the kids abided by my decree - for about a half inning.

coach_jim.jpgActually I'm reasonably confident there wasn't any "rubbing it in" going on. One of the great things about youth baseball is the fact that the teams are always separated from one another. In soccer, guys find themselves standing together with foes on the field all the time. Conversations inevitably ensue and are oftentimes less than cordial (I seem to recall just such an interaction in the final of last year's World Cup leading to the downfall of an international icon for goodness sake). In the majors, base-runners and first basemen always seem to be chatting. But even those get-togethers don't occur in the junior division (none of the fielders or the base-runners I've observed from my spot in the first-base coaching box have ever seemed inclined to converse). The moral of this story: if the kids aren't talking to each other, they aren't taunting each other.

We played well and won despite a sizable delay before the game began. Then again we might have won in part because of the delay - it enabled all of our players to squeeze in a little batting practice (and a special thanks to the assistant coach who suggested we take that course of action - up until then my distracted self was content to chat with friends while monitoring the game that was causing the delay). Playoff games must, of course, be contested until the bitter end and the contest that led up to ours went three extra innings. During the regular season there is a time limit that virtually always ensures games start no more than a few minutes late (it also results in the very occasional deadlock, like the one mentioned above). But this was the post-season and therefore our game started almost an hour late.

The 10 innings of tense T-Ball/coach pitch that resulted in a 21-20 victory for the Rangers over the White Sox (those stinking placekickers! One of them obviously missed a crucial extra point) featured all sorts of fascinating developments. The White Sox were in position to win in the eighth or ninth when the coach who was pitching was called for interference. Coach-pitchers are not allowed to say anything to batters after they release a given pitch (to prevent them from saying something like "that's a terrible pitch - don't swing"). They let you off with a warning for infractions during the season but during the playoffs the consequences are more serious. After the White Sox coach was cited, a runner who could have scored a critical run was sent back to third.

There was also a seven-run, seventh-inning rally and at least five major conferences between umpires and coaches (OK, so those weren't terribly exciting but I thought they should at least be noted). There were also all sorts of defensive plays that might be routine at higher levels of baseball, but which were extraordinary on the junior division diamond.

Then, finally, it was over and we were up. Our opponents scored a few runs in the first inning and it looked like it might be a battle but the Dodgers quickly pulled away, and pulled away, and pulled away. The result, which earned us a spot in a National League semifinal against the top-seeded Mets this coming weekend, was satisfying and the post-game spread of pizza and cupcakes tasted better.

The food was part of what became a bit of an awards ceremony for the volunteer coaches. It suffices to say that while there is a long tradition of volunteers in a variety of endeavors feeling underappreciated, that will not be a problem for the group of us who coached the Dodgers. And thereby another opportunity for me to develop at least a bit more of the cynical edge that serves so much of beachwoodreporter.com so well went by the boards.

Meanwhile, last weekend, 5-year-old Alana's (I should note at this point that she is actually 5 and 11/12ths - her much anticipated birthday is now just a few weeks away) T-ball season was meandering toward its conclusion. After an early-week practice described by one of the Red Sox assistant coaches as "the worst yet," the squad played one of its best games of the season and took a lead into the bottom half of the final inning. As had happened a couple times earlier this summer, their foes scored just enough runs to win and that was that.

Alana wasn't all that broken up about the setback. In fact, I'm not sure she noticed. In the defensive half of the final inning it was her turn to take a break and she spent her time playing with the older sister of one of her teammates. For a little while they played one of my daughter's favorite games - it's called 'let me pick you up." My daughter picked up her taller playmate a couple times and then was pleased to report on her feat of strength to various people for the next half hour or so.

I could feel for the coaches because bad practices followed by good games are always unnerving. One has to wonder why we bother when there doesn't seem to be any connection between preparation and results. But when I talked to a few of them after the contest they didn't seem concerned. They were happy the Red Sox had played well and even happier that the season is almost over. The season finale is schedule for this Sunday.

We also realized this week that none of the parents had stepped up and made arrangements for end-of-season gifts for the Red Sox coaches. My wife went ahead and sent some e-mails to get the ball rolling. That seemed like the right thing to do but a part of me noted there was a good reason not to take the trouble. With the right sort of preparation, Alana's coach might make a heck of a T-Ball Journal writer next year.

coach_jim2.jpg

*

Jim Coffman's daughter is in her first season of T-Ball. Her older brother is in his last year in the Junior Division. Coffman is chronicling his travails as coach of his son's team and observer of his daughter's initial foray into this slice of Americana. (That's Coach Jim in the mug shot at the top of the story, and Coach Jim on the mound while his team wears rally caps in the photo above.)

Posted by Lou at 12:45 AM | Permalink

Chicagoetry: My Dad Was A Bong-Head In College

MY DAD WAS A BONG-HEAD IN COLLEGE

"Live Rust." That
was the giveaway:

I found his records
In the barn,

And I began to understand more deeply
My mother's

Sense of
Humor.

It all came to me
In a flash:

Dad
Was a bong-head

In
College.

I actually looked
For seeds

And shake
In the spine.

I'd previously taken
My mother's surprising, almost shocking, if slightly muted,

Support for legalizing
ALL drugs and letting a Federal Bureaucracy do its magic and run the whole thing into

The
Ground, once and for all.

Wow! A lot of that
Was pure bullshit!

Just to fuck
With Dad!

Wow!
Awesome.

Mother! What a clue
She had!

Very sophisticated, I'm thinking
Now. Well: for a

Girl.

-

J. J. Tindall is the Beachwood's poet-in-residence. He can reached at jjtindall@yahoo.com. Chicagoetry is a collection-in-progress.

Posted by Lou at 12:17 AM | Permalink

July 26, 2007

What I Watched Last Night

If you like your women cold and hard as a well-digger's ass in January, you'll like FX's new series, Damages. (Tuesday's premiere episode, which I wasn't home to see Tuesday, is being re-run several times tonight and probably to death this weekend, so you'll have ample chance to see it.) If you like legal dramas where you sit there the whole time trying to figure out exactly what the hell is going on but you go along for the ride anyway because it's not often that you get to see the dark, manipulative underbelly of the legal profession, you'll like this show, too.

I like my women a bit softer than that, and there are times when I don't feel like working that hard in order to enjoy a TV show, but it's still a show worth watching because it solidifies common opinion that lawyers suck.

Glenn Close plays Patty Hewes, a class-action lawyer so prominent she's a familiar face on Greta Van Susteren's legal talk show. Close does Ice Queen WASP perfectly, giving us the impression that Hewes is capable of shooting laser beams of death from her eyes and shitting razor blades without wincing, and would eat little children if there was any money in it.

"If you were a man, I'd kick the living dog shit out of you," Hewes' opponent in a case tells her on the courthouse steps after she tricks him into making what's obviously going to be a case-losing gaffe in front of the jury's foreman, who happens to be wandering back from lunch. New York City's judicial system is pretty decent. They send you to Quizno's.

"If you were a man, I'd be worried," she shoots back. No, this is not a woman who would tolerate erectile dysfunction well. Or for long. Still, she likes a good bourbon, laments her parenting skills, and can recite Emily Dickinson. Talk about a complex ball of something that you can't wait to start unraveling before your eyes at some point.

The show revolves around two issues, one more mysterious than the other, and jumps between present day and six months ago without telling you, exactly. That's when you realize this is one of those shows where, if you blink too often or don't have TiVo, you'll be hopelessly lost until the end of the season. On one hand, there's the mysterious case of a half-naked, blood-drenched woman found wandering about the streets of New York in a green trench coat. That's the thing that happened today. On the other hand, there's the case of bazillionaire Arthur Frobisher (Ted Danson), a silver-fox sorta guy in his 60s so amazingly dynamic and big-dog that he zooms around doing ATV motocross for kicks without worrying about breaking a hip. That's what was happening six months ago.

Arthur unloaded a boatload of his company stock, sending his 5,000 employees down the river by leaving them out of work and pensionless. "I'm a rich man, but I'm also a reasonable man," Arthur says, so he offers his broke workers $100 million to go away. The employees want the settlement, but Patty thinks they can get - and deserve - more by taking it to a jury because, well, she's so good (and rich, apparently) that she only takes cases she is passionate about.

"I say we take this money and get on with our lives" says one of the unemployed Frobisher workers. It doesn't seem to occur to any of them that getting on won't be that easy on a check for $26.32 once prominent class-action lawyers like Patty Hewes take their cut.

Compounding the whole mess is freshly-hired associate Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne), who's engaged to first-year hospital resident David Connor (Noah Bean). Ellen is exactly as bland as Kristin Davis' Charlotte York in Sex and the City, which makes it all the more interesting when it turns out that she's the bloody mess wandering the street in a trench coat at 7 a.m., and David is the bloody mess lying on the apartment floor. Yet, the show jumps between Ellen being hired six months ago and today, when the cops are trying to figure out what to do with this gory, uncommunicative mess of a woman.

Still, this is an FX original program, so things never are what they appear and they turn on a dime, which is why Rescue Me is so good. Is Arthur really a bad guy? Is Patty really a good guy? Did good girl Ellen flip out and go bad, or did someone else?

Who knows. When you're on this kind of trip, it's best for us kids in the back seat to just shut up and let dad drive.

*

The What I Watched Last Night library is open for your perusal.

Posted by Lou at 02:46 PM | Permalink

The [Thursday] Papers

1.Kwik-E-Marts are doing a booming business.

ABC News reports that sales at the converted 7-11s, like this one on the Southwest Side, have doubled.

The stats:

* 960,000 cans of Buzz Cola sold
* 880,400 Sprinklicious donuts sold
* 1.1 million Squishees sold

And Krusty O's? Can't keep 'em in stock. The Kwik-E-Mart near Times Square in Manhattan ran out by 1 p.m. on the first day of the promotion.

2. The joyless Tribune not only wants to Spike the Spindle, they want you to think they're clever for using that wacky Wayne's World lingo.

3. Save the Spindle.

4. "The names of the characters were changed. Timelines were shifted."

Oh, just like Obama's memoir!

5. "[Cook County prosecutors] ripped Stroger after learning he will oppose a 12 percent pay increase for the state's attorney's office this year after promising to deliver it," the Sun-Times reports.

"Stroger's [latest] spokeswoman, Ibis Antongiorgi, said he 'is committed to cost-of-living increases for the state's attorneys and for all nonunion employees, but the issue is finding a way to pay for them."

So it depends on what you mean by the word "committed."

6. "I think what is irresponsible and naive is to have authorized a war without asking how we were going to get out," Obama said.

"And that's why I endorsed Joe Lieberman over Ned Lamont."

7. There is some justice in the world.

* Number of copies of Back in Black sold last year: 440,000
* Number of copies of Whitney Houston's self-titled debut: 7,000

8. "Even as Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has promoted a large following of small-dollar contributors representing ordinary Americans, his campaign has built an old-school political fundraising machine that relies heavily on the wealth and the powerful," the Tribune reports on its front page this morning.

Welcome to the party! Glad you could make it.

"The network of fundraisers generating money for the Illinois senator's campaign includes a heavy representation of attorneys at well-connected law firms and members of the financial industry, including highly paid managers of hedge funds and private equity funds whose lofty compensations have recently generated public controversy.

"The Obama campaign is hardly unique in depending upon fundraisers drawn from the nation's financial elite . . . But the Obama fundraising operation provides a contrast to an image that the campaign has ceaselessly cultivated as a movement powered by everyday Americans."

9. "Your friends may be more important than your genes in determining whether you gain weight, according to a new study billed as the first to demonstrate that obesity tends to spread through social networks," the Tribune reports in its lead front page story today, "Friendship at Heart of Obesity."

"The study, which followed a group of Americans for more than three decades, found that a person's chances of becoming obese increase dramatically after a close friend or relative fattens up. The same thing happens when someone close slims down."

Um, I dunno, I'm not so sure the researchers - or the media - is quite getting it right. Maybe people of similar body type and lifestyles tend to become friends. I think the cause-and-effect may be backwards. You don't tend to see a tall person with a short best friend or a budding young athlete hanging out with a sedentary bookworm.

10. "The front-page 'teaser' made sure I would read the story. It had a tough picture of Sen. Barack Obama and a headline "Obama Inc. Is our man of the people already beholden to fat cats? Abner Mikva wrote in May.

"I could not believe what I read when I turned to Page 6 of the Sun-Times last Monday. It said that Obama had taken more than $165,000 from the second-largest bank in Europe, almost $160,000 from Exelon Corp., $143,000 from one Wall Street corporation, $50,000 from Citigroup, and $40,000 from another Wall Street firm. The story even intimated that the Obama campaign had confirmed these numbers.

"If Obama had taken one dime from any of these corporations, he and the corporations would have been in clear violation of the federal Corrupt Practices Act that flatly prohibits any corporation from giving money to a federal campaign. There is a special law that has even stiffer penalties for any foreign corporation making such contributions. Not only can't corporations make such contributions, they cannot be involved in any activities leading to others making such contributions."

*
From today's Tribune: "Obama: 260 'bundlers' raise about $13 million."

11. "Dusty Baker and two of Barry Bonds' ex-teammates claim the San Francisco Giants star has been unfairly targeted by the government and media," AP reports.

"Baker said he noticed no signs of Bonds' alleged steroid use while he was managing the Giants. He said even if a manager suspected a player was using performance-enhancing drugs, proving it was another matter.

"'How was I supposed to know what a guy was doing when he left that baseball field?' Baker said.

I saw part of the ESPN forum where Baker made his comments. He also said: "You can go up to a guy and ask him and he won't tell you nuthin'."

Baker is also reportedly managing Lindsay Lohan.

12. How John Records Landecker almost got fired for playing the Dixie Chicks.

13. "Despite the media attention the [Obama] campaign has grabbed by attracting 258,000 donors - in many cases people of modest means who have given over the Internet - a much smaller group of large donors provides most of the funds for the campaign," the Tribune continues.

"Obama's campaign theme of reform has left him open to criticism of his fundraising operation. On the campaign trail, he regularly criticizes the influence of established special interests in shaping national policy . . .

"At least 17 of his major fundraisers are managers of either hedge funds or private equity funds."

14. "Among the next top cop's first challenges will be restoring faith in the Police Department, both inside and out, insiders and community leaders say," the Tribune reports.

Restoring?

"By 16, he had graduated to armed robberies, [Robert "Bobby the Beak"] Siegel testified, and he had become aware of the neighborhood's Outfit toughs," the Tribune reports.

"'They made the money, and they didn't go to jail,' testified Siegel, chuckling at the memory. 'Most of the police were on the [Outfit] payroll at that time.'"

The Beachwood Tip Line: Bundle your thoughts.

Posted by Lou at 08:20 AM | Permalink

The Cubs Answer Men #1

As you may or may not realize, the Chicago Cubs are the hottest team in baseball. After a slow start, they have surged to within a few games of division leading Milwaukee. Anyone who has lived in Chicago for a long time knows what is going to happen next:

The Cubs are going to win it all this year.

Because it's been a little while since this last occurred, many of our Chicago readers have been writing us with their questions. We don't have room to answer all of them here today, but we'll try to get through them before the parade in November.

"D" writes: "I'm getting a little nervous about all this World Series talk. Are we putting the cart before the horse?"

R&D: That phrase might have meant something the last time the Cubs won the World Series, but don't forget that cars have been invented since then. Horses and carts are nowhere near as popular as they were the last time the Cubs won it all.

"A" writes: "Is there anything we can learn from the last Cubs World Series champions?"

R&D: Absolutely. Pitching and defense are the keys to winning it all. If our current Cubbies follow the lead of the 1908 Champions, they'll be saying "World Champion Chicago Cubs" as soon as the news is telegraphed to all 46 states, including the brand new state of Oklahoma.

"B" writes: "Should the 2007 National League Champion Chicago Cubs be aware of any rule changes since their last World Series appearance in 1945?"

R&D: There have only been a few rule changes. During the 1960s the pitchers dominated in a big way - especially in 1968. That was the year that Bob Gibson had an ERA of 1.12, Denny McLain had 31 victories, and Carl Yastrzemski led the AL with a paltry .301 batting average. So the Baseball Rules Committee lowered the mound. Other changes included the shrinking of the strike zone and tighter enforcement against illegal pitches. Oh, and now they also allow Blacks to play.

"S" writes: "Since the World Series is played in October, what should I wear to Wrigley to combat the frigid evenings?"

R&D: Make sure you wear warm clothes in layers. We suggest a T-shirt under another T-shirt with a sweatshirt on top. Blue sweatshirts with the words "Renegades, Baseball" retain your natural heat the best. Since most of your body heat escapes through your head, wear big honking headphones. This is especially important if you're sitting in the front row. Remember, you're not just a spectator - you're a participant.

"K" writes: "I'm going to take my folding chairs out of my parking space and reserve a space for the parade. Any idea which route the parade took last time? I want to get the best seat."

R&D: They obviously avoided the notorious North Side German ghetto last time, so don't waste your time placing your chairs on one of those unpaved dirt roads there.

"R" writes: "Will President Theodore Roosevelt attend the World Series this time? We're all still a little miffed that he snubbed Chicago last time."

R&D: Unfortunately, no. It looks like Roosevelt won't be coming again this time. What do you expect from a New Yorker?

*

Originally appearing at Half Empty. If you have any other questions about how to handle the World Series, feel free to send them to Rick and Dave. Between now and the big parade they'll try to get to as many of your questions as they can.

Posted by Lou at 12:48 AM | Permalink

Ramen Review #3: Myojo Ippei-Chan Japanese Style Soup: Soy Sauce Flavor

The packaging reminded me of the old movie gag where the protagonist is introduced to a foreign diplomat and her translator. The diplomat prattles on for several minutes in some remote language and her translator finally says "She say, hello."

I don't understand Chinese, but I suspect it doesn't take 41 Asian logograms to communicate the only English words on the package: "Soy Sauce Flavor" and "Ippei-Chan Japanese style soup noodles."

ramen3_th.jpgRecent translation mishaps during a trip to Spain have made me a more cautious consumer. I asked the waiter to write down what I was eating and discovered stateside that what I thought was some sort of pasta turned out to be "Worms (baby eels) served raw." That explained why the waiters laughed so much when I ordered a second round.

The soup lid's most prominent message - Long dash, Capital "T" with wings and a tutu, Sloppy drunken five, and Capital "L" holding an ankh symbol with a Jimmy Durante nose - could have meant anything from "Noodles" to "Lark's vomit" to "Inka Dinka Doo" for all I knew. But the bowl of soup pictured on the lid comforted me with its friendly and familiar good looks. The corn niblets were particularly non-threatening.

This was a Styrofoam bowl style ramen. The raw noodles had been molded into a disk shape and sat on the bottom of the bowl along with three soup packets. The disk was tougher than the usual ramen "brick" and I had to use a fork to chip some away some of the noodles in order to taste them. Excellent! If they had been in a more snack-friendly form I would have eaten them raw. One of the three packets was a liquid soup base. Liquid soup bases are highly regarded in ramen circles by ramen aficionados. This was the first one I had come across and I was keen to taste what all the fuss was about. Yes, there are ramen circles and ramen aficionados.

I added boiling water and waited three minutes. I peeled back the paper cover and smelled soy sauce, seaweed, meat, and something fermented. The broth was a dark caramel color with a layer of golden oil. It was sweet, salty, and rich and I could taste garlic and beef. It was comforting in the same way a good miso soup is comforting. After the first few bites I made a yummy noise loud enough to wake my cat.

The vegetables rehydrated fairly well. The corn, cabbage, and onion were sweet, and I found flakes of fried garlic that were potent and delicious. The bamboo shoots were pleasantly chewy. The cooked noodles were slightly mushy. They tasted better raw.

This soup had more ingredients than any ramen I've had so far - a whopping 77. The noodles alone contained 18 ingredients. The esteemed liquid soup base contained salt, three kinds of MSG, spices, a flavor enhancer, and six kinds of fat, including lard.

Lard may be making a comeback. Since hydrogenated trans fats have become the culinary equivalent of running with scissors, manufacturers and chefs have been pressured to stop using them and some have switched to lard. Compared to butter, lard contains less saturated fat and higher levels of monounsaturated, or "good" fat. But before you get out that old pie crust recipe you should know that the lard on the store shelves is hydrogenated. To get any health "benefits" you will have to render the lard from pork fat yourself. While you're at it, use any leftovers to make tallow soap for all the youngins in the holler.

Unfortunately, the rest of the ingredient list reads like Alfred Nobel's bouillabaisse recipe: seafood extracts of scallop, bonito, mackerel, sardine, salmon, tuna, and shrimp along with alginic acid, disodium succinate, disodium inosinate, sodium metaphosphate, disodium guanylate, and disodium inosinate.
If you don't mind the questionable ingredients or higher cost, I recommend Myojo Ippei-Chan Japanese style soup. Then again, I also recommend the raw baby eels.

*

Taste/noodle raw: Delicious, but the round disk form makes snacking difficult.
Taste/noodle cooked: Held their kinky shape but slightly mushy.
Taste/Broth: Rich, salty, meaty.
Odor: That rare, "real food" smell - like something made at home.
Hydrogenated oils: No.
MSG: Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.
Calories per serving: 410
Servings per package: 1
Sodium per serving: 2320mg
Price: $2.39
Packets: 3
Overall Ramen Rating: 8.5/10

*

Previously:
- Ramen Review #1: Tradition Noodle Soup Oriental Style.
- Ramen Review #2: Dr. McDougall's Baked Not Fried.


Posted by Lou at 12:19 AM | Permalink

The Periodical Table

A weekly (usually - apologies for falling behind!) roundup of magazines laying around Beachwood HQ.

Bikini Journalism
As a Beachwood reader points out, Amy Jacobson is on the cover of the new New Yorker.

Mr. San Quentin
The must-read in this week's New Yorker is "Dean of Death Row," Tad Friend's profile of Vernell Crittendon, who was ostensibly the spokesman for the famed California prison for 30 years but in reality held a variety of roles including, most importantly, orchestrating executions. What seems most striking about Crittendon to Friend is his uncanny ability to modulate his perfect tone of impartiality with a variety of constituencies, and thus wield an odd kind of power and influence. What struck me the most was Crittendon's inability to tell the truth; he modulated with himself as well.

Perhaps more striking to some readers will be the insights Friend delivers about Crittendon's role in the campaign for and eventual execution of Stanley "Tookie" Williams, founder of the Crips. Crittendon's surreptitious contacts with reporters - passing along allegations he now admits were not true - is yet another reminder of the dangers of the media relying on friendly official sources with whom they naively imbue with an undeserved and unscrutinized authority.

Beyond all that, though, is the story of a man so cooly composed on the outside but so obviously searching and restless inside.

God's Parole Officer
Crittendon would only speak on behalf of prisoners seeking parole if they believed in God.

President Paul
How Ron Paul lost my vote.

"Whipping westward across Manhattan in a limousine sent by Comedy Central's Daily Show, Ron Paul, the 10-term Texas congressman and long-shot Republican presidential candidate, is being briefed. Paul has only the most tenuous familiarity with Comedy Central. He has never heard of The Daily Show. His press secretary, Jesse Benton, is trying to explain who its host, Jon Stewart, is,"The New York Times Magazine reports in a well-executed - and fascinating - profile.

How Ron Paul almost won it back.

"'GQ wants to profile you on Thursday,' Benton continues. 'I think it's worth doing.'

"'GTU?' the candidate replies.

"'GQ. It's a men's magazine.

"'Don't know much about that,' Paul says."

Abort Mission
Did this really happen?

"Paul opposes abortion, which he believes should be addressed at the state level, not the national one. He remembers seeing a late abortion performed during his residency, years before Roe v. Wade, and he maintains it left an impression on him.

"'It was pretty dramatic for me,' he says, 'to see a two-and-a-half pound baby taken out crying and breathing and put in a bucket.'"

1. Before Roe v. Wade? So it was an illegal abortion - and infanticide at that? Did Paul report this to police?

2. Roe v. Wade is built around viability. Maybe this is why abortion needs to be regulated, not performed illicitly.

3. As far as I understand, this does not even fall under acceptable late-term abortions.

News Values
RedEye is many things, but a newspaper it is not. In the latest Lumpen, Jamie Trecker compares a week of front page stories in the Tribune's commuter entertainment tab with a week of front page stories in the New York Times. Let's take a look at two days just for a taste:

TUESDAY, JUNE 5

RedEye
- Paris Hilton 'Jail Hell' (two-page wrap)
- Tank Johnson's NFL suspension; Lou Piniella's suspension
- 'Fate of CTA is in your hands'
- Chicago woman nets $184m in divorce
- Margarita week!


New York Times
- Military judges throw out two Gitmo cases; all Gitmo cases said to have same flaw
- Appeals court throws out FCC 'decency' policy
- Proposed point system for immigrants incites passions
- Iraq facing education drain
- Congressman sought bribes
- Puerto Rico's AIDS care in shambles
- China releases its own climate plan
- Stocks in China tumble

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 6

RedEye
- CTA crime
- What's wrong with the Sox?
- $20m 'gay center' opens doors
- Porn and how it affects women today
- Don't hassle the Hoff
- Beer garden guides

New York Times
- Lewis "Scooter" Libby jailed for 30 months for perjury
- No pardon forthcoming for Libby
- Bush chastised Russian president Putin
- Diabetes drug Avandia has signficant heart risks
- Series: Energy
- Stocks fall on Fed comments
- ETA end cease fire with Spain

Johnny and the General
The Economist says "John Edwards trails in third place. But his policy ideas are shaping the Democratic presidential race."

Really? That sure isn't what I observe.

On the other hand, the mag says "General Musharaff cites the extremist threat to justify staying on as Pakistan's president in uniform. The White House falls for it."

Please, general, we need a military dictator to help us establish democracy in you region! Oh, and bin Laden - no worries.

Sinking Ship
"In what is supposed to be the Information Age, there are fewer staff correspondents out there asking fewer questions, raising fewer issues, and filing fewer dispatches from fewer places."

- Former New York Times editor Joe Lelyveld, as quoted from a commencement address in the latest Columbia Journalism Review

And fewer readers. Coincidence?

Elsewhere in the July/August issue, CJR takes a look at the damage wreaked on The Dallas Morning News:

* 200 newsroom employees laid off, bought out or not replaced from 2004 to 2006
* 33 percent wire stores in Page One in a two-week survey in 2007
* 14.3 percent circulation drop in the six months ending in March 2007
* 19 percent drop in satisfied readers from 2004 to 2006

Coincidence?

* $5 million total compensation to Robert Decherd, CEO of Belo Corp., which owns the Morning News
* 50 percent increase in Decherd's 2006 compensation compared to 2005

Because only someone with his unique talents could have pulled off what he did.

Passages:
* "The buyout offer, in fact, sparked a stampede: 112 reporters, editors, photographers, and artists, almost one-third more than management's initial estimate, took the offer."

What does it say when so many people don't want to work in their chosen field anymore? Expert management?

The thrust of the CJR piece is that those who left the paper are happier than those who stayed. Think about that.

* "Then there's Michael Precker, fifty-two. For years, he wrote features. Before that, he was the paper's Middle East bureau chief. Now Precker is a day manager at The Lodge, an upscale Dallas gentleman's club, making sure no on harasses the pole dancers. 'If you're going to leap out a window,' he says, 'you might as well have a mattress.'"

* "It seems to me that papers that do what Dallas just did have decided to liquidate the business and get as much money out of it as they can," says Philip Meyer, who holds the Knight Chair in Journalism at the University of North Carolina.

* Esther Thorson "examined four years of financial data from hundreds of newspapers. Thorson, who has studied media for twenty years, says those who try to cut the newsroom to maintain profitability are doomed to failure. 'That's not a business model,' she says. 'That's a death model.'

"Thorson found that larger newsroom investments would translate into greater profits. 'A newspaper is a rich environment of information and entertainment,' she said. 'That makes it a fabulous locale for advertising. But if your product is degraded and circulation plummets, why would advertisers want to invest in that?'"

* Morning News publisher Jim Moroney says: "We're the most progressive newsroom in the United States in terms of shooting video."

That's great! Too bad you're not a TV station!


Posted by Lou at 12:13 AM | Permalink

July 25, 2007

The [Wednesday] Papers

You wouldn't know it by the paltry coverage in your local papers, but Barack Obama's statement during Monday night's Democratic presidential debate that he would meet with the leaders of Cuba, North Korea, Iran and the like looks like the biggest political gaffe at least since John McCain's stroll through that Baghdad market.

"I can see the ad now," David Corn writes. "Kim Jong Il, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Fidel Castro, Bashar al-Assad, and Hugo Chavez all strolling into the White House, and a grinning Barack Obama greeting them with a friendly 'Welcome, boys; what do you want to talk about?'"

While Corn engages in a bit of hyperbole - "For Obama to have a chance of toppling front-running Clinton, he will have a near-perfect performance from now until the actual voting" - the blogosphere, Beltway media, cable news shows, and lil' ol' Quad City Times, home of the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses, are abuzz over Obama's flub.

(Obama certainly has gained South Florida's interest.)

The Obama campaign spun furiously in an e-mail to supporters on Tuesday stating that "Barack Obama's performance stood above the competition in last night's debate as he continued to show the qualities that will make him a strong Commander in Chief" - exactly the issue now in question - and declaring "This morning's news coverage declared Barack the clear winner of the debate," which is demonstrably false.

In fact, immediately after the debate, analyst Jeffrey Toobin said "It was like Gladys Knight and the Pips. Obama looked inexperienced and naive."

The Obama e-mail blast also cherry-picked a quote from Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post in opposition to his full analysis, as illustrated by what Cillizza on Keith Olbermann's Countdown:

OLBERMANN: You wrote though that after last night there is little doubt that Senator Clinton is the best debater. Did Obama hurt himself last night on that critical issue that seems to be focusing around him about seasoning and experience in internationalism?

CILLIZZA: Right. I've said before and I think the most important thing is that none of these events matter in a specific. They matter in the larger narrative. The larger narrative, the negative narrative around Barack Obama, is he's not experienced enough. I think he jumped at that question. He was happy to be the first person to answer. He got out there and whacked the Bush Administration as you heard in that clip you played. It drew some applause.

Well, then came Hillary Clinton, sort of the closer to say 'Look, I understand why you would feel that way but we need to be smart about this. We need to be principled. We need to be pragmatic.' So I think Obama sort of got caught off guard. I think he saw an opportunity. He jumped for it. He may have overstepped himself just a little and Clinton used that. Again, she is a very good debater; used that to paint this as experience versus inexperience. And that's the best dynamic if she wants to win the primary.

The Obama e-mail was clearly a sign of a defensive campaign that realized it's man had made a mistake; then the Obama campaign compounded what might otherwise have blown away in the breeze. Ben Smith at The Politico notes that the Obama campaign attacked first, even as it accused Clinton of creating a "fabricated controversy."

The Obama campaign's e-mail blasts have always been disingenuous, particularly when it comes to their efforts to paint its fundraising as grass-roots clean, but they don't do themselves any favors in a dustup like this by acting like right-wing lug nuts.

And how delicious is it to see Tribune deputy managing editor James Warren saying this:

"I just wish there was some journalistic, old-fashioned journalistic component following up on some of the answers. A perfect example: If you look at a lot of the coverage this morning, everyone was saying, 'Boy, Hillary really stuck to Obama on that question' - remember that question about, would you talk in your first year to the leaders of some of these countries like North Korea and Iran. And he said he definitely would, and she said, 'Oh, no no no. I'm not gonna legitimize those folks.'

"Well, if you would just check the record, as recently as April in Iowa, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton castigated President Bush by saying she thought it would be a, quote, 'terrible mistake' to announce that you wouldn't talk to bad guys."

Maybe you ought to do some old-fashioned journalism yourself, Jim, instead of just swallowing the Obama spin (or reading Drudge), because you clearly failed to go back and read for yourself what Clinton said in Iowa last April.

Or did you purposely leave out this part: "I would begin diplomatic discussions with those countries with whom we have differences, to try to figure out what is the depth of those differences."

See, diplomatic talks are one thing. American presidents meeting face-to-face with rogue despots is another. Wouldn't you agree?

Better Yet
Check out the Beachwood's special brand of debate coverage, in Mystery Debate Theater.

Tax Breaks
"Two years ago, when companies received a big tax break to bring home their offshore profits, the president and Congress justified it as a one-time tax amnesty that would create American jobs," the New York Times reported on Tuesday.

"Drug makers were the biggest beneficiaries of the amnesty program, repatriating about $100 billion in foreign profits and paying only minimal taxes. But the companies did not create many jobs in return. Instead, since 2005 the American drug industry has laid of tens of thousands of workers in this country."

Cat Fight
"Someone decided NOT to call the show Kittens vs. Cougars, and that person needs to be fired."

The Beachwood Tip Line: Meow.

Posted by Lou at 08:06 AM | Permalink

State Fair Smackdown

A comparison of acts coming to grandstands, Miller Lite Main Stages, Budweiser Music Pavilions and Leinie Lodges at state fairs near you.

*

FAIR: Wisconsin State Fair

MOTTO: The Grand Champion of Summer

DATE: August 2 - 12

LINEUP
Doobie Brothers w/Kansas

Colin Hay (Men at Work)

FM 106.1 Countryfest featuring Gary Allan with Tracy Lawrence & Luke Bryan

10,000 Maniacs

Lupillo Rivera w/Ana Barbara

The Romantics

George Jones with Country gold tour featuring Leroy Van Dyke, T.G. Sheppard & Bobby Bare

Midnight Star

MercyMe with Tree63

Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels

Lonestar w/John Anderson and Jake Owen

Ambrosia

Kool & The Gang w/Ruben Studdard

Young Dubliners

WISCONSIN ROCKS! Featuring the BoDeans with The Gufs

Craig Chaquico (Jefferson Starship)

Switchfoot with Emerson Hart

Shooter Jennings

Bad Boy

-

CHEESE FACTOR: 8

BABY BOOM NOSTALGIA FACTOR: 5

CRAPPY COUNTRY FACTOR: 6

LAME ATTEMPT AT HIP CRED FACTOR: 2

UNINTENTIONALLY COOL/IRONY FACTOR: 2

QUOTE FACTOR: "Your musical experience will be enhanced with our newly added video screens at the Miller Lite Main Stage."

NON-MUSIC FACTOR: "Don't forget to treat yourself to an Original Cream Puff."

OVERALL: 5 corn dogs out of 10.

* * *

FAIR: Illinois State Fair

MOTTO: Celebrate and Educate

DATE: August 10 -19

LINEUP
Gretchen Wilson with Blaine Larsen

Corbin Bleu with Drake Bell and Jordan Pruitt

Daughtry

Illinois Symphony

Martina McBride with Carolyn Dawn Johnson

Joe Walsh with Grand Funk Railroad

Sugarland with Joe Nichols

-

CHEESE FACTOR: 2

BABY BOOM NOSTALGIA FACTOR: 1

CRAPPY COUNTRY FACTOR: 3

LAME ATTEMPT AT HIP CRED FACTOR: 1

UNINTENTIONALLY COOL/IRONY FACTOR: 0

QUOTE FACTOR: "We were searching for a classic rock act to add variety to this year's line-up and feel fortunate that a performer of Walsh's caliber was available. It should be a great show."

NON-MUSIC FACTOR: "'BREAKFAST ON A STICK' COMPETITION TO DEBUT. Prizes to be awarded for best stick-meal creation."

OVERALL EVALUATION: 1 corn dog out of 10.

* * *

FAIR: Iowa State Fair

MOTTO: Sounds Like Fun

DATE: August 9 - 19

LINEUP
Gary Allan with Eric Church

The BoDeans

Alice Cooper with Blue Oyster Cult

Loverboy

Rock 'N' Roll Reunion XXVIII with Little Anthony and the Imperials, Ben E. King, Joe Dee, Percy Sledge, and Gary U.S. Bonds

Don McLean

Corbin Bleu, Drake Bell and Jordan Pruitt

Del McCoury Band

Dierks Bentley with Chris Cagle

Bellamy Brothers

Survivor

Casting Crowns with Tree63

Country Gold: Leroy VanDyke, Bobby Bare, Charlie Rich Jr. and Connie Smith

Joe Walsh

Josh Gracin

Steve Holy

Switchfoot with Cartel

Chris Young

American Idols Live! Including Blake Lewis, Chris Richardson, Chris Sligh, Gina Glockson, Haley Scarnato, Jordin Sparks, LaKisha Jones, Melinda Doolittle, Phil Stacey and Sanjaya Malakar.

ABBAMANIA: The Magic and Music of ABBA

Stayin' Alive: A Night of the Bee Gees

Travis LeDoyt

Simply the Best: Tribute to Legendary Motown Divas

-

CHEESE FACTOR: 4

BABY BOOM NOSTALGIA FACTOR: 7

CRAPPY COUNTRY FACTOR: 1

LAME ATTEMPT AT HIP CRED FACTOR: 1

UNINTENTIONALLY COOL/IRONY FACTOR: 6

QUOTE FACTOR: "Best known for his powerful guitar licks, Joe Walsh has entertained the masses and captivated his peers from his early hits with the James Gang through to his tenure with the Eagles - as well as a successful solo career."

NON-MUSIC FACTOR: "HARRY POTTER IN BUTTER, ICE CARVINGS AND JUMBO VEGGIES FEATURED IN AGRICULTURE BUILDING."

OVERALL EVALUATION: 5 corn dogs out of 10.

* * *

FAIR: Great Indiana State Fair

MOTTO: There's No Better Time!

DATE: August 8 -19

LINEUP
Casting Crowns and Jeremy Camp

Lee Brice

Rascal Flatts Tour 2007 with special guest Jason Aldean

Whiskey Falls

Jonas Brothers

Trent Tomlinson

Kenny Rogers and The Oak Ridge Boys

Half Way to Hazard

David Cassidy

Bucky Covington

American Idols Live Tour 2007 including Blake Lewis, Chris Richardson, Chris Sligh, Gina Glocksen, Haley Scarnato, Jordin Sparks, LaKisha Jones, Melinda Doolittle, Phil Stacey, and Sanjaya Malakar

Eric Church

Screamfest 07 featuring T.I., Ciara, T-Pain, Lloyd & Yung Joc

Drew Davis Band

Joe Nichols

Those Darn Accordions on the AT&T Main Street Stage

-

CHEESE FACTOR: 2

BABY BOOM NOSTALGIA FACTOR: 0

LAME ATTEMPT AT HIP CRED FACTOR: 1

CRAPPY COUNTRY FACTOR: 8

UNINTENTIONALLY COOL/IRONIC FACTOR: 6

QUOTE FACTOR: "The State Fair showcases agriculture and youth, educates the public about agriculture, our agricultural heritage and current productions methods along with entertaining the general public."

NON-MUSIC FACTOR: "Indiana Curiosities: A Walk Thru the Wacky Side of Hoosier Life - Did you know that there's a 'Wizard of Oz Museum' in Chesterton, Indiana? Can you imagine living in a modernly-equipped, environmentally friendly home that costs less than a $1/day? There's one in Pendleton, Indiana.

"These are just a few of the mind-boggling displays you will see when you visit this display based on a book written by local author and media personality Dick Wolfsie. The exhibit uncovers interesting oddities from all corners of our state."

In the Old National Bank Grand Hall.

OVERALL EVALUATION: 0 corn dogs out of 10.

* * *

FAIR: Minnesota State Fair

MOTTO: Twelve Days of Fun Ending Labor Day

DATE: August 23 to September 3

LINEUP
Brad Paisley with Jack Ingram, Kellie Pickler and Taylor Swift

Dennis DeYoung: The Music of Styx

Goo Goo Dolls with Lifehouse and Colbie Caillat

The Johnny Holm Band

Fergie with Rooney

Greg Brown

Joan Jett with Fountains of Wayne and The Suicide Commandos

Sierra Leone's Refugee All-Stars

Weird Al Yankovic with Tonic Sol-fa

Liverpool Legends

The Allman Brothers Band with Robert Randolph and the Family Band

Starship starring Mickey Thomas

Vince Gill Friends and Family Tour featuring Amy Grant and The Del McCoury Band

Billy Joe Shaver

B.B. King Festival featuring Al Green and Etta James and her Roots Band

Dale Watson

A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor

The Derailers

MercyMe with Aaron Shust

Def Leppard with Styx & Foreigner

-

CHEESE FACTOR: 1

BABY BOOM NOSTALGIA FACTOR: 2

LAME ATTEMPT AT HIP CRED FACTOR: .5

CRAPPY COUNTRY FACTOR: 1

UNINTENTIONALLY COOL/IRONIC FACTOR: 1

QUOTE FACTOR: "Outlasting many of their glam rock and pop metal peers, Def Leppard continues to record and perform new material. Live performances are known to be loud, musically solid and full of metal intensity."

NON-MUSIC FACTOR: "Come by the Oink Booth and get your free pair of Pigs Ears courtesy of Minnesota Pork Producers."

OVERALL EVALUATION: 7 corn dogs out of 10.

Posted by Lou at 02:57 AM | Permalink

Chicagoetry: Let Lindsay Lohan Die

LET LINDSAY LOHAN DIE

We all
do blow,

no? Just
a little, at

City Hall, in the Newsroom, at
Foote Cone and

Belding? Gotta
creative

deadline looming?
Fuck

you.
You heard

me. No more
excuses.

Wealthy white
people and their self-serving, self-righteous values!

Send
your kids to a

babysitter while
you

have group
sex. Snort some, hey, just a little, and

get
off.

Listen: Fuck
you.

Just
a little, fellas,

before the
Big Game?

Listen: Fuck
you.

Just a
little, before

the big
deal?

Hey, it's cool.
Everybody

does it.
Gee: why

is there so much crime
in the big city?!

Why are so many
school kids

dying?
I know.

So do
you.

Hate
to ruin

your
good

time,
fellas.

Listen . . .

-

J. J. Tindall is the Beachwood's poet-in-residence. He can reached at jjtindall@yahoo.com. Chicagoetry is a collection-in-progress.

Posted by Lou at 12:34 AM | Permalink

July 24, 2007

NU President: Help Us Demolish Lake Shore Center

A special message from Northwestern President Henry S. Bienen to faculty, staff, students, and alumni who live in the neighborhood of the Chicago campus

July 2007

As you may be aware, Northwestern University has a contract to sell 850 North Lake Shore Drive, the Lake Shore Center, which was used for graduate student housing for 30 years, to a developer to build a new condominium building. The new building would meet all existing city of Chicago zoning requirements with respect to such matters as height, mass, and use. Unfortunately, there is a move to block this new construction by declaring the existing building a historic landmark. Such action would severely jeopardize Northwestern's ability to sell the property at a fair price. That's why I'm taking the unusual step of writing to faculty, staff, students, and alumni who live in the area near our Chicago campus. A drawing and description of the proposed project are enclosed.

I firmly believe that Northwestern University is very beneficial to the city of Chicago. Marshaling our assets in the most effective manner is critical to our missions of teaching, research, and clinical care and building a world-class medical center. Obtaining a fair price for the University's property directly affects our ability to invest in the Feinberg School of Medicine and our other schools. In addition, restricting the University's ability to sell its property is detrimental not just to Northwestern but also to the entire Chicago community.

We are not opposed to preservation when done in a responsible manner. The University has maintained and restored several historic structures on both its Chicago and Evanston campuses. However, landmark designation for the former Lake Shore Center, precluding its demolition and replacement, would place significant restrictions on the University's ability to sell a property that is no longer functional as a residence hall. In a balanced review of the issue, Chicago Tribune architectural writer Blair Kamin stated, "I'm not convinced that the Lake Shore Athletic Club has the stuff to qualify as an official Chicago landmark . . . " Our students voted with their feet in terms of deciding whether to live there - in the last few years that it was in use as a residence hall, the occupancy rate hovered around 35 percent as students chose to live in more spacious or more modern buildings.

In addition to the city's zoning restrictions, restrictive covenants on the land limit the use of the site to a student residence hall or a private residential building, so Northwestern may not use the building for other purposes. Both the zoning restrictions and the restrictive covenants affecting the University were established eight years ago when the buildings immediately south of the Lake Shore Center were constructed.

When the University decided to sell the Lake Shore Center property, we hired a nationally known real estate broker to assist in the sale. The broker made more than 800 contacts, and offering memorandums were sent to 105 responding parties. Of the nine written offers for the property, six were for renovation of the building, but four of those six required acquisition of all or part of the University's parking garage just west of the Lake Shore Center. The garage was not part of the offering; we need the garage to provide parking on the Chicago campus, particularly with the impending move of Children's Memorial Hospital to our campus. The other two developers required that the property be historically designated at the federal level before they would purchase the property, something that cannot be guaranteed. (Such designation would afford the developer certain federal tax credits.) Moreover, such designation, even if granted, would not ensure the financial viability of the building's reuse. The developer under contract with Northwestern, the Fifield Realty Corporation, has agreed to purchase the property without any such conditions and to build an attractive new structure that is no taller than the existing building and with sufficient parking on site. It is for these reasons that we selected Fifield.

Your alderman, Brendan Reilly, will have a great deal of influence on whether the building can be built. Please contact him in your own words - by email (brendan@reillyforchicago.com), letter (City Hall, Room 300, 121 North LaSalle Street, Chicago, Illinois 60602), telephone (312-642-4242), or fax (312-277-1099) - and join Northwestern in supporting the proposed new development. Alternatively, you can send Alderman Reilly the enclosed postcard.

If you have any questions or need more information on this issue, please contact me; Eugene S. Sunshine, senior vice president for business and finance, at e-sunshine@northwestern.edu or 847-491-5534; or Ron Nayler, associate vice president for facilities management, at r-nayler@northwestern.edu or 847-467-5810.

Sincerely,

Henry S. Bienen
President

*

Previously:
* Fifield Rallies Real Estate Friends
* The 42nd Ward's New Demolition Man.
* Preservationist protest.
* Brendan Natarus item.
* Landmark Ruling item.
* Lake Shoreistan item.

Posted by Lou at 05:45 PM | Permalink

What I Watched Last Night

Do you believe in God? Well, do ya, punk? That's kinda the premise behind Saving Grace, TNT's new Monday night show that, I'm hoping, will quell my incessant bitching about the state of Monday night TV. It's a good show, but whether it turns out to be a great one will depend how well Holly Hunter can beat it into submission. Or lets us in on why she keeps kissing police headquarters lab rat Laura San Giacamo on the cheek, whichever comes first.

Hunter plays Grace Hanadarko, an Oklahoma City detective who gets her morning hangover started with a healthy Jack and Coke because, well, history has shown that cops with the shakes aim their guns better with some hair of the dog. She drives her own Porsche on duty (which ought to make the citizenry wonder about the pay scale for their civil servants) and her hobbies involve an adulterous affair with her partner (police fraternity runs rampant in Oklahoma City, it seems), parking in handicapped spaces, sucker punching smart-assed cattlemen, and fishtailing through the crowded Okie streets giving her grade-school nephew and his girlfriend a high-speed joyride while blaring the siren and flashing her gun. She also likes to drive drunk and mow down pedestrians, but more on that later.

Grace is, after all a cop show, so last night's episode dealt with a missing 10-year-old girl. Time dedicated to actual cop work took up maybe 10 minutes of the hour-long program, so the cop part followed the search for a missing fourth-grade girl at the hands of a high school kid with a fascination for little-girl porn. Let's just say the most pivotal moment of the cop part concerns a set of high school football field bleachers high enough to be the easternmost satellite of the Rocky Mountains.

Grace doesn't believe in God, so naturally she's the one who gets an immediate answer to her "Please God, help me" when she mows down a guy in the wee hours while bouncing her Porsche down the street like a pinball on her way home from the bar. Help comes in the form of Earl, a greasy, tobacco-spitting angel (the always-excellent Leon Rippy) with bitchin' light-up wings visible only to windows of parked minivans and heathen vehicular homicidals. Earl's a "last chance angel," a sort of Clarence you get when things have gone from It's A Wonderful Life to It's A Shitty, Fucked-Up Life. Blow Me. Before Grace is able to shoot him dead for asking if she believes in God, Earl fires up the wings and whooshes her in an eyeblink to some cliff in the middle of the Grand Canyon. Since she can't make up her mind quick enough, Earl snaps up a little windstorm that threatens to blow her off the edge.

"You're headed for hell, Grace. I'm here to give you a second chance," Earl says. "You asked for God's help. You want God's help or not? You ready to turn your life over to God?" Then in an instant, she's back on the street where she left off - except now sans dead pedestrian and showcasing the quickest windshield and body repair job in Porsche history.

Grace's brother, who happens to be a priest, doesn't believe her story. "You're full of shit," says Father Brother. The Vatican is no doubt in a good mood this morning.

Thankfully, Grace doesn't turn into a do-gooder, she still doesn't believe in God exactly, and what she really wants is Earl to go away - probably because he's good for shit in explaining why the world is such a terrible place and good people die far too soon - including her sister, who was killed in the Murrah Building massacre because Grace was too hung over to babysit her sister's son the day before. "You people ask the same question: Why there's evil, betrayal, tragedy, and death. If I give you all the answers, there's no room for faith." Oh yeah, one other thing, he says: "And I can't help you solve crimes, either."

Great. But the good news from Earl is that God "sits on a monster Harley."

*

Just when you think someone went and exorcised Gordon Ramsay's Exploding Chef alter-ego a few episodes back, it returned like a comfortable old friend in last night's Hell's Kitchen. And we have cheftestant Josh to thank for what might be the most classic Kitchen moment ever.

Since five cheftestants remained, Ramsay combined them into one team, giving them snazzy new cheftestant jackets and spraying them with champagne. The magic didn't last long when Josh started cooking panfuls of risotto and spaghetti before anyone even ordered it in order to stay ahead of the imagined rush of customer orders. This doesn't escape Ramsay's notice, so he instructs Josh to stop before he risottos again. Josh complies by firing up several orders of spaghetti ahead of time. Ramsay notices this, too. "WE COOK SPAGHETTI TO ORDER!!!" Chef screams in Josh's face. "Even the fucking dirtiest, scummiest Italian restaurant in Venice Beach cooks spaghetti to order!!!"

So what does Josh do? He turns right around and cooks up even more spaghetti. "You're fucking useless," Chef screams as he orders Josh to get the fuck out of his kitchen for good. Chef almost wings Josh with a spoon and begins morphing into Joan Crawford: "GETOUTGETOUTGETOUT!!!! LEAVE THE JACKET AND GET OUT!!!! YOU USELESS SACK OF SHIT!!!! GETOUTGETOUTGETOUT!!!!" Meanwhile, cheftestant Bonnie gives us her weekly Blonde Moment when she dumps a perfectly good load of monkfish into the trash without checking with anyone else whether it actually did smell funny. "Smells like monkfish," says one of the sous chefs.

In the end, the team gets whittled down to three when cheftestant Julia, the scrappy little waffle house cook, is sent packing for giving bad garnish - but not before Chef Ramsay offers to send her to culinary arts school on his dime. "You have an exceptional amount of talent," he tells her. "When you're through, I want you to come back and win this hands down. There's something quite amazing about you. I am very proud of you."

Awwww. I don't think America's done drying its eyes yet.

*

See what else we've been watching.


Posted by Lou at 02:36 PM | Permalink

The [Tuesday] Papers

There will be no Papers column today.

We do, however, offer another presentation of Mystery Debate Theater, with such classic exchanges as this:

CLINTON: You know, when I was first lady, I was privileged to represent our country in 82 countries. I have met with many officials in Arabic and Muslim countries. I have met with kings and presidents and prime ministers and sheiks and tribal leaders.

ANDREW: I've met with women kings. With sultans and sultaneers.

TIM: They have another word for it.

STEVE: I think it's sultanettes.

ANDREW (sternly): It's sultaneers.

TIM: I was thinking of a female version of king.

ANDREW: Queen?

TIM: Yeah

*

Cate Plys also has a new Open Letter, this one addressed to Fellow Parents Planning Birthday Parties, sampled here:

"Don't let the roiling waters of social pressure sweep you, howling and clawing at your wallet, into a sterile 'party room' somewhere, or even the restaurant at American Girl. (Although the tea is surprisingly well done at American Girl, despite the insistence on naming each item after a historical doll character such as Kaya, as if a Nez Perce American Indian girl circa 1764 would be likely to eat or serve blueberry-lemon scones with fruit preserves and Devonshire cream). The pressure is entirely in your head. The kids don't care - they just want a lot of junk food. Their parents don't care either - they just want to know what time to drop off and pick up, and whether they can fit a trip to Costco in between.

"Actually, I've found that when we host an old-fashioned backyard party and parents wander in for pick-up to see their children busy drawing with chalk or competing to see who can go the farthest on the tiny Playskool plastic 'roller coaster' we inherited from an older cousin, they often express wonder, and start treating us like we're morally superior or something. As atheists, we don't get much of that, so it's nice."

*

Perhaps you missed the governor's new starring role.

Or the new book revealing the Democrats' grand strategy.

*

And so much more: Don's Root Cellar, What I Watched Last Night, The Cub Factor, and Chicagoetry, all with new postings this week. Only in the Beachwood.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Text Beachwood.

Posted by Lou at 10:02 AM | Permalink

Mystery Debate Theater 2007

The Democratic presidential candidates met at The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina on Monday night for the first YouTube debate featuring questions from citizens via YouTube videos, because The Citadel is apparently known for embracing change and innovation. As always, your Beachwood Debate Theater team of Andrew Kingsford, Tim Willette, and Steve Rhodes were on hand at Beachwood HQ to provide expert commentary. This transcript has been edited for length, clarity, and sanity.

*

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN host: Our first question tonight is Zach Kempf in Provo, Utah.

QUESTION: What's up? I'm running out of tape; I have to hurry. So my question is: We have a bunch of leaders who can't seem to do their job. And we pick people based on the issues they that they represent, but then they get in power and they don't do anything about it anyway.

You're going to spend this whole night talking about your views on issues, but the issues don't matter if when you get in power nothing's going to get done.

I mean, be honest with us. How are you going to be any different?

SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD: First of all, thank you for inviting us here in The Citadel. It's great to be here at this wonderful college, university.

Certainly, I think it's a very important question one ought to be asking because, while hope and confidence and optimism are clearly very important, I think experience matters a great deal.

STEVE: Snap! on Obama.

DODD: I'm very proud of the fact that, over my 26 years in the Senate, I've authored landmark legislation, the Family and Medical Leave Act, child care legislation, reform of financial institutions.

TIM: Dude, isn't it true all politicians are robots?

COOPER: But if someone really wants a change, are you the guy to give it to them?

DODD: Well, I think they ought to look back. Speeches are easy to make and rhetoric is easy to expose here.

STEVE: He's trying for the 'Dodd Attacks Obama' headline.

TIM: I think my experience bears out that I will be the change candidate. We don't want some new guy coming along and talking about change.

* * *

QUESTION: Hello. My name is Davis Fleetwood. I'm from Groton, Massachusetts. Congressman Kucinich, how would America be better off with you as president than we would be if either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama became president?

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: I'll never send you in pursuit of a political agenda or a lie.

OBAMA: [P]art of the reason I don't take PAC money, I don't take federal lobbyists' money is because we've got to get the national interests up front as opposed to the special interests.

STEVE: He does take money from lobbyists.

* * *

QUESTION: Hi. My name is Rob Porter, and I'm from Irvine, California. Mrs. Clinton, how would you define the word "liberal?" And would you use this word to describe yourself?

CLINTON: I prefer the word "progressive" . . .

STEVE: The Democrats are co-opting that word. It used to mean people to the left of mainstream liberalism - the left wing of the party and beyond.

COOPER: Senator Gravel, are you a liberal?

FORMER SEN. MIKE GRAVEL: I wouldn't use either word. Zach asked about change. You're not going to see any change when these people get elected.

We were asked about - that we're united. We're not united. I'm not united on many of their views. And I want to take on Barack Obama for a minute, who said he doesn't take money from lobbyists. Well, he has 134 bundlers. Now, what does he think that is?

And, besides that, he has received money from a Robert Wolf, the head of the UBS bank in the United States, who raised $195,000 - from this bank - wait a second - who has lobbyists in Washington . . .

COOPER: Senator Obama, I'm going to have to let you respond.

OBAMA: Absolutely.

Well, the fact is I don't take PAC money and I don't take lobbyists' money.

STEVE: That's a lie.

OBAMA: And the bundlers - the reason you know who is raising money for me, Mike, is because I have pushed through a law this past session to disclose that.

STEVE: But he's against bundling, even though he does it.

* * *

QUESTION: If you had to pick any Republican . . .

ANDREW: . . . to be on your baseball team . . .

QUESTION: . . . to be your running mate, who would it be?

SEN. JOE BIDEN: Chuck Hagel, and I'd consider asking Dick Lugar to be secretary of state.

FORMER SEN. JOHN EDWARDS: Chuck Hagel is a good choice. But . . . Do you believe that compromise, triangulation will bring about big change?

STEVE: He gestured to Hillary when he said that.

EDWARDS: I think the people who are powerful in Washington - big insurance companies, big drug companies, big oil companies -- they are not going to negotiate. They are not going to give away their power. The only way that they are going to give away their power is if we take it away from them. And I have been standing up to these people my entire life. I have been fighting them my entire life in court rooms - and beating them.

ANDREW: What you need is a lawyer!

* * *

COOPER: We've asked each campaign to put together a 30- second YouTube-style video. The first one is from Senator Chris Dodd.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Senator, I have to ask, what's with the white hair?

DODD: I don't know why you bring that up. Bill Richardson, Hillary, Joe Biden and I, we're all about the same age. I don't think the white hair is an issue.

QUESTION: Well, how did you get the white hair?

DODD: Hard work, I suppose. Central America and bring peace to Northern Ireland. I'm ready to be president.

BEACHWOOD MYSTERY DEBATE TEAM: [groans, eye-rolling]

DODD: I'm Chris Dodd, and we approved this message.

STEVE: Regretfully.

COOPER: There you go. Nothing wrong with white hair.

DODD: A young person with white hair, too?

COOPER: Yes, sadly, my age is catching up to my hair.

(LAUGHTER)

ANDREW: Oooh, another zinger from the Boy Wonder!

* * *

QUESTION: This is Will from Boston, Massachusetts. Will African-Americans ever going to get reparations for slavery?

EDWARDS: I'm not for reparations.

OBAMA: I think the reparations we need right here in South Carolina is investment, for example, in our schools.

ANDREW: So I'm going to dodge the question.

OBAMA: We've got to understand that there are corridors of shame all across the country.

STEVE: And they're lined with buildings owned by Tony Rezko.

TIM: I like 'Corridors of Shame.'

STEVE: It's a good band name.

TIM: Scrubbing the Corridors of Shame.

STEVE: It drops July 25th.

COOPER: Is anyone on the stage for reparations for slavery for African-Americans?

KUCINICH: I am. The Bible says we shall be and must be repairers of the breach.

STEVE: The breach caused by religion.

KUCINICH We need to have a country which recognizes that there is an inequality of opportunity and a president who's ready to challenge the interest groups - be they insurance companies or mortgage companies or defense contractors who are taking the money away from the people who need it.

STEVE: Democrats always talk like they're going to challenge all of these big powerful institutions and when they get in office it never happens.

TIM: But he would. That's why he'll never get elected.

* * *

QUESTION: [From Morgan, lounging on her bed] Do you believe the response in the wake of Hurricane Katrina would have been different if the storm hit an affluent, predominantly white city?

STEVE: And if you want to see more of me, just go to morgandoesdebates.com and have a credit card ready!

DODD: Well, it's a great question, Morgan, to raise here. It, obviously, points to one of the most dark and shameful moments in recent past history in our country - the fact that a major American city went through a natural disaster, and we found almost little to do. The American president had almost no response whatsoever to the people of that city, New Orleans.

In fact, today still, the problem persists where people who had to move out of their city, move elsewhere, and little or no efforts to make sure they can get back in their homes. They have literally thousands of people whose homes were destroyed, their economic opportunities destroyed . . .

STEVE: We know! We know it! Katrina sucks! We've heard!

TIM: Water was everywhere! It was, uh, leaking into houses! People were stuck in that dome, remember that?

ANDREW: With no air conditioning!

* * *

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON: Well, there was politics. All of a sudden, other states that had the similar devastation got better treatment, like Mississippi.

ANDREW: What happened to his tan?

STEVE: He's in South Carolina.

ANDREW: Oh yeah.

STEVE: The last debate was at Howard.

ANDREW: Pure coincidence.

STEVE: He's so bad.

* * *

QUESTION: Hello. My name is Jordan Williams, and I am a student at K.U., from Coffeyville, Kansas. Whenever I read an editorial about one of you, the author never fails to mention the issue of race or gender, respectively. Either one is not authentically black enough, or the other is not satisfactorily feminine. How will you address these critics and their charges if one or both of you should end up on the Democratic ticket in '08?

OBAMA: You know, when I'm catching a cab in Manhattan . . .

STEVE: He's used that line before.

TIM: Because it never gets old.

STEVE: When's the last time he caught a cab in Manhattan?

OBAMA: . . . in the past, I think I've given my credentials.

STEVE: He has black credentials. Unless he left them back at the hotel.

ANDREW: Hillary's married to a black guy.

STEVE: Wouldn't it have been better if he responded to the feminine part of the question? I am too woman enough! When I'm in a boardroom trying to raise money in Manhattan . . .

* * *

COOPER: Senator Clinton, you have a minute as well since this question is to you.

CLINTON: Well, I couldn't run as anything other than a woman . . . And when I'm inaugurated, I think it's going to send a great message to a lot of little girls and boys around the world.

ANDREW: Eh, I'm sure a lot of little girls and boys around the world are waiting with baited breath.

CLINTON: You know, I have spent my entire life advocating for women. I went to Beijing in 1995 . . .

ANDREW: As a woman.

STEVE: Elizabeth Edwards should run. We always get the wrong spouse.

* * *

QUESTION: Hi. My name is Mary.

QUESTION: And my name is Jen.

QUESTION: And we're from Brooklyn, New York. If you were elected president of the United States, would you allow us to be married [pause] to each other?

ANDREW: Didn't see that one coming.

STEVE: Obama wouldn't.

KUCINICH: Mary and Jen, the answer to your question is yes. And let me tell you why.

ANDREW: Because I'm Dennis Kucinich, goddamit!

KUCINICH: Because if our Constitution really means what it says . . .

ANDREW: Where's the polygamist?

STEVE: He's Republican.

ANDREW: Oh yeah, that's right.

* * *

QUESTION: I'm Reverend Reggie Longcrier. I'm the pastor of Exodus Mission and Outreach Church in Hickory, North Carolina. Senator Edwards said his opposition to gay marriage is influenced by his Southern Baptist background. Most Americans agree it was wrong and unconstitutional to use religion to justify slavery, segregation, and denying women the right to vote. So why is it still acceptable to use religion to deny gay American their full and equal rights?

TIM: Reggie!

ANDREW: Damn!

EDWARDS: [P]ersonally have been on a journey on this issue. I feel enormous conflict about it.

COOPER: The reverend is actually in the audience tonight. Where is he? Right over here.

STEVE: Reggie!

ANDREW: Ooh! Ooh!

COOPER: Why is it okay to quote religious beliefs when talking about why you don't support something?

EDWARDS: It's not. I mean, I've been asked a personal question . . .

STEVE: It's not personal, it's policy!

EDWARDS: I think it is absolutely wrong, as president of the United States, for me to have used that faith basis as a basis for denying anybody their rights, and I will not do that when I'm president of the United States.

ANDREW: I'll find plenty of legal excuses without bringing the church into it.

COOPER: Senator Obama, the laws banning interracial marriage in the United States were ruled unconstitutional in 1967. What is the difference between a ban on interracial marriage and a ban on gay marriage?

OBAMA: Well, I think that it is important to pick up on something that was said earlier by both Dennis and by Bill, and that is that we've got to make sure that everybody is equal under the law. And the civil unions that I proposed would be equivalent in terms of making sure that all the rights that are conferred by the state are equal for same-sex couples as well as for heterosexual couples.

ANDREW: Super civil unions!

STEVE: Equal but seperate under the law!

OBAMA Now, with respect to marriage, it's my belief that it's up to the individual denominations to make a decision as to whether they want to recognize marriage or not.

STEVE Not everyone gets married in a church.

TIM: We don't care what churches want to do! That's what they do now!

STEVE: Civil unions for black people!

COOPER: Before we go we're going to show another candidate video. This one is from the Clinton campaign. And then when we come back from the break, we'll see one from the - from Senator Edwards' campaign.

(MUSIC PLAYED FROM CLINTON CAMPAIGN VIDEO)

STEVE: That was terrible.

TIM: The pump don't work 'cause the vandals took the handle.

STEVE: I was thinking that too.

(EDWARDS CAMPAIGN VIDEO to the tune of "Hair")

STEVE: Defensive, but well-produced.

* * *

QUESTION: I'm Gabriel. And I'm Connie, from a refugee camp near Darfur. What action do you commit to that will get these children back home to a safe Darfur?

COOPER: Governor Richardson, what are you going to do?

ANDREW: Bus tickets for everyone!

* * *

COOPER: Senator Biden, in the past, you've talked about NATO troops. What about American troops?

BIDEN: Absolutely, positively. Look, I'm so tired of this. Let's get right to it. I heard the same arguments after I came back from meeting with Milosevic: We can't act; we can't send troops there. Where we can, America must. Why Darfur? Because we can. We should now. Those kids will be dead by the time the diplomacy is over.

(APPLAUSE)

I'm not joking. I've been to that camp. I walked through that camp. You know what happened when I landed? When I landed and the dust settled, a young African aid worker came up to me and he looked at me and he said, "Thank you. Thank you, America, for coming." You don't understand - they don't understand. They think we can save them.

COOPER: Senator Clinton, would you agree with Senator Biden? American troops should got to Darfur?

CLINTON: I agree completely that what we need to do is start acting instead of talking.

That means accelerating the United Nations peacekeeping forces along with the African Union. It means moving more quickly on divestment and sanctions on the Sudanese government, including trying to use the diplomacy to get China involved.

And, finally, it does mean a no-fly zone. We can do it in a way that doesn't endanger humanitarian relief.

COOPER: How about American troops on the ground?

CLINTON: I think NATO has to be there with the no-fly zone, and I think that only the United States can provide the logistical support and the air lift to make a no-fly zone and the actual delivery of humanitarian aid work.

COOPER: Just in the spirit of trying to get the answer, does that mean no American ground troops?

CLINTON: American ground troops I don't think belong in Darfur at this time. I think we need to focus on the United Nations peacekeeping troops and the African Union troops.

We've got to figure out what we're doing in Iraq, where our troops are stretched thin, and Afghanistan, where we're losing the fight to al Qaeda and bin Laden.

* * *

COOPER: OK, want to talk about Iraq tonight. Before we do, I just want to put a picture up on the screen. That's United States Marine Corps 1st Lieutenant Shane Chiders. He was a 2001 graduate of this college, The Citadel. March 1st, 2003, it was just after sunrise when Lieutenant Chiders and his platoon were on a mission to capture an oil pumping station from Iraqi soldiers before the Iraqi soldiers could destroy it. During the operation, a stray bullet hit him just below his body armor. Lieutenant Chiders became the first U.S. service man to die inside Iraq in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

QUESTION: Mitch from Philadelphia. My question for all the candidates: How do we pull out now? I mean, do you leave a newborn baby to take care of himself? How do we pull out now?

OBAMA: Look, I opposed this war from the start. Because I anticipated that we would be creating the kind of sectarian violence that we've seen and that it would distract us from the war on terror.

COOPER: Right . . .

OBAMA: I'm going to get to the question, Anderson.

ANDREW: I'm just not gonna answer it.

At this point, I think we can be as careful getting out as we were careless getting in.

STEVE: Aargh, he's used that line before too. He should get a second job writing ad jingles.

OBAMA: But we have to send a clear message to the Iraqi government as well as to the surrounding neighbors that there is no military solution to the problems that we face in Iraq.

STEVE: Aargh . . .

OBAMA: We just heard a White House spokesman, Tony Snow, excuse the fact that the Iraqi legislature went on vacation for three weeks because it's hot in Baghdad. Well, let me tell you: It is hot for American troops who are over there with 100 pounds worth of gear.

STEVE: Okay, everybody's made that point.

STEVE: Don't they have air conditioning in Baghdad?

ANDREW: Apparently not. There's a freon embargo.

TIM: They need it to make bombs.

* * *

COOPER: Senator Biden, how do we pull out now? That was the question.

BIDEN: Anderson, you've been there. You know we can't just pull out now. Let's get something straight. It's time to start to tell the truth.

TIM: Everything up to now has been a lie.

BIDEN: The truth of the matter is: If we started today, it would take one year, one year to get 160,000 troops physically out of Iraq, logistically. That's number one.

Number two, you cannot pull out of Iraq without the follow-on that's been projected here, unless you have a political solution. I'm the only one that's offered a political solution. And it literally means separate the parties; give them jurisdiction in their own areas; have a decentralized government, a federal system. No central government will work.

And, thirdly, the fact of the matter is, the very thing everybody's quoting is the very legislation I wrote in January. It said: Begin to draw down combat troops now; get the majority of the combat troops out by March of '08.

STEVE: Okay, we've heard all this!

TIM: Well we have! No one else is dumb enough to watch every one of these things! No wonder it feels like a re-run. Now I know how the press feels following these guys around - 'Hey, that guy just made the same speech an hour ago!'

COOPER: OK, time.

* * *

QUESTION: The 2006 election gave the Democrats in office a mandate to end the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Since that time, 800 of our military service members have died there. As the mother of an American soldier deploying to Iraq for a second time, I would like to know if the perception is true that the Democrats are putting politics before conscience. Is the reason why we are still in Iraq and seemingly will be for some time due to the Democrats' fear that blame for the loss of the war will be placed on them by the Republican spin machine?

CLINTON: Well, I want to thank her and her son for their service and their sacrifice. When we send a soldier or Marine to combat in Iraq, we really are sending a family.

STEVE: Please. I hate when people get thanks for their service and sacrifice. It's such bullshit.

CLINTON: And since the election of 2006, the Democrats have tried repeatedly to win Republican support with a simple proposition that we need to set a timeline to begin bringing our troops home now.

I happen to agree that there is no military solution, and the Iraqis refuse to pursue the political solutions. In fact, I asked the Pentagon a simple question . . .

STEVE: Here we go . . .

CLINTON: . . . Have you prepared for withdrawing our troops? In response, I got a letter accusing me of being unpatriotic; that I shouldn't be asking questions.

STEVE: It would've been better if she didn't write it cutting letters out of magazines.

COOPER: Time.

* * *

COOPER: Congressman Kucinich, the Democrats have been in power for seven months. Nothing has changed in Iraq.

KUCINICH: The answer to your question, ma'am, is: Yes, it is politics. The Democrats have failed the American people. When we took over in January, the American people didn't expect us to give them a Democratic version of the war. They expected us to act quickly to end the war.

And here's how we can do it. It doesn't take legislation. That's a phony excuse to say that you don't have the votes. We appropriated $97 billion a month ago. We should tell President Bush, no more funds for the war, use that money to bring the troops home, use it to bring the troops home.

* * *
QUESTION: My name is Don. I'm from West Virginia. My question is for Mike Gravel. In one of the previous debates you said something along the lines of the entire deaths of Vietnam died in vain. How do you expect to win in a country where probably a pretty large chunk of the people voting disagree with that statement and might very well be offended by it?

GRAVEL: John, why would you think I would flip-flop? I've never flip-flopped before, and I like the question. I don't get very many of them, but I'll just tell you . . .

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you. Thank you. Has it been fair thus far? I'll tell you, John, it's a set up question. Our soldiers died in Vietnam in vain. You can now, John, go to Hanoi and get a Baskin-Robbins ice cream cone.

STEVE AND TIM: [Laughing so hard we can't get a good line out. ANDREW has fallen asleep. But don't get us wrong, Crazy Guy is right.]

GRAVEL: What did all these people die for? What are they dying for right now in Iraq every single day? Let me tell you: There's only one thing worse than a soldier dying in vain; it's more soldiers dying in vain.

ANDREW: And they die very well.

COOPER: Senator Obama, are the soldiers dying in Iraq in vain?

OBAMA: Our soldiers have done everything that's been asked of them. They deposed Saddam Hussein. They have carried out extraordinarily difficult missions with great courage and great bravery. But, you know, one thing I have to say about Senator Clinton's comments a couple of moments ago. I think it's terrific that she's asking for plans from the Pentagon, and I think the Pentagon response was ridiculous. But what I also know is that the time for us to ask how we were going to get out of Iraq was before we went in.

(APPLAUSE)

And that is something that too many of us failed to do. We failed to do it. And I do think that that is something that both Republicans and Democrats have to take responsibility for.

COOPER: To the question of, did the troops - are the troops dying in vain, though: Yes or no?

OBAMA: I never think that troops, like those who are coming out of The Citadel, who do their mission for their country, are dying in vain.

STEVE: They are dying in vain! That's the point! Why are they so afraid to say that? 'How can you ask the last man to die for a mistake?!' That's what makes it such a tragedy, otherwise the war would be justified!

COOPER: Senator Edwards, are the troops - did the troops in Vietnam die in vain?

EDWARDS: Senator Obama spoke just a minute ago about the White House agreeing that the parliament, the Iraqi parliament could take a month-long vacation because it was too hot, while our men and women are putting their lives on the line every day.

STEVE: Where are they going on vacation?

ANDREW: Basra. Sunny Basra.

TIM: Wouldn't it be cool if they were going to Iran?

TIM: You think that's why there's no democracy in Saudi Arabia - it's too hot?

(APPLAUSE)

* * *

QUESTION: My name is Tony Fuller from Wilson, Ohio, and I was wondering if the candidates feel women should register for the draft when they turn 18.

DODD: I'm an advocate of universal nation service, not by mandating it, but . . .

TIM: I'm in favor of universal voluntary national service.

STEVE: Isn't that what we already have?

TIM: So why don't we just get rid of the draft?!

* * *

GRAVEL: Well, of course I want to take credit and admit that I'm the guy that filibustered for five months, all by myself, in the Senate to end the draft in the United States of America.

STEVE: He talked for five months?

ANDREW: I read the phone book fifty times!

STEVE: He stood there for five months and didn't go to the bathroom or anything?

TIM: He did it at home. It was a home filibuster. It was in his bathroom.

* * *

QUESTION: Hello, my name is John McAlpin. I'm a proud serving member of the United States military. I'm serving overseas. This question is to Senator Hillary Clinton. The Arab states, Muslim nations, believe it's women as being second-class citizens. If you're president of the United States, how do you feel that you would even be taken seriously by these states in any kind of talks, negotiations, or any other diplomatic relations? I feel that is a legitimate question.

CLINTON: Thank you, John, and thank you for your service to our country.

You know, when I was first lady, I was privileged to represent our country in 82 countries. I have met with many officials in Arabic and Muslim countries. I have met with kings and presidents and prime ministers and sheiks and tribal leaders.

ANDREW: I've met with women kings. With sultans and sultaneers.

TIM: They have another word for it.

STEVE: I think it's sultanettes.

ANDREW (sternly): It's sultaneers.

TIM: I was thinking of a female version of king.

ANDREW: Queen?

TIM: Yeah

* * *

QUESTION: In 1982, Anwar Sadat traveled to Israel, a trip that resulted in a peace agreement that has lasted ever since. In the spirit of that type of bold leadership, would you be willing to meet separately, without precondition, during the first year of your administration, in Washington or anywhere else, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea?

OBAMA: I would. And the reason is this, that the notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them - which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration - is ridiculous.

TIM: Talking to them in is punishment.

TIM (alternate version): Talking down to them is punishment enough.

QUESTION: I'd be interested in knowing what Hillary has to say to that question.

CLINTON: Well, I will not promise to meet with the leaders of these countries during my first year. I will promise a very vigorous diplomatic effort because I think it is not that you promise a meeting at that high a level before you know what the intentions are.

STEVE: A more sophisticated answer.

CLINTON: I don't want to be used for propaganda purposes. I don't want to make a situation even worse. But I certainly agree that we need to get back to diplomacy, which has been turned into a bad word by this administration.

And I will purse very vigorous diplomacy.

And I will use a lot of high-level presidential envoys to test the waters, to feel the way. But certainly, we're not going to just have our president meet with Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez and, you know, the president of North Korea, Iran and Syria until we know better what the way forward would be.

QUESTION: By what date after January 21st, 2009, will all U.S. troops be out of Iraq? And how many family members do you have serving in uniform?

BIDEN: Number one, there is not a single military man in this audience who will tell this senator he can get those troops out in six months if the order goes today.

Let's start telling the truth. Number one, you take all the troops out. You better have helicopters ready to take those 3,000 civilians inside the Green Zone where I have been seven times and shot at. You better make sure you have protection for them, or let them die, number one.

So we can't leave them there. And it's going to take a minimum 5,000 troops to 10,000 just to protect our civilians. So while you're taking them out, Governor, take everybody out. That may be necessary.

Number three, the idea that we all voted - except for me - for that appropriation. That man's son is dead. For all I know, it was an IED. Seventy percent of all the deaths occurred have been those roadside bombs. We have money in that bill to begin to build and send immediately mine-resistant vehicles that increase by 80 percent the likelihood none of your cadets will die, General. And they all voted against it.

How in good conscience can you vote not to send those vehicles over there as long as there's one single, solitary troop there?

CLINTON: You know, I put forth a comprehensive three-point plan to get our troops out of Iraq, and it does start with moving them out as soon as possible.

But Joe is right. You know, I have done extensive work on this. And the best estimate is that we can probably move a brigade a month, if we really accelerate it, maybe a brigade and a half or two a month. That is a lot of months.

STEVE: This is the kind of thing she knows.

* * *

[Sultaneer/sultanette discussion resumes.]

TIM: Raisins of Swing?

* * *

(MUSIC VIDEO PRESENTATION OF A QUESTION ABOUT NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND)

COOPER: Governor Richardson, you have had to implement No Child Left Behind in your state. Would you scrap it? Revise it?

RICHARDSON: I would scrap it. It doesn't work.

TIM: I would scrap it. I don't think the music works at all with the lyrics.

ANDREW: Dylan was doing that fifty years ago.

RICHARDSON: It is the law. It is not just an unfunded mandate, but the one- size-fits-all doesn't work.

ANDREW: It doesn't work for me. I need an extra, extra, extra large.

RICHARDSON: [Blah blah blah] and I would have a major federal program of art in the schools, music, dancing, sculpture, and the arts.

ANDREW: I'd have a smart czar.

* * *

QUESTION: Hey, I'm Mike Green from Lexington, South Carolina. And I was wanting to ask all the nominees whether they would send their kids to public school or private school.

COOPER: We know, Senator Clinton, you sent your daughter to private school.

Senator Edwards, Obama and Biden also send your kids to private school.

Is that correct?

ANDREW: No, anyone can pay go to go those schools.

CLINTON: No.

COOPER: No?

CLINTON: No, it's not correct.

COOPER: OK.

CLINTON: Chelsea went to public schools, kindergarten through eighth grade, until we moved to Washington. And then I was advised, and it was, unfortunately, good advice, that if she were to go to a public school, the press would never leave her alone, because it's a public school. So I had to make a very difficult decision.

COOPER: Senator Obama?

CLINTON: But we were very pleased she was in public schools in Little Rock.

COOPER: Senator Obama?

OBAMA: My kids have gone to the University of Chicago Lab School, a private school, because I taught there . . .

ANDREW: I got a great deal on tuition.

OBAMA: . . . and it was five minutes from our house. So it was the best option for our kids.

But the fact is that there are some terrific public schools in Chicago that they could be going to. The problem is, is that we don't have good schools, public schools, for all kids.

A U.S. senator can get his kid into a terrific public school. That's not the question. The question is whether or not ordinary parents, who can't work the system, are able to get their kids into a decent school, and that's what I need to fight for and will fight for as president of the United States.

STEVE: A U.S. senator can work the system to get his kid into a terrific public school in Chicago? Has he talked to the mayor he endorsed about this?

(APPLAUSE)

* * *

QUESTION: Hi. My name is Anne, and I work at a Planned Parenthood in Pennsylvania.

ANDREW: I can't tell you where.

* * *

QUESTION: Hey, there, my name's Jackie Broyles. And I'm Dunlap [2nd person on video; both are yukkin' it up hillbilly style]. We're from Red State Update. Murfreesboro, Tennessee. This here question's for all you candidates. Mainstream media seems awfully interested in old Al Gore these days. Is he losing weight? What's it say in his book? Is he still worried about all the ice? They interpret all these as signs that he may or may not run. They really want to know if Al Gore's going to run again. Yes. Well, what we want to know is does that hurt you-all's feelings?

(APPLAUSE)

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: Anybody have their feelings hurt?

BIDEN: Anderson . . .

COOPER: Yes?

BIDEN: I think the people of Tennessee just had their feelings hurt.

STEVE: Hey, we'll do the snappy retorts, Joe.

* * *

QUESTION FROM A SNOWMAN: Hello, Democratic candidates. I've been growing concerned that global warming, the single most important issue to the snowmen of this country, is being neglected.

As president, what will you do to ensure that my son will live a full and happy life?

TIM: The Kennedy-Nixon debate is at 8. Following this.

TIM: Can you imagine if Lincoln and Douglas had to face this talking snowman? 'To the honorable snowman from Vermont . . . '

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

COOPER: How many people here a private jet or a chartered jet to get here tonight?

STEVE: That private jet thing is bullshit. People have to get around, we're not talking about eliminating airplanes and cars . . .

COOPER: Senator Gravel, what was that? You took the train?

GRAVEL: I took the train . . .

STEVE: What did he say?

ANDREW: He's going across America on a moped.

TIM: I thought it was a John Deere riding mower.

QUESTION: Hi, my name is Shawn and I'm from Ann Arbor, Michigan. There is a scientific consensus for man-caused climate change, and I've heard each of you talk in previous debates about alternative energy sources like solar or wind, but I have not heard any of you speak your opinion on nuclear power. I believe that nuclear power is safer, cleaner, and provides a quicker avenue to energy independence than other alternatives.

QUESTION: I am curious what each of you believe.

STEVE: Obama is pro.

EDWARDS: Wind, solar, cellulose-based biofuels are the way we need to go. I do not favor nuclear power. We haven't built a nuclear power plant in decades in this country. There is a reason for that. The reason is it is extremely costly. It takes an enormous amount of time to get one planned, developed and built. And we still don't have a safe way to dispose of the nuclear waste. It is a huge problem for America over the long term.

OBAMA: I actually think that we should explore nuclear power as part of the energy mix. There are no silver bullets to this issue. We have to develop solar. I have proposed drastically increasing fuel efficiency standards on cars, an aggressive cap on the amount of greenhouse gases that can be emitted.

STEVE: He's said he's pro-nuclear; look how he finessed it.

COOPER: Senator Clinton, what is Senator Edwards - why is he wrong on nuclear power?

CLINTON: First of all, I have proposed a strategic energy fund that I would fund by taking away the tax break for the oil companies, which have gotten much greater under Bush and Cheney.

STEVE: Good answer. You know, the set design for this debate is terrific. The aesthetics, the background, the podiums . . .

TIM and ANDREW: [general agreement]

CLINTON: I'm agnostic about nuclear power. John is right, that until we figure out what we're going to do with the waste and the cost, it's very hard to see nuclear as a part of our future. But that's where American technology comes in. Let's figure out what we're going to do about the waste and the cost if we think nuclear should be a part of the solution.

* * *

QUESTION: My name's Melissa and I'm from San Luis Obispo, California. In recent years, there's been so much controversy regarding dangling chads, then no paper trail in electronic systems. I know it costs money to amend things like that, but if I can go to any state and get the same triple grande, non-fat, no foam vanilla latte from Starbucks, why I can't I go to any state and vote the same way?

STEVE: Why can't I meet a woman who says something like that?

TIM: She never leaves the house. She just sits in front of her computer.

ANDREW: She's married. To her professor.

COOPER: We're going to take a short break. We're going to go to break with a YouTube-style video from Senator Biden's campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Imagine you're trapped deep in a hole with a group of politicians debating.

President Bush says the only way out of Iraq is to dig us deeper and deeper. But what if one leader stood up for us and said no, we can get out now, without leaving chaos behind?

ANDREW: We'll stand on top of each other.

STEVE: What is a YouTube style campaign video - a candidate's cat on a skateboard? They're campaign ads!

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KUCINICH: You can vote now to end the war in Iraq. Text Peace, 73223. Text peace now to send a message to the White House and to the Democratic Congress that now's the time to end the war. Text Peace, 73223. Make your vote count and your voice be heard. Text Peace, 73223, to move this country away from war as an instrument of policy, and to achieve strength through peace. Text Peace.

STEVE: Is he saying 'Text peace'?

TIM: Give peace a text.

* * *

QUESTION: If you're elected to serve, would you be willing to do this service for the next four years and be paid the national minimum wage?

COOPER: So, it's pretty simple, yes or no. Minimum wage, by the way, goes up tomorrow to $6.55. In 2009, it will be $7.25.

DODD: I have two young daughters who I'm trying to educate.. I don't think I could live on the minimum wage, but I'm a strong advocate to seeing to it that we increase it at least to $9 or $10 to give people a chance out there to be able to provide for their families.

STEVE: So not the right answer.

OBAMA: Well, we can afford to work for the minimum wage because most folks on this stage have a lot of money. It's the folks on that screen who deserve - you're doing all right, Chris, compared to, I promise you, the folks who are on that screen.

STEVE: Score for Obama.

DODD: Not that well, I'll tell you, Barack.

STEVE: How unwell could he be doing? He's got that hair.

OBAMA: I mean, we don't have - we don't have Mitt Romney money, but . . .

BIDEN: I don't have Barack Obama money either. My net worth is $70,000 to $150,000. That's what happens you get elected at 29. I couldn't afford to stay in the Congress for the minimum wage. But if I get a second job, I'd do it.

TIM, ANDREW, STEVE: [Discussion ensues about whether Joe Biden can really have such a relatively low net worth. We conclude he can't. Or maybe he needs credit counseling.]

* * *

COOPER: Senator Obama, 45 million uninsured Americans. Senator Edwards says your plan doesn't really provide universal coverage. Does it?

OBAMA: Absolutely it does.

STEVE: It does not. And he knows it.

* * *

QUESTION: Does your health care plan cover undocumented workers?

TIM: What about undocumented stem cells?

* * *

QUESTION: Hi. My name is Chris Nolan and I'm a Democratic precinct committeeman from Mundelein, Illinois. With Bush, Clinton, and Bush again serving as the last three presidents, how would electing you, a Clinton, constitute the type of change in Washington so many people in the heartland are yearning for, and what your campaign has been talking about?

I was also wondering if any of the other candidates had a problem with the same two families being in charge of the executive branch of government for 28 consecutive years, if Hillary Clinton were to potentially be elected and then re-elected.

CLINTON: Well, I think it is a problem that Bush was elected in 2000.

(APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: I actually thought somebody else was elected in that election, but . . .

(APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: Obviously, I am running on my own merits, but I am very proud of my husband's record as president of the United States.

STEVE: Why penalize Hillary for George Bush stealing the election in 2000? Plus, she's there on her merits. No one ever questions her qualifications. George Bush was there because of his daddy.

STEVE: Ask Obama if he has a problem with Richard M. Daley and Todd Stroger following their fathers inot their jobs. He endorsed 'em.

COOPER: Thirty seconds, Senator Gravel. Do you have a problem with it?

GRAVEL: Well, yes, I do, a serious problem. The Democratic Party used to stand for the ordinary working man. But the Clintons and the DLC sold out the Democratic Party to Wall Street.

Look at where all the money is being raised right now, for Hillary, Obama and Edwards. It's the hedge funds, it's Wall Street bankers, it's the people who brought you what you have today.

Please wake up. Just look at The New York Times of the 17th of July that analyzes where the money's coming from.

COOPER: Time's up.

GRAVEL: It comes from the bankers on Wall Street and of course hedge funds, which is code for bankers on Wall Street. And they're lock, stock and barrel in their pocket.

COOPER: Since you went to Senator Obama, we'll let you respond, if you want.

OBAMA: Look, I think every single question we've heard you see cynicism about the capacity to change this country. And the question for the American people, who desperately want change, is: Who's got a track record of bringing about change?

STEVE: Peter Fitzgerald, your predecessor! He took on corruption in Illinois while you were playing kissy-face with Emil Jones.

OBAMA: And that, I think, is going to be the kind of president that is going to be elected - is going to be nominated by the Democrats, and I believe that I'm best qualified to fill that role.

* * *

QUESTION: Hi, I'm Zenne Abraham in Oakland, California. This quarter reads "United States of America." And when I turn it over, you find that it reads "liberty, in God we trust." What do those words mean to you?

STEVE: God has no business being on our money.

BIDEN: Religion informs my values.

BIDEN: My reason dictates outcomes. My religion taught me about abuse of power. That's why I moved to write the Violence Against Women Act.

STEVE: He wrote everything!

TIM: I wrote the script for The Terminator.

* * *

QUESTION: My name is Jered Townsend from Clio, Michigan. To all the candidates, tell me your position on gun control, as myself and other Americans really want to know if our babies are safe. This is my baby, purchased under the 1994 gun ban. Please tell me your views.

COOPER: Governor Richardson, you have one of the highest NRA ratings.

RICHARDSON: [Blah blah blah]

COOPER: Senator Biden, are you going to be able to keep his baby safe?

BIDEN: I'll tell you what, if that is his baby, he needs help.

(APPLAUSE)

I think he just made an admission against self-interest. I don't know that he is mentally qualified to own that gun. I'm being serious. Look, just like me, we go around talking about people who own guns. I am the guy who originally wrote the assault weapons ban . . .

COOPER: Time.

BIDEN: Anyway . . .

(APPLAUSE)

COOPER: We got one more question. Before . . .

BIDEN: . . . I hope he doesn't come looking for me.

* * *

QUESTION: My name is Jason Koop, and I am from Colorado Springs, Colorado. I would like for each of you to look at the candidate to your left and tell the audience one thing you like and one thing you dislike about that particular candidate.

GRAVEL: I turn to my left and I like Chris Dodd. I knew his dad, I served with his dad. I do have a difference of opinion with respect to where the money's coming from. I've advocated, people, follow the money if you want to find out what's going to happen after any one of these individuals are elected. Follow the money, because it's politics as usual is what you're seeing.

DODD: I like John Edwards. I love his wife Elizabeth and his family, and I think we've had enough of negative in politics. I have nothing negative to say about the gentleman.

COOPER: You're not going to answer the question. All right. Senator Edwards?

EDWARDS: I admire what Senator Clinton has done for America, what her husband did for America. I'm not sure about that coat.

STEVE: C'mon! That's awful. It's a cute coat.

CLINTON: I admire and like very much Barack, as I do with all of the candidates here. And I think that what you've seen tonight is how ready the Democrats are to lead.

COOPER: Alright. I'll take that as you're not going to answer.

OBAMA: I actually like Hillary's jacket. I don't know what's wrong with it. And I like the fact that Bill Richardson has devoted his life to public service, because that, I think, is the highest of callings. I don't like the fact that he either likes the Yankees or the Red Sox, but doesn't apparently like the White Sox. And we're having a tough time this year.

STEVE: Ugh.

RICHARDSON: You know, let me just say, I love all of the candidates here. In fact, I think they would all do great in the White House as my vice president.

STEVE: Ha ha ha! Hardy har har.

RICHARDSON: Let me say something about Joe Biden. We disagree on Iraq very strongly, on Darfur. But this man has devoted his whole life to public service. He's been a distinguished chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He's had great contributions in civil rights, in issues relating to gun control, in Supreme Court nominees. He will make an excellent secretary of state for me.

BIDEN: I don't like a damn thing about him. I - no, I'm only kidding. Only kidding. Dennis and I have been friends for 25 years. I think this is a ridiculous exercise. Dennis, the thing I like best about you is your wife.

STEVE: Uh-oh. This question is Gaffe City.

COOPER: Congressman Kucinich, talk about Senator Gravel.

KUCINICH: Wait a minute. He talked about my wife.

COOPER: Well . . .

KUCINICH: You notice what CNN did. They didn't put anybody to the left of me. Think about it.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: I'm not sure it would be possible to find anybody.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

KUCINICH: And you know what? And you know - and I'm glad I get a chance to debate you to my left, because there's no one more mainstream on the war and on health care and on trade than I am, Anderson.

Now, about Senator Gravel: Didn't he show great courage during the Vietnam War, when he exposed what was going on with the Pentagon Papers. Really courageous American. I'm proud that he's up here.

Thank you, Senator Gravel.

END.

-

BEACHWOOD ANALYSIS: The strongest night for the candidates collectively. Hillary was very solid. Edwards had a decent night. Biden had a good night. Obama had a good night, a notch below Hillary, Edwards and Biden. Kucinich and Gravel were the same as usual - the most honest ones up there. Richardson was awful, and Dodd is a non-factor.

-

See the Mystery Debate Theater collection.

Posted by Lou at 07:51 AM | Permalink

Open Letter

For several years, my younger daughter has been invited annually to a friend's birthday party at The Four Seasons. The one on Chicago's Magnificent Mile, just to be clear. One year the invitation was an inscribed blue ball, approximately one foot in diameter, with the stamps slapped right on it. I still can't believe the post office delivered it. They must have mistaken it for junk mail, the only thing that reliably makes it to our mailbox. Of course, the ball didn't fit in the mailbox; we found it on the front steps.

Anyway, every year a big group of giggling girls takes over the hotel's restaurant before moving on to the Four Seasons pool, eventually hopping into Gold Coast horse carriages and returning for a slumber party in a Four Seasons suite. The contents of the goody bag are inevitably worth more than my iPod mini and all the music downloaded onto it.

Perhaps you expect me to sneer at such an extravagant party for anyone, much less people who wouldn't be allowed to register at the hotel, lacking legal IDs. Nahhh. The friend's family is so utterly without pretense, and the whole thing is such a crazy lark, why be a spoilsport?

The vital thing I've found is that attending the Four Seasons party has never given my daughter the notion that she, too, should entertain her little friends at a five-star hotel. "I hope you don't think you're ever having a party here," I said the first time I picked her up from the lobby. That seemed to do the
trick.

The five-star hotel-party syndrome isn't spreading throughout her grade. The birthday parties remain a mix of sleepovers, bowling, and a sprinkling of more upscale venues like a gourmet food store where the kids all made their own calzones.

That, in fact, is my point: Don't let the roiling waters of social pressure sweep you, howling and clawing at your wallet, into a sterile "party room" somewhere, or even the restaurant at American Girl. (Although the tea is surprisingly well done at American Girl, despite the insistence on naming each item after a historical doll character such as Kaya, as if a Nez Perce American Indian girl circa 1764 would be likely to eat or serve blueberry-lemon scones with fruit preserves and Devonshire cream). The pressure is entirely in your head. The kids don't care - they just want a lot of junk food. Their parents don't care either - they just want to know what time to drop off and pick up, and whether they can fit a trip to Costco in between.

Actually, I've found that when we host an old-fashioned backyard party and parents wander in for pick-up to see their children busy drawing with chalk or competing to see who can go the farthest on the tiny Playskool plastic "roller coaster" we inherited from an older cousin, they often express wonder, and start treating us like we're morally superior or something. As atheists, we don't get much of that, so it's nice.

Home parties are easier than you think, too. I know many of you stress out about having guests, preparing food and planning activities. So unnecessary. These are kids. Kids are people who only recently stopped clearing their nasal passages by wiping boogers on your couch.

What about their parents? Unless you've just moved into the neighborhood, their parents already know how you live. You won't fool anyone by holding the party at the Rainforest Cafe. In our case, everyone is already well aware that the kids began destroying the living room furniture years ago, and our current cats finished the job with their politically correct intact claws. Anyone who wants to shun us based on the state of the upholstery has already had ample opportunity.

Food? Forget the roasted red pepper dip and the homemade mango chutney and anything with sundried tomatoes. The only tomatoes kids need are in ketchup, on top of a hot dog. Talk about easy dinner guests; they act like you're Charlie frickin' Trotter if you rip open a bag of sour cream and onion chips in addition to plain.

I confess to one egregious outside party. Last year we told our older daughter that her thirteenth party would be her last - mistake number two, since, with this information, we had given her a first class piece of emotional blackmail. Mistake number one was previously letting her go to someone else's birthday party at Dave and Buster's. I suspect Dave and Buster's sends home youthful guests with a post-hypnotic suggestion to spend eternity at that establishment and become one with the token dispenser, in order to achieve total unconsciousness.

So anyway, of course we ended up at Dave and Buster's. We vowed in advance to extricate our bunch of tweens after two hours and return home for a sleepover, even if we had to use the jaws of life to do it. This was fortunate, for without a predetermined and conservative time limit, adults would do well to tape a "Kill Me Now" sign to their backs before entering Dave and Buster's. The place was apparently conceived as a replacement for Purgatory. It is fit only for people who need hearing aids, and who have left their hearing aids at home.

The most depressing part of Dave and Buster's is not the way the kids immediately lose all awareness of other human beings as they desperately scramble for the games that kick out the most reward tokens. Nor is it the pathetic array of schlock at the prize counter afterward, or being forced to rip the veil from the indecisive children's eyes and tell them the horrible truth: it's all garbage manufactured abroad by oppressed workers younger than themselves, and they'd do better to just bring the tokens home and play checkers with them or let the cats use them for hockey pucks up and down the hall.

No; the most depressing part is the grown-ups who are at Dave and Buster's voluntarily, without children. Even at Chuck E. Cheese, you aren't subjected to that grisly spectacle. It's worse than the trailer for Captivity. It's worse than the publicized publicity parties for Captivity.

Party on,

Cate

*

Comments? Open Letter is open to letters.

*

See who else Cate has been writing to in the Open Letter archive.

Posted by Lou at 12:31 AM | Permalink

July 23, 2007

What I Watched Last Night

Let's say you're the programming think tank at VH1 and you want to resurrect an '80s hair band singer, The Bachelor and Flavor of Love all in one breath because, well, actually showing music videos is just so booooooring and you can beat the lifeless carcass of Ferris Bueller's Day Off to death only so many times. So what do you do?

You create Rock of Love with former Poison singer Bret Michaels, that's what.

I saw the rerun of the premiere episode Sunday morning. I've been entertained by Flavor Flav on Flavor and The Surreal Life>, and Bret's no Flav. He doesn't have big gold teeth to flash in a pimp smile like Richard Kiel's titanium-mouthed villain Jaws The Spy Who Loved Me. He doesn't wear a way-cool Viking helmet. He doesn't wear a clock around his neck the size of Big Ben on a chain big enough to anchor an aircraft carrier. He's never schtupped Brigitte Nielsen - at least not admittedly.

Nope. Bret's just a long-haired dude in a doo-rag "looking for that special someone" to settle down with.

Not having a tour bus for outrageous sex with supple young babettes and MILFY moms will do that to a guy, y'know? But since he's still pretty famous, he gets spared the indignity of dealing with the freaks and social misfits in the Craigslist personals by getting his own incarnation of Bachelor/Flavor.

Like Bachelor/Flavor, Bret gets to hang out in a house stocked with a stable of assorted women and whittle the whole lot down to one to have a relationship with. If The Bachelor is any indication, the relationship will likely expire in less time than it takes a potato to sprout eyes.

Or maybe not. Bret's pretty serious about the whole business: "Basically, what I'm trying to say is rock 'n' roll is an insatiable bitch goddess, but I love her. And I'm just looking for that one woman in my life to participate in that threesome." If that isn't commitment enough to make any fair maiden get all swoony, there's this: "And I know, deep in my heart, deep in my soul and deep in my loins that one of these girls will be the one for me."

Sure. As long as she's woman enough to master that stripper pole in the Rock house.

In Sunday's rerun, the initial Rock stable of 25 women was chosen by a big beefy dude known as Big John - Bret's "head of security" - who would probably look vaguely familiar to anyone who's been bashed in the face with a blackjack or cattle-prodded for feeling up the help at any of our nation's seedier strip joints. Big John wasn't too forthcoming about his selection criteria, but judging by some of the women making the cut out of the teeming mass of volunteers who showed up for the chance to date Bret, I'm sure rock 'n' roll's most common currency, the blow job, was likely involved. How else do you explain an assortment of girls next door, wallflowers, a woman who could easily be mistaken for a transvestite, some walking breast implants, a poster girl for the lobotomized trying to converse after apparently eating enough Valium to stun a horse, and ditzy helium-voiced blondes who whistle when the wind blows in one ear and out the other?

Forget what I mentioned earlier about Craigslist personals. They showed up at Bret's door.

Anyway, in the first episode, the whole gaggle of women spent an evening trying to impress Bret enough to be among the 15 chosen to make the cut to Sunday night's episode, which I wasn't home to see. The main attraction of the show was Tiffany, who's either twice the age of the other contestants or has more bad-road mileage on her than than a Greyhound bus. She spent her gettoknowya time annoying the piss out of everyone enough to be called a crack whore and trying to dry-hump Bret's lap after transforming herself into Loud Sloppy Incoherent Drunk Broad. She is to Rock what Ripsi was to Bad Girls Club, except infinitely more incoherent. "Get it over you cinch you wadda," she tells one of the fairly un-drunk contestants, who was clearly not up on her Crack Whore Drunkspeak translation skills.

After an incredible amount of painful soul-searching, Bret chose his 15 semi-finalists, asking each one, "Would you stay and rock my world?" as he hands them their own personal All Access backstage pass to the Rock house. First chosen was Rodeo, a somewhat manly-looking, cowboy hat-wearing woman who melted Bret's heart by identifying with his diabetes by saying she was once paralyzed and had cancer. Yeesh. Besides doo rags, Bret's pretty partial to cowboy hats, so that worked in her favor.

And in a surprise move - or maybe not such a surprise - Bret made a special addition to the 15 semi-finalists by inviting Wasted Tiffany to stay on: "I think somewhere in there is a nice girl. She was just wasted. I've been there, you've been there. Plus, she was entertaining." Yeah, the morbidly drunk are pretty entertaining. Up until they take a shit in your bathroom wastebasket.

I was ready to write Rock off as insipidly dull as The Bachelor (and maybe even the painfully Hey Paula) until I saw the previews for upcoming episodes at the end of the show. Seems the women have to participate in a whole slew of contests to win time with Bret and try to win his heart and whatever other body parts go along with it. In episodes ahead, we'll be seeing mud football, chicks crashing motocross motorcycles, chicks Dumpster-diving into smelly goo for guitar picks, chicks doing phone sex, and - best of all - chicks drinking copious amounts of alcohol, projectile vomiting, swapping spit, and beating each others' faces in.

Nope, this is no Flavor of Love. Good thing.

*

Catch up with the What I Watched Last Night catalog.

Posted by Lou at 12:50 PM | Permalink

The [Monday] Papers

A lot to catch up on today.

Mayoral Mystery
Why does the mayor behave like a profoundly unhappy man with a guilty conscience?

Paper Tiger
The Sun-Times editorial page tills familiar ground today excoriating the public for a supposed collective yawn at the latest in Chicago corruption without explaining its endorsements of Richard Daley and Todd Stroger, nor lambasting Barack Obama for his endorsements of both men even as he tries to run a presidential campaign based on an uncynical politics, nor directing its ire at the paper's management for publishing City Hall press release after City Hall press release under Fran Spielman's byline or its candy-coated Olympics coverage and severely understaffed newsroom.

With each finger the media points at the public for political apathy and ignorance, there are four fingers pointing back.

Breaking Civic News!
Man's Best Friend May Also Be Man's Best Therapist. A report by Nesita Kwan. Tonight on NBC5.

Missed Connections
"The $208,000 in contributions the CBOT and the Merc gave to Daley's re-election campaign in January and February are more than four times the $47,000 the two exchanges had donated to his campaign in the previous eight years," the Sun-Times reports.

"Spokesmen for the mayor and the merging futures trading center said there was no connection between the campaign cash and Daley's promise earlier this week to provide unspecified financial subsidies to assist the Merc's $12 billion buyout of the CBOT."

Okay, first, why even ask that question?

"Why yes, there is a connection," a spokesperson for the exchange said. "In exchange for the campaign contribution, the mayor agreed to provide even more money in return in tax increment financing. It's a win-win."

Instead, the question you ask is this: Why did the your organization donate significantly more money to the mayor this year than in previous years?

Follow-up: But someone must know. There had to be a meeting or two before the check was written. What was talked about in that meeting?

Follow-up: But this was a year in which the mayor had no real competition. He didn't need your money to win.

Follow-up: If there is no connection, then are you saying you just threw that money away? You got nothing for it? If you aren't getting anything for your money, why give it?

"The $107,000 from the Merc and $101,000 from the CBOT were Daley's largest donations during the reporting period."

Proposed policy: We will not report any comments from spokespeople on stories that demand the elected official be heard from. So unless Daley and the exchange bosses tell us in their own words that there was never any intent for this money to infliuence the mayor's actions, we will not print a rote denial. We want their denial on the record, so if there are people who know this not to be true, they will know who is lying.

*

Meanwhile, the governor is playing games too.

"A campaign official would not say whether any of the money the governor is spending on lawyers is related to the federal investigations of his administration.

"Beyond reporting it as required, we don't detail it," said Doug Scofield, campaign spokesman. "We just haven't broken that down. We haven't commented beyond that."

Why? Are you embarrassed?

Follow-up: Just to be clear, you're saying that the campaign has no internal records breaking down where its legal fees have been spent? How is that even possible? Isn't that lousy accounting?

Headline: Guv's Campaign Hiding/Unaware of Legal Bills.

Rod Travolta
"Gov. Rod Blagojevich and the Illinois General Assembly are poised to set a record for frustration this week in an ongoing budget impasse that is on the verge of having a direct impact on the lives of ordinary citizens," the Tribune reports.

But you can't stop his hair.

Cub Scrub
Jim Hendry says Jason Kendall is a "high-character guy." Like his habit of antagonizing Internet chat rooms users? ("The main reason I got my computer is to tear people apart," he once blogged.) Or was it his reference to "joke-book fans" and "Rotisserie-league geeks"? Maybe it's his history of brawls. ("I guess [one pitcher he charged] caught Jason at the wrong moment, which is not hard to do," a former teammate once said.

Welcome to Chicago, Jason! Glad to have your .221 average and awesome attitude here!

Cleavage Call
Neil Steinberg, who apparently will halt his Obama adulation now that he is declaring a moratorium on following a presidential campaign for probably the first time in his life, decries the recent focus on Hillary Clinton's cleavage. With a photo of said cleavage and a caption promising "More photos on Lynn Sweet's blog at www.suntimes.com."

Bat Grrrls
Go Pioneers! Learn more about our new favorite team.

Sneed Screed
Apparently it never occurred to Patrick Spilotro as he fumed to Michael Sneed about the "chemosynthetic parasites" who killed his brothers Tony and Michael that they were administered a rough justice by their peers. Or was it not Tony Spilotro who once put a man's head in a vice and squeezed until an eyeball popped out?

Then again, Pat is the father of one of Sneed's son's best friend, and once helped clean up her North Shore backyard after a prom photo shoot, and that's good enough for Sneed.

Beyond Durbin
"I was one of the people to say, 'This is a different kind of oil company,'" Durbin said at a news conference at Foster Beach, part of the weekend petition drive (against BP's plan to dump more waste in Lake Michigan).

I sure hope he's just saying that for effect.

Race War
Adult Prison Population For Drug Offenses, Illinois:
Black - 65.8 percent.
White - 23.8 percent.

Drug Abusers, Illinois:
Black - 14 percent.
White - 72 percent.

Reported by the Tribune.

Chicago Way University
"The audit showed that among other expenses, [Chicago State University President Elnora] Daniel spent more than $15,000 on a nine-day 'leadership seminar' aboard a cruise ship in the Caribbean in August 2006, where she was accompanied by five family members," the Tribune reports. "A year earlier, five family members accompanied her to the Ritz-Carlton in Orlando."

Torn Asunder
"As city gentrifies, black professionals squeezed in middle."

Political Hymn Book
Another story about whether a Mormon can be elected president. Haven't new scripts been handed out yet? I found this Ask Dog Lady column to be much more informative.

Presidential Pick 'Em
Let me get this straight.

Obama is JFK.
Edwards is RFK.
Thompson is Reagan.
Bush is Nixon.
Or is Cheney Nixon?
Hillary is Bill.
Or is Obama Lincoln and Hillary Eleanor?

READER COMMENT: re Obama is JFK, etc: Instead, how about: They're all McKinley.

Foreign Affairs
The MSM loves courageous bloggers fighting for democracy overseas a lot more than they like them here at home.

Transparent Agenda
The media loves transparency - except for itself.

Editor Ann Marie Lipinski, for example, may want to spell out exactly why she doesn't think front page ads serve readers well, what she did to stop them, and the financials she is privy to that are being used to justify them. Just for starters.

In fact, in light of what's going on in the corporate suite, a full-scale investigation into the Trib's financials seems in order.

Ad Alternatives
What's keeping the Tribune from selling off all its non-Chicago properties and using the cash to build a great hometown paper? Could it be executive greed and ego?

Public Editor
A smug Timothy McNulty weighs in.

Memo to Jennifer Hunter
If a trial lawyer says he's a staunch Republican, check it out.

War Against Teens
The kid are the smartest ones in this story.

"DeAndre Monroe, 17, a student at Chicago's ACE Tech Charter High School said he friends who have dropped out would not be swayed by the law. Monroe said he expects they will probably drive illegally until they can get a license at 18."

Says Riley Ertel, 17, of Payton High School: "If they passed the test and everything to get the licenses, then they're probably not a terribly reckless driver. I think a truant should have the same rights to drive as I do."

Rogue Editorials
"Mayor Richard M. Daley is about to appoint a new chief for a tarnished Chicago Police Department," the Tribune editorial board says - as if the tarnish is something new, just a little smudge, and doesn't involve the mayor. How 'bout demanding he sit for that police torture deposition?

Color Lines
Jesse Jackson responds to Rick Morrissey.

Kass's Cop
John Kass has been writing about a Chicago cop he says is the victim of an unjust court ruling in Iowa that has resulted in a five-year prison sentence for nearly killing a college student.

"[The cop] told me his story. But these facts are also in court documents and Judge Ackley's written ruling," Kass wrote in "This Officer's Sentence is Hogwash."

"It's unfair to lump Mette in with those other brutality cases, as another newspaper in town did a few days ago," he wrote in "Finally, Wronged Cop Gets Some Support."

But is Kass telling you the whole story?

From the Dubuque Telegraph-Herald:

"[Prosecutor Tim] Gallagher argues that Kass and Mette's defenders skip some key facts.

"The prosecution argues that Mette and his friends helped fuel the problem.

"Mette, his younger brother Marc Mette, a former UD student, and some of their friends showed up at Gothard's residence at 1130 Race St. after hearing about a party there, court documents say.

"When Mette and friends opted to leave the downstairs party after a short time (without paying the $5 cover charge) Gothard, the 'kegger host,' became enraged and started calling them 'ignorant and offensive names,' the judge wrote in her ruling.

"Gothard reportedly said he was going to call the police, and someone in Mette's party took the cell phone from the college student. Gothard and Boyd pursued the group, and Gothard ran up to Mette and pushed him at least twice, according to court documents.

"That's when Mette punched Gothard, knocking him unconscious. Kass and others argue Mette is the real victim.

"Gallagher says the evidence overwhelmingly disputes that notion, most critically the claim that Mette only punched Gothard once.

"'He suffered numerous injuries to the face and head,' the prosecutor said. 'Additionally, (Gothard) had defensive wounds to his arms and torso, as if he were being kicked and attempting to cover up.'

"Gothard suffered a broken nose, broken jaw, a laceration on the back of his head and a hematoma on his brain, according to court documents. He was first transported to The Finley Hospital and then airlifted to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City.

"Gallagher said it was difficult to get the real story from the beginning. He said the off-duty Chicago cop told three separate stories to Dubuque police.

"At first, Mette, who had blood on his shirt and hands, said Gothard fell down and bumped his head, according to the criminal complaint. He then told officers that Gothard had pushed his brother, Marc, and he was defending him, Gallagher said. Mette admitted to 'striking Gothard and that he had intent to do so,' a police report stated.

"'Here you have a sworn police officer who has lied to police on the scene regarding how this individual was injured. Perhaps that flies in Chicago but that doesn't fly before a judge here in Dubuque,' Gallagher said.

"The prosecutor said court information included testimony indicating Mette ripped off his shirt after knocking out Gothard and stormed after Boyd. He said Marc Mette told Boyd to leave because he couldn't control his brother when he gets angry.

"Kass, who did not return a TH request for an interview, also seems to suggest Gothard's father, Curt Gothard has some kind of pull in Dubuque County District Court.

"'Mette has no clout in Dubuque. But Dubuque is a small town, and the intoxicated man's daddy is a boss in a giant Iowa trucking company,' Kass wrote.

"Curt Gothard, an information technology director at Dubuque's Truck Country is no trucking baron, Gallagher said. Gothard also lives in Bellevue, Iowa, in Jackson County.

"'That has no bearing whatsoever that Mr. Mette committed a criminal act on that evening,' the prosecutor said.

"What the defense, prosecution and the judge all seem to agree on is that the penalty does not fit the crime."

*

According to the judge's findings of fact, Mette and his pals decided at first to tell the police that the victim - whose brain was bleeding - was drunk and fell to the ground. The investigating officer did not buy it; there was blood on Meete's hand and shirt.

The victim, by the way, had a blood alcohol level of .270. By the looks of a video at lineofduty.com, Mette looks pretty beefy. And he had his buddies with him for backup.

And as the judge's findings showed, just because he was not the aggressor when the "fight" actually occurred, Mette and his friends certainly provoked the situation.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Show your hand.

Posted by Lou at 08:13 AM | Permalink

Chicagoetry: Song of My Cell Phone

SONG OF MY CELL PHONE

I celebrate My cell phone,
Which sings To me, assuming
All that I assume, propagating the infernal productions

Of my
Presumption. Like: mine flops out Like a Star Trek™ Communicator!

I loaf And surf The Net. I place
Bets. Sings! I like to play James Tiberius Kirk and answer "Kirk here."

My tongue is in love! I sing Myself, I thank mice Elf,
I whisper sweet Softness, suaveness, I nearly Run motherfuckers over
Yapping
On it While driving my Japanese Car. I traded my German one
For shares in Royal Dutch

Shell. Woo-hoo! Whoa: nearly clipped that bitch . . . anyhoo:
I think they made my phone, I mean, the Dutch, And they're a very clever people,
In my View. After all, they once had New York To Lose! I kid!
Though I kid you not when I say They actually do have the courtesy
To speak English over there. I dig that.

Hey: said my name is called
Disturbance, I'll shout and scream,
Maybe Say "I'll Kill the King!," whoa! (screech) "Asshole!" . . . to a dead line!

Wait: I accelerate. SO not going gently into that good (SCREECH) . . .

-

J. J. Tindall is the Beachwood's poet-in-residence. He can reached at jjtindall@yahoo.com.


Posted by Lou at 07:04 AM | Permalink

The Cub Factor

I'd like to tell you that this Cub team is going to blow it but I can't. I'd like to explain how this team is not equipped to play winning baseball in the National League but I can't. I'd like to , though.

Because even a cynical "fan" can see that this incarnation of the Cubs has transformed from pretender to contender. Sure, it's not the same as transforming a semi-truck into a robot, but it will still be interesting summer viewing. Lou Pinella has this roster and team under control and the Cubs will overtake the (still in) first place Milwaukee Brewers by the end of August. Yeah, I said it, so what?

Yes, they have some shortcomings, sure, but at this point you have to believe that they'll try to shore those up before the trading deadline. This roster has been shaken more than a crying baby at Applebees, and it still hasn't stopped crying. And yes, they've actually lost two in a row - which suddenly seems shocking. But this team is like the roast beef sandwich at IHOP: on a roll.

With all of this in mind, we here at The Cub Factor would like to tell the cynical Cub fan to really believe again in this team. And while we're at it, here are some other things you should start believing in again.

* Santa
* The President
* The Tooth Fairy
* Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq
* Women's rights
* Al Gore
* Equality
* The Easter Bunny
* Leprechauns
* The children as our future
* BioFuels
* The power of prayer
* Democracy
* God
* Magic
* Love
* Jacque Jones
* Jason Vorhees
* Global Warming
* Yeti
* Pop Rocks and Coca-Cola

So, don't stop believing Chicago Cub fans. Wait, wrong team . . .

-

Week in Review: The Cubs took three of four from the Giants and lost two of three to the D-Backs. It wasn't the greatest week ever but not that bad considering Derrek Lee was out for five games serving his suspension for throwing a punch at Padres pitcher Chris Young. So the Cubs have cooled off a little, sure, but like a library book, they were due.

Week in Preview: The Cubs travel to St. Louis and Cincinnati for three games apiece against the Cardnials and Reds. The Cubs have a lot of games left this season against the Reds, and the Reds are not very good. Things are looking pretty good for the Cubs. I'm hoping if I keep saying things like "Things are looking pretty good for the Cubs," it will become easier to believe. I'm not quite there yet.

The Second Basemen Report: This is beginning to get boring. Mike Fontenot is really really throwing a wrench into this feature. Fontenot started six of the last seven at the keystone base. Mark DeRosa got the other start. This should get more interesting once Derrek Lee is off of suspension and DeRosa isn't needed to cover first, but Fontenot and DeRosa seem to be the only guys left, with Ryan Theriot inspiring enough confidence to spark the Cesar Izturis trade. I have to say, Lou Piniella is not helping The Second Basemen Report by actually bringing stability to the position. It's getting less and less fun to rip on the Cubs. On another note, the Cubs have used six catchers this season. I'm sure that's the way Jim Hendry drew it up.

In former second baseman news, Jose Hernandez is batting .237 with 8 HRs, 31 RBI, and 55 SOs for the the Pittsburgh Pirates' Triple-A affiliate, the Indianapolis Indians. He is missed.

Sweet and Sour Lou: 76% sweet and 24% sour. Lou is up another two points on the Sweet-O-Meter this week. Just like your real crazy old drunk uncle, you thought Lou was nuts when he threw a bunch of lemons, rotten apples, and an old shoe into the simmering pot. But goddamn does his chili taste good.

Beachwood Sabermetrics: A complex algorithm performed by the The Cub Factor staff using all historical data made available by Major League Baseball has determined that Lou Piniella knows what he's doing at least part of the time.

Over/Under: Games it will take for fans to sour on Jason Kendall: +/- 6.

The Cub Factor: Catch up with them all.

Mount Lou: Lou (still) continues to stay at green. At this point, Mount Lou has gone completely dormant. What was once a Lava Boiling Hot Bubbling Magma Spitting Volcano is now kind of a nice little hill. Expect more of the same until playoff pressure may require a show of force.

mtlou_green.gif

Posted by Lou at 06:20 AM | Permalink

Now Playing in Springfield

The governor stars in a new production of an old show.

Blag_hairspray.jpg

Posted by Lou at 12:56 AM | Permalink

PressNotes: Army Manuals and Calamity Culture

News from Chicago's academic presses, and other intellectual developments.

1. UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO

Off the presses
* The U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Manual: The U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps. . With a foreword by John A. Nagl, James F. Amos and David H. Petraeus, and an introduction by Sarah Sewall.

* The Culture of Calamity: Disaster and the Making of Modern America. By Kevin Rozario.

* Inclusion: The Politics of Difference in Medical Research. By Steven Epstein.

See/Do
* Exhibit: Majestic Nature/Golden History: German Romantic Art.
Through: 10/21/2007.
At: Smart Museum of Art, 5550 S. Greenwood Ave.

* Listen: German Composers of the Romantic Period.
On: 8/5/2007, at 2 p.m.
At: Smart Museum of Art, 5550 S. Greenwood Ave.

2. NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY

Off the presses
* Guy Davenport: Postmodernism and After. By Andre Furlani.

See/Do
* Theater: Perfect Relationship: A Salute to Comden and Green.
On: July 20. 21, 26, 27 and 28 at 8 pm, July 21, 22 and 28 at 2 p.m.
At: Hal and Martha Hyer Wallis Theater, 1949 Campus Drive, Evanston.
Cost: $25.00.

* Listen: Northwestern University Summer Orchestra and Summer Chorus.
On: July 24, at 7 p.m.
At: Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, 50 Arts Circle Drive, Evanston.
Cost: $6

*

Previously in PressNotes.

Posted by Lou at 12:24 AM | Permalink

Roky's Revival

Roky Erickson turned 60 this month, and, really, that's something of a miracle right there. Not only did he manage to survive the acid-drenched late '60s San Francisco psychedelic rock scene, where he was considered something of a magic child in a culture where such prodigies were frequently worshipped to death, but also the long, lonely years that followed in which he coped as best he could with the ravages of mental illness under the misinformed and smothering guardianship of his wacky mother back home in Austin, Texas. That he is now seemingly fully recovered from his "schizophrenia" (a disputed diagnosis) - free even of anti-psychotic drugs - and has made a triumphant return to the rock 'n' roll stage is a story that has few equals even in the excess-stained annals of music lore.

roky_2.jpgThe Roky saga has been wonderfully captured in a 2005 documentary released this month on DVD called You're Gonna Miss Me, created over a five-year period by Keven McAlester, a former alternative weekly freelance writer turned filmmaker. He's done a great job in bringing the tragedy and humor of Roky's amazingly strange life to a broad audience that is quickly rediscovering the thrillingly direct-and-intact link to the very beginnings of rock's modern era he represents. It's almost like those Zanzibar fishermen pulling a live coelacanth out of the deep - he's like a living fossil going back to an ancient era from which pretty much all the most brilliant participants are either dead, living casualties or long since retired.

Roky, maybe because of the many years he spent in quiet seclusion obsessively collecting junk mail and blasting white noise from his TVs and radios to drown out the voices in his head, has somehow preserved his utterly unique singing voice. Now back on stage at such places as the Coachella Festival, he can trot it out as if nothing had ever happened since 1967.

It's scary, weird and wonderful all at once.

The movie doesn't dive too deeply into how Roky and his group, the 13th Floor Elevators, became a highly influential "band's band" in San Francisco, and instead mostly sticks to his even-more-fascinating personal story. It begins in 1999 when Roky was at his lowest ebb. The cameras capture a poverty-stricken, Texas white-trash lifestyle both at his junk-filled apartment and his mother Evelyn's place, where she spends her time making cardboard-and-newsprint art collages depicting her own relationships with Roky and her other four sons, including her youngest, Sumner Erickson, who has become a tuba player with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. You get the impression that Evelyn called the shots in her family, and that the boys' father was pretty much out of the picture. She doesn't seem so much loony as depressed, lonely and manipulative.

Roky, meanwhile, is fat, out of touch, his teeth rotten, his hair totally unkempt, spending long hours puttering about his trash house carefully collecting and recording into notebooks the types and addresses of all the junk mail he can find. An unmistakable picture of mental illness.

The crux of the story is the guardianship struggle that develops between Evelyn and Sumner, a man who, in his 30's, experienced his own emotional catharsis through therapy and decided he needed to rescue Roky from his mother's clutches. On his side was Roky's own son, who has been denied access to his father by Evelyn, as well as several of the brothers. They object to Evelyn's strict policy of not letting Roky use any kinds of modern anti-psychotic drugs - she "doesn't believe in drugs" and blames LSD for destroying Roky. Sumner claims in court that it's not just the lack of access to possibly helpful drugs, but also general neglect that Evelyn's guilty of - Roky's untreated abscessed teeth are posing a health threat to him, as is his trashed-out subsidized apartment.

In the context of the court case, the past is examined and dredged up. His then-current course was set in 1968. That's when he fled home to Austin when the San Francisco acid scene became too much for him to handle. It was Tommy Hall, the band's "electric jug" player, who was an LSD guru and strong devotee of Timothy Leary's belief in the drug's ability to swing wide the doors of creative consciousness. Hall is credited with coining the term "psychedelic rock." He pushed singer Roky and the other then-band members, guitarist Stacy Sutherland and drummer John Ike Walton, to take as much acid as possible. Roky, however, was someone who was already "not of this earth" and was "permanently tripping" on his own, according to Austin poster artist Jim Franklin. So when Roky and LSD met, there were bad consequences. As Walton tells the story:

"Roky's second acid trip hurt him. Hurt me, too. I think Tommy gave us too much. I had a real bad trip and so did he. But he kept on taking the acid, thinking everything would get better. I quit. I didn't want another one of those experiences. The walls dissolving . . . I fell off my drum stool. We were playing along, jamming, playing 'Before You Accuse Me,' when all of a sudden, wham, this just hit me. I fell backwards, fell off my drum stool, almost broke my neck. I was crawling around on the floor, I crawled outside and they came and got me and brought me back inside the house. I was scared. But Stacy, Tommy and Roky were not scared."

Roky at one point testified he had done acid 300 times. Now famous and back home, he suffered a psychotic episode at his mother's house where he ran around convulsively spouting gibberish. The Austin cops also decided to target and make an example of him - the beginning of his political victimhood. In 1968 he was busted with one joint, and ended up being committed to the Texas mental health system in an effort to avoid jail. He unwillingly underwent electroshock treatments, and spent four years at the notorious Rusk maximum security hospital. He joined a band in there that included several multiple murderers.

roky_1.jpgGiven those depths, his comeback was long and torturous indeed. Maybe it's a testament to the childlike innocence that clung to him despite all the craziness, but the Roky that we see at the end of film, the one with his musical abilities amazingly intact and ready for a late-life close-up, is nothing short of awe-inspiring.

As for his musical legacy, which is truly wide-ranging, it's probably best summed up in the movie by ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons, who credits much of his guitar style to the influence of the 13th Floor Elevators and claims them as the key link between West Coast rock's folkie and garage elements:

"Roky Erickson to this day is one of the out-and-out wildest rock singers. The talent behind Roky's voice is the mystery factor that no one could touch. To this day, he stands alone and is revered as such an unusual artist, because he had the gift of that wonderful voice.

"There's no question about the impact that the Elevators would have throughout the American music scene. The bands of the Bay Area were drawing upon a more folk-based kind of thing, and when the Elevators showed up, things changed real quick."

*

In honor of the DVD's release, the Sound Opinions crew of Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis are holding a special screening of "You're Gonna Miss Me" on Tuesday at the Music Box Theater. On hand will be director McAlester, who will be available for audience questions after the showing.

*

Toss a message down the steps into Don's Root Cellar by clicking here.

*

Catch up with with the Root Cellar archive.

Posted by Don at 12:18 AM | Permalink

July 21, 2007

The Weekend Desk Report

Editing power of the The Weekend Desk Report has been temporarily transferred to the minions of Natasha Julius as she undergoes a complicated procedure including yoga and a mountain retreat. We hope when she returns her nourished soul will still retain its breathtakingly brilliant edge. Or else we'll be really pissed. The stories we'll be watching for you over the next 48 hours:

Lock Your Doors
Spend the day in undisclosed locations such as bomb shelters and underground tunnels while Dick Cheney assumes control and tries to round up as many blacks, Jews, atheists, gays, Democrats, trial lawyers, war critics, feminazis and fans of Family Guy as possible during his presidency.

Koo Koo Kachoo
Richard J. Tubb, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

Democracy Report
India vs. America. Discuss.

Potter Prank
A worldwide ruse designed by aliens to identify the planet's lamest humans comes to a close this weekend. All those who qualify will now be carted off for the Cygnus star system, where most will be used on work farms, though some will be packaged for an intergalactic circus tour.

Bic Schtick
Flaming Moe's return to the skies.

Flagrant Foul
Las Vegas casinos are now taking bets on how much time suspected game-fixer Tim Donaghy does and how many others go down with him. We advise like the line at two-and-a-half years and the under at six.

Reality Check
This completes the set-up. Cubs fans have now been thoroughly prepped for their next heartbreak. Just watch Lou and the Trib pull the ball away and make you all look like idiots again.

Bail Bonds
Barry Bonds is now two home runs away from breaking Hank Aaron's record. While the conventional wisdom says Bonds will manipulate the process so he can do the deed at home in San Francisco, it would be a very Bonds-like slap in Bud Selig's face to do it in Milwaukee this weekend. Meanwhile, the grand jury investigating Barry Bonds has been extended, but the court of public opinion has ruled.

Collateral Damage
Will they let this guy watch in the day room?

Batman Blues
Some fine police work will be on display this weekend in downtown Chicago. The mayor, however, is urging Commissioner Gordon and his boys to loosen up and be more aggressive in their pursuit of villains and bar patrons. He reportedly has presented Batman and Robin with Bat-Tasers and drink coupons.

Time-Space Continuum
U.S. generals say more time is needed to succeed in Iraq. Like, about 150 years. Dick Cheney says that as president he will suspend the Constitution and give it to them.

*

Catch up with the week's Papers.

Posted by Lou at 08:37 AM | Permalink

July 20, 2007

The [Friday] Papers

The Tribune is pretty generous today with its top-of-front-page headline "City Aims To Stop Rogue Cops."

More like "City Aims To Stop Exposure Of Rogue Cops."

Mayor Daley taking control of the machinery investigating complaints about police officers - as if he hasn't already been in control - is a fox-in-the-henhouse story for the ages.

After all, this is a mayor who has reneged on his pre-election promise to sit for a deposition about police torture, is fighting a federal judge's order to release the list of officers with citizen complaints against them, has already dismissed the significance of cops who rack up a disproportionate number of complaints, and compares the code of silence in the police department with so-called codes of silence within every other profession on Earth.

So not really a guy taking this seriously.

(Funny how passionate the mayor is when he is imploring poor black people who are most often the victims of police abuse to inform on their gangbanger acquaintances while his manner when it comes to cops cooperating with internal affairs investigations is so blasé.)

If there is any doubt about the mayor's sincerity rooting out wrongdoing on his watch, just look at what's happening over at the inspector general's office.

Further consolidation of power under Daley should never be called reform. And that is what we are witnessing - a further consolidation of power under one man. And that's not just a fatal flaw because the man is named Daley. Even if he was the most honorable man in the city, you never know who will sit in his chair next.

It's the system that is important. A little thing we like to call "checks and balances."

All you have to do is look at Washington, D.C., to see that even a little adversarial oversight goes a long way. Just think what a lot would do.

Short Memory
Daley told the media the other day that he didn't know why the city attorney was appealing a federal judge's ruling ordering the release of police complaint data. "I'll ask," he said.

Apparently he hasn't gotten back to them yet.

Daley Dollars
"The Sun-Times' Fran Spielman has been around city government long enough that she shouldn't have to ask: 'If Mayor Daley is so determined to privatize Midway Airport, why is he spending nearly $284 million this year to fix it up?'" Robert Trizna of Park Ridge writes to the paper (not available online).

"Just because Chicago is selling off yet another major asset to cover up for Daley's patronage and mismanagement doesn't mean that he can't still try to milk a couple hundred million dollars more of sweetheart contracts out of Midway before competent business people take over and actually start making money on it."

Jail Bait
"The former director of the Illinois Department of Corrections was indicted Thursday for allegedly taking $50,000 in illegal kickbacks to hand out state contracts to favored companies," the Sun-Times reports, "including $20,000 in bribes from the former undersheriff of Cook County."

The mayor said he'd handle the investigation himself, right after he's done embedding surveillance cameras on our new city stickers.

Debate Prep
"In reference to Steve Huntley's proposition that all candidates should be eliminated who don't stand an honest chance of winning, I've an even better idea," Laura Stigler-Marier of Lakeview writes to the Sun-Times (not available online). "Why not get rid of all the candidates who speak only in empty, pandering platitudes, and keep the ones who actually HAVE ideas?

"Were that the case, Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich would be the only candidates left standing."

Mad Men
Boy, Lewis Lazare sure didn't like the premiere of Mad Men. Personally, I found it quite intriguing - and powerful in its display of everyday postwar corporate culture steeped in sexism, anti-Semitism (I'm sure we'll get to racism in future episodes), incessant smoking and routine drinking through the workday that must have seemed so normal back then and is so appalling now.

Not to mention the ad part - coming up with a new way to promote Lucky Strikes after the federal government has declared that health claims (smoking is good for you!) can no longer be made. (The answer: "It's toasted!")

The show has a villain and a secret sexpot and is highly stylized in a way that makes it a visual treat. I give it a B+.

Nursing Todd
Sally Lemke for Cook County board president!

My favorite part of this story was this nugget in the Sun-Times on Thursday: "Cook County Board President Todd Stroger's aides blamed Lemke's departure on union contracts that place more weight on seniority than talent."

Talent also was not a factor in Stroger attaining his job, aides acknowledged.

Ghetto Report
The Sun-Times's Kate Grossman is not exactly the best choice when it comes to assigning a reporter to take the We The People Media Bus Tour offered by Beauty Turner of the Residents' Journal.

Turner's public housing reporting runs circles around Grossman's friendly dispatches from CHA HQ. It would be like assigning Fran Spielman to write about a John Kass bus tour of Daley's Crooked Chicago.

But did Grossman really have to chide Turner for apparently not providing an "objective" view of the CHA's shenanigans?

"By day's end," Grossman writes, "it was clear Turner would say nothing good about CHA's redevelopment plans."

No, Kate, that's your job.

Moody McPier
"With tourism taxes projected to fall short of covering debt costs this fiscal year, the agency that runs McCormick Place and Navy Pier this week will ask Springfield to consider a rescue plan," the Tribune reported on Thursday.

"Credit analysts say the debt squeeze could be seen coming for many years. 'Even before 9/11, we always felt there was a risk of having to tap the state's backup,' said Bob Kurtter, managing director in public finance at Moody's Investor Service.

"'It was always narrow coverage at best, and the debt service ramped up aggressively. Our rating was always predicated on the state sales-tax backup."

Nice of someone to finally let us know!

Dear Sting
Poi Dog Pondering sends Sting an e-mail.

Mad Money
"You have to feel terrible about what's about to happen to the Tribune employees," says stock market guru Jim Cramer. "I think they're about to lose everything."

The Beachwood Tip Line: Rogue warriors wanted.

Posted by Lou at 08:39 AM | Permalink

T-Ball Journal: Only in the City

During one particularly memorable practice at Winnemac Park earlier this season, I stopped just before throwing a pitch as one of the kids yelled "Look at that!" Soon enough another voice shouted "It's coming in from the outfield!" and I turned in time to see a blur we would later identify as Peter "Hustle" Cottontail racing onto the infield dirt. He had apparently made his way down the right field line after being flushed out of one of the lush gardens that partially ring the little diamonds at the unusual little park where we practice.

The rabbit went through the infield toward the backstop like a base-runner who would not be denied - if that base-runner had for some reason decided to run around the bases the wrong way. It went ahead and passed right between me and the kid who was taking batting practice before reaching a patch of grass beyond the third-base line that was not at that point occupied (Safe!). The kids all seemed to sense that the thing to do at that point was to leave the poor animal alone. After all, there are rules for this sort of situation . . . I vaguely recall something along the lines of . . . Remember kids, if city animals are appropriately afraid of you, you're not allowed to scream at or chase them, unless of course they are pigeons. If they do not seem afraid, they probably have rabies and if you go near them you'll probably have to get shots in your stomach.

coach_jim.jpgAnd we were in the middle of batting practice after all, which might have been slightly boring for the kids out there shagging balls but which was certainly the highlight of the afternoon for the kid who was closest to the animal - the batter. As he turned back toward me, the rabbit seemed to catch its breath for a couple moments while most of the rest of us turned away. When I looked back it was gone. Oh, by the way, is it just me or are there a lot more little bunnies around and about these days than there were back when I was growing up in Lincoln Park? Or maybe it's the neighborhood, St. Ben's, I now call home. And could it possibly have something to do with the church's policy on birth control? Hmmm.

That little scene played out on the same day my eight-year-old son's and my Dodgers also had a strange little visit from a fellow human, a guy best described as, what, a vagabond? That's not overly pejorative is it? He strolled right up to the infield, again while I was focused on pitching, and stood there for a moment before belting out "This infield . . . I think it's sweet Alabama mud!" When I asked what was up, the fellow resumed walking without further explanation. He soon passed through centerfield and was gone. Maybe he got together with Peter Hustle out there in the great beyond.

That second episode was a perfect "only in the city" type story. And here we are wrapping up another urban summer season that may not have been filled with vignettes but did contain several other happenings of note.

Early on we had to move a scheduled T-Ball/coach-pitch get-together at one of the small fields at Winnemac to an adjoining varsity baseball diamond (Amundsen High School is nearby) because a Chicago Public League softball playoff game was being contested where we usually practice. Was it one of the local schools, say the aforementioned Amundsen or Von Steuben or Roosevelt taking on a squad from some far flung corner of the city? No, it was Payton versus Morgan Park.

Ah, the mysterious Chicago Public League. Only in the CPL would this game have been anywhere near our little park. Not only was the "home" team, Payton, more than a half-dozen miles from its campus, it was more than a half-dozen miles from a campus that prominently features a softball diamond (you can check it out some time as you ride by on the Ravenswood line - the school and field are over there on the east side of the tracks between Division Street and the Chicago Avenue stop). But for some reason that diamond wasn't playable and these two lost teams ended up on our modest little diamond. When one of my assistants asked when the game might be over, one of the coaches said something to the effect of "when they finish slaughtering us," i.e. activating a 10-run rule that could have brought the matter to a close a few innings early. But instead of waiting around we found the other field.

The varsity field was nice but it had one problem in particular. I would have been happy to practice around a mound in the middle of a diamond just this one time (our junior division fields are flat) but at Amundsen the field started sloping up toward a peak a good four or five feet outside of the pitching circle. So just about any ground ball that wasn't down the first or third-base lines had a great chance to take a crazy hop halfway to one of our infielders.

Being the sensitive coach that I am, I didn't want to traumatize infielders who are already nervous enough about bad hops on our usual diamonds (Speaking of which, I remember when I was a kid fielding ground balls at Piotrowski Park on the South Side and . . . oh, no, not your tired old stories again old-timer! Don't you remember what coach Ditka said? That the past is for cowards and losers? It is time to move on . . . ) Back in the current season, we set up a makeshift field out in the infield and the outfield and ran some drills until some folks from an adult softball league said they had dibs. Fortunately by that time, Payton and Morgan Park were long gone. And what a fun drive home to Beverly that must have been for the girls from the visiting squad . . .Several congested miles just to get to the expressway . . . the lovely reverse commute into downtown and then some quality time on the Ryan. I hope they got back before school started the next day.

During another memorable practice at Winnemac, about a half hour after we had started, first we could hear some drums, then a flute and some other woodwinds and soon the concert really began. We were being serenaded by some sort of New Age musical collection gathered on a sidewalk out beyond right field, and it went on for a good hour. In fact, it seemed like it was a single song, if that is the correct term for this sort of amalgamation of atonality, which lasted that entire time. All I know is, I'll bet that sort of thing doesn't happen out in Northbrook.

A parent always wonders if his sports-loving kid might be better off competing in the suburbs. You hope for more diversity in the city, but seven-eighths of this year's Dodgers turned out to be quite pale. And you hope your kid develops some street smarts thanks to growing up in these parts, but I'll have to become a great deal less over-protective if my son is to ever going to benefit from any of that.

At least we've got a few anecdotes. And we wrapped up the regular season with a victory over the Yankees last weekend (thanks in largest part to an eight-run rally right off the bat followed by a one-two-three bottom half - it was literally our best inning off the season) to break even overall (7-7-1) heading into the playoffs. We later put the game away with some aggressive base-running in the final few frames - that Cottontail character would have been proud.

coach_jim2.jpg

*

Jim Coffman's daughter is in her first season of T-Ball. Her older brother is in his last year in the Junior Division. Coffman is chronicling his travails as coach of his son's team and observer of his daughter's initial foray into this slice of Americana. (That's Coach Jim in the mug shot at the top of the story, and Coach Jim on the mound while his team wears rally caps in the photo above.)

Posted by Lou at 12:29 AM | Permalink

July 19, 2007

The [Thursday] Papers

Wow, what a day for Mayor Daley.

First - at least I think this happened first, I can't be sure of the chronology - former aldermonsters Arenda Troutman and Shirley Coleman crashed the ribbon-cutting the mayor was presiding over for the new, $254 million Kennedy-King College.

And Troutman and Coleman managed to come out of it as the sympathetic characters.

By all accounts, Troutman and Coleman worked their tails off for the college. "It was their unyielding demands of Daley that produced record levels of minority participation on the project," Fran Spielman reports in the Sun-Times.

Yet, there was Daley taking the credit.

"'It can be done,' Daley said of the minority participation in remarks delivered before Coleman and Troutman invaded the stage," the Tribune account says. "'Remember that. It can be done on every project, public or private.'

"Daley did not mention either of the former aldermen in his speech."

But he insisted he invited them.

"I would never, never ever slight any elected official or former elected official," Daley said, according to the Sun-Times.

Never? Never ever?

"They were invited."

"That's a lie!" Coleman said. "Neither of us got invitations. I found out about this 10 minutes prior to me getting here. This college would not hav been here if not for us. We stopped the project, made the mayor mad at us to get minority participation . . . "

Still, the mayor did get some favorable press out of the event.

"The party-crashing at 63rd and Halsted overshadowed an otherwise triumphant moment for Daley," Spielman wrote. "After $62 million in cost overruns and years of construction delays caused, in part, by community demands for a piece of the action, the showcase campus that the mayor envisioned is finally open."

Funny how $62 million in cost overruns and years of construction delays caused in part by demands for community participation - sound familiar? - can be recast in the mayor's favor.

The Mayor and the Mob
I'm just getting warmed up here.

"A furious Mayor Daley on Wednesday denounced as guilt by association attempts to link him to a Bridgeport trucker implicated in the bombing of a suburban restaurant," the Sun-Times reports.

Let's put it another way: "A petulant Mayor Daley on Wednesday refused to acknowledge his friendship with a longtime reputed mob member and recipient of hundreds of millions of dollars in city contracts implicated in federal court this week for his alleged role in an Oufit bombing of a suburban restaurant."

"What enraged Daley was a front-page headline in the Sun-Times that read, 'Hit Man: Daley Pal In On Mob Bombing,'" Spielman reports.

Let's pick up the exchange with reporters from John Kass:

Daley: I think it's ridiculous.

Fran Spielman: It doesn't jibe with the Freddie Barbara, you know?

Daley: I said it's ridiculous. Just another headline you provide. Any other questions?

Gary Washburn: Mayor, this came out in federal court, though, in testimony, do you discount the possibility that it is true?

Daley: But I said, it's ridiculous to basicky [sic] place me in that position. That's how you do it, so I understand that. Any other questions?

Fran: Isn't he a friend of yours?

Daley: Any other questions?

Radio reporter in the back of the room: Is Barbara a mobster?

Daley: Any other questions?

Fran: But what is your relationship?

Daley: I said [voice raising] any other questions?

Yes. Why won't you answer the question?

"That's typical of the way the mayor deals with questions he doesn't want to answer," Rich Samuels said last night on Chicago Tonight.

The video was priceless. Daley was squirming so much I almost expected him to ask if he could say a prayer.

But this is not entertainment.

"Daley isn't the first mayor to know guys who know guys," Kass writes. "What Calabrese's testimony shows - except to those who have eyes but don't wish to see - is that the connections between organized crime and their servants in the police and politics is a Chicago thing."

Freddie Barbara told Carol Marin last year that he is "definitely a friend" of the mayor's.

"City Hall sources confirmed that view Wednesday," Spielman reports. "They describe Daley and Barbara as longitme friends who have golfed together.

One Daley confidante described them to Spielman as childhood friends.

"In 2004, shortly after the Sun-Times broke the Hired Truck scandal, Daley told reporters, Sure I know Fred Barbara.' The mayor said their families don't vacation together, but he acknowledged he had seen them at a few 'banquets,'" Spielman writes.

But don't let that or the "childhood friends" bit fool you.

"Daley is the green mayor, growing grass on rooftops, adding bike lanes, praised by artists and designers," Kass writes. "But when he needed political cash for a last-minute election push for his aldermanic candidates a few months ago, who came running? Al Gore? Michael Moore? Lord Wedgwood?

"No, it was Fred Barbara and Tommy DiPiazza and Tim Degnan who forked over the emergency cash. Barbara sent in almost $30,000."

Jackie Oh!
"Mayoral press secretary Jacquelyn Heard explained Daley's outrage:

"'Just that you were able to put 'Daley' and 'mob' in a headline on the front page simply because he knows the guy? . . . Would you like to see your name just placed in the front-page headline which millions of people read so somehow, by association, it looks like he has involvement?'"

Jackie, just tell us why the sputtering mayor is so unable to describe his relationship with Barbara, then.

Daley Deflection
The mayor parted with one of his favorite shots: defending corruption in his administration by pointing to corruption in the media, particularly using Conrad Black as his shield in shining armor.

News flash for the mayor: Cackling at Fran Spielman because the owner of her paper was a crook is like cackling at the poor saps who made an honest effort to get a city job without going through the massively illegal Daley patronage machine. The mayor's analogy doesn't hold up because he fails to see that he's playing Black's role, not that of the reporters who were his victims.

One-Two Punch
The Sun-Times comes right back today: "Man Named In Trial 'A Very Good Banker': Implicated in Outfit bombing, Daley friend now sits on local boards."

Richie Wiggum
Oh, I'm not done yet.

"Mayor Richard Daley defended the Chicago Police Department and its troubled Special Operations Section after revelations that officers in the unit have been the subject of hundreds of citizen complaints," the Tribune reports.

"'We have a very good police department,' Daley declared. 'You cannot say there are a few bad apples and write them off just like the media does. You have a few bad apples as well.'"

Well, yes. But our bad apples aren't beating the crap out of people.

But Daley isn't entirely wrong. By my reading, the vast majority of citizen complaints accrue to a handful of cops. Often cops on elite units, which, as any student of policing knows, are recipes for rogue behavior. The Shield, anyone?

"More than 1,200 complaints have dogged 57 officers in the Chicago Police Department's elite Special Operations Section over the past five years," the Sun-Times reports.

"But only four of those complaints have led to discipline: a 15-day suspension and three reprimands."

Read that again. More than 1,200 complaints. Only four disciplinary actions. A 15-day suspension and three reprimands.

Boy, we do have a great police department!

"Daley said it stands to reason that [front-line cops] would draw the majority of complaints.

"'People do complain about that. [But] we have seized more guns - 12,000 to 15,000 guns. If you want them to stop seizing guns, then write an editorial.'"

Okay. So if you had any doubt up until now, I think we've just confirmed that we have a police department out of control.

"But on the eve of a City Council vote today on his plan to sever the Office of Professional Standards from the Police Department, the mayor made it a point to say, 'We're very concerned about professional conduct of any police officer," the Sun-Times reports.

Veteran police officers are whispering to reporters that gangbangers often file complaints as part of their defense. But as the Sun-Times editorial page says today, "It's simply not believable that 998 of 1,000 complaints are false or unsustainable."

Besides that, it's up to the public to be the judge. By opening up complaints to the public, we'll see which ones are bogus, too. If what the police and the mayor say is true, the department's reputation will only be enhanced by showing us how few complaints turn out to be valid. Somehow, though, I don't think that's what we would see - and the mayor knows it.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Complaints mostly sustained.

Posted by Lou at 09:05 AM | Permalink

The Periodical Table

A weekly look at the magazines laying around Beachwood HQ.

Simpsonsology
In an oral history of The Simpsons, Vanity Fair reveals that Fox Broadcasting went so far as to audition replacement voices in the midst of bitter contract negotiations. "You know, the show has made so much money, in so many ways," says Hank Azaria, the voice of Apu, Moe, Chief Wiggum and Comic Book Guy, among others. "Eventually, we just wanted to get our piece of the pie. And Fox is tough. They're very tough negotiators. Their business model is not to give money away. So it got a little intense at times."

Rupert Murdoch's view: "The voices, who have been there since the very beginning, are now getting very large salaries . . . I'm not saying whether they're worth it or not. Or whether you could replace them or not, but Jim [Brooks] wouldn't hear of that, because they're all his friends."

At the time, the Simpsons actors - and make no mistake, the voices are the show's actors - made about $25,000 an episode, while the cast of Seinfeld made about $600,000 per show.

Political Greenwashing
"When it comes to climate change, the Democrats are proving almost as bad as George Bush," reports The Economist. "Not only have the Democrats shelved any plan for limiting greenhouse emissions; they have also embraced two fo Mr. Bush's more pernicious ideas: using greenery as an excuse to dole out subsidies to ungreen lobbies; and claiming a bogus link gbetween climate change and energy independence."

Scientology Theology
"As a Scientologist proceeds 'up the bridge,' he can gain access to esoteric knowledge, like how we thetans got here," The New York Times Magazine reports. "Scientology, it has been widely reported, teaches that 75 milliion years ago the evil alien Xenu solved galactic overpopulation by dumping 13.5 trillion beings in volcanoes in Earth, where they were vaporized, scattering their souls."

Desert Delusion
Let's face it, Phoenix sucks. No matter how much of a spin Dwell tries to put on it.

Hey, Look
What New Yorker contributor Simon Rich imagined people were saying about him at various times of his life. A painfully honest and hilarious must-read.

Cartoon in the same issue: Inside a cabin at Law Camp. A balding man in a suit walks in and says to his studious charges, "Who's up for archery waivers?"

The Ultimate Sellouts
"The granting of favorable concessions to dictatorial regimes is a practice hardly limited to the current administration," Ken Silverstein notes in Harper's. "Bill Clinton came into office having said that China's access to American markets should be tied to improved human rights - specifically its willingness to 'recognize the legitimacy of those kids that were carrying the Statue of Liberty' at Tiananmen Square - but left having helped Beijing attain its long-cherised goal of Permanent Most Favored Nation trade status.

"Jimmy Carter put the promotion of human rights at the heart of his foreign policy, yet he cut deals for South American generals and Persian Gulf monarchs in much the same fashion as his successor, Ronald Reagan.

"How is it that regimes widely acknowledged to be the world's most oppressive nevertheless continually win favors in Washington?"

Silverstein goes undercover to find out.

Last Rites
The final issue of Punk Planet illustrates why it was such a great magazine. From the Table of Contents:

* Skate Baghdad! A makeshift skatepark allowed soldiers serving in Baghdad to escape the brutality of war. Jeff Cagle reports.

* South by Southwaste. Has the mega-festival SXSW gotten too big for its britches? Kyle Ryan investigates.

* Gender-Fucking the Media. Can the media discuss gender without pronouns or stereotypes? Some can.

* Occupation on the Homefront. When representatives don't listen to the people, the people don't stop talking - they just move in closer. Maya Schenwar on the Occupation Project.

* Personality Crisis. The Independent Press Association is gone now, but the damage done may never be forgotten. By Paul M. Davis.

Posted by Lou at 04:47 AM | Permalink

Rebuilding America: The Democratic Strategy

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Dan Smith
dan@smithpublicity.com

New Blank Book Lays Out Comprehensive Description Of The Democratic Strategy For Today's Most Pressing Issues

Rebuilding America: The Democratic Strategy
by John and Gabriel Haseitel

MARLTON, NJ - John and Gabriel Haseitel are brothers and mainstream media experts who have researched thousands of hours of footage with the goal of pinpointing the direction of the Democratic Party. The Haseitel brothers, authors of Rebuilding America: The Democratic Strategy, conducted extensive research to clearly distill democratic views, principles, and solutions. The research was primarily derived from speeches, interviews, debates, media coverage and historical events which clearly demonstrate where their beloved Democratic Party stands on our most pressing issues.

Rebuilding America includes essential information on where the Democratic Party stands on:

* The war on terror, including solutions such as:










* Iraq, with viable answers such as:










* Healthcare, specific ways to fix the system including:










* Education improvement, simple ways we can:










Rebuilding America is available for purchase on all major online bookselling sites. It is widely considered the most complete compilation of Democratic strategies published to date.

# # #

Best Regards,

Dan Smith
TCI-SMITH PUBLICITY
www.SmithPublicity.com

Posted by Lou at 12:43 AM | Permalink

Empire!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Rikki-Lee Travolta
Public Relations Manager
Empire Today
E-Mail: rtravolta@empiretoday.com

Empire Today's Icon Character "Empire Man" Celebrates 30th Anniversary

Introduced in 1977, the Empire Man has spawned a line of bobbleheads and made the Empire Today phone number one of the most recognized in the country

NORTHLAKE, IL- Empire Today, LLC (Empire Today, www.empiretoday.com) is proud to announce that 2007 marks the 30th anniversary of the introduction of its iconic television pitchman "The Empire Man."

Part blue-collar superhero and part pure entertainment, The Empire Man has come to represent great value, world-class customer care, and next day installation to generations of Home Furnishing and Home Improvement consumers.

empite-th.gifIntroduced in 1977 as a live action character, and later adapted into a popular animated persona, The Empire Man has grown to become a cultural icon.

The Empire Man has been seen internationally in commercials and other media, has spawned a line of popular bobblehead dolls, is featured as a crowd favorite each year in the annual McDonald's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and will throw out the first pitch at legendary Wrigley Field on "Empire Day" - August 18 when the Chicago Cubs take on the St. Louis Cardinals.

With the enjoyable Empire Man serving as master of ceremonies, the Empire Today jingle - "800-588-two-three-hundred, Empire Today" - has made the company's phone number one of the most recognized numbers in the entire country. Empire Today and its famous jingle have been the subject of interest on Late Night with Conan O'Brien (NBC), The Ellen DeGeneres Show (syndicated), Extreme Makeover (ABC), Curb Appeal (HGTV), Clean House (Style), and Designed to Sell (HGTV).

Empire Today is the leading provider of installed Home Furnishings and Home Improvements. The company offers next-day installation of carpet, hardwood flooring, laminate flooring, ceramic flooring, No Clog Gutters®, bath liners, and shower enclosures. Custom windows and vinyl siding are installed within two weeks - even during the holiday season.

The Empire Man was originally portrayed on television by Lynn Hauldren, who continues to provide the voice of the animated character.

Empire Today will be celebrating the anniversary of the Empire Man character throughout 2007.

Posted by Lou at 12:24 AM | Permalink

July 18, 2007

What I Watched Last Night

Back in the day - which in Internet time amounts to maybe two days ago - there was this neat little sports show called The Best Damn Sports Show Period. Granted, I'm not much of a sports freak - or even mildly dispassionate (or hell, even apolitical for Chrissakes) about any televised sports programming, for that matter. Unless maybe it involves race car crashes or women wearing really short uniforms.

At any rate, back in the day, the non-sports guy that I am actually liked Best Damn when Tom Arnold was left to bounce around all willy-nilly to wherever he ended up. And I was pretty enamored by the show in a month or three ago when Best Damn featured Thursday night chick boxing. This is why I was mystified at last night's Best Damn show, which happened to be airing - without sound - on Comcast SportsNet on the TV sets of the two local gin mills I stopped into for a quick nip before going home at a sensible hour.

Simply put, it was an hour or so without mentioning a damn thing about sports. Instead, I saw Pamela Anderson and magician - oops, illusionist - Hans Klok promoting their Las Vegas show, The Beauty of Magic.

At first, I thought someone resurrected singer Rex Smith's career, but that was just me being nearsighted. See what happens when Siegfried and Roy take a hike? Perfectly good American sports-talk TV shows get infiltrated by guys with windblown hair who can saw a chick in a box in half. Who knows? Maybe Hans is sensational enough to make something as massive as Pam's tits disappear, because hear told, Hans is world-famous for being "the fastest magician on the planet." He's so fast, in fact, that his Wikipedia entry is the quickest read of the bunch, and still he's managed to reach the status of being an international sensation in Europe.

Then again, so has David Hasselhoff, who has been quoted as saying, "Where's Austria?"

So what the hell. Even for this non-sports fan, there was certainly no shortage last night of interesting sports topics to go around. Over the past week alone, Barry Bonds has been ready to bitch-slap Hank Aaron out of the Home Run Hall of Fame, steroids or not. TV wrestler Chris Benoit was chock full of steroids and pharmaceuticals when he killed his wife, son, and himself. Internet bazillionaire/Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban wants to buy the Cubs and give this city a bitchin' circus bigger than Bill Veeck could ever dream of. It's almost August and the Cubs are over .500. Tiger Woods has been looking awful tired as a new dad and couldn't get it up at his own golf tournament. And the American Women's National Team is kicking China's ass in the KFC World Cup of Softball in Oklahoma City.

On top of that, just last weekend NASCAR ran the USG Sheetrock 400 in Joliet, which begs the question of whether NASCAR is anywhere near as good as Indy car racing if women don't spend three days drinking like fish and flashing their tits in the infield like they showed up just a little too late for Mardi Gras.

Instead of healthy and manly sports-related debate like that, we get Hans and Pam lounging around a pool with a bunch of highly attractive bikini bunnies in the background who do little more than serve as silent background wallpaper for the magical couple. Pam spends a lot of time passing the microphone around to a circle of guys in poolside chaise lounges who look more at home in an MTV video. Are they sports guys? Rap guys? Homeless guys with baggy shorts? I'm not sure. But Pam's laying all over them anyway, passing herself around like a big bag of Fritos and - strangely enough - looking rather repulsed any time someone other than Hans touches her. She's clearly into Hans, which is where I guess you end up when even Kid Rock can't shine up your star anymore. Kid Rock's career was fine as it was without Pam Anderson; without Anderson, Hans Klok looks like just another hitchhiker along the Autobahn.

Hell, Hans doesn't even bother trying the old Pull A Quarter Out Of Your Ear gag on anyone. And he calls himself a magician?

Take whatever side you want in the debate over whether Criss Angel really pulled a tourist's rolled-up peso out of a banana on Mindfreak, he's not wasting valuable sports-talk time - even for someone who pays as little attention to sports as I do.

*

The What I Watched Last Night collection: No illusion.

Posted by Lou at 02:10 PM | Permalink

The [Wednesday] Papers

"Outfit hit man Nicholas Calabrese on Tuesday implicated a close friend of Mayor Daley's, Fred Barbara, as taking part in the bombing of a suburban restaurant in the early 1980s," the Sun-Times reports.

"Its not the first time Barbara has been accused of having ties to the Chicago mob," the paper notes.

"Barbara was arrested in 1982 with three reputed mobsters, including his cousin, Frank 'Tootsie Babe' Caruso, in an extortion sting set up by the FBI. A federal jury acquitted Barbara and the others.

"In a court filing in that case, prosecutors said Barbara was 'believed to be a major participant' in the illegal gambling operation run by [Angelo 'The Hook'] LaPietra. Barbara is a nephew of the late Ald. Fred Roti, who has been identified as a made member of the Chicago mob.

"Barbara has made millions of dollars through the years in trucking and real-estate deals with the city of Chicago."

And blue bags.

Also: The John Daley connection.

And: "In the early 1980s, Mayor Daley's friend Fred Bruno Barbara had a "deep involvement" in illegal gambling, according to federal court records. By the mid-1990s, Barbara was an investor in a Louisiana casino company that tried to expand to Illinois, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.

Mob Math
"Show me my connection to organized crime," Barbara challenged the Sun-Times in 2004. "Did I turn the corner? You show me anything in the last 24 years that reflects to that nature."

Is Barbara's comment about turning the corner an admission that he was in the mob until 1980?

John Kass says, "Who best to resolve this issue than Daley?"

Cop Stop
"Two days before a key City Council vote on the way claims of Chicago Police misconduct are investigated, the Daley administration quietly provided aldermen Tuesday with a controversial list of 662 officers with 10 or more complaints against them over the past five years," the Sun-Times reports.

"But there was a catch: the names on the list - which the administration has been fighting in federal court to keep secret - were blacked out."

Daley said he the city's contract with the Fraternal Order of Police prevented him from releasing the officers' names. The Tribune reported that "Legal experts said the violation of contract claim was dubious."

In fact, there is no indication in U.S. District Court judge Joan Lefkow's ruling ordering the release of the information that the city raised the union contract, and Lefkow was unpersuaded by the city's argument that the officers' privacy would be violated if their names were made public.

Lefkow ruled that the officers' disciplinary histories are personal but have "a distinct public character . . . Without such information, the public would be unable to supervise the individuals and institutions it has entrusted with the extraordinary authority to arrest and detain persons against their will. With so much at stake, defendants simply cannot be permitted to operate in secrecy."

Beyond that, Lefkow, whose decision has been stayed by the 7th circuit pending appeal, chastised the city for presenting defenses to arguments not made in the case as well as its claims for secrecy.

"The fact that the allegations of police misconduct contained in the requested materials would bring unwanted, negative attention on defendants is not a basis for shielding the materials from public disclosure," Lefkow wrote. "The public has a significant interest in monitoring the conduct of its police officers and a right to know how allegations of misconduct are being investigated and handled.

"The court acknowledges that some and perhaps even all of the allegations contained in the disputed documents may not be true, but it trusts that '[t]he general public is sophisticated enough to understand that a mere allegation of police [abuse], just like a lawsuit, does not constitute actual proof of misconduct.'

"Moreover, to the extent that the allegations are indeed unfounded, the court is unpersuaded by the defendants' bare assertion that they will be unable to demonstrate that to the public. The City has its own public relations department and there are no doubt countless media outlets that would invite City officials to participate in an open and frank discussion regarding these and other allegations of police misconduct."

Daley Plays Dumb
"I can't, on my own, release it because of collective bargaining," Daley said, according to the Trib. "But he had no answer when asked why the city would appeal Lefkow's ruling. 'I'll find out from the [city] corporation counsel.'"

He just doesn't know. Why in the world would his lawyers appeal? He'll get to the bottom of it!

Thug Life
The Tribune analysis of the list as it is "shows that the scandal-plagued Special Operations Section has a disproportionately high number of complaints over the last five years . . . The top four police officers on the list, who all had 50 or more misconduct complaints in five years, were members of the section, which is currently the focus of a criminal probe."

You'd think the city would want to get out the news that the vast majority of misconduct complaints accrue to a handful of cops. In other words, the vast majority of cops are complaint-free - or close to it.

On the other hand, the Special Operations Section is the creation of Daley and outgoing police chief Phil Cline - and when their extracurricular activities come to light, it won't be pretty.

Double Talk
"Under the mayor's plan, OPS, which now reports to the superintendent of Chicago Police would answer to Daley," Carol Marin writes.

"That would be the same Mayor Daley who has done everything but stand on his head to avoid a thorough, thoughtful or completely candid public discussion of past police abuse that date all the way back to his days as the Cook County state's attorney."

Double Double Talk
"To fully make sense of an agenda that is at the heart of the actions of an institution you first must consider all the actions of the institution that are simultaneously taking place," Tracy Jake Siska writes at his Chicago Justice Project blog. "In the case of the City of Chicago I am talking about how they are beating a consistent drum of openness when addressing how the new Office of Professional Standards (OPS) will be created and run; while at the same time the City has been fighting to keep records involving citizen complaints against officers sealed in Federal Court. The Chicago City Counsel is expected to vote on an ordinance reorganizing OPS on Thursday July 19th.

"It is extremely important for people to know that while the City is talking about a new day in openness in the police accountability mechanisms they are fighting to keep the business as usual practices alive."

Disclosure: Siska is a friend.

Wacky Warner
"It's the coolest way to tour the town: Saunders' Segway: A Special Report with Warner Saunders."

Tonight on NBC5 News.

Unrewarding
"Scientist Who Saved Up to 1 Billion Gets Medal."

Geez, tough crowd.

Obama's New Politics, Part 83749
Uncynical polling.

Obama's New Politics, Part 83750
Uncynical math. And Sun-Times sophistry. (See items under "The Democratic Bubble.")

- via Grand Old Partisan on Illinoize

Bomb Squad
"SUV Explodes Outside Nightclub."

A) Al Gore considered person of interest.
B) "Car bomb" shots on special.
C) Half off cover charge for all fire department personnel.
D) SUV to sign major record deal.

- Marty Gangler

The Beachwood Tip Line: Blown up, sir.

Posted by Lou at 08:17 AM | Permalink

Chicagoetry: Get the Lions

GET THE LIONS

Get the lions
And tigers

From Lincoln
Park Zoo,

Put them
In New Soldier Field

And feed them
Aldermen.

-

J. J. Tindall is the Beachwood's poet-in-residence. He can reached at jjtindall@yahoo.com.

Posted by Lou at 12:54 AM | Permalink

July 17, 2007

What I Watched Last Night

Each week, we home viewers of Fox-TV's Hell's Kitchen learn two lessons about being a successful chef, even though few of us would probably want to become one because there are easier jobs in the world, like rebuilding transmissions: 1) You've got to have teamwork in the kitchen, and 2) when it comes to developing and actually delivering a menu, there's no place for snobbery.

Naturally, the cheftestants on this program spend a lot of time ignoring all that each week, and last night wasn't any different. Which again made Kitchen the only worthwhile Monday night program.

Sure, there was Wife Swap with Normal Wasteful Suburban Motocross Wife vs. Weirdo Tree Worshipping Environmentalist Wife, but every episode of Swap became predictable so long ago that it's not even worth sticking around for the conflict. Sure as shit, by the end of the show everyone will have learned lessons from each other, families end up closer because everyone spends more time with each other, and blahblahblahblahblah. Call me when someone ends up in a shallow grave.

On Kitchen, nobody figured out that "fancy" and "creative" are two different adjectives, so it took both teams forever to come up with a menu for last night's restaurant diners. Nobody also figured out that if you're going to create dishes containing rabbit and other unusual game, it's extremely helpful if someone actually knows how to cook the critters in the first place. The only one with a menu-planning brain in her head is scrappy waffle house short-order cook Julia, who suggests a nice New York Strip steak and shrimp dish. She's shot down by snobby cheftestant teammates Bonnie and Jen, who sniff that lowly line cooks don't have anywhere near the sophistication it takes to plan a real meal in a real kitchen.

Yeah, this is the same upper-crust sophistication that led Bonnie to last night's weekly Dumb Blonde Moment, where she tried to fry something without turning on the flame. "I have a great mind for this," she said. "But actually cooking it - big problem." This is exactly why women like this are typically not encouraged to breastfeed newborn children. Because, you know, it hurts when you boil the nipples.

Anyway, Chef Gordon Ramsay apparently knows what every waffle house line cook knows: When your menu is awash in frou-frou, never underestimate the power of a good fucking steak. So he forces Julia's selection onto the menu, where it becomes the most popular item among the program's diners - and the most perfectly prepared, too. Since Julia didn't say it, I will: Neener-neener-neener, snotty little bitches.

Meanwhile, the descriptive term "rustic" started leaking into the cheftestant vernacular, which puzzled me. "Rustic" makes me think of log cabins and the over-the-top hillbilly folk on the "Howdy From The Ozarks" postcards we'd see on our family trips to Arkansas during the 1970s. So until someone fills me in, I'm just going to figure that anything rustic tastes like Abe Lincoln's socks fried in fatback.

In the end, Chef Ramsay told cheftestant Brad to piss off for good, and - in one of the show's more spirited moments - gave a bit of fatherly advice to cheftestant Josh after summoning him from across the kitchen.

Ramsay to Josh: "Lemme tell you something in your ear."
Josh leans his ear to Ramsay's face.
Ramsay, bellowing: "YOU CAN'T COOK!!!"

And finally, in an unusual turn of events, risotto did not make a single appearance anywhere.

*

Catch up on Scott Buckner's obsession with Hell's Kitchen and what else he watches the rest of the week, in our What I Watched Last Night archives.

Posted by Lou at 06:03 PM | Permalink

The [Tuesday] Papers

Front page ads are coming to Tribune Company newspapers.

It's an abomination.

In a low-trust world in which the brand authority of mainstream media is eroding while the brand authority of new media is still evolving, this is exactly backwards.

This is the exact moment when news organizations ought to assert their journalistic values - not just on principle, though that ought to be enough, but as a business decision about how to rise above the clutter as a trusted, dependable source of information.

The Tribune's account says that newspapers "face even greater pressure to reverse declining revenues and circulation brought on by competition from the Internet and other sources of news," an explanation we've heard for years as justification for hollowing out newsrooms and degrading the product.

It's baloney. When I came out of journalism school in the late '80s, newspapers were instituting hiring freezes, layoffs, and in some cases shutting down altogether. The excuse then was the rising (in reality, cyclical) cost of newsprint.

A.J. Liebling, Ben Bagdikian and others have chronicled over the decades a litany of excuses the suits find to stuff more money in their pockets. Conrad Black, anyone?

"[Los Angeles] Times Editor James O'Shea said he vigorously opposed putting ads on Page One and advised the publisher against doing so," the Times reports. "'Front-page ads diminish the newspaper, cheapen the front page and reduce the space devoted to news,' he said Friday. 'This would be a huge mistake that will penalize the reader.' "

O'Shea is right. Of course, O'Shea holds his job because he's willing to stand by and watch it happen, unlike predecessors Dean Baquet and John Carroll.

"It's safe to say we were opposed [to front-page ads] on the grounds that it wasn't in the best interests of readers," Tribune editor Ann Marie Lipinski said with all the passion the paper is known for. "But that view did not prevail."

I understand the economics of the industry. But how can acting against the best interests of your customers be good business?

"John Lavine, dean of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, said that a purist would rather the entire front page be devoted to editorial both because it makes available more of what people read newspapers for and because it makes a statement about the importance of the social mission," the Tribune account says.

"But, he said, the newspaper industry can't afford purists anymore. 'The alternative is no newspaper, and I'm happy to make that trade-off.'"

I worked for John Lavine when I was in graduate school about 15 years ago and it was an amazing experience. But I don't always agree with him, and this is one of those times. The alternative isn't "no newspaper." Newspapers will not go under if they keep ads off the front page. And there are plenty of alternatives for raising revenue. I'm sure the Tribune Company is considering them.

But what if you are no longer even producing a newspaper? Then what's the point?

And if we must make trade-offs, why stop there? Would it be okay to exchange favorable coverage to companies willing to advertise if the only alternative is to not have a newspaper?

I personally would rather not have newspapers than have newspapers that can't be trusted. Perhaps that's the choice readers are already making.

Yes, there indeed is competition from the Internet. But no one is in a better position to dominate news on the Internet than companies like Tribune. And there will always be competition. Newspapers are losing readers for many (self-inflicted) reasons. And revenue projections are on a downward trend. But making your product less attractive is a case study in madness - especially when newspapers are still obscenely profitable. Tribune CEO Dennis J. FitzSimons made $6.3 million last year.

Let's advertise that on the front page every day.

Cop Block
"Records involving cops with more than 10 complaints against them will remain secret until a federal appeals court decides whether to make them public," the Sun-Times reports.

"The city is trying to keep the potentially embarrassing documents under wraps. They include a list of 662 Chicago Police officers - one of every 20 cops on the 13,200-member force - with more than 10 civilian complaints lodged against them between 2001 and 2006."

Chicago Exchange
The soon-to-be-merged Merc and Chicago Board of Trade are booking record earnings, yet threatening layoffs and now lined up to receive millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies, Crain's reports.

Puppet Masters
In the wake of a developing scandal at Whole Foods, the Tribune this morning editorializes against sock puppetry. The paper could do its part by not allowing anonymous comments on its blogs.

Obama Puppet
Jennifer Hunter, the publisher's wife who doubles as Barack Obama's personal columnist at the Sun-Times, wonders today if Obama can end "centuries" of corruption in American politics.

Yes, is he that great a man?!

The Magic 8-Ball says No.

Radio Radio
"When it comes to WLUW-FM (88.7), Loyola giveth and Loyola taketh away. Five years after university officials gratefully turned over day-to-day management control of their struggling campus radio station to Chicago Public Radio, they're asking for it back," Robert Feder reported last week.

"Now Loyola reportedly plans to return the station to its roots as a student-run operation and make it part of the curriculum."

Special Prosecution
U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald will appear on the "Not My Job" segment of Wait, Wait . . . Don't Tell Me this weekend, Feder reports today. How cool is that? You can tune in Saturday morning at 10 or Saturday night at 9 on WBEZ.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Listener-supported.

Posted by Lou at 09:03 AM | Permalink

Stop Sign

What It Is: Virus- and spyware-protection software for your PC, with support from real, live people.

Quote: "Wouldn't you like to know how many viruses are sitting on your hard drive right now?"

stop_sign.jpgCost: Packages begin at $19 per 90 days.

Shills: Switches between Jodie Harwood, a friendly-enough American woman, and a pair of thickly accented young Russians desperately trying to sound American. One Charlie Birdsell leads an expert demonstration with the help of IT drones Hondo, Ross, Jon and Catharina.

Set and Costumes: Nondescript offices and business casual, for the most part.

Gimmick: Blocky, distinctively non-tech savvy computer animation showing "your" computer crashing at an intersection. Well, if it can do metaphors, maybe it's not that primitive.

Trope-free Gimmick: Ross and Jon subject two PCs - one with Stop Sign and one without - to assorted hack attacks as Hondo and Catharina try to fend them off. As Jodie and Charlie repeatedly point out, hacking often equals identity theft. Amid some friendly shit-talking, Ross steals all of Hondo's personal information from his non-protected PC.

Fake Journalistic Segment: Katie Severud talks to a man named Ryan Douthit, publisher of Tekbug magazine. Long story short, it's a tech publication with a website that looks like this. The two exchange forced "serious-ass-TV-interview" looks and comments like "Viruses, spam overload, Trojans, identity theft - these are big issues!"

Other Grabs at Tech Cred: A few testimonials are superimposed over testimonial e-mails. Also, the owner of a Washington-state computer shop asserts that computer viruses are the biggest threat to business computers, when clearly the real danger comes from shitty coffee.

Evaluations: The random appearances of the Russians suggest this infomercial was hastily edited together from two initially separate spots. If a company can't manipulate me through sleek marketing- i.e., graphics I couldn't have made with MS Paint circa 1998 - how can it summon the cunning to protect me from hackers? And, despite the mysterious foreigners and tinny dialogue, this spot is unbelievably low on kitschy laughs.

Evaluation: 0.5

- Scott Gordon

*

From the Little Giant Ladder to the Swivel Sweeper, check out the entire Infomercial Review catalog.


Posted by Don at 05:52 AM | Permalink

Ramen Review #2: Dr. McDougall's Baked Not Fried

The first day I declined lunch in my corporate cafeteria my friends saw the ramen on my desk and laughed. They laughed at it the second day. After two weeks, they began giving me impromptu health lectures at the fax machine. When I told them how the market was flooded these days with low sodium, low-fat healthy ramen, the lectures stopped. A week later I developed a debilitating three-day headache and friends asked if I was actually eating any of that low sodium, low-fat healthy ramen. Of course, I was not. The next day I decided to try one of those healthy ramen meals, and I chose Dr. McDougall's baked not fried ramen. Because as far as Asian cuisine is concerned, with a name like McDougall's, it has to be good.

ramen_th.jpgThe artwork on the front of the container was grim and unappealing. Three children played soccer in front of an empty pagoda on a lawn surrounded by large, jagged rocks. The scene looked like a screen capture from Teen Second Life®. Large marketing slogans like, "0 Trans Fats", "Heart Healthy", "Bigger Size", "New Packet Inside", "Right Foods", "Fresh Flavor", and "Natural Delicious Wellness" threatened to crush the avatar teens and their active, healthy lifestyles. "Ignorance is Strength", "Arbeit Macht Frei" and "Dilute! Dilute! OK!" were left off the container only because it was not large enough to include them.

I added hot water and waited. The broth was clear but contained several tiny green and brown clots. Stirring the broth made no difference. The clots didn't sink or float. They hung in suspension like cottage cheese in a Jell-O salad. The broth tasted like powder even though it was clearly a sort of gluey liquid. It was the driest liquid I had ever tasted. Worst of all, it smelled like an old health food store - the kind run by a graying hippie with sunken eyes, a 16-inch waist, and no muscle definition. It smelled like brewers' yeast, carob, and some sort of flour made from beans.

Also in suspension were bits of corn, carrots, green beans, and spinach. They all tasted like they were supposed to, but the green beans didn't re-hydrate very well. The spinach taste was the most prominent. After three minutes the noodles absorbed all the broth and coagulated into a single glob of cold starch I could barely finish eating.

Whether or not this product contains MSG is debatable. Although MSG is not a listed ingredient, yeast extract is. Yeast extract contains MSG, and some have argued that including yeast extract on a product label is a way for manufacturers to add MSG to the food without having to list MSG as an ingredient. Truth in labeling activists have been discussing this issue for years. At any rate, I couldn't decide if yeast extract and turmeric tasted more like "Fresh Flavor", or "Natural Delicious Wellness".

Dr. McDougall's ramen is a healthy vegan soup but it's repulsive and expensive. It's the kind of thing Carrie Bradshaw might eat if she were 22, real, and worked out at LPAC. Thanks, I'll take the headache.

*

Taste/noodle raw: Bland. The tiny slivers are too small to snack on.
Taste/noodle cooked: Mushy and slightly slimy.
Taste/Broth: Salt, yeast, sand, and spinach flavors.
Odor: An old health food store.
Hydrogenated oils: No.
MSG: No (Yeast Extract).
Calories per serving: 100
Servings per package: 2
Sodium per serving: 320mg
Price: $2.19
Packets: 1
Overall Ramen Rating: 4 out of 10

*

Previously:
- Ramen Review #1: Tradition Noodle Soup Oriental Style.

Posted by Lou at 12:36 AM | Permalink

July 16, 2007

The [Monday] Papers

Trying to catch up from National Bikini Journalism Week.

1. "President Vladimir V. Putin, angered by American plans to deploy a missile shield in Eastern Europe, formally notified NATO governments on Saturday that Russia will suspend its obligations under the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, a key cold war-era arms limitation agreement," the New York Times reported on Sunday.

We're deploying a missile shield over Eastern Europe? When did that happen? And what, Western Europe is chopped liver? Not to mention, um, us?

Boy, you start paying attention to local TV news and you miss a lot.

2. Challenging the thesis that Wrigley Field is part of God's plan.

3. People are who they are. Conrad Black has been a cheat all his life.

4. Thank you, Carol Slezak. I mean, how exactly are Brian Urlacher's text messages news?

5. "When we hear bootlickers praising and defending the powerful in the city that works, we might remind ourselves what lubricates the machinery that runs it, those little guys who get ground up, guys like Jim McTigue."

6. "Several sources close to the Cubs have told me Sosa was not the only Cubs player who used a corked bat, at least not in 2003," the Trib's Fred Mitchell reported last week.

"On the night Sosa's bat exploded for all to see, officials from Major League Baseball notified the Cubs organization during the game that they had one hour to get rid of any other corked bats of Sosa's in the team's clubhouse before they came down to inspect his arsenal of bats.

"More than 70 marked corked bats then were extricated quickly by Cubs personnel from the clubhouse, about a third of them belonging to other players."

Whoa!

More than 70 corked bats were removed?

About a third belonging to players other than Sosa?

And what's with MLB giving the Cubs an hour to dispose of the evidence?

Paging Bud Selig!

7. Obstruction of justice indeed seems to have become our national pastime.

8. The city's best quasi-legal fishing spot.

9. When it turned out Tank Johnson wasn't legally drunk in Arizona, I too had to wonder if the Bears acted prematurely when they kicked him off the team - though I also think he should have been given the boot long ago.

But then I read the reporting done by the Sun-Times's Greg Couch last week and understood where the Bears were coming from. Couch did what any good reporter - but no one else as far as I can tell - ought to do in a case like this: He read the police report.

* "You know the finger-to-nose test?" Couch wrote. "You stand there, eyes closed, feet together, arms at your sides, index fingers pointed, and touch your nose? Johnson couldn't do it. He couldn't touch his nose. He couldn't stand with his feet together.

"'I observed his eyes were red, bloodshot and watery,' [Officer Andrew] Bates wrote in the incident/investigation report. 'He had a moderate odor of alcohol on his breath. He swayed in a circular motion approximately 1-2 inches while he stood in front of me."

* "[Johnson] told police several times that he hadn't had any alcohol, though the blood test suggested otherwise."

* "If you believe the report, Tank told Bates he was a football player and tried several times to get the officer to let him go. Johnson went from stalling, to panicking, to this:

"'Terry was very concerned about the effect of his arrest, on his career,' Bates said in the report. 'After the fingerprinting, Terry asked for an opportunity to meet with Police Chief Tim Dorn to discuss the case.

"'I provided him with contact information and advised that the Chief typically worked regular business hours. Terry pointed to the blood sample and requested, Don't do anything with that until I talk to the Chief.'"

10. "[Emil] Jones has said that he has a talented, highly qualified family. Period. And that when it comes to contracts, he has no knowledge of his stepson's business dealings."

What, his son doesn't say, "Hey dad, I just got a huge contract today!"

I mean, they don't discuss his work at all?

And if they don't, shouldn't they have come to an agreement ahead of time about handling state business?

Smell Test Grade: F.

11. "Now, while mired in a deadlock, a juror mentioned that he had been told that some foreign press suggested they were too stupid to understand the complicated case against [Conrad] Black, the onetime media tycoon charged with looting the Chicago Sun-Times's parent company."

Not just the foreign press (second item).

12. Annotated Sneed.

"I have been a journalist for more than four decades in a city known for its gritty, no-nonsense reporting."

Really? And how long have you been doing what you do now?

"It's a town that once fed four healthy newspapers."

I'm pretty sure it was six or eight, but who knows, I haven't lived here as long as she has.

"It is still the repository of cutting edge journalism and the home of two major inkwells."

Cutting edge journalism? What, like this and this?

"This paper, my newspaper, suffered mightily at the hands of men who were paying more attention to their pocketbooks than the livelihoods of their employees."

And she did everything in her power to stop it.

"The soul of our newspaper has not been sullied. That can only happen through shoddy journalism."

That one's way too easy.

Sneed must not realize there is an appeals process, given how carefully she managed to flatter the Blacks in her column right up to the time the verdict was delivered.

13. "A real rock 'n' roll theme park would, of course, be built mostly around the other two-thirds of the holy troika: sex and drugs. I'm thinking of something like the Rock 'n' Roll Smackdown ride, basically a water slide shaped like a giant syringe in which the flume riders play the part of the smack, being shoved down a progressively narrowing plastic tube and then flying out the skinny end into a red-colored pool representing Jim Morrison's bloodstream."

The Beachwood Tip Line: Seek vengeance.

Posted by Lou at 08:55 AM | Permalink

The Cub Factor

Seeing as how the Cubs only had three games this week due to the All-Star break, it's kind of difficult to come up with a complete Cub Factor - there's just not that much to factor this week - so I would like to submit to you good readers a Field Trip to Wrigley Field Report. I attended the July 13th game against the Houston Astros, and on the way into the park a guy behind me uttered these words to his buddies: "What you are about to witness, gentlemen, is baseball played the way God intended it to be played."

This got me thinking. So if there really is a God - and, c'mon, everyone is still kind of guessing about that - He intended baseball to be played at Wrigley Field and in particular against the Houston Astros? I find that a little hard to believe, plus the God part is hard to believe in general but let's just tackle one issue at a time here. If this is true, and let's believe in God here for a few minutes just for fun, then I have a couple questions to ask about God. (And just for the sake of this exercise, we'll say God is a "He." Just for the sake of the exercise.)

1. God likes old, run-down baseball parks? Wouldn't God like newer things? I mean, He's seen it all and I would think that He would like invention and modern amenities.

2. Does God really like paying $5 for an Old Style? That's not the kind of God I could worship any time soon.

3. God likes bumbling, losing baseball? Doesn't God like to win?

4. God likes yellow patchy grass? That's not the way he made it! Or is God such a big Police fan that he doesn't care how much they ruined the field? And what do you think God thinks of Sting's solo material? He can't approve of that, can He?

5. God enjoys Carlos Zambrano thanking him after every inning? You have to think that God gets it, right? Does He need to be thanked all the time? If He is truly in our image He would get annoyed with being thanked all the time. One would think that God would be like, "Hey Carlos, I get it, you're thankful. But once a game is plenty, dude. Now go strike out Biggio again and let me eat my hot dog in peace, I got a lot going on."

6. God likes it when guys have to pee into troughs? There's no way God thinks this is acceptable.

7. God likes traffic congestion and parking issues? You have to think God is really annoyed with how many times "God Dammit!" is uttered over parking tickets, traffic congestion, three-mile walks to and from the car, and getting towed around Wrigley Field.

8. God likes Jim Belushi? Was this some sort of deal with the Devil? There's no way God enjoyed Belushi's antics throwing out the first pitch and singing the 7th-inning stretch. Even World According to Jim is a crime against nature, aka God.

So all in all, God probably did not intend to have baseball be played like it was on Friday. Let's let God speak for Himself from now on.

*

The Cub Factor is your weekly guide to the most maddening team in the universe. Catch up with them all in our Cub Factor library.

Posted by Lou at 06:33 AM | Permalink

RockNotes: Dead Elvis vs. Dead Zeppelin

1. Even 30 years after his death, Elvis Presley continues to be a never-ending cheese factory. It's amazing how he's managed to do that. Then again, unlike fellow ubiquitons (my brand-new term for movie and rock cultural icons that are so overexposed their relevance has changed from who they actually were to the fact that they are ubiquitous) Marilyn Monroe and James Dean, Presley's handlers - like "Colonel" Parker - seemed as if they were cynically planning for the post-mortem nostalgia market from the get-go. How else could you explain the fact that Dead Elvis raked in $52 million in 2005, according to Forbes, the most of any deceased celeb?

blue_elvis.jpgThe latest whiff of Dead Elvis fromage is coming from a pretty likely source - the TV Land Network, which is according him an honor that Minnesota folk such as myself call the Mary Tyler Moore Treatment: a cheap-looking statue on or near a public spot associated with the celeb's rerun-dependent fame. In our case, it was TV Land's truly awful 2001 sculpture of Mary Richards, frozen in bronze with a weird smile, tossing her "tam o'shanter" in the air just as she does in the opening credits of her show, right at the spot on the Nicollet Mall where Reza Badiyi filmed it in 1970. In Chicago, it's a bronzed Bob Newhart sitting in his psychiatrist's chair, now thankfully moved from Michigan Avenue to an area, Navy Pier, that was already smothered in nacho-cheesiness (and at least that statue is honoring someone who's actually from the city that's stuck with it - Mary's only connection to Minneapolis came from the fertile imagination of James L. Brooks).

With Elvis, it's Hawaiians who have the honor of hosting the "life-sized" replica of a replica of something that at one time was a real person, somewhere under the countless diamond-hard layers of glitter and froth. The sculpture is being erected in Honolulu in part to honor Elvis' general status as a ubiquiton, and also to mark an event that helped usher in the very era of uber-ubiquity: the Jan. 14, 1973, broadcast of Elvis' "Aloha From Hawaii" NBC-TV special, which was the first live TV show ever to be broadcast worldwide on a satellite. The show was beamed from what was then called the Honolulu International Center, now renamed the Neal S. Blaisdell Center.

To celebrate the elevation of another ubiquiton, TV Land will pretty much devote all of August to Dead Elvismania, showing, of course, the Hawaii special, as well as the '68 Comeback Special and, in addition to pretty much all of the famously bad Elvis movies, an original documentary called Myths and Legends: Elvis, in which TV Land promises to take "an in-depth look at some of the most popularly held mysteries about the King of Rock 'n' Roll and dissect them to separate fact from fiction. Are Oprah Winfrey and Elvis really related? Did he really approach President Nixon in the hopes of becoming a federal drug agent? These, and many other mysteries will be answered in this special." I guess I question whether either of those questions are really mysteries. The answers seem pretty obvious to me - Oprah, "no"; Nixon, "yes". To me, the biggest mystery is, how much cheese can one culture eat before the arteries become fatally hardened? So far, the answer to that seems to be at least $52 million per year's worth and counting.

2. Part Two in today's episode of my never-ending, doomed-to-fail fight against rock cheese brings us from Honolulu to another sun 'n' fun capital, Myrtle Beach, S.C. There we mark another "occasion" that's ostensibly about music but is really about the still-very-lucrative rock 'n' roll business: Hard Rock Park, the world's first (but probably not last) rock 'n' roll theme park, set to open next spring, has reached a landmark in its construction.

A real rock 'n' roll theme park would, of course, be built mostly around the other two-thirds of the holy troika: sex and drugs. I'm thinking of something like the Rock 'n' Roll Smackdown ride, basically a water slide shaped like a giant syringe in which the flume riders play the part of the smack, being shoved down a progressively narrowing plastic tube and then flying out the skinny end into a red-colored pool representing Jim Morrison's bloodstream. Or, in a Chicago-related touch, theme park patrons could check out the Groupie Grotto, where they would pay to enter a replica of the room at the Hilton used by Cynthia Plaster Caster, while a highly-paid theme park professional in a period-perfect '60s hippie chick costume does to dad what the real Cynthia did to Jimi Hendrix. Lots of fun, and the family gets to take home a priceless rock 'n' roll souvenir!

zep_coaster.jpgBut no, instead of cool stuff like that, the Hard Rock Park has, well, a big roller coaster. But it's called "Led Zeppelin - The Ride," so it must be great, right? Right? They "topped out" the construction of the thing this month, which was worth a press release and some coverage in the local papers. I'm trying to envision how a roller coaster could really incorporate the experience of a Led Zeppelin album or concert, and I'm coming up empty. A giant animatronic Jimmy Page poking a huge double neck Gibson at the cars? A two-story-tall Peter Grant taking a robotic swing at the tracks with a steel-framed cricket bat? I don't know. I'm reaching here. Apparently, what the Led Zeppelin roller coaster does have is size (150 feet tall) and a giant loop (120 feet around). The real Led Zeppelin also had size (well, heaviness) and plenty of tape loops. You can see the roller coaster for miles - you could hear Robert Plant scream for miles. I could go on. Yet I won't.

Actually, what Hard Rock says the ride will have is a "six-and-a-half minute experience, partially over water. Reaching speeds of 65 miles per hour, the coaster will boast six breathtaking inversions, the largest of which will be a 120-foot loop. Every moment of the ride, including thrilling drops and loops, is timed to Led Zeppelin's hit single 'Whole Lotta Love,' creating an unprecedented sensory experience and an adrenaline rush rivaled only by a live Led Zeppelin concert." Comment: Now it's possible to have a Zeppelin-themed LSD trip without the pesky LSD! We really have made great strides in fighting drugs.

But that's not all the Zep worship involved. No, no. Before you get the big LSD-adrenaline rush, you get to enter a "huge silver airship" that supposedly gives you the sensation of walking into the cover of Led Zeppelin I, with band-related murals adorning the walls, music videos blasting from TV screens, all topped by a "moving multimedia tribute" to the boys in a space designed to resemble a recording studio. It must also be noted that the ride is located within the theme park's Rock & Roll Heaven zone, which I'm guessing is a tribute to Bonzo, the only Dead Zeppelin.

I think you'll also be able to get your very own mess o' rock 'n' roll cheesy poofs right there in the "studio." That is, if the Elvis fans haven't scarfed them all.

3. And finally, this item from Beachwood Reporter Editor Steve Rhodes:

I'm just catching up with the sad news (via a recent post on Crickets, the Reader's music writers' blog) that Nancy Rideout, the original guitarist of Chicago's very own Moonshine WIlly, one of the original Bloodshot bands, was killed in a motorcycle accident in Manhattan in May when someone ran out onto the West Side Highway causing her to swerve and be thrown from her bike.

I was a bit mesmerized by Rideout's playing back in the day; it always evoked barbed-wire to me. That's all I ever thought of watching her, like she was playing barbed-wire or shredding wire or just slicing and dicing raggedy electric edge-filled guitar that could slice you open and leave you bleeding, happily, on the floor. I had a fan crush on Rideout and her playing, and I'd just like to note for the record that she delivered precious moments of happiness to strangers with her work.

*

Comments? Send them to Don.

Posted by Don at 12:26 AM | Permalink

Cab #6159

Date Taken: 07/06/07
From: River North
To: Wicker Park

The Cab: Spotless except for the partially unpeeled Tweety Bird sticker on the rear view mirror. I'm thinking there's a story there. Plus, I had the nagging feeling that the interior had the slight aura of a metallic UFO glow. Maybe that's why we later seemed to be riding on air.

The Driver: This is the guy Sade was thinking about when she wrote "Smooth Operator."

The Driving: First, I had a dilemma. I saw a row of cabs lined up outside a downtown hotel but still on a city street. I waved at the first one from half a block away and he didn't budge. Was I violating some code? Would it be alright if I just walked down there and got in the cab? Yes, in fact it was alright. But what is the etiquette when it comes to a hotel cab stand?

At any rate, Driver #6159 excelled at lane weaving and his big freeway gamble paid off. But his very audible turn signal operated at such a high rate it made me nervous. I felt my heart calibrating its beat to the runaway signal. And it was so windy the breeze just rushed in and there was that metallic glow and I felt so free and then suddenly felt like maybe I was dying.

Plus, he was an intersection creeper, halfway through before the light technically turned green.

Still, an exhilirating experience that may have included travel to distant planets. I thanked Driver #6159 effusively and ran up to my apartment to checked for physical signs of alien experimentation.

Overall rating: 4 extended arms.

- Steve Rhodes

*

There are more than 6,000 cabs in the city of Chicago. We intend to review every one of them.

Posted by Lou at 12:22 AM | Permalink

July 14, 2007

The Weekend Desk Report

The Weekend Desk will only keep as much a watchful eye on developments in the Amy Jacobson saga over the next 48 hours as is necessary to provide you with everything you need to know about important parts of your world. Because, aside from that, we don't feel too well.

Get well soon, America
We're having surgery!

Iraq Dispatch
We're outta there!

Ecobomb
My new hero.

Whole Fool
Here's a little something from the cheapening of the Green file to warm the cockles of Dick Cheney's cold, dead heart: Turns out you don't have to give up being a weasely corporate dirtbag just because you've decided to be eco-friendly.

Sludge Fudge
"The massive BP oil refinery in Whiting, Ind., is planning to dump significantly more ammonia and industrial sludge into Lake Michigan, running counter to years of efforts to clean up the Great Lakes," the Tribune reports.

It's a start.

Chinese Democracy
Beijing accomplishes what Wicker Park couldn't.

Ancient Chinese secret, huh?

Black Friday
It couldn't have happened to a crappier person.

Well, that's not entirely true.

Prison Bait
Where Conrad Black is going.

Boob Job
Didn't we already see this in a Simpsons episode?

Fat Chance
Didn't we already see this too?

Barney Blago
Trib: "Governor Sticks to Guns."

Sheriff Taylor only gives him one bullet, though. He fires it at Mike Madigan and it deflects off Emil Jones and comes back to hit Blago in the ass.

-

Also In Your Weekend Beachwood
Catch up with the week's Papers, including these favorites:

* The Sun-Times asks, "But will pop music raise our awareness of Earth's ecological woes?" Hello! It just did!

* The latest news from the Kwik-E-Mart Affairs Desk, the Missing the Point Bureau, and the Division of Unnecessary Explanations.

* Did fired Channel 5 reporter Amy Jacobson really deliver "scoops"? Soap opera voyeurism should never be mistaken for journalism.

* When Geraldo Rivera is laughing at your loose journalistic standards, you know you've screwed up. Unless you're Eric Zorn.

* Amy Jacobson's behavior is even worse than we thought. She was also too close to the police.

Other recent postings:

* Our Live Earth double-shot.

* The Cub Factor.

* Hail Kwik-E-Mart!

* What I Watched Last Night. On the Lot, Hell's Kitchen, John From Cincinnati.

* What I Wished I Watched Last Night. I, Genghis. Shown jointly on HBO and BBC.

* Taxicab Journal.

New this week: Cab #5321.

* Ramen Review #1.

In the News:
The Secret Life of Joey "the Clown" Lombardo: Part 1.
The Secret Life of Joey "the Clown" Lombardo: Part 2.
The Secret Life of Joey "the Clown" Lombardo: Part 3.

Politics:
* Obamathon.
* The [Libby] Papers.

From the Archives:
* Go Iraq.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Poolside service available.

Posted by Lou at 08:41 AM | Permalink

July 13, 2007

The [Friday] Papers

I'm out the door early this morning so just a few quick items.

1. It's even worse than we thought - and it's a pattern.

"WMAQ-Ch. 5 reporter Amy Jacobson was briefing police on her interaction with Craig Stebic without telling her bosses, which played a role in her ouster from the station, sources say," the Tribune reports.

"Jacobson was taped last week in a swimsuit with her kids at the home of Stebic, the Plainfield man now classified by police as a person of interest in the disappearance of his wife.

"Sources say that breach of company standards, which made her a part of a story she was covering and had been warned she was getting too close to, was just the latest incident over the past several years to cause bosses to lose their confidence in Jacobson's judgment and cost the star reporter her job.*

2. No lessons learned.

When one of her questioners asked her, what if she hadn't gone to the house that day," the Trib's Steve Johnson writes, "Jacobson's first response - and this negates everything she said about believing she made a 'terrible mistake' - was this: 'What if I got the interview?'"

3. I disagree with Johnson that Channel 2's posting of its full, unedited video of Jacobson at the Stebic home "prove[s] Jacobson's contention that WBBM, in its original report, edited the video unfairly, to make it appear more salacious than it looks as a whole."

The salacity is in the mind of the viewer. Jacobson was there in a bikini. Can't avoid that. Stebic was there in a swimsuit. Can't avoid that. You have to place Stebic at the scene, so you have to show him as well as Jacobson. The impression that was created was exactly one of the reasons why Jacobson shouldn't have been there under the circumstances. And if Jacobson had come clean or her bosses at Channel 5 would have gotten out front of the story, maybe they could have corrected that impression. Transparency is your friend, folks.

4. Jacobson knew she had done something wrong.

"Sources say by mid-afternoon Friday, Jacobson feared she had been recorded at Stebic's home and was calling friends and rival TV stations to see if they were aware of tape showing her at the residence from which divorcing wife Lisa was moving to evict him on April 30, the day she vanished," the Trib account says.

"Immediately after leaving Stebic's home, Jacobson - without her children - rushed to NBC Tower to meet with WMAQ President and General Manager Larry Wert, a source said. Jacobson described to Wert what had happened with Stebic and it was decided by Saturday to take her off the air while station executives reviewed the situation."

5. Channel 2 reveals how it got the video.

"This week, CBS 2 has gotten more phone calls and e-mails than usual, and that's an understatement. Viewers reacted strongly - both in support and protest - of the Amy Jacobson videotape. We want you to know the inside story," the station says.

6. Stebic named "person of interest."

"Citing the 'minimal assistance' of Craig Stebic in finding his missing wife, Lisa, police on Thursday labeled him 'a person of interest' in what they now say is a case of foul play," the Tribune reports.

"Plainfield Police Chief Donald Bennett made the announcement at a news conference attended by about a dozen reporters. After the bespectacled chief read from a text and answered three questions posed to him previously, he quickly left the room as one reporter tried to ask if 'person of interest' was the same as 'suspect.'

"Asked later in a telephone interview what it meant to define Stebic as a person of interest, the chief said: 'He's the focus of our investigation. We'd love to talk to him. Craig Stebic was the last person to see Lisa at her own residence.'"

As noted by the Trib, "person of interest" is not a legal term, though it is an (unartful) public declaration of who the police consider a suspect.

7. Jacobson really screwed up.

"Bennett said 'the incident involving Amy Jacobson had no impact on our investigation. Additionally, Amy Jacobson has in the past informed the Plainfield Police Department of her prior conversations with Mr. Stebic,'" the Trib account says.

"Jacobson has indicated that she obtained new information from visiting with Craig Stebic's family that she would share with a new employer. Plainfield Cmdr. Mike Altenhoff said police may interview Jacobson further."

Actually I don't think Jacobson will be sharing any information with a new employer unless her next job is with the Plainfield Police Department.

8. It is within Craig Stebic's right not to talk to police.

Melanie Greenberg, the family spokesman whose husband's cousin is Lisa Stebic, told Larry King last night that the family has been encouraging Craig to come forward and cooperate with the police - and to let the two Stebic children, as two of the last people to see Lisa, speak to police. "We wish he would let them talk."

As the children's legal guardian, Stebic can prevent police from questioning the kids.

Former prosecutor and current defense attorney Michael Cardoza said it's clear Craig Stebic has been a suspect from the beginning, and cautioned that he's not cooperating with police on the advice of his lawyer. Stebic's lawyer, Cardoza said, did offer to accept questions submitted by police and get back to them with the answers. I think we can all see why that would be unacceptable to investigators.

Why wouldn't Stebic cooperate with police? Certainly anyone could legitimately fear being railroaded by the cops. On the other hand, if you are white and live in Plainfield the chances of this are probably pretty slim. You might think someone in Craig Stebic's situation would want to help police to the nth degree to find Lisa or solve the case. But Craig Stebic is still innocent until proven guilty.

9. Greenberg on Jacobson.

"Amy has been nothing than a dedicated professional journalist with our family . . . I'm not sure I agree with her decision to take the children there."

10. The police have possible evidence taken in a previous search that remains under court seal.

11. Sorry, Eric. From a reader:

"When your heart is in the right place and you make an honest mistake that hurts no one, you deserve to have the benefit of the doubt along with your regrets."

- Eric Zorn

Eric: While we're doing an anatomical scan, shall we check and see if Amy's brain is in the right place?

*

Found myself at Filter last night on its last night. It is turning into a bank. This has been commented on before in various places, but let me say here that it is beyond me how putting banks on vibrant intersections is a healthy way to nurture neighborhoods. Seems like a recipe for killing them.

And the loss of Filter - which truth be told is really a second- or third-wave gentrified version of the Wicker Park coffee house - is a community-building killer. It was a gathering place. Banks aren't; and neither is the new Levi's on Milwaukee Avenue or the plethora of crappy frat boy bars and pretentious, overpriced restaurants plaguing the land.

You can't even get a gloriously cheap and humongous divy burrito around here anymore. This is progress?

Really, is this best for the neighborhood? No, it's only best for a ginormous and heartless institution and a couple local guys - the Filter owner and the Flatiron building owner - who put a chunk of change in their pocket.

*

Chicago is losing population, by the way. Maybe even because of gentrification.

*

In Today's Beachwood
- T-Ball Journal: The tag play some poor chump will always remember. Now with photos of Coach Jim!

- Cab #5321. Will Paula Abdul ever learn?

- Catch up on the week's new in The Papers archive. See what great jokes you missed.

- You know what's a cool thing to do? Go to each of our section fronts and click on the archives links on the top of the left rail and catch up on all the other great stuff you've missed.

- And watch for The Weekend Desk Report, posted Saturday mornings and fresh throughout the entire weekend.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Make a deposit today.

Posted by Lou at 06:07 AM | Permalink

July 12, 2007

T-Ball Journal: Punked Out

The seasons are winding down and a question begs an answer: Will the kids remember much of anything from all of this? I'm hoping my daughter Alana locked a little something positive into that part of her brain last Saturday during her latest T-Ball showdown. Then again, it's most likely all of this stuff will fade away relatively quickly. As opposed to something really important that is coming up fast - Friday of this week is T-minus-a-month-and-10-days until Alana's sixth birthday and our official alert status is Orange. My wife has made a reservation for a gymnastics party, a preliminary guest list has been drawn up, and we hope to schedule some time next week to purchase invites. An official menu will follow.

coach_jim.jpgBack on the diamond, Alana's Red Sox took on a Giants team with which we are at least moderately familiar. The head coach is a guy from our synagogue, and one of the kids on the team lives across the street from us. Alana played pitcher in the second inning and about six hitters into the frame she put one of her primary skills - she has become adept at aggressively pouncing on ground balls - to work. With the bases loaded, the batter hit a little dribbler. Alana charged the ball, grabbed it and saw the base-runner racing in from third. Before he could get to the plate she put the tag on him for the second out.

Alana's older brother Noah was watching the game at that point and he quickly pointed out that the opposing player in question looked familiar. And after the inning was over Alana rushed over to me and said excitedly "Dad, I tagged out (our neighbor, who will remain anonymous)." Later the boy's dad sidled over and said something to the effect of "You're kid punked out my kid." I'm thinking he used the phrase "punked out" out of context but I kind of understand his decision to do so. For some reason the words are just fun to say.

When we relived the highlights after the game, the tag play was at the top of the list. Rounding it out were the facts that Alana hit the ball well several times, reached base several times, and scored once. The individual nature of the highlights is hinting at something isn't it? Yup, the Red Sox ended up on the wrong side of the score.

I'm hoping the boy from across the street doesn't remember this particular part of his first T-Ball season - and I'm thinking that's not exactly likely. His team has been more than a little more successful than Alana's. In fact, we learned at some point that the Giants have yet to suffer a defeat. There was also this positive development: there didn't seem to be any indication the boy was facing any additional ribbing (he has twin brothers who are a couple years his senior) due to the fact that he had been "tagged out by a girl."

It probably does not come as a tremendous surprise that my earliest baseball memories are neither shiny nor happy. They are also very sketchy. I have disputed the details of many a childhood story told by my mother but my arguments are slightly undermined by the fact that memory is a massive, murky muddle. Fortunately I have some boiler plate recollections that I can bust out for a variety of occasions. Of course then there is the question of whether or not I really remember the events I recount most frequently or if the stories have taken on lives of their own. Hmmmmmmm.

My most prominent youth baseball memory has to do with emotions overflowing as I stand on the pitching rubber. I either just walked in a run after walking the bases loaded or, best-case scenario, perhaps I simply walked three in a row. The coach came out and decided to bring in the centerfielder to pitch, meaning I would take his place. The next guy up hit a ground ball single . . . to center. And I came in to field it . . . and it skipped right through my legs for a kid's grand slam.

I have happier memories of middle school baseball. When I was in eighth grade I made, if I may say so myself, a splendid diving catch while playing left field for the Latin School nine in a contest at some far-off academy - Elgin, I think. We led that game by a run going into the ninth inning. They put a guy on first and then the next guy up blasted a drive right between me and Forest Hoover in the left-center gap. Forest, yes that was his name, got to the ball and heaved it toward the infield. For some reason our pitcher at that point, Brad Erens, came out into short-center to take the relay (he should have been backing up a potential play at the plate). But it paid off because he threw an absolute strike to catcher Deed Whitney (could I make that name up?), who applied the tag for the out and the win.

I can't remember so much stuff I can't even think of something clever to say that I don't remember, but I remember that play, from more than 25 years ago, like it is playing on a highlight reel in my brain.

Noah and Alana have avoided traumatic baseball happenstance so far. Then again, the rookie and junior division games (with hitters either hitting off a tee or taking their swings against soft tosses from their coach and kids never pitching) have been carefully designed to prevent major embarrassments. Crunch time is next year for Noah, when he heads up to the Minor League and kid-pitching (for the final four innings of games).

For now I'll be doing my best to forget the details of Noah's and my Dodgers' only action of last weekend, a 10-or-so-run loss to the league-leading Red Sox. We were done in by second and third innings that saw us retire the first two batters twice in a row only to then allow six and eight runs respectively. We're just about guaranteed to finish fourth in our division's seven-team National League. But hey, in this day and age, the trophies for fourth are approximately one millimeter smaller than the ones for third. And that certainly helps my self esteem.

On the bright side, one of our outfielders caught a fly ball. It was the second caught fly-ball of the season and he'll have to remember that won't he? Of course the game also featured a couple of strikeouts by our best hitter, his first two Ks of the season. Something tells me that memory will linger longer.

coach_jim2.jpg

*

Jim Coffman's daughter is in her first season of T-Ball. Her older brother is in his last year in the Junior Division. Coffman is chronicling his travails as coach of his son's team and observer of his daughter's initial foray into this slice of Americana. (That's Coach Jim in the mug shot at the top of the story, and Coach Jim on the mound while his team wears rally caps in the photo above.

Posted by Lou at 06:06 PM | Permalink

The [Thursday] Papers

When Geraldo Rivera and Mark Fuhrman are laughing at your loose ethical standards on Hannity & Colmes, as they were last night, you know you're in trouble.

"A no-brainer," Rivera said last night of the firing of Channel 5 news personality Amy Jacobson. "Absolutely pathetic. Not even a close call."

Unless you're Eric Zorn.

Goose and Gander
Would the Tribune have fired Zorn if he brought his kids along for a swim at the Stebic house and maybe lit up a cigar with Craig while covering the story? The Magic 8-Ball says Yes.

Paging Tim McNulty!

Bright Line
"The case is a serious breach of journalistic ethics. You do not go swimming at the home of someone who is in the news," writes Kevin Beese, the metro editor at the Northwest Herald.

"There is a line that journalists, both print and broadcast, must keep between getting in good with a source and getting so friendly that your news judgment is impaired. Swimming and hanging out at a newsmaker's house doesn't just cross that line, it roars 3 miles past it."

Fast Friends
Jacobson didn't do herself any favors during her interview with Spike O'Dell on WGN-AM yesterday.

"I'm very good friends with Lisa Stebic's family," Jacobson revealed. "I'm friends with Lisa's family because when I'm on a story I don't want to get beat."

It's not clear to me whether she was friends with the Stebic family previous to the story, but in either case this is violation enough to warrant firing. You don't cover stories involving your friends or befriend sources while covering them. That's Journalism 101. It's that simple, and the fact that we have to have this debate says something far worse about the media than Jacobson's actions.

Beyond that, was Jacobson really going to the Stebic home to do some reporting? Jacobson told O'Dell that Craig Stebic's sister invited her over because "she wanted to talk to me. She was upset about something Channel 2 had aired."

And she knew she had a friend in Jacobson who would listen.

And call me naive, but Jacobson also made an allegation that even I find hard to believe: "Channel 2 took extreme measures to get me off the story."

Yes, the next break in the Stebic story is going to make or break the local news wars!

I also find it amusing that Jacobson is angrily accusing Channel 2 of doing the exact thing that she does for a job

Finally, Jacobson said: "If a tape didn't exist, I know I would still have my job."

In other words, if nobody found out what she'd done, she'd still have a job. Not the best argument for the defense.

Kids Corner
By far the most egregious aspect of Jacobson's poolside adventure, though, according to my e-mail, was bringing her children to the Stebic home.

I particularly heard from writers and editors who are also mothers and found Jacobson's behavior, as one put it, "the most appalling and completely indefensible fact of the Amy Jacobson case. Why in the hell would she bring her kids to the home of someone who is clearly a suspect in a possible murder case?"

The Beachwood's Natasha Julius adds this: "I thought Zorn was incredibly off-base with his sexism comments. I think he's responding to what he sees as the insinuation that she was trying to ingratiate herself with a male newsmaker by showing up in a bikini. That's a really old-fashioned reaction that says a lot more about Zorn than it does about Amy Jacobson's former employers. The one thing this analysis fails to account for is the inexcusable presence of her children. Think about it: if a male reporter had shown up at the home of a possible spouse abductor - male or female - with his two small children in tow, he would've been pilloried in the press. There would've been calls for police intervention and WMAQ would not have hesitated to can his ass. Because Jacobson is female, however, she somehow gets a pass on her awful parenting skills. If that's not sexist, I don't know what is."

Good Career Move?
Will Amy Jacobson ever work in this market again? Not at Channel 2! Hello Fox!

Ray's Say
I've appended Ray Hanania's response to the reference I made to him in yesterday's column about Jacobson.

That's Sneed!
Sneed's lead item today:

"Sneed hears a number dialed by Washington, D.C., Madam Deborah Jeane Palfrey, whose headlines have sent top politicos scurrying for cover . . . is at the Chicago TRIBUNE!

"Hmmm: Reporting or risque behavior? What does the Tower of Truth have to say about this?"

I think what they have to say about this is that THEY BROKE THE FRICKIN' STORY TWO DAYS AGO ON THEIR OWN BLOG!

And Editor & Publisher, among others I'm sure, noted it at 1 p.m. yesterday.

So when Sneed says she's "heard" something, does that mean someone stopped by her office and told her what they read somewhere?

Shouldn't she be on trial instead of Conrad Black for stealing a paycheck from the company every week?

Trib-Madam Transcript
A) Do you have Prince Albert in a can?
B) May I speak to Heywood U. Cuddleme?
C) You guys are killing me by providing my services for free.

Tool Time
"With rare execption, stations have adhered to a gentleman's (and gentlewoman's) agreement not to report on the foibles and failings of one another," Robert Feder writes. "So when a Diann Burns charges the builder of her multi-million-dollar manse with racism or a Marion Brooks is forced to testify in court about her affair with the former mayor of Atlanta [he was mayor at the time of the affair], other TV newsrooms take a pass."

Scooter Tooter
"A Chicago medical van driver accused by the government of providing money to Hamas terrorists was sentenced Wednesday to 21 months in federal prison for lying under oath in a civil lawsuit," the AP reports.

"Muhammad Salah, 54, was also fined $25,000 by U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve and ordered to perform 100 hours of community service.

"Telling the truth is the bedrock of our judicial system and a slap on the wrist will not provide a deterrent," U.S. District Court Judge Amy St. Eve said.

A) The Bush administration immediately moved to fire her.
B) The Bush administration immediately moved to fire prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald.
C) Salah was assigned to the cell previously awaiting Scooter Libby.
D) "At least I didn't out an undercover CIA agent," Salah said.

Demolition Derby
"The smart money still has to be against Reilly and [the Lake Shore Athletic Club's] survival. Too many powerful interests feel the need to stop what he's doing in the bud, before the contagion can spread," Lynn Becker writes.

"If Reilly doesn't come up with alternative developers with the resources and commitment to preserve the current building, he can please the developers and still play the good guy - 'Hey, I tried,' he can say, as the wrecker's ball crashes. The stand he took today proves that he's brave. The next two months will determine if he's effective."

My sources tell me Reilly's latest move is less about bravery and more about him trying to navigate the tremendous pressure brought to bear on him to save the Lake Shore building while retaining credibility on the city council as a pro-development alderman whom his colleagues can count on.

Tracking Troutman
"Former Chicago Ald. Arenda Troutman hung out a virtual for-sale sign at her 20th Ward office, demanding cash payoffs from developers and others in return for her support on zoning changes, building permits and the sale of city-owned real estate, a new federal indictment charged Wednesday," the Tribune reports.

"Reached Wednesday evening on her cellphone, Troutman . . . said she was driving and could not talk."

Wouldn't want to get a ticket.

Job Fair
"Cook County taxpayers are now paying almost $30 an hour for a politically connected security firm to provide guards to watch over [10 locked windows with yellow caution tape] at the building at 118 N. Clark St., to direct employees to the nearest alternative fire escape 'in the event of an emergency,'" the Sun-Times reports.

Note to County: I'll do it for $29 an hour.

Rose Bowl
It's good to be the dead mayor's son.

Blame Blago
Springfield is so obviously not in Vermont it hurts. If the governor hadn't made such a mess of the budget, maybe our folks Downstate wouldn't have been too distracted to get this one right.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Now accepting Kwik-E-Tips.

Posted by Lou at 09:13 AM | Permalink

What I Wished I Watched Last Night

Hang on to your sable-lined lambskin hats historical drama fans! HBO and the BBC have done it again with their latest offering, I, Genghis, a sprawling, scintillating new ten-part series that combines generous helpings of lusty, fur-trimmed tunic-ripping with bloody thirteenth century Mongolian geopolitics.

Writer-producer Michael Hirst (The Tudors, Elizabeth) masterfully balances opulent sets, rich costumes, Machiavellian plotting, and full-frontal nudity with walloping doses of historical veracity, severed limbs, bestiality, and sizzling, goat-milking wenches in woolen undergarments. Last night I watched "Episode Three, The Trouble with Tartars", and I can tell you, I'm absolutely hooked. If you're an avid armchair traveler, you'll find this lavish production really delivers. Exotic locales like Ulaanbaatar, Zuunkharaa, and the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden in Vancouver have never looked sexier!

Young viewers take heart. This isn't your mother's Genghis Khan. In contrast to most depictions of an elderly, overweight, genocidal warlord, Hirst's Genghis is a charming wag with impeccable comic timing, unquenchable lust, and a set of Tae-Bo hardened washboard abs to match. A veteran actor who defies pigeonholing, Ashton Kutcher pumps tight-trousered virility into this libidinous young Khan, Gengie, who, by the age of 17, has already shown himself to be quite the lover of fermented mare's milk, women, and song by fathering eight children. In "Episode Two, The Wrath of Khan", he marries his first wife, beds her three sisters, exercises his droit de seigneur with the girl who milks the camel, composes several naughty and amusing limericks about a girl from Nepal, and declares war on the Ta'yichiut. And that's just in the first twelve minutes!

But life wasn't all salty milk tea and gilled marmot for the would-be ruler. In a heartbreaking scene from "Episode One, He Was a Mongoloid", Little Gengie's beloved Tibetan mastiff, Taffy, runs away from home. Taffy, like Kane's rosebud, is an emblem of Genghis's lost childhood. Genghis searches desperately for unconditional love the only way he knows how: by castrating his enemies and giving his "whistling arrow" to every moist hole this side of the Volga.

And if you're having reservations because you fell asleep in your History and Culture of Central Asia 1100-1300 class, you can relax. You'll probably remember more members of Genghis's conniving and tantalizing nomadic posse than you think; his impulsive drug addicted sister Yushi (Scarlett Johansson), his opportunistic sex addicted son Senggum (Tobey Maguire), his alcohol addicted lesbian daughter Mei (Jessica Alba), and who could forget Ong, the fast talking grandfather with a gambling problem (Clive Owen).

In last night's episode, Genghis's first wife, Börte (Reese Witherspoon) gave birth to a male heir exactly nine months after she was rescued from a kidnapping by the Merkits, leaving everyone to wonder if baby Jochi is really Genghis's child. Meanwhile, Yushi helped Senggum plot against his half-brother Bekhter. Genghis's growing appetite for a legitimate male heir and new conquests for his sheepskin duvet led him straight into the open legs of the neighboring yakherd's buxom daughter, who later discovers that Genghis has indeed put a Baozi in her oven. And all Ong wants is a quiet night in the yurt but that seems impossible now that his evil twin Ogedei has arrived. The episode ends with a familiar scene; a seductive Genghis pouring molten silver flirtatiously into his enemy's eyes, ears, and mouth.

The next two episodes ("Episode Four, So Dark the Khan of Man" and "Episode Five, It's Good to Be the Khan") will air later this month. The two-hour finale ("Episode Ten, Steppe by Steppe") will include a cameo by Lou Diamond Phillips as Kublai Khan.

Posted by Lou at 07:21 AM | Permalink

In Continued Condemnation of Opting In

Of all the wacky responses I got from the announcement of Punk Planet's closure ("Have you considered going online?", "Why don't you just move to Canada?" and "Why didn't you warn me?!") by far the most prescient was this one:

"Sucks. Does it have anything to do with this?"

In fact it does. Not in the sense that I'm so disgusted with Sonic Youth for signing with Starbucks that I must give up on the idea of supporting autonomous music cultures (although I sympathize with those who are), but in the sense that Sonic Youth is willing to do what I was not. And soon, that may be what it takes to survive in culture. Which does, indeed, disgust me.

All the hubbub about this being a revival of the question of "selling out," though, misses the point. In the early 1990s, when bands jumped from an independent label to a major label, they did so for direct and indirect financial gain. Major labels offered wider access to a bigger audience and crazy fat advance checks that allowed members to quit shitty day jobs, no second thoughts. It was a faster track to the success all artists envision, and the big labels - hot for the next Nirvana and gearing up for the Telecom Act of 1996 - were willing to make promises they'd never have to keep in pursuit of providing all culture. But what these bands left behind were the friends who'd brought them onto the independent labels in the first place, nurtured their smaller (or medium-sized) audiences, and provided them an autonomous but supportive environment in which to explore their sound. Sometimes, the labels were OK with it; they couldn't keep up with runoff demand for their product anyway. But mostly, people were angry and hurt: the labels, the bands, and sometimes the major label reps whose bosses had promised to shepherd their picks through the process. Thus: "sell-out" became an insult, a trading-in of community for money.

Now, though, we're not dealing with as clear a transaction: a band does not as frequently leap from an independent label to a major - the independent labels have been shoved out of the business or forced to cut back on releases or are unable to support their records with advertising. Since media consolidation kicked in full-bore eleven years ago, radio play has homogenized around Sony and Time Warner subsidiary releases. Online this has seemed a more natural process, with the integration of iTunes into our daily music discussions, but not a discussion of what may not be made available on iTunes - or what may not be available online at all. Licensing deals are more common for lesser-known bands on independent labels, and now taking them is one of very few options available for musicians who would actually like an audience to hear their music.

In short, there is no more "selling out"; no one gives up anything to participate. There is only opting in. If you wish to play, now, you play by their rules.

This was a cultural shift, yes, and one a long time coming. But it was brought about by specific changes in legislation that deregulated all media (meaning, allowed more of it to be owned by single sources) in acknowledgement that the pursuit of profits was a goal shared by all. Yet keep in mind: this legislation was not written by a coalition of indie music labels. In fact, it was fought tooth and nail by them, as well as by other independent media producers and keen political activists agitating for the protection of the nation's supposed democratic ideals.

At Punk Planet, this cultural shift was brought into increasing focus over the last three years as major media became comically aggressive in trying to procure our ad space. "Corporate connections are never [as] cut-and-dry as we would like them to be," one CableVision-owned hack explained, seemingly reasonably. He was on his third round of e-mails, the point of each having been to demand that we throw our 13-year-old ad policy (stated simply: no major media) into the toilet for his corporate-owned product. "But I'm a subscriber!" a similar exchange had ended some months beforehand.

Despite CableVision's assertion (and earlier, Nike's, Victory Records', HarperCollins', and so many others) that these things just don't matter anymore, there is a small and confused group of us who believes that they do.

But we're being drowned out by our peers in the supposedly independent media. Not just by Thurston Moore, who laughingly crowns Starbucks "the new record store," but by music journalists like the Chicago Reader's Miles Raymer, who short-sightedly argues that the music industry's recent decline can be "rescued by corporations that make everything but music." Even if, he also acknowledges, it means a venue containing "no possible sight line that [doesn't] intersect a poster, placard, or video screen carrying one or more sponsors' logos."

The recently-sold-to-a-parent-corp-itself Utne Reader takes a stab at more thoughtful criticism, postulating that the naked consumerism of bands who do the deal may overshadow their musical accomplishments. "While bands stand to profit from advertising's exposure in the short term, will their openness to corporate patronage eventually leave them an unwanted legacy of being 'the band that made that song from that car ad'?" Eric Kelsey writes. But this supposes a future where marketing and culture are not merged, and a distant past, foggily remembered, where such things mattered. Most significantly, it ignores the giant forces, so overwhelming as to appear invisible, that have narrowed our cultural offerings into a seeming monoculture.

So history is being rewritten. "Punk rockers are supposed to be especially hostile to the Man, but music consumers in the 15-24 demographic grew up watching punk, emo, and metalcore bands on the Vans Warped Tour, Rockstar Energy Drink's Taste of Chaos tour, and the Honda Civic Tour," Raymer states, ignoring the vast debates that took place surrounding each of these sponsored tours - and oddly ignoring the one that started it all: Jones Soda. Now in a Starbucks near you.

Fully designed at the outset to "co-opt" the "counterculture" - as well as shuttle in egregious new marketing ploys like Procter & Gamble's possibly illegal Tremor youth word-of-mouth marketing program - Jones Soda brought product placement to those who hated products. And marked a cultural shift from the age of "selling out" to the age of "opting in."

Unfortunately, the spaces devoted to drawing that line - to reminding us that, in fact, corporate sponsorship is an option we can refuse - have been forced to succumb to this cultural shift themselves. Punk Planet is only one of many spaces for corporate criticism no longer available, and although it may have been the last canary in this particular coalmine, it was still a canary in a coalmine. If Raymer is right - and why wouldn't he be? If the worst bands have to fear is that they will be remembered as ad fodder instead of artists, at least they know they will be remembered - more independent cultural production will fall sick and die off. And the level of debate used to check it: brought to you by Starbucks.

"Old-timey indie ideals," Raymer calls this line of criticism, and he's right: I remember when it was feasible to think of something, tape it or write it down or paste it up, and put it out into the world without having to go though a profit-minded distributor, music label, or ISP. I remember autonomous cultural production done for the sake of promoting ideas and not achieving fame or fortune, independent publishing devoted to engaged and critical journalistic writing, and a day when I could find some music somewhere that didn't put money into the pockets of the corporate giant that shut down the coffeeshop where I used to paste up my zines. I remember democracy. Ah! Those were the good old days.

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Anne Elizabeth Moore was the associate publisher and co-editor of Punk Planet. This essay also appears on her Punk Planet blog. Moore also explores these ideas in a new book out in November from The New Press.

Posted by Lou at 04:22 AM | Permalink

Cab #5321

Date Taken: 07/06/07
From: Wicker Park
To: River North

The Cab: Clean, but not fussily so. I'm guessing the driver, however, is unaware of the Transformers sticker behind him on the back of the bench seat. Perhaps this is viral cab marketing.

The Driver: I really didn't notice the presence of a driver. And yet, our interactions with a particular CTA bus was reminiscent of Peter Griffin vs. The Giant Chicken.

The Driving: Okay, this bus is haunting us. Or are we haunting it? First, almost a collision as the bus merges as we accelerate. Second, we almost slam into the back of the bus as traffic grinds to a half on a congested-as-usual North Avenue. Third, we (we? I guess feeling unsure that a driver is actually present, I somehow feel responsible for telepathically guiding the cab) try to swerve around the bus as it switches to the right lane to make a stop but leaves its rear hanging out while the light ahead turns yellow and we step on the gas. We don't make it. So, sudden stop again.

On the Kennedy, it takes three attempts at the good ol' forced merge to get into the right lane so we can exit at Ohio. Ohio is a mess. Driver #5321 throws up his hands as if to show it's not his fault. Hey, there he is! Nice of you to join us!

The Playlist: Hey, it's that Paula Abdul snake song. Er, wait, it's not that one it's the other one. Let me tell you something, Paula Abdul: He's just having fun. And now, "West End Girls." What is this, WLIT? I'm not sure I've ever heard that station in a cab before. Maybe this is all a dream.

Overall rating: 1 extended arm.

- Steve Rhodes

*

There are more than 6,000 cabs in the city of Chicago. We intend to review every one of them.

Posted by Lou at 12:11 AM | Permalink

July 11, 2007

The [Wednesday] Papers

UPDATE 2: See Ray Hanania's response below.

UPDATE 1: See Jacobson's revealing comments below to Spike O'Dell on WGN-AM this morning.

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I was on Chicago Tonight last night discussing the Amy Jacobson kerfuffle - I thought it was right that she lost her job for crossing what is an obvious ethical line to me and anyone who was paying attention in J101. I'd like to make several additional points and address the real issue that few want to talk about.

1. Getting the story isn't everything. Taking your children to the home of a man still under police suspicion in the disappearance of his estranged wife is not a great idea - even if Craig Stebic is innocent. (Though police haven't officially named Stebic as a suspect - they have all sorts of reasons for not doing so - he is indeed under suspicion, and in fact is refusing to speak to investigators. AP also reports that "Lisa Stebic had mailed off a petition seeking to remove her husband from the home. In the divorce case, she accused him of being 'unnecessarily relentless, cruel, inconsiderate, domineering and verbally abusive." Those allegations aren't necessarily true, but they ought to be enough for a sensible reporter to keep the appropriate distance.)

"It was a way for me to do my work and have fun with my kids," Jacobson told the Sun-Times's Robert Feder.

Oy.

2. What if police, acting upon evidence they had developed, showed up at the home with a search warrant, or to make an arrest, or had reason to surround the house with a SWAT team? You don't put your kids in the middle of a live criminal investigation. At least not as a reporter. Friends and family can make their own determination.

3. Stebic is not allowing his kids to speak to police. But what if they speak to your kids while they are playing? You don't put your kids in the middle of a live criminal investigation.

4. What if your kids stumble upon evidence playing in the rec room?

5. Is this all because of the bikini? Yes and no. People in skimpy swimwear - men and women - in a public place like a beach is one thing, or even at a pool party among strangers if you are also among friends. But it's a level of intimacy that is just plain creepy in the home of a man - innocent or not - in the swirl, again, of an ongoing criminal investigation into the disappearance of his estranged wife.

6. But that's Jacobson's M.O.

"Throughout her 11 years at the station, Jacobson has been known as an aggressive reporter who ingratiates herself with sources and sometimes employs questionable methods to get stories," Feder reports. "Though she was a lightning rod for rumors, her bosses generally looked the other way and praised her for bringing them the scoops."

"Attorney Ronald A. Stearney Jr., who represented the family of a 6-year-old boy killed in a 2005 plane accident outside Midway airport, accused Jacobson of 'a classic bait and switch' at that time for dangling a big appearance on NBC's Today to secure a Channel 5 interview with the late boy's family," Tribune media writer Phil Rosenthal reports.

"Stearney said Tuesday 'she is able to deliver the interviews at whatever costs.'"

7. "There was never any challenge as to my motivation or intent," Jacobson told Feder.

"Sources said Jacobson told her Channel 5 bosses she was trying to gain the confidence of Stebic's sister by accepting an invitation to visit the family's home on her day off," Rosenthal reports.

Did Stebic's sister know she was being played? Or was it a mutual play-off? Either way, it's patently dishonest and it stinks.

(From AP: "'We're very sad because Amy was one of our staunchest allies, she was a champion of the story,' said Melanie Greenberg, who acts as the Stebic family spokeswoman. 'It makes a difference when you have a dedicated reporter covering the story.'"

(A reporter's job isn't to be an ally and champion to anything or anyone but the truth. It's not clear at all that that is what Jacobson was dedicated to here.)

8. But isn't that what reporters do? The crappy ones. The idea that socializing with "sources" is good reporting is noxious. First, newsmakers aren't sources. They are newsmakers; usually public officials or operatives. Sources are the whistleblowers who tell you what's really going on, as opposed to what the newsmakers want you to think is going on.

Too few reporters learn that it's better not to be friends with newsmakers. You don't need them to do your job. In fact, you're better off without them. You want whistleblowers calling you, not their bosses.

When I was police reporter on my first newspaper job in Lakeland, Florida, we exposed wrongdoing in pretty much every law enforcement unit in our area within my first month on the beat - the county sheriff's department, the city police department, the local state highway patrol office. I said half-jokingly to my editor, "Now no one will talk to me!" He replied quickly and curtly: "Like they're talking to you now!"

He was right. My phone never stopped ringing from whistleblowers during the rest of my time there, we could write any story we wanted from police reports and court records, and in fact the good cops and sheriff's deputies as well as the highest officials respected the accuracy and fairness of our work. We weren't treated like the suck-ups, and it was for all the better. My phone calls got returned, and it wasn't to make lunch dates.

9. Did Jacobson really deliver "scoops"? To steal a line from Zay Smith, add scoops to the list of things that aren't what they used to be. To what end was Jacobson insinuating herself into the Stebic family? To get some sort of tearful tabloid interview in a story with marginal public value? It's not as if Jacobson was spending her day off crunching numbers to show us how much the Olympics will really cost should we land them, or dogging the mayor to find out why he won't sit for a deposition about police torture despite his promise to do just that.

Soap opera voyeurism should never be mistaken for journalism.

10. Was Channel 2 right to air the video? Well, it broke news that cost a well-known broadcaster her job, so I'd say yes. Would Jacobson still have her job if the video wasn't aired? Probably, because neither the public nor possibly her bosses would have known what she had done. The existence of the video also shredded her credibility unless she could offer an innocuous and easily believable explanation; every time she would report a story in the future all we would think about would be that video, and if she was palling around with her sources.

Who shot the video? I have no idea, but Channel 2 has said it wasn't a freelancer, though they seem to be hinting that it wasn't them either. Here's one suggestion I've heard (and it's only an unsubstantiated suggestion): The Stebic house is probably under police surveillance.

11. The real problem? The energy and resources invested in soap opera tabloid voyeurism disguised as journalism. Local TV news shows are essentially entertainment packages built around content with news elements. In a crowded (and distrusted) media marketplace, a brand with authority is hard to find. Oldstream broadcast outlets (and newspapers) have squandered their most salable quality - that this is where you can turn to for the truth about important things in your world.

12. Would this have been a story if Jacobson was a man? Absolutely. Contrary to what some folks are saying, including the Tribune's Eric Zorn, a male reporter in a Speedo at a pool party for a woman under a cloud of suspicion in the same circumstances would absolutely be news. Bob Greene was fired for a tryst he had with a subject of one of his columns - some 15 or so years earlier. Ray Hanania lost his cityside reporting job at the Sun-Times at least in part due to his romantic relationship with then-City Treasurer Miriam Santos*. While there is no evidence (that I'm aware of) of a romantic relationship between Jacobson and Craig Stebic, befriending - and even in many cases merely socializing with - sources is a clear ethical violation that knows no gender boundaries. If Mark Suppelsa was seen in a swimsuit at a pool party at the home of a woman whose crime story he was covering, it would have been news just the same.

13. But don't male reporters do it all the time? Don't they golf and drink and chase skirts with sources? Yes, and it's disgusting and wrong. It's hardly "enterprising reporting." It's schmoozing of the worst kind that results in little Judith Millers everywhere. And what reporters learn from "sources" in these situations is almost always entirely useless (especially if it's all off-the-record) or simply a reinforcement of the prevailing view.

Zorn writes in response to a commenter on his blog: "You make my case when you observe that 'other journalists in this town' and, in fact, all over, routinely attended such functions. They go to social functions to schmooze and dish and make connections that pay off later on."

Just how do they pay off? I spent 20 years as a newspaper and magazine reporter and I was never a schmoozer. When, at my editor's urging, I took a series of folks out to lunch while at Chicago magazine, it was a waste of time. It can make you feel like an insider, but it's a horrible substitute for real reporting. All it does is bend your worldview to that of the pols and propaganda artists by softening you up and putting yourself in a position where you have a personal and professional stake in the people you cover - exactly what you don't want.

Another Zorn commenter identified as Ig posted this: "As a former reporter, I couldn't disagree more on this line from one of your responses:

"'Again, reporters hang with sources all the time.'

"I never went to a source's home. I didn't because I never wanted to give the the competition (in my case, the Tribune) or anyone else the opportunity to question my integrity.

"I don't care if Amy is a man or woman, she is (was?) a journalist. I understand in competitive markets you toe the line to get an advantage but Amy crossed it - big time.

"And you know, the Tribune wouldn't even be thinking about what action to take. If one of your reporters was in this situation, they'd be fired."

14. So Channel 5 did the right thing? Almost. The station's failure to make public the results of its own review and provide the transparency it demands of its news subjects does us all a disservice.

15. But . . . what about Marion Brooks? Good question. Channel 5 doesn't have a problem employing someone who had an affair with the mayor of Atlanta while she was a reporter there. Just to show you how fraught with danger that is, Brooks was compelled to testify at a federal corruption trial about the affair.

16. But reporters are human too, aren't they? They develop feelings. Well, yes. You inform your bosses, beg off your beat, wait until after you are done covering a story to befriend or date someone, or find another line of work.

*

UPDATE 1 at 10:30 A.M.: Jacobson had this to say on Spike O'Dell's show this morning:

"I'm very good friends with Lisa Stebic's family . . . I'm friends with Lisa's family because when I'm on a story I don't want to get beat."

So you're a professional friend-maker?

"I know I made a horrible mistake."

But not a firable one, she says.

She also said this was a chance for her to be a mother with another mother with kids of a similar age as hers. So it was a social visit, at least in part.

"Channel 2 took extreme measures to get me off the story."

Sounds more like Channel 5 did.

- The full interview is available at chicagotribune.com.

*UPDATE 2 at 2:45 P.M.: From Ray Hanania: I just wanted to add a note about my relationship with Miriam Santos, which I am sure will come up more as a result of the Jacobson firing.

It's a point that always gets lost in the story. (But I am not criticizing your reference to it at all.)

When I started dating Santos, I immediately made the editors of the Sun-Times aware of it. In fact, several Sun-Times editors had dinner at our home while we were living together. Even the Tribune reporter who "broke" the story eight months later had dinner at our home without raising an eyebrow before. When I started dating Santos, I transferred to the Cook County beat - off the City Hall beat - to avoid a conflict-of-interest. I worked at the County beat for about eight months when Mayor Daley and his staff got into a fight with Santos and began attacking her. They alleged I was telling her what to do, trying to make her look like Jane Byrne, whose reporter/husband Jay McMullen often managed her politics.

Instead of standing by me, the newspaper forced me out. My dismissal was more about politics between the newspaper and Mayor Daley than it was about an ethical lapse, but the ethical lapse always makes for a better story than to believe that somehow a mayor often goes to bed with the editors of a newspaper :)

And, I wasn't covering City Hall and had been off that beat for eight months when it all came down.

Anyway, just a note on the issue and thanks for listening.

*

EDITOR'S NOTE: I can't vouch for the varying claims in the widely-reported Hanania-Santos case. Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown put it this way in 2002:

"[Hanania] got himself in trouble by getting into a romantic relationship with former City Treasurer Miriam Santos. He was accused of helping Santos prepare a press release, a conflict-of-interest that he still denies, but the result was that he and the Sun-Times parted company in 1991."

*

Comments? Send them through the Tipline. You must provide a real name to be considered for publication - or a good reason why you'd prefer not to.

*

In Today's Beachwood
In case you missed these fabulous offerings:

* Jim DeRogatis responds to my Live Earth commentary.

* The [Tuesday] Papers.

* Four Decades in the (Time-)Life of Folk Rock.

* Ramen Review #1.

* Cate Plys's Open Letter to Eric Zorn and Rich Miller.

* Hail Kwik-E-Mart! Including a review of Buzz Cola.

The Beachwood Tipline: Like a pool party in your head.

Posted by Lou at 08:30 AM | Permalink

What I Watched Last Night

What kind of TV watcher am I? I didn't even know Live Earth was on last weekend. There I was, watching You, Me and Dupree instead because I needed the laughs. I think I was better off because the movie was pretty funny and nobody mentioned the environment once. Besides, if Al Gore can help fund something as big as the Internet, he certainly can figure out a way to make solar power affordable for everyone.

*

Monday night's viewing on Fox-TV began with a miserable program called On The Lot, where would-be directors try to make the least dopiest short film each week on one of the Universal Studio backlots until all but one is left standing at the end of the season. I found this show by accident because I was doing something else at the time and was too disinterested to change the channel. Christ, how many more shows can there possibly be where contestants get voted off? I know! How about one called Float My Boat, where at-home viewers pick off the crew of cruise ship one by one until just the passengers are left to steer the damn thing back home? Or into an iceberg. Or a reef. Whichever comes first. Now that would be fun.

Judging the mess are actress Carrie Fisher and director Garry Marshall. Fisher is aging like a carton of bad milk, and she needs teeth that don't make her sound as if she's harboring a speech impediment. Marshall is pure Borscht Belt and keeps reminding me of the episode o Cheers where John Mahoney played hack jingle writer Sy Flembeck.

According to the show's Website, famous directors Jon Avnet and Brett Ratner are supposed to be judges, but they're nowhere to found on Monday's show. This left largely-unknown guest director Luke Greenfield to help paddle the sinking judge boat.

Host and entertainment trend prognosticator Adrianna Costa is what Rachael Ray would be if Ray woke up with a bad attitude and decided to be annoying. She's wearing a lilac-colored mini-length mumu with a big ribbon hanging off the shoulder. Who dresses these people?

Anyway, directortestant Zach shows his short film Time Upon A Once, where half of everything moves backward or forward at the same time. There didn't seem to be much of a plot, but that doesn't stop Greenfield from saying, "You're a natural storyteller, man." I couldn't figure out the story. Marshall liked the dog featured in the film and called Zack's short "esoterical." I'm guessing that's Hollywoodspeak for "What the hell was that?"

Directortestant Hilary is showing a Western about a guy with a donkey tail. Letting people like this run amok is why Hollywood is allowed to bastardize the original Underdog into something horrifically wrong.

Eventually, one of the five directortestants was eliminated. I don't know which. I was busy watching WGN-TV's online Doppler radar coverage of the thunderstorms traveling toward Chicago.

*

Lot was followed by Hell's Kitchen, which is still pretty much the only reason to turn on a TV set Monday nights. Pushy cheftestant Melissa, banished by Chef Gordon Ramsay to the men's Blue Team, spends the whole show looking like she woke up in a Dumpster. "Everything she touches, she screws," Ramsay yells before telling her at the end of the show to pack up her attitude and horseshit scallops and piss off for good.

For its inability to beat a nanny, a short order cook, and a pastry chef at making the most creative lobster dish, Blue Team spends the hour separating the recyclables from a mountain of stinking kitchen trash dumped behind the loading dock, which leads Blue Team cheftestant Rock to give an impression of Clubber Lang that would probably even scare Mr. T.

Nobody on Blue Team still has a clue about how to cook risotto. Or mashed potatoes, for that matter.

*

Old School Soul music is dead. It must be if Kool and the Gang have to resort to hawking their new double-CD album for $19.98 (including a bonus promo CD and a pin) on the Home Shopping Network for a half hour.

Still, you gotta love a band with an actual horn section.

*

Kathryn Ware checks in from the John From Cincinnati Sub-Desk.

Episode 5: His Visit: Day Four

I really dig the theme song. Hold on, I've got to find out what it is.

Well, "Day Four" was relatively dull; one of those set-up episodes, putting the pieces in place for more exciting developments down the road.

Alternate titles for this episode: "Cissy's Bad Day" or "Rebecca De Mornay Is One PO'd Broad."

I haven't been this perplexed by a TV show since Twin Peaks. Everything is a puzzle. Everything could mean something - or nothing. Take, for instance, John's sleeping on the floor of Cass's hotel room. Does he have back problems or . . . does it mean something?

De Mornay's Cissy starts the episode in Hysterical Mode when she discovers Shaun's porn-star mother Tina is back in town to see him. Cissy quickly accelerates to Full-On Freak Out Mode, where she remains for the rest of the hour. Whenever her grand-maternal instinct kicks into high gear, it's exhausting to watch.

Far too little of Bill (Ed O'Neill) in this episode; just a brief conversation with Zippy the Parrot in which the bird gives Bill more "unalterable instructions." But first, Bill has to take a leak and that's the last we see of him. I think it's an unwritten JFC rule that bodily functions must be mentioned at least once per episode.

What seems weirdest about this scene is the sound of thunder in the background. A thunderstorm in Southern California? I grew up in San Diego and thunder was practically unheard of - literally. So again, you have to wonder . . . does the thunder signify something?

Cissy is completely insane, raging like some second-rate actress in a Greek tragedy, beating on Kai's trailer and rocking it back and forth while she yells bloody murder. "Kaiiiiii. Get to the shop . . . Get down there and keep an eye on Shaaaaun . . . Lock the door behind yoooou. Don't let anybody in . . . I'm going home so that if she comes baaack I will be there to put a bullet in her heart."

I'm guessing they shot this scene first, since De Mornay's voice in the previous scene sounded raspy, as if she was coming down with a cold or had been yelling at the top of her lungs like a mad woman.

I'm noticing characters spend a lot of time communicating but not looking directly at one another in this episode.

Tina doesn't seem evil but her hooking-up with Linc cannot be a good thing.

Cass spends the day shooting video of John in the park dancing with Hare Krishnas and jumping into the ring with some "Eco-Warrior" wrestlers, ending the match in a group hug. The episode's Big Mystery: Cass asks John to prove to her that something Big is going on by levitating in the air the way Mitch did. John tells her "The camera is up in the air." There's something on the camera, but we'll have to wait until next week to find out what it is.

*

Visit the What I Watched Last Night library of goodness.

Posted by Lou at 01:35 AM | Permalink

July 10, 2007

BetterTrades

What It Is: A teaching system for stock market success.

Quote: "Take $1.45 and divide it by $3.55 and tell me what your rate of return is. Folks, 47 percent. You dig that? Now, do inquiring minds want to know how to do it? Yes or yes?"

Bonus Quote: "The market owes us a living, and we're gonna make that living today."

better_trades.jpgCost: BT's expos - coming to your metro area! - are free; prices for other products and services vary.

Shills: Tom Jourden and Erica Shafer anchor. Founder Freddie Rick - Freddie Mac's shady cousin, perhaps? - also shows up to share his story and trot out his stable of experts, including Doug Sutton, responsible for the crackin' quotes above.

Set and Costumes: Tom and Erica sit at a fake news desk set-up; also, assorted living rooms and hotel conference rooms. The attire here is mostly unremarkable, except for Erica's screaming purple dress - did she buy that before or after she turned her market fortunes around?

Gimmick: The beginning of the spot includes shots of people sitting on deck chairs with the sunset behind them. But, beyond that, the spot is low on splashy visuals, allowing BetterTrades' legion of pasty white fellows to talk viewers into submission between equally banal testimonials. Later on, snippets of people playing tennis and otherwise enjoying life break things up a bit. Sort of.

Your Fellow Nouveau Riche: More pokey-faced chumpfucks than a Christopher Guest movie - and, possibly, John Beck's infomercial. Keep the fine china hidden until they go home, and for God's sake, marry the kids into old money.

Web Bonus: Online, we learn that Freddie has nicknamed himself "Mr. Gump" and fits "the Forrest Gump stereotype."

Evaluation: Lavish promises with "cheesy rip-off" stamped all over them - a standard approach, but pulled off competently enough. If anything, it's not sly enough, showing us far too many dubious-looking people on both ends of the deal. Step back a bit, Freddie - aren't you paying Tom and Erica to talk for you?

Rating: 2

- Scott Gordon

*

From the Little Giant Ladder to the Swivel Sweeper, check out the entire Infomercial Review catalog.


Posted by Don at 03:32 PM | Permalink

The [Tuesday] Papers

The latest from the Family Secrets trial:

"Calabrese Jr. went from collecting quarters at mob-controlled peep shows when he was a teenager to role-playing in planning scenarios set up by his father and uncle as they plotted out how to kill someone. Calabrese Jr. once retrieved his uncle's murder weapon that had been thrown in a sewer, made easier since Calabrese Jr. ran a city sewer crew."

* * *

The latest from the Kwik-E-Mart Affairs Desk:

"Turns out our Southwest Side Apu is Frenko Rahana - a diehard Simpsons fan."

Now offering this pledge: "Every item guaranteed fresh or your money begrudgingly refunded."

* * *

The latest from the Springfield Secrets Desk:

"Illinois Senate President Emil Jones has blocked legislation to put the names of state subcontractors on the Internet as his stepson's technology firm continues to rake in millions of dollars in under-the -radar government business . . .

"Since January, the bill has languished in the Senate Rules Committee, which Jones controls.

"'I have no problem with the public knowing everything,' he said."

* * *

The latest from the Missing the Point Bureau:

"Police Presence at Wrigley Hits Home Run With Neighborhood: Band's two shows during July 4th week went so well, prominent neighborhood group wants a five-year deal for one concert a year at Wrigley Field . . .

"The president of Wrigleyville's most established community group is so pleased with the outcome of last week's back-to-back concerts by the Police and Sting, he wants to negotiate a five-year agreement with the Cubs that would lock in one act a year through 2012."

Um, I think what the neighborhood is trying to do is to limit the number of concerts at Wrigley - to just one a year. For the next five years. Get it?

* * *

The latest from Jim DeRogatis on Live Earth:

"Hey Steve - Seems you missed a lot of my points in that Live Earth article! Yikes! I'm all for spreading the message about global warming. I just think it could have been done much better, and if it had, this event would have had the impact it should have had."

* * *

The latest from the Division of Unnecessary Explanations:

"In the controversy over the firing of nine U.S. attorneys, Congress and the administration are engaged in a game of chicken. To refresh your memory, that's a contest in which two motorists speed toward each other to see who will yield - or 'chicken out' - first."

If the Tribune editorial page thinks it has to explain to its readers what "playing chicken" means, it should either just not use the phrase or get new readers.

* * *

The latest from The Desk of Beachwood Music Editor Don Jacobson:

"The promos for The Bronx Is Burning are cheesing me off because they're using the Ramones on the soundtrack. It's the WORST KIND OF REVISIONISM! NO ONE except British punks and a few Bowery hipsters were listening to the Ramones in 1977. It's not like they represented anything about New York's 'zeitgeist' in the Summer of Sam. No one knew who the fuck they were. Use "Stayin' Alive" on the soundtrack . . . THAT's what people listened to then . . . crap like that. 1977 was a LOW point in the culture that the Ramones wanted to DESTROY! The whole thing about them is how they could never get a break in the U.S. . . . and it basically killed them. Please don't retroactively make New York look better by disingenuously using their art to represent a time that TOTALLY REJECTED THEM!!!!"

Later in the evening:

"Now I'm watching the Son of Sam killing . . . the victims are listening to the Ramones on the car radio when they're shot! What the hell station were they listening to? The Ramones got ZERO airplay . . . that was the whole point! Jeez. I'm getting sick."

* * *

The latest from Not So Crazy After All presidential candidate Mike Gravel:

"Back in 1971, when President Nixon's Justice Department blocked The New York Times from reporting on a classified study about government deception in the Vietnam War, Senator Gravel put the study on public record by reading aloud about 4,000 pages of what came to be known as 'The Pentagon Papers.'"

* * *

The latest from the real Springfield:

"I'm listening to Matt Groening, creator of America's best-known fictional family, tell me that he thinks the Simpsons are probably Republicans, and I feel a twinge of real-life distress. 'They're pretty politically apathetic,' says Groening, 'but they do go to church and they do pray, and I get the feeling that if they voted, they would probably vote for the, uh . . . for the wrong candidate.' He pauses before reiterating, 'If they voted' . . . .

"Despite the outcry, most of the country was flocking to Springfield, and the show's instant popularity shielded its creators from feeling the political backlash. 'I think Barbara Bush spoke out during the show's fifth season about [The Simpsons as] the idea of what's wrong with society,' remembers founding producer James L. Brooks. 'I so didn't take it seriously that I was later on a receiving line and she was there, and I made a joke about it to her. She just looked at me stonily.'"

* * *

The latest lie from the Bush Administration:

"As he sought to renew the USA Patriot Act two years ago, Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales assured lawmakers that the FBI had not abused its potent new terrorism-fighting powers.

"'There has not been one verified case of civil liberties abuse,' Gonzales told senators on April 27, 2005.

"Six days earlier, the FBI sent Gonzales a copy of a report that said its agents had obtained personal information that they weren't entitled to have. It was one of at least a half dozen reports of legal or procedural violations that Gonzales received in the three months before he made his statement to the Senate intelligence committee, according to internal FBI documents released under the Freedom of Information Act."

* * *

The latest thought I had this morning on the Libby fallout:

The utterly absurd demonization of Patrick Fitzgerald, the straightest arrow in the land, harms national security because it makes him a potentially politically unviable choice to someday hold Gonzales's job, or be the next FBI chief, or to head the Homeland Security department, or to act as this country's anti-terrorism czar - all positions he is eminently qualified for. Not that I want to see him leave his current job. So it's a good thing for us. But still.

* * *

The latest Open Letter from Cate Plys:

"I still can't believe I got someone fired, possibly ruining her New York magazine career, because of a silly article about company dress codes. That's why I still worry about individual words."

* * *

The latest reason why I hate The Who:

"The last thing the planet needs is a rock concert."
- Roger Daltrey on Live Earth.

* * *

The latest in landmark desecration:

"Car-bob seen in Wayne's World to make way for Walgreens."

[Note to Sun-Times: Cool it on the lingo. It only makes you look stupid. A nice essay on why the Spindle is so awesome would have been a better choice. Also, put that photo/story on front page and they'll fly off the newsstand. Appropriately so.]

* * *

The latest example of elections, patronage and nepotism having consequences:

Cook County prosecutors struck by blue flu.

* * *

The latest news out of Iraq both buried in the press and which will still fail to prompt any acknowledgment that the critics of the surge were right and lives have been needlessly lost in the meantime:

"A progress report on Iraq will conclude that the U.S.-backed government in Baghdad has not met any of its targets for political, economic and other reform, speeding up the Bush administration's reckoning on what to do next, a U.S. official said Monday."

* * *

The latest example of the fungibility of newspaper editorial pages according to business strategies and ownership whim rather than independent, reasoned analysis:

"[The Sun-Times] is returning to our liberal, working-class roots, a position that pits us squarely opposite the Chicago Tribune - that Republican, George Bush-touting paper over on moneyed Michigan Avenue. We're rethinking our stance on several issues, including the most pressing issue facing Americans today: Bush's war in Iraq."

So forget everything we've told you over the last decade or so.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Thank you, come again.

Posted by Lou at 08:57 AM | Permalink

Hail Kwik-E-Mart!

"There it is!" I yelled out with glee.

Or more like, "THERE IT IS!!!"

We had made a long journey and finally reached our destination, via the principled but aloof Stevenson Expressway with a short detour into Summit. Oops.

And then, rising above the hodgepodge of major artery signage, a beacon of life-affirming goodness. We had found the Kwik-E-Mart.

kwmrt_sign.jpg

Not just any Kwik-E-Mart, but the only one in Chicago (at 6754 W. 63rd) converted for the month from a 7-11 as part of the promotion juggernaut behind the upcoming Simpsons movie. We should re-do the whole city this way. It's not such a stretch.

kwmrt_line.jpg

When we arrived there was a line of folks about a dozen-strong, most with cameras. This, um, is kind of a news event, for anyone tuned into basic American culture. Ahem.

Anyway, no one was dressed up as Professor Frink or Groundskeeper Willie, sadly, but it was the afternoon. Maybe things rock more at night; I'm imagining a Rocky Horror kind of thing going on right there in the Bungalow Belt.

By the time we reached the head of the line, it had thickened and lengthened.

Retracta-Belts, with their E-Z Back Slo-Retract feature, kept things organized. As did the doorman doing security.

It was pretty awesome, though the biggest disappointment was pretty big: No Duff. No Krusty-O's either, but that was because they're selling so well they can't keep them in stock; a new shipment wasn't expected for a couple days. Wow, how 'bout that?

kwmrt_moe_chief.jpg

There was no Springfield Shopper in the newsrack, either, though the Sun-Times was represented, and that's kind of the same thing.

We did have Squishees, old man Jasper stuck in the freezer, and Chief Wiggum eating a Sprinkalicious donut - which were in high supply. And let me tell you, they were sprinkalicious as advertised.

kwmrt_bomb.jpg

We couldn't tell if some items were real or Simpsons.

Oh, who are we kidding, the Bomb burrito is all too real, my friends.

But when else do you get to buy a Bomb burrito with the assurance of the pledge now - and temporarily - posted behind the counter: "Every item guaranteed fresh or your money begrudgingly refunded."

Many of the Simpsons specialty products are available at 7-11s across Chicago, but nowhere else do you get the real Kwik-E-Mart experience (the bill for the family in front of us at the register was $79.95; I wonder if anyone is attempting to shop at every Kwik-E-Mart in the nation this summer).

kwmrt_frenko.jpg

For example, where else does a cashier wearing an Apu nametag say "Thank you, come again"?

Turns out our Southwest Side Apu is Frenko Rahana - a diehard Simpsons fan. "I have two of everything," he said, sweeping an arm out toward the novelties aisle. "I'm a huge fanatic. I have every DVD!"

Frenko opened the store just last December, after working for the company for nine years with his brother, who owns a couple stores. By the looks of it, he's making a relative mint on this promotion.

I would have loved to see Nelson Muntz and his cronies hanging in the parking lot - even better if Beavis, Butt-head and Todd were there too. Todd's cool.

Now, when does the Family Guy movie come out? I know a bar that could serve as The Drunken Clam.

- SR

*

Buzz or Bust: A Review of Buzz Cola

One of the central features of the Southwest Side Kwik-E-Mart is Buzz Cola. Stacks of cardboard flats holding individual cans are conspicuously displayed near the front window, where patrons eagerly grab basketfuls to enjoy. But what's actually in those cans? Is it a repurposed generic cola or an entirely new concoction?

kwmrt_buzzcan.jpg

"It's different," the guy working the door declares.

What, different like Dr. Pepper different?

"No, man." He shakes his head. "It's much better than Dr. Pepper."

He looks around for a moment or two, lost in concentration. "It's like, you know liquor, right? You ever had, like, a Jagerbomb? It tastes that."

A virgin Jagerbomb.

"Yeah. It's kinda like an energy drink. But not like a Red Bull. It's different."

I have to admit, I found the prospect of a virgin Jagerbomb with Red Bullian overtones utterly fascinating. Terrifying, but fascinating. Here's the thing: having sampled the product both warm and chilled I can tell you that reduced temperature is not Buzz Cola's friend.

I enjoyed my first Buzz at convenience-store ambient temperature, on a hot day in a hot car. Under these circumstances, the Jaegermeister comparison is apt. The cola has some herbal notes to it, a vaguely medicinal flavor reminiscent of those homoepathic tinctures you used in college to treat your hay fever. And then you found out if you took too much you'd trip balls and maybe go blind for a couple of minutes. So take away the tripping and the recreational vision loss and you've pretty much nailed warm Buzz.

When Buzz is cold, however, all of these complex taste variations somehow collapse. I'll admit I don't drink cola very often, so perhaps my palate is a bit dulled. Still, it seems to me that chilled Buzz results in completely unremarkable dark sugar water. It turns into a poor man's Coke, with less robust carbonation. And let me tell you, I never realized how key that aggressive bubbling was to the Coke drinking experience until it was gone. It's a real Buzz kill, almost as disappointing as that joke.

So if you're going to pour yourself a Buzz, take my advice and go warm. If you must chill, you may want to have a little non-virgin Jaeger on hand to supplement the flavor. Just remember, a little goes a long way.

- NJ

Posted by Lou at 12:54 AM | Permalink

Open Letter

Mind if I pick the scab off your discussion of good versus evil in the world of editors? I'd like to dig a bit deeper before a final dab of Neosporin is applied.

To recap, Rich is best known for his authoritative political newsletter and blog chronicling Illinois state government, The Capitol Fax. He now also writes an Op-Ed column for the Sun-Times. Eric is a veteran metro columnist at the Tribune and pioneered columnist blogging there - his is now called Change of Subject.

Last week, Rich noted on his blog that Sun-Times Editorial Page Editor Steve Huntley is shifting positions to concentrate on his own column. According to Rich, Steve Huntley "has been a great editor - meaning he approved all my column ideas and never touched my copy."

Eric responded in his own blog that he believes "a great editor is not just a middleman with a rubber stamp."

Fruitful ground to be plowed, or whacked at with sharp implements, or blown up. Dangerous, though; what if you criticize editors and end up with a typo? I've asked my current editor, Steve Rhodes, to look at this letter very closely indeed. Ironically, then, any badly written editorial jabs will be an editor's fault too.

First, full disclosure: Rich, we've never met. I'm taking liberties by addressing you in a familiar tone. Eric, you're a long-time pal and literally the most reasonable person I've ever known . . . so you won't be offended by portions in which I side more with Rich. Since you put up with our mutual friend Neil Steinberg calling you names in print, I feel confident in having plenty of latitude. (Let me know if you'd prefer some new insulting monikers, though - I can always add them in later, thanks to the beauty of Internet publishing.)

I know Steve Huntley. Steve Huntley edited my Sun-Times Op-Ed column for four years. You are no Steve Hunnn - wait, that doesn't work. Start over.

I think Rich was probably employing a wee bit of hyperbole when he declared that Steve "never" touched his copy. Steve would not let stand a split verb. If I sent him a column with the same lede as this letter, I would expect "pick the scab off" to become "pick off the scab." Still, I agree with Rich in spirit, which spurred me to wallow into this.

I was sure if I ever sent Steve something factually incorrect, he'd catch it. That's why I triple-checked every fact I sent him. I was absolutely terrified of sending a mistake to an editor at a major daily newspaper. (Actually, I'm terrified of sending mistakes to any editor, anywhere.) Fear of editors is good; knowing they exist as a safety net, when fear is not sufficient, is nice too. This is the editor's most basic and important function. Also, as Eric put it, "a great editor" can "help you say exactly what you want to say in the best way possible."

But Rich is his own editor and publisher most of the time, so he's used to filling that role himself. And the reason I, too, think fondly of Steve as "never" touching my copy is because of all the equally important things he didn't do. Most editors I've known, like Steve, have resisted the following temptations. I just wish it was all of them.

REWRITING. There are editors who don't understand that a rather large point of columns is for the writer to have a distinctive voice. If that voice is no good, get a new columnist.

When an editor asks me for one or two changes, I automatically agree, or rework the sentence myself to our mutual satisfaction. Eric said "a great editor does touch your copy, though lightly and with Midas' fingers". Yes; and you want to cooperate with editors who have that light touch. But occasionally great editors may also choose to keep their hands to themselves.

Problem editors change 50 percent of your words, rearrange all the punctuation and strike every adjective. Or adverb, if that's the part of speech they personally abhor. Then the process becomes editorial flea market bargaining - I'll take this change, if you'll leave that alone. Writing should be more valuable than a flea market purchase.

Sometimes editors must rewrite extensively for new writers, lazy writers and bad writers - but then none of these types should be writing a regular column. (To be clear, even seasoned writers expect more editorial nip-and-tuck on longer articles. It still shouldn't become a rewrite.)

Am I picky writer? Yes. I don't understand writers who are uninterested in the craft of writing itself. I recall the case of a local columnist whose unedited column appeared in one edition of the paper, while the edited version appeared in another. As reported by the Reader's Michael Miner, the difference between the two versions was astounding - a testament to what a great editor can accomplish when duty calls. Later, the columnist merely admitted to being a writer who recognizes the need for editing. Well, kudos and combat pay to that editor. In such cases, however, you have to question who should get the byline.

I think the best writing takes place if you're convinced, when you hit "send," that every word and comma should be set in stone. Of course it's not true - but if you don't think it's true, then you should go over it one more time. Hence, if you're doing your job, you may experience an initial tug of resistance to perfectly fine editorial suggestions. That little tug need not interfere with the editing process. You take it into account and compensate, as if adding ballast to a boat. A little mental ballast helps read an edit with a steady mind. The time lapse between "send" and a return edit helps too. Even a half hour can make you look differently at a semi-colon.

Picky writers may be a pain in the ass sometimes, but isn't that better than ghost writing someone else's work?

SCREWING UP FACTS WITH POINTLESS REWRITING. Editors can insert mistakes by simply rearranging words in a sentence, and for no apparent reason. It's happened to me. To this day, if someone should pull up a particular column from a particular archive, I sound like an idiot. Don't even ask me which column. I can't stand thinking about it.

SCREWING UP JOKES WITH POINTLESS REWRITING. See above.

MAKING CHANGES WITHOUT TELLING THE WRITER. Those last two problems, and a few others, would never happen if editors always ran changes past writers. Editors aren't omniscient either. And between e-mail and cell phones, we're all reachable - even on deadline.

Here's an example of nearly every problem stated above, albeit illustrated by an article rather than a column. I once wrote a feature for SPY about insanely restrictive dress codes at Manhattan companies. Most companies forced people to dress badly, such as IBM, which basically required male employees to wear a grown-up Catholic school uniform. The initial editor had a great idea: See if New York fashion magazines silently enforce hip dress codes. They did, and it made a neat extra section (Score one for editors!).

But that editor got promoted and my finished article went to a new editor. SPY was famous for changing copy - to make it funnier and meaner. Instead, my new editor went through the copy and changed all the strong adjectives and verbs to weak ones. It was very odd. I had to choose between seeing a namby-pamby article with my byline, or risk being labeled a "troublemaker" at the best magazine (in my opinion) of the 20th century if I spoke up. Eventually I sent my list of objections to the first editor. To my joy, he agreed, and most changes reverted to my original version. This should have been a happy editorial fairy tale, but alas, it didn't end there.

When the article came out, one of my anonymous fashion magazine sources called up to say she'd been fired because of the piece. A copy editor had gone over the article after I read the final galley, and changed the source's ID from "editorial staffer" to "fact-checker," no doubt thinking this was more precise. It was; the magazine only had one fact-checker.

I still can't believe I got someone fired, possibly ruining her New York magazine career, because of a silly article about company dress codes. That's why I still worry about individual words.

Let me also comment on your brief discussion about editors spiking column ideas. Eric said that a "good walk through the thought process" between columnist and editor "can and probably should every so often result in a joint agreement to nix a column idea." Rich countered that given his nonstop statehouse beat and "ample time to develop [column] ideas," it's not likely an editor would need to spike his ideas.

This sounds like a practical difference between your jobs. Eric is a Tribune staffer working in a traditional newsroom hierarchy, writing several times a week in addition to his blog. Rich, as an Op-Ed columnist, operates as a freelancer and appears in the Sun-Times no more than once weekly. You're both columnists, yes, but it's not the same job and it's not the same kind of relationship with the editors and organization.

In my experience, a regular Op-Ed columnist normally thinks up the column idea, reports it, writes it, and hands it in without advance discussion. Typically, there's no post-discussion either. If your ideas and execution don't meet expectations with any frequency, you'll get canned quickly.

It helps that Op-Ed columnists usually write only once or twice a week. If you can't make a coherent argument in 500-700 words, you have time to kill it yourself. And if you can't hone your prose on that deadline, you have bigger problems than editors. In Rich's case, he's constantly reporting on state government for his newsletter and blog; no wonder he has a wealth of material from which to distill a short Op-Ed column.

By the way, if great editors occasionally spike ideas, exceptional editors also sometimes approve ideas they don't like. I particularly remember two cover story ideas that I just couldn't sell to Reader Editor Alison True when I was a staff writer there. They probably sounded pretty nuts. Alison still let me go off and spend about a month of company time on each one. How cool is that? They worked out wonderfully, too. Probably because I was even more afraid of screwing them up than if she'd liked 'em.

I think it's unfortunate, and unfair, that extolling the virtue of editorial forbearance is often translated as undervaluing or disliking editors. I've also edited, and I would say it's often easier to rewrite someone than to figure out the one or two tweaks that will fix a piece but leave it largely intact.

I stand second to no one in my ability to appreciate editors with whom I've enjoyed working. That also includes Pat Arden, Bruce Dold, Mike Lenehan, Stephanie Russell, and Steve Rhodes. See? I can suck up to editors with the best of them.

Cheers,

Cate Plys

*

Corrections? Typos? Mixed metaphors? Hanging prepositions? Open Letters is open to letters: cateplys@sbcglobal.net.

*

See who else Cate has been writing to in the Open Letter archive.

*

Comments:

1. From Mike O'Connor:

Cate Plys's Open Letter reminded me of Dave Feldman, the late, legendary horse racing guru at the Sun-Times. When I was doing agate on the Sports Desk, I had to do all Feldman's stuff too. Feldman still used a manual typewriter to make his picks and comments for the races. It was my job to put it in the ATEX system. Feldman did a column each day, too. When there was no ad opposite the column, it was often cut, in part or sometimes entirely. When this would happen, Feldman, as vain as any other writer, would begin to circle the Copy Desk slowly, muttering. Then he would stop and look at the bottom of his shoe. He would then announce at the top of his lungs, "What's that! There's something on the floor. Why, it's my blood, you butchers!" (said in the direction of the copy editors. I miss him today. He was an
anachronism even when he was alive.

2. From Margaret Burke:

Hi, Cate:

I feel your pain, even though I'm not what most would call a writer. I'm a software engineer who occasionally writes documentation, so I appreciate the need for precision in language.

My favorite editing story goes back more than 20 years, to a chunk of software I was releasing to the masses of computer operations folk at the company for which I worked (not there any more, thank God). The gal who did the actual release decided she didn't like the way the release notes were phrased, changed a couple words without running the changes past me, and sent the release on its way.

The problem was, the changes had the effect of telling the operations boys to run a series of jobs backwards. They all did it, given that I tended to be very careful about the way I worded my releases. They all had hosed-up databases as a result. I spent the next week on the phone, walking each of the 22 (was it 26? not sure now) operations centers through recovering their data. All because of a little careless editing.

This was back in the days before e-mail, and to send written notice would have meant the company was effectively shut down until the notice arrived and databases were fixed, which would have taken even longer than fixing it over the phone. I thought at the time, this must be a weak version of what shell-shock is like.

So writers aren't the only ones who have to worry about rewrites. Too bad about the gal who got fired; that editor should have lost his/her job, too.

Keep the faith,
Peg

Posted by Lou at 12:00 AM | Permalink

July 09, 2007

The [Monday] Papers

Note: Jim DeRogatis responds below.

Here are some ingredients that in my book make for a pretty big news story: An international political rally to save the planet from destruction spanning seven continents streamed live on the Internet and featuring 150 musical artists and bands organized by one of the globe's most well-known public figures and a possible president of the United States. Witnessed by 2 billion people. Pretty big, huh?

So why has the coverage of Live Earth been so lacking in the local papers?

Could it be because the folks who edit those papers are so lame?

Love Al Gore or hate him, you can't deny the immensity of an event whose corporate sponsors belied any notion that this is a fringe cause or a hippiefest. My God, I had to sit through a Chevy commercial before watching a performance video on the Live Earth website.

Not only that, but with all those bands and all those people watching, you couldn't have a little fun with your coverage?

No rock for you, Chicago!

The lead story in the Sun-Times today is actually an advertisement for day two of the paper's thrilling NASCAR poster series. Mmm, newsprint posters . . .

You have to go deep into the paper to read rock critic Jim DeRogatis's predictably cynical and misguided take on Live Earth.

At least that's something. The Tribune carried nothing on the historic event today, though the front page's lead story helpfully (and hyperbolically) informed us that "Baked City Begs For Breeze."

Apparently the Trib's editors felt the obligatory wire service story on Sunday was enough. (Note to Trib: This was bigger than the Police playing a couple of crappy shows at Wrigley.)

DeRogatis's piece was typical. First, the straw man is set up. The Sun-Times promoted the story on its index page under the heading: "Can Pop Music Save Earth?"

Why yes! That's all Al Gore is saying! Just keep blasting Britney Spears records on your car radio and everything will be alright!

As the text under that heading says, the concerts were "intended to raise awareness." They aren't a solution in and of themselves. And raise awareness they did; influential artists have now joined the fight and swaths of the public - worldwide - have been inspired, educated, and motivated. That's more than the political system has done - and more than what the media and civic leaders have accomplished.

"But is pop music really an answer?" the Sun-Times asks. "Skeptics doubt it."

So, "skeptics" think we would be better off had this effort not been made? I mean, that's the question. Did this help or hurt - and how can anyone argue that it hurt?

Inside, the Sun-Times asks, "But will pop music raise our awareness of Earth's ecological woes?" Hello! It just did!

DeRogatis quotes Bob Geldof saying "Everyone's known about that problem for years . . . I would only organize it if I could get onstage and announce concrete environmental measures from the American presidential candidates, Congress or major corporations. They haven't got those guarantees. So it's just an enormous pop concert."

Bob, Bob, Bob. Everyone's known about global warming for years? Hardly. The public consciousness is just now reaching a tipping point. Besides, that's a reason for inaction - just knowing about a problem is enough?

And how and why would you expect "concrete environmental measures" from American presidential candidates? (Paging Barack Obama . . . ) You would wait forever for that, and besides, it's not just an American issue. That's why this was called Live Earth, not Live America, and was held all over the world.

Finally, major corporations actually are making guarantees - even if some of it amounts to greenwashing. It's a start. And organizers asked viewers to sign on to a 7-point pledge of concrete actions they can take to do their part while proposals like a carbon tax work their way through into our languid legislative systems (Gore would swap the carbon tax for the payroll tax.)

"Sure, there were short films and brief speeches about the environment peppered throughout," DeRogatis writes. "But most acts just played their greatest hits or newest singles."

You would have preferred long films and windy speeches and bands playing their most obscure songs?

The films and speeches were the, um, educational and inspirational component. Would more could anyone reasonably want?

My God.

"[H]istorians and sociologists who have studied the [Vietnam] anti-war movement maintain that fewer youths were motivated by political conviction than joined the cause because it seemed like the 'cool' thing to do," DeRogatis continues.

I don't know about that, but a lot of punks were similarly motivated - and to do nothing but complain about their nihilistic little lives. So what? Those who believed then and believe now are the change agents. Are you suggesting musicians stay out of politics and social issues?

"Great music can certainly change individuals' minds, prompting them to act for the betterment of society," DeRogatis concludes. "But in order for that to happen with the environment, we're going to need much, much better music than Live Earth gave us."

Better music can save the environment?!!

This is absurd. Let yourself feel, Jim. You don't have to stay in your punk pose forever.

*

Similarly, the blog excerpts about Live Earth that the Sun-Times chose to publish as its daily "Lightning Rod" feature (unavailable online) are all complaints, gathered under the headline: "Did Live Earth Do Any Good?"

Well, we'll see!

But how could it not have? A lot of folks learned an awful lot. This was rock and politics at its best in many ways - it was empowering. People learned about actions they can take on the individual level to effect change, while informing themselves of larger solutions before policymakers. Just because some (but certainly not all) of the music stunk, well, blame that on Madonna and Genesis and Dave Matthews. But at least they were there. The local papers not so much.

*

The rest of the Beachwood's Live Earth coverage:

- Live Earth's Internet Tendency.
- Live Earth's Television Trouble.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Carbon neutralish.

*

Jim DeRogatis responds:

Hey Steve - Seems you missed a lot of my points in that Live Earth article! Yikes! I'm all for spreading the message about global warming. I just think it could have been done much better, and if it had, this event would have had the impact it should have had.

"You would have preferred long films and windy speeches and bands playing their most obscure songs?"

No, I would have preferred bands making more informed and passionate comments about the issue and playing either songs written for the occasion (and thus truly special) or chosen because of the commentary they made on the issue. Or did you see some connection between Linkin Park's noise and the melting ice caps that I missed? At least John Legend and Corinne Bailey Rae tried.

"Are you suggesting musicians stay out of politics and social issues?"

Come now - you read me all the time. You know I advocate exactly the opposite. But as a critic, my job is to point out when this sort of commentary works, and when it doesn't.

"Better music can save the environment?!!"

No, Steve. Read what I wrote. Better music can inspire people more, and people can save the environment. How did the Chili Peppers inspire anyone at Live Earth, to pick on only one of numerous mediocre acts? They came out, played some new songs, some hits. Said nothing inspiring. Played no songs that drew emotionally on the issue. It was just another gig. And to really stir people to action, this should have been more than just another gig. That's what I was saying.

I watched 22 hours plus the 3-hour NBC highlights special. I saw six examples of artists really obviously emotionally touched by this issue and doing something special to rouse people to action. The rest of it all was bands playing a high-profile TV gig, which could have been for the benefit of Katrina victims, the hungry in Africa or their own wallets. Taken out of context, these performances, absent the short films and the speeches that preceded and followed them, gave no indication to anyone about what they were supposed to be about. And the same cannot be said for the iconic performances of the '60s peace movement. (Listen to Hendrix's "Star Spangled Banner." You KNOW that is an anti-war song, even if you have no idea what war it was protesting! Etc.)

But you know I love you, so no hard feelings.

JIM


Posted by Lou at 09:46 AM | Permalink

The Cub Factor

It is becoming clear to even the most pessimistic of Cub fans that this team is going to be in a dog fight with the Brewers for the rest of the season. Which also means that Cub fans may be in a dog fight with Brewer fans. With this in mind, The Cub Factor would like to help you out in the war against the Brew Crew's crew and wake up the real rivalry! Who knows, maybe this will spark a new flurry of McDonald's commercials that show Mark DeRosa lacing Prince Fielder's strawberry shake with Ex-Lax. The only problem is, we are finding it hard to use typical fandom warfare because most of it just doesn't work when it comes to our friends from Wisconsin. But let's give it a shot.

Tell Brewer fans that:

* Their stadium sucks. Except Miller Park is named after beer and the place is really, really nice.

* They just come out to the game to get drunk and don't really know baseball. Except their fans seem to know baseball and you can get drunk anywhere in Wisconsin, it's highly encouraged up there, so this just doesn't fit.

* Their mascot is a crazy homeless man. Except Wisconsin's generous welfare system gives him a home and a slide.

* Their announcers are either old and stupid or jaded and stupid. Except Bob Uecker is great, legitimately funny, and very entertaining.

* Their ballpark sits in an area brimming with drunk privileged frat boys. Except no one in Wisconsin is privileged, though they are mostly drunk.

* They have no charming traditions. Except The Sausage Race is the greatest thing in major league baseball - that's hella-character. And c'mon.

* Their baseball team is just a bunch of high priced free agents and the organization is not capable of properly drafting and developing talent. Except this is not true.

So, it's hard to hate the Milwaukee Brewers. So why don't we not hate them. Just a thought; a rivalry where we respect what the other team has to offer and actually like the other team's fans. Well, unless they talk about football . . .

-

Week in Review: - The Cubs went 4-3, taking three of four from the woeful Nationals and losing two of three from the woeful Pirates. Not entirely satisfying, but this team still seems to be executing like good teams do. Wait, did I just say that? The Cubs a good team? What? No. I think I need to lie down. Thank God the All-Star break is here to give me time to come up with a few reasons why they still stink.

Week in Preview: The week starts with the All-Star Game. Will Derrek Lee finish his fight with Padres pitcher and National League teammate Chris Young? We hope so. But instead he'll probably just short-sheet his bed or something. The Cubs then open the second half of the season with three against Houston at home this weekend.

The Second Basemen Report: In the last week, Mike Fontenot started four games and Mark DeRosa started three at second. Barring injuries, this looks to be Uncle Lou's formula. Kinda boring. We might have to change this to The Right Field Report because that's the position that is really now in flux. Three guys played there in the last seven games - including DeRosa, who made three appearances. Just like Jim Hendry drew it up.

In former second basemen news, Mark Bellhorn last played in the majors in 2006 with the Padres, batting .190 in 155 games. He is currently with the Louisville Bats, the Triple-A team for the Cincinnati Reds. Mark is batting .250 with 10 homers and 48 RBI in 73 games. He is missed.

Sweet and Sour Lou 74% sweet and 26% sour. Lou is up 3 more points on the Sweet-O-Meter this week as the Cubs continue to (relatively) roll. Just like your real crazy drunk uncle, Lou is feeling little pain these days. He just got the blades on his riding mower sharpened and is looking forward to a few days off from the job to really tip back a bunch of Busch Lights and do some fishin' down at Old Cedar Creek. He knows what he's in for when he gets back.

Beachwood Sabermetrics: A complex algorithm performed by the The Cub Factor staff using all historical data made available by Major League Baseball has determined that four days off doesn't help momentum.

Over/Under:The amount of people who care about the All-Star Game, including the players: +/- 8.

The Cub Factor: Catch up with them all.

Mount Lou: Lou (still) continues to stay at green. Mount Lou will be experiencing a lack of tourism in the upcoming week which will make his inner lava cool even more. Mount Lou is hovering close to complete dormant status. But later in the summer, expect the weather to get hot and playoff pressure to bring magma to a boil.

mtlou_green.gif

Posted by Lou at 02:54 AM | Permalink

Live Earth's Television Trouble

Watching Live Earth on regular ol' broadcast TV was an incredibly frustrating experience. Sure, the live Internet feeds worked great, but I still wanted to watch it on a bigger screen - television is still at times a superior visual platform, though an enterprising movie theater would've found a way to take the Internet streams and put it 'em up on the big screen.

I flipped between three stations with varying Live Earth coverage late Saturday afternoon and Saturday night - NBC, CNBC, and Bravo. Here's what I saw.

Net Stream:
  • Live Earth's Internet Tendency
  • *

    1. Is Al Gore the coolest guy on the planet?

    2. Weird to open with a cover of Gimme Shelter - what, the Stones were busy? - by Keith Urban and Alicia Keys. As American Idol's Randy Jackson would say, she was kind of "pitchy," and her piano was totally drowned out. More to the point, her repeating "Rape, murder/it's just a shot away" doesn't quite set the optimum tone.

    3. I'm actually enjoying Kelly Clarkson! She's angry and passionate and not crappy like Alanis Morrisette, actually punkish.

    4. Madonna sucks.

    5. Al Gore was elected president. Why hasn't the Electoral College been abolished yet?

    6. I love how Kelly Clarkson told her record company that she was sorry her life inconvenienced them.

    7. She's kicking butt! Who knew?

    8. Oh God does Dave Matthews suck.

    9. Oh please, someone make John Mayer go away.

    10. Wow, what a performance by Clarkson. Sure there's some Avril Lavigne in there, but I think Clarkson, ironically enough, is authentic.

    11. The Chili Peppers: a good band, but I've never been into them.

    12. The lineup is actually not that great. Where's Dylan? Springsteen? Dre? Radiohead?

    13. Oh Melissa Etheridge stinks so bad.

    14. Al Gore again! Sing, Al!

    15. Kanye West is not translating to the large venue. He's yelling.

    16. Gore should announce he's running.

    17. I don't like the Foo Fighters.

    18. Frickin' Cobain. He should be here.

    19. Now Kanye is sounding pretty good. Vastly superior to Etheridge and Mayer.

    20. They should ditch the hosts. They serve no purpose whatsoever, and only get in the way of the music.

    21. The Beastie Boys in London playing "Sabotage." I like their green suits. Vocals are a little ragged; trying to shout to the last row at Wembley.

    22. Is that Fergie? I'd only sorta know . . . wait, hips don't lie; that's Shakira . . . but I love Shakira . . . she's straightened her hair. She's in Hamburg. Hips might not like, but hair does.

    23. Oh, Cameron Diaz in short shorts . . . okay, stop talking, Cameron . . .

    24. I kind of hate Bon Jovi . . .

    25. Are these the Black Eyed Peas? Is that Fergie? Yes. They sound . . . gooooood! I love this song.

    26. God it's good to be young . . . and a rocker. Some people don't have access to this magic. The magic of music. Of rock 'n' roll. They are inevitably the enemy.

    Us and them, either it's a rock and roll world or not. There is a fifth column, sure, but we must fight them as well.

    27. Alicia Keys . . . she's gonna do Marvin Gaye. All I can think about when I see her now is Dylan; that should have been the pairing . . . "Mercy Mercy Me." God he was good.

    Now the performances are getting much better. Great song choice. Perfect.

    28. Bon Jovi's seen a million faces, and he's rocked them all. So he claims.

    29. Hey, it's the Antarctica guys! Cool . . . these guys are the best so far . . . Nunatak. This looks like an old-fashioned video from back in the day . . . this is so cool . . . this is rock and roll.

    30. Alicia Keys again. She's overrated.

    31. Genesis: Land of Confusion. Appreciate the sentiment, but man this sucks.

    32. Alicia Keys looks good in sweat, though. This is pretty good, maybe it's her own. She kind of sweats perfectly.

    33. UB40 doing "Red Red Wine." Is this Live Aid? Is Madonna next with "Holiday"?

    Maybe someone should put together a Live Aid reunion tour.

    34. Crowded House, everyone singing "Don't Dream It's Over" . . . wow. What a moment. How powerful is that?

    35. Wolfmother is kicking some ass. That guy's hair rules.

    36. Billy Corgan, pretending he's in a band, found another woman to stand next to him with a bass.

    37. Now Corgan is playing the national anthem. Please. Who the hell do you think you are?

    38. And now he's promoting his new album. How wholly inappropriate. And he makes a crack that folks shouldn't illegally download it. God he sucks.

    Worrying about illegal downloads is like worrying about taping. Get over it, folks. Expanding your fan base serves a larger purpose, and a lot of those folks wouldn't otherwise pay for the work anyway. It's the record companies who are the enemy, not the fans.

    39. Is this Live Aid?

    40. Will Ann Curry and Carson Daly go away now? I'll pay someone to make it happen.

    41. Kurt Loder is a wanker. (I'd link to his ridiculous Live Earth comments here if I could find them). Big-time. MTV: not so much televising the revolution as smothering it.

    42. Joss Stone is in Johannesburg. Oh, so that's who that was. Not bad.

    43. Alicia Keys is telling the story about "some skeptic dude" who questioned whether events like this really help. "I hated that guy," she says.

    44. Hey, it's Metallica! No . . . way! Way ! . . . It's Metallica! Wow! Who knew?

    Hetfield looks like he's having a blast!

    Exit light!

    Lars is out of his mind!

    Where's that therapist dude?

    Kirk Hammet. Play it dude.

    My guess is this is Germany.

    No, looks like Wembley.

    How does it feel to be alive? Individuals can't do much. This is empowering. Not perfect, but no way you can be against it. Unless you are against he heart of rock and roll, as awful as some of the bands are.

    45. Oh God, Genesis again. Invisible Touch . . . did they produce the worst hits of the 80s? They're a contender for it. Just total wastes of content-free crap.

    46. If the promoters don't package a best-of for sale, they're idiots.

    47. Roger Waters! One of the greatest artists of our time.

    48. Bravo bleeped "bullshit" in "Money." Unbelievable.

    49. Oh, hey, the Pixies are on Austin City Limits.

    50. Hey, Waters has the hammers going!

    As per, he's putting on the best show and visuals . . . the moon . . . Us and Them . . . he seems moved by his own music - in a good way . . . Brain Damage . . . why not put Bush in the Fletcher Home? . . . the paper holds their folded faces to the floor/and every day the paper boy brings more . . . a brain! Prozac! Tipper! Maybe she bleeped bullshit.

    51. Wow. The kids are gonna sing. Stand still, laddy . . .The pig! SOS! What a moment! . . . Save Our Sausages . . . it's just miles beyond anyone else . . . and every time he sings "thought control" the camera shows the Toyota ad board . . .

    52. That guy is playing Gilmour note-for-note. It's not right. Gilmour oughta be there.

    53. Al Gore should skip the presidency and just become Chancellor of the Federation.

    54. The Police doing "Message in a Bottle." Nice choice . . . did Kanye just endorse Gore?

    55. Macy Gray.

    56. Duran Duran. Is this Live Aid?

    Girls on Film. Two minutes later.

    57. Roxanne. Yawn. This song should never see the light of day again.

    58. Copeland is fun to watch, though. Like Glenn Kotche of Wilco.

    59. Roxanne is a total buzzkill. It's sapping our strength.

    60. Can't Stand Losing You is losing me. Languid.

    61. I wish I saw Cat Stevens. Maybe you have to be on Comcast 3 to get him.

    62. Al Gore appeared as a hologram in some cities. Hey, he's in my kitchen right now, changing my light bulbs!

    He's on the board of Apple, too.

    63. Pretty amazing.

    Artists: 150.
    Cities: 9.
    Continents: 7.

    They should have had Waters do this to close the whole thing.

    Saturday night all those kids in the sun . . .

    Posted by Lou at 01:36 AM | Permalink

    Live Earth's Internet Tendency

    The Live Earth effort was so huge that it was impossible for one humble reviewer to digest it all. I spent most of Saturday hunkered down in the basement media center with my iBook hooked up to the stereo, watching the different feeds from all the stages live on MSN.com, which in and of itself was pretty cool, as was the basement media center, considering at was about 100 degrees out in the real world, so nice timing there. I also listened a bit to XM Radio's audio coverage.

    The job MSN.com on Live Earth did was truly a breakthrough in using the Internet to stream live coverage of an event. Utterly comprehensive. It probably took someone with the mammoth servers of a Microsoft to do this, because I'm sure the demand must have been overwhelming and yet only once during the day did I encounter a "servers too busy" message. The sound quality was excellent, and since I have a Mac, I was using Flip4Mac to convert the Windows Media Player streams into QuickTime. The results were great. There was absolutely no skipping, no freezing . . . I couldn't have asked for more, really. The experience was far superior to watching the NBC highlight reel on Saturday night. It reminded me of watching NBC's coverage of the Olympics when the games are held overseas - that is, truncated and after-the-fact.

    That being said, I think I was able to watch a fair amount of the proceedings, and was able to compile a few choice moments.

    Broadcast Blues:
  • Live Earth's Television Trouble
  • 1. One of the main themes seemed to be music celebrities talking about how they're powering down their lifestyles. Uh-huh. During one XM Radio interview I heard, I think, three of the Black Eyed Peas saying they've traded in their Hummers for hybrids. Now that's a real sacrifice. The fact that they all had Hummers just gave me another reason to oppose slick pop-rap, as if I needed another one. Cool counterpoint: When Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran began his Wembley set by saying, "Everyone who didn't come here on a private jet raise your hand!"

    2. Dave Matthews on NBC talking about his non-polluting biodiesel tour bus. This isn't the same bus he was using in Chicago when his driver dumped poop onto a tourist boat on the river, is it? Because he said, "Well, we're still polluters. We're still a touring band." So I guess that means they're still being, uh, wasteful. Maybe his cool new biodiesel bus has on onboard composting apparatus that renders all Matthews Band feces into an inert, biodegradable mass. I hope to God that's the case.

    3. Is it just me, or was it weird that Madonna had a bunch of pre-pubescent kids dressed in Catholic school girl uniforms out on stage with her? I mean, given her long history of sexually fetishizing just that kind of thing? Maybe she's just so far beyond this sort of irony that it's come full around the bend to mean nothing. If so, sorry.

    4. Kanye West with the Police. A disaster. Proving that nothing is more white than the Police, both the band and the force.

    5. On the other hand, Spinal Tap in London was truly awesome. Michael McKean (David St. Hubbins) was in fine voice, Christopher Guest (Nigel Tufnel) never has chewed gum with more conviction and Harry Shearer (Derek Smalls) led the greatest multiple bass solo session of all time on "Big Bottom." If there is one thing Live Earth should be known for musically, it is that. McKean kept introducing bassist after bassist, about 20 in all from all the participating bands, including about three from Madonna's band, with the comment, "Eventually everyone does Madonna." Classic!

    6. Wolfmother in Sydney. My goodness, these guys can do psychedelic rock like nobody's business. It was the first time I had ever seen this band live, and it was a revelation. Of course I had heard their song "Woman," and knew that it among the best hard-edged guitar rock I had heard recently. But their stage presences were positively mystical. Andrew Stockdale's voice is high-pitched and thus a matter of taste, something that I think weighed a bit negatively in my purely audio assessment of them. But that voice, when you can see him working it onstage and adding it to his Hendrix-like guitar antics and white-guy Afro, is magical. Bassist-keyboardist Chris Ross was also completely out of control.

    7. Also in Sydney, the John Butler Trio. To lump these guys in with the usual jam band suspects is a real disservice. That may be where they came from, but they have elevated the genre to a different level. Butler's ability to use his open-finger-tuned acoustic guitar like a Stratocaster is unlike anything I've ever seen, and double-bassist Shannon Birchall wields an upright like it's a toy. Wow. Plus you've got a singing drummer (Michael Barker) - always a good thing. Butler's specific message was, "Don't let them sell you nuclear power as a 'clean' energy technology, 'cause it's not." Well said.

    8. I love Al Gore. But please, someone find him a pair of jeans that are a bit more flattering. If such a thing is possible.

    9. When he opened the U.S. portion of the Live Earth festivities in Washington at the National Museum of the American Indian, Gore praised the Museum for providing a last-minute venue in the District for the event, saying it wasn't the cavalry that rode to the rescue, but the Indians. Nice, although he had already used the line the on the news the night before. He also didn't name names as to why there was a problem in the first place . . . he didn't want to be a buzzkill. But I have no such compunctions. It was James "Greatest Hoax Ever" Inhofe.

    10. The Foo Fighters. Is there a better "big" rock band in the world? I wish I were Dave Grohl. I really, really wish I were Dave Grohl.

    Posted by Lou at 12:40 AM | Permalink

    Ramen Review #1: Tradition Noodle Soup Oriental Style

    The packaging won me over. The picture on the front resembles the WWII Japanese Army/Navy flag with a full bowl of ramen playing the part of the sun. And why not? TraditionTM ramen noodle soup is proud to announce that it is Oriental style. It's also proud to announce that it is a PRODUCT OF CANADA. Funny that this product of Canada should be as politically correct as my Mother, who, as it happens, is also a product of Canada.

    I added the spice packet after the noodles finished cooking and a wonderful smell curled up with the steam from the cooking pot. I was amazed and delighted. It smelled like the fried potatoes at the Christkindlmarkt in Daley Plaza. Every December I visit the same huge German kid in his white Guernsey sweater. He fries thick slices of potato and onion in bacon fat and then dusts it all with white pepper until it starts to resemble a beignet from Cafe du Monde. I danced up and down in my kitchen in anticipation of this fine Japo-Jerry meal. It was going to be VE day and VJ day all rolled into one.

    The broth was murky. I closed my eyes and tasted it. It might as well have been water. My body slumped forward with disappointment. There was a slight hint of flavor I couldn't quite place. Although it contained 1470mg of sodium, it still needed salt. I reached for the salt shaker then stopped, concerned that the addition of seed particles would produce a supersaturated solution causing Rock Salt Candy to crystallize onto my spoon whenever it stopped moving. I was also afraid eating that much salt in one sitting might cure me into a corned beef-like product that British naval officers could take with them on long sea voyages.

    I poked my spoon at the broth for a few seconds until a single green speck surfaced and sank quickly to the bottom of the bowl. I had another sip. It tasted like a kindly factory worker may have shown the broth a picture of a carrot and an onion at some point during its creation. As it turns out, the ingredient list did include carrot and onion. It also included Torula yeast, a by-product of paper production used to flavor pet foods. I suppose that was the flavor I couldn't quite place. Hey kids, it's Eukanuba style.

    This product is Kosher Parve and vegetarian. It's also something else with an eight pointed logo but I can't read Hebrew. And if this is supposed to be a product of Canada, where's the French translation on the packaging? I call Shenanigans. I couldn't find "Nouilles avec des saveurs faibles de tomates et d'aliment pour animaux familiers" anywhere.

    TraditionTM ramen noodle soup is cheap, and I admire the fact that the package indicates it is one serving rather than almost every other brand of ramen that suggests that 3/4 cup of wet slop is supposed to be a full meal. But it contains hydrogenated oils and tastes like dishwater, which means I won't be buying it again.

    Finally, the raw noodles were insubstantial; flavorless and light, which means you'll have to buy at least three packages of TraditionTM ramen noodle soup if you plan on eating them like potato chips after you get high. You know who you are.

    *

    Taste/noodle cooked: No distinctive taste to speak of. Warm. Bland. Fatty.
    Taste/noodle raw: Light and insubstantial; crispy, thin, and lacy.
    Taste/Broth: Very watery and bland.
    Odor: Very good.
    Hydrogenated oils: Yes.
    MSG: Yes.
    Calories per serving: 370.
    Servings per package: 1.
    Sodium per serving: 1470mg.
    Price: $.59.
    Packets: 1.
    Overall Ramen Rating: 3 out of 10>

    Posted by Lou at 12:14 AM | Permalink

    July 07, 2007

    The Weekend Desk Report

    We love our work here behind the Weekend Desk, but can you blame us for fluffing up our resumes every once in a while?

    Market Update
    The global consciousness markets collapsed this week as research revealed conclusive evidence that money is more likely to destroy the human spirit than it is to preserve it. Nah, just kidding! Spend 'til it hurts, kids!

    At Wit's Proenza
    We have a message for the beleaguered staff of the National Hurricane Center, who have apparently grown tired of non-productive political bickering and buck-passing: hang in there. Maybe you can oust your boss if he, like, conceals a major health issue during a time of crisis. Oh, wait. Never mind.

    That Giant Sucking Sound
    Despite robust reports of financial health, the City of Chicago has announced it will outsource several key administrative functions in the near future. Skeptics predict that sharp increases in production and transportation costs will force Chicago to relocate more key assets in the coming years. Eventually, the city's domestic presence will be reduced to a handful of high-end warehouse and showroom facilities. Oh, wait. Never mind.

    Gold, Silver and Bronze Lining
    On the bright side, however, the outsourcing of Chicagoans should make the Olympic negotiations a lot less contentious.

    Bald-Face Cheek-Stakes
    In a break with tradition, we will not be offering odds on the Asinine Gesture Derby this week. We just couldn't decide which was more achingly hypocritical, a green car with no fuel or a green venue with no shuttle service. Call it a push.

    Clown Schooled
    In other news, duh. There's a reason Network didn't spawn two sequels.

    Posted by Natasha at 07:48 AM | Permalink

    July 06, 2007

    The [Friday] Papers

    The Papers will return on Monday, but we have new posts today throughout the site. Consult the Inside the Reporter box to your right for details, or just take some time to have a look-see and catch up with our recent offerings. The Weekend Desk Report, as always, will appear on Saturday morning and remain all weekend for your reading pleasure.

    *

    The [Fourth of July] Papers / Posted on July 04, 2007

    1. "We enveloped our President in 2001. And those who did not believe he should have been elected - indeed those who did not believe he had been elected - willingly lowered their voices and assented to the sacred oath of non-partisanship.

    "And George W. Bush took our assent, and re-configured it, and honed it, and shaped it to a razor-sharp point and stabbed this nation in the back with it."

    2. "Fellow Citizens, I am not wanting in respect for the fathers of this republic. The signers of the Declaration of Independence were brave men. They were great men too - great enough to give fame to a great age. It does not often happen to a nation to raise, at one time, such a number of truly great men. The point from which I am compelled to view them is not, certainly, the most favorable; and yet I cannot contemplate their great deeds with less than admiration. They were statesmen, patriots and heroes, and for the good they did, and the principles they contended for, I will unite with you to honor their memory.

    "They loved their country better than their own private interests; and, though this is not the highest form of human excellence, all will concede that it is a rare virtue, and that when it is exhibited, it ought to command respect. He who will, intelligently, lay down his life for his country, is a man whom it is not in human nature to despise. Your fathers staked their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, on the cause of their country. In their admiration of liberty, they lost sight of all other interests.

    "They were peace men; but they preferred revolution to peaceful submission to bondage. They were quiet men; but they did not shrink from agitating against oppression. They showed forbearance; but that they knew its limits. They believed in order; but not in the order of tyranny. With them, nothing was 'settled' that was not right. With them, justice, liberty and humanity were 'final;' not slavery and oppression. You may well cherish the memory of such men. They were great in their day and generation. Their solid manhood stands out the more as we contrast it with these degenerate times.

    "How circumspect, exact and proportionate were all their movements! How unlike the politicians of an hour! Their statesmanship looked beyond the passing moment, and stretched away in strength into the distant future. They seized upon eternal principles, and set a glorious example in their defense. Mark them!"

    3. "Hi folks! Would-be flag-burner Jeff Redfern here!"

    4. "I will set a different tone. I will restore civility and respect to our national politics . . . I will work with Republicans and reach out to Democrats . . . I will treat the other party with respect, and when we make progress, I will share the credit . . . I will unite our nation, not divide it. I will bring Americans together."

    - George Bush, April 2000

    5. Bush uniting the country.

    6. Believing Scooter Libby is innocent vs. believing O.J. Simpson is innocent. Discuss.

    7. Scooter Libby is free. This man is in jail.

    8. What makes America great.

    9. "The greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation."

    10. Free at last, they took your life. They could not take your pride.

    11. Outside is America.

    12. I'm a cool rockin' daddy in the U.S.A.

    13. What makes America great.

    14. Beavis & Butt-head go see fireworks.

    15. Where the days are longer, the nights are stronger than moonshine.

    16. Red, white, and blue, the future is all but past. So lift up your heart, make a new start. And lead us away from here.

    Posted by Lou at 08:01 AM | Permalink

    Four Decades in the (Time-) Life of Folk Rock

    When I think of Time-Life Books, I think of sturdy, well-turned bindings and covers. They were so cool, they were frequently much better than the books' actual contents. Nice, hefty cardboard that was engineered to look classy on your living room bookshelf, kind of like that faux-brick facing they put on clapboard houses in first-ring suburbs. Mass produced, down-market, cheesy cool. You can also find millions of Time-Life books at garage sales, mostly covering such topics as '70s pop stars and DIY home repairs.

    Chicago's Time-Life Records are much the same - who among us can say they weren't suckered into calling that toll-free number to order up a heapin' helpin' of Sounds of the Seventies, Guitar Rock or the easy-listening sounds of the Superhits based almost solely on the fact they came with colorful, picture-filled, sturdy-cardboard books? Plus, they were unbelievably complete compilations thanks to Time Warner Corp.'s licensing pull. If you can find any of these babies at the garage sale, snap them up immediately. They're golden cheese.

    The only drawback was the way Time-Life's telemarketers would sign you up for about a billion records to be sent out to you every month when you thought you were only buying one. Very tricky. So now, thanks mainly to the Internet, we're older and wiser in the ways of mail order and telemarketing tactics. That being said, Time-Life Records, now no longer owned by Time Warner, is still very much in the music compilation business, this time coming out with a breathtakingly comprehensive look at folk rock. Its new four-CD set is entitled, "Four Decades of Folk Rock," and will be released (unironically) on Sept. 11.

    time_life.jpgYou have to admit that despite the aggressive sales tactics and the overwhelming feeling they were being bought mostly by people who wanted to understand rock 'n' roll the same way an anthropologist wants to learn the customs of a foreign culture, these collections were nothing if not complete. The fault wasn't in the contents, but in the infomercial presentation. You always kind of felt that if something was on a Time-Life record, it was probably way past its cultural expiration date.

    But hey, not so . . . especially for roots and garage rock fans. And it's not just this new CD set either (which defines "folk rock" as everything from Dylan to X to Steve Earle). It's part of a newish Time-Life series begun in the last few years called the Legends of American Music Series, which features box sets on Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Louis Armstrong and the Stanley Brothers. Time-Life says it's trying to "redefine its role in the marketplace" by taking on much hipper compilers like Rhino Records.

    Some of Time-Life's other efforts from the late 1980s and the 1990s are pretty impressive, too. For instance, on just one of the many compilations the company put out in 1991, Rock Classics: The Originals, you got 22 songs that were covered by British Invasion-era bands - John Lee Hooker's "Boom Boom"; "Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby" by Carl Perkins; "Anna (Go To Him)" by Arthur Alexander; Jackie DeShannon's "Needles and Pins"; the Olympics' "Good Lovin'", and so many classic original records.

    And on The Rock 'n' Roll Era: 1962 (released in 1987), just by calling operators now, you could receive another 22 tracks with pretty much every r'n'r song that had a real impact that year - and a few more that were semi-obscure but incredibly cool. They include "The Loco-Motion" by Little Eva; "Twistin' the Night Away" by Sam Cooke; Dion's "The Wanderer"; Clyde McPhatter's "Lover Please"; and "She Cried" by Jay and the Americans.

    Yes, there was generally gold a'plenty in those Time-Life records, looking at it now. Maybe they were actually worth the magical mail order contracts you didn't know you signed. Time-Life is still set up to work that way - if you buy the first volume of a CD set, they'll ship the others to you automatically and bill you for them until you call the toll-free number and tell them to stop, at which time I have a feeling they will urge you not to. The operators will be standing by right in your face, man.

    Even so, their new folk rock playlist is pretty choice. It provides some nice surprises by tapping less-than-monster-hits for some usual-suspect artists. For instance, instead of picking the ubiquitous "Daydream" from Lovin' Spoonful, it's the bit-less-played "Do You Believe in Magic?" Instead of the Turtles' "Happy Together," it's their version of "It Ain't Me Babe," reminding you they were first and foremost a folkie outfit that got its start covering Dylan.

    Then the set really expands the definition of "folk rock," especially in its '80s disc. You don't usually lump R.E.M. ("Talk About the Passion") and X ("See How We Are") in with "folk rockers," but they have a point. They were examples of how punk and new wave had tentacles going back to The Band. And finally, this is also the first CD set I've seen that so firmly ties alt-country to folk rock, although Time-Life's choices for Wilco ("Box Full of Letters") and Son Volt ("Loose String") were a bit on the obvious side.

    From the Time-Life press release:

    "With 71 tracks that run the gamut of folk rock, singer-songwriter, country rock, roots rock and Americana and span over 40 years, 'Four Decades of Folk Rock' is so comprehensive that it not only includes the most important songs of these genres, but also spotlights folk tracks performed by rock bands, rock songs recorded by folk acts and experiments by both along the way: Thin Lizzy performs an Irish folk song, punk rock band X takes on Americana, and comparative newcomer David Gray layers electronica on top of acoustic folk.

    "The collection was painstakingly assembled by Grammy nominated producer Ted Myers and acclaimed author and pop culturist Bruce Pollock, and also features tracks by Tim Buckley, The Band, Arlo Guthrie, Richard Thompson and Steve Earle. The set is highlighted by extensive liner notes alongside rare and archival photographs of the artists, taken during the era their songs were first recorded."

    Here's the playlist:

    Disc One: The 60s

    1. Bob Dylan, "Like a Rolling Stone"

    2. Barry McGuire, "Eve of Destruction"

    3. The Turtles, "It Ain't Me Babe"

    4. We Five, "You Were on My Mind"

    5. The Lovin Spoonful, "Do You Believe in Magic?"

    6. The Byrds, "Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season)"

    7. The Mamas & the Papas, "Go Where You Wanna Go"

    8. Tim Hardin, "Don't Make Promises"

    9. Donovan, "Season of the Witch"

    10. Fred Neil, "That's the Bag I'm In"

    11. The Youngbloods, "Get Together"

    12. Jefferson Airplane, "Today"

    13. Buffalo Springfield, "For What It's Worth"

    14. Tim Buckley, "I Never Asked to Be Your Mountain"

    15. Tim Rose, "Morning Dew"

    16. The Stone Ponys, "Different Drum"

    17. The Band, "I Shall Be Released"

    18. Nilsson, "Everybody's Talkin'"


    Disc Two: The 70s

    1. Crosby, Stills & Nash, "Wooden Ships"

    2. Fairport Convention, "Fotheringay"

    3. Arlo Guthrie, "Coming into Los Angeles"

    4. James Taylor, "Anywhere Like Heaven"

    5. Traffic, "John Barleycorn"

    6. Grateful Dead, "Box of Rain"

    7. Nick Drake, "One of These Things First"

    8. Rod Stewart, "Reason to Believe"

    9. Don McLean, "American Pie"

    10. Pentangle, "People In the Highway"

    11. Jackson Browne, "Rock Me on the Water"

    12. Linda Ronstadt, "Birds"

    13. Thin Lizzy, "Whiskey in the Jar"

    14. Bonnie Raitt, "Love Has No Pride"

    15. Joan Baez, "Diamonds and Rust"

    16. Steeleye Span, "All Around My Hat"

    17. Fleetwood Mac, "Gold Dust Woman"


    Disc Three: The 80s

    1. Richard & Linda Thompson, "Wall of Death"

    2. Dexys Midnight Runners, "Come On Eileen"

    3. R.E.M., "Talk About the Passion"

    4. The Rain Parade, "What's She Done to Your Mind?"

    5. Lone Justice, "Pass It On"

    6. The Pogues, "A Pair of Brown Eyes"

    7. The Roches, "Love Radiates Around"

    8. Steve Earle, "Someday"

    9. Suzanne Vega. "Luka"

    10. Dave Alvin, "Fourth of July"

    11. X, "See How We Are"

    12. The Dream Syndicate, "Let It Rain"

    13. 10,000 Maniacs, "Don't Talk"

    14. The Waterboys, "Fisherman's Blues"

    15. Bangles, "Hazy Shade of Winter"

    16. The Jayhawks, "Five Cups of Coffee"

    17. Lucinda Williams, "Passionate Kisses"

    18. Peter Case, "Put Down the Gun"


    Disc Four: The 90s and Beyond

    1. Steve Wynn, "Carolyn"

    2. Sarah McLachlan, "Drawn to the Rhythm"

    3. Peter Holsapple & Chris Stamey, "Angels"

    4. Uncle Tupelo, "Still Be Around"

    5. Indigo Girls, "Galileo"

    6. Mazzy Star, "Fade into You"

    7. Wilco, "Box Full of Letters"

    8. Natalie Merchant, "Where I Go"

    9. Son Volt, "Loose String"

    10. The Corrs, "Love to Love You"

    11. John Hiatt, "Shredding the Document"

    12. Shawn Colvin, "Sunny Came Home"

    13. Billy Bragg & Wilco, "She Came Along to Me"

    14. Sixpence None the Richer, "We Have Forgotten"

    15. David Gray, "Babylon"

    16. Patty Griffin, "Chief"

    17. Anne McCue, "Stupid"

    18. Eastmountainsouth, "Rain Come Down"

    *

    Surprised at anything on the list or what was left off? Send comments and feedback to Don. Please use a real name to be considered for publication. And check out previous Playists in our Playlist archive.

    Posted by Don at 01:01 AM | Permalink

    T-Ball Journal: The Father Factor

    At our most recent practice we wrapped things up with a little scrimmage. There were only a half-dozen Dodgers on hand but one coach pitched, the other played some outfield and we put a ballgame together. My eight-year-old son Noah started it off by hitting a hard ground ball into a wide open expanse out in right field. As he raced to third, one of his teammates retrieved the ball and ran all the way through the infield toward the third-base line. Noah rounded third and stood there a few steps beyond the base, oblivious to the fact his teammate, who by now was moving slowly (stealthily even), had the ball hidden in his glove. A couple moments later his teammate stepped right up and tagged him on the chest. In the process his glove caught the bottom of the mask in front of the batting helmet and brought it down so it made contact with Noah's face. He became upset, saying the mask had "really hurt" his lip. My unsympathetic reaction was that he was more upset about being tagged out. That did not go over well.

    At our most recent game, one of my coaching counterparts asked one of his cohorts to switch with him and work on the right side of the diamond during their defensive half of an inning. In the first three T-Ball innings of our league's hybrid games (the last four frames are coach-pitch), two coaches can stand in the outfield to help their fielders. He thought his son, who would be playing on the right side, might need some assistance and it would be better if it came from someone other than his dad. I knew exactly what he was talking about . . . but it didn't mean I would employ a similar plan.

    This was not the first time I had heard a coach voice this theory - that it is best to avoid having dads give their kids feedback, especially when it is negative. The theory is kids are more dismissive of what their parents are saying than they are of statements made by other adults in authority positions. It is a bit of a depressing realization for all us dads out here but probably true at least some of the time. It depends on a given kid's (and dad's) personality, of course, as well as his or her age.

    And then there is the fact that every coach who has his kid on the team worries about coaching him or her differently than the rest of the players. Maybe somewhere at some time the primary concern was making sure one's own kid didn't get any special favors. But these days I'm confident most coaches face the same dilemma I do: trying to make sure you aren't too hard on your own kid. And that is what I worried about (again) after my son's and my little exchange at the end of practice.

    I have never asked an assistant coach to give my son the bad news. If there is something I think needs to be said, I say it. Unfortunately there have been plenty of times when, upon further reflection, I've realized what I said probably wasn't absolutely necessary. That is part of the reason I made the decision at the start of the recently concluded school year that Noah and I could use a break from each other. I had coached his soccer team during his first two years of AYSO competition but I took a pass this time around. And I will continue to do so.

    But I coached his baseball team this spring and summer and I hope to do so again next spring and summer. I know that a plenty of what I say to him does need to be said. For instance, if a kid becomes overly upset about something that happens in the course of a game, especially a relatively meaningless end-of-practice scrimmage, something along the lines of "don't get so upset" must be said.

    I'm a believer in flat out flooding young (pre-middle school) competitors with positive reinforcement and I think I do that for all the Dodgers, my son included. But I do give Noah a bit more of a hard time when he does not-so-focused things. That is in part because he is one of the better players on the team, one who is capable of staying focused for long stretches. And that is also in part because he is definitely the team's mouthiest competitor. He does it less now that my wife and I have had repeated conversations with him but he is wont to speak up when he doesn't agree with an umpire or one of the coaches. And he has on occasion (again we hope less as the season has gone on) made teammates feel badly with his commentary on their play.

    Then again, I alway have to remind myself that if my son over-reacts to sporting stimuli, he comes by it naturally. His father was a noted crybaby in his day, reacting furiously to calls that didn't go his way. As I headed into my teens I remember consciously trying to tone down my act, which had led to my being dubbed a CM (competitive moron) by a staffer or two and by fellow bounders at my longtime summer camp. I kept a more even keel in high school, which may have helped my overall psyche but which didn't exactly hone my competitive edge. I was a pretty good soccer player and swimmer at good old St. Ignatius College Prep along with being an enthusiastic bench-warmer in my final year of varsity baseball. But I bet I could have been better.

    Oh by the way, can you imagine a camp counselor calling a camper a competitive moron these days? I'm thinking the child's parents might file lawsuits in state and federal courts. And oh by the way, the Dodgers won their only game of last weekend, clawing their way back to the .500 mark (6-6-1). My daughter Alana's T-Ball team suffered a couple tough losses, but she made her coach happy by drawing him a little picture and writing what was essentially a thank you note. I don't think the thought of drawing a picture for his coach has ever occurred to my son. I'm sure it never occurred to me when I was his age.

    At a July 4th picnic a couple years ago, Noah entered a sack race. It was an event that my family had attended for years and years and I always saw good friends there that I oftentimes didn't see the rest of the year. In fact, just about all of them were from that aforementioned summer camp. The sack race began and Noah took one jump and went down in a heap. I hustled over and helped him up and encouraged him to keep going and finish the race. But he was bawling and just wanted to quit.

    Suddenly a voice rang out across the front lawn of our friend's beautiful old Evanston house. It was one of those old camp friends I mentioned, one who knew me by my childhood nickname. "Hey Jamey, like father, like son, eh?"

    I paused and then I turned to Noah. "It's OK if you just stop." And I may have thought but I didn't actually say "But we're gonna kill them in the water balloon toss."

    *

    Jim Coffman's daughter is in her first season of T-Ball. Her older brother is in his last year in the Junior Division. Coffman is chronicling his travails as coach of his son's team and observer of his daughter's initial foray into this slice of Americana.

    Posted by Lou at 12:41 AM | Permalink

    What I Watched Last Night

    John From Cincinnati is one whacked-out show. Theories abound on the Internet as to just what's going on in this series, HBO's hopeful successor to The Sopranos. The first two episodes were baffling in a Twin Peaks way, which was unexpected and frustrating. It made me miss Deadwood, creator David Milch's previous endeavor, all the more. (I have a friend who's boycotting John From Cincinnati; doubtless he's not the only one hoping a ratings flop will open the door for Milch and HBO to resuscitate Deadwood. I'm convinced even Zippy the parrot couldn't bring that series back to life.)

    JFC centers on the Yost family of Imperial Beach, California, three generations of former and future surf legends who have seen better days. Mitch (Bruce Greenwood), the patriarch, blew his knee out years ago. His son Butchie (Brian Van Holt) blew his career on drugs. And now Butchie's teenage son Shaun (Greyson Fletcher) is blowing away the competition, the next superstar surfer in the Yost family. Mitch's wife, Cissy (Rebecca De Mornay), is angry at the world but she's doing her best to help Shaun achieve his dream. Mitch however, doesn't want Shaun to end up like Butchie.

    The Yosts are surrounded by an eclectic menagerie, most of whom are shrouded in backstory we've yet to discover. JFC has surfing, drug addiction, levitation, a potentially haunted motel room, resurrection (both human and parrot), greedy agents, a drug-dealing guardian angel, a bubble-wrapped circular stairway, and strange visions shared by multiple characters.

    And then there's John, the guy from Cincinnati - the central mystery of the show. Who is this guy? What's his deal? How does he know so much about the Yosts and those around them? Why does he trace a design on the ground with his foot? What is the design, and why do some folks join in the tracing dance with him? I have no idea. We (the characters in the story as well as the audience) are still trying to figure that out, piecing together strange clues, mostly doled out in John's childlike dialog.

    John is an enigma. He's unfamiliar with the ways of the world, but he quickly adapts, mimicking the words and actions of those around him. He says things that indicate he's cosmically tapped into the Yosts in some way. He appears in the first scene, standing on the beach watching Mitch surf and utters the cryptic lines, "The end is near. Mitch Yost needs to get back in the game." What game? We don't know. He says that a lot: "The end is near" and "Tomorrow is another day." He also trades questions for statements in a sort of Being There manner. When someone asks him, "Are you feeling good, John?" he'll reply, "I'm feeling good, Butchie."

    Is he God? An angel? A messenger? An alien? Psychic? A psychic alien? Your guess is as good as mine.

    There's a lot going on in every episode, some of it intentionally confusing, some of it challenging (in the way a program like The Wire forces you to fully engage your brain), and some it is just downright strange. After four episodes, some things are starting to clarify, others not so much. Here's my quick take on the most recent episode, "His Visit: Day Three":

    * I'm glad to see Doctor Smith (Garret Dillahunt, who was so great in Deadwood as the psychotic Francis Wolcott) cement his place as a series regular by quitting his job at the hospital and showing up at the Yosts'. After Shaun's medically unexplainable recovery from a neck-breaking surfing accident last week, the Doc's convinced he's witnessed a miracle.

    * As with Deadwood, much of the fun in JFC comes from the satellite characters: Luis Guzman as Ramon, the Snug Harbor Motel manager; Dayton Callie as drug dealer Steady Freddy (another standout Deadwood alum); and Ed O'Neill as Bill Jacks, a retired cop and surrogate father to Shaun, who talks to his dead wife and his parrot Zippy in equal measures. By the way, it was a kiss from Zippy in last week's episode that seemed to resurrect Shaun from near death.

    * Squabbling spouses Mitch and Cissy remain sour and angry at each other and just about everyone else. As central characters go, they're pretty alienating.

    * So far, JFC lacks a dynamic character in the vein of Ian McShane's fantastic Al Swearengen on Deadwood. (Man, wouldn't it be awesome if McShane made an appearance in Imperial Beach?) JFC's bad guy role is filled by Luke Perry, playing smarmy agent Linc Stark. No contest.

    * Four episodes in and I'm still having trouble with the formal Milch-style dialog in this environment. This same phraseology was a Deadwood trademark - you either loved it or you hated it. Personally I loved it, but in JFC it's weirdly affected for a show set in contemporary Southern California. At least it seems that way to this California native.

    * Have I mentioned levitation? From episode one, Mitch has been seen hovering a foot off the ground. I'm still not sure what that's all about.

    * My favorite scene: The episode's close, when Bill shows up in the motel parking lot with a donuts and coffee token of friendship for Steady Freddy - at the behest of his bird. "My bird Zippy conveyed to me, despite the obvious dissimilarities between us, we should become friends," Bill says in classic Milch fashion. The interaction between these two, before, during and after Shaun's "porn star" mother shows up in her red convertible, promises great things to come.

    *

    Catch up on the What I Watched Last Night archives.

    Posted by Lou at 12:41 AM | Permalink

    PressNotes: Baboons, Wood and Don Juan

    News from Chicago's academic presses, and other intellectual developments.

    1. UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO

    Off the Presses
    * Baboon Metaphysics: The Evolution of a Social Mind. By Dorothy L. Cheney and Robert M. Seyfarth.

    * No Caption Needed: Iconic Photographs, Public Culture, and Liberal Democracy. By Robert Hairman and John Louis Lucaites.

    * Isolarion: A Different Oxford Journey. By James Attlee.

    See/Do
    * Exhibit: "The World Writ Small: Early Northern European Prints"
    Through: September 9, 2007, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
    At: Smart Museum of Art, 5550 S. Greenwood Ave.

    * Lecture: "From Hand to Machine: German and Austrian Design, 1890-1933"
    On: July 20th, at noon
    At: Smart Museum of Art, 5550 S. Greenwood Ave.

    2.NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY

    Off the Presses
    * The First Person Singular. By Alphonso Lingis.

    * About Chekhov: The Unfinished Symphony. By Ivan Bunin and Thomas Gaiton Murillo.

    See/Do
    * Exhibit: "Tom James: Landscapes/Abstracts/Musings on Wood"
    Through: August 5, 2007, from 10 a.m. -10 p.m.
    At: Ditmar Memorial Gallery at Norris University Center, 1999 University Drive, Evanston.

    * Exhibit: "Theo Leffmann: Weaving a Life into Art"
    Through: August 26th.
    At: Block Museum of Art, 40 Arts Circle Drive, Evanston.

    * Listen: Northwestern University Summer Orchestra
    On: July 6, 2007, at 7:30 p.m.
    At: School of Music/Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, 50 Arts Circle Drive, Evanston.

    3. LOYOLA UNIVERSITY

    See/Do
    * Theater: "Don Juan in Chicago," as part of the Rogers Park Summer Festival.
    On: July 19 - July 29, at 7:30 p.m.
    At: Centennial Forum Student Union Student Theater, at the corner of W. Loyola and N. Sheridan
    Cost: $10.

    Posted by Lou at 12:23 AM | Permalink

    July 04, 2007

    The [Fourth of July] Papers

    The Beachwood will return on Friday.

    1. "We enveloped our President in 2001.And those who did not believe he should have been elected - indeed those who did not believe he had been elected - willingly lowered their voices and assented to the sacred oath of non-partisanship.

    "And George W. Bush took our assent, and re-configured it, and honed it, and shaped it to a razor-sharp point and stabbed this nation in the back with it."

    2. "Fellow Citizens, I am not wanting in respect for the fathers of this republic. The signers of the Declaration of Independence were brave men. They were great men too - great enough to give fame to a great age. It does not often happen to a nation to raise, at one time, such a number of truly great men. The point from which I am compelled to view them is not, certainly, the most favorable; and yet I cannot contemplate their great deeds with less than admiration. They were statesmen, patriots and heroes, and for the good they did, and the principles they contended for, I will unite with you to honor their memory.

    "They loved their country better than their own private interests; and, though this is not the highest form of human excellence, all will concede that it is a rare virtue, and that when it is exhibited, it ought to command respect. He who will, intelligently, lay down his life for his country, is a man whom it is not in human nature to despise. Your fathers staked their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, on the cause of their country. In their admiration of liberty, they lost sight of all other interests.

    "They were peace men; but they preferred revolution to peaceful submission to bondage. They were quiet men; but they did not shrink from agitating against oppression. They showed forbearance; but that they knew its limits. They believed in order; but not in the order of tyranny. With them, nothing was 'settled' that was not right. With them, justice, liberty and humanity were 'final;' not slavery and oppression. You may well cherish the memory of such men. They were great in their day and generation. Their solid manhood stands out the more as we contrast it with these degenerate times.

    "How circumspect, exact and proportionate were all their movements! How unlike the politicians of an hour! Their statesmanship looked beyond the passing moment, and stretched away in strength into the distant future. They seized upon eternal principles, and set a glorious example in their defense. Mark them!"

    3. "Hi folks! Would-be flag-burner Jeff Redfern here!"

    4. "I will set a different tone. I will restore civility and respect to our national politics . . . I will work with Republicans and reach out to Democrats . . . I will treat the other party with respect, and when we make progress, I will share the credit . . . I will unite our nation, not divide it. I will bring Americans together."

    - George Bush, April 2000

    5. Bush uniting the country.

    6. Believing Scooter Libby is innocent vs. believing O.J. Simpson is innocent. Discuss.

    7. Scooter Libby is free. This man is in jail.

    8. What makes America great.

    9. "The greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation."

    10. Free at last, they took your life. They could not take your pride.

    11. Outside is America.

    12. I'm a cool rockin' daddy in the U.S.A.

    13. What makes America great.

    14. Beavis & Butt-head go see fireworks.

    15. Where the days are longer, the nights are stronger than moonshine.

    16. Red, white, and blue, the future is all but past. So lift up your heart, make a new start. And lead us away from here.

    Posted by Lou at 08:56 AM | Permalink

    July 03, 2007

    The [Tuesday] Papers

    "So the Cook County state's attorney's office appropriately increased from misdemeanor to felony the charges against two men who barged out onto the playing ground at Wrigley Field in the last month," the Sun-Times editorial page inveighs today.

    "One of the men, Kevin Kleine, allegedly ran onto the field as part of a $400 bet, a stupid idea - just how stupid Kleine will soon learn. The other, Brent Kowalkoski, was barreling toward a pitcher when he was tackled by a security guard.

    "Whereas a misdemeanor count would mean a fine, the charge of felony criminal trespass to a place of amusement carries the possibility of up to three years in prison."

    Which would be 1,095 days more than Scooter Libby will do.

    - From The [Libby] Papers, in Beachwood Politics

    Daley Dose
    In separate news, Mayor Daley announced he has commuted the sentence of Robert Sorich.

    Furtive Fourth
    This sounds about right.

    "The Fourth of July is the perfect day for a Parade - of the Politically Depressed. What, you've never been to a Parade of the Politically Depressed? Never reveled with comrades about engaging, avoiding, responding to, repressing, being angry about, and wanting a lot more from politics? Here's your chance! Come barbecue your depression. Marinate it in a delicious concoction of counter-politics and collectivity. Stew in alternative emotions!

    "Feel Tank Chicago invites you to join us in numbness and jaw-dropping disbelief about the state of the world for the Fifth Annual International Parade of the Politically Depressed. Come help us make a political world that vibrates to a different tune. As part of Feel Tank Chicago's Pathogeographies Events."

    Paraders will meet outside 400 South Peoria at 2 p.m.

    No Fun Zone
    Speaking of depressed, how joyless is the Tribune?

    Let's review.

    Turning 7-11's into Kwik-E-Marts is ill-founded and Springfield, Illinois shouldn't vie to be the Simpsons Springfield. Teenagers shouldn't drive. No whoopin' and hollerin' at high school graduations. "Crush on Obama" is" not worth the time it takes to find it on YouTube." (as if!) No fireworks. Rod Beck is dead - and buried deep inside the sports section.

    Talk about Buzzkill Central. Don't invite these folks to a party.

    But then, this is the paper that no longer has its own editorial cartoonist, no longer has a political gossip column, no longer has Steve Rosenbloom's "Hit & Run," no longer has a Tempo columnist, no longer has David Greising's business column, no longer has Bernie Lincicome, no longer has a real Books section, has a terrible Sunday magazine, forgoes covering aldermanic races, buries "Tales From the Front" while in recent years adding Ask Amy, Jonah Goldberg and Dennis Byrne to its illustrious roster of kick-ass columnists like Mary Skilling Schmich and Dawn Turner Trite, is still sending reporters to the Taste of Chicago to eat as much as they can, and has a Metro section that is a random collection of mostly irrelevant stories.

    I think the phrase is tone-deaf.

    There must be a tax write-off for killing a paper on purpose.

    We the People's Bus
    In the L.A. Times.

    Literary License
    "The best part of License to Wed comes fairly late in the movie, after you haven't laughed nearly enough, after you've looked at your watch a half-dozen times, and long after you've decided you don't care about the characters, not one bit," writes Teresa Budasi in the Sun-Times.

    "It's when John Krasinski punches Robin Williams in the face."

    Best QVC Call Ever
    A man and his Dell.

    Stealth Health
    "Walgreen Ceo. Jeffrey Rein told analysts in a conference call that the drugstore giant is moving 'more toward [becoming] a health care company' rather than focusing on 'selling a particular product each day,'" the Sun-Times reports.

    Maybe they should branch out into health insurance: Wal-Care.

    CHA MIA
    "Chicago is at the midpoint of the largest public works project since World War II," Columbia University professor Sudhir Venkatesh writes on the Trib Op-Ed page today.

    Really? I thought Millennium Park was finished.

    "Mayor Daley and the Chicago Housing Authority promised residents access to the newly built 'mixed-income' developoments."

    Oh, that CHA thingie.

    "Today, as the new mixed-income communities fill up, two-thirds of the CHA families on the waiting list find their applications are being denied."

    To paraphrase Hillary Clinton, if two-thirds of any contingent of white people were being denied anything, there would be an outcry of outrage.

    "Part of the difficulty for CHA families lies in the strict criteria built into the mixed-income leases, such as mandatory drug testing and 30-hour work week requirements."

    Um, aren't a lot of families consigned to public housing because they can't get 30 hours of work a week?

    Daley Branch
    Like Dick Cheney, Richard Daley belongs to a branch of government of his own making and beyond the reach of mere mortals.

    The rest of us are on a need-to-know basis.

    ObamaCare
    Barack Obama's same-old same-old tinker at the margins health-care solution.

    Why not just expand Medicare to everyone?

    Priceless Dylan
    The payoff is at the end.

    Members Only
    "The Cheetah sells the condo-owning trixies of Bucktown overpriced gym memberships and fantasies of converting their post-baby bods into the sleek, glamorexic bodies of their sorority years when they lived in Lincoln Park."

    - Amy Ganser via e-mail to Conscious Choice

    Cubs Kiss-Off
    Tribune Co. is haunting the Cubs to the end. Trades of Jacque Jones to Florida and Minnesota have apparently been nixed (third item) because of the impending sale of the team.

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Commute yourself.

    Posted by Lou at 09:23 AM | Permalink

    What I Watched Last Night

    The past two weeks of involuntary unemployment has turned me into a surly TV watcher indeed. And quite frankly, the incessant grind has been screwing with my will and ability to write anything. When the most useful two hours of your day is reduced to arguing with yourself over whether Judge Marilyn Milian of The People's Court or Judge Maria Lopez of, um, Judge Maria Lopez is the hotter TV-judge babe, spending the other 22 hours sprawled out in an alley with a bottle of Mad Dog and a crack pipe in your lap starts looking like an attractive option.

    I'm going with Judge Milian. She's what actress Marlo Thomas would be if Marlo decided to become a really great dominatrix instead of That Girl"in 1966.

    *

    So the summer of my discontent continued last night with the airing of Eddie Murphy Raw on Bravo. I spent the whole time identifying with TV viewers in whatever provinces are still under control of the Taliban because Bravo decided to silent-bleep all the cuss words, thereby diluting Eddie into a big ol' comedy eunuch.

    Silent bleeping. You know, the same crap FM radio has been pulling the past few years where, instead of hearing that annoying bleeeeeeep that makes every episode of The Jerry Springer Show so intolerable, the vocal track drops out juuuuust enough to still let us know that Avril Lavigne's a motherfucking princess in "Girlfriend," Gwen Stefani's shit is bananas in "Hollaback Girl," and Alanis Morissette's old boyfriend is still probably thinking of her while he's fucking someone else to "You Ought To Know" for the zillion billionth time.

    Jeez, you'd think that with all his fame and wealth, Eddie could stop such nonsense from happening. But then again, maybe Eddie's bank account is a little light from all the cash it took to dry-clean the underarm stink out of the leather suits he wore bare-chested onstage.

    At any rate, I'm a good lip-reader, so Raw was still pretty funny despite Bravo's best efforts to spoil the party. It's probably the one film every straight man on the planet wishes every woman on the planet would see because it explains men so well. But then again, it's probably the one film every straight man on the planet wishes no woman on the planet would ever see because it explains men so well.

    *

    Meanwhile, Hell's Kitchen has - this week and last - reached that same mid-series plateau that American Idol reaches once all the wretched refuse has been booted off the show, leaving us better left to doze off until the final week or two. Adding insult injury, FOX has taken to blurring out Gordon James Ramsay's mouth in the hope that - oh, I dunno, the Amish, maybe? - won't be able to decipher all the choice profanity. Ramsay might be bombastic, but his verbal ass-whippings are still the only reason to tune in because, quite frankly, cheftestant Rock is the only one of the bunch who seems to know his ass from a hole in the ground.

    In last night's episode, teams Red and Blue were left to create a stupendous wedding-night dinner for some hapless couple who could only have been the call-in winners of some morning-zoo radio show, and Ramsay became an even bigger shill for the Green Valley Ranch Resort by giving the couple a honeymoon weekend there. I'm not sure if it's a trend, but Ramsay couldn't seem to scrounge up the balls to dispatch Red Team head bitch Melissa or somehow point out that the massive pimple, soul patch, or dead spider that's sprouted under her lower lip over the past week is no less hygienic than her unkempt mop of witchy-ass hair hanging over whatever food she's forever ruining.

    Listen, when Bravo's Top Chef: Miami starts becoming considerably more interesting than Hell's Kitchen, it's time for someone to piss off and get the fuck out of our kitchen.

    *

    Memorable Dr. Phil quote previewing an upcoming show about twin-sister heroin addicts:

    "That's one skanky-looking crack whore."

    *

    Good try, Phil, but you'll never be able to top last Thursday afternoon's Springer episode, "I'm Happy I Cut Off My Legs," featuring a transsexual who power-sawed off his/her own legs because he/she didn't want them anymore. Skanky-looking crack whores come and go, but they can't carry a show like a legless tranny arguing with a human torso.

    *

    In an early-morning episode this morning of The Andy Griffith Show, Helen Crump is being run out of town on a rail for being a gangster's moll in college. Or flag burning. Or something. How anyone in this country was able to dig up dirt on anyone before the Internet and Google were invented is beyond me.

    The episode also illustrated that The Andy Griffith Show did not jump the shark when it turned into Mayberry RFD. It was when Howard Sprague came to town, turned everyone all Technicolor, and widespread lameness followed.

    By the way, The Andy Griffith Show theme song (actual title: "The Fishin' Hole") originally did have lyrics, but they were never used. You can find them here. Put them to music the next time you're bored. Or stoned. Or something. Because for the life of me, I sure can't match 'em to the whistling.

    *

    Commercial seen on Bravo: How many Australians on TV does it take to screw in an Uncle Fester light bulb?

    *

    Can't get enough? Check out the What I Watched Last Night archives.

    Posted by Lou at 08:20 AM | Permalink

    The [Libby] Papers

    "So the Cook County state's attorney's office appropriately increased from misdemeanor to felony the charges against two men who barged out onto the playing ground at Wrigley Field in the last month," the Sun-Times editorial page inveighs today.

    "One of the men, Kevin Kleine, allegedly ran onto the field as part of a $400 bet, a stupid idea - just how stupid Kleine will soon learn. The other, Brent Kowalkoski, was barreling toward a pitcher when he was tackled by a security guard.

    "Whereas a misdemeanor count would mean a fine, the charge of felony criminal trespass to a place of amusement carries the possibility of up to three years in prison."

    Which is 1,095 days more than Scooter Libby will do.

    Pardon?
    The "playing ground"? Who wrote this, Steinberg?

    Story Commuted
    The Sun-Times did not produce an editorial on the Libby commutation, unlike the Tribune and most other adult newspapers around the country (The New York Times's called theirs "Soft on Crime.")

    But then, the Sun-Times didn't take much interest in one of the landmark news stories of the Bush Administration elsewhere in its pages either.

    Its front page merely referred to a column inside by Robert Novak - you know, one of the major players in the Libby affair.

    And in that column, Novak continues to spin readers from the truth.

    "The unique aspect of the Libby conviction was that there was no underlying crime whose prosecution he is accused of obstructing," Novak writes.

    "[Special prosecutor Patrick] Fitzgerald determined that no federal statute was broken when then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage revealed that Valerie Plame Wilson, the wife of Bush critic Joseph Wilson, worked for the CIA."

    A nice bit of flim-flam, but wholly disingenuous.

    "'It was clear from very early in the investigation that Ms. Wilson qualified under the relevant statute' - the Intelligence Identities Act - 'as a covert agent whose identity had been disclosed by public officials, including Mr. Libby, to the press,' Fitzgerald wrote in a sentencing memorandum filed late last Friday night," according to Newsweek.

    "Libby's trial earlier this year established that at least three other Bush administration officials - former deputy secretary of State Richard Armitage, White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove and former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer (who testified under a grant of immunity) - also disclosed information about Valerie Wilson's identity to journalists. But Fitzgerald contends that Libby's disclosures - primarily to New York Times reporter Judith Miller - were made 'deliberately and for the purpose for influencing media coverage of the public debate concerning intelligence leading to the war in Iraq' and, according to Libby's own testimony, 'may have been sanctioned by the Vice President.'

    "Moreover, while Libby denied ever knowing that Valerie Wilson was a covert agent (and prosecutors never introduced any evidence that he had) 'other evidence obtained by the grand jury indicated that defendant learned that Ms. Wilson worked at the CIA from multiple government officials under circumstances that, at a bare minimum, warranted inquiry before the information was publicly disseminated . . . Fitzgerald elsewhere asserts that Libby 'lied repeatedly and blatantly about matters at the heart of a criminal investigation.'"

    And why did Libby lie? To cover up the facts of the underlying crime - successfully it turns out. Hence, no charges beyond Fitzgerald's aspersion that there is a "dark cloud" over the vice president's office.

    The facts are clear.

    "But within the C.I.A., the exposure of Ms. Plame is now considered an even greater instance of treachery. Ms. Plame, a specialist in nonconventional weapons who worked overseas, had 'nonofficial cover,' and was what in C.I.A. parlance is called a Noc, the most difficult kind of false identity for the agency to create" The New York Times reported in 2003.

    "We're talking about a criminal action, but also hopefully will help set a clear signal we expect other leaks to stop, as well. And so I look forward to finding the truth," President Bush said a day later.

    But the Sun-Times does not want you to know this. It placed Novak's column on page 21, next to a shorter AP report about the commutation - a report calling the president's decision "a political thunderbolt." But not one worth paying attention to.

    Tribby Libby
    The Tribune, by contrast, produced its own Libby story for page one, devoted nearly two full pages inside to covering the story, and turned out an editorial ("Do the Crime, Do the Time")criticizing the commutation.

    The Trib edit notes that "Jurors convicted [Libby] of two counts of perjury, one count of obstructing justice, and one count of making false statements about when and how he learned of Plame's identity, as well as what he told Washington journalists about her."

    In other words, Libby did a heroic job stonewalling for the Administration - and now has gotten away with it. Bravo!

    The Trib edit makes its own errors, though. "Most of us are blessedly in the process of forgetting the saga that erupted around one-time CIA operative Valerie Plame, whose name surfaced in the public prints in 2003," the paper says.

    Yes, let's just forget the whole thing! Too complicated!

    "That case meandered far from its origins; no one was ever charged with the leak."

    The case didn't meander anywhere; no one was charged with originating the leak because Libby wouldn't give up the goods. That's how we got to where we are today. Why is that so hard to understand?

    Rudy 9/11
    Among the Republican presidential contenders failing to grasp the facts is former federal prosecutor Rudy Giuliani.

    "I mean, the sentence was grossly excessive in a situation in which, at the beginning, the prosecutor knew who the leaker was, and he knew a crime wasn't committed," Giuliani has said.

    Violation of the statute in question requires the leaker to have knowingly revealed an agent's covert status. For all we know, Dick Cheney told Libby et. al. That Plame wasn't undercover and the boys ran with it. If Fitzgerald could have made a charge, he would have. Libby stood in his way.

    Cowardly President
    "Bush said in a statement late Monday afternoon after he had left his family's summer home [in Kennebunkport] and a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin," the Trib reports. "That ensured that Bush would face no immediate questions from reporters."

    Inspired, Putin returned home to issue commutations of his own. "This thing you call democracy - it works better than I thought. Now, tell me more about capitalism . . . "

    Quote Machines
    "Even Paris Hilton had to go to jail."

    - Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin

    "I call for all Americans to flood the White House with phone calls . . . expressing their outrage over this blatant disregard for the rule of law."

    - Delaware Sen. Joe Biden

    Contact the White House
    Comments: 202-456-1111
    Switchboard: 202-456-1414
    FAX: 202-456-2461

    TTY/TDD
    Comments: 202-456-6213
    Visitors Office: 202-456-2121

    E-Mail: Please send your comments to comments@whitehouse.gov. Due to the large volume of e-mail received, the White House cannot respond to every message. For further up-to-date information on Presidential initiatives, current events, and topics of interest to you, please continue to use the White House website.

    Vice President Richard Cheney: vice_president@whitehouse.gov

    Counter Quote
    "By acting here, [Bush] is showing to conservatives the kind of leadership that made conservatives loyal to Bush once and could make them loyal once more."

    - Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol

    More commutations!

    From Fitzgerald
    "We fully recognize that the Constitution provides that commutation decisions are a matter of presidential prerogative and we do not comment on the exercise of that prerogative.

    "We comment only on the statement in which the President termed the sentence imposed by the judge as 'excessive.' The sentence in this case was imposed pursuant to the laws governing sentencings which occur every day throughout this country.

    "In this case, an experienced federal judge considered extensive argument from the parties and then imposed a sentence consistent with the applicable laws. It is fundamental to the rule of law that all citizens stand before the bar of justice as equals. That principle guided the judge during both the trial and the sentencing.

    "Although the President's decision eliminates Mr. Libby's sentence of imprisonment, Mr. Libby remains convicted by a jury of serious felonies, and we will continue to seek to preserve those convictions through the appeals process."

    Posted by Lou at 08:00 AM | Permalink

    Great Pyramids Mystery Solved Again

    The following press release about the development and movement of the great pyramids may be of interest to your audience. Any editorial comment or mention that you may give this press release would be greatly appreciated.

    - - -

    TEXAS MEGA-MOVER DIRECTS THE WORLD TOWARD ANCIENT PYRAMID TRUTHS

    Dateline: June 29, 2007 . . . Houston, TX
    Contact: Theodore L. (Ted) Whidden
    Phone: (850) 685-2353
    E-Mail: TedWhidden@PHDService.com
    Web Address: www.SolomonSeries.com

    HOUSTON, TX - June 29, 2007 - Texas "Mega-mover" (Heavy lift consultant) provides an explanation for construction, rock movements, and development of the Great Pyramid from top to bottom with all questions answered. Common myths, legends, and lore concerning Khufu/Cheops Pyramid of Egypt are debunked by simple, straight forward look at the real evidence at hand. By addressing the project as if it can be done with assets and resources on the site, while applying a little conventional wisdom, a research team solves several mysteries.

    Often when a person looks at an "impossible" task with a mystic perspective, they are sure to remain stumped for generations. Since no one has known either "How or Why" the pyramids were built prior to now, maybe we have missed a trick in the study of the ancients? All too often our theories are built on assumptions and shifting sands of the desert, rather than a well grounded foundation. Builders, engineers, and the mechanically inclined will be thrilled with reasonable resolution to pyramid construction.

    In a no-cost eBook series (currently in three volumes) a Texas "Heavy Lift" consultant proceeds step-by-step through the mechanical workings, technology and evidence found on site today at the Great Pyramid site in Giza/Gizeh, Egypt. The author provides not only clear evidence at hand concerning the build-up, Whidden provides an analytical approach to the forensics remaining on the site today to show the demise and destruction process of time. Rock solid proofs are left for us by the builders. The results are amazing, with all the mechanical and analytical information and tools to prove how and why the structure was placed on the site. The book is released at the website www.SolomonSeries.com under the name, The Solomon Series: Great Pyramid Mystery Resolved. It is being made available at no cost so that educational institutions and "thinking" people can freely access the truth.

    The author of the book, Captain Theodore L. (Ted) Whidden, addresses and debunks legend, lore, myth, and theory, by assessing the foundational issues of past claims. By finding and addressing the holes in the theories of the past, the reader is left with the truth of the past, present, and future. Whidden's analysis is so precise that he foretells what explorers will find, where they will find it, and how. By destroying myth of the past we find the truth for today. Even the most recent "spiral ramp theory" from French architect Houdin/Houdini is addressed for its merits or lack of merit. Knowing the truth will indeed set you free.

    While studying ancient texts for archaeological purposes in ancient Egypt, the research team found stumbling blocks steeped in traditions. The collaboration of dozens of scientists in this project we find that ancient studies of history, science and religion are somewhat muddled by assumptions. Actual research in the desert actually reveals more to us than one could ever imagine.

    Environmental shifts on/near the site play a powerful role in understanding "warming" trends believed to exist in our environment today (Global warming?). Within upcoming volumes Whidden will reveal some incredible 3-D models at no cost to demonstrate with electronic modeling how the changes affected technology and shifts in science of the time.

    About the Author:

    The discovery is being unearthed online at no charge in an electronic book (PDF file), available at www.SolomonSeries.com The author, an oil and gas consultant on "Mega-moves" with a marine environment background, took part in this study while on assignment in Egypt conducting projects for marine consulting issues in the offshore oil industry. His exploration and mobilization experience in the offshore oil fields gave him a unique perspective on resources not presently seen on the Giza Plateau site, but in abundance when one understands three simple things: Limestone, Sand, and Water. Equipped with a transportation degree (USMMA, Kings Point 1985), a risk management (loss investigation) background, an MBA (From the University of Houston) to cover the economic issues, and while working on a Doctorate in the study of Ancient Texts, and with support from friends at www.PHDPetro.com the author/teacher Captain Theodore L. (Ted) Whidden reveals how the environment and building techniques shifted during a drought period of biblical proportions.

    *

    Other news that may be of interest to our readers:
    * Genesis Limousine Purchased.
    * Awesome Amplitude Range.
    * Left Lane Drivers Unite!
    * Excessive Teen Showering Solved.
    * Perpetual Motion Breakthrough!
    * One Giant Step for Fishkind.
    * Spoonmantics.
    * College Kid Proves Creation.
    * Foolin' Fish Spray.

    Posted by Lou at 12:27 AM | Permalink

    July 02, 2007

    The [Monday] Papers

    Barack Obama - taking the money out of politics.

    Bandwagon Blues
    The Cubs Bandwagon Starter Kit.

    Best Movie Promotion Ever
    How cool is this?

    Kwik-E-Mart
    How can you not love Wikipedia?

    Springfield Shoppers
    Better newspapers than the ones we have would've jumped all over this. Buzz cola and Krusty-O's started appearing at my corner 7-11 a week ago.

    I mean, c'mon!

    It gets better.

    Air Daley
    "Mayor Daley is piling up the frequent-flier miles," Fran Spielman reports. "He has taken 67 out-of-town trips since January 2004 - nearly half of them entirely or partly funded by Chicago taxpayers, records show.

    "The cost of Daley's travel is not known. In response to a Freedom of Information request, the mayor's office said it does not maintain records on trips 'not funded by the city' and it would take too long to compile bills from taxpayer-funded trips."

    Right. That's the old It Would Take Too Long To Compile Bills From Taxpayer-Funded Trips Exemption.

    Why not just say the mayor does not believe in freedom of information?

    "Nor would aides disclose how many staffers and bodyguards accompanied Daley on each trip, citing security concerns."

    Besides, it would take too long to add up.

    This, by the way, is the second Spielman story that I recall in recent weeks based on a Freedom of Information Act request. And the Cubs are winning. Did I wake up in an alternate universe?

    Holiday Classics
    * BBQ Talking Points.

    * 13 Anthems.

    And summer classics:

    * Postcard Pablum: The Failure of Millennium Park.

    * Bean: A Love Story.

    * The Human Bean and the City.

    Hate Complaint
    You don't have to agree with the existence of hate crimes statutes to write about them, but you oughta know how they work before parading yourself to the public as someone with insight, like Kathleen Parker so often and misguidingly does.

    Money Honey
    Tavis Smiley and other guests on Meet the Press yesterday agreed that while Obama is spending nearly every waking hour raising money, Hillary is beating the stuffing out of him on substance - most recently at the Smiley-moderated "All-American Presidential Forum."

    Mary Mitchell agrees. Twice.

    Focus Pocus
    Smiley said that even members of a focus group who came into the debate supporting Obama left saying Hillary had won. I'm not supporting/endorsing/voting for Hillary; I'm just noting once again the disconnect between the tenor of the media coverage and reality.

    Fireworks Foes
    "Ninety-nine successive years have we set aside one whole day for killing small boys, putting out eyes, rending limbs [and] scaring horses . . . as a glorification and symbol of the American idea of freedom."

    - A July 4, 1875 Tribune editorial cited in yesterday's Sunday magazine

    Geez, even back then the Trib was joyless.

    Reagan Romance
    "People continue to be fascinated by Reagan," the Trib's Julia Keller writes. "There's no explaining it - except, perhaps, by Richard Reeves, who writes of Reagan: 'He knew how to be president.' Such a simple but profound sentence."

    Really? He knew how to trade arms for hostages and mine Nicaraguan harbors and create an exploding and unprecedented deficit and preside over the death of American manufacturing and ignore AIDS and make fun of poor, homeless, and hungry people and blow up Marines in Lebanon and go to Bitburg and appoint indictable Cabinet officials and let his schedule be set by an astrologist?

    Reminds me of the 1996 Democratic National Convention, when I was doing a lot of reporting for Newsweek and found myself at a dinner seated near then-national editor Jon Meacham, who is now the magazine's editor. Meacham much preferred Reagan to Clinton, explaining that Reagan "just seemed like he was the president."

    Yes. That's what public relations is good at - making things "seem."

    Just like some folks "seem" to be journalists.

    Pumpkinhead
    I'm not sure who exactly constitutes the "ubiquitous purity police" that Greg Kot refers to, but maybe music fans are just looking for a little more truth and a lot less greed from their favorite bands.

    After all, as Kot says, the new Smashing Pumpkins lineup "hardly constitutes a true reunion. It feeds the perception that Corgan has done little more than revive a once-lucrative brand, not an actual band."

    I never liked them anyway, and with Corgan playing all the instruments except drums in the studio, they were never an actual band to begin with. But for those to whom the Pumpkins meant something . . . well, let's just say that if we can't preserve oases of integrity around the things we most believe in in a world of people trying to rip us off at every turn, then what's the point? Can nothing be sacred? Not even rock and roll?

    Sick Bed
    A University of Chicago Medical Center emergency room doctor and Department of Medicine faculty member writes in The Washington Post:

    "It's honest to say that most poor people - not just those from communities of color - suffer from inadequate or nonexistent care. But I've found that decisions that seem race-neutral at face value can systematically hurt such groups. These decisions create racial disparities in health care that go beyond what can be explained by class alone. The challenge presented by that emergency case at 4 a.m. was determined by the earlier decision not to require physicians to provide care at both hospitals. The difference in care between these two facilities went beyond just a single car-accident victim and wounded the entire community that Hospital A was supposed to serve.

    "These are the kinds of systemic problems that lead to widespread racial disparities in health. Consider the medical picture for my black male peers. According to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, black men are the least healthy ethnic group in the United States. Their death rate (1,282 per 100,000 in 2004) outstrips that of all other ethnic groups, including non-Hispanic whites, 949; Native Americans, 750.2; Hispanics, 702.7; and Asians, 534.1. Black men also have higher rates of heart disease, HIV/AIDS and certain kinds of cancer, including prostate, lung and colon.

    "Such statistics send a larger message about medical care and race: The lack of equity seen in wealth, income, education and insurance has considerable impact on health."

    Primary Colors
    Isn't Illinois moving up its primary date to help Barack Obama's candidacy a sort of cynical move that, like big-dollar politics, represents the enemy?

    "Calls placed to Obama's Chicago campaign office went unreturned this week."

    Is there anything about Obama's campaign that represents a new kind of politics?

    Homer Hawks
    Teams should not hire their own broadcasters.

    After all, they don't hire the beat reporters who cover them. Let teams hire players and TV stations hire announcers. Is that so hard?

    The Beachwood Tip Line: Holiday hours.

    Posted by Lou at 08:15 AM | Permalink

    Reviewing the Reviews

    June 30 - July 1.

    Publication: Sun-Times

    Cover: Well, the bikini'd woman's arching body with the head of a shellfish certainly caught my attention. For a review of Joyce Carol Oates' The Gravedigger's Daughter. Secondary cover review: "Gallows Humor Falls Flat: Argentina's Dirty War not the place for the author's metaphysical hijinks." I should think not.

    Other News & Reviews of Note: Not really.

    *

    Publication: Tribune

    Cover:: "Kerouac's Back." Gee, I hardly had time to miss him. Maybe he should go away for longer next time.

    Other News & Reviews of Note: None.

    *

    Publication: The New York Times

    Cover: Not unappealing artwork of a woman lazing on an idyllic and - when you think about it - oddly lush Iowa farm. For a review of Little Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression.

    Other News & Reviews of Note: Richard Dawkins destroys intelligent design guru Michael Behe's The Edge of Evolution.

    Also: Jonathan Freedland takes up Marcus Mabry's biography of Condoleeza Rice and comes up as frustrated as everyone else in the impenetrability of the subject. One thing I have learned about inscrutable people is that far from holding secret wisdom or poetic intrigue or unseen motivation deep inside themselves, instead there is, as someone once said to me, less there than meets the eye. They are impenetrable simply because there is nothing to penetrate. My bet is that Condoleeze Rice is just as she appears on the surface; we're more probing of who she really is than she is introspective and self-reflective. And that makes her a perfect fit for work wife of George W. Bush.

    Notable "The former arms inspector David Kay calls her the worst national security adviser since the office was created, and the verdict seems harsh but not wholly unwarranted," Freedland writes.

    Finally: "Caught shopping for shoes in New York as the corpses floated in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, Rice explained that 'I don't think about my role as a visible African-American national figure. I just don't think about it.'"

    *

    Publication: New York Review of Books

    Cover: John Updike's review of Richard Serra Sculpture: Forty Years gets top billing.

    Other News & Reviews of Note: Michael Tomasky takes his crack at this summer's pair of Hillary Clinton biographies

    "A Woman in Charge and Her Way - the former sometimes by intent, the latter almost always inadvertently - tell us less about Mrs. Clinton than they do about the political and journalistic cultures that allowed hysteria about the Clintons to thrive," Tomasky concludes.

    The real story of "the years wasted because of nasty and largely baseless attacks on the Clintons" is the vast right-wing propaganda machine that found a willing partner in a salacioius and insecure mainstream media that has yet to take responsibility for it's malfeasance; a media that turned around to aid and abet an administration's deceptive march to a disastrous war. And yet, the media still focuses on Hillary like a creature from the deep, even as many in her own party have internalized the critiques of crazy people.

    What is this obsession?

    "Like mosquitoes on the Tidal Basin, books about Hillary Clinton arrive seasonally and in profusion," Tomasky writes.

    Notable: "At graduation, she delivered the student commencement address, the first in the school's history - 'it was clear who the student speaker would be,' Bernstein writes - during which she famously reproved the official commencement speaker, Massachusetts Senator Edward Brooke, for seeming to defend the Vietnam War and failing to appreciate her generation's search for 'more immediate, ecstatic, and penetrating modes of living.' She chose Yale for law school, in part because a Harvard professor told her 'we don't need any more women at Harvard.'"

    And: "Hillary did not change her belief that it would be difficult to change things from the outside," i.e., outside the conventional political system. And Bernstein observes that while she did lead campaigns for such reforms at Wellesley as permitting antiwar activities in campus facilities and rescinding the skirt rule, she was more drawn to meeting than marching:

    One of Hillary's strengths as a leader, still evident today, was her willingness to participate in the drudgery of government rather than simply direct policy from Olympian heights. She attended committee meetings, became involved in the minutiae (of finding a better system for the return of library books, for instance), and studied every aspect of the Wellesley curriculum in developing a successful plan to reduce the number of required courses.

    "All of this should sound familiar to observers of Clinton's cautious and diligent Senate career."

    And a helluva lot better than Condi Rice. And more impressive than Barack Obama's conciliatory Harvard Law Review editorship and coasting through the Illinois legislature.

    Also: "With the benefit, now, of a few years' historical hindsight, both books might have done more to survey the huge changes in journalism and politics that took place in the 1990s and give readers something that reads more like the first draft of history than the second draft of journalism." Tomasky writes.

    Yet: "Gerth and Van Natta also discuss, notably, her vote for the war in Iraq, and here, they finally circle in on an inconvenient truth. Senator Clinton has not denied their assertion that she failed to read the full classified version of the National Intelligence Estimate from the fall of 2002, a document that cast some doubt on the administration's statements that Saddam Hussein had or was about to produce weapons of mass destruction. The authors state that only six senators read the NIE, a claim that is not hard to believe.

    "But if one were told that six senators did so and were asked to guess which six, one might well speculate that the good Wellesley girl who bothered to involve herself in the minutiae of determining a better method for returning library books would have been among them. If it is true that she did not, we can reasonably conjecture that this was because she had already made up her mind to vote to authorize war, wanting to cast a 'tough' defense vote in preparation for her 2008 presidential run; any evidence that might have interfered with that vote was to be set aside."

    Finally: "It's Gerth and Van Natta who are the real cynics, and they are all too representative of the political and journalistic cultures that have spent most of the past decade telling citizens that failure to admit an affair was an impeachable offense while a war launched on cooked intelligence was the only patriotic course of action. It is a way of thinking that would seem absurd if it hadn't done so much damage."

    Posted by Lou at 06:41 AM | Permalink

    The Cub Factor

    Let's get one thing straight right off the bat: The Cubs are on a roll. They are hot. They are on fire. They are on a roll that got hot and is now on fire. Sure, they are still 6 1/2 back of the (still in) first place Milwaukee Brewers, and they are only now a .500 team, but the Cub Chill Factor qualifies that as "hot" and "on fire." It means they are "in it."

    So we here at The Cub Factor would like to help some of you out. While it's well-known that the Cubs have quite a loyal following, it is also well-known that more than a few Cub fans don't know a damn thing about the actual team, like, for example, the fact that Sammy Sosa no longer plays for it. So as the Cub bandwagon begins to gather momentum this season, here are some things you can say at the water cooler at work or at that 4th of July barbeque to prove you know what you are talking about and have been on board since day one of the season. Let's call it the Cub Factor Bandwagon Starter Kit.

    * You never liked Michael Barrett.

    * You never liked Dusty Baker.

    * Mike Fontenot and Ryan Theriot played together at LSU - and you've been following them ever since.

    * Use this analogy: If the Cubs were a car engine Ryan Theriot, Mike Fontenot, Felix Pie, and Angel Pagan would be the spark plugs. Jacques Jones would be that extra cup holder that you don't use.

    * "Koyie's my boy-ee!"

    * The Cubs' closer-of-the-future used to be Angel Guzman. Now it's Carlos Marmol. Next year it will be Ryan Dempster.

    * Talking point: Sweet Lou sure pounds Jim Hendry's square peg of a roster into the round hole of a starting lineup every day.

    * "Big Z!"

    * Steve Stone no longer broadcasts the team's games with a relative of Harry Caray. The new announcers are Len Kasper and Bob Brenly.

    * You were there the day Ditka sang the seventh-inning stretch.

    * When you throw garbage onto the field from the bleachers, you can almost reach second base.

    * Segue: You can name all five Cubs who have played second base this season (write their names on the inside of your forearm).

    * Kerry Wood might be back before the end of the season. Awesome!

    * Yes, you read The Cub Factor in The Beachwood Reporter. It's funny, but way too negative.

    -

    Week in Review: The Cubs went 5-1, sweeping the Colorado Rockies and taking two of three from the (still in) first place Milwaukee Brewers. They are now at .500 and made up only one game on the Brewers. So the old man driving the bandwagon to first place is finally driving in the right direction, but there's a much faster bandwagon already a couple mile-markers ahead. This could take a while.

    Week in Preview: The Cubs go on the road for seven games in what might be the easiest road trip in the history of human existence. Four games in Washington against the horrendous Nationals and three in Pittsburgh against a not-so-good Pirate team. Looks like a chance to gain ground on the Brew Crew - except that the Brewers have their own seven-game road trip on tap: They go to Pittsburgh to play four against a not-so-good Pirate team and then go to Washington to play three against the horrendous Nationals.

    The Second Basemen Report: Last week we thought The Second Basemen Report might become a moot point as the season progressed as Mike Fontenot started the entire week at second. But fear not good readers. Fontenot split time with Mark DeRosa this week, each playing three games at second. See, it's kind of like a platoon except who's pitching doesn't really matter that much, so it's not really a platoon in classic baseball vernacular but in military speak it is a platoon because a platoon is a bunch of guys that are trying to all get the same thing done which in this case is play second base. So yeah, it's platoonish.

    In former second basemen news, Rey Sanchez last played second base for the Cubs in 1997. Since then Rey played seasons or parts of seasons with the Yankees, Giants, Royals, Braves, Red Sox, Mets, Mariners, Devil Rays, and then back with the Yankees where he last played in the majors in 2005. That's a lot of jerseys for Rey Sanchez fans to collect. He is missed.

    Sweet and Sour Lou: 71% sweet and 29% sour. Lou is up 8 points this week on the Sweet-O-Meter due to solid play, improbable comebacks, and no media criticism. Like your real crazy drunk uncle, Lou likes it when the beer is cold, his lawn is green, and his old lady isn't giving him guff about taking his heart medication. But even Lou knows this can't last forever so it's even sweeter when the good times roll.

    Beachwood Sabermetrics: A complex algorithm performed by the The Cub Factor staff using all historical data made available by Major League Baseball has determined that no team 6.5 games out of first place is in first place.

    Over/Under: The amount of experts who think the Cubs can make the playoffs: +/- all of them.

    The Cub Factor: Catch up with them all.

    Mount Lou: Lou continues to stay at green as winning baseball has completely cooled Lou's inner core. Siesmologists expect no significant boiling in the upcoming week to churn inner anger lava. Even stupid questions will not affect Mount Lou magma at this point. But be wary, the eruption season is not over.

    mtlou_green.gif

    Posted by Lou at 05:16 AM | Permalink

    MUSIC - Smells like tech spirit.
    TV - It's A So-Called Wonderful Life.
    POLITICS - Inside Obama's internal report.
    SPORTS - Down the Bears memory hole.

    BOOKS - Beachwood's best books of the year.

    PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Australia 2008 in Review.

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