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« September 2007 | Main | November 2007 »

October 31, 2007

The [Wednesday] Papers

Please take some time today to analyze how evil we here at the Beachwood are, as well as the presidential candidates, state and local officeholders, and various corporate media entities.

Haunts
* Haunted Chicago.

* Haunted Illinois.

* Haunting us.

* Haunted America.

Haunting Me
How beautiful this New York Times essay about My So-Called Life is.

Haunted Backyards
The city's animal control unit will no longer deliver animal traps to citizens plagued with feral creatures like cats and bats.

Instead, Chicagoans will now have to call "a private wildlife service."

Gee, I wonder which one of the mayor's friends owns a business like that.

*

Ald. Fredrenna Lyle (6th) isn't happy. "I have a small dog. [An opossum] came out in my backyard and they had a Mexican standoff."

I'm sorry, I'm not familiar with that term.

*

Is an opossum the opposite of a possum?

Haunted Cops
The latest clues as to how big the Special Operations Section scandal at the Chicago Police Department is.

"Accused corrupt cop Jerome Finnigan is co-operating with federal authorities in an attempt to 'get someone bigger than himself,' law enforcement sources said Monday," Frank Main and Carol Marin reported in the Sun-Times on Tuesday.

"At least a dozen cops have been granted immunity for their testimony, sources say," Main and Marin report.

"Finnigan and his co-defendants have promoted more than a dozen lawsuits alleging they abused citizens' civil rights. The city is systematically trying to settle those cases, records show."

As noted in this week's Periodical Table, Chicago's latest out of police corruption is making news worldwide.

Haunted Hall
Remember?

Haunted House
Speaking of our international reputation, the ghost of Gerald Ford weighs in:

"When Clinton left office . . . Ford was scornful of his last-minute pardons, except for that given to Chicago's Dan Rostenkowski, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, who had been convicted in the House Post Office scandal.

"Said Ford: 'Danny's problem was that he played precisely under the rules of the city of Chicago. Now, those aren't the same rules that that any other place in the world lives by, but in Chicago, they were totally legal, and Danny got a screwing, and I was pleased that Clinton granted it.'"

*

On the other hand, I've always rejected that formulation. If those were the rules we lived by in Chicago, we wouldn't keep sending so many pols to jail for violating them. Let's not confuse the prevalence of The Chicago Way with its acceptability.

County Job Fair
"Last year, Jim Dasakis campaigned for a Cook County Board seat on a promise to 'eliminate do-nothing jobs' and 'enforce quality hiring' in county government," Steve Patterson reports in the Sun-Times this morning.

"Now, the Hanover Township Democratic committeeman has been hired by board president Todd Stroger for a job that's been vacant for four years."

This would only make sense if the Dasakis's new job was to enforce quality hiring. Something tells me it's not.

"Dasakis . . . said his job includes 'a bunch of different tasks.'"

In fact, records show his title will be Director of A Bunch of Different Tasks.

"He's among a few Democratic Party bosses who've been added to the county payroll in recent weeks - including Maywood Mayor Henderson Yarbrough, who's now a supervisor for Clerk of the Circuit Court Dorothy Brown.

"Brown would not say what she's paying Yarbrough, but said he oversees criminal records in an upper-management job that she personally filled and that she expects him to provide 'great service' ro her office."

Um, Dorothy, the salaries of public employees are, um, public.

*

Wait, is this the same Dorothy Brown who ran against the mayor and his secretive, corrupt patronage ways?

*

"It's a shame that the only train running on time in Cook County is Todd Stroger's gravy train," County Commissioner Tim Schneider said.

Haunted Bears
Just catching up with Lino Canalia's letter to the Tribune sports editor last Saturday (sixth item):

"I got a chuckle out of David Haugh's article telling us that the Bears have over 1,000 plays in their playbook and they reduce it to 200 for any given game. As a Bears season ticket-holder since 1949, I don't think they've run over 100 different plays in my lifetime."

Haunted Studio
Chicago Tonight is the last place you'd ever expect to hear someone drop the F-bomb," Robert Feder writes (second item). "But that's what viewers of the public television news show heard from an unidentified voice in the background on Window to the World Communications' WTTW-Channel 11.

"Host Phil Ponce apologized at the end of Thursday's show and promised the audience it would 'never happen again.'

Don't be such a tease, Feder, tell us the whole thing! I mean, was it a "Fucking Daley!" or just a "Fuck, my camera lens is still on!"?

The Beachwood Tip Line: Better than candy.

Posted by Lou at 08:58 AM | Permalink

Mystery Debate Theater 2007

Once again the Beachwood Mystery Debate Theater team of Tim Willette, Andrew Kingsford and Steve Rhodes gathered at Beachwood HQ for a night of revelry and disgust as the Democratic candidates for president spun their little lies and deployed cute laugh lines written for them by their highly-paid advisors. This debate was carried out mostly in a continual monotone; Mike Gravel was not allowed to participate because he was deemed to have an insufficient chance of emerging as the party's nominee, as if Bill Richardson, Joe Biden or Chris Dodd will be heading the ticket. Gravel was missed.

Here is a transcript of the proceedings edited for clarity, wit, length and sanity. Please note the late arrival of Mr. Kingsford, and his lame choice of convenience store snackery.

*

CO-MODERATOR BRIAN WILLIAMS: Senator Obama, we'll begin with you. You gave an interview to The New York Times over the weekend pledging in it to be more aggressive, to be tougher in your campaign against your chief rival for the nomination, the leader among Democrats so far, Senator Clinton, who is here next to you tonight.

Specifically, what are the issues where you, Senator Obama, and Senator Clinton have differed, where you think she has sounded or voted like a Republican?

OBAMA: Well, first of all, I think some of this stuff gets overhyped. In fact, I think this has been the most hyped fight since Rocky fought Apollo Creed, although the amazing thing is I'm Rocky in this situation. (Laughter.)

STEVE: Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Stop, you're killing me.

OBAMA (in a steady monotone): But look, we have big challenges. We're at war. The country is struggling with issues like rising health care. We've got major global challenges like climate change. And that's going to require big meaningful change, and I'm running for president because I think that the way to bring about that change is to offer some sharp contrasts with the other party. I think it means that we bring people together to get things done. I think it means that we push against the special interests that are holding us back, and most importantly, I think it requires us to be honest about the challenges that we face.

TIM: My God, someone hold him back.

*

CLINTON: I don't think the Republicans got the message that I'm voting and sounding like them. If you watched their debate last week, I seemed to be the topic of great conversation and consternation, and that's for a reason, because I have stood against George Bush and his failed policies.

They want to continue the war in Iraq; I want to end it. The Republicans are waving their sabers and talking about going after Iran. I want to prevent a rush to war.

TIM: At the very least, if we invade Iran we should do it with more than sabers.

CO-MODERATOR TIM RUSSERT: Senator Edwards . . .

TIM: Who?

RUSSERT: You issued a press release, your campaign, and the headline is "Edwards to Clinton: American People Deserve the Truth, Not More Double-Talk on Iran." What double-talk are you suggesting that Senator Clinton's been engaging in on Iran?

EDWARDS: She says she'll stand up to George Bush on Iran. She just said it again. And in fact, she voted to give George Bush the first step in moving militarily on Iran, and he's taken it. Bush and Cheney have taken it. They've now declared the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization and a proliferator of weapons of mass destruction. I think we have to stand up to this president.

And then finally she said in our last debate that she was against any changes on Social Security - benefits, retirement age or raising the cap on the Social Security tax. But apparently it's been reported that she said privately something different than that. And I think the American people, given this historic moment in our country's history, deserve a president of the United States that they know will tell them the truth, and won't say one thing one time and something different at a different time.

RUSSERT: Do you stand behind the word "double-talk"?

TIM: No. I never said that.

CLINTON: Well, I think that anyone who's looked at my record of 35 years fighting, for women and children and people who feel invisible and left out in this country, knows my record. I fought for expanded education and health care in Arkansas. I helped to bring health care to 6 million children while in the White House. And now, in the Senate, I've been standing up against the Republicans on everything from preventing them from privatizing Social Security to standing up against President Bush's veto of children's health.

You know, I have a long record of standing up and fighting, and I take on the special interests. I've been taking them on for many years. And I think all you have to do is go back and - and read the media to know that.

But on specific issues I've come out with very specific plans.

With respect to Social Security, I do have a plan. It's called start with fiscal responsibility. That's what we were doing in the 1990s, and we had Social Security on a much better path than it is today because of the irresponsible spending policies of George Bush and the Republican Congress.

If there are some of the long-term challenges that we need to address, let's do it in the context of having fiscal responsibility, and then let's put together a bipartisan commission and look at how we're going to deal with these long-term challenges. But I am not going to balance Social Security on the backs of seniors and hardworking middle-class Americans. Let's start taking the tax cuts away from the wealthy. Let's take away the no-bid contracts from Halliburton before we start imposing a trillion-dollar tax increase on the elderly and on middle-class workers. I don't think that's necessary.

So I have a very specific plan. My friends may not agree with it, but I've been saying it and talking about it for many months.

STEVE: Look at this, she's thrilled. It plays right into her hand. It's all about her.

TIM: Maybe she's going to have to start attacking herself. If Obama won't attack me, I will! I hate this outfit! My husband picked it out for me!

*

TIM: You know what Obama should have done? Started out the debate talking about how later in the debate he was going to go on the attack. Well, later in the debate, Tim . . .

*

STEVE: Mike Gravel couldn't be here tonight because he's attending a meeting of his gay condo association.

*

STEVE: Did Mike Gravel order the code red? You're damn right I did! I stuck the credit card companies with the bills!

TIM: I thought Duncan Hunter ordered it.

*

CLINTON: I am against a rush to war. I was the first person on this stage and one of the very first in the Congress to go to the floor of the Senate back in February and say George Bush had no authority to take any military action in Iran.

Secondly, I am not in favor of this rush for war, but I'm also not in favor of doing nothing. Iran is seeking nuclear weapons, and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard is in the forefront of that, as they are in the sponsorship of terrorism. So some may want a false choice between rushing to war - which is the way the Republicans sound; it's not even a question of whether, it's a question of when and what weapons to use - and doing nothing. I prefer vigorous diplomacy, and I happen to think economic sanctions are part of vigorous diplomacy.

You know, several people who were adamantly opposed to the war in Iraq, like Senator Durbin, voted the same way I did and said at the time that if he thought there was even the pretense that could be used from the language in that non-binding resolution to give George Bush any support to go to war, he wouldn't have voted for it. Neither would I.

RUSSERT: Senator Dodd, you said that vote was a justification for war in Iran.

DODD: Well, Tim, I believe that this issue is going to come back to haunt us. We all learned, some of us here painfully, back in 2002 that by voting for an authorization regarding Iraq, that despite the language of that resolution, which called for diplomacy at the time, this administration used that resolution, obviously, to pursue a very aggressive action in Iraq.

It was interesting that people like Dick Lugar, the former Republican chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee; Chuck Hagel, of Nebraska, Republicans, also had serious reservations and voted against that resolution the other day.

RUSSERT: Senator Biden, do you agree with Senator Webb it was de facto a declaration of war?

BIDEN: I think it can be used as a fact - a declaration.

TIM: If you put a fluffy white beard on Joe Biden, he's a dead ringer for Kenny Rogers.

STEVE: Or Kenny Loggins.

*

WILLIAMS: Senator Obama, let's get at this another way. Red line is the current expression of the moment where Iran is concerned in Washington. What would your red line be concerning when to, if to attack Iran?

TIM: We should wait until Andrew gets here.

OBAMA: I don't think we should be talking about attacking Iran at this point.

STEVE: I'm too busy talking about attacking Pakistan.

TIM: I think Iran should know that, in a week, I'm going to attack them.

*

CLINTON: I believe we should be engaged in diplomacy right now with the Iranians. Everything should be on the table, not just their nuclear program.

TIM: Lasers.

CLINTON: I've been advocating this for several years, I believe it strongly, but I also think when you go to the table to negotiate with an adversarial regime, you need both carrots and sticks.

TIM: The Carrot of Damocles?

*

RUSSERT: Governor Richardson, would you negotiate with Iran without any conditions?

STEVE: Well, first I'd like to say thank you for having me here . . .

RICHARDSON: I believe that we can achieve a compromise on the nuclear issue in exchange for . . .

STEVE: A million dollars. Er, a hundred million dollars!

RICHARDSON: . . . them having a nuclear fuel cycle, nuclear power; they don't develop nuclear weapons - carrot and sticks, diplomatic initiatives, economic incentives.

The problem is, we saber rattle, and this resolution in the Senate saber rattles.

STEVE: The saber special interests have these people in their pockets.

RUSSERT: Congressman Kucinich, your opinion of this resolution?

STEVE: Well, first I'd like to say thank you for having me here . . .

KUCINICH: Well, first of all, we need to adamantly reject any kind of a move towards war with Iran. There's no basis for it whatsoever.

But we have to realize, Tim, that we have a number of enablers, who happen to be Democrats, who have said over the last year, with respect to Iran, all options are on the table.

And when you say all options are on the table, you are licensing President Bush. When - and I'm the only one up here on the stage who not only voted against the war in Iraq, voted against funding the war, but also led the effort against Bush's drive towards war.

The problem is, these policies of preemption license a war. Preemption, by virtue of international law, is illegal. Our president has already violated international law. The war in Iraq is illegal. Even planning for the war against Iran is illegal.

Tim, we're here in Philadelphia, the birthplace of democracy. I want to know when this Democratic Congress is going to stand up for the Constitution and hold the president accountable with Article II, Section 4: an impeachment act. I think that our democracy is in peril. And unless the Democrats and the Congress stand up for the Constitution, we are going to lose our country.

We need to challenge him on this war but we need to challenge him at his core. And the core is, there needs to be a separation of powers, a balance of powers. Things are out of balance. It is time for us to stand up for the Constitution of the United States. (Applause.)

STEVE: Amen, brother!

TIM: Once you start defending the Constitution you know you're out of it.

STEVE: It's such a Hail Mary.

*

OBAMA: I think all of us are committed to Iran not having nuclear weapons. And - and so, you know, we - we - we could potentially short-circuit this. (Laughter.)

But - but I think there is a larger point at stake, Tim, and that is we have been governed by fear for the last six years, and this president has used the fear of terrorism to launch a war that should have never been authorized.

STEVE: Here we go again. Are his writers on strike or something?

OBAMA: We are seeing the same pattern now. We are seeing the Republican nominees do the same thing. And it is very important for us to draw a clear line and say we are not going to be governed by fear.

We will take threats seriously. We will take action to make sure that the United States is secure. As president of the United States, I will do everything in my power to keep us safe.

But what we cannot continue to do is operate as if we are the weakest nation in the world instead of the strongest one, because that's not who we are . . .

STEVE: What was the question?

TIM: I think he's talking about Social Security.

STEVE: I can hear his donors fleeing to Hillary at this very moment.

OBAMA . . . And that's not what America has been about historically, and it is starting to warp our domestic policies, as well. We haven't even talked about civil liberties and the impact of that politics of fear, what that has done to us in terms of undermining basic civil liberties in this country, what it has done in terms of our reputation around the world.

Andrew arrives with a few Heineken keg cans and chiquitos from 7/11.

*

RUSSERT: Senator Biden, would you pledge to the American people that Iran . . .

TIM: . . . not have sabers?

*

OBAMA: [The Iranian Revolutionary Guard resolution] is yet another rationale for what we're doing in Iraq, and I think that's a mistake.

STEVE: Obama didn't even vote on that.

TIM: He's moving to post-election mode.

*

WILLIAMS: Earlier this month, Republican presidential front-runner Rudolph Giuliani said this about you, quote, "I don't know Hillary's experience. She's never run a city. She's never run a state. She's never run a business. She's never met a payroll. She's never been responsible for the safety and security of millions of people, much less even hundreds of people. So I'm trying to figure out where the experience is here."

TIM: She ran you out of the [Senate] race, dude!

*

EDWARDS: What I would say is Senator Clinton just said that she believes we desperately need change in this country, and I - I agree with that. I actually think we have a system that's broken. It's rigged, it's corrupt, and it does not work for the American people, and it's time we start telling the truth about that.

TIM: It sounds so much better when Mike Gravel says it. The system is dirty, corrupt, despicable, disgusting, I hate you all, die . . .

*

OBAMA: I'm the only person on this stage who has worked actively just last year passing - along with Russ Feingold - some of the toughest ethics reforms since Watergate - making sure that lobbyists could not provide gifts and meals to congressman, making sure the bundling of monies by lobbyists was disclosed.

TIM: And the bundling of meals. No more sacks of sliders.

And finally, I think we've got to have a president who has the experience of standing up even when it's not easy, which is what I did in 2002 when I stood up against this war in Iraq 10 days before the authorization. It is - that is the kind of judgment that I'm displaying during this campaign when I go to Detroit and I say to the automakers that they need to raise fuel efficiency standards; not in front of some environmental group.

TIM: No more bundling of automobiles.

WILLIAMS: Governor Richardson, though there was broad disagreement on this panel about you having the only negotiation experience, you did raise your qualifications earlier. Is your contention that, say, the top three front-runners in this race are less qualified than you are to be president?

RICHARDSON: No. And I'm positive - you know what I'm hearing here . . .

ANDREW: I'm hearing people who aren't listening to each other. I'm hearing a lot of pain.

RICHARDSON: I'm hearing this holier-than-thou attitude toward Senator Clinton.

ANDREW: I need more vocals in my monitor.

RICHARDSON: That it's bothering me because it's pretty close to personal attacks that we don't need. Do we trust her? Do we - she takes money from special interests.

We need to be positive in this campaign. Yes, we need to point out our differences, and I have big differences with her. Over the war. I would get all our troops out. Over No Child Left Behind. I'd get rid of it.

I also have differences over Iran. I think that was the wrong vote for her to cast, because I think it was saber-rattling.

STEVE: Ding!

RICHARDSON: I'm the only CEO in this race.

STEVE: He's a CEO? Of what, Richardson Industries?

*

WILLIAMS: Senator Dodd, you gave an interview to our local NBC station here today alluding to problems with Senator Clinton's national electability. What is the point you want to make on that score?

DODD: Whether it's fair or not fair, the fact of the matter is that my colleague from - from New York, Senator Clinton, there are 50 percent of the American public that say they're not going to vote for her.

TIM: I'm Chris Dodd, and I can tell you with certainty that 50 percent of the public hasn't said they won't vote for me.

DODD: For 26 years I have, in every major landmark piece of legislation, had a Republican as my co-sponsor because no one party is going to straighten all of this out. When I started the Children's Caucus in 1981, I did it with Arlen Specter of this state. When I wrote the Family and Medical Leave bill, I did it with Kit Bond and Dan Coats.

When I wrote the first childcare legislation since World War II, I did it with Orrin Hatch - not because I agreed with him on any other issue, but because I knew in order to move our country forward we had to have leadership in this country.

STEVE: I had to write bills I didn't agree with.

TIM: I co-wrote the Loggins-Messina-Dodd bill.

*

BIDEN: Rudy Giuliani. I mean, think about it. Rudy Giuliani. There's only three things he mentions in a sentence: a noun and a verb and 9/11. (Laughter.)

TIM: He's copping our shit, man.

*

OBAMA: All the other suggestions that have been made are sound, but one of the things that we have to do with respect to conservation is increase fuel efficiency standards on cars. And we have to make that commitment not just by going to environmentalist groups and saying we're going to do it, but doing what I did, which is go to Detroit, talking to the automakers.

ANDREW: All Oldsmobiles will be made out of recycled paper.

*

STEVE: Mike Gravel's plane went into the Sea of Japan. There were no survivors.

*

RICHARDSON: This is what I would do. One, I'd have 100,000 new science and math teachers.

TIM: What's the difference, I'm not gonna win. Let's say a million teachers.

*

WILLIAMS: On behalf of all of us at NBC News, especially our road crew here who makes these all possible, good night from Philadelphia. Thank you for being with us.

-

Beachwood Analysis
As usual, Hillary Clinton wins for not losing, and the attacks on her from Obama only looked petty and desperate. Obama is actually now creating a narrative that Republicans will use in the same cynical fashion that Obama so often derides. The story is a little bit different with Edwards, and he might have gotten the biggest boost tonight. Edwards is a much more forceful alternative to Hillary, with a clearer populist agenda; unlike Obama, we know what he stands for and where his priorities seem to lie. The question is whether voters trust him, whether he is electable, whether he could actually succeed and whether he has the right kind of experience to be a successful president. But some of those disenchanted Obama supporters could find a home in the Edwards campaign.

The moderators seemed to ask questions of Chris Dodd, Joe Biden, Bill Richardson (who is clearly running for vice president) and Dennis Kucinich only because they were obligated to. Blame that on Tim Russert. The debates moderated by Russert have been the worst. Russert doesn't seem to understand the difference between hosting his show and moderating a debate. He insists on trying to nail down pledges and playing insider baseball and gotcha as if the debaters were one-on-one guests on Meet The Press, which is no way to foster a fruitful discussion of issues between multiple candidates on a stage.

-

Catch up on all the installments of Mystery Debate Theater!

Posted by Lou at 07:14 AM | Permalink

The Periodical Table

A (mostly) weekly look at the magazines laying around Beachwood HQ.

That's Mitt!
Ryan Lizza's profile of Mitt Romney in the latest New Yorker examines the management consulting theories that inform his approach to governing. It's a lot more interesting than that sounds.

Agent of Fortune
In the same issue, Ben McGrath profiles superagent and scourge of baseball Scott Boras, in a piece called "The Extortionist."

Boras has a couple Chicago connections. First, he was actually in the Chicago Cubs organization at one point. Second, he joined the Chicago law firm of Rooks, Pitts & Poust after getting his law degree in 1982, focusing on medical malpractice work. Third, Boras represents White Sox third baseman Joe Crede, who spent most of last season on the disabled list. Why is this important? "The White Sox have historically tended to avoid doing business with Scott Boras," McGrath writes. "[Dennis] Gilbert [a special assistant to Jerry Reinsdorf] also pointed out that Joe Crede, a a Boras client on Chicago's roster, spent most of this season on the disabled list."

I think McGrath - and Gilbert - are telling us Crede was shelved in part as payback to Crede.

Deli Counter
"Right after Labor Day, I sat down with Jack Lebewohl and Steve Cohen to talk about the [new incarnation of the famed Second Avenue Deli]. Cohen, 59, its general manager, was a fixture there for 24 years. We met at the apartment of Josh Lebewohl, Jack's 27-year-old son. Josh is a real estate lawyer who is the co-owner - and silent partner - of the deli with his younger brother, an echo of Jack and Abe. Though Josh stayed at his office, his apartment was a sane place to talk, away from the construction site that would be the deli's new home," Alex Witchel writes in The New York Times Magazine.

"Cohen said that most of the same cooks will return. Just in case anyone thinks that means a crew of Jewish grandmothers, he elaborated: ''They are Puerto Rican, Chinese, Haitian, Indian and from Central America. It's the U.N. back there.''

"Lebewohl, who is also 59, said he won't make the same mistake he made after Abe was shot. ''I put a section on the menu called "healthy alternatives,''' he recalled. 'Roast chicken, broiled salmon, fillet of sole. I stopped selling all of it.' He shrugged. 'People come to the deli because they want to eat a certain type of food.' Or as the New York Times reporter and deli aficionado Richard F. Shepard used to say, 'I love Jewish food, but when you eat it, 72 hours later you're hungry again.'

"Lebewohl says he expects the clientele at the new deli to be a mixed bag, as always. 'The current cardinal, Egan, before he became cardinal, he ate in the deli,' he said. 'Cardinal O'Connor ate our food. We had a black chef who made delicious p'tcha, which is jellied calves' feet, a real old-time Jewish recipe. And I said to him: "Eddie, it's delicious. Where did you learn how to make p'tcha?" He says, "Jack, I've been making this since I was a little boy, just with pigs' feet.'''"

Profit Motive
"Most newspaper executives now are banking on a successful transfer of their business online to ensure future profitability," newspaper industry analyst John Morton writes in American Journalism Review. "Unfortunately, they came late to the realization of how important this is and did not invest enough capital in the early years of the Internet.

"Instead, most newspaper companies concentrated on shoring up the profitability of their traditional newsprint-oriented business, chiefly through laying off employees, downsizing their newspapers and cutting back on circulation in distant areas of little interest to advertisers in their core markets. It was a classic defensive strategy that undermined the very things - standing, reputation, influence -that are crucial to success on the Internet."

Yet, like pro-war pundits who have lost none of their standing, reputation and influence, those same executives - and their highly-paid consultants - remain in their cushy jobs wreaking havoc on the rest of us while they try to catch up. Maybe newspapers need new executives.

"The newspaper industry remains highly profitable by comparison with most other businesses. Bad as 2007 has been, the publicly reporting companies still produced an average operating-profit margin of nearly 16 percent in the first half of the year - a level many businesses can never hope to achieve. Still, the average profit margin has been in steady decline since 2002, when it was 22.3 percent."

In other words, action must be taken, but an awful lot of folks are still lining their pockets at the expense of reporters, photographers, copy editors etc. - and the public.

"That newspapers have been able to maintain such high margins has not been due to improving business but to cost-cutting and, recently, a decline in newsprint costs. But no industry can cut its way to future success. At some point, the business must improve."

No industry can cut its way to success, but individuals making those cuts sure can. And that's the story that hasn't been told.

*

"I will give the last word to [Warren] Buffett, who writes in his shareholders' letter of his company's Buffalo News: ' . . . the days of lush profits from our newspapers are over forever.'"

Good. Now let's get on to the business of newspapering.

Chicago Blues
"The Windy City's police department has an ugly history," The Economist said last week.

Just so you know how Chicago is perceived worldwide; it's not for the wonders of Millennium Park.

"In its most infamous chapter, officers tortured suspects in the 1970s and 1980s."

Not some distant time. Now. This era.

"But even with such a past, this year has been particularly fraught for America's second-biggest police force."

Just to review: Richard M. Daley was the Cook County State's Attorney from 1980 to 1989. While torture was taking place.

He has been mayor ever since. Two of this last three police chiefs have resigned due to scandal.

"Between 2002 and 2004 civilians filed more than 10,000 reports of serious abuse, such as excessive force and false arrests. Only 19 of these complaints led to an officer's suspension for a week or more."

Nineteen of 10,000. Resulting in at least a week's suspension. Remember that the next time the mayor whines that the media is piling on the police.

"Ilana Rosenzweig, the new head of the OPS, is trying to recruit investigators, but her office is understaffed and is dealing with almost 1,300 open cases.

"A broader problem is how to change the police department's culture. It is common for police officers to shield each other from punishment, but the phenomenon reaches an extreme in Chicago."

Our flowers sure look nice, though.

Democratic Movement
Lawrence Wright had a bold idea for Iraq in last week's New Yorker: Put democracy in action and ask Iraqis what they want America to do.

"We didn't ask the Iraqis if we could invade their country; we didn't ask them if we could occupy it; and now we are not asking them if we should leave. Whatever we end up doing, we need to remember that eventually the only people who are going to occupy Iraq are the Iraqis, and that the decision of when we leave, as inevitably we will, should be as much theirs as ours."


Posted by Lou at 12:24 AM | Permalink

Haunted America

AMERICA'S TOP HAUNTED ATTRACTIONS

List Highlights New Standards of Fear and Fun at Leading Haunts

St. Louis, MO - To kick off the 2007 Haunt Season, Hauntworld Magazine, the haunt industry's leading trade publication, today announced its list of the Top 13 Professional Haunted Attractions in the country. These attractions are being recognized for their attention to detail, high-quality special effects, and overall scare factor.

Ranging from haunted hotels and prisons to spooky hayrides, the list represents the best haunted attractions the nation has to offer, as selected by the editors at Hauntworld Magazine. In an industry that has reached the multi-billion dollar mark, these haunts are leading the way in scream-inducing innovations.

"The haunts we've included are as expertly produced as any major motion picture today," said Editor-in-Chief of Hauntworld Magazine, Larry Kirchner. "They have behind-the-scenes teams of master Hollywood special effects technicians, make-up artists, set designers, and trained actors. We're an industry that exists to make people scream and laugh at the same time - and these haunts do just that, and more."

*

2007 Top 13 Professional Haunted Attractions

1. NETHERWORLD Haunted House, Atlanta, GA
2. 13th Gate Haunted House, Baton Rouge, LA
3. The Bates Motel, Philadelphia, PA
4. Headless Horseman Hayrides and Haunted Houses, Ulster Park, NY
5. The Darkness, St. Louis, MO
6. Eastern State Penitentiary's Terror Behind the Walls, presented by LUKOIL, Philadelphia, PA
7. Erebus Four Story Haunted Attraction, Detroit, MI
8. 7 Floors of Hell, Cleveland, OH
9. Kersey Valley SpookyWoods and Maize Adventure, Greensboro, NC
10. Universal Studios House of Horrors, Hollywood CA
11. Queen Mary's Shipwreck Annual Halloween Terror Fest, Long Beach, CA
12. Dreamreapers Haunted House, Melrose Park, IL
13. The Haunted Hotel, San Diego, CA

*

Best Home Haunted House

1. Castle Blood, Pittsburgh, PA
2. Haunted Overload, Lee, NH
3. Terror Syndicate, Pittsburgh, PA
4. Rot Haunted House, Thousand Oaks, CA

*

Best Amusement Park Halloween Events

1. Universal Studios Horror Nights, Orlando, FL
2. Knott's Scary Farm, Buena Park, CA
3. Busch Gardens HallowScream, Tampa Bay, FL

*

For more information on this year's Top Haunted Attractions as well as other top industry lists, please visit www.hauntworld.com.

Posted by Lou at 12:08 AM | Permalink

October 30, 2007

The [Tuesday] Papers

This is far more important to Chicago's chances of landing the 2016 Olympics than missing boxers or botched ambulance runs - the underplayed part of the Chicago Marathon debacle:

"Chicago has the ingredients for developing a world-class transportation system, but unless reinvestment begins promptly, the city may have few mass-transit services left when the 2016 Olympics are held, federal lawmakers warned Monday," the Tribune reported this morning atop its front page.

"Pointing to the transit crisis just days away. U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) bashed Illinois as 'the poster child for neglect' during a congressional field hearing downtown that examined the city's transportation needs if it hosts the Summer Games in nine years.

"He said the political gridlock in Springfield that has pushed the Chicago Transit Authority toward next week's 'doomsday' service cuts and fare increases complicates the Daley administration's efforts to prove it is prepared to be the Olympic host city.

"De Fazio is chairman of the House Highways and Transit Subcommittee, which wields influence in the fierce competition among cities vying to win billions of dollars in federal grants and funding earmarks for coveted transportation projects."

In other words, maybe Mayor Daley should have been in Oregon, Washington, D.C., and Springfield instead of riding bikes in France last month.

This part might be even more important.

"Surprisingly, none of the transportation officials used the hearing to pitch new projects as being vital to hosting an Olympics that would serve an estimated 2 million visitors," the Tribune account notes.

"Setting up the right transportation system presents one of the biggest challenges to a successful Olympic bid, said Doug Arnot, a senior vice president for Chicago 2016.

"Yet Chicago's bid plans do not call for adding any significant transportation infrastructure, said Arnot, who was involved in the planning for four Olympic Games, including in Atlanta, Sydney and Salt Lake City.

"'Although we recognize that in the past cities have often looked at the prospect of the Games as a chance to bring forward long-planned projects, Chicago 2016 has not proposed, nor has budgeted, for any long-term city infrastructure projects,' Arnot told the subcommittee."

Remember, Arnot is not a critic, he's on the Chicago bid committee.

"Before the 1996 Summer Games held in Atlanta, the existing rail system was expanded by three new stations, 7 miles of new track and other improvements to system capacity," the Trib says. "The bus system was also beefed up."

No such proposals here, though I bet there's a secret plan in the mayor's back pocket.

Meanwhile, after testimony about how decrepit the CTA has become, U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Lipinski) told the subcommittee that "fortunately, Chicago already has a world-class transportation system."

In which world?

Master of Doom
CTA's doomsday scenario is bad enough on its own; it doesn't need to be spun. But the mayor is who he is. And so is the Sun-Times.

"More than 41,000 City Colleges students would also be impacted," Fran Spielman writes today. "Roughly 14,000 of them would have to drop out, while another 11,000 would reduce their coursework or postpone it, costing the financially-strapped City Colleges system $24 million in revenue, according to a recent survey."

I'm obviously sympathetic to everyone who's lives will be adversely impacted by the CTA shutting down bus routes and raising fares, but will 14,000 City Colleges students really drop out on Monday if the doomsday budget kicks in? And will another 11,000 "postpone" their coursework, which sounds awfully close to "dropping out" as well?

Unlike Spielman, I'd like to see how that survey was done.

Five-Finger Discount
Geez, if these guys were Chicago Bears they'd be back at practice today. Even if they left Nordstrom's and got in their cars drunk.

Sneedlings
1. When Sneed "hears" House Speaker Mike Madigan and House Republican leader Tom Cross laid out the parameters for a gaming bill over the weekend, does she mean she heard it on the TV?

2. When Sneed writes that "word is" a member of Barack Obama's national finance committee just switched to Hillary, does she mean the word in the New York Times a couple days ago is?

3. At least she sources two of her three next items today to the Times and Washington Post.

If Sneed worked in Cook County government, there would be editorials calling for her ouster.

County Line
I don't even have a joke for the news today that Cook County Board members are getting a 27 percent hike in their office budgets. It just makes me tired.

Hope Dope
The Sun-Times editorial page applauds Obama today for entering a new phase of his campaign in which he will attack Hillary Clinton, even as it asks "What happened to the Obama who galvanized the nation?"

Does anyone else see the disconnect there?

First, the Obama who galvanized the nation did so in one speech. That doesn't make someone qualified to be president. If it was, Joel Osteen would make an even better candidate.

Second, he galvanized the nation with the promise of new, positive approach to politics.

Third, attacking the frontrunner when you are getting desperate is as conventional and cynical as old-time politics gets.

The problem with Obama's campaign isn't his lack of aggressiveness toward Hillary. It's the absence of an innovative Hope Agenda to match his rhetoric. Obama has talked about a new approach forever without ever explaining what that new approach would be, outside of being more polite. He has failed to take unconventional policy positions or make any creative proposals that would inspire folks waiting to be inspired. Because that's not who he is.

The truth is that Obama has never been a bold politician. Nearly every profile written about him notes his cautious nature and his alleged penchant toward consensus-building, but you can't be a change agent if you are determined to not rile up any opposition.

We don't even know what Obama's priorities are. There is no Hope Train to get on.

The truth is that Obama is not a change candidate outside of his biography, and the campaign he's running is more like, say, George H.W. Bush's 1988 campaign in the sense that he's offering a kinder, gentler version of what's come before him. If he had been Al Gore's vice president for the last eight years, it would probably get him elected. But not now.

Hawkeye Pierce
Of course, it's not over. Obama could win Iowa and that would change the dynamic, as they say. But it's funny how Obama is now running an Iowa- and New Hampshire-centric campaign when I thought raising all that money was about being in it for the long haul. The campaign now has a huge warchest it might never get to use. And don't let the Obama campaign fool you: Its early-state strategy is new, out of necessity. It wasn't always about Iowa.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Give us a jingle.


Posted by Lou at 08:43 AM | Permalink

Cab #539

Date Taken: 10/28/07
From: O'Hare
To: Rosemont

The Cab: Your basic, somewhat overworn Dodge Minivan. No visible mechanical defects. After finding out the route, driver tested back hatch, tires and suspension.

The Driver: A surly prick even before he found out he rushed into the teeth of O'Hare traffic for a paltry $10 fare. When told of the destination, he tersely reponded "Why Rosemont"? At this point, I figured "Because I fucking said so" wouldn't help matters.

Apparently if you need a relatively short trip from O'Hare, the driver gets a pass that allows him or to go to the front of the cab line the next time around. Driver #539 was unimpressed when we pointed this out to the cab line attendant on his behalf. Do I get a pass when I need a $100 cab ride to Deerfield? Well, them are the breaks, bub.

The Driving: Driver #539 shared with us the perils of O'Hare life, such as the massive line of cars crawling into the airport, as well as the injustice we'd just caused. Instead of paying $48 to park two cars at the airport, we decided to do the financially prudent thing and park both cars at my wife's office. Apparently this urge to save money and energy resources makes us very bad people.

Because he wanted us gone from Earth, Driver #539 delivered us to our destination expeditiously. When we gave a much larger tip than was deserved, he humbly said thanks. I would have welcomed his sudden change in attitude only if he had promised to participate in a one-car accident.

Overall Rating: One extended arm, and two extended fingers.

- Eric Emery

*

There are more than 6,000 cabs in the city of Chicago. We intend to review every one of them.


Posted by Lou at 12:29 AM | Permalink

October 29, 2007

The [Monday] Papers

1. Chicago is another Detroit. In Bear Monday, our new weekly feature recapping each Sunday's debacle from here through the rest of the season.

2. The Sun-Times laments this morning the fact that three boxers in town for the World Championships are missing because it might hurt Chicago's chances of landing the 2016 Olympics.

What?

If I understand correctly, the boxers - two from Uganda and one from Armenia - have escaped to freedom. Way to go!

Shouldn't we be cheering that?

In fact, I don't understand why this isn't top-of-front-page news. Didn't these boxers defect? Shouldn't we support that? Run, boxers, run!

*

The Sun-Times's Roman Modrowski also lamented the missing boxers in his "Sunday Drive" feature, calling the Chicago 2016 effort one of the week's Misses.

"[I]t seems things aren't going well for our Olympics bid. And it's for things that aren't our fault. People sometimes die during marathons, and boxers defect. The perception isn't very positive."

Yes, it doesn't look good when our security is so sloppy that people escape their bondage.

*

"I don't think anyone likes the fact that people take off," Chicago 2016 chairman Pat Ryan told the Sun-Times.

Mr. Putin, rebuild that wall!

"But keep it in perspective: It's less than a handful of people out of 700."

Thank God the rest of them have to go back to their tyrannical homelands. Their captivity is good business for Chicago.

*

Then again, we're also being held captive. "Local officials are refusing to detail what city services are being used to stage the [boxing] event."

That's because no public funds will be spent on the Olympic effort, remember?

*

Memo to boxers thinking about defecting: The Sun-Times will turn you in, but there's always room for you at Beachwood HQ.

3. There is only one acceptable way to own a Ramones T-shirt. A former writer for Beavis & Butt-head explains.

4. The Sun-Times wrapped up its week-long series on missing people in Chicago without any justifiable explanation for its overblown effort.

In the series' first installment, the paper thundered that "The number of people who go missing in Chicago and around the country staggers the imagination. In Chicago alone, 20,022 people were reported missing last year. That comes to 54 people, on average, reported missing here each day. Nationally, more than 800,000 people were reported missing last year."

Yet, in Thursday's installment the paper acknowledges that "In Chicago, 20,000 people are reported missing each year. The vast majority of cases - 98 percent - are solved, largely because missing individuals often want to be gone, and eventually return home."

So the newspaper devoted a five-part series to a "crime" in which 98 percent of the cases are solved and not really crimes at all.

If my math is correct, that means that 400 cases a year are legit. And even that sounds high. Are 400 people really abducted in Chicago each year?

The Sun-Times also ballyhooed the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, whose scary statistics don't hold up under even the skimpiest of scrutiny.

In fact, The Denver Post won a Pulitzer in 1985 for its investigation exposing the "missing children epidemic" as a sham.

"Most of the so-called abductions were runaways or children taken in parental custody disputes,USA Today noted.

"There was a vanishingly small number that were actually missing through a stranger abduction," investigative reporter Lou Kilzer told On the Media in 2002.

The Sun-Times has a few fine reporters, but overall its rigor in its reporting is akin to that of college freshmen who have yet to complete their first serious class.

*

Or maybe the Sun-Times knows all that but decided to exploit missing children anyway to boost circulation. How ironic.

5. This is better.

6. John Kass returned Sunday to the case of Mike Mette, the Chicago cop who got himself into trouble in Iowa and is on his way to serve a five-year prison term there.

To read Kass, you'd think Mette was really getting a raw deal. But is he telling you the whole story?

Go back to the last item - Kass's Cop - in this column, and decide for yourself.

7. If anything, Kass's gripe ought to be with mandatory-minimums.

8. The Sun-Times's Maureen O'Donnell interviewed Rev. Al Sharpton and more than half of the transcript published on Sunday was about the Tawana Brawley case. I'm not thrilled with Sharpton's role in the Brawley affair, either, but that was 20 years ago. Why not ask about Mayor Daley and the current state of the Chicago Police Department? That's why Sharpton is here.

9. As I've written before, Sharpton has moderated more thoughtful discussions of the Chicago police and the mayor from his radio show in New York over the last year than anyone locally, particularly from the white-owned media, which largely ignored (with the huge exception of the Reader) the torturuous reign of Jon Burge for years, and continues to let the mayor slide.

10. "The mayor will 'substantially reduce' his proposed $108 million property tax increase," the Sun-Times reported last Thursday.

"Asked whether the largest property tax increase in Chicago history could be eliminated entirely, he said, 'If I said that, then you'd [say] Mayor Daley is a big liar.'"

So the mayor is spitefully forging ahead with property tax increases to deny the media the chance to tell the truth.

*

World Series Note: Now that Clint Hurdle's Colorado Rockies have been swept, what will their manager do now? Beachwood readers know the answer to that: Listen to some alt-country (third item).

The Beachwood Tip Line: Pipeline to freedom.

Posted by Lou at 09:12 AM | Permalink

Bear Monday: Another Detroit

When Detroit defensive back Kenoy Kennedy embarked on an ill-advised interception return (instead of just taking a touchback, he left the end zone and was almost immediately tackled well inside the 10) during Sunday's first half, my cousin Carmen noted reassuringly "There's the Lions being the Lions."

That used to be such a satisfying put-down. But it's officially out the window, at least around here. On the other hand I would imagine fans of the visiting team were having a grand old time identifying all those "Bears being Bears" sequences during Sunday's debacle.

Sunday's game began so promisingly. For one thing, it was a beautiful fall day at Soldier Field and the Bears' bright orange uni's were just about screaming "Happy Halloween" (just the thing for the Bear fan who already has all manner of midnight blue and white Urlacher jerseys). For another, viewers quickly realized we would not be subjected to know-nothing Fox analyst Brian Baldinger for a third consecutive week.

One of the toughest things about the Bears' slow start this season has been watching the team fall down the broadcast pecking order. Where last year we regularly heard from top analysts like Troy Aikman and, on the rare occasions the Bears appeared on CBS, Phil Simms (both of whom quarterbacked teams to Super Bowl championships and clearly do so much more prep work, like memorizing the rule book, than scrubs like Baldinger), now we're getting deep into the depth chart.

Actually, the Bears moved up on Sunday, to veteran play-by-play man Sam Rosen and analyst and former Bear D-lineman Tim Ryan (he was with the team during the era known as the Fall of Ditka, 1990-92; 1993 was his final season). And it was a solid broadcast, although I must say I wasn't quite as tuned in as I usually am (I had Carmen providing color in my own house after all).

The pre-game promise didn't last long. The Lions made a field goal (thanks in largest part to the Bear safeties combining to draw a well-deserved, almost 50-yard pass interference penalty) and the Bears missed one. Kennedy soon grabbed that aforementioned Brian Griese pass (the first of four brutal interceptions - and even worse, he almost got Devin Hester killed with a high pass between murderous defenders late in the fourth quarter) and off we went. What a fun drive followed the initial Lion pick and dimwitted return. Rather than make the Lions pay for Kennedy's mistake, the Bears essentially escorted their visitors from Michigan 93 yards, the only extended touchdown march of the day.

-

First-half highlights/lowlights:

* Many more examples of Urlacher's inability to shed blockers - ever. The guy is one of the great all-time linebackers . . . in pass coverage. His back may be barking but he doesn't make many plays in the trenches even in the best of times. And apparently he spent last week pouting because assessments of his play haven't been universally positive so far this season. That's more than a little lame, even for Chicago's Great White Hope.

* Several shots of Detroit head coach Rod Marinelli moving slowly up and down the sideline. Marinelli is the picture of a former tough-guy player - he has no cartilage in his hips or his knees and he has multiple hitches in his giddy-up, to say the least. On the other hand, you get the feeling he's just the kind of guy that players respect - big time. And nobody knows that better than close friend Lovie Smith, who tried, a couple times, to hire him as his defensive coordinator.

* A particularly infuriating sequence toward the end of the half during which Griese scrambled and then slid to the turf, untouched, a yard-plus short of a critical first down. He then compounded his mistake by calling a timeout, giving the Lions plenty of extra time to mount the last-minute drive they turned into Jason Hanson's bank-shot, 52-yard field goal.

Second-half highlights/lowlights:

* The Lions wasted their first timeout only four minutes into the third quarter. This always befuddles me. Why waste a timeout early in the third quarter on first-and-10? Wouldn't it make more sense to simply accept a delay penalty and a first-and-15 rather than give up a precious timeout? I'm still waiting for an analyst to suggest this.

* A long walk for a fat man. At the end of a deflating Lions drive sparked by a huge Kevin Jones gain on the first freaking play from scrimmage after Greg Olsen caught Griese's touchdown pass, Bears defensive tackle Anthony Adams (listed at 300 pounds on the Bears roster but I'm guessing slightly heavier) makes a big play to stuff Jones on the last play of the third quarter. In so doing he sets himself up for the longest walk - the one from one one-yard-line to the other (as the teams switch sides) to start the final 15 minutes.

* The Lions would soon make a brutally dumb decision to go for it on fourth down down there (instead of kicking the chip-shot field goal that would give them the critical nine-point, i.e. two-score, lead), but again not pay for it. This time it's because Tommie Harris commits the stupidest penalty of the day - encroachment on fourth-and-one - to give them another chance. Even after that they still end up kicking the field goal.

* With 2:45 remaining, knowing the Lions punter has been told if he doesn't kick the ball out of bounds he will be cut (and Fox Sports, the next time you want to make light of a Marinelli quote about kicking the ball into the Lake Michigan, one shot of a ball bobbing in the local surf will be quite enough), the Bears still declined to send anyone to try to block a Lion punt. Sure, Hester has provided the two most significant highlights of the day (his first-quarter kickoff return and third-quarter punt return), but as expected, the punt flies high and far over the sideline. Soon enough Griese fires one final interception, the final score is 16-7, and that's all they broadcast.

-

And so the Bears officially take up residence way behind the eight-ball (and the Lions and Packers) for what should be an excruciating bye week. Their chances of making the playoffs are now about the same as mine of making a double-banker after several pints at The Map Room - or even before the pints. You won't catch me denigrating their shot at the postseason any more than that, though. At least not until they suffer a ninth loss.

For one thing, I believe most of the teams in the weak NFC will back up to right around .500 before the end of the regular season. And I always wonder about the purveyors of doom such as that certain columnist at the local tabloid who already announced the end of the Lovie Smith Super Bowl era. If that's the case, why keep bothering to buy the sports pages on Monday, big guy?


Posted by Lou at 07:20 AM | Permalink

RockNotes: Fantasy Camp & Model Trains

1. It's been a lifelong dream of mine to be a "famous rocker." You know, like Gunnar Nelson and his wonderful, flowing hair (Matthew, too, though maybe not quite as famous). And that one guy from Night Ranger (mmmmm . . . motorin'.) I'm talking about NR's Kelly Keagy. As everyone, and I mean everyone, knows, Kelly was NR's singing drummer. What a famous rockin' role model he is!

gunnar.jpgAnother famous rocker I'd pay as much as $2,000 to spend the day with learning how to rock from is Simon Kirke. He's such a famous rocker, I'm not even going to bother to tell you anything about him. (Hint: he's another drummer who's all right now.)

What all this means is that plans have been announced for next year's Rock 'N' Roll Fantasy Camp, which promises to hook you up with the famously famous. As we all know, one thing rockers like these guys can do even better than famously rock is teach punters how to rock just like them - in one day! And who in their right mind hasn't dreamed of opening for Def Leppard and Journey at the Germaine Amphitheater in Columbus, which is what fantasy campers got for their two grand last year (along with "a select amount" of concert tix for that night's show)?

Oh please, when the R'N'R Fantasy Camp comes to Chicago, please let the "counselor" be Gunnar! I would love it if he could teach me how to get that famously rockin' just-right sheen!

2. So now it comes out that the biggest deal in famous rocker Rod Stewart's dotage is not unembarassable chicks or drugs or even primo music gear. It's model trains. Umm, yeah. The electric toys. The Guardian says he's got a massive, 1,500 square foot set-up that painstakingly recreates Grand Central Station in the 1940s.

I really don't know if I approve of this or not. I can see where a guy like Neil Young would love model trains (he's even part owner of the most famous train toymaker, Lionel), because Young's whole musical persona has been based on Americana-ish integrity. When he sang about trains, kind of like Dylan, you felt he knew what he was talking about. He was connected to the past and America's heritage. There was also something anti-sexy and geeky about Neil Young, so it really kind of fits that he'd be a model train freak.

But Rod Stewart? Sexy, swaggering, cocksure Rod, a member of the Railroader Club? Hunched over a model train, yelling "choo-choo!" as the tiny little locomotive comes speeding 'round the bend past Petticoat Junction? Oh, how the sexy have fallen.

3. The only thing that surprises me about Kid Rock's latest episode of violent behavior is that it happened in a restaurant and not a strip bar. But, in an obligatory nod to bad taste, the fight happened at The Waffle House in Atlanta. Ya know, nothing goes down better than a big ol' stack of waffles at 5 a.m. after a hard night of "classic" rocking followed by five hours of rail drinks and stuffing bills in a g-string.

craig_finn.jpg4. Moving from the ridiculous to the sublime, this week The Hold Steady will be playing a two-night stand at the Metro as part of the NME Rock 'n' Roll Riot Tour. My suggestion is to buy tickets immediately (shows are on Tuesday and Wednesday), assuming there are any left. These guys are the coolest things since sliced Wonder bread. Their complex, punkish song structures, played over the mesmerizing talk-singing/storytelling/poetry of Craig Finn, is strange yet compelling and sonically honest and unique.

Plus, according to NME, while on the tour, The Hold Steady will debut two or three new songs each week for their planned follow-up to last year's LP Boys and Girls in America. Also on the set-list is their song, "Chicago Seemed Tired Last Night," which will be the lead item in our next Chicago In Song feature. Why? Let's just say I'm confident it will be the only rock song ever about Nelson Algren.

And the band is truly burning it up on this tour. Reviewing an earlier show in Philadelphia, The Seattle Weekly said, "To loosely paraphrase David Lee Roth's quote about Elvis Costello, slightly doughy, bespectacled Hold Steady frontman Craig Finn looks like most of the male rock critics in America, which may be why they love him so.

"It's also gotta be the great tunes - literate and raggedly anthemic as they are, THS can still rock out like Van Halen . . . okay, maybe more like Thin Lizzy. Acknowledging that their last album, Boys and Girls in America, came out more than a year ago, Finn unveiled some new songs to rabid cheers. Didn't get the titles, but one was slow and boozy-sad, colored nicely by Franz Nicolay's accordion, and another was crunchy and explosive."

*

Comments? Contact Don. Want more? Catch up on the RockNotes catalog.


Posted by Don at 05:35 AM | Permalink

The Found Art of TV Theme Songs

Is the TV theme song really a lost art? Or is it simply more a case of the television industry turning its back on them so more commercials can be shoehorned into a 30-minute slot? A 30-second TV theme song doesn't sell more car insurance and fatten a network's bank account; 30-second car insurance commercials do.

Either way, I too believe the TV theme is more than just an audio marker in time that says if you intend to see the whole show, you'd better pee faster. If you want to truly understand - and appreciate - the purpose and value of the TV show theme song, a good place to start is the bargain bin of your local big-box retailer who sells cut-rate DVDs for five bucks or so, like Best Buy. That's where I found multi-episode discs from the rural power trio The Beverly Hillbillies, The Andy Griffith Show and Petticoat Junction from Madacy Entertainment Group, Inc. and Ovation Home Video. My consternation lies not in the less-than-pristine quality of the video (complete with little squiggly hairs and black specks in every frame) but in the fact that the original theme songs are missing - replaced instead with loopy, limp bluegrass or loopy, limp elevator music.

This happens when whoever owns the rights to the opening songs either refuses to license the song or wants more money than the video creators are willing to pay. This isn't entirely unexpected from small companies selling multi-episode DVD for five stinkin' bucks - or why they're able to sell multi-episode DVD for five stinkin' bucks - but still, it's not much different than watching some stranger's collection of silent 8mm home movies from 1966. The context is missing, so you have no idea why three babes are swimming naked in The Shady Rest Hotel's sole water supply, or why some old codger with a musket is standing there wondering "What the fuck?" when he shoots the stagnant discharge of a cleverly-concealed industrial outflow pipe along the Grand Calumet River somewhere between Gary and Hammond and it starts bleeding black gunk. Or why this startling development makes him grab his bumpkin crap-shack family and skip town like an unprotected federal witness to some place where palm trees line the streets. Jeez, it's not like he shot a hole in the town's nuclear plant.

So here are a few more shows with important theme songs - songs that also were either radio hits, should have been on the radio more than they were, found new - and sometimes improved lives - re-recorded some years later by someone else, or are actually better in their original form. Many of these songs are still in print; those that aren't can be found without much difficulty within the file-sharing community.

*

Taxi (1978)
You'd have to have to be totally mean-spirited and critical to not get a lift from the 1:04 snippet from the original 6:03 version of "Angela (Theme from 'Taxi')" taken from Bob James' 1978 album Touchdown. The original, less-polished version was pretty much why someone at WMET decided it needed to dump rock and change its call letters to WNUA in 1987 so it could introduce Chicago to New Age music. Because, you know, gentrification seems more pleasant when it has its own soundtrack.

Bob James Trivia: He also created the theme for Barney Miller, one of the few ABC sitcoms anyone would associate with the word "genius." However, his original, full-length version was not getting airplay on WNUA because it was the first TV theme song from a New Age/Smooth Jazz artist to scare the bejeezus out of a New Age/Smooth Jazz station.

*

WKRP in Cincinnati (1978)
As first-person songs about disc jockeys starting life over after being dumped go, the bouncy "WKRP In Cincinnati Main Theme" sung by Steve Carlisle is considerably superior in comparison to Harry Chapin's "W.O.L.D." because Carlisle's tune doesn't make you want to go into the bathroom and hang yourself in the shower halfway through it.

The full-length theme, written by by Tom Wells and Hugh Wilson, rose to number 65 on the Pop Singles chart in 1981 and to 29 on the Adult Contemporary chart in 1982.

*

Hill Street Blues (1981)
It wasn't quite "I'll Be There For You" by The Rembrandts, but the full-length version of Mike Post's breezy theme created for one of TV's best cop shows made it to Number 10 in Billboard Magazine's Top 100. It's another TV theme that just makes you feel good, and features the signature sound of amazing jazz guitarist Larry Carlton.

While catchy, Post's theme doesn't quite get you primed up for cracking skulls and torturing confessions out of suspects like Inner Circle's theme to Cops, though.

*

Cheers (1982)
The Gary Portnoy/Judy Hart Angelo theme "Where Everybody Knows Your Name" is best appreciated in its original, extended form because it illustrates - better than the shortened TV version - why it's good to have a friendly bar within staggering distance when your day has turned to shit before you've even left the house:

"Roll out of bed, Mr. Coffee's dead
The morning's looking bright
And your shrink ran off to Europe
And didn't even write
And your husband wants to be a girl"

*

Newhart (1982)
Written by movie soundtrack chameleon Henry Mancini, the theme for the Newhart show where Bob ran an inn in Vermont probably did get far more radio airplay than we think; it just happened to be limited to AM stations whose target audience is old enough to fart dust.

Oddly enough, this incredibly pleasant, likable tune is absent from any of Mancini's albums that feature his deep well of theme songs. The only place it seems to exist is a live version recorded on Premier Pops: Henry Mancini with the Royal Philharmonic Pops Orchestra.

*

Golden Girls (1985)
Oh, stop laughing. Andrew Gold's original 3:59 version of "Thank You For Being A Friend" from his 1978 album All This And Heaven Too has a lot more personality than the show's re-recorded snippet sung years later by Cynthia Fee. While the show's version was slick and over-perfect, Gold's was just playful and fun:

And when we both get older
With walking canes and hair of gray
Have no fear, even though it's hardly here
I will stand real close and say,
Thank you for being a friend

Andrew Gold Trivia: Gold also sang the theme song for the NBC sitcom Mad About You, which made Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt household names. Hunt went on to become a major film star notable for playing the exact same person in every role.

*

The Simpsons (1989)
The original theme by soundtrack factory and onetime Oingo Boingo member Danny Elfman gets its own translation (which includes a banjo) by the world's greatest unknown guitarist, Danny Gatton, on his 1991 album 88 Elmira St. Revered by critics, fans, and musicians alike yet completely ignored by radio, the master of the Fender Telecaster locked himself in his garage and committed suicide in 1994 in one of modern music's biggest wastes of talent ever.

*

Wings (1990)
This was a great NBC sitcom whose reruns were beaten to death after the show went off the air by cable's USA Network, which insisted on airing the show 9,642 times a day for nearly a decade. It is now shown 9,642 times a day only in former Soviet bloc nations still trying to catch up on popular American culture. This is probably why, no matter how I try, I can't remember a note of the theme song. I only remember that I liked it a lot because it was classical without sounding too classical. Anyway, it's indisputably the oldest theme song that wasn't a theme song because it's an abbreviated version of Franz Schubert's Piano Sonata No. 20 in A Major, D. 959, written in 1828.

Which brings us finally to perhaps the most notable TV theme . . .

*

The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970)
Whoever had the imagination to slice, dice, and re-score the full-length, 2:44 version of Sonny Curtis' "Love Is All Around" into the endearing theme it came to be was perhaps the greatest creative musical mind in TV history. That's because, in its original form, "Love Is All Around" was pure Nashville-meets-Los Angeles crap overdosed with pedal steel guitar and woo-woo backup singers, and proves exactly why mainstream country music needed to be saved from itself. Even the additional verses sucked, including this one:

You are most likely to succeed
You have the looks and charms
Girl you know that's all you need
All the men around adore you
That sexy look will do wonders for you

Before you could say, "Please, God, make me deaf," Joan Jett showed what a girl who calls herself "the goddess of hellfire" and "doesn't like any of that Eddie Van Halen shit" can do with a Gibson Melody Maker and about two-and-a-half minutes to kill. She released the full-length theme as a single in 1996, and then edited that down to the minute-long TV version for her 2006 album Fit to Be Tied: Great Hits by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts.

Minneapolitans Husker Du also famously recorded the song, which just goes to show how flexible it really is.

Now, put Joan Jett and Husker Du in a sitcom together, and you've not only got a great show, but probably a great theme song in the offing.

Posted by Lou at 12:28 AM | Permalink

Reviewing the Reviews

Oct. 27 - 28.

Publication: Sun-Times

Cover: "Out of Tune," in which rock critic Jim DeRogatis takes on Eric Clapton's autobiography and Pattie Boyd's Wonderful Tonight: George Harrison, Eric Clapton, and Me.

Normally I'd think this was a little late in coming, as these books have been discussed thoroughly before, but getting DeRogatis's take is always interesting - even if he finds both books disappointing - because they probably are (Interior headline: "Guitar God, Boyd Both Fail To Deliver Any Deep Insight On Their Lives").

"Boyd and Clapton both justify the casual, almost haphazard way they tackle their fabled romance and the ruined marriages left in its wake by nothing that they only realized, more than three decades later, that the emotional turmoil was exacerbated and possibly created by immature and otherwise unhealthy young people living in a surreal bubble of wealth, fame and cultural upheaval," DeRogatis writes.

Beyond that, Clapton's "just-the-facts accounts of some of the more amazing moments in his storied career wind up making these events seem banal, if not downright boring."

And here's where the real disappointment comes in, according to DeRo.

"An even bigger mystery - and the most serious hole in the center of the guitarist's autobiography - is the source of his creativity and the nature of his relationship with music. The former leader of the Yardbirds, Cream and Blind Faith turned fabulously successful solo artist writes very little about songwriting and recording, or even about his musical fandom."

Other Reviews & News of Note: The Knock At The Door: A Journey Through The Darkness Of The Armenian Genocide.

For its timing, at least.

Also: A short feature on the Chicago Review Press.

*

Publication: Tribune

Cover: "The Florist's Daughter: Minnesota writer Patricia Hampl's new memoir is a tour of memory in an attempt to understand the past."

Why?

Why is this the cover of this week's Chicago Tribune book review?

It turns out this is one of the review's shortest pieces, on page 5. Not worthy of a cover by any standard.

But then, what in here is?

The closest I can come is "Chicago In Noir And Blue," a review of Chicago Blues, described as "a fine collection of Windy City stories" by various crime writers.

That could have been a cover.

A review of The New Kings of Nonfiction gets a center spread. That could have been a cover.

I see in the listings (which are paid advertisements) that Harold! Photographs From the Harold Washington Years "captures in words and pictures the powerful emotions that identified Mayor Harold Washington."

That could have been a cover.

As "exquisite" as The Florist's Daughter may be, there is no rhyme or reason for its starring role in this week's Trib Books review; but then, there is never much rhyme or reason to this sorry publication.

*

Publication: New York Times

Cover: "Century's Playlist." Geoff Dyer's review of The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century kicks off The Music Issue of the Times Book Review.

That book is about classical music, so I'll move on.

Other Reviews & News of Note: Stephen King (!) likes Clapton's book more than DeRogatis (natch), but notes as well that "He is rarely able to communicate clearly what his music means to him." King's appreciation is more of the book as a recovery drunkalogue (King has been sober himself from various addictions since the late '80s) than a musical memoir, though he too would prefer more rock 'n' roll.

Also: Works about the Beatles, Coltrane, the Chelsea Hotel. It all feels so done. To death. By Boomers. Who Should Be Killed.

*

Charts:

1. Stephen Colbert
2. Eric Clapton
3. Clarence Thomas
4. Alan Greenspan
5. Rosie O'Donnell
6. Ann Coulter

Posted by Lou at 12:26 AM | Permalink

Chicagoetry: A Few of My Favorite Things

A FEW OF MY FAVORITE THINGS

I dig
Rainbo,

comfort foods,
Guinness, cigarettes

of just about
any kind,

Cap'N
Crunch,

Mike Jagger,
Halloween, the Chicago

Bears, pretty ladies
with big

knockers, stacks of
clean, cold, crisp

twenty dollar
bills,

Guinness and sunrise
over the

lake.

-

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 12:19 AM | Permalink

October 27, 2007

The Weekend Desk Report

It's good to be back at the Weekend Desk, where we've been gloriously phony since 2006.

Market Update
Mortgage lending giant Countrywide Financial has announced plans to salvage $1.2 billion in potential bad debts by accepting payments in 10W-40. Meanwhile, experts estimate that their current uncomfortable vacant homes analogy will stop being funny by late second-quarter 2008.

Over-Consumption
American leaders strongly defended the nation's faddish obsession with biodiesel against harsh accusations this week, saying that while fuel production may indeed drive up global food prices, the world could stand to drop a few pounds anyway.

Campaign '08: Mitt-Stupid?
Mitt Romney used a New Hampshire appearance this week to attack Hillary Clinton's family values in a desperate attempt to distract voters from the fact that he is way too fucking dumb to be president. Fortunately, his main opponent ain't too bright either.

Campaign '16: Ringing Endorsement?
Meanwhile, Chicago 2016 officials are refusing to discuss the number of public services being used to stage the World Boxing Championships this week, stating only that it's clearly not enough.

Bucky Sobers Up
Finally this week, as part of our continuing series on freshly-illegal behavior, we turn our eyes northward. It is with great sadness we report that Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle has officially vetoed fun.

Posted by Natasha at 08:39 AM | Permalink

October 26, 2007

The [Friday] Papers

"After he lost another appeal Thursday, former Gov. George Ryan's dimming hope for a new trial now relies on a forceful dissenting opinion - joined by one of the nation's most influential judges - that called his six-month trial far too long and 'a travesty,'" the Tribune reports this morning.

Indeed, the 6-3 ruling by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejecting Ryan's appeal came with a blistering dissent lead by legal iconoclast Richard Posner.

What is so odd about it is it's focus on the length of the trial, heretofore not an issue.

"Why did this one [trial last so long]? What was special about it? The prominence of defendant Ryan?," the dissent asks.

More like the vastness of Ryan's schemes. What part of the prosecution's case, I wonder, would Posner and his dissenting colleagues suggest wasn't necessary to try?

Posner is known for determining the outcome he wishes and then fashioning a legal argument to get there. Maybe he's privy to a weak spot on the U.S. Supreme Court - where Ryan's appeal goes next - for defendants who have had to endure long trials.

Trial length makes sense as an appealable factor in this case in just one way: If federal court judge Rebecca Pallmeyer would have otherwise declared a mistrial because of the juror misconduct discovered late in the proceedings but couldn't bear to face starting over, thus denying Ryan a fair trial.

At any rate, the most important part of the dissent is this: "We agree with the panel majority that the evidence of the defendants' guilt was overwhelming."

Overwhelming.

Any Ryan defenders still out there should take note: Ryan's guilt is no longer in question.

Arch Nemesis
"George Ryan clawed his way to the top of Illinois' political heap the old fashioned way; he seized it through the misuse and abuse of taxpayer dollars and state employees," the BGA says in its statement, "Goodbye and Good Riddance." "Today's decision by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals confirms what everyone but a few Ryan dead-enders have known for years, George Ryan is a felon who richly deserves jail time for his crimes against the citizens of Illinois."

Sexiest Man
The BGA handed out its annual Civic Achievement Award last night to U.S. Attorney's Office here as well as the Chicago branch of the FBI for their work on the Ryan case and other wayward pols. Patrick Fitzgerald gave the keynote speech, but the highlight of the evening was former prosecutor Patrick Collins's introduction of Fitzgerald, which included a dramatic reading of Sneed's item about Fitzgerald's recent engagement.

To Fitzgerald's embarrassment, Collins offered chocolates and tissues as shower gifts.

Clout Rout
The BGA gave its annual George Bliss Award for Excellence in Investigative Journalism to Sun-Times reporter Tim Novak for "Clout's Sick List."

*

I was hoping the gift bags would contain subpoeanas, just for the fun of it, but maybe that would have only been fruitful had the mayor showed.

Doll Defensive
The Sun-Times editorial page took folks in the blogosphere like me to task today for reacting critically to the earth-shattering news - first reported on the Tribune's front page - that a 9-year-old girl was worried about the safety of her American Girl doll after it fell out the cargo door of a plane in flight.

"But we're talking about a little girl and her dolly," the paper says. "Are Abby Ann bashers - women as well as men, we hasten to point out - so jaded they can't remember the days they couldn't sleep or travel without their favorite doll or blanket or teddy? Is it so difficult for them to understand how a girl could think of her doll as someone real in her life?"

Well, no, I can't remember that because there was never a time when I thought a doll was real. But the Sun-Times misses the point. I would never make it my business to criticize a 9-year-old girl, especially if I thought she read my website. The point was about the media's credulous coverage of this awful tragedy - front page (!) in the Tribune and deemed worthy enough for a follow-up by the Sun-Times.

(Did it go like this? "Hey, did you see that story in the Tribune today? We've got to have the doll story!")

That little girl isn't the only one living in a fantasy world, but at least her tender age gives her an excuse.

Beachwood Oracle!
As predicted by a Beachwood commenter . . .

"Offers started to pour in Wednesday from children willing to donate their American Girl dolls to a Florida girl whose doll was sucked out of the open cargo hold of an airliner," the Tribune reported.

"But American Girl's corporate headquarters beat them to the punch after the Tribune published a story Wednesday about 9-year-old Abby Ann Telan lamenting the loss of her Marisol Luna doll, which is no longer in production."

The doll will also receive a free manicure and bonus frequent flyer miles.

And next year, and again in five and ten years, the Trib will do an anniversary story and tell us how the doll is doing.

READER COMMENTS: 11:11 A.M.:
1. I'm waiting for the doll story to become an Angelina Jolie film.
2. If the girl couldn't "sleep or travel without her favorite dolly," as the S-T so specially puts it, maybe she should have put it in her carry-on bag (as opposed to checked-in luggage). Now that I have that out of my system I promise to never speak of this story again.

Spectator Sport
Remember that Sun-Times story about the "thousands" of folks gathered along State Street for the parade preceeding the opening of the World Boxing Championships?

The Reader's Whet Moser has a different account we find much more believable:

"I went down to State Street for Chicago's super-exciting test run for the Olympic opening ceremonies, which consisted of about 700 people walking several blocks down State Street. There were others along the route, but it was hard to tell who was a spectator and who, like me, was running errands. The boxers were passing by the Chicago Theatre around 4:10, amid a swarm of cops and under the watchful eye of police helicopters. By 4:40 Streets and San was packing up the barricades. In short, it was like a broken water main with flags, with the city demonstrating that, like an ideal world-class city, it can successfully shut down several downtown blocks at a time. So, do we get the Olympics now?"

SO-CALLED AUSTIN MAYOR ADDS: Exclusive video of the Boxing Parade is available here.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Lengthy and appealing.

Posted by Lou at 07:32 AM | Permalink

The Blue & Orange Kool-Aid Report

Philly exhibited their two-minute "statue defense" and allowed the Bears to rally last week. To their credit, the Bears showed heart in the closing seconds of the game. Now at 3-4, the Bears are at the dreaded crossroads. Two Chicago teams met at that same crossroads earlier this year: the White Sox and the Cubs. One team went on to fail in mythic proportions. The other team went on a huge winning streak and then hung on for dear life until it failed in mythic proportions.

So the question is: Are this year's Bears the Cubs or the White Sox? Let's take a look.

*

Cubs:

* Team starts out losing with wrong personnel; lineup changes lead the way to victory.

* Mike Brown equals Mark Prior. You know why.

* Bernard Berrian equals Michael Barrett. Neither can catch anymore.

* Kyle Orton equals Glendon Rusch. Just because.

* Cedric Benson equals Steve Trachsel. Both are too slow to the target.

* Brian Griese equals Ryan Theriot. Both saved their team's season.

* Devin Hester has no Cubs equal.

* Like Cub fans, Bear fans start chants at odd times, as if they've collectively come back from the bathroom and a beer run.

* Is that an Eamus Catuli 010122 sign just outside Soldier Field?

* Lance Briggs equals Carlos Zambrano. Both talk to God.

* Greg Olsen equals Mike Fontenot.

* Promotional radio spots mention "fun" and "excitement" but little about "winning."

* After all, Cubs are just little Bears.

White Sox

* Team personnel overrated. General manager's star dims.

* Mike Brown equals Scott Podsednik. You know why.

* Brian Griese equals Javier Vasquez. Second-stringers step up, but it won't be enough.

* Cedric Benson equals Jose Contreras. (See Cedric Benson equals Steve Trachsel.)

* Offense sucks.

* Typical fan of Sox and Bears calls brother-in-law in Homewood after every loss.

* Suffering from too much recent success.

* Thomas Jones equals Aaron Rowand.

* Tampa 2 is also Ozzie's favorite defense.

* Bears secondary resembles Sox bullpen. Fully capable of blowing leads every week.

* Ron Rivera equals Razor Shines.

* Both looking up at Detroit and Minnesota.

* Promotional radio spots mention "fun" and "excitement" but little about "winning."

-

Either way, the end of the road comes with a failure of mythic proportions.

-

Lions at Bears
Here's the thing about a crossroad: You always see it coming. The Lions crushed the Bears earlier this year, but that happened in Detroit. The Lions play football like housecats: They play well in the confines of their own homes, but not that good when you shove them in a car to go to Aunt Bea's house for the week. To carry out the analogy, the Lions crawl under the bed in Aunt Bea's guest room and stay there.

Pick: Chicago minus 5, Over 44 Points Scored.

*

Sugar in the Blue and Orange Kool-Aid: 50%
Recommended Sugar in the Blue and Orange Kool-Aid: 35%

-


For more Emery, see the Kool-Aid archive, and the Over/Under archive. Emery accepts comments from Bears fans reluctantly and everyone else tolerably.

Posted by Lou at 12:43 AM | Permalink

Feast on Food Safety

Whether it's your first time cooking Thanksgiving dinner for the in-laws or the umpteenth time you've overseen a casual feast for 25, the last thing you want to send your guests home with is a food borne illness. Brush up on ways to keep your kitchen clean and your food bacteria-free with the free Feast on Food Safety package from the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service and the Federal Citizen Information Center.

The day before you have 15 hungry guests is no time to worry about safe food handling. Start adding just a few easy steps to your daily routine now, before you're running around madly trying to get everything ready. That way, when your guests show up, washing your hands and countertops frequently and cooking foods to the right temperatures to kill bacteria will be second nature. There are handy pull-off reference cards in the Feast on Food Safety package that outline the basics of keeping food safe.

Prevent cross-contamination by using different cutting boards for raw meat, poultry, and seafood and another for veggies. Use a food thermometer, instead of checking to see if something "looks" done, to make sure food is hot enough. Post the chart of safe minimum temperatures that's included in the package so you don't forget what they are. And if you don't already have multiple cutting boards or a food thermometer in your kitchen, you've got the start of a great holiday gift list!

If turkey's on the menu, the Feast on Food Safety package has all the help you need to cook the perfect bird. How long should you thaw a frozen 12-pound turkey? What's the safest way to stuff a turkey? And how long do you need to let those delicious roasting turkey smells waft through the air before you can pull it out of the oven? All the answers are in this free package.

With the Feast on Food Safety package and a little practice, you'll be able to keep your focus on enjoying meals with family and friends, instead of worrying what bacteria might be lurking in your kitchen or their food. There are three easy ways to order this package:

* Send your name and address to Feast on Food Safety, Pueblo, Colorado 81009.

* Visit www.pueblo.gsa.gov/rc/n69feastonfoodsafety.htm to place your order online or to read or print these and hundreds of other Federal publications for free.

* Call toll-free 1 (888) 8 PUEBLO. That's 1 (888) 878-3256, weekdays 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern Time and ask for the Feast on Food Safety package.

* Get even more information and take advantage of online government services resources at www.USA.gov and www.GobiernoUSA.gov - your official English and Spanish web portals to the Federal government.

Posted by Lou at 12:12 AM | Permalink

October 25, 2007

The [Thursday] Papers

Editor's Note: The Papers will not appear today while I attend to other business, but there is new material elsewhere on the site. Look around! The Papers will return tomorrow.

*

The [Wednesday] Papers

The Tribune offers an excellent primer this morning atop its front page about how the city works - and what we mean by terms like "corruption tax" and "insider deals." And you better believe Mayor Richard M. Daley is right in the middle of it.

"Mayor Richard Daley took an hourlong boat ride on the Chicago River in fall 1997 and came back with a vision of improving the riverfront in the city's neighborhoods," Laurie Cohen and Todd Lighty report.

"Just about that time, Thomas DiPiazza, an ally of Daley's, also took an interest in the riverfront, buying a highly contaminated piece of land that was slated to become a public park under the mayor's plan.

"Nearly 10 years later, the park still has not opened, but DiPiazza's real estate investment has paid off handsomely, according to a Tribune investigation.

"DiPiazza and a partner bought the vacant, odd-shaped property in Daley's native Bridgeport neighborhood for $50,000 in 1998. Six years later, the city paid them $1.2 million for the land.

"The investors benefited from ever-escalating appraisals. The final one tripled the land's estimated value after the city broke from its usual practice of valuing land at its current zoning.

"DiPiazza's good fortune is a familiar tale of how insiders profit from even the most public-minded projects undertaken by the Daley administration, from wrought-iron fencing to blue-bag recycling."

In other words, this is simply how the mayor has run the city for 18 years - essentially as a criminal enterprise. No wonder he's trying to emasculate the inspector general's office that he created just for show.

And what does the city have to say for itself? Nothing, unsurprisingly.

"City officials said they did not tip off DiPiazza about their plans. The Daley administration refused to make city officials available for interviews and insisted that the Tribune submit all questions in writing."

The Daley administration, you see, is not accountable to anyone. And neither are the mayor's pals.

"DiPiazza declined to discuss the park. His lawyer, Michael Kralovec, said DiPiazza profited from rising real estate prices in Bridgeport and that the city paid a fair price for the land. Kralovec said it is 'silliness' to suggest that DiPiazza was helped by his political connections."

The Tribune did not report if Kralovec was laughing his head off when he said that.

And just who is Mr. DiPiazza?

"DiPiazza, 58, is a former city sewer worker who now owns a late-model Bentley and a Ferrari convertible. He has done real estate deals with Daley's friend Fred Barbara, who has made millions hauling garbage for the city. Barbara is a nephew of the late 1st Ward Ald. Fred Roti, long reputed to be organized crime's representative in the City Council. DiPiazza and business partner Richard Ferro are related to the Roti family by marriage.

"DiPiazza and Ferro have been frequent contributors to Daley. In February's municipal elections, they pitched in $25,000 to a political fund created by some of the mayor's closest allies to help pro-Daley aldermen."

And here's how the deal went down.

"City Hall hired four appraisers to determine how much it should pay for the land. The first, in 1999, turned in an estimate of $220,000. In 2002 another appraisal report put the value at $520,000.

"Two other appraisers reviewed and approved the $520,000 estimate, including Francis Lorenz Jr., who told the city in July 2003 that he agreed with the figure. DiPiazza and Ferro said they would sell their land for $520,000 at that time, but the city did not respond to the offer, Kralovec said.

"Eight months later, in March 2004, Lorenz submitted another estimate, tripling the value to $1.6 million.

"Unlike all of the previous appraisals, which had assumed that the property would continue to be zoned for industrial use, Lorenz's report said the land would be more valuable if it were used for homes. In an interview, Lorenz said city officials directed him to take a second look at the property and base his new appraisal on residential zoning.

"Lorenz is a longtime city contractor whose father was a key figure in the Cook County Democratic Organization under the late Mayor Richard J. Daley, the current mayor's father. But Lorenz said he was not pressured to change the appraisal. He said the city's request made sense because of the boom in residential development along the river.

"The city had decided to buy the land for $1.2 million even before it saw Lorenz's appraisal, said Constance Buscemi, a spokeswoman for the city. The new appraisal was required because the original one was more than six months old, she said.

"City Hall decided to use the higher-valued residential zoning for the park appraisal even though it typically tells appraisers to base estimates on current zoning."

Except when it doesn't.

*

Richard M. Daley: The World's Greatest Mayor.

Oracle at Bubbly
"The park property is a 1.8-acre triangular plot located at the mouth of one of the river's most notoriously polluted sections. Bubbly Creek still bubbles because of decaying livestock waste dumped by the long-gone Union Stockyards."

That's because the city still stinks.

Casino Royale
"You'll end up having to pay a tax for all the corruption that will be brought into play, with the contracts, with the sweetheart deals, with the ghost employees and, history has shown, with the corruption of government and law enforcement."

The 2016 Olympics?

Yes, that too. But Jim Wagner, president of the Chicago Crime Commission, was talking to John Kass about a proposed Chicago casino.

Checking It Twice
Today's stories about the mayor ripping aldermen who want to see the list of police officers with the most complaints against them fail to remind readers that the Daley administration already promised a federal judge it would hand over the list - and that the mayor has previously said it was a legal matter he was not involved in.

Now the mayor ratchets up his disingenuousness. "Where are they when it comes to violence in their own communities?" he railed at the aldermen demanding to see the list promised to them in federal court by the mayor's top lawyer. "How 'bout a petition to the courts about putting people in jail who commit violent crimes?"

How about growing up?

This obvious misdirection is insulting. Aldermen may be many horrible things, but I don't think a single one of them is unconcerned about violence in their communities, or somehow preventing violent criminals from going to jail.

Is there a recall mechanism in the city?

The baddest apple in town is sitting in the mayor's chair.

Lie Detector
The mayor and interim police Supt. Dana Starks are trying to make fools of you.

Paging Change
Barack Obama could end this with one phone call to Emil Jones, dontcha think?

Work for Hire
Maybe these CHA tenants could be organized into a work crew that could get one of those juicy O'Hare contracts.

Minor League Logic
Memo to Tribune editorial page: If Major League Baseball reverted back to awarding home-field in the World Series - as it should - to the team with the best record, this year's World Series would still start in Boston.

COMMENT 12:13 P.M.: Joel Kaplan writes: They never awarded the World Series based on record during the regular season - that's what the NBA does. It used to be that they just alternated between the National League and American League every year. Best record is preferable to that, but still unfair given that it would reward the team from the worst division/league.

RESPONSE: I stand corrected. Best record still determines home field in the divisional and league championship series, but never did for the World Series. Indeed, it alternated between the American and National Leagues until the current arrangement. D'oh! I knew that! Totally my bad.


Doll House
"Nine-year-old Abby Ann Telan of Orlando on Tuesday mourned the loss of her beloved American Girl doll that suffered the misfortune of being sucked out of the partly open door of a jetliner flying over Chicago," the Tribune reports.

"The collectible doll, a Hispanic girl named Marisol Luna, was stored inside a light-blue duffel bag that tumbled out of the plane shortly after taking off from Midway Airport on Sunday.

"'It makes me feel sad and scared,' said Abby Ann, a 4th grader who traveled to Chicago with her family for the weekend and had her doll's hair styled at the American Girl Place store downtown. "I don't know where she landed or if she is OK."

I've got news for you, Abby: Your doll is dead. I didn't want to be the one to break this to you, but apparently there are no other adults around to do so. Also, there's no Santa Claus. And a metropolitan newspaper just exploited you because they thought it would be funny, cute, heartwarming and good business to put you on its front page where you don't belong.

COMMENT 9:47 A.M.: A Beachwood reader writes: This opens up the possibility of other heartwarming stories: the girl being reunited with her doll after someone else finds it; American Doll replacing it for free; the Trib offering a reward to the person who finds the doll and returns it; the doll hospital that reattaches the doll's limbs gratis . . .

What I Watched Last Night
I rarely watch network TV; I'm a cable-boy. But Cavemen and Carpoolers - new on ABC this season - are both really good shows.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Inside wiring.

Posted by Lou at 08:38 AM | Permalink

Over/Under

Perhaps the most ridiculous commercial today is the Career Builder spot where they liken the office environment to a jungle. Office work must really that bad all over to give that commercial such wide appeal. Funny, then, how they're trying to get you a job at one of them.

And if you're in an office pool - or just talk ball at work - the ignorant beasts really start buzzing about. Let's take a look at the various types who probably work in your office.

*

Monkey
Identifying the Monkey: It's the co-worker who jumps across the NFL landscape flinging poo about your team. Probably watched 30 minutes of ESPN to learn just enough to make fun of you.
Shutting up the Monkey: Tell him "I know you heard that from Chris Berman. He's funnier than you, and Berman is not that funny."

*

Tiger
Identifying the Tiger: It's the co-worker who lays in weeds quietly until lashing out at an inopportune time with a lame joke about Tank Johnson and Ben Roethlisberger meeting at a traffic accident.
Shutting up the Tiger: Fight fire with fire. Return with "Oh, were you the guy that had to chopper out?"

*

Sloth
Identifying the Sloth: It's the co-worker who lays back and doesn't help even while you're being attacked.
Shutting up the Sloth: Deflect the attacker's attention to the sloth by embellishing a past conversation with the sloth. Turn to the sloth and say "Remember when you said Favre was completely worthless without prescription drugs, alcohol, and hookers? Certainly, I agreed with you on the first two, but come on."

*

Anaconda
Identifying the Anaconda:It's the co-worker who slowly approaches and smothers your will to live with endless stats.
Shutting up the Anaconda: Surreptitiously leave a package of doctored stats in his mailbox to choke on when he spits them out.

*

Barracuda
Identifying the Barracuda: It's the co-worker who circles hapless victims with other barracudas.
Shutting up the Barracuda: As you see the school of barracuda approach, pretend your cell phone was on vibrate and "answer" the phone until they swim away.

-

OverHyped Game of the Week: Redskins at Patriots
The jungle talk reminds me of going to the Out of Africa Wildlife Park in Phoenix. They had a show called "Tiger Splash" featuring tigers that would run into the water trying to catch beach balls, balloons, and other assorted items. They made those tigers look fun and friendly. Like the New England Patriots' 7-0 record against the spread, if you turn your back to a tiger, consider your spleen and liver separated from your body. Even if you are the 4-2 Washington Redskins.

Pick: New England minus 16.5 Points, Over 48 Points Scored.

*

UnderHyped Game of the Week: Packers at Broncos
Again, at the aforementioned park, my wife and I encountered two giraffes. To get them to come over, all you needed to do was buy the food from the machine, and the clicks attracted the giraffes over to you. The noise and the subsequent award was enough for the giraffes. It's kind of like Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers. They seem to play well in close games, especially when the opposing fans make the most noise possible.

Pick: Green Bay plus 3, Over 41 Points Scored.

-

Results

Last week: 2-4 (1-2 Against the Spread, 1-2 Over/Under)
Season: 18-24 (7-14 Against the Spread, 11-10 Over/Under)

-

For more Emery, see the Kool-Aid archive, and the Over/Under archive. Emery accepts comments from Bears fans reluctantly and everyone else tolerably.

Posted by Lou at 08:14 AM | Permalink

Chicagoetry: The Great White Dope

THE GREAT WHITE DOPE

We collude in a conspiracy of silence.
We intrude on the poor, demanding coke.
The Children's Crusade to re-take Humboldt Park

Commemorated the dead. For every line we do,
A bullet blasts into an innocent child's brain.
But not in Barrington. For every line we do,

A poor family is destroyed. Not in Naperville,
Glenwood or Homewood-Flossmoor, where the children
Do more blow than we want to know.

Their parents have jobs, after all, bills to pay,
Antiques to collect, time-consuming affairs
With neighbors to conduct, this kind of thing.

Hey, raising kids right is really hard!
Sometimes you wanna party. I get it.
Sometimes you wanna party!

I think now of the Dylan Klebold's BMW . . .
Perhaps he just needed more Ritalin.
It's hard to raise kids right.

Sweep the schools. The richer the suburb,
The more drugs you'll find there. Shucks,
I must be one ANGRY DUDE! Mercy!

Hey, you guys, just forget I said anything.
I'm just a lonely, bitter, failed malcontent
So you can just write me off and carry on. Besides,

The Drug War, one of the funniest, most self-affirming
fantasy series on TV comes on shortly so I can just
chill out to that. Hey, you guys, just forget I said

anything! Have a nice party! I know how
tough it can be to maintain a pastoral façade.
Maybe I'll see you after the next local funeral.

We'll party.

-

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 08:07 AM | Permalink

Killer Defense: Part 3

The third of a three-part excerpt from Kevin Davis' Defending the Damned: Inside Chicago's Cook County Public Defender's Office.

- Part 1: Fun. That seemed like an odd way to describe defending a cop killer.

- Part 2: Oliver's confession might save his life.

*

About 9:30 a.m. Placek and McBeth left the office to catch an elevator down to the main courthouse. They wheeled a television monitor and videotape player, along with a cart containing the case files, into the hallway outside the elevator bank. On the west side of the hallway was a picture window overlooking the old Cook County Jail and the newer Department of Corrections lockups that made up a vast campus of brick and stone buildings surrounded by coiled razor wire fencing. Beyond the jail complex was a view of Chicago's sprawling West Side and the impoverished and crime-plagued neighborhoods from which many of Placek's clients came. Along 26th Street were the mostly Mexican businesses, the supermercados, carnicerías and fruterias, clothing stores and shops that lead to an arch marking the Little Village neighborhood and gateway to the "Magnifico Mile," a nickname for the Mexican version of the city's opulent Magnificent Mile on North Michigan Avenue. Farther out were the smokestacks of the manufacturing plants and warehouses that helped drive Chicago's blue-collar economy.

As Placek stepped out of the elevator and walked through the halls of the courthouse, people couldn't help but look at her. She demanded attention, and her presence was as large as her self-described ego. She was heavy and walked with strained gait, slowed by her large frame and the deteriorating cartilage in her knees. She wheeled the case file cart past a bank of metal detectors where deputy sheriffs wearing latex gloves patted down visitors, barking orders, frisking for weapons and contraband, instructing them to take off their belts, hairpins, jewelry and shoes before entering. On the other side of the metal detectors, the men hiked up their drooping pants and looped their belts back on, their buckles clacking in a chorus. On a wall next to the snack shop, which reeked of cigarettes and the sweet smell of frying mini-donuts, were computer printouts with the daily court calls. The printouts were tacked in fifteen rows and were three pages deep. Defendants gathered at the wall to look for their courtroom assignments. Placek and McBeth continued to another set of elevators and went up to the sixth floor.

The last time Placek came to court to appear on Oliver's behalf, the courtroom was filled with cops, some fifty or more. For Placek, it was like walking onto a stage before a hostile audience for which she could not wait to perform. That's how it was much of the time. If it were not a courtroom that demanded respect and decorum, she might have been booed by the police and victim's family as if she were a villain making her entrance onto a scene. Every time she walked into a charged room like that, she felt tension, a surge of energy ran through her body, and she primed herself for the fight. "You look out there and you just smell blood," she told me. During that early hearing, Placek recalled overhearing a cop whisper to Oliver, "We should have fucking killed you when we had the chance." That was the kind of thing that excited her.

But on this April morning, only a handful of cops was gathered in the hallway when Placek and McBeth emerged from the elevator. They wheeled their carts into courtroom 606, presided by Judge John J. Moran Jr. The lawyers took their seats at a long and well-worn oak table and laid out their case files and legal pads. Placek flipped open her appointment book and removed a crossword puzzle. The courtroom felt old and stately, with high ceilings, brass and metal latticework and leather-backed chairs for the lawyers. The wooden benches in the spectator gallery were worn smooth by the bottoms of thousands who sat in them and defiled by scratched graffiti of gang symbols, names and initials.

About a dozen people were in the courtroom on other business, mostly defendants waiting for a calendar call and the lawyers who were there to offer plea agreements, ask for continuances or file motions. Placek was surprised that only a few police officers were there. A middle-aged black couple walked in and sat in the front row to the right of the judge. They were the parents of Officer Eric Lee, the man Aloysius Oliver was accused of killing. A man in a blue suit walked up and introduced himself to the couple, saying he was the representative of the Fraternal Order of Police, and handed them his business card.

Placek worked on her crossword puzzle at the defense table. Francis Wolfe walked into the courtroom and took a seat beside Placek. He whispered something, and she whispered back much more loudly, revealing that even though she planned to put on a great argument to suppress the confession, she expected to lose. "This motion is going to be denied because it's the murder of a cop," she told him, her voice reaching beyond her intended audience into the first few rows where the public sat. "What we're trying to do is like playing a chess game. You're looking ten moves down the road."

More members of Officer Lee's family trickled in: his widow, Shawn, his partners, a few cops and the victim's advocate from the State's Attorney's Office. Other cops walked in, some in uniform, others in street clothes, some in uniform with Chicago Cubs or White Sox baseball jerseys worn over their blue shirts - an indication that they were off duty, but members of the brethren. Assistant state attorneys David O'Connor and Joe Magats made their way toward the bench. They were well dressed in dark suits, white shirts and ties, and wore their hair short and neat. Their files were in organized piles, and they used three-ring binders to keep everything in order. They did, after all, represent law and order.

Finally, about noon, Moran was ready to hear the motion to throw out Oliver's confession and called for the bailiff to bring Oliver into the courtroom. The bailiff escorted Oliver to a chair and he sat next to McBeth. He looked small in his loose-fitting jail khakis with large black letters on his chest that said XL and DOC. His hair was cropped short and his face was thin with the beginnings of a mustache and beard. He appeared nervous and withdrawn, and sat silently as Placek nodded in his direction. She looked over to McBeth, who stood up to give the opening statement.

*

Panel Appearance: Kevin Davis will join members of the Cook County Public Defender's Office Murder Task Force TODAY for a discussion of their work and lives, at the Chicago Bar Association Building, 321 S. Plymouth Court, in the Philip H. Corboy Room from 5-7 p.m. The panel discussion is from 5-6 p.m., with a reception and book signing to follow. The event is free and open to the public.

Several of the public defenders whose stories are told in Davis's book will take part in the discussion, including Marijane Placek and Ruth McBeth.

For more information, contact Mary Butterton at 919-260-4863 or Kevin Davis at 773-743-4186. You can also learn more at Kevin's website.

*

Excerpt reprinted by permission of the author. Copyright 2007 By Kevin Davis. Excerpt also appearing at Simon Says.

Posted by Lou at 12:05 AM | Permalink

October 24, 2007

The [Wednesday] Papers

The Tribune offers an excellent primer this morning atop its front page about how the city works - and what we mean by terms like "corruption tax" and "insider deals." And you better believe Mayor Richard M. Daley is right in the middle of it.

"Mayor Richard Daley took an hourlong boat ride on the Chicago River in fall 1997 and came back with a vision of improving the riverfront in the city's neighborhoods," Laurie Cohen and Todd Lighty report.

"Just about that time, Thomas DiPiazza, an ally of Daley's, also took an interest in the riverfront, buying a highly contaminated piece of land that was slated to become a public park under the mayor's plan.

"Nearly 10 years later, the park still has not opened, but DiPiazza's real estate investment has paid off handsomely, according to a Tribune investigation.

"DiPiazza and a partner bought the vacant, odd-shaped property in Daley's native Bridgeport neighborhood for $50,000 in 1998. Six years later, the city paid them $1.2 million for the land.

"The investors benefited from ever-escalating appraisals. The final one tripled the land's estimated value after the city broke from its usual practice of valuing land at its current zoning.

"DiPiazza's good fortune is a familiar tale of how insiders profit from even the most public-minded projects undertaken by the Daley administration, from wrought-iron fencing to blue-bag recycling."

In other words, this is simply how the mayor has run the city for 18 years - essentially as a criminal enterprise. No wonder he's trying to emasculate the inspector general's office that he created just for show.

And what does the city have to say for itself? Nothing, unsurprisingly.

"City officials said they did not tip off DiPiazza about their plans. The Daley administration refused to make city officials available for interviews and insisted that the Tribune submit all questions in writing."

The Daley administration, you see, is not accountable to anyone. And neither are the mayor's pals.

"DiPiazza declined to discuss the park. His lawyer, Michael Kralovec, said DiPiazza profited from rising real estate prices in Bridgeport and that the city paid a fair price for the land. Kralovec said it is 'silliness' to suggest that DiPiazza was helped by his political connections."

The Tribune did not report if Kralovec was laughing his head off when he said that.

And just who is Mr. DiPiazza?

"DiPiazza, 58, is a former city sewer worker who now owns a late-model Bentley and a Ferrari convertible. He has done real estate deals with Daley's friend Fred Barbara, who has made millions hauling garbage for the city. Barbara is a nephew of the late 1st Ward Ald. Fred Roti, long reputed to be organized crime's representative in the City Council. DiPiazza and business partner Richard Ferro are related to the Roti family by marriage.

"DiPiazza and Ferro have been frequent contributors to Daley. In February's municipal elections, they pitched in $25,000 to a political fund created by some of the mayor's closest allies to help pro-Daley aldermen."

And here's how the deal went down.

"City Hall hired four appraisers to determine how much it should pay for the land. The first, in 1999, turned in an estimate of $220,000. In 2002 another appraisal report put the value at $520,000.

"Two other appraisers reviewed and approved the $520,000 estimate, including Francis Lorenz Jr., who told the city in July 2003 that he agreed with the figure. DiPiazza and Ferro said they would sell their land for $520,000 at that time, but the city did not respond to the offer, Kralovec said.

"Eight months later, in March 2004, Lorenz submitted another estimate, tripling the value to $1.6 million.

"Unlike all of the previous appraisals, which had assumed that the property would continue to be zoned for industrial use, Lorenz's report said the land would be more valuable if it were used for homes. In an interview, Lorenz said city officials directed him to take a second look at the property and base his new appraisal on residential zoning.

"Lorenz is a longtime city contractor whose father was a key figure in the Cook County Democratic Organization under the late Mayor Richard J. Daley, the current mayor's father. But Lorenz said he was not pressured to change the appraisal. He said the city's request made sense because of the boom in residential development along the river.

"The city had decided to buy the land for $1.2 million even before it saw Lorenz's appraisal, said Constance Buscemi, a spokeswoman for the city. The new appraisal was required because the original one was more than six months old, she said.

"City Hall decided to use the higher-valued residential zoning for the park appraisal even though it typically tells appraisers to base estimates on current zoning."

Except when it doesn't.

*

Richard M. Daley: The World's Greatest Mayor.

Oracle at Bubbly
"The park property is a 1.8-acre triangular plot located at the mouth of one of the river's most notoriously polluted sections. Bubbly Creek still bubbles because of decaying livestock waste dumped by the long-gone Union Stockyards."

That's because the city still stinks.

Casino Royale
"You'll end up having to pay a tax for all the corruption that will be brought into play, with the contracts, with the sweetheart deals, with the ghost employees and, history has shown, with the corruption of government and law enforcement."

The 2016 Olympics?

Yes, that too. But Jim Wagner, president of the Chicago Crime Commission, was talking to John Kass about a proposed Chicago casino.

Checking It Twice
Today's stories about the mayor ripping aldermen who want to see the list of police officers with the most complaints against them fail to remind readers that the Daley administration already promised a federal judge it would hand over the list - and that the mayor has previously said it was a legal matter he was not involved in.

Now the mayor ratchets up his disingenuousness. "Where are they when it comes to violence in their own communities?" he railed at the aldermen demanding to see the list promised to them in federal court by the mayor's top lawyer. "How 'bout a petition to the courts about putting people in jail who commit violent crimes?"

How about growing up?

This obvious misdirection is insulting. Aldermen may be many horrible things, but I don't think a single one of them is unconcerned about violence in their communities, or somehow preventing violent criminals from going to jail.

Is there a recall mechanism in the city?

The baddest apple in town is sitting in the mayor's chair.

Lie Detector
The mayor and interim police Supt. Dana Starks are trying to make fools of you.

Paging Change
Barack Obama could end this with one phone call to Emil Jones, dontcha think?

Work for Hire
Maybe these CHA tenants could be organized into a work crew that could get one of those juicy O'Hare contracts.

Minor League Logic
Memo to Tribune editorial page: If Major League Baseball reverted back to awarding home-field in the World Series - as it should - to the team with the best record, this year's World Series would still start in Boston.

COMMENT 12:13 P.M.: Joel Kaplan writes: They never awarded the World Series based on record during the regular season - that's what the NBA does. It used to be that they just alternated between the National League and American League every year. Best record is preferable to that, but still unfair given that it would reward the team from the worst division/league.

RESPONSE: I stand corrected. Best record still determines home field in the divisional and league championship series, but never did for the World Series. Indeed, it alternated between the American and National Leagues until the current arrangement. D'oh! I knew that! Totally my bad.


Doll House
"Nine-year-old Abby Ann Telan of Orlando on Tuesday mourned the loss of her beloved American Girl doll that suffered the misfortune of being sucked out of the partly open door of a jetliner flying over Chicago," the Tribune reports.

"The collectible doll, a Hispanic girl named Marisol Luna, was stored inside a light-blue duffel bag that tumbled out of the plane shortly after taking off from Midway Airport on Sunday.

"'It makes me feel sad and scared,' said Abby Ann, a 4th grader who traveled to Chicago with her family for the weekend and had her doll's hair styled at the American Girl Place store downtown. "I don't know where she landed or if she is OK."

I've got news for you, Abby: Your doll is dead. I didn't want to be the one to break this to you, but apparently there are no other adults around to do so. Also, there's no Santa Claus. And a metropolitan newspaper just exploited you because they thought it would be funny, cute, heartwarming and good business to put you on its front page where you don't belong.

COMMENT 9:47 A.M.: A Beachwood reader writes: This opens up the possibility of other heartwarming stories: the girl being reunited with her doll after someone else finds it; American Doll replacing it for free; the Trib offering a reward to the person who finds the doll and returns it; the doll hospital that reattaches the doll's limbs gratis . . .

What I Watched Last Night
I rarely watch network TV; I'm a cable-boy. But Cavemen and Carpoolers - new on ABC this season - are both really good shows.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Inside wiring.

Posted by Lou at 08:31 AM | Permalink

Shooter Jennings Walks This Way

Adriana from The Sopranos loves him, but radio programmers don't. Personally, I'd take that trade-off anytime, but then again, I'm not carrying a name like Waylon Albright Jennings, and all the baggage that comes with it. As it is, "Shooter" Jennings, like his famous late father, is paying the price for daring to tread the still-unforgiving no-man's land between rock and country. It's really unbelievable, a generation after the genre first appeared in all its greasy-haired glory, that the transcendent, big-ass Southern rock of artists like Shooter Jennings still can't catch a break from the music industry gatekeepers.

Well, outside of those five minutes that pretty much ended on Oct. 27, 1977.

shooter.jpgAnd it's infuriating that he's being forced to head down the same path as the first Waylon, one that leads to cultdom at best precisely because of the sublime qualities that can only come from expertly mixing the hoary, soul-satisfying squalls of guitar rock with the emotional plaintiveness of a lap-steel and a fiddle. Shooter's third full-length LP, The Wolf, comes out this week, and from all accounts it's his best yet because it's also the one where he tones down the hell-raising and ups the musical ante with a just a bit more vulnerability.

The "gateway drug" into Shooter addiction for both the country hicks and the rock 'n' rollers is his cover of Dire Straits' "Walk of Life." The song and its video can be streamed here on his official website. And what a cover it is. It's a revelation. I'll admit I've never been an over-the-top Mark Knopfler fan, so when I say this, it may not have too much credibility, but I think it's better than the original. Jennings' vocals, of course, aren't going to match Knopfler's for jittery, anguished ennui. But, by God, he's somehow infused those clever lyrics with an authentic, countrified combo of angst, anger and humor. Plus, he can enunciate. It's quite an experience hearing "Walk of Life" so's you can understand it.

Then there's his arrangement of the song. It's a tribute to the original, not a send-up. Instead of a poppy keyboard playing the signature riff, Jennings uses a jangly guitar and from there he slaps it around until it becomes a mesmerizing commingling of alt-country and hard Southern rock. He does a wonderful job with it. Who would have thought that a song so identified with Dire Straits could be covered in a way that does it one better? A very cool achievement.

Jennings has shown a willingness to wander off the country reservation before, but outside of the minor airplay he got for "4th of July" on his first album, Put the "O" Back in Country, he's been rewarded with puzzled stares from the programmers. Maybe it's because he looks like Bob Seger circa Night Moves. The irony that nothing has changed since the elder Waylon invented "outlaw country" is so thick that it's almost funny. Yeah. But it's not. He says the title of his new album, The Wolf, is a reference to his situation.

He also says he's just about broke, and has his first child on the way with Drea De Matteo. I have to say that I probably wouldn't blame someone in his position if they were to bite the bullet and record, say, an easy-listening version of his dad's best songs as a way to earn some coin for a young family. But no. For now, he's sticking to his six-shooters and making real, interesting and exciting cross-genre musical statements. And he knows it probably won't get him anywhere in the radio world. According to Springfield (Mo.) News-Leader music columnist Michael Brothers:

"Shooter isn't so sure radio will play it. He thinks the Music Row establishment is afraid of people like him. He admits that it sounds paranoid, but it makes sense when you consider how paranoid people who run record companies themselves can be. They're like Nixon with better tapes.

"'I think that they think people like me - not just me, but this whole movement of country music - threatens them, and they think we're going to try and tear down the regime,' he said.

"'And I'm like, no, just throw me in the pile, let me work, let me do my thing.'"

Music industry paranoia. Who would have guessed? Something about those Jenningses and their genre-mixing just seems to bring it out.

*

See what else is knocking around the Root Cellar.

Posted by Don at 02:25 AM | Permalink

Killer Defense: Part 2

The second of a three-part excerpt from Kevin Davis' Defending the Damned: Inside Chicago's Cook County Public Defender's Office. Part 1 is here.

*

Ten minutes before Placek had to leave for court, Assistant Public Defender Francis Wolfe walked in to her office, flopped down in a beige tweed stuffed chair and slowly exhaled.

Placek looked sympathetically at Wolfe. "Hi, honey. What you got going today?"

Wolfe, who was seventy-two, was the oldest public defender in Cook County. A former commodity trader, he decided to get a law degree while in his sixties. This was his first job as a lawyer. Placek immediately took a liking to him, became his mentor and brought him along to assist on several cases during his training. Now they were close friends. Wolfe had been paying his dues in a misdemeanor court and was recently assigned to a bigger courtroom at 26th and California. He was wearing a tailored navy pinstripe suit and red bow tie, and looked like a white-haired Gregory Peck in his role as lawyer Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird.

"I've got a fraud and embezzlement case," Wolfe said. "The guy is guilty as hell. I don't know what I'm going to do." He sighed in frustration.

"You doing all right?" Placek asked with concern.

"I'm kind of stumbling around." Wolfe adjusted his hearing aid. "In misdemeanor court, they were kind of nice to me. But here, here they're so mean."

"This is the big time."

"Everyone is so egotistical," Wolfe complained.

"You got it," Placek said. "We have to be."

Placek was interrupted by a phone call. "He already has a costume," she barked into the receiver. "He's coming as the Great White Hope."

She was talking about her dog, Spartacus, who would be marching in a suburban pet parade in the coming weekend. "Yes, Spartacus is a boxer. Get it? No, he's not coming as Tyson. He'll be wearing a towel and gloves."

When she finished the call, Wolfe continued. "I've also got a marijuana case today," he told Placek. "She was caught with more than twenty grams. She claims she's self-medicating."

"Honey, dear," Placek shot back. "Ask her for her prescription."

Wolfe laughed. "She doesn't have one."

"I think you're shit out of luck."

Ruth McBeth joined Placek and Wolfe in the office. As McBeth sat down, Joseph Runnion, their law clerk, peeked in. Runnion was scheduled to be a witness for the hearing that morning. He planned to testify about his meeting with Oliver at the jail after Oliver was released from the hospital, offering support for the argument that Oliver was beaten at the police station before he confessed. "He looked like he hadn't slept or eaten in days," Runnion told me when I asked about Oliver's condition at the jail. "And he looked like he had been worked over."

Placek and McBeth planned to argue this morning that Oliver's confession was the result of physical and psychological coercion, and obtained out of the bounds of his constitutional rights. McBeth would deliver the opening statement, and Placek would make the closing argument. Placek knew that getting the confession tossed out was unlikely, but it was a motion she filed in case after case because sometimes a judge would find cause. "It takes a very, very brave judge to throw out a murder confession," Placek explained. But filing the motion had another purpose. By forcing the state to respond to her claims, Placek would get a glimpse at her opponent's case and witnesses, a strategic move before trial, which could be months down the road. Whether the confession was admitted into evidence probably wouldn't matter much anyway. "Some confessions you can live with, others you can't. This one I can live with," she said.

The reason she could live with it was because Oliver said something at the end of his confession that might save his life.

*

Coming Thursday: A cop whispers to Oliver, "We should have fucking killed you when we had the chance."

*

Panel Appearance: Kevin Davis will join members of the Cook County Public Defender's Office Murder Task Force this Thursday for a discussion of their work and lives, at the Chicago Bar Association Building, 321 S. Plymouth Court, in the Philip H. Corboy Room from 5-7 p.m. The panel discussion is from 5-6 p.m., with a reception and book signing to follow. The event is free and open to the public.

Several of the public defenders whose stories are told in Davis's book will take part in the discussion, including Marijane Placek and Ruth McBeth.

For more information, contact Mary Butterton at 919-260-4863 or Kevin Davis at 773-743-4186. You can also learn more at Kevin's website.

*

Excerpt reprinted by permission of the author. Copyright 2007 By Kevin Davis. Excerpt also appearing at Simon Says.

Posted by Lou at 12:32 AM | Permalink

October 23, 2007

The [Tuesday] Papers

According to the Sun-Times today, Chicago is "putting its best fist forward" and taking "another swing" at proving it can host a big event in its staging of the World Boxing Championships.

Ha ha ha ha ha!

It's so amazing how newspaper people can come up with such clever puns. They're smarter than fifth-graders!

Our Town
The Sun-Times continues its prized brand of media flackery so praised by the local Olympic chieftain Pat Ryan by using its whole front page on the boxing tournament - which is surely of interest to a relatively small portion of Chicago - and then using a headline on the story inside the paper that say "Our Best Shot."

Our?

I didn't realize the Sun-Times was actually on the Chicago 2016 Committee. I thought they were just kissing its butt.

Sun-Times "reporter" Andrew Herrmann also declares at the top of his story that "the mess of the [Chicago] marathon" is "behind" the city. Really? Is that your own scientific conclusion, Andy?

While I don't believe the marathon mess will have anything to do with whether Chicago gets the Olympics - at least it shouldn't - it certainly isn't "behind" us. It's very much alive as a stain on the marathon organizers, whose response remains inadequate. You can bet that the marathon mess will be very much alive when next year's race rolls around.

*

"I thought coming to a big city like Chicago, you'd be stuck up," Aruba boxing coach Jeffrey Nedd told the Sun-Times.

Nope. We're just small-town folk.

*

And the whole front page? It's not like California is burning and Turkey may invade Iraq. We have boxers here!

Body Count
Herrmann states in his story that "thousands" lined State Street for the procession of athletes that opened the boxing tournament.

The Tribune's Azam Ahmed put the crowd at "at least 1,000."

Ahmed acknowledged that some of those may have "happened to be caught up in the crowd."

I'll say. Wouldn't a thousand people be walking State Street from Monroe to Lake in the ordinary course of business anyway?

I'd also like to know how many people Chicago officials brought in to ensure an audience for a parade of unknown athletes in a sport of highly diminished public interest. I'm betting as many as they could - and that's still not a lot.

Bee Sting
Mayor Daley called Muhammad Ali yesterday "a great Chicagoan and a great human being."

I like Ali's politics too, but since when has Richard M. Daley been onboard?

Hoof and Mouth
"A Sneed spotter claims Mayor Daley and his favorite sidekick, press secretary Jackie Heard, got stuck in traffic and opted to exit their vehicle and flatfoot it from Wacker and La Salle to the Chicago Theatre on State Street Monday in order to kick off World Boxing Championship ceremonies, where the legendary Muhammad Ali was a surprise guest," Sneed writes this morning.

She left out that the traffic jam was caused by closing off State Street and all the cross-streets at State for that stupid boxing parade, which Daley obviously didn't go to, just the ceremony so he could meet and bribe the IOC people there.

- Garry Jaffe

Yuppies Like Us
The Tribune editorial page staff states today that they were born to run, baby.

I suggest they run right to Bruce Springsteen's lyric sheets and think about what he's been saying all these years. Then get back to us.

Rise and Fall
"[T]here's likely a new generation of Springsteen fans who view 'The Rising' as their watershed moment, just as I did with Bob Dylan's 'The Times They Are a Changin','" Dave Hoekstra writes this morning.

I give even the newest generation of Springsteen fans far more credit than that piece of lunacy.

Police Targets
"Releasing the names of Chicago Police officers most often accused of excessive force would endanger officers and their families, make them potential targets for 'baseless lawsuits' and unfairly taint those falsely accused, interim Police Supt. Dana Starks said Monday," the Sun-Times reports.

A) Starks would prefer to endanger us citizens instead.
B) Baseless lawsuits like the million-dollar judgments routinely won against the department.
C) And unfairly tainting the falsely accused is something the police department is now against?

*

"These police officers have the potential of becoming targets," Starks said.

Has that ever happened? Can't such a list include the outcome of complaints so we can all see for ourselves which are frivolous and which are substantive?

"You're going to be able to find out personal information about the officers - their phone numbers and addresses," Mark Donahue, Fraternal Order of Police president, said on Friday.

Um, can't that stuff be blacked out?

"Donahue said many of the complaints are 'just allegations.' If the names are released, the public will assume the worst, he said."

I've got news for you, Mark: The public already assumes the worst. The Chicago Police Department has lost the benefit of the doubt and has to earn back the public's trust. It's your own fault. This is the price you pay. Give up the names. We can handle the truth.

Takes One to Know One
"The carpetbagger [Rev. Al Sharpton] comes to Chicago, and thinks he can resolve our issues!" Maryalice Murphy - of Schaumburg - writes to the Sun-Times today (second item).

Hunter's Stew
Jennifer Hunter is taking the day off.

Apparently that Iowa knitters club hasn't met recently and there were no campaign press releases to write up.

That's Todd!
"Cook County Board President Todd Stroger lived up to a promise Monday, introducing a bill that would offer taxpayers a rebate if he winds up taxing them too much," the Sun-Times reports.

"But Stroger didn't show up at a special meeting he convened for the bill, and his representatives couldn't adequately answer questions about it, as frustrated county commissioners grumbled and deferred any action."

Maybe he was spending the day with Jennifer Hunter.

Rim Shot
"They had short-term goals for a long-term business."

That's not just a problem for the publisher of Penthouse - it's also a problem for the readers of Penthouse.

Hi-yo!

- So-Called Austin Mayor

Quality Inn
We do it for you.

* Oh my god oh my god oh my god. Radiohead's Rainbows.
* Increasingly, the answer is Indiana. Redefining Chicagoland.
* Fun. That seemed like an odd way to describe defending a cop killer. Defending the Damned.
* Did you really think you wouldn't be able to use that black knit cap and those black gloves to go as O.J. again? Another Beachwood Halloween.
* The problem with the Lottery is that it doesn't have any restaurants. Open Letter to Illinois Legislators Considering a Chicago Casino.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Rope a dope.

Posted by Lou at 08:33 AM | Permalink

Killer Defense: Part 1

The first of a three-part excerpt from Kevin Davis' Defending the Damned: Inside Chicago's Cook County Public Defender's Office.

*

"The odds," Assistant Public Defender Marijane Placek said as she gathered her files for a morning court hearing, "are completely stacked up against us."

It was just after nine on a brilliant blue Tuesday morning in late April 2003, unusually pleasant and warm for Chicago this early in spring. Outside the massive, gray stone Cook County courthouse at Twenty-sixth Street and California Avenue, a stream of government employees, cops, corrections officers, lawyers, social workers, investigators, jurors, witnesses, felons, petty crooks, drug addicts, gangbangers - the guilty and the innocent - all converged for another day in the administration of justice. Buses disgorged clusters of people out front, and at the corner near the Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits. Waves of others marched across California Avenue from the five-story parking garage, some stopping at the stainless steel paneled lunch truck for coffee and pastries.

"Everybody saw him do it," Placek continued. She was telling me about her client Aloysius Oliver, a twenty-six-year-old unemployed ex-convict charged with fatally shooting an undercover Chicago police officer. "He did it in front of God, country, and four cops." Soon after his arrest, Oliver gave a videotaped confession. It seemed as if the state couldn't have asked for a better case. Placek couldn't ask for a more difficult one. But she knew that in every case, all was never as it seemed.

Placek was briefing me on the case in her eighth-floor office, a 9-by-12-foot windowless room designed in bureaucratic government drab, with carpeting the color of cherry cough medicine, dull off-white walls, beige metal furniture and stacks of cardboard boxes with words and phrases she scrawled in green ink that said "dope," "keep mouth shut" and "sick."

Atop her desk was an old twelve-inch black-and-white television set tuned to Divorce Court, and next to the antenna sat a round purple plastic mirror in which Placek, who was fifty-four years old, could see herself when she spoke on the phone. Her bobbed hair was dyed golden blond with streaked highlights. Her eyes were large and menacing, emboldened by dark mascara, her full lips colored bright red. Taped to the wall were movie posters from The Road Warrior and The Usual Suspects. Behind Placek on the floor was a wire shoe rack, jammed with flats and pumps, boots and tennis shoes; a pair for any occasion, available to match her outfits and moods. The snakeskin cowboy boots were reserved for when she wanted to look like a gunslinger, a nickname she earned in court from her readiness to do battle and shoot up the young state attorneys she liked to intimidate. That morning she decided on a pair of beige pumps to complement her black and brown herringbone outfit, which was comfortably draped over her large frame.

Placek was getting ready to argue a motion, along with cocounsel Ruth McBeth, in which they would try to get Oliver's confession thrown out, a confession she contended that never should have happened. "Why did he confess? Because the police beat the shit out of him." That was one of her theories, anyway. She knew of course that the police would contend that Oliver was injured while resisting arrest, and offered his confession voluntarily. "That's bullshit," Placek said, her tone sounding angry and a little too loud this early in the morning. "But we probably won't win the motion. Do you know how far you have to go to prove the police have lied?" She paused and waited for me to answer, then rolled her eyes and shook her head. "Pulheese!"

As she talked, Placek took a pair of scissors from her desk and cut out the crossword puzzles from the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times. She would carry them with her to court, as she did every day, so she had something to do while waiting for her cases to be called. There was a lot of waiting in the courtrooms as a never-ending supply of criminal suspects and lawyers lined up to stand before judges to make motions, offer plea agreements and ask for continuances. She slipped the puzzles into her appointment book so the judge couldn't see them. Judges prohibited reading of newspapers while court was in session.

It was a newspaper headline that initially alerted Placek to the Oliver case, which became one of Chicago's most highly publicized killings during the summer of 2001. Oliver was charged with shooting Officer Eric Lee, who had tried to stop Oliver from beating a man in an alley behind Oliver's house. Lee was the fifth plainclothes Chicago Police officer slain in the line of duty in the past three years. The shooting rocked an already deflated department that felt it was losing control in a city where they were powerless over criminals who had no respect for the badge. The state's attorney vowed justice and declared that Oliver would pay for his crime with the ultimate penalty: death.

At his first court appearance, Oliver told the judge that he couldn't afford a lawyer, and the judge assigned his case to the Public Defender's Office. A few days later, Placek walked into the office of her supervisor, Shelton Green, and demanded to be put on the case. This was the kind of case she loved best - high-profile, seemingly impossible, full of land mines, epic battles and headlines. She smelled blood and savored the idea of taking on the cops and prosecutors. Green told Placek that Ruth McBeth, another lawyer in her unit, was already assigned to represent Oliver. Placek wanted in, and let Green know she was going to be on that case, too. It turned out that McBeth already planned to ask Placek to join her, knowing they'd make a perfect fit for this case. Their styles complemented each other - like good cop, bad cop. Placek was a roaring, in-your-face intimidator, a dominant figure who relished the spotlight, commanded the courtroom and drew attention to herself in fiery rhetoric and in florid clothing. McBeth, who was forty-two years old, was low-key, more conservative in style and in dress, her wire rim glasses giving her a studious appearance. She tended to wear earthy, more muted colors than her counterpart, and had curly brown-gray hair that fell just below her shoulders. As a lawyer, McBeth was stealthy, steady and cool, preferring a quiet, straightforward approach to her cases, and avoided the media spotlight.

Placek knew the case was going to be tough. But for her, there was an inverse relationship between the difficulty of a case and how much she wanted to try it. That Oliver confessed didn't matter. It made no difference that there were plenty of witnesses. Placek was not intimidated that the State's Attorney's Office would surely put everything it had into prosecuting Oliver and assign their best lawyers to the case. Bring 'em on, she would say. The more hopeless, the more she liked it. "The challenge is why I want it," she explained. "It's going to be fun."

Fun. That seemed like an odd way to describe defending a cop killer. But that's what it was to Marijane Placek, who spoke of cases as if they were chess games, horse races or jousting matches. Like most of her clients, Aloysius Oliver was poor, black and out of work. He was another of hundreds of accused murderers she had represented in her twenty-four years as a public defender. Placek was part of an elite, highly experienced team of lawyers assigned to the Murder Task Force of the Cook County Public Defender's Office, a group of lawyers that operated in the dark corners of the criminal justice system. They were the lawyers for the damned, paid by the people to represent the enemies of the people, working to thwart prosecution of those accused of some of the most vile, repulsive and cold-blooded killings in Chicago, and in doing so were to seek justice for those defendants who were innocent, and to ask for a measure of mercy for those who were not. Placek took on the Oliver case even though she already had an overbooked schedule of clients, including a woman charged with killing her baby and, with her boyfriend's help, dismembering it to conceal the crime, and a man accused of raping and killing a two-year-old girl. She would handle those, and a few other murder cases, simultaneously. More would pile up; it was virtually guaranteed. Just a few steps outside of Placek's office, tacked to a bulletin board, was a newspaper clipping with the headline, "City's Homicide Rate on Rise." Next to the headline, someone wrote in red ink, "We have job security" and drew a little smiley face.

*

Coming Wednesday: Oliver's confession might save his life.

*

Panel Appearance: Kevin Davis will join members of the Cook County Public Defender's Office Murder Task Force this Thursday for a discussion of their work and lives, at the Chicago Bar Association Building, 321 S. Plymouth Court, in the Philip H. Corboy Room from 5-7 p.m. The panel discussion is from 5-6 p.m., with a reception and book signing to follow. The event is free and open to the public.

Several of the public defenders whose stories are told in Davis's book will take part in the discussion, including Marijane Placek and Ruth McBeth.

For more information, contact Mary Butterton at 919-260-4863 or Kevin Davis at 773-743-4186. You can also learn more at Kevin's website.

*

Excerpt reprinted by permission of the author. Copyright 2007 By Kevin Davis. Excerpt also appearing at Simon Says.

Posted by Lou at 12:43 AM | Permalink

Open Letter

I don't object to funding society with money raised from the state-sponsored addiction of wretched citizens blowing their next child support or mortgage payments on their next fix. Gambling, in other words. But this Chicago casino idea you're batting around . . . I just don't know.

Really, it's not the gambling that bothers me, per se. The case can be made that, since addictions are often genetically-based, they can't be stamped out - so we may as well make hay while administrative assistants and salesmen squander their meager paychecks on riverboats.

As the gambling lobby points out, riverboat customers contribute to the surrounding economy. After a long day on the water yanking slot machine handles, anyone who left their children strapped securely in their car seats will be much more likely to treat the little tykes to a Happy Meal. Who wants to cook when you've lost all the grocery money?

Plus, according to reports on the public hearing held in Chicago last week by the House Gaming Committee, the city promises to spend 70 percent of casino profits on "schools, parks and other infrastructure." That's key, since I guess enough people don't play the Lottery to fund schools. I think the problem with the Lottery is that it doesn't have any restaurants, and it's too available. People don't want to throw their money away in just any gas station or White Hen. They like to get dressed up a little and nibble on an appetizer before jeopardizing their retirement. Clearly, a city casino would solve Chicago's fiscal crisis forever.

I am also not worried that your current legislation provides for an irrevocable Chicago casino license, even though, as Chicago Crime Commission president James Wagner insisted, organized crime would be drawn to this venture like Muscidae domestica on fecal matter. His words, not mine. I would have said "like flies on shit." Oh, OK - my words, but I think that's what he meant.

It doesn't concern me because a revocable casino license wouldn't make any difference even if Mayor Daley appointed Tony Soprano executive director. Not for a mayor who didn't get bounced out of office for Hired Trucks, or the city's ongoing attempt to escape its Shakman decree straitjacket by dislocating a civic shoulder while the judge isn't looking, or for covering the Buckingham Fountain plaza area with that infernal red gravel stuff. Revocable, schmevocable; what's the difference.

Here's the thing, though: I'd rather not have a bunch of sleazy gamblers pouring into downtown Chicago. The crowds for Wicked are bad enough, and who knows what will happen with Jersey Boys. But gamblers? Please. These are the people hunkered down at the off-track betting facility tucked among the garbage dumps off the Bishop Ford Expressway around 111th Street. You see their cars in the parking lot as you drive by on summer days so beautiful, you forget that if you hadn't punched the "recirculate" button on your car's control panel that you'd be choking on paint factory fumes.

The riverboats are tucked away in places like Aurora and Elgin, places I happily avoid. With any vaguely serious talk of a Chicago casino, however, this issue becomes NIMBY territory. When I look out my kitchen window, I would sooner see a posse of Special Operations cops gone bad than a band of red-eyed gamblers.

We keep hearing that Chicago is a "world-class city." A world-class city does not count blackjack tables among its cultural attractions, copies of foreign landmarks as architecture, or Wayne Newton among its leading citizens. Gambling would take the "class" out of "world-class." Bet on it.

Sincerely,

Cate Plys

*

If you frequent Illinois riverboats, please don't be offended. Just find something better to do with your time. Almost anything will qualify, including sending in your comments. Open Letter is open to letters.

*

From Paul McCartney to The Person Who Let Their Dog Defecate Near The Southeast Corner Of 58th And Kimbark, see who else Cate has been writing to.

Posted by Lou at 12:10 AM | Permalink

Chicago, Indiana

A family of three including a four-year-old child moves from Rogers Park in the city's Far North Side to Hammond, Indiana; a move from a two-bedroom apartment to a three-bedroom house with a large backyard. The Puerto Rican father and Korean mother do not know exactly know what to expect in a place like Hammond, but they do know that the area will not offer the degree of diversity or access to Lake Michigan as Rogers Park had offered to their four-year-old son. Given the rising cost of rent, however, they decide that their best shot at homeownership is outside of Chicago. Despite crossing county and state lines, though, some would consider their move within proximity of the metropolitan area.

Many researchers and policymakers have emphasized the importance of regionalism for the past couple of decades. Regionalism means to consider Chicago as a metropolitan area beyond its city limits and to include its surrounding counties when it comes to planning and development. But what makes up this larger area?

Increasingly, the answer is Indiana.

Redefining Chicagoland.
Those who have been studying Chicago for the past few decades are quite familiar with the term "six-county area," which includes Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, and Will counties. The federal government, however, has not recognized the six-county area as the official Chicago metropolitan area for well over a decade. Although the city itself has had its ups and downs, it is relatively well known that the metropolitan area has been growing in population for the past century. As matter of fact, according to 2006 Census estimates, the area has gained nearly 350,000 residents - an increase of 3.8 percent, since 2000. In the same time frame, the city of Chicago has lost population.

Less well-known, though, is the fact that the geographical shape of the official metropolitan area has also changed in that time. In 2000, the U.S. Census Bureau defined the Chicago Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) to be 13-counties strong; the six counties that previously defined the MSA plus DeKalb, Kankakee, Kendall, Grundy, Lake (Ind.), Porter (Ind.) and Kenosha (Wisc.) counties. As of 2005, the definition changed again: Kankakee County fell out while two more counties in Indiana - Jasper and Newton - were added.

This seemingly minor change in geography had an interesting impact on the Chicago metropolitan area population. If the 2000 boundary was kept for 2006, the population count would have been 9,568,249 as of 2006. Instead, the Census Bureau reported the Chicago MSA to have 9,506,859. This means the area arguably grew by 4.5 percent since 2000 rather than the 3.8 percent reported by the Census Bureau. It may appear to be counterintuitive to have lost 61,390 people - including close to 5,000 fewer school kids, approximately 6,700 fewer immigrants, and about 7,700 fewer senior citizens - when it gained one more county through the change. But the two Indiana counties that were added in 2005 had fewer residents combined than the county that was dropped, Kankakee. In 2006, Kankakee County had grown by 5.1 percent to 109,090 residents since 2000. The Census Bureau did not report those areas with population below 65,000 residents, and Jasper and Newton Counties were well below that criterion.

Further comparison between the old and the new geography finds a number of important disparities: In a state where racial politics are prevalent, the metropolitan area ended up with close to 43,000 fewer whites, about 14,000 fewer African Americans, and close to 5,000 fewer Hispanics. Also, there are 23,700 fewer housing units including about 17,600 owner-occupied units in the new geography. The new area appears to have fewer households that are poor and more that are affluent. Though the median income has not changed, the new geography contains approximately 2,000 fewer households with income below $15,000 while close to 8,500 households with household income over $100,000 were added. This can potentially impact the family of three moving from Rogers Park to purchase a home in Hammond. The area they desire to live in may be a middle-income area by one geographical definition and low-income on the other, which can determine different mortgage programs and purchasing power.

The way these boundaries change is certainly not arbitrary, but it fails to capture the unique characteristics of each metropolitan area. And it is quite possible that the Census Bureau may not incorporate local input when they redraw boundaries. This is particularly pertinent when an area contains three different states. Whether those who reside in Kankakee County are more Chicagoan than those who live in Jasper or Newton Counties is not as significant as dollars and resources that are allocated based on (current) population estimates. Federal funding and the local labor market are largely impacted by having fewer children or 6,700 fewer immigrants.

When an area contains such a wide geographical range, it is bound to contain vastly different people and areas of residence. Farmers and yuppies as well as retirement compounds and housing projects are often found within a single boundary. Maintaining a reasonable quality of living for all residents without isolating any groups or people is the question that remains unseen.

*

Kiljoong Kim is Research Director with the Egan Urban Center and a lecturer of sociology at DePaul University. For more Kiljoong, see the Who We Are archive.

Posted by Lou at 12:01 AM | Permalink

October 22, 2007

The [Monday] Papers

1. Devin Hester is . . . oh, you already know by now.

2. Even though he "was so lost in the two-minute drill that Muhsin Muhammad had to line him up, physically moving him around by the shoulders a couple of times," the Sun-Times's Mike Mulligan writes in his look at the Bears' game-winning driving.

3. "In an interview with Bears play-by-play man Jeff Joniak on WBBM-AM's pregame show, Lance Briggs talked about how surviving his one-car crash on the Edens Expressway gave his life renewed purpose," Vaughn McClure writes in the Tribune's Bears Bits.

"I think about [the crash] more in the light that I'm alive and in a crash that for whatever reason God wanted me to walk away from without a scratch," Briggs said.

Oh, so it was God who wanted him to walk away from that accident. Then, later, God changed His mind and told him to report it.

4. Are you as psyched about the World Boxing Tournament as the local media? Me neither. It's boxing, people. Borrring!

5. Apparently Sydney did wonders with the Olympics in 2000, and the Olympics did wonders for Sydney, according to the Tribune this morning. But this interesting tidbit deep in the story sort of caught my eye:

"That doesn't mean the Olympics were entirely good for Sydney. The state government, which funded the biggest share of the Games' costs, is still losing $10.8 million a year on the cost of running Olympic Park, though that figure is being reduced by about $1.6 million each year as the site redevelopment effort progresses, [Olympic Park Authority CEO Brian] Newman said."

$10.8 million a year!

"And while the money for infrastructure improvements for the Games was built into the state's regular budget and private companies picked up a third of the stadium-building costs, state taxpayers ended up footing more than $1.2 billion of the cost of building sports venues . . . "

$1.2 billion!

". . . money spent on a new international equestrian center, rowing center and shooting center was money not spent on other budget priorities, critics argue."

Time out: Isn't that simply a fact and not just what "critics argue"? An undeniable fact, no? But attributing it to "critics" is a way to devalue it.

Why does the official feel-good narrative spun by authorities get a free pass when the "success" they speak of is about "branding" the city in the eyes of, oh, international businesspeople and maybe some tourists? And it sounds like whatever money those folks are spending now in Sydney that they wouldn't have before isn't going to, um, taxpayers or those in need. Because it never does.

"Nobody says there will be a slowdown in school maintenance," said Matthew Moore, who was the Sydney Morning Herald's Olympics editor in 2000. "But the reality is, there are a stack of schools [in Sydney] with temporary classrooms."

But that equestrian center sure looks great!

*

When officials define success, they will always succeed.

6. I sat on a panel recently about Millennium Park in which it was seriously suggested - and believed - that the building of the park couldn't have happened in any other city. They had that right; in other cities the mayor would have been kicked out of office after so many delays, scandals and cost overruns!

But these folks - Official Chicago - truly believe there is something special in the water here that makes our city work in ways other cities around the nation - and the globe, I suppose - don't. Paging school spirit!

One of my arguments against Millennium Park is directly contrary to that - that other cities have in fact done it better. The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, I often suggest, is easily superior. The Historic Mill District along the Mississippi at the other edge of Minneapolis's downtown is another example.

That district includes the new Guthrie Theater, which got a big write-up from the Tribune's Chris Jones on Sunday.

"The overall ambience is akin to the South Bank of London's River Thames, or the area around the Tate Modern art museum. But nowhere in London can you see the grand old warehouses that line an old industrial riverfront that's bursting with new creative energy."

And on-time and on-budget.

Millennium Park will make you gawk, but it will not stand the test of time.

7. "The city's government corruption watchdog agency has received more than 1,500 allegations of wrongdoing this year, but has had the staff to investigate only 18 percent of them, Inspector General David Hoffman said Friday," the Tribune reported on Sunday.

The mayor, of course, turned down Hoffman's request for more investigators, saying the city couldn't afford them. And then he created an entirely new department to undermine Hoffman's. Let's see that discussed at budget hearings.

8. "The local Olympic organizers are paying for much of the [World Boxing] championships, though Chicago Police are being enlisted to help with security and traffic control," the Sun-Times's Andrew Herrmann notes deep in his latest "Bringing the Olympics To Chicago" press release. "In keeping with Chicago 2016's practice of closely guarding costs, [World Sport Chicago Chairman Bill] Scherr would not reveal the tab for the privately financed championships, but estimates have ranged from $3 million to $5 million."

9. Oh my Lord. Neil Steinberg's "Daily Chuckle" is now on video. What's next, video of Michael Sneed stealing from the New York Post as she writes her column?

10. Another Beachwood Halloween.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Punchin' cows.

Posted by Lou at 09:02 AM | Permalink

Another Beachwood Halloween

Remember all the fun you had with last year's Beachwood Halloween costumes? Well, we're back for more this year. Here are ten simple, inexpensive costume ideas for grown-ups ripped out of this year's headlines.

*

1. Larry Craig
Bald wig, business suit, toilet paper stuck to shoe.
Sample party comment: "I am not gay. But that doesn't mean I'm not willing to try."

2. Lisa Nowak
Wear a flight suit/jump suit, a NASA baseball hat, and groan inappropriately.
Sample party comment: "Oh, is there a line waiting to get in the bathroom? Hadn't noticed."

3. Mark Prior
A #22 Cubs jersey, a Cubs hat, and a sling for your arm.
Sample party comment: "I would have had this at my house, but my doctor told me not to 'throw' a party at all this off-season."

4. George Bush 2005-2007
Write the numbers 2005-2007 on the forehead of your George Bush mask, then tape a picture of Alberto Gonzales on the back of your pants so it "covers your ass."
Sample party comment: "Mind if I conduct a little unlawful 'surveillance' on that hot blonde over there?"

5. Keith Richards
Wear a bandana on your head, hold a cigarette in one hand, and carry an urn under your arm.
Sample party comment: "Who wants a hit of my dad?"

6. Michael Vick
This costume will never be cheaper than it is right now. His jerseys are going for about $10 on eBay.
Sample party comment: "What's up, dawg?"

7. Rudy Guiliani
Wear a bald wig and a business suit, hunch your back, and plan your arrival time down to the minute.
Sample party comment: "Sorry we're so late . . . is it already 9:11?"

8. O.J. Simpson
Did you really think you wouldn't be able to use that black knit cap and black gloves costume again?
Sample party comment: "Who wants to help me get my pretzels back from that lady's plate over there?"

9. Ann Coulter
Wear a long blonde wig, a short black skirt, and a gigantic chip on your shoulder.
Sample party comment: "Your deli tray is almost perfect!"

And of course, this one from last year's list will work for at least two more Halloweens . . .

10. President Bush's War Strategy
Wear a "NO EXIT" sign around your neck and never leave.
Sample party comment: "Nice try, but turning out the lights is not going to work. I'm not going anywhere."

*

Your suggestions welcome between now and Oct. 31. Urkel as Todd Stroger not accepted.

*

This list also appears this week at Rick Kaempfer's.

Posted by Lou at 07:10 AM | Permalink

Radiohead's Rainbows

Oh my god oh my god oh my god.

I never knew a Monday could get so good.

As part of my daily morning routine - you know, the first hour or so at work devoted to catching up on news, e-mails, and YouTube - I check the unofficial Radiohead website as ritualistically as downing my morning coffee.

I did so recently knowing that any glorious day could be the day that The Announcement would dance off the computer screen with a special glow and the angels would sound the release date of Radiohead's new album.

See, I'm a Head-head. A little more than a year ago, I wrote a little piece about my Radiohead fandom disclosing all the gory details. At the time, it had been three-and-a-half years since the band's last studio album and I was practically drooling into my Word document as I wrote, having seen them live on their most recent tour and having additionally been gifted a ton of bootlegs from which I could glean their new material. I was already dreaming about what the next album might sound like.

I also happened to be sitting second row, first balcony at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago when Radiohead debuted "All I Need," now appearing as Track 5 on their new record. I was practically done with the waiting more than a year ago.

So my heart skipped no less than 10 beats on that fateful day - Monday, October 1st - and my credit card got dinged for about 40 English pounds. Which means I was never faced with the option of what to pay for the album - my download was included in the box set. This fact alone saved me from trying to demonstrate my love by sacrificing a minotaur in their honor.

There is much to discuss about Radiohead and the magnitude of the move they made to release their album at the price tag of the fan - and without a record company. As much as they refuse to admit their decision was an attack on the industry, I find it hard to believe that it didn't cross their clever minds and even garner a collective smirk from the band anyway.

Radiohead required some balls, a little gall even, to scheme such a scheme. Without the help of a record company or a premeditated release date more than ten days old, Radiohead relied on their musical clout, their pining fans, the richly-developed new material, and some good old-fashioned hype to sell their seventh studio album, In Rainbows.

The fact that the cost is optional is a surefire way to lure new fans and potentially sell thousands more copies of their previous six albums, which do have price tags.

But that's all I'm going to say about the business end. I don't even care if In Rainbows was released through 50 Cent's record company and cost a hundred bucks, exclusively on iTunes. The fact remains beyond the hype: There is finally a new Radiohead album. I was a freshman in college when Hail to the Thief was leaked on the Internet and then later released. I have since graduated, moved across the country, gotten a real job, and turned 23 (in that order). There is finally a new Radiohead album, and pun aside, that is all I need.

* * *

In Rainbows is nearly the perfect melodic offspring of their second and third albums, The Bends and OK Computer. Front man Thom Yorke has acknowledged the pop music that influenced his conceptualization of this record, and the result is likely to reach an even larger larger audience than its predecessors. It is beautifully produced, uncharacteristically lyrically decipherable, and possesses a certain element of catchiness - a word I have otherwise yet to use while discussing Radiohead.

I'll be completely honest - as a true-blue lifelong Radiohead freak, all this hype is annoying. In Rainbows is a masterpiece and deserves to be heard and loved, but I am selfish when it comes to my bands, and given how difficult it was to score tickets to the last tour (and by "score tickets," I mean pay irrational amounts of money on eBay for just one), now I will have to compete with even more casual fans for the next hottest ticket in town - and in a larger, sound-sucking venue.

But enough lamenting that my little band is all grown up. Especially because I know they deserve every fan they have.

In Rainbows opens with as much electronica as it will get - a long way from Y2K and Kid A - with "15 Step." This song was a staple for nearly every tour stop in 2006. It is an energetic track worthy of its lead-off position, easy to move to, yet as the live performance proved, not as easy to clap to.

The high energy continues with "Bodysnatchers" - this time augmented by the distorted riffery of Johnny Greenwood's guitar.

Then comes "Nude," the decade-old B-side that finally made the cut - to the swooning delight of us devotees. "Nude" is gorgeous to the core; a simple melody sprinkled with gentle electric guitar accents supporting Yorke's swirling, divine vocals as they climb up the octaves. And I swear he hits that highest note one glorious half-step higher than he did in concert. No single track since Amnesiac's "Pyramid Song" has melted me into a helpless puddle of flesh quite like "Nude" does.

"Weird Fishes/Arpeggi" picks the pace back up with a seemingly growing and weaving guitar, followed suddenly by a section that largely simulates the pleasant silence of being submerged under water before it picks back up to a satisfying finish.

"All I Need" is the next to please, although I tend to feel great disappointment every time the crescendo of piano and vocal chaos cuts out at the end. I want it to keep going, the cymbals to keep crashing, Yorke's vocals to keep battling between right and wrong.

Track 6 is called "Faust ARP" and is one of two songs I did not already know from live performances. This track intrigues with its crisp acoustic guitar-strums and a vibrant mouthful of lyrics on top of a classical orchestra of strings. To these ears it sounds like Hail to the Thief's closing track, "Wolf at the Door" with a Nick Drake-inspired orchestral layer.

The next track - "Reckoner" - is simply put, the shit. This is, by far, the song that is getting most of my attention. Perhaps it's also because this is the only other song I hadn't heard in advance (despite being debuted in 2001 in concert), but "Reckoner" is also the most interesting, immaculately-crafted song on the album. Between layers upon layers of dreamy Yorke vocals and a skillfully tender yet prevalent percussion, "Reckoner" moves - no, flows - straight through your ears, into your bloodstream, and courses through your veins for nearly five minutes. That is simply the only way I can describe it.

"House of Cards" comes next and fulfills the crucial role of the third-to-last, come-down track. It is mellow and delightful the whole way through, which amply prepares you for the sheer intensity of the never-quitting track 9, "Jigsaw Falling Into Place." This song starts at 10 and builds beyond 11, if you catch my drift.

Finally, "Videotape" closes the album. Opting for a slower-paced, simplistic version of the live song that was my absolute favorite new track in concert, I am afraid that I was let down upon hearing that "Videotape" did not take off into the guitar, vocal and piano climax that I had been awaiting for a year-and-a-half. The live recording of this song from Bonnaroo last summer is the best version of this song available. Nevertheless, the lyrics alone are worth the whole track; especially from the viewpoint of this former AV geek.

* * *

So them's the long-awaited top 10; glorious, fulfilling, gratifying, effecting, and about-damn-timing! I read something interesting regarding the coincidence of Radiohead announcing the 10/10 release date exactly 10 days in advance, 10 years after OK Computer, and also the fact that In Rainbows has 10 letters in it and 10 tracks. I don't know what significance that has to the band, if any. But I do know that in full, in order, and with headphones is the best way to listen to In Rainbows. It's a straight puzzle-piece fitting assortment of songs that make a cohesive whole of a record. And although many moments deserve that extra kick of speaker volume, out of respect I like listening to In Rainbows on 10 - just as the band intended.

-

Comments? Send them along with a full, real name and we'll append the best ones.

Posted by Don at 12:15 AM | Permalink

Reviewing the Reviews

October 20 - 21.

Publication: Sun-Times

Cover: "What Lies Beneath: Paula Kamen examines the life, death and demons of her friend and fellow writer, the late Iris Chang."

"Chang suffered from bipolar disorder," reviewer Mark Athitakis writes, "which gave her the energy to survive a backbreaking book tour for The Chinese in America yet exacerbated her severe depression. And her background as the child of Chinese immigrants intensified the pressure to both succeed and assimilate into the American mainstream. (She ran for homecoming court at U. of I., an odd pursuit for a bookish J-school student.) Those issues, combined with her sensitivity to the gruesome details of her research - in the final years of her life she was working on a book about the Bataan Death March - took its toll. In some instances, she grew paranoid about being pursued by Japanese activists angry about her book The Rape of Nanking and believed that Newsweek magazine postponed an excerpt from that book under pressure from Japanese advertisers.

Chang killed herself - if you haven't figured it out yet - on a California roadside. She left behind a husband and son.

Other Reviews & News of Note: "While I was busy getting to know Dr. Seuss via the Cat in the Hat, the Lorax, Sam I Am and Bartholomew Cubbins - a provocative name for a preschool set if I ever heard one - a generation of stay-at-home moms was cuddling up to Harold Robbins, whose dirty, sexy page-turners revolutionized the once-puritanical world of publishing," Books editor Teresa Budasi writes in her weekly column.

"It is mentioned in Andrew Wilson's Harold Robbins; The Man Who Invented Sex that one could expect dirty parts in a Robbins novel about every 17 pages. I suppose the same could be said for Wilson's meticulously researched biography . . . "

Also: Features writer Mike Thomas interviews Garrison Keillor and elicits this nugget, among others: "One of the worst nights of my life was a big banquet affair honoring me for 25 years of the radio show. It was excruciating. People stood up and made laudatory speeches that showed all too clearly they had never listened to the show. Open heart surgery was a picnic compared to that recognition dinner."

Noted: "Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg read War and Peace on his honeymoon."

He would. Jesus.

*

And what Steinberg piece is complete without his opening explanation that the general public is a lot dumber than he is. For a guy who thinks he's such a smarty pants, he sure has to advertise it as much as a fool. Steinberg may know his literature, but that does not alone make a man wise, nor a crack journalist or insightful writer. It makes you a good candidate to teach English somewhere, not work at a newspaper.

*

At least now we know what he does when he's not taking the 15 minutes it requires to write his column. He's sitting in his office reading Tolstoy.

*

Publication: Tribune

Cover: "Academy Rewards: Lessons taught, and learned, at West Point."

Why? Why does this epitome of ordinariness make the cover of the Chicago Tribune Book Review?

Apparently some of us hold (at least the notion of) that franchise in higher esteem than the people who actually work there.

*

Other Reviews & News of Note: Only three-and-a-half reviews by my count, so no. Why even bother putting this thing out?

*

Publication: New York Times

Cover: "True Believers," a review of The Abstinence Teacher.

Other Reviews & News of Note: "Here in Dinkytown: A novel about a runaway in the Minneapolis punk scene" is the Times's review of Joshua Furst's The Sabotage Cafe. Being from the outer fringes of Minneapolis' indie music scene and having attended the University of Minnesota, where Dinkytown is located, this review caught my eye. Because Dinkytown and the punk scene do not intersect; at least they didn't when I was there.

"Cheryl lands in Dinkytown, the stimulating, seedy Minneapolis neighborhood on the edge of the University of Minnesota that was home to her mother's bohemian wanderings in the 1980s," the review explains.

I was there in the 1980s and Dinkytown, however cherised for such classics as Al's Breakfast, was more like Dullsville. The punk scene and any other strands of bohemia was happening in the Uptown and Lower Uptown neighborhoods, as well as the raw edge of the Warehouse District. Later at least a portion of the indie scene moved to Nordeast.

Dinkytown was where you went for a malt at Annie's or to the hardware store or Burger King. Not real punk.

Also: The Times also reviews the Harold Robbins biography, accompanied with a photo of Robbins flanked by two Penthouse models and looking very Hefneresque. Who knew?

*

CHARTS:
1. Clarence Thomas
2. Alan Greenspan
3. Ann Coulter

Let's just leave it at that this week.


Posted by Lou at 12:01 AM | Permalink

October 20, 2007

The Weekend Desk Report

The Weekend Desk Report will not appear this weekend due to unforeseen circumstances, which may or may not include the Superbug and the official start of World War III.

*

The [Friday] Papers

Funny, Tribune Company got in trouble with its big Times-Mirror deal that eventually sunk them in part because they were depending on the FCC changing its media consolidation rules. Now the same issue threatens their deal with Sam Zell.

And that's probably what's holding up the sale of the Cubs, too.

They never learn.

*

99 More Years!

KGB Chicago
Maybe Rich Daley oughta quit this cowpoke town and go run the CIA. After all, he's obsessed with knowing everyone's business while maintaining his own secrecy.

"Daley Calls For Cameras To Sweep Up Parking Violators," the Sun-Times announces this morning.

What's next, cameras in our kitchens?

Pay to Play
"The Illinois House has passed the legislation [that would ban campaign contributors from contractors to state constitutional officeholders] by a 116-0 vote, and 46 of 59 state senators have indicated they're for it," the Sun-Times reports. "But a top Blagojevich ally, state Senate President Emil Jones (D-Chicago), has kept the bill from being called for a Senate vote."

Seeing as how Barack Obama has named Jones as his political mentor, maybe Jones thinks there just isn't enough consensus yet on this issue.

Durbin Dynamo
Dick Durbin is far more the man in Illinois politics than his junior counterpart - the one running for president.

"U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) chided Gov. Rod Blagojevich and the state's legislative leaders Thursday for their 'inaction' regarding plans for a proposed regional airport near Peotone," the Tribune reports.

Obamamail
The disingenuousness of the Obama campaign's e-mails to supporters continues unabated. Here's the latest:

"Hey,

"I'm leaving the Tonight Show studio and I wanted to share something.

"Jay Leno just asked if it bothers me that some of the Washington pundits are declaring Hillary Clinton the winner of this election before a single vote has been cast.

"I'll tell you what I told him: Hillary is not the first politician in Washington to declare 'Mission Accomplished' a little too soon."

The Obama folks have been hitting this theme all week, but it isn't Hillary Clinton who is declaring her own inevitability - it's the Washington pundits Leno mentioned. And to equate Hillary Clinton - whom I have no intention of voting for - with George Bush's "Mission Accomplished" declaration is noxious.

*

Then, in his e-mail, Obama asks for more money.

*

Lynn Sweet writes today: I've been in Chicago listening to supporters of White House hopeful Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.). They're worried that Obama's message of change and hope is too vague and cautious."

Welcome aboard!

Obama's political watchword is caution. And yet, he's tried to brand himself as a change agent. Hello?

Not only that, but Obama has wasted all that enthusiasm and momentum by failing to actually propose a bold agenda of change. His positions aren't very different than anyone else's - there's nothing "change" about him, except his biography. And that's not enough.

But then, anyone looking at his record in Illinois - instead of his media-hyped marketing - could have predicted that.

*

That doesn't mean it's over. But the now-popular analogy to Howard Dean losing his big lead in 2004 is the wrong one. Dean was the insurgent candidate whom the Establishment was determined to torpedo. Hillary Clinton is the Democratic Party's Establishment.

Today's Worst Person In Chicago
Ted Matlak. Ben Joravsky explains (second item).

*

Matlak and former First Ward Jesse Granato single-handedly destroyed Wicker Park and Bucktown - at the mayor's behest.

I'll never forget the night Granato wandered down to my end of the bar at the Beachwood one night after he'd been defeated for re-election by Manny Flores. Granato bitched and moaned about how he went along with the mayor straight down the line only to get thrown overboard at crunch time. He vowed to run again as a reformer; he went on and on about how corrupt Daley is.

I listened patiently until I couldn't take it anymore. Then I told him he should have spoken up when it mattered and sent him on his way.

*

Granato ran last year against Billy Ocasio in the 26th Ward. On Election Day, a friend of mine spotted him driving a car up and down the streets of Humboldt Park asking for people's votes over a Blues Brothers-style loudspeaker.

*

Not that Flores is any better. He's just a kinder, gentler, more photogenic hack.

Today's Hero
All hail Mona Shaw and her claw hammer!

Ferdy!
The Beachwood's very own Marilyn Ferdinand wraps up this year's Chicago International Film Festival with two more reviews and a meditation on what it's all about. Catch up on all her festival coverage and her world of off-road films at Ferdy on Films, a Beachwood blog.

Private Mayor
The Tribune this week wrote about the places in Chicago it wasn't allowed access for its, um, "Unauthorized" series in Tempo that took you backstage and behind-the-scenes of various places around the city. One of those places was the mayor's "working desk." The paper wanted to know, simply, what was in the mayor's top desk drawer.

An innocuous request, really, unless that's where he keeps his favors list.

The paper called mayoral press spokesperson Jacquelyn Heard, whom, the Trib says, "first agreed to consider the story, [but] later she wouldn't answer our e-mails or return our calls."

Memo to Jackie: That's the taxpayers' desk. It doesn't belong to you or the mayor.

Reminds me of the time when I was at Chicago magazine and we were trying to do annotations of photographs of interesting Chicago places. We wanted to do the mayor's office. We figured we'd take a photo and draw lines to brief descriptions like "Photo of his dad," "White Sox hat," etc.

Heard didn't return repeated pleasant and polite phone messages. So in my last voice-mail message I very strongly offered her a civics lesson. That office, I explained, belongs to us. All we wanted was a photo and some fun descriptions. They could even hide evidence of their corrupt schemes if they wanted to.

That approach didn't work either. The arrogance of these people is astounding, and way out of proportion with their character or contributions to our lives - at least positive contributions. If I was working for a real news organization, we would have had a lawyer make the call and threaten a lawsuit. Really. This city's political culture needs to be dramatically re-oriented. It starts with giving no quarter.

Gimme a "C"
Larry Hagerup of Chicago writes to the Tribune:

Is Chicago still the City that Works? It won't be after Nov. 4, unless Mayor Richard M. Daley gets involved in the fight for CTA funding. For some reason the mayor is more interested in the Olympics than the CTA funding crisis.

My wife, who commutes daily on the CTA, called the mayor's office to register a complaint and was told through a spokesperson, "It's not the mayor's problem; you need to contact the state legislature."

Last time I checked, the CTA stands for the Chicago Transit Authority and Daley is the mayor of Chicago, so I think he needs to make it his problem. I know his father would have!

I'm also surprised that the press has let the mayor get away with such a laissez-faire attitude.

Sterling
Lewis Bizarre notwithstanding, the season finale of Mad Men last night was the best and most gripping episode yet. The contours of the show are deepening beyond the show's surface beauty as the characters develop and their demons come to the fore. Plus, the after-show interviews showing what the actors look like in real life was just short of stunning.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Madness in your soul.


Posted by Lou at 09:27 AM | Permalink

October 19, 2007

The [Friday] Papers

Funny, Tribune Company got in trouble with its big Times-Mirror deal that eventually sunk them in part because they were depending on the FCC changing its media consolidation rules. Now the same issue threatens their deal with Sam Zell.

And that's probably what's holding up the sale of the Cubs, too.

They never learn.

*

99 More Years!

KGB Chicago
Maybe Rich Daley oughta quit this cowpoke town and go run the CIA. After all, he's obsessed with knowing everyone's business while maintaining his own secrecy.

"Daley Calls For Cameras To Sweep Up Parking Violators," the Sun-Times announces this morning.

What's next, cameras in our kitchens?

Pay to Play
"The Illinois House has passed the legislation [that would ban campaign contributors from contractors to state constitutional officeholders] by a 116-0 vote, and 46 of 59 state senators have indicated they're for it," the Sun-Times reports. "But a top Blagojevich ally, state Senate President Emil Jones (D-Chicago), has kept the bill from being called for a Senate vote."

Seeing as how Barack Obama has named Jones as his political mentor, maybe Jones thinks there just isn't enough consensus yet on this issue.

Durbin Dynamo
Dick Durbin is far more the man in Illinois politics than his junior counterpart - the one running for president.

"U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) chided Gov. Rod Blagojevich and the state's legislative leaders Thursday for their 'inaction' regarding plans for a proposed regional airport near Peotone," the Tribune reports.

Obamamail
The disingenuousness of the Obama campaign's e-mails to supporters continues unabated. Here's the latest:

"Hey,

"I'm leaving the Tonight Show studio and I wanted to share something.

"Jay Leno just asked if it bothers me that some of the Washington pundits are declaring Hillary Clinton the winner of this election before a single vote has been cast.

"I'll tell you what I told him: Hillary is not the first politician in Washington to declare 'Mission Accomplished' a little too soon."

The Obama folks have been hitting this theme all week, but it isn't Hillary Clinton who is declaring her own inevitability - it's the Washington pundits Leno mentioned. And to equate Hillary Clinton - whom I have no intention of voting for - with George Bush's "Mission Accomplished" declaration is noxious.

*

Then, in his e-mail, Obama asks for more money.

*

Lynn Sweet writes today: I've been in Chicago listening to supporters of White House hopeful Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.). They're worried that Obama's message of change and hope is too vague and cautious."

Welcome aboard!

Obama's political watchword is caution. And yet, he's tried to brand himself as a change agent. Hello?

Not only that, but Obama has wasted all that enthusiasm and momentum by failing to actually propose a bold agenda of change. His positions aren't very different than anyone else's - there's nothing "change" about him, except his biography. And that's not enough.

But then, anyone looking at his record in Illinois - instead of his media-hyped marketing - could have predicted that.

*

That doesn't mean it's over. But the now-popular analogy to Howard Dean losing his big lead in 2004 is the wrong one. Dean was the insurgent candidate whom the Establishment was determined to torpedo. Hillary Clinton is the Democratic Party's Establishment.

Today's Worst Person In Chicago
Ted Matlak. Ben Joravsky explains (second item).

*

Matlak and former First Ward Jesse Granato single-handedly destroyed Wicker Park and Bucktown - at the mayor's behest.

I'll never forget the night Granato wandered down to my end of the bar at the Beachwood one night after he'd been defeated for re-election by Manny Flores. Granato bitched and moaned about how he went along with the mayor straight down the line only to get thrown overboard at crunch time. He vowed to run again as a reformer; he went on and on about how corrupt Daley is.

I listened patiently until I couldn't take it anymore. Then I told him he should have spoken up when it mattered and sent him on his way.

*

Granato ran last year against Billy Ocasio in the 26th Ward. On Election Day, a friend of mine spotted him driving a car up and down the streets of Humboldt Park asking for people's votes over a Blues Brothers-style loudspeaker.

*

Not that Flores is any better. He's just a kinder, gentler, more photogenic hack.

Today's Hero
All hail Mona Shaw and her claw hammer!

Ferdy!
The Beachwood's very own Marilyn Ferdinand wraps up this year's Chicago International Film Festival with two more reviews and a meditation on what it's all about. Catch up on all her festival coverage and her world of off-road films at Ferdy on Films, a Beachwood blog.

Private Mayor
The Tribune this week wrote about the places in Chicago it wasn't allowed access for its, um, "Unauthorized" series in Tempo that took you backstage and behind-the-scenes of various places around the city. One of those places was the mayor's "working desk." The paper wanted to know, simply, what was in the mayor's top desk drawer.

An innocuous request, really, unless that's where he keeps his favors list.

The paper called mayoral press spokesperson Jacquelyn Heard, whom, the Trib says, "first agreed to consider the story, [but] later she wouldn't answer our e-mails or return our calls."

Memo to Jackie: That's the taxpayers' desk. It doesn't belong to you or the mayor.

Reminds me of the time when I was at Chicago magazine and we were trying to do annotations of photographs of interesting Chicago places. We wanted to do the mayor's office. We figured we'd take a photo and draw lines to brief descriptions like "Photo of his dad," "White Sox hat," etc.

Heard didn't return repeated pleasant and polite phone messages. So in my last voice-mail message I very strongly offered her a civics lesson. That office, I explained, belongs to us. All we wanted was a photo and some fun descriptions. They could even hide evidence of their corrupt schemes if they wanted to.

That approach didn't work either. The arrogance of these people is astounding, and way out of proportion with their character or contributions to our lives - at least positive contributions. If I was working for a real news organization, we would have had a lawyer make the call and threaten a lawsuit. Really. This city's political culture needs to be dramatically re-oriented. It starts with giving no quarter.

Gimme a "C"
Larry Hagerup of Chicago writes to the Tribune:

Is Chicago still the City that Works? It won't be after Nov. 4, unless Mayor Richard M. Daley gets involved in the fight for CTA funding. For some reason the mayor is more interested in the Olympics than the CTA funding crisis.

My wife, who commutes daily on the CTA, called the mayor's office to register a complaint and was told through a spokesperson, "It's not the mayor's problem; you need to contact the state legislature."

Last time I checked, the CTA stands for the Chicago Transit Authority and Daley is the mayor of Chicago, so I think he needs to make it his problem. I know his father would have!

I'm also surprised that the press has let the mayor get away with such a laissez-faire attitude.

Sterling
Lewis Bizarre notwithstanding, the season finale of Mad Men last night was the best and most gripping episode yet. The contours of the show are deepening beyond the show's surface beauty as the characters develop and their demons come to the fore. Plus, the after-show interviews showing what the actors look like in real life was just short of stunning.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Madness in your soul.


Posted by Lou at 09:40 AM | Permalink

Chicagoetry: My Mom Tried To Prevent Me From Seeing Led Zeppelin

MY MOM TRIED TO PREVENT ME FROM SEEING LED ZEPPELIN

"Isn't that
the one where

they got into fights
sleeping out

for tickets?"
As the saying goes, "my blood ran cold."

Kitchen table, Moser Highlands,
75th Street, near

St. Raphael's.
My dad

saved her
life.

"It's
OK."

Deux ex
machina: I swear

to God
I would have

killed
her.

-

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 08:24 AM | Permalink

Daley's Casino Royale

Editor's Note: Doug Dobmeyer is the spokesperson for the Task Force to Oppose Gambling in Chicago. He sent this along this morning.

*

House Hearing on a Chicago Casino
(October 18, 2007, Chicago, IL . . . ) The House Gaming Committee held a six-and-a-half hour hearing on a proposed Chicago casino.

Paul Volpe, Chicago's Chief Financial Officer, pled the case for Mayor Daley. Volpe claimed that thousands of jobs would be created (1,800 construction and 1,900 casino jobs) in addition to 6,700 jobs at the services that work with the casino. Volpe made it sound fantastic. He did not tell how many of the construction and non-casino jobs would exist anyway.

Volpe asserted the city would only take on a casino if it was "profitable." The meaning of profitable remained undisclosed all day. He did state that the estimated $800 million license fee would not make the venture profitable. Later he stated that even one dollar was too much. That extreme statement left people feeling Chicago was being arrogant. Later it was thought a private operator might pay $ 2 billion for a license to operate a Chicago casino.

Volpe also said the 50 percent tax was not feasible for Chicago to make a profit. (This is the level of taxation when the adjusted gross revenues exceed $200 million) When asked what level of AGR would be needed, Volpe left people gasping. He claimed a Chicago casino would yield one billion a year in AGR. This would be a very tall order.

Illinois in 2005 with nine riverboats yielded $1.7 billion in AGR. By 2006 that number climbed to $1.9 billion. Riverboats varied between $39 million in Rock Island and $430 million in Elgin. Chicago is slotted for 4,000 gambling positions (slot machines or spaces at card games such as 21).

Volpe once again stated that Chicago would only have a world-class casino. Later in news media interviews he stated that Chicago is now a world-class city. One pitch point of the Daley Administration is a casino will make Chicago a world-class city. It is unclear how much more of a world-class city Chicago wants to be.

The issue of eminent domain came up. Eminent domain exists to allow government to acquire property for the common good - such as roads. It was not specified how much power of eminent domain the city may have in building a casino and ancillary services.

The City would not rule out future property tax increases to Chicago homeowners because a casino existed.

Volpe weighed in on casino AGR leveraging other funds. He contended that each $100 million in AGR can launch a one-billion dollar capitol plan.

The city said they did not have anyone in mind to manage the casino. They expect to pay 30 percent of the AGR for a management fee.

A number of horse racing owners (tracks and horses) testified. They said taxes on slot machines at tracks could yield $180 million in taxes to Illinois.

Tom Swoik of the Casino Operators Association, representing eight of the nine existing riverboats in Illinois said there was no consensus among owners on approval of a Chicago casino. Chicago would become the giant among Illinois casinos and siphon off business from area suburban boats.

Swoik also raised the possibility of a Chicago casino over-saturating the Chicago market.

*

Unanswered Questions: There are many, too numerous for this list. Several include:

1. Is Chicago getting a sweetheart deal at a lower cost than a private operator?
2. Does Chicago have the management capacity to protect the integrity of the investment?
3. Will the state provide the funds to the Illinois Gaming Board to do its job of policing and regulating a Chicago casino along with the other ten in Illinois?
4. Have the proponents (the city) oversold the product?
5. Will the resulting income be worth the social costs?
6. Will a referendum be held to let the people of Chicago have a say on locating a casino in the city?

These and other complex questions will take more than a hearing to unravel.

*

As The Casino Turns:
- "House Close To Casino Deal"
- "Demands Slow Up Casino Push"

*

Doug Dobmeyer can be reached at 312/315-6887 or dcdobmneyer@aol.com. Comments welcome, but please include a real, full name and any political affiliation you may have.


Posted by Lou at 07:59 AM | Permalink

The Blue & Orange Kool-Aid Report

During last week's Bears game, one Fox broadcaster compared the Bears running game this year against last year's after five games. The commentator surmised the Bears will be fine since in both instances, the Bears showed little success running the ball! He was right to a point, though - the point where you ignore the strength of schedule through five games, the play at quarterback (remember when Sexy Rexy was Very Sexy?), and the quality of defensive play and what that meant for both field position and the actual score.

At the end of the day, the only one statistic matters: Your team scores more points than the other team. But if you're a Bears fan, you are frantically reading tea leaves and forever breaking the Bears down to miscroscopic levels. We'll help out.

*

Key Stat: The Bears are fourth-place in the NFC North.
Significance: There are only four teams in the NFC North.

*

Key Stat: The Bears are fourth in the NFC in the statistic "worst record".
Significance: The Bears are in ninth-place in the wild-card race.

*

Key Stat: The Bears rank 20th in points-scored at 19.7/game.
Significance: Imagine if Devin Hester was not ridiculous.

*

Key Stat: Hester leads the team with four TDs.
Significance: Hester's back might break from carrying the team.

*

Key Stat: The Bears' three starting linebackers lead the team in tackles. The next four on the list are defensive backs.
Significance: The defensive line is getting beat like a rented mule.

*

Key Stat: Rex Grossman has a quarterback rating of 45.2. Robbie Gould has a quarterback rating of 39.6.
Significance: Kyle Orton isn't the only option left.

*

Key Stat: Cedric Benson is averaging 3.1 yards-per-carry.
Significance: That's slightly above the following: the Number of children Mike Brady brought into his marriage with Carol; the number of games the Diamondbacks needed to sweep the Cubs out of the playoffs; and the number of years Hillary Clinton has been running for president.

-

Bears at Eagles
Storyline: Chicago native Donovan McNabb leads the Eagles, and native Chicago sports radio callers lead the call for the Bears to acquire McNabb. Before game time.

Reality: In the sporting world, players have "best friends." For instance, hockey goalies have "the post". Baseball pitchers have "the double play". Basketball players have "weed". Embattled QBs have "an effective running game". The Eagles should use both to defeat a Bears defense that's given up a bazillion yards on the ground recently.

Pick: Philadelphia minus 5, over 41 Points Scored.

-

Sugar in the Blue and Orange Kool-Aid: 35%
Recommended Sugar in the Blue and Orange Kool-Aid: 20%

-

For more Emery, see the Kool-Aid archive, and the Over/Under archive. Emery accepts comments from Bears fans reluctantly and everyone else tolerably.

Posted by Lou at 12:07 AM | Permalink

October 18, 2007

The [Thursday] Papers

Wow. We could have a real tax revolt on our hands here. I sense the citizenry is being pushed too far. Break out the pitchforks.

But who do you march on first?

Todd Stroger is obviously far less popular - well, let's face it, he's devoid of popularity - than Richard M. Daley, who plays a far cannier game. Meanwhile, you may have forgotten that we still don't have a state budget. (And look, ComEd is back at the trough!)

I wonder if the Toddler's purpose is to make the mayor's tax hikes look reasonable by comparison. He is, after all, a subsidiary of the Daley Machine.

And ComEd is brought to you by Emil Jones (and Barack Obama), who seems to be the last remaining ally (sort of) of Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

As a veteran Chicago journalist once told me, beneath the sauce all the strands are connected.

Let's start with Stroger.

TheSun-Times summarizes his position on its front page today: "Stroger's Promise: We're overtaxing new, but we'll give it back if we don't need it."

Hey, I've got a better idea: Cut my taxes and if I don't need all the money you give back to me I'll return some of it!

Stroger can't even deliver a budget document, much less run a budget. (Sigh. Story not available online:. Don't they know I'm trying to do schtick here? Here is the key part: "Once the budget was made available, many officials started noticing inconsistencies between the different volumes of the budget books. One volume showed drastic cuts to some offices, while other volumes showed thousands of jobs added for the same office . . . [Stroger's staff] chalked it up to printing error.")

"A board president who claims tremendous credit for cutting some 1,440 jobs in the last year now wants to add 1,130 new jobs in 2008," the Tribune editorial page notes.

Wow, Todd Stroger has a larger family tree than Barack Obama.

"Stroger's campaign pledge to cut county employment to 22,000 workers? His budget would fatten the county payroll to 24,836."

If this is just an opening negotiating position, Stroger has judged wrong. His credibility deficit is already larger than any budget shortfall.

Let's move on.

The mayor is thinking about privatizing the city's parking meters. Better idea: privatize the city council. I hear Blackwater is looking for a new gig. Could they outbid Daley's Army?

Fran Spielman writes in the Sun-Times this morning that "there's another sign that a City Council long known as a rubber stamp is preparing to flex its collective muscle: Daily meetings of the Progressive and Independent Caucus."

You know what? I've been reading stories about "signs" that the independence is coming to the council for 18 years. They're as ubiquitous as stories about how pool halls are no longer just for ne'er do-wells and the annual discovery of Goth.

Moving on.

"Commonwealth Edison residential customers would see their bills spike about 8 percent if the Illinois Commerce Commission approves a delivery service rate increase request filed by the utility Wednesday," the Sun-Times reports.

Funny, I had a conversation at the bar last night about ComEd. We all just received relatively low bills reflecting rebates from ComEd's last attempt to raise rates unreasonably. "They'll just make up for it later," I cautioned my fellow patrons. Ahhh, bar wisdom.

Of course, raising taxes in tough times is exactly the wrong thing to do. Can you say economic downward spiral?

But what really makes it scandalous is whose pockets keep getting stuffed.

"The price of patronage, of corruption, of inefficiency, has come due, and Cook County can't ask taxpayers to pay for that," Commissioner Mike Quigley said.

But taxpayers are always the ones who pay.

Meanwhile, "A portrait-hanging ceremony for former interim Cook County Board President Bobbie Steele rose to near worship this week at the County Building," Sneed reports (and this time we'll take her word for it, though I'm sure there are errors elsewhere in her column today).

"Let us translate: Invitations were sent out to more than 1,000 people to attend what became a lovefest for Steele, a former Cook County commissioner, who had a four-month tenure as board president, enabling her to double her pension before installing her son to replace her as Cook County Board commissioner."

If it turns out Steele doesn't need the money, though, she promises to give it back.

With Apologies to Nena
"99 Years Of Cubs Losses."

Also known as "99 Jahre von Bengeln Verlusten."

Remedial Reporting
Jennifer Hunter continues her adult education course in public today by writing a report on the Iowa caucuses. "Probing reporter that I am, I vowed to find the answers," she writes. (Oh Christ, this isn't online either. Maybe they've decided to spare some of us. Has this woman no capacity for self-awareness, shame or embarrassment?)

*

So let me get this straight: The Sun-Times assigned a "reporter" to a historic presidential campaign who is just learning now how the Iowa caucuses work? Is this what they call "citizen journalism"?

Ways to Die
I haven't read Paul Salopek's front-page piece on Mogadishu yet, but given his track record, it's probably damn good.

The Mad Man Is . . .
. . . Lewis Lazare (second item).

He's wrong. Maureen Ryan and Doug Elfman are, more or less, right.

TV Tattle
Sun-Times broadcast columnist Robert Feder writes (second item) this morning: "Lester Holt, who's too big to return my phone calls now that he is an important NBC News anchor, slipped into Chicago recently to hang out with syndicated talk show host Jerry Springer, who's not too big to return my phone calls."

Meow!!!!

*

Wait, Lester Holt hangs out with Jerry Springer?

Breast Cancer
"Reducing breast cancer deaths among black women in Chicago will require massive changes in the city's 'de facto segregated health-care system,' a blue-ribbon panel contends," the Tribune reports on its front page this morning.

Tax Follies
1. "Nobody ever wants to pay taxes," Stroger said. "I don't want to pay taxes."

No, nobody wants to pay taxes to you.

And our taxes pay your salary, so we're really paying your taxes too.

*

Does Todd enjoy his job? Wouldn't he rather do something else? Or is this the only thing he's "qualified" for?

2. "How can you get that down to a smaller amount that you can basically fund libraries," Daley said.

I have an idea: Let's forgo libraries this year. I think we'll survive.

3. "A county commissioner earlier this week called it a 'perfect storm of taxation.'"

Amen.

*

How did that movie end, by the way? As I recall we didn't quite get what we paid for because it was a little over-the-top.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Promises kept.


Posted by Lou at 09:45 AM | Permalink

Chicagoetry: Smilin' Dave Eigenberg

SMILIN' DAVE EIGENBERG

Even Sex
in the City
men

have to be
high-school

freshman
at some point.

My senior year
at Naperville Central,

I finally bagged -
wait -

OK, nearly
bagged

my
dream

sophomore
chick.

I was ruthlessly exercising
Senior

Protocol, every
damn

one of
them.

My dream
was about to be

mine
when Smilin'

Dave Eigenberg,
FRESHMAN, came gayfully

strolling up
the sidewalk . . .

and my dream
ended. Good one, Dave.

Some years
later, pre-Sex

but post-Dennis
Rodman ensemble war movie,

I run into
a

chick at
a

party who still
knew this

woman.
"Wish I'da married

a man like
David! Wish I'da

married a man
like

DAVID . . . " Yeah,
me, too.

-

Reader's Guide
1. David Eigenberg.

-

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 08:08 AM | Permalink

99 Years of Cub Losses

You loved "Please Stop Believing" - though you didn't heed our warning. Now see what the 2007 Cubs have wrought: "99 Years of Cubs Losses."

*

Also posted at YouTube for your embedding needs.

*

And that's not all!

*

Also from Beachwood A/V:
- "Go Blame It On Bartman"
- "Oklouhoma" and "Ozzie Cabana"
- "Dusty Must Get Fired"
- "I Had a Crush On Obama"
- "Tap Three Times: The Larry Craig Song."
- "I'm the Tribune/I'm the Sun-Times"

*

And if you must, relive the season at The Cub Factor.

Posted by Lou at 07:49 AM | Permalink

Dear Beachwood

Readers weigh in on Ald. Tom Tunney's cell phone scandal, the city's beautiful flowers, and the death of affordable Chicago.

*

1. Dear Beachwood Politics:

Tom Tunney should be ashamed of himself for so many reasons.

First, he violated a law. Period. It doesn't matter what he thinks of that law -- and for the record, he supported it in 2005. Alderman Tunney, an elected official, does not get to violate it.

Nor does he get special dispensation to do an end run around the repercussions, but what Alderman Tunney should really be ashamed of is putting the blame on the police in general and Town Hall District Commander Gary Yamashiroya in particular.

As resident of the neighboring 46th Ward, I can attest first hand to the dedication of Commander Yamashiroya and the differences made in this community since he arrived. He has attended community policing and positive loitering events at particularly troublesome spots in his district, and has even been spotted personally patrolling the parks at night to better enforce curfews.

Tunney says that he phoned the commander after receiving the ticket.

"Although I did not ask him to, following our conversation the commander had my driver's license returned to me at my office," Tunney said. "I must emphasize that at no time did I ask for any special treatment."

Clearly, Commander Yamashiroya's personal touch was ill placed when he had Alderman Tunney's license returned to his office. But shame on Tunney for trying to deflect negative attention by redirecting the spotlight on one of the city's good cops in a time when we're treated to so many gruesome details about the behavior of the bad ones.

And the thing Alderman Tunney should be most embarrassed about; asking the commander why, "in an understaffed police district where we have serious crimes unsolved, officers are assigned to pull people over solely for cell phone violations."

Clearly Alderman Tunney believes the police's time is better spent talking to him on the phone or better yet, writing parking tickets for the poor saps who park at meters in his Ward on Sundays, a task he added to the their duties in 2004.

- Laura Heller

*

2. Dear Beachwood Politics:

I've about had it with people saying, oh, the city looks beautiful. Every time I hear that, I say, pick a day, we'll go for a ride, and we'll see just how beautiful the city looks. We'd tour Ogden Avenue south of Roosevelt. Places where there are one or two standing buildings on entire blocks. Areas where boardups outnumber buildings in use. Open-air drug markets. You get the idea.

I have yet to have anyone take me up on my city tour. People would rather think the city looks terrific than to find out that, for people who don't count, the city doesn't look so great.

That's really the heart of the situation: Some people matter to this administration, and an awful lot don't. It's easy to see who matters - wealthy people whose business or arts interests keep them sequestered downtown or in a small section of the North Side. It's also easy to see who doesn't matter - people who have to get their kids to school through the drug markets, people who have to be in queue at 5 a.m. to have any hope of getting treated at Stroger Hospital, people who have to spend the day on the bus just to buy groceries.

It's easy to say that if those people voted, we wouldn't have these problems. Yeah, but think about this for a minute: If you have to walk your kids to school, then ride maybe 3 buses (at $2 per bus, no transfers, no opportunity to buy or refill a Chicago Card if you can't get to an L station and don't have a credit card and a computer, so you're spending $12 of your very tight budget just to get to and from the store) to get to the grocery store, then you have to haul everything home the same way, and the way the CTA runs, this can take all day, then you have to get your kids from school, then you have to see to their needs . . . When do you think you'd have the time or the inclination to stay informed on politics?

So . . . Given the various doomsday scenarios for the public agencies, not only do we have people who don't count, we're seeing to it that there's no way they're ever going to count. This is so wrong on so many levels, and it drives me insane that people don't see this. I'm surprised we don't have riots like we did in the '60s.

- Peg Burke

*

3. Dear Beachwood Politics:

Your writing has really struck me more than usual this week when you comment on the Chicago bills coming due. I moved to Chicago in the mid-1990s, and though the city was enjoying an upswing, I knew the numbers did not add up. I am no fiscal expert, but it was clear that the costs of corruption, infrastructure decay, mismanaged public work forces and short-sighted zoning decisions would soon take their toll. And I knew the county and state were, fundamentally, in bad shape, and that sooner or later, the bill would come due. I figured the day of reckoning would take place around 2002-2003. I guess I was off.

My girlfriend and I make, combined, a low six-figure salary. We are obviously not poor. We love this city and has always thought of making our homes here. Even though Chicago remains segregated, we love the diversity--not only ethnic and cultural, but diversity related the income, the fact that working and lower middle class people still can live here.

As you point out, that is changing. We are anxious, to say the least. We don't know what Chicago is becoming. And with the CTA in the crapper, we can't even be sure we can get to work on time, which is a HUGE issue for us and hundreds of thousands more. It seems Chicago is determined to shoot itself in the foot, and that the old Machine way of governing will never change. It becomes more clear that the supposed rebirth of Chicago over the last 15 years or so will not hold, and that our taxes will increase while services decline.

We hope we can stay here, but like so many of the people we know--transplants and natives alike--we have started to sketch what one might call "exit plans." Already, at least one relatively well-paid couple we know with a new kid moved out, fleeing the high housing prices and uncertainty over schools. Another guy I know, a union electrician who grew up in Chicago and just started his family, wonders what is becoming of his home city, where all the money has gone from the good old days of the '90s, and whether he can afford to raise his children here. As for us, we are childless, so perhaps we will take the plunge and move to NYC- much more expensive, yes, but at least the transit works, and city and state leaders are unlikely to let the MTA just wither away. Or DC - same story there. Boston also is on our radar. Or somewhere smaller such as Portland, Oregon, or Austin, Texas should we decide to buy a car again. Hell, even my old home area around St. Louis is looking better - I mean, if we have to buy a car, why live in Chicago, with all the expenses, declining services and over-eager ticketing force and ingrained corruption?

I didn't mean to ramble, only to tell you that your writing is really hitting a nerve. I doubt our city, county and state leaders realize just how many people are close to simply giving up on Chicago and, by extension, Illinois.

- Thad Rueter

*

Care to comment? The Beachwood gladly accepts Letters to the Editor. Just use a real name if you wish to be published.

Posted by Lou at 07:31 AM | Permalink

Over/Under

Like any sporting endeavor, the NFL has winners and losers. These days, the Bears are losers - enough so that the sports guys on Channel 5 the other night reverted to asking if the Bears were who we thought they were. When you start to live up to one of the most infamous loser rants of all time, you know you're on your way to Loserville. Who else resides there?

*

1242 Loser Lane: Mike Ditka
Why: Continued high profile only magnifies how he fumbled away a dynasty after one Super Bowl and then set back both Ricky Williams and the New Orleans Saints for a number of painful years. And his dick doesn't work.
How He Can Become a Winner: Choke Chris Berman to death.

*

1243 Loser Lane: Ricky Williams
Why: Quitting football to smoke more weed than Snoop Dogg's posse is surpassed only by moving to Canada during peacetime.
How He Can Become a Winner: Choke Mike Ditka to death.

*

1244 Loser Lane: Jim Mora
Why: Fathered Jim Mora Jr., spreading his loser seed twicefold upon the league.
How He Can Become a Winner: Smoke dope with Ricky Williams.

*

1245 Loser Lane: Tiki Barber
Why: Insufferable broadcast commentary on NBC follows insufferable Cadillac Escalade commercials follow sinsufferable career.
How He Can Become a Winner: Choke the insufferable Bob Costas to death.

*

1246 Loser Lane: Chris Berman
Why: Like the Rolling Stones, failed to quit in 1985 when he still had a sliver of freshness left in him.
How He Can Become a Winner: Choke Tiki Barber to death.

*

1247 Loser Lane: The Cincinnati Bengals
Why: Equally poor at running a defense and running from police.
How They Can Become Winners: Hire Ditka to coach and put Ricky Williams and Tiki Barber in the backfield.

*

1248 Loser Lane: The Miami Dolphins
Why: They were actually better when Dave Wannstedt (1249 Loser Lane) coached the team.
How They Can Become Winners: Schedule more games against Cincinnati.

-

OverHyped Game of the Week: Colts at Jaguars
Storyline: Unbeaten Indy travels to 4-1 Jacksonville in a major AFC South showdown. Jaguars usually play Indy tough, and they get them at home.
Reality: The Jaguars are overmatched. Don't even think about it.

Pick: Indianapolis Minus 3 Points, Over 44.5 Total Points Scored.

*
UnderHyped Game of the Week: Buccaneers at Lions
Storyline: Two mediocre teams who will soon be exposed despite surprisingly strong starts.
Reality: Both teams are better than anyone thought they would be. This game is an early indicator of which one might be playoff-ready. I say the Bucs.

Pick: Tampa Bay Plus 2.5 Points, Under 44.5 Total Points Scored.

-

Results
Last week: 1-5 (0-3 Against the Spread, 1-2 Over/Under)
Season: 16-20 (6-12 Against the Spread, 10-8 Over/Under)

-

For more Emery, see the Kool-Aid archive, and the Over/Under archive. Emery accepts comments from Bears fans reluctantly and everyone else tolerably.

Posted by Lou at 12:59 AM | Permalink

The Periodical Table

A (mostly) weekly look at the magazines laying around Beachwood HQ.

Parental Pleasure
Skip the articles on the war in the latest Vanity Fair - you should know all that by now - and head right for "Moms Gone Wild," an examination of the mothers of Britney Spears, Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan. Prepare to be aggravated.

And skip the friggin' "exclusive" Camelot photos pimped on the cover. Enough! Camelot was a media creation - kind of like Obamalot - and there's nothing new to see here. Please, everyone, get over it.

Parental Figures
Actually, the most gripping story in Vanity Fair - the true must-read, I spoke too soon - is the story of Lou Pearlman, the creepy impresario behind the Backstreet Boys and 'NSync whose "passion for boy bands was also a passion for boys." Yes, it's just what you think.

*

Also worthwhile: An excerpt (not available online) from Eric Clapton's new autobiography, and a story about the conflict between Al Gore's presidential run and Hillary Clinton's Senate run in 2000.

Simple Minds
"[P]eople will choose a hamburger that is 75 percent lean over one that is 25 percent fat," reports Scientific American Mind.

They'll also report that the 75 percent lean hamburger tastes better than the 25 percent fat burger, even though they are the same thing.

People are stupid.

"Perrier is preferred to plain seltzer if both beverages are consumed with their labels showing, but otherwise tasters have no preference."

And so on.

Think, people. You're being played for fools.

Hunter S. Kennedy
Just like it's so Vanity Fair to pimp a nonsense Kennedy cover every year, it's so Rolling Stone to pimp Hunter S. Thompson's cold, dead body as if the magazine has anything in common anymore with the late, great but played-out master (do you think he would've been a James Blunt fan?). This time it's in the form of an oral history of Gonzo's youth. Diehards will find some scraps to hang on to, but don't shell out $4.50 for the mag unless you're caught at the airport like I was with few alternatives.

Letter From Chicago
Diana Camosy writes to The Economist:

"While it is true that abstinence from sex is the only sure-fire way of avoiding sexually transmitted diseases, the same holds true for any activity ('Time to Grow Up,' September 22nd). If I never drink, I don't run the risk of liver damage or alcoholism; if I never smoke, I do not risk getting lung cancer; if I never travel in a car, I will not risk being in a car accident; and if I never use the stairs, I won't risk fallling down a flight or two.

"Actually, if I never did any activity and stayed on the ground floor of my house I would never be at risk of anything. But how dull life would be. With life comes risks, and it is up to all who educate children and teenagers to help them navigate those risk with intelligence and foresight - not command them simply to avoid all dangers."

*

The Aurora abortion clinic and the Cubs curse also made this issue.

Mindfreak
"When the writer of Genesis said man was made of dust, he spoke true. And not just man. The whole Earth was made from dust particles in orbit around the primitive sun, as were all the other solid objects in the solar system. But how did the dust itself come into existence?"

Designing Chicago
Chicago makes a weak showing, in my view, in Print magazine's Regional Design Annual. The 18 pages devoted to Minnesota before and eight pages devoted to Missouri after beat the eight pages given to Illinois - almost all from Chicago - in between. My God, pages from the Tribune qualified as among Illinois's design best!

Hate Division
"Everything that is good about Control is nailed in one sequence," Anthony Lane writes in The New Yorker about the new Joy Division movie. "[The late lead singer Ian] Curtis walks along the street, the thud of the soundtrack keeping pace with his tread. The camera moves around to view him from behind, and we see the word 'HATE' daubed on the back of his jacket. All his rebellion is there, but somehow the scene zings with more sprightliness than gloom, and there is still a twist to come.

"As he heads toward the local Employment Exchange, we presume that, as an artist and a hater, he must be on the dole, but no: he works there, in a shirt and tie, finding jobs for other people.

"Those who worship Joy Division may bridle at [Anton] Corbijn's film for its reluctance to mythologize their hero. Speaking as someone so irretrievably square that I not only never listened to the band but didn't even know anyone who liked it, I can't imagine a tribute more fitting than this."

Worth Every Penny
The sale of the "Porn.com" domain for $9.5 million is the biggest reported sale so far this year, according to Domain Name Journal.

Fatal Foul
"Mike Coolbaugh, the first base coach of Double A Tulsa, was a baseball lifer with an abiding love of the game - until a foul ball struck him. Since then, people at all levels of the sport have struggled to grasp how and why he died," writes S.L. Price in a recent Sports Illustrated.


Posted by Lou at 12:17 AM | Permalink

October 17, 2007

What I Watched Last Night

Life's tough when you're an amnesiac. Your family and friends are complete strangers, you have no idea whether you're one of those people who get along well with a bottle of Goldschlager, or even if you like to top off a good meal with a nut log from Stuckey's. It's even tougher, though, when you're an amnesiac who begins to discover you're a shallow, vain, pitiful excuse for a human being. But you're pretty hot, so that kind of takes the edge off people not liking you behind your back.

That was the situation in Monday night's premiere of Samantha Who? on ABC. It's one of those sitcoms that's smarter than a sitcom reasonably should be, which is why critics or viewers more accustomed to getting a pie in the face might find this show troublesome, or not even funny. In fact, I'm not sure Samantha sven ought to be called a sitcom. A fitting alternate title might be Amnesiac In The City because it shares essentially the same mood and atmosphere as a once-popular show about four women who end up spending more time talking about sex in the city than actually getting any.

Samantha Newly (Christina Applegate) is mowed down in a hit and run accident that leaves her in a coma. She awakens eight days later with retrograde amnesia, which leaves her able to function but unable to recall any personal memories. So Samantha has to be walked through her old-new/new-old life by her mom and dad (Jean Smart and Kevin Dunn), her party-girl sister Andrea (Jennifer Esposito), and her chubby and somewhat pathetic tag-along friend Dena (Melissa McCarthy).

As they go along, Samantha has no clue that she's an alcoholic, hasn't spoken to her parents in two years, and pathologically screwed around on her ex-boyfriend Todd (Barry Watson), who for some reason is still in her life. But she finds out firsthand, which accounts for Applegate spending the entire half-hour looking very befuddled.

How bad was Bad Sam before the brain fog set in? Bad enough for one of Todd's friends to leave a message on his answering machine suggesting that they find the guy who ran her down - and take him out for a drink. If anything, I think Todd would need to explain why he still insists on using an answering machine instead of the character of his friends. Come to think of it, even Frank the doorman (Tim Russ) at Todd's apartment building doesn't much like her either. I might be wrong, but I'd think it takes some doing to chronically piss off someone you see for only two seconds a day.

There's no laugh track or studio audience, which leads me to think Samantha was intended to be quietly amusing, not laugh-out-loud funny. And it is quietly amusing, including a segment where Sam gets kicked out of an AA meeting because she couldn't get the group's leader to believe that she doesn't know who she is because she's an amnesiac and not drunk, and was unconscious for eight days because she was in a coma, not a blackout.

To be sure, Samantha Who is an acquired taste that deserves more than one viewing, especially if you're one of those people more accustomed to the eye-candy Christina Applegate rather than the version who appears to be a candidate for that group of famous Hollywood actresses who have sworn off plastic surgery forever. The eye candy version did make a brief appearance in a scene from Sam's past, which proves that a girl's best friend is not a diamond or her cat - it's a flashback.

*

Catch up with the world's best What I Watched Last Night collection.

Posted by Lou at 04:27 PM | Permalink

The [Wednesday] Papers

Tom Tunney wasn't talking on Tuesday.

Nonetheless, the North Side alderman only dug his hole deeper in his little cell phone scandal.

In a prepared statement - apparently afraid to face live reporters - Tunney "said":

"When I arrived at my office, I did call the 23rd district commander to question why, in an understaffed police district where we have serious crimes unsolved, officers are assigned to pull people over solely for cell phone violations," according to the Sun-Times.

1. If a police officer sees it happen right in front of him or her, isn't the officer duty-bound to make the traffic stop?

2. Would Tunney have made a similar call had a constituent come to his office to register the same complaint?

"Although I did not ask him to, following our conversation, the commander had my driver's license returned to me at my office. I must emphasize that, at no time did I ask for any special treatment. I have sent my payment in and will use my hands-free device while driving in the future."

Tunney may not have asked for a favor, but he accepted one. Same thing.

"Tunney refused to elaborate on his statement one day after the special treatment he received landed him on Page One of the Chicago Sun-Times under the headline, 'Special delivery for Alderman Tunney.'"

He's learned that the media will forget about the whole thing in a few days and move on. Who hired Angelo Torres?

"The alderman would only say that his call to [Cmdr. Gary] Yamashiroya was not an implied request for a favor.

"'We talk every day actually. That's nothing unusual,' he said."

Yes. They always talk about the alderman's traffic tickets.

"Yamashiroya was on furlough and could not be reached for comment."

I received a couple of e-mails yesterday from residents of the area showering praise on Yamashiroya's work. But it appears he made a bonehead play on this one. I wonder what made him think he should do a favor for an alderman.

Time Tunney
Remember when Tunney first ran for the city council and promised to sell his Ann Sather's restaurants if he won so there wouldn't be any conflicts between his duties as alderman and the business he had in his ward? I do. I also remember that after he was elected, he reneged on that promise.

The Daley Tax
"Attention taxpayers: Chicago isn't broke," Jesse Jackson Jr. writes on the Tribune Op-Ed page this morning. Jackson's piece is notable for cogent reasoning rarely displayed by the mayor - or the city council.

Not only does Jackson calculate the cost of corruption, he suggests several interesting revenue-raising proposals. It's almost like an actual real public policy debate! Like the kind you might see in a campaign!

But Chicagoans have only themselves to blame.

"When I was exploring a possible run for mayor," Jackson writes,"many people defended Mayor Daley. Almost universally, residents expressed to me how beautiful the flowers were downtown.

"At the same time, local newspapers reported more corruption and scandal.

"The flower boxes are nice. But now the mayor wants you to ante up for all the dirt."

*

Who knew a city could be bought for some measly flowers? But it's true. I sometimes wonder if those flowers are like the spores in that Star Trek episode that sedated the residents on that planet. Planting those flowers was the best thing this mayor did, it seems, to ensure his reign.

Ferdy!
"One of the most outstanding African American filmmakers working today is Charles Burnett. His name is barely a blip in the minds of movie-goers of all races and ethnicities, and that's a real crime. Burnett has created some of the most original portrayals of the lives and culture of the African American community available today. However, like most independent filmmakers, he is chronically short of funding and distribution options. Therefore, it was a great service for the [Chicago International Film Festival] to revive one of his earlier films, a thoroughly independent affair populated with amateur actors and family members called My Brother's Wedding," writes Marilyn Ferdinand at The Beachwood Media Company's very own Ferdy on Films.

And the film sounds like a winner. Catch up with the entire festival and Ferdy's world of off-road films at Ferdy on Films.

StrogerCare
"Stroger In No Hurry on Health System," the Sun-Times says.

Um, the sick people kind of are, though.

*

Stroger heard experts from a panel convened at the behest of Sen. Dick Durbin (maybe he's the Illinois senator who should be running for president) on Tuesday to turn over the county's health system to an independent medical board.

"The panel concluded that there's too much bureaucracy [in the county's health system] and that politics often drives spending decisions instead of what's best for hospital patients," the Sun-Times reports.

In other words, Cook County politics is a killer.

Brutality Tax
"The Chicago Police Department has agreed to pay $4 million to a 23-year-old man who says police shoved a screwdriver into his behind," the Sun-Times reports.

Yup. A world-class city, alright. Maybe they used a world-class screwdriver.

"[The victim's] attorney, Jon Loevy, said he is not optimistic the department will ever hold its own accountable," the Sun-Times says.

"Loevy . . . noted that in all six-million dollar-plus verdicts he has won against the department in recent years, [the Office of Professional Standards] had exonerated the officers in every case."

Sigh
Boy, kind of a depressing column today.

(As if most of them aren't.)

Plus, Mrs. Carlson died.

Bright Spot
Posting has been relatively light elsewhere on the site this week and I've been running late in the mornings, both due to trying to conduct some business and put our budding empire on sound financial footing. As opposed to the footing we are on now.

But we have an exceptional piece today by our latest newest writer, Courey Gruszauskas. Her Leaving Champaign mixtape is worth a read - and a listen.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Anger beats the spores, people!

Posted by Lou at 09:07 AM | Permalink

The Daley Way

Maybe one of the Chicago newspapers ought to bring Mike Royko back from the grave. For every current development of Mayor Richard M. Daley's reign probably has a corollary to his father's reign - and thus, a fitting Royko column. (Same with the Cubs.) The University of Chicago Press has some excerpts from For The Love of Mike online, including this one.

*

What's Behind Daley's Words?

February 16, 1973
By Mike Royko

Several theories have arisen as to what Mayor Daley really meant a few days ago when he said:

"If they don't like it, they can kiss my ass."

On the surface, it appeared that the mayor was merely admonishing those who would dare question the royal favors he has bestowed upon his sons, Prince Curly, Prince Larry, and Prince Moe.

But it can be a mistake to accept the superficial meaning of anything the mayor says.

The mayor can be a subtle man. And as Earl Bush, his press secretary, once put it after the mayor was quoted correctly:

"Don't print what he said. Print what he meant."

So many observers believe the true meaning of the mayor's remarkable kissing invitation may be more than skin deep.

One theory is that he would like to become sort of the Blarney Stone of Chicago.

As the stone's legend goes, if a person kisses Ireland's famous Blarney Stone, which actually exists, he will be endowed with the gift of oratory.

And City Hall insiders have long known that the kind of kiss Daley suggested can result in the gift of wealth.

People from all over the world visit Blarney Castle so they can kiss the chunk of old limestone and thus become glib, convincing talkers.

So, too, might people flock to Chicago in hopes that kissing "The Daley" might bring them unearned wealth. Daley, or at least his bottom, might become one of the great tourist attractions of the nation.

The Blarney Stone has become part of the living language in such everyday phrases as "You're giving me a lot of blarney."

That could happen here, too. People who make easy money might someday be described as "really having the gift of the Daley bottom."

That is one theory. Another, equally interesting, goes this way:

Throughout history, the loyal subjects of kings and other monarchs have usually shown their respect with a physical gesture of some sort.

In some places, it was merely a deep bow or a curtsy when the ruler showed up or departed.

Others, who were even more demanding, required that the subjects kneel or even crawl on all fours. (A few Chicago aldermen engage in this practice.)

In some kingdoms, those who approached the big man were expected to kiss his ring or the hem of his royal clothing.

Daley has already ruled Chicago for longer than most kings reigned in their countries.

At this point, many of his loyal subjects view him as more a monarch than an elected official. It seems obvious that he intends to pass the entire city on to his sons, which is a gesture worthy of a king.

So it would be only natural that he might feel the time has come when he is entitled to a gesture of respect and reverence that befits his royal position.

And what he suggested would be simply a variation of kissing a ring or a hand. Instead of kissing the royal hem, we would kiss the royal ham.

Although I have not read of any king expecting a kiss in precisely the area the mayor described, why not? One of the hallmarks of Chicago is that we do so many things in an original manner.

What other city has made a river flow backwards? What other city makes traffic flow backwards?

And it would be quite original if we had a leader who greeted us backwards.

Where else would a leader turn his back on his people and be cheered for it?

History also tells us that in some ancient kingdoms, a person who had some terrible illness thought he would be cured if he kissed the feet of the king.

Could it be that the mayor is launching a low-cost, and low-slung, health program for us?

I am sure there will be some people who won't want to show their affection for the mayor this way. As one man put it, when he heard what the mayor had said:

"If Daley wants me to do that, then he sure has a lot of cheek."

But there also are the loyal followers, typified by radio disc jockey Howard Miller, who declared over the airwaves that the mayor has "more brains in his bottom" than his critics have in their heads.

While I might disagree with Miller on the quantity of cerebral matter, I won't quarrel with the location.

In any case, we will maintain our efforts to find out what the mayor really meant.

We hope to get to the bottom of this story. Or should I say, to the story of this bottom.

Posted by Lou at 07:36 AM | Permalink

The Leaving Champaign Mix

I compiled this mixtape for myself to play during the last week of my stay in Champaign-Urbana. It served as a summation of my three-and-a-half years of mass book-reading and paper-writing, espresso-serving and ass-kicking (at the coffee and community womb that is Caffe Paradiso), bike-riding and chili-cooking, and beer-drinking throughout the fraternal twin towns. It also served as a way to sever the cord from a place that tends to strangle its young in cheap rent, even cheaper beer, and a lifestyle that is too comfortable for one's own good.

While my graduate school aspirations have me again looking to Champaign-Urbana's vast landscape of golden grains and pajama-clad youth, I realize the futile attempt to capture those same feelings and experiences of my undergraduate years. The songs may sound the same, but the words have changed their meaning.

*

1. Tally Ho!/The Clean
Innocent organs mimic the bouncing curls of some pre-pubescent girl, latching onto her lollipop as she skips with the beat. While my Freudian Psychology class would suggest eroticism and pedophilia in regards to this image, I will shimmy proudly alongside that little girl, smiling with the simple joy found in those snotty vocals. "Tally Ho!" takes you by the hand, no worries about where it will lead you.

2. I Put a Spell on You/Arthur Brown
With the first hit of those drums, you feel this one in your knees. Gravy-thick organs melt into Arthur Brown's howl and take you down to the floor. His vibrato brings you back up, anxious and scared with his repetitious "I can't stand it!" The song stops as hard as it starts, and you wonder why you feel this way. The man's put a spell on you, for Christ's sake.

3. A Sweet Summer's Night on Hammer Hill/Jens Lekman
When I heard this song was ripped off for a Maytag commercial, I wasn't particularly surprised. Tambourines, bold trumpets, handclaps, pretty Swedish girls cheering; I can practically see the grass stains lifting right off. Bouncing like bubbles atop a sea of spirited chants, the brass gets your head bobbing while Lekman's strange croon takes you home. On time and squeaky clean.

4. Listen Up!/The Gossip
You shouldn't be ashamed to dance, to shake and twist a bit. The Gossip helps you get your ass into it with this bass-and-cowbell jam. A staple at the cafe where I spent most of my hours, this song generated a room full of unabashed head-bobbing and toe-tapping. And with a voice like Beth Ditto's at the helm, how can you deny yourself the pleasure of pure boogie?

5. Sex Beat/The Gun Club
Slick and, well, sexy, this song starts in the thighs. Quivering vocals slice between rockabilly riffs, the drums prowling in the background. I would listen to this song when my walks to class needed a little kick. It gave me the hips and ass to snarl and mean it.

6. Sunshine/Screeching Weasel
I used to wear combat boots with nails holding the soles together. And when I listen to this song, I miss them.

7. In the Meantime/Spacehog
For whatever reason, this song will eternally remind me of bowling. Perhaps it's the spacey keyboards hovering like disco balls over those goofy vocals. Or maybe it's how this song seems to roll along, slickly sliding down those bass lines until it crashes into a chorus of possessed wooing. Either way, it's all neon bowling balls to this girl.

8. I Should Be Allowed to Think/They Might be Giants
I must thank my brother for introducing me to this band; there is simply no way I could have found this gem without his nerd-chic. While slamming TMBG to his face (for the sole sisterly purpose of seeing his glasses fog with pure annoyance), I would secretly listen to them by my lonesome, their mix of perfect pop and intelligent banter nurturing my covert nerd soul. When I finally came out of the dork closet and admitted my love for TMBG (my love of Zelda and Lord of the Rings disclosed shortly thereafter), my brother just smiled. We can smell our own kind, even behind closed doors.

9. Rise Up in the Dirt/Voxtrot
You are staring at your American Literature professor, half-anxious, half-complacent. For the one, you hated all the shit she made you read (except for the Ursula K. Dick novel, but only because it made the mousy girl in front of you uncomfortable). And now, as the last minutes of the last final of your undergraduate career come to a close, you are faced with the sobering fact that ten minutes from now, you will no longer be one of them. You turn in your paper, the pressure of something building as you collect your belongings. This song is you bursting through those doors, all that behind you, all of this in front of you.

10. Joy of Sound/The Make-Up
Ian Svenonius slithers all over this one, throaty wails and whines crawling on the skin. With its infectious funk, "Joy of Sound" lingers on the skin for days. A filthy itch you can't wait to scratch.

11. Time of the Season/The Zombies
When you are 12, you never really fathom the greatness of your father's record collection. Nor do you realize that you are sitting on a friggin' gold mine of delicately crafted harmonies, organ solos, and all-out jams. You just complain and insist he turn on B96 for your drive home. But your father is smart and is doing this for your own good. Thank God you listened.

12. Red and Blue Jeans/The Promise Ring
We all have our faults. This band is mine.

13. God Only Knows/Petra Haden
This delicious cover is made of spun sugar, its heart pumping sweet tarts to all its cells and parts. A primarily a cappella opus, Haden's rendition pops and sparkles, blending syrupy vocals with staccato hums that provide a female perspective to this classic that is both delicate and arresting.

14. I Can't Talk About It/El Perro Del Mar
The appeal of this 50's girl group-infused darling comes from its conflicts. The fragility of El Perro Del Mar's nymph-like voice as it seems to struggle over the chorus contrasts starkly with her instance that she has indeed "made a life of [my] own." There is something quite dark that lies beneath the finger snaps and saccharine melody; you are left to wonder what has kept this Swedish beauty so silent.

15. I Don't Believe You/The Magnetic Fields
This is one of those autumn songs; those crisp little numbers that have the feel of corduroy and the salty taste of pumpkin seeds. So put on some damn socks and that ragged thing you call a scarf and indulge in the baritone sincerity of Stephin Merritt. Soak up the lush strings. Bask in Merritt's use of "ampersand" not once, but twice!

16. Picture of Success/Rilo Kiley
The urge to make my departure from Chambana as silent as possible was huge; I pleaded with my friends to avoid any theatrics or parties that would leave me sloppily drunk and blubbering about the past. So, I let Jenny Lewis do the talking. Equipped with just the right amount of sentiment and folk twang, her modest yet charming voice lifts me out of the house parties and crowded quads and into the driver's seat. The car's packed, and the weather's clear. So go.

My friends threw me a party, anyway.

*

Catch up with the Beachwood's Playlist catalog, from what they're spinning at the Illinois Institute of Technology to Time-Life's folk rock collection and all points in between, including the Beachwood Inn jukebox. Contributions welcome.

Posted by Lou at 06:37 AM | Permalink

October 16, 2007

The [Tuesday] Papers

Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) is today's Worst Person in Chicago.

"Tunney got cell phone ticket, handed over driver's license - but police gave it back after he made a call," the Sun-Times reports.

Maybe that's just one of the perks of the job - like Cubs playoff tickets.

But here's the best part: Tunney told the Tribune that police priorities might be in the wrong place. "We have time in the middle of the day to pull over a person for use of a cell," Tunney said.

Why is that the best part?

Because Tunney voted in favor of the cell phone ban when it was enacted in 2005 - over critics who said that maybe the police ought to spend their time on more important things than pulling people over in the middle of the day for using a cell phone.

What's next, Joe Moore getting caught serving foie gras for Thanksgiving?

*

And certainly Tunney's accomplice, Town Hall District Cmdr. Gary Yamashiroya, has bought himself a suspension.

Tax and Pony Show
What's Daley's game?

It's hard to believe he misjudged what the reaction to his proposed tax-laden budget would be so badly. Was he too distracted by the Olympics and his foreign travels? Usually he calls the aldermen into his office while the budget is being crafted to keep any debate private so he can present a budget that will be passed unanimously. What went wrong this time?

*

Anderson Gansner of Lakeview offers the mayor a few alternatives.

Cooked County
"[A] critical presentation today from the health community concluding that the county hospital system has been so mismanaged [will propose that] control should be put in the hands of an independent medical panel," the Sun-Times reports.

The Tribune puts the story atop page one.

Maybe we should put control of the entire county in the hands of an independent panel.

Community Policing
Daley style.

Mr. Wizard
"Tax Barrage Destroys The Myth Of Mayor Daley As Wizard Of Finance."

Welcome aboard! But the fairy tale conceit is property of John Kass.

Gut Rot
Crain's declares that the tax fight is "A defining moment for aldermen: It's gut check time."

Now it's gut check time? After 18 years of this guy? Maybe gut check time should have been after the 1995 heat wave, or the Duffs scandal, or the Millennium Park fiasco, or at some point during the Jon Burge mess. This is nothing.

And believe me, if we have to depend on the guts of our aldermen, we'll end up with taxes on opening our mail and turning on our TVs.

READER COMMENT
Peg Burke writes: My own favorite tax was the one where I was charged for an ambulance to take me from 126th and Torrence to Christ Hospital on Labor Day after I managed to crash my bicycle into a curb.

Okay, I live just outside the city. But, I don't pay enough sales tax and parking fees? My landlady didn't pay enough property tax when I did live in Chicago? My company doesn't pay a head tax for the privilege of having me work downtown?

Brother. This is proof that the city will, in fact, nickel and dime you right to death.

Exclusive Chicago
"More than a year after the The Korea Times-Chicago left its former Albany Park building for the suburbs, the Northwest Chicago neighborhood still struggles to hold onto its Korean-American population," reports Creating Community Connections.

"'The time had come for us to leave. Most of our subscribers had already left the neighborhood for the suburbs, and we couldn't serve them as well if we stayed in the city,' said Sean Kwon, a managing editor at the Korean language newspaper, the oldest in the city. 'Chicago has become a very expensive city for many of them to live in over the last few years.'

'Gary Medina, a spokesman for Ald. Richard Mell (33rd), sees the neighborhood's redevelopment in a more positive light.

"'When Korean immigrants started moving here in the 1980s, they basically brought Albany Park back to life. Before, there had been a lot of empty storefronts. Now that's not the case,' Medina said."

So good riddance to those who did the hard work. This is New Chicago.

READER COMMENT
I told my folks four years ago that the cost of paying for Modern Chicago was coming due in about five years (so I'm a year off) and when it does, it won't be pretty. And this is just the tip of iceberg, I'm willing to bet. Things are being talked about such as tolls, not just for driving into downtown, but over any major thoroughfare - a sense that the true cost of driving is not really being borne by the users. You can best believe the gas tax in Illinois (and Chicago gets its share of it) will go up from the 20 cents a gallon or whatever it is to 40 cents. NY is already there and Massachusetts is considering a similar move. Illinois will do the same at the moment is politically safe to do so. Parking downtown is going to take a tremendous upward spike as more taxes are layered on. The Sun-Times had a piece on the 'corruption tax' in Chicago. But there is also the 'waste and inefficiency tax' that consistently layers millions of dollars extra on every public project that's being built. The bills are coming due.

Olympic Transit
"A national spotlight will be focused on the Chicago area's mass-transit crisis just days before the scheduled first round of CTA 'doomsday' service cuts when a congressional committee holds a hearing on the city's transportation needs for the 2016 Olympic bid," the Tribune reports.

Methinks the mayor's travel plans to China and Korea - canceled to deal with the budget - could be back on just about then.

Ferdy!
Don't forget to catch up with the Chicago International Film Festival over at Ferdy on Films, a Beachwood blog.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Give a little bit.

Posted by Lou at 08:35 AM | Permalink

Reviewing the Reviews

Oct. 13 - 14.

Publication: Sun-Times

Cover: "About a Boy," a review of Nick Hornby's new Slam.

Other Reviews & News of Note: Books editor Teresa Budasi comes up with another interesting column, this time about Rosie O'Donnell's Celebrity Detox. While chiding Rosie for her questionable childhood "memories," Budasi also writes that "Rosie says she never set out to steal the show when she agreed to a one-year stint [on The View]. But she did steal it, and thank goodness." Amen, sister!

Also: Sure, there's a review of Philip Roth's new book, but let's turn our attention to the new book about Van Halen instead. Not that the book is any good, according to music critic Jim DeRogatis. But because it's a far more interesting subject. "The argument could be made that a band as bombastic, egotistical and over-the-top as hair-metal champions Van Halen warrants a biographer who shares those same characteristics," DeRogatis writes. "But the fallacy of that line of thinking will soon become obvious to anyone who cracks the hardcovers and delves into the more than 300 pages of Everybody Wants Some: The Van Halen Saga by journeyman rock scribe Ian Christe, who lacks the other ingredient essential to the finest moments of a three-decade career that sold 75 million albums: a self-deprecating sens of humor."

*

Publication: Tribune

Cover: Abe Lincoln, rail-splitter. Borrrrring.

Also: Last week I tore into the review of Susan Faludi's new book by Sun-Times editorial page editor Cheryl Reed. This week the Tribune offers a review of Faludi's book by its regular contributor Art Winslow. Let's take a look-see.

"How does a culture react to trauma is the question, and Faludi's answer is that ours engaged in myth-making on a scale that matches the monumentalism of the [World Trade Center] towers themselves," Winslow writes. "She does not mention Joseph Campbell and his The Hero With a Thousand Faces or Robert Bly and his Iron John, or Carl Jung and his theories, but hers is a work of cultural interpretation on the order of theirs."

Quite a contrast from Reed's acerbic, defensive take.

"'The entire edifice of American security had failed to provide a shield,' Faludi observes in the introduction to The Terror Dream, and in 'all the desperate nightmares of men and women after 9/11, what accompanied the sundering of our myth of indomitability was not just rage but shock at that revelation, and, with the shock, fear, ignominy, shame.' The media spit out mantras like 'Everything has changed' and spoke of 'the death of irony,' an environment in which a 'cacophony of chanted verities induced a kind of cultural hypnosis.'"

Sounds like as sharp an analysis as I've seen about what 9/11 really did to us - and we did to ourselves. Sorry, Bruce, but it sure beats The Rising.

Faludi, Winslow notes, is a polemicist and "much of what she proposes may seem at first glance to be unlikely, or perhaps overstated. However, the journalistic documentation she provides to back up her assertions, particularly when she deals with the post-9/11 world, has such cumulative effect in its impressive precision and breadth that one is forced to accept many of her claims."

And what does Winslow say of Faludi's feminist take that Reed so objected to? "It is somewhat surprising to see this singled out as a phenomenon, but here Faludi offers extensive examples from press reporting and real-world statistics as proof."

Finally, Winslow glancingly notes that (like Backlash, which should be required reading in every newsroom), her book is essentially a piece of media criticism. "Much of Faludi's book engages in an effective debunking of reporting - and this by the country's biggest newspapers and magazines - that is anecdotally based but will not stand up when poked by a fact she has found."

So pay close attention to the presidential campaign of Rudy Giuliani and the lot of 'em, and the next time you hear about "security moms," for example, remind yourself that, like the "soccer mom," no such thing exists. But it fits the post-9/11 narrative that we found necessary to create in the absence of moral leadership offering us a narrative of truth.

*

Publication: New York Times

Cover: "Dangerous Obsession," Kathryn Harrison's review of Mario Vargos Llosa's The Bad Girl. I hate to say it, but former Tribune Company president Jack Fuller's recent review is superior.

Other Reviews & News of Note: I've read other reviews of the new biography of Peanuts creator Charles Schulz that go more for the gossipy dish than this one does, but nonetheless this is a fascinating portrait culled from a book that seems like fascinating reading.

"The strip was able to register grown-up emotions, like anxiety, depression, yearning, disillusionment, that had never been in cartoons before," reviewer Charles McGrath reminds us. And who knew that could sell?

"In the '80s he wasone of the 10 highest-paid entertainers in America, right up there with Oprah and Michael Jackson. In fact, if by artist we mean someone who paints or draws, it's no stretch at all to say that Charles Schulz as the most popular and successful American artist who ever lived," McGrath writes. "He was also . . . one of the loneliest and most unhappy."

"It took me a long time to become a human being," Schulz once said.

And: And now comes John Leonard in The New York Times to review Faludi! Leonard retells more than reveals, but at the end of his piece, he finally weighs in:

"Feminism, like a trampoline, has made possible this splendid provocation of a book, levitating to keep company with Hunter Thompson's fear and loathing, Leslie Fielder's love and death and Edmund Wilson's patriotic gore."

*

CHARTS

1. Alan Greenspan
2. Supreme Court
3. Jenny McCarthy and her autistic son.

O.J. is 5th; Video Vixen is 6th; Laura Ingraham is 7th; Nikki Sixx is 9th; Bill Clinton is 10th; Mother Teresa is 11th; Tony Dungy is 12th; Alan Alda is 14th.

Posted by Lou at 07:18 AM | Permalink

Top 10 Names in the Game

1. Plaxico Burress.
I'd like to think that Mrs. Burress was a big fan of that dental mouthwash, Plax. Then she realized maybe just the name Plax would basically guarantee her son a lifetime of wedgies and dunce caps. So, she played around with prefixes and suffixes. Kerplax? Nope, sounds too much like a laxative. Herplax? Good God no. Sounds like a mutant form of herpes. Plaxman? Nah. Sounds like an alien porn star and not a future wide receiver for the New York Giants. After playing around with Scrabble letters and consulting several Ouija boards, they came up with Plaxico and the rest is history.

2. Coco Crisp.
The origins of this one are obvious. Or are they? Maybe it's not about breakfast cereal at all. I heard his grandmother named him, so the story probably starts here. Either way, the Boston Red Sox now have one of the bestest named center fielders ever. And headline writers can't get enough.

3. Anna Smashnova.
Does this qualify as an onomatopoeia? Or should we go the other direction, toward space phenomena? Either way, her parents showed prescient marketing brilliance, not just in the last name but using the first name to associate her with Anna Kournikova. And Anna Pistolesi isn't bad either.

4. Peerless Price.
Quite literally, this name means he's a steal. He can't be beat. Or we'll give him to you free.

5. D'Brickashaw Ferguson.
I imagine that his parents were enchanted by the romantic history of the rickshaw. They probably have an entire room in their house that's festooned with all types of rickshaws. There are the life-size ones that a cousin brought over from Nam, along with a war bride. Then there are the "rickshaws-in-a-bottle" in all sizes that line the mantle underneath the "Keane Eyed Kid in a Rickshaw" painting that the Fergusons commissioned. Oh, I can't forget the rickshaw-shaped piano. You get the idea. Like Plax, being named Rickshaw would guarantee a lifetime of torture and an eventual Church of Scientology membership. So, they jazzed it up by adding an apostrophe, a few more consonants and a vowel and now D'Brickashaw is living it up with the New York Jets' offensive line.

6. Boof Bonser.
I wonder if he'll consider the world of adult films when his baseball career is over. Or maybe he'll become a dog.

7. Frostee Rucker.
Also a possible porn career ahead of him.

8. Cato June. Married to Miss June. But actually named after The Cato Institute. His parents were strict libertarians.

9. Booger McFarland.
Sure his real name is Anthony, but we're going to bend the rules. As an homage.

10. Razor Shines.
Also a possibly decent band name, with the classic metal combo of hard and soft. Unfortunately, the White Sox just fired him.

*

Comments? Send them along.

*

1. From Eric Emery:
Have you considered that Boof gave himself the name? Can one do that and still be considered great? It's kind of like when George Costanza tried to give himself the nickname "T-Bone."

Posted by Lou at 06:11 AM | Permalink

October 15, 2007

The [Monday] Papers

Editor's Note: Sorry I'm so late this morning, as I neared the completion of the column I lost the whole thing and had to reconstruct the whole damn thing. The things I do for you people.

*

1. Devin Hester is obviously ridiculous.

2. So is Adrian Peterson.

3. A $2 tax for every TV in sports bars? A $3 tax every time Gov. Blagojevich runs past you? A $50 tax every time you get your picture taken with Ronnie Woo-Woo or Mike Ditka?

Schadenfreude takes a crack at the mayor's budget.

4. "Who wants the title of 'The Best Unaffordable City'?" says Billy Ocasio, alderman of the 26th Ward.

Welcome aboard, Alderman! Do you think the media has figured it out yet?

5. I heard yet another story over the weekend of a couple - both employed - with young kids moving out of the city because they can't afford it. That's not right. This is not our beautiful city.

6. "The Mekons formed in Leeds, England, in 1977. They began hanging around Chicago in 1985 when they were on tour with the Three Johns and hooked up with local underground DJ and promotion man Terry Nelson. [Tom] Greenhalgh recalls, 'My first impression of Chicago was how it was much nicer than I imagined it would be. I was amazed with the tree-lined avenues. I liked the architecture. What impressed me was how we never really went downtown,'" Dave Hoekstra reported in the Sun-Times on Sunday.

"[Jon] Langford adds, 'People who didn't grow up around Chicago don't understand the neighborhoods. Our friend Uncle Dave came from New York when we played New Year's Eve around 1996. We knocked around Bucktown, Wicker Park, Lincoln Square. He kept pining to the skyscrapers and saying, "I've been to Brooklyn, I want to go to Manhattan." We'd say, "There's nothing there, mate." He had this idea we'd be wandering around the Loop all night.'"

I wonder what the Mekons would think if they arrived in Chicago today. Not as much to fall in love with.

7. And Mr. Mayor, I hope you never think that your critics don't love this city as much as you claim to, seeing as how you're loving the city to death.

8. Of course, official Chicago and City Hall never comprehended the role that the Mekons and their ilk have played in the cultural vibrancy and coolness of the city up til now. As Deanna Isaacs reports in the Reader, the art of Langford and other notable locals is astonishingly missing from the Museum of Contemporary Art's "Sympathy for the Devil" exhibit, billed as an examination of the "dynamic relationship" between art and rock.

That's like not including the Cubs in an exhibit about the relationship between sports teams and their fans. The omission could hardly be more glaring.

Do you think the mayor knows who Jon Langford is?

9. Neil Steinberg is taking the day off. What, he couldn't find the 15 minutes it takes to write his column?

10. Jennifer Hunter found 15 minutes to type up the handout of an Obama speech.

11. Obama's new campaign ad is phony. And we get it already - you were against the war. At least you said so once, in a paragraph. That's why had to go into a studio and re-create the moment. Might be time to move on.

12.. The CTA has posted signs at bus stops and El stations blaming potential route cuts on "Insufficient State Funding." I wonder if those signs say "Richard M. Daley, Mayor."

13. "Daley drafted a budget with no tax increases a year ago as he prepared to run for re-election," the Tribune reported last week. "But he insisted that the list of proposals now on the table have nothing to do with the fact the election now is behind him."

Proposed: The Insisted With A Straight Face Tax.

14. Maybe there wasn't enough water at the Chicago Marathon because race officials thought the water tax had already been enacted.

15. A tax on marathoners?

16. "News Item: 'The Russian government under Vladimir Putin has amassed so much central authority that the "power grab" may undermine Moscow's commitment to democracy, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said."

"We hear he even spies on his own people without warrants."

- Quick Takes

17. "In fact, the city has been negotiating settlements in more than a dozen federal civil-rights lawsuits involving officers in the Special Operations Section - disbanded on Tuesday because of an ongoing corruption scandal," the Sun-Times reports.

So that's where the new DVD rental tax money will go.

18.. "Chicago's inspector general has launched a sweeping investigation to determine whether the company that manages O'Hare Airport's international terminal got favored treatment because the city's terminal operations chief had an ethical conflict," the Sun-Times reports.

So that's why the mayor wants to undermine the inspector general's office.

19. "Obviously, we're spending some money for monitors and hiring," Ald. Pat O'Connor (40th), the mayor's floor leader, told the Sun-Times. "But that's not the reason we're in bad shape. The economy, changes in the housing market. These holes are not created by us spending off the charts."

Maybe not, but the city has to be monitored. Like children. Would you trust children with your budget?

20. We want our CPD-TV!

"Speaking at a West Side news conference, Daley reminded reporters of critics who complained the cameras were invasive when he introduced them in 2004," the Tribune reported recently.

"They [mis?]underestimated people who live in this city, people who have to deal with gangs, guns and drugs on a daily basis," Daley said. "All wealthy people have cameras in all the high rises, suburban areas . . . Why can't the average person in the city of Chicago?"

See? The mayor's sticking up for the average person!

Of course, wealthy suburbanites don't have cameras at every intersection, they have cameras outside the gates to their mansions, but close enough.

Beachwood Tip Line: Non-invasive.

Posted by Lou at 10:28 AM | Permalink

RockNotes: Radiohead vs. Radio

They're the world's biggest and coolest street performers. They set up their primo gear on the sidewalk at the corner of OK Computer Street and Electric Avenue, throw down their PayPal hat on the virtual concrete and just start playing, letting all passers-by on the information superhighway get an earful for free but asking them to reach into their hearts and wallets to contribute to the cause.

Radiohead's much-discussed Internet business model for its new album In Rainbows is one that has a lot of appeal because, if it works, it would make street buskers out of the most arrogant of rock stars and, oh please let it be so, consign the whole rapacious record industry to the cut-out bin of history.

Just think: If all new music were distributed freely this way, there would no disingenuous and pernicious record company gatekeepers crouching at the precious source of musical creativity, and those thousands and thousands of great bands who have been denied a living because of the misguided whims and policies of clueless corporate greedheads would finally get a chance to make it or break it based solely on their talent.

And at the other end of the band life cycle, corporate rock dinosaurs who are kept annoyingly in front of us, years and years past their natural expiration dates, would be forced to depend on the kindness of the fed-up strangers known as music consumers rather than the cynical calculations of the Clear Channels of the world, whose goal it is to browbeat us mercilessly with repetitious crap until we're so tired that the slightly-less-crappy seems like the music of the angels, and in thankful relief, we flock to Best Buy to shell out for overpriced CDs, the profits from which don't even go to the slightly-less-crappy band, but to the Bluetooth-wearing suits running the rigged carny game.

Oh, it is a brave new world we're envisioning here, one in which the recording industry's too-numerous-to-count deals with the devil finally brings about its long-in-coming undoing. One in which a business that thinks it's a good idea to harass and sue its own consumers is shot down in flames by a democratizing technology. One in which, in a given situation wherein ten equally talented and amazing bands are all starting off in the same place, the sole commercial winner would be chosen by bean counters because their music sounds the least "new." Music is way too important to our culture, our society, to our very lives, to continue to be trusted to these so-called gatekeepers.

Yes, I know there have been lots of belly-aching that Radiohead's giveaways aren't "CD quality" digital files. I say, so what? MP3s encoded at 160 kb/s are plenty good enough to hear what the music's all about. No, they're not going to satisfy hardcore audiophiles who need to hear every last synthesizer bleep as if it were a blast from the trumpet of doom. For those folks, there will still be the overpriced CDs, and they are exactly the kind of people who deserve to pay through the nose. For them, nothing but the best will do, and for them, I feel not a whit of sympathy as they help Bluetooth guy pay for his kid's prep school. They are made for each other.

But for the 90 percent of everyone else, the free distribution of new music on "good enough" MP3 files is the profound answer to the questions of the Internet music age that Radiohead is helping all to see. No matter how many single moms in Duluth and college dorm rats the record industry sues, nothing is going to stop the inexorable march of recorded music into becoming a nearly valueless commodity. Its fate is now that of a "loss leader" that gets the consumer's foot into a deserving band's door, a band that then must close the real sale with concert tickets and pricey, high-quality CDs, merchandise and other goodies for those consumers who turn into real fans.

Under this business model, the winners are the multitudes of great, unknown and unfairly treated bands and fans who will finally realize the great democratizing wave the Internet will bring to the music world.

The losers will be stultifying corporate radio, their buddies in the rake-it-in record industry and the lame-ass collaborator bands whose dubious talents have been force-fed to us for 30 years.

*

See the RockNotes catalog for your fix on the rock radar.

Posted by Don at 12:20 AM | Permalink

October 13, 2007

The Weekend Desk Report

The Weekend Desk is deployed on many assignments this weekend. Let's take a look.

Gore Is Winning
Funny how Al Gore has become too big for the presidency. He's moved past that. It would be a step down, now that he's Master of the Universe. He's definitely winning. Do you think George W. Bush will ever win a Nobel? Or even write a book all by himself? Gore is almost a superhero now. If only he could step in and finish out Bush's term, clean things up and hand the job over to the next schmuck while he goes on tour with Bono and meets with space aliens.

America is Losing
The U.S. mission in Iraq is a "nightmare with no end in sight" because of political misjudgments after the fall of Saddam Hussein that continue today, a former chief of U.S.-led forces said Friday."

There's really nothing funny to say about that.

Indiana Stinks
Indiana is at it again.

Doomsday Scenario
Somehow we thought Doomsday would be more fun than this.

Tower of Evil
The Tribune is not only against hugging, it's going to start charging employees who smoke a hundred bucks to offset health care costs. What a wonderful workplace it could be.

Sourcing Sneed
Friday: "Fuel 'em: Sneed hears that if there is considerable City Council resistance to Mayor Daley's proposed property tax increase, watch for a fuel tax increase to be back on the table.

"Translation: The fuel tax can create a $50 million bucket of cash for the city coffers . . . and 'the beauty is half of it would be paid by the airlines,' said a top top city source."

And who was that top top source? We'll take a wild guess.

Thursday: "The tax on fuel is [an] option that was originally tossed around but is not included in the proposal here," said Ald. Edward Burke (14th). "The one good part of that tax is that 50 percent of it is paid by the airlines."

Parochial School
"We confiscated more than 15,000 guns. No other city does that," the mayor declared this week.

Sources close to Google say that is patently false.

Marijuana Mitt
I'd rather you live out the rest of your short life in pain.

Posted by Lou at 09:48 AM | Permalink

October 12, 2007

The [Friday] Papers

Illinois schools now require students to observe a moment of silence every day.

Brought to you by the Democrats.

"Rep. Will Davis (D-Homewood), the bill's chief sponsor, denied he was promoting school prayer but instead said a moment of silence possibly could avert tragedies like the recent school shooting in Cleveland, where a troubled 14-year-old shot two students and two teachers before killing himself," the Sun-Times reports.

"Just think if that student had an opportunity maybe to sit and reflect," Davis said.

Yes. Just think.

Of course, Davis didn't offer, to my knowledge, any evidence that, say, states that require moments of silence experience less violence in their schools.

Because that would be absurd.

"Our children deserve . . . a moment of silence," said Rep. Monique Davis (D-Chicago), another one of Springfield's guiding lights. Perhaps students will use that moment, she says, to "listen to the rustling of leaves, to listen to the chirping of a bird."

Is school funding so dire that classes are now meeting in the woods?

"Maybe we don't have that go give," Davis says. "Maybe we love having this rushed, exciting world in which they live that helps to create the violence."

Um, one question, Rep. Davis. What?

"Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood), chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said she sought to make the moment mandatory this year after visiting schools in her district and finding that some teachers provided students with a moment of school silence and some didn't," the Tribune reports.

"Lightford said the quiet time at the beginning of a school day could provide children with a chance to wrestle with difficult personal issues such as abuse or bullying."

Um, one question, Rep. Lightford. What?

In that brief moment students are going to wrestle with, oh, let's say, abuse?

"Okay, students, let's all take a moment of silence to wrestle with our difficult personal issues, and then take your books out and turn to the War of 1812."

"We support the wholesome value of time to pause and reflect each day as a matter of good hygiene," Wayne Miller, Lutheran bishop for Chicago, told the Trib.

Well, we all like the wholesome value of time and good hygiene, but shouldn't that start at home every morning before kids get to school?

(Chicago kids who rely on the CTA to get to school have the added blessing of all those moment of reflection waiting for their bus to come.)

Now, if the legislature wanted to mandate a moment of silence for students to think about their elected representatives and whether they deserved re-election, that would be fine with me. Or what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they separated church and state. Or how to best organize a protest against disingenuous adults who act like children.

But even that, sadly, can't be mandated. You can lead students to a moment of silence, but you can't make them think. Or pray. Somehow that's a saving grace.

Moment of Silence
Where has everybody been?

Tax Revolt
Speaking of disingenuous adults who act like children, the mayor is positively in tears about the fiercely negative reaction to his proposal for the highest property tax increase in the city's history.

Forgive him for thinking the citizenry would react by saying thank you, sir, may I have another?

After all, that's kind of the way it's been around here for, oh, about 18 years.

Still, the mayor's sense of media victimhood continues to stun.

"You've done a lot to me over the years," he told the press corps, "You try to put me in different images. And you have the power of the pen. You have all the ink you want. But I hope you never say I don't understand the people of Chicago."

At least he didn't accuse reporters of being racist.

Meanwhile, this nugget was buried in the 12th paragraph of a 15-paragraph story in the Sun-Times.

"[A]ldermen . . . will benefit from the mayor's plan to raise the $33,280-a-year aldermanic expense allowance to $72,280 per alderman."

That will cost us $2 million right there, according to the Tribune.

Unmentioned is that the mayor and aldermen raised their salaries last year. That's called the City Hall Salary Tax. And don't even get Ben Joravsky started about TIFs.

Gaming Commission
John Kass thinks Daley's uncharacteristically dire budget is about a casino. I'm not sure about that; a Chicago casino is always the easy default explanation when we haven't yet figured out the politics behind something, like, say, putting the Chicago Children's Museum in Grant Park. But this sure was an interesting exchange Kass had with the mayor.

"Me: Your Honor, do you support the plan to create a Chicago gaming commission to oversee a city casino and cut out the Illinois Gaming Board?

"Daley: No. I don't know anything about that.

"City Hall suit sitting next to Daley: I don't know anything about it.

"Daley: Gee. I don't know.

"But it turns out that at 10 a.m. Wednesday on the 16th floor of the Thompson Center, there will be a public meeting about proposed Chicago casino legislation, including a plan to let the mayor appoint a board that would govern a casino.

"According to a Better Government Association analysis of the legislation, there would be no competitive bidding for professional services contracts to manage the casino. And once passed, City Hall could never lose its license, even if it runs the casino as it ran the scandal-plagued Hired Truck program."

Ferdy's Film Fest
"What's great about Roy Andersson films is their look," our very own Marilyn Ferdinand writes in her continuing coverage of the Chicago International Film Festival. "Andersson has fashioned a color palette that is washed-out blues and yellows, the colors of the Swedish flag. His characters look pasty or deformed. This film features a lot of short people, especially men. He revels in putting strange actions at the edges of the screen or in the background, making the experience of watching his films a bit like a game of Where's Waldo."

The Beachwood Tip Line: Tax-free.


Posted by Lou at 10:06 AM | Permalink

Chicagoetry: Diane Swonk, The Next Mrs. J.J. Tindall

DIANE SWONK: THE NEXT MRS. J.J. TINDALL

Lean, lithe, lovely
and loaded,

Kerridwen, goddess
of knowledge

and inspiration,
Golden Hair:

lean out
your window,

hear my
immigrant song.

I can cook,
clean, dance

and dream.
I am loyal,

clever, kind
and broke.

And since
the city towed

and repossessed
my car,

I am
twenty pounds

lighter.
Woman:

I am
your

slave.

-

Reader's Guide
1. Kerridwen
2. Swonk

-

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 07:57 AM | Permalink

The Blue & Orange Kool-Aid Report

If you want to feel stupid, watch an NFL pre-game show. Just before ESPN's show zapped my will to live, I watched a segment that gave certain teams "First quarter grades," now that most teams have completed a quarter of their regular season. My brain imploded under the weight of stupidity after Keyshawn Johnson handed out an "F+". A little better than absolutely brutal? A bit greater than pathetic? A step above worthless? Is it that hard to choose between a D- and an F?

Speaking of which, here are my first-quarter grades for the Bears.

Offense: After a rough start, the Bears finally admitted their problem: They were spending too much time each week defending Rex Grossman and not enough time getting another third-rate quarterback ready for their next game. Now they have to get over their apparent enjoyment of watching Cedric Benson run up to the line and stop. Sometime this year, we'll see Benson remove his mask to reveal that he is in fact Curtis Enis.

Grade: H (for Hopeless)

*

Defense: Here's what I don't understand about the Bears D: Just about everything. For example, the "Tampa 2" is supposed to be a great system. And this team is supposed to have great players playing in that great system. And yet, the Packers discover a running game against the Bears that looks like German tanks working the Maginot line? And don't talk to me about injuries. Did you see what the Colts did with their second team last week? The point of a great system is that it helps lesser players perform. And the point of a second-string is to step up when the first-string is hurt. Paging Ron Rivera!

Grade: E (for Excuse-Ridden)

*

Special Teams: Devin Hester is Ridiculous. Devin Hester is Ridiculous. Devin Hester is Ridiculous. Devin Hester is Ridiculous. Devin Hester is Ridiculous. Devin Hester is Ridiculous. And Robbie Gould and Brad Maynard ain't bad either.

Grade: R (for Ridiculous, natch).

*

Coaching: Look at Lovie Smith's eyes. Last year: Quiet confidence. This year: On the cusp of crying. It's like he's reliving the times in his life when he was made fun of for being called Lovie.

Grade: AC (for Almost Crying)

*

Fans: After three weeks, fans lost the one thing that united them: A hatred for Grossman. Like the Democratic Party, Bears fans know they hate something, but they can't agree on what any more. Is it the War in Iraq, Brian Griese, Health Care, Lovie Smith, Getting Crushed by Republicans or Cedric Benson? Like Democrats, Bears fans don't know until they've lost the big game once again.

Grade: BAU (Business As Usual)

-

Vikings at Bears
Last week, the matra seemed to be "2-3 is better than 1-4." That's like saying "One million dollars is better than a kick to the groin." If that's the best the Kool-Aid Nation can come up with, that's a serious lack of confidence.

Furthermore, does it mean this week's mantra will be "At least our opponent has only one real threat"? Expect one of those classic NFC North battles: A bunch fat guys run into each other for three hours. After all that effort, one winner prevails: boredom.

Pick: Chicago Minus 5.5 Points, Under 37.5 Points scored.

-

Sugar in the Blue and Orange Kool-Aid: 50%
Recommended Sugar in the Blue and Orange Kool-Aid: 25%

-


For more Emery, see the Kool-Aid archive, and the Over/Under archive. Emery accepts comments from Bears fans reluctantly and everyone else tolerably.


Posted by Lou at 07:38 AM | Permalink

October 11, 2007

The [Thursday] Papers

The mayor's call for what would appear to be the highest property tax hike in city history is a bit of a mystery.

Times may be tough, but why this now?

From what I can tell, the mayor's proposed budget isn't designed to simply balance the books under tough conditions.

He's also calling for new spending that would, according to Civic Federation President Lawrence Msall, amount to a $700 million increase in the city's operating budget over the last two years.

And for what?

Libraries, apparently.

Now, I'm all for reading. Especially for children, and when it's free. But do we really have to address the apparent shortage of adequate libraries in the city above and beyond everything else?

"It is unclear to us why libraries have become the city's top priority at this time ahead of all other city priorities," Msall said on Wednesday. "In our view, the case has not been made to justify such a huge tax and government spending increase."

That last sentence is key. Daley is proposing not just a tax increase to maintain city services, which might be something we could understand, but a record tax increase to fund new spending.

It's times like these that we should all wish we had a Republican party in Chicago. (Theoretically, at least, given their actual record on spending in Washington.)

Aside from new libraries, the Sun-Times reports, the mayor wants to issue $190 million in bonds for "neighborhood improvements," hire 50 more police officers, install 100 more police surveillance cameras, and add 131,000 more households to his new curbside recycling program.

The biggest hit is the mayor's proposed 15 percent jump in the property tax. That would raise $108 million.

While that's the hardest to swallow, considering that the county and state want more of your money too, the smaller fees and fines Daley is proposing are also aggravating. For example, getting ticketed for parking at an expired meter in your neighborhood would cost you $50 instead of $30. Getting ticketed parking outside diagonal lines (!) would cost you $50 instead of $25. And the mayor now wants $2.50 instead of just $1.25 tacked on to your phone bill every month, and wants eight more cents on a DVD rental (he should double that for David Spade movies).

Why don't you just skip the fines and fees and have us write one check payable to City Hall and be done with it?

It's never been the mayor's style to propose a budget as an opening gambit full of expendables in a negotiation to come. His budget proposals tend to be written in stone. So I'm not sure what's going on here, but maybe he's been too distracted with the Olympics and galavanting around the globe to come at it any other way this time around. (I wonder how much taxpayer time and money has been spent so far on the Olympic effort; as Esther Cepeda writes (third item) this morning, folks just may not be feelin' it anymore.)

I'd also be interested to know if the mayor has done any polling on this (he does more than you think). Maybe David Axelrod has been too busy with Obama to help out.

"Other cities stood still, and look what happened to them," Daley said.

Which cities, Mr. Mayor? What happened? Their public transit fell apart?

On Friday, we're supposed to hear the newest doomsday scenario from the CTA. And then we'll hear more from our Cook County president Todd Stroger and our governor Rod Blagojevich.

Maybe Obama oughta drop out of the presidential race and restore some hope here at home.

COMMENT 10:32 A.M.: Peg Burke writes: I don't know why Daley doesn't just unfurl a huge banner reading FUCK YOU ALL, CHICAGO all over downtown. If he really gave a damn about kids, or homeowners, he'd knock it off with the TIFs. Doing away with TIFs would give the schools money for books (so the kids going to the new libraries might actually be able to read), the neighborhoods enough to "improve", you get the idea. But no, it's more important to give Daley and his mobbed-up buddies a bottomless bucket of cash at the expense of everyone who's not connected.

Corruption Tax
"Also planned is the launch of a controversial new Department of Compliance to oversee city hiring that critics contend will undercut the authority of city Inspector General David Hoffman," the Tribune notes.

So in the midst of this the mayor is creating a new city department that nobody but him and his minions think is necessary given the recent creation of the inspector general's office.

Daley did give Hoffman four new positions - of the 30 or so he requested. We can't afford to staff the inspector general's office, apparently, though we can afford to create a whole new department designed to duplicate Hoffman's work but under firmer control of the mayor.

Olympic Tax
I'm all for organized labor, too (at least theoretically, when it's not mobbed up and/or as corrupt and/or stupid as management, which it usually is). But as the Tribune editorial page points out today, Daley's generous deals with 33 unions as well as the Chicago Teachers Union in order to buy off long-term Olympic-style peace in the village is also costing us.

Home Fires
"The owner of a home with a market value of $225,000 would pay about $100 more a year under the property-tax increase," the Trib notes in an example all the media are using.

A Beachwood reader writes: "I may be ignorant, but where is this $225,000 home in the City of Chicago? If someone lives in a $225,000 'home' in Chicago, I venture that their block is overrun by gang punks and their gangway is filled with discarded used condoms every morning when they wake up."

*

I think what this is telling me is that the average market value of homes in Chicago is $312,725.

Marathon Madness
I was watching the LaSalle Bank commercial before Chicago Tonight last night thinking they should have pulled it, seeing as how it features a long chain of everyday people handing off a cup of water until the final leg of the relay hands the cup to a runner - presumably participating in the LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon. Then the runner is shown not drinking from the cup, but pouring the water over his head!

Paging Carey Pinkowski.

Film Foe Fest
Hallam Foe, written by David Mackenzie and Ed Whitmore, and based on the book by Peter Jinks, succeeds by continually pulling back from the brink of conventional romantic drama," writes our very own Kathryn Ware. "Just as an interjection of humor and lightheartedness leads you to believe things just might be okay, that Hallam isn't such a troubled bloke after all, the film abruptly pulls the rug out, revealing some new facet of Hallam's dark, impulsive nature."

Catch up with this and the rest of the city's best Chicago International Film Festival coverage at Ferdy On Films.

Cubs Post-Mortem
"Cub fans threw back a remarkable 96.78% of the opponent's home runs this year," writes Cubs Answer Man Dave Stern. "That's a great year. The few that weren't thrown back were probably caught by fans busy hurling racial insults at your outfielders."

The Beachwood Tip Line: Throw up a signal.

Posted by Lou at 08:23 AM | Permalink

Over/Under

While it's true that last week I declared that the Bears still sucked, and I was (technically) wrong, at least I didn't make the same error that Packers fans did. It's one thing to deride a team before a game starts. It's another to start in with the ugly chants when you're up by 10 with six minutes left in the third quarter. That's still plenty of game left - as the Bears showed, outscoring the Packers 20-3 from there on out. Oops.

The Cheeseheads at Lambeau oughta know better. You don't talk about a no-hitter and you don't go into your victory chant prematurely. If you do, you become what hip sports fans would call a goocher. I'm going to help you avoid that fate. Watch and learn.

Tip 1: Root for your teams, but with the appropriate level of pessimism..

Examples:
For the Bears: If Hester gets 15 punts a game, that's an easy two touchdowns right there.
For the Blackhawks: It's hard to say. They need to be on the road so we can watch.
For the Cubs: It would be like winning the Lotto geting hit by lightning at the same time.

*

Tip 2: Describe what your team needs to do to keep a lead, but don't actually guarantee victory.

Examples:
For the Bears: Keep handing the ball to Benson for two yards a carry. Maybe that'll get the job done.
For the White Sox: If [INSERT NAME OF STARTER] can go five, maybe it'll rain and they'll get the win.
For the Bulls: Maybe Jordan comes out of retirement in the fourth quarter and seals this thing.

*

Tip 3: Always respond to other goochers as fiercely as possible.

Example:
* During the 2003 NLCS, Bernie Mac sang "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" with the alternate lyrics "root, root, root for the champions!" You could call for a boycott of his TV show and movies, but no one watches them anyway. So declare you will no longer eat Big Macs or keep renting A Weekend at Bernie's. If there has to be collateral damage, so be it.

*

Tip 4: Never, ever put your bold prediction in print.

Example:
If you absolutely must post a Mission Accomplished banner on an aircraft carrier for all the world to see, make sure you include the fine print "Just after a few thousand more soldiers die."

-

OverHyped Game of the Week: Saints at Seahawks
Do you hear a loud ticking sound? That's the fifteen minutes of fame running down for last year's New Orleans Saints. This fall from grace reminds me of being a child star. One minutes you're some cute kid riding a multicolored bus, the next you're dropping some idiot on his face.

Pick: Seattle Minus 6.5 Points, Over 43 Points Scored.

*

UnderHyped Game of the Week: Panthers at Cardinals
Do you hear the ticking of the clock? It's the pacemaker in the heart of whoever plays quarterback in this game. Kurt Warner for Arizona? Vinny Testaverde for Carolina? Is Ken Stabler available? Can Abe Vigoda throw a forward pass?

Last year we counted on Arizona to play good enough to lose in dramatic fashion at the end. This year, we count on Arizona to play good enough to make it a consistently fun experience. Sort of like what Fish brought to the table.

Pick: Arizona Minus 4 Points, Over 41 Points Scored.

-

Results
Last week: 3-3 (1-2 Against the Spread, 2-1 Over/Under)
Season: 15-15 (6-9 Against the Spread, 9-6 Over/Under)

-

For more Emery, see the Kool-Aid archive, and the Over/Under archive. Emery accepts comments from Bears fans reluctantly and everyone else tolerably.

Posted by Lou at 06:11 AM | Permalink

What I Watched Last Night

As any happily married couple or unhappily divorced single will tell you - if we actually bothered to listen anyone's advice - the most fulfilling relationships are those where two people enjoy doing things together. Men, if you're looking for a way to get your woman to watch Man TV with you, you may find this interesting, if not useful. Women, if you're looking for a way to get your man to cut down on at least a half-hour of ESPN once a week, you may find this interesting, too.

Or maybe not. As Confucius might say, "Advice: Wise men don't need it and fools don't heed it." Although I forgot who said it, that's all I've got to say about that.

I'm not much on televised sports. So why in the world did I end up spending three hours of my Wednesday night at Coach's Corner Tavern and Grill - indisputably the best drinking/sports-watching establishment along the Kennedy Avenue alcohol corridor in Hammond, Indiana's Hessville neighborhood - to come up with material for this column instead of staying home and being bored shitless with rancid programs like Life and Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares?

Sometimes you just end up sitting there for three hours because owners Miso and Diana Lazovich make sure they know every customer's name and treat the agreeable ones like close, lifelong friends. Up until 12 or so years ago, Miso's parents ran the highly-popular Golden Shell Restaurant in Chicago's East Side neighborhood, so Miso knows that treating your agreeable customers like lifelong friends is just what you do if you want guys who don't care about sports to keep coming to your sports bar even though there are plenty enough places in the same neighborhood to buy a stiff mixed drink for under $3. (For everyone who thinks Chicagoland extends no further south than Hyde Park, Hessville is truly one of the few places where getting pie-eyed - or poured into a stupor if you're a well-liked regular - on less than $40 in an evening ($60 if you're on a date) doesn't rank as one of life's bigger accomplishments.)

Or sometimes you just end up sitting at places like Coach's for three hours because of kick-ass bartenders like Nina, who on any given night does the work of three bartenders and two barbacks when the joint's full, and still manages to serve up frozen Doreen's pizzas without burning the goddamn things even once. That's service you rarely see in a very busy neighborhood joint, my friends.

But I digress.

Last night, ESPN was airing Prime Time College Football. The University of Pittsburgh was playing Navy. To a guy like me (who actually got heavily involved in Monday night's highly thrilling Dallas Cowboys-Buffalo Bills matchup), only ESPN's coverage of Prime Time College Tiddlywinks would be a bigger snoozefest. As soon as I quit noticing the overly-twitchy guy sitting next to me who looked like legendary country singer Johnny Paycheck on chemotherapy swatting at invisible flies, I noticed that Pittsburgh's head coach happens to be former Bears coach Dave Wannstedt.

Honestly, I thought he was still coaching the Miami Dolphins, but still. While I won't get into the question of whether going from coaching two NFL teams to coaching a college team qualifies as a demotion or an incredibly juicy career move because you're able to maintain your sanity and be ignored by Jay Mariotti while still raking in more money than God, I'll just say that Pitt looked awfully strong (especially given that its defense appeared to outweigh Navy's offense by a good 50 pounds a head), and Dave looked considerably more animated last night than ex-Bears/current Buffalo Bills head coach Dick Jauron did Monday night. Dave seemed to be comfortably within his element; Dick spent his entire Monday Night Football camera time still looking like the bottom guy on the wooden totem pole even when his team was rocking the entire MNF-watching world during 60 minutes of regulation play.

Beyond the 38-38 score with 3:57 left in the final quarter, I have no idea how the game ended because Miso turned the channel to Spike TV's Manswers on two of the bar's half-dozen or so sets. The sound was off on all of them, so Manswers seemed even more incredibly disturbing than it probably was. Within each segment, Manswers answers - through a mixture of medicine, science, research, and stupidity - questions that have daunted all men, be they sober, drunk, or Cliff Clavin since the time of Plato and Socrates.

Questions like:

* Which animal is most like having sex with a woman?

* Once you've been shot, how can you take a bullet out yourself?

* How do you get a happy ending at high-class massage parlors?

* How can you get drunk faster?

* They've dropped the bomb. What's the secret to keeping your ass alive?

* How do you take a punch to the head to reduce the risk of brain damage?

* And my total favorite: Hooker or cop?

Oh yeah, I almost forgot: There's plenty of skin being shown by women voted most likely to show up on a beer company poster tacked up in a tavern bathroom.

Additionally, the sound-dead TVs prevented me from hearing the show's voiceover host, who would sound incredibly like John Bunnell of World's Wildest Police Videos if Bunnell ever decided to win the Guinness Book of World Records' title for Longest Sustained Human Diet of Cocaine and Red Bull.

That aside, if there's any program out there right now that truly qualifies as educational TV for adults, this would be it. Basically, it goes places that not even Don Herbert's Mr. Wizard and Bill Nye the Science Guy would ever think of going even if Herbert was alive and Nye could get another equally-popular TV gig.

Last night's episode of Manswers dealt with the question, "Can taking a dump kill a guy?" This accounted for some painfully long footage of a Donal Logue lookalike in a bathroom stall looking like he was either passing a telephone pole or on the menu as after-dinner dessert for every inmate in federal pound-me-in-the-ass prison. Like I said, the sound was off on all the Coach's Corner TVs, so just seeing the show seemed even more incredibly disturbing than it actually was.

Manswers is an incredibly odd yet oddly incredible one-third science, one-third medicine, and one-third Mythbusters if the Mythbusters guys were drunk. Which is pretty much what guys my age thought PBS could have become during the late 1960s or very early 1970s had it not been so damn busy wasting all its time giving us Sesame Street, Zoom and The Electric Company.

*

Want more? Of course you do. Delight in the What I Watched Last Night collection.

Posted by Lou at 05:21 AM | Permalink

October 10, 2007

The [Wednesday] Papers

"After weeks of worsening revelations about the Chicago Police Department's elite Special Operations Section, a beleaguered interim superintendent finally the pulled the plug Tuesday, disbanding the scandal-plagued unit and sending most of the officers back to more strictly supervised assignments," the Tribune reports this morning.

The move comes just 10 days after Mayor Daley said the department needed the unit to combat gangs, drugs and guns.

On September 29th, the Tribune reported that "Mayor Richard Daley voiced support Friday for the Chicago Police Department's elite special operations section, despite recurring problems involving alleged rogue behavior by officers and a videotape that raises troubling new questions.

"An entire unit cannot be condemned because of the wrongdoing of a few, just like a neighborhood should not be tarred by the presence of gang members among its residents, Daley said.

"And the mayor gave no hint of disbanding SOS, saying that the Police Department needs specialized units. SOS officers are dispatched to hot spots around the city.

"'You have gangs, drugs and guns,' he said. 'Those are specialized areas. You have to have certain units like that.'"

But interim superintendent Dana Starks said yesterday that "The reorganization of SOS has been in the works for the last two months," according to the Tribune.

"[Starks] added that the move was his call, and that he notified Mayor Richard Daley on Tuesday after he made the decision."

That seems unlikely, but if true Starks just blew any chance he had of retaining the job permanently.

"Daley, who had staunchly defended keeping SOS after the most recent revelations in the scandal, had no comment."

Funny how he sometimes falls mute. Must be a medical condition.

Maintaining the unit was untenable.

The Trib, for example, reports today that "One high-ranking commander said that recently SOS officers testifying in court were 'getting eaten alive' by defense attorneys merely by association with the unit."

Well, not merely by association. If SOS officers are perjuring themselves by filing false police reports, a whole lotta cases are on their way to being thrown out (more than a hundred already, according to one report.)

Meanwhile, the Sun-Times reports that "The criminal investigation of the once-elite Special Operations Section 'goes high' into the ranks."

Marathon Madness
"After polling their 15 aid-station captains, race officials stood by their claim there were enough fluids, despite widespread complaints from runners who said they went without in the record-setting heat," the Tribune reports.

"'Yes, we struggled to meet demand, but we distributed throughout the day,' race spokeswoman Marianne Caponi said. 'Obviously there are runners who went through aid stations and didn't get fluids. I can't really comment on the difference."

Um, what?

The failure of marathon officials to face up to their shortcomings is stunning. Their nonsensical stance could hardly be more at odds with what racers and volunteers actually experienced.

"Volunteer Sharon Pines said she was surprised to learn race officials already have completed their investigation. Pines said she and other volunteers at the mile-10 aid station 'ran out of everything' and had to reuse cups from the ground," the Trib story says. "They took a cooler to a nearby restaurant three times to replenish water needed to make Gatorade, she said.

"Though the aid-station captain might have been interviewed, Pines said, he probably couldn't have provided a complete picture of the chaos as exasperated runners arrived, some with tears streaming down their faces, because they couldn't get fluids."

Of course, the mayor is typically in denial as well (though privately he may be seething).

"'I'm not ready to jump on [race director Carey Pinkowski's] back," Daley said. "You do that. That's your job. My job is to say that they needed more water, yes. And he admitted that.'

"In fact," the Sun-Times reports, "Pinkowski has said organizers provided water but hadn't anticipated runners pouring it over themselves instead of drinking it."

Well, like Daley says, the media's job is to gather the facts. His job is to twist them to his liking.

"Asked point-blank if he was embarrassed by the bad publicity, Daley said, 'No. No, I'm not. You do that all the time. That's your job to do bad publicity.'"

I saw this exchange on Chicago Tonight and I can report that the press corps just sat there and took it instead of asking, say, if the mayor thought it was the job of runners and volunteers to also deliver bad publicity just to spite him.

Finally, Daley declared that "It has a great history, the marathon has."

Yes, like last year when "they made a dumb mistake placing a slick, promotional decal on the pavement just in front of the finish line on a moist Sunday morning," as Eric Zorn wrote.

"Winner Robert Cheruiyot of Kenya hit one of those decals with his right foot just a stride away from breaking the ceremonial banner and it might as well have been a banana skin. His feet came out from under him and his head hit the pavement as he slid through the finish line."

Podunk Press
The Sun-Times thinks Chicagoans "showed their Olympian mettle" by being such kind and helpful spectators, rushing to the aid of their fallen comrades.

"[W]hat everyone seems to have glossed over is Chicago's greatest asset - its people," the paper said in an editorial today. "We make passing references to our 'City of Big Shoulders' tag, but go to any other metropolitan city and see how many locals are eager to point you in the right direction."

Yes, Chicago is known for its friendliness. Why, just look at our police department!

And God knows they don't take kindly to strangers in Kansas City and Milwaukee. In fact, spectators at marathons in other cities never gather alongside the course and hand out water! We're special!

Olympic Lie
"The mayor also said it's good not to be the front-runner this early in a competition that includes Rio de Janiero, Madrid and Tokyo," the Tribune reports.

"'I would rather be the underdog than the first person' at this point, Daley said. 'That would be very bad.'"

Yes, it would be very bad to be leading the competition right now!

The mayor didn't explain why, and reporters didn't seem to ask, but it begs the question: So Chicago officials have tried to not be in the lead so far because that would not be a good thing?

The Beachwood Tip Line: Our greatest asset.


Posted by Lou at 09:15 AM | Permalink

Mystery Debate Theater 2007

Once again the Mystery Debate Theater team of Andrew Kingsford, Tim Willette and Steve Rhodes gathered at Beachwood HQ to watch candidates for president debate in order to bring you the news and comedy you'll need to make a decision in November '08.

This time it was the Republicans from Dearborn, Michigan, in a debate loosely organized around economic issues.

Tim brought the Red Bull (I finally see the symbolism) while Andrew brought those cute Heineken keg beer cans and ordered Chinese. Being of Australian birth, Andrew ordered in his faux American accent to avoid the otherwise inevitable cross-cultural translation issues. "I'll be on the phone for three hours and then the wrong order will go to the wrong house," Andrew explained defensively.

Andrew promptly fell asleep - I think while Fred Thompson was talking - so you'll notice him disappear from the transcript early on. He also might have been mad because I called him a wanker, like his father before him, who was from the House of Wankers. And then he learned upon exiting Beachwood HQ that his bike had been stolen.

I wonder if that will make him a Republican.

The following transcript has been edited for clarity, space and sanity.

-

BARTIROMO: Hi there. I'm Maria Bartiromo of CNBC.

MATTHEWS: And good evening from me. I'm Chris Matthews of MSNBC. Joining Maria and me in questioning the presidential hopefuls this evening will be John Harwood, chief Washington correspondent for CNBC, and Jerry Seib of The Wall Street Journal.

BARTIROMO: Governor Romney, here in Detroit, Michigan, alone, one in every 29 homes went into foreclosure in the first six months of the year. Whose job is it to fix this problem? The government or private enterprise?

ROMNEY: It's everybody's job. It's inexcusable that Michigan is undergoing a one-state recession, that the rest of the country is growing and seeing low levels of unemployment, but Michigan is seeing ongoing, high levels of unemployment, almost twice the national rate.

Industry is shrinking here, jobs are going away. This is just unacceptable. And, therefore, everyone's going to have to come together to solve the problem.

And that means, from the president's standpoint, the president's going to have to stand up and say - you know what? - to the auto industry: The door's always open. We're ongoing to work with you and make sure that you have a listening ear and someone who will participate with labor and with management . . . [BLAH BLAH BLAH].

TIM: It's CD-Romney.

ROMNEY: We're also going to have to do a better job keeping our taxes down. [Michigan Gov.] Jennifer Granholm has made a big mistake by raising taxes.I was, frankly, a little nervous to - about being here tonight. I figured she was going to put a tax on the debate before we got finished.

(LAUGHTER)

STEVE: Awww, his advisors wrote a funny.

*

MATTHEWS: Mayor Giuliani, private equity firms are making billions of dollars. Is there any downside to this amazing bonanza in the hedge fund and the private equity firms?

GIULIANI: The free market is the asset that has allowed us to - the sky's the limit. The reality is, that what we have to do is look at the fundamentals. A president can't be a economic forecaster. A president's not going to be any better an economic forecaster than you are a baseball forecaster - and I'm not a particularly baseball forecaster this afternoon.

STEVE: The president shouldn't have any idea of where the economy is going?

TIM: This way we can just get rid of that whole Federal Reserve thing.

GIULIANI: And make sure you do something about legal reform so that our legal system doesn't - it's 2.2 percent of our GDP now, is spent on all these frivolous lawsuits. It's double any other industrialized nation.

TIM: And 2.2 is twice 1.1, which is the second half of the 9/11 fraction, and that's why I should be president.

MATTHEWS: Just to test your forecasting ability, Mr. Mayor, will Torre keep his job?

GIULIANI: Joe Torre is the best manager in the history of the Yankees, at least in the modern era. So -- and he's my friend.

MATTHEWS: OK. Congressman Paul . . .

TIM: How are the Rangers doing this year?

MATTHEWS: I think you have questions and concerns about the bonanza in the hedge fund industry. Do you?

PAUL: Yes. I think this is not a consequence of free markets. What's happening is, there's a transfer of wealth from the poor and the middle class to the wealthy.

This comes about because of the monetary system that we have. When you inflate a currency or destroy a currency, the middle class gets wiped out.

So the people who get to use the money first which is created by the Federal Reserve system benefit. So the money gravitates to the banks and to Wall Street.

STEVE: Is this going to end with the Queen running a cocaine cartel?

TIM: I hope so!

PAUL: That's why you have more billionaires than ever before. Today, this country is in the middle of a recession for a lot of people. Michigan knows about it. Poor people know about it. The middle class knows about it. Wall Street doesn't know about it. Washington, D.C., doesn't know about it.

But it's because of the monetary system and the excessive spending. As long as we live beyond our means we are destined to live beneath our means.

And we have lived beyond our means because we are financing a foreign policy that is so extravagant and beyond what we can control, as well as the spending here at home.

And we're depending on the creation of money out of thin air, which is nothing more than debasement of the currency. It's counterfeit. And it is a natural, predictable consequence that you're going to have people benefit from it and other people suffer.

So, if you want a healthy economy, you have to study monetary theory and figure out why it is that we're suffering. And everybody doesn't suffer equally, or this wouldn't be so bad.

It's always the poor people - those who are on retired incomes - that suffer the most. But the politicians and those who get to use the money first, like the military industrial complex, they make a lot of money and they benefit from it.

*

BARTIROMO: Senator McCain, what about that? How are you going to win the middle class back? Wall Street executives are making millions of dollars every year, paying tax rates of 15 percent, while the average guy out there is paying 30 percent in taxes. Is this system fair?

McCAIN: Everybody is paying taxes and wealth creates wealth. And the fact is that I would commend to your reading, Ron, Wealth of Nations, because that's what this is all about.

ANDREW: A hundred-year-old book?

STEVE: He hasn't read that book.

TIM: There's a lot of things in that book that Sen. McCain wouldn't agree with. Like markets are a terribly poor way of taking care of the less fortunate.

McCAIN: And unless we get spending under control and eliminate all this waste and pork-barrel spending, the latest is this public works, $21 billion worth of pork barrel projects in public works, which the president should veto.

TIM: All this waste . . . it's like that commercial where they talk about how much money they'll save if they just switch copying companies . . . the Government Printing Office is out of control!

*

MATTHEWS: Governor Huckabee, tell us about your fair tax. You're going to get rid of the IRS. You're going to have a, basically, consumer tax. Won't that discourage spending?

HUCKABEE: It ends the underground economy that right now makes it so that folks like us end up paying taxes, but drug dealers don't; illegals don't; prostitutes and pimps, they don't. But we do.

TIM: Is he the first candidate to use the pimp word? And did he say ho's? did he say pimps and hos?

*

MATTHEWS: Congressman Hunter, do you agree with that: the idea of replacing the IRS - the income tax, a direct tax - with an indirect sales tax?

HUNTER: What I would do is pass the Hunter-Ryan bill which would put countervailing duties on the Chinese when they cheat.

TIM: Sounds like one of those Tom Clancy books.

*

MATTHEWS: Senator Thompson, do you want to respond to that question or that comment by the congressman about Chinese trade?

THOMPSON: I was one of the strictest advocates of imposing restrictions on the Chinese for their behavior in terms of exporting dangerous materials to other countries and tying some of trade policies to what they did in that regard. They have still not done enough. They have devalued their currency which puts them in a favored position as far as our manufacturers are concerned.

TIM: Don't forget the ancient Chinese secret.

ANDREW: Ginseng?

TIM: We still don't know . . . Senator Thompson, please refrain from asking the audience to applaud.

*

BARTIROMO: Senator Brownback, are you prepared to say, categorically, that under a Brownback administration, there will not be a tax increase?

BROWNBACK: Yes. Because, clearly, the last thing we need to do is raise taxes in this country. Currently, the country now, the average citizen works until the first part, the middle of May, just to pay their taxes.

STEVE: Our wealthiest citizens work till 11 a.m. on January 2nd to pay their taxes.

BROWNBACK: And we also - we have to get spending under control. Here you've got to change the system. So I think we need to take that BRAC military process for base-closing, apply it to the rest of government, so you have an annual process for culling federal spending, that requires a vote of Congress.

STEVE: Isn't that called making a budget?

*

BARTIROMO: Congressman Tancredo, same question: Are you prepared to say, categorically, that, under your administration, there will be no tax increase?

TANCREDO: Absolutely. I'll take the oath. The fact is this, that when we talk about spending cuts, which everybody, I think, on this stage adheres to and certainly pays lip service to, we have to think about what exactly it is that pushes spending at the federal level. And, believe it or not, it isn't even earmarks.

STEVE: It's toemarks.

*

MATTHEWS: Mayor Giuliani and Governor Romney, you've been having a tit-for-tat on tax cutting. What's the difference between the two of you.

GIULIANI: I cut taxes 23 times when I was mayor of New York City. I believe in tax cuts. I believe in being a supply sider. I cut the income tax I think it was 24 percent.

STEVE: Which is close to 22 percent, and half of that is 11 . . .

GIULIANI: I cut taxes by over $9 billion.

STEVE & TIM: 9!

ROMNEY: It's baloney. Mayor, you've got to check your facts. No taxes - I did not increase taxes in Massachusetts. I lowered taxes, number one. Number two, the Club for Growth looked at our respect to spending record. They said my spending grew 2.2 percent a year. Yours grew 2.8 percent a year.

STEVE: So he cut taxes and spent more?

*

GIULIANI: The line item veto is unconstitutional. You don't get to believe about it; the Supreme Court has ruled on it.

STEVE: The Supreme Court has ruled on abortion too.

*

GIULIANI: I took President Clinton to court [on the line-item veto] and I beat him.

STEVE: And I'll beat his wife too!

*

HUNTER: You know, Senator Thompson, there is one place where the federal government has a role in manufacturing. And that's ensuring that everybody's playing by the rules.

Now, when Communist China devalues their currency by 40 percent, they undercut American products around the world. They undercut them so low that we can't even pay for the cost of materials and meet their prices.

TIM: He should throw Thompson for a loop by saying something about the Soviet Union. See if he bites.

*

SEIB: President Bush says trade is still good for America. Are you a Bush Republican on trade?

TIM: I'm for rough trade.

BARTIROMO: Foreign acquisitions in the United States are headed for a record in 2007, and yet some money is still turned away. A Dubai company could not acquire our ports. A Chinese company could not acquire Unocal. Has this country become protectionist or are there serious, real national security concerns?

GIULIANI: Well, I think we're on a verge of going in one direction or another.

TIM: In fact, we might go two directions at once. Or maybe we're going nowhere.

GIULIANI: I mean, for example, you want to get specific, the four trade deals with Peru, Colombia, Panama, South Korea that are in front of Congress right now, which the Democrats are trying to block, would be good deals for the United States.

In three of the four of them, we would actually get to export more than we're importing. Why they would want to block this I can't understand. We would actually get to export more, and we would increase our exports.

TIM: By exporting more, we would increase our exports dramatically. And the more we export, the more our exports go up.

GIULIANI: Our percentage of our economy that now depends on exports has gone up from 9 percent to . . .

STEVE & TIM: 11!

GIULIANI: 12 percent.

STEVE & TIM: Oh!

TIM: So close!

*

BARTIROMO: So, yes or no: Should a Dubai company be able to own 20 percent of NASDAQ?

GIULIANI: Sure, if they pass safety and security clearances.

STEVE: As long as it's not Bernie Kerik's company.

THOMPSON: The answer is yes. Dubai would own 20 percent of NASDAQ. But NASDAQ under this deal, as I understand it, would gain more than 30 percent of the Dubai company.

It all depends on national security issues. Doesn't seem to be one there.

But we should look at all these deals carefully because we have a vast infrastructure. A great portion of it is in private hands. There's no way, frankly, we can protect it all. So we need to do everything that we can to make sure that we're doing all that we can to protect . . . BLAH BLAH BLAH.

STEVE: Why can't they just script him in the role of candidate? I don't understand why his acting doesn't translate.

TIM: Well, he's more of a method guy.

*

TANCREDO: No. I'll tell you, if Dubai wanted to buy Wal- Mart, I might think about it.

TIM: What if they wanted to buy Mexico?

*

BROWNBACK: We went to Iraq - on the war in Iraq - what I voted for was the war on terrorism. And Afghanistan was where the Taliban was - where Al Qaida was located.

TIM: And Iraq was somewhere around there, in the neighborhood.

BROWNBACK: And we saw, in Iraq, what we thought was the mixture of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. And it was in 2003. This was in close proximity to 2001 when we had the 9/11 crisis. And I wasn't about to trust that Saddam Hussein wasn't going to mix terrorists with weapons of mass destruction.

Now, we haven't found the weapons of mass destruction.

TIM: And it turns out the terrorists weren't really there either.

*

BROWNBACK: This Friday, Joe Biden and I are getting together in Des Moines and we're going to be talking about the political side, a three-state solution in Iraq. This is what ultimately is going to happen. You're going to have a Kurdish north, a Sunni west, a Shia south, within one country, federalism with a weak federal government, the federal government headquartered in Baghdad.

TIM: So you from Des Moines out there, if you're looking for a good time Friday night, come see me and Biden talking about federalism.

*

MATTHEWS: Senator Thompson, Senator Brownback made the point that we haven't been able to find the WMD. You made a statement a couple of days ago, I believe, that alluded to the fact you believed that there were such weapons in Iraq. Do you believe they were there right before we got in - they were moved out somewhere?

THOMPSON: I was just stating what was obvious and that is that Saddam had had them prior. They used them against his own people - against the Kurds. And of course, he had a nuclear reactors back - I believe it was in '81 when the Israelis bombed that.

TIM: And that's why we should in invade Germany. They're working on those V-2 missiles. And who knows what Genghis Kahn is working on these days. He's real trouble too

THOMPSON: So, there's no question that he had had them in times passed, and in my own estimation, there's no question that if left to his own devices, he and his son would still be running that place, attacking their neighbors and murdering their own people and developing a nuclear capability - especially in looking what Iran is doing as their next door neighbor and long-time adversary.

TIM: Senator Thompson, what really happened to the Red October?

STEVE: Andrei, are you telling me you lost another sub?

*

MATTHEWS: Governor Romney, if you were president of the United States, would you need to go to Congress to get authorization to take military action against Iran's nuclear facilities?

ROMNEY: You sit down with your attorneys and they tell you what you have to do, but obviously the president of the United States has to do what's in the best interest of the United States to protect us against a potential threat. The president did that as he was planning on moving into Iraq and received the authorization of Congress . . .

MATTHEWS: Did he need it?

ROMNEY: You know, we're going to let the lawyers sort out what he needed to do and what he didn't need to do.

TIM: What lawyers, his defense attorneys?

*

MATTHEWS: Congressman Paul, do you believe the president needs authorization of Congress to attack strategic targets in Iran, nuclear facilities?

PAUL: Absolutely. This idea of going and talking to attorneys totally baffles me. Why don't we just open up the Constitution and read it? You're not allowed to go to war without a declaration of war.

Now, as far as fleeting enemies go, yes. If there's an imminent attack on us. We've never had that happen in 220 years.

The thought that the Iranians could pose an imminent attack on the United States is preposterous. There's no way. This is just war propaganda, continued war propaganda, preparing this nation to go to war and spread this war not only in Iraq, but into Iran, unconstitutionally. It is a road to disaster for us as a nation. It's a road to our financial disaster if we don't read the Constitution once in a while.

MATTHEWS: Governor Huckabee, same question. Do you need Congress to approve such an action?

HUCKABEE: A president has to whatever is necessary to protect the American people.

TIM: And if that means breaking the law, so be it.

MATTHEWS: Senator McCain?

McCAIN: We're dealing, of course, with hypotheticals.

STEVE: Who is he, Hillary Clinton?

McCAIN: But I would, at minimum - I would, at minimum, consult with the leaders of Congress because there may come a time when you need the approval of Congress. And I believe that this is a possibility that is, maybe, closer to reality than we are discussing tonight.

STEVE: What is he hinting at? The invasion begins at midnight?

TIM: He paid for this microphone.

*

GIULIANI: It really depends on exigency of the circumstances and how legitimate it is, that it really is an exigent circumstance. It's desirable, it's safer to go to Congress, get approval from Congress.

If you're really dealing with an exigent circumstance, then the president has to act in the best interests of the country.

And the point of - I think it was Congressman Paul made before - that we've never had an imminent attack, I don't know where he was on September 11th.

PAUL: That was no country. That was 19 thugs. That had nothing to do with a country.

GIULIANI: And since September - well, I think it was kind of organized in Afghanistan and Pakistan. And if we had known about it, maybe - maybe hitting a target there, quickly, might have helped prevent it.

In any event, we've had 23 plots since September 11, where Islamic terrorists are planning to kill Americans, that we've had to stop.

So imminent attack is a possibility, and we should be ready for it.

*

BARTIROMO: Mayor Giuliani, under your leadership, how will this country become energy- and oil-independent and strike the right balance between environmental conservation and oil exploration?

GIULIANI: This is a matter of national security. You've got to support all the alternatives. There's no magic bullet here. Biofuels, nuclear power - we haven't licensed a nuclear power plant in 30 years. We haven't had a new refinery in 30 years. We're on hold.

Hydroelectric power, solar power, wind power, conservation - we have to support all of these things. We've got to support them in a positive way. And this is an area in which the federal government, the president has to treat this like putting a man on the moon. It is a matter of national security.

STEVE: Was the moon going to attack us?

*

HARWOOD: Senator McCain, Exxon Mobil, Chevron, and ConocoPhillips, this past year, earned a combined $72 billion in profits. Is that too much? Should the oil industry pay higher taxes, or should it be required to use some of those profits to help solve our energy problems?

McCAIN: I would not require them to, but I think that public pressure and a lot of other things, including a national security requirement that we reduce and eliminate our dependence on foreign oil and we stop the contamination of our atmosphere which is - in climate change, which is real and is taking place.

And we have now a confluence of two national security requirements. One is to address the issue of climate change, and nuclear power is a very big part of that. And it's also a requirement to not allow Chavez in Venezuela, Putin in Russia . . .

TIM: . . . that's the USSR to you, Senator Thompson . . .

McCAIN: . . . and the president of Iran to dictate world events, bully their neighbors and use oil as a weapon which would probably further terrorism and endanger this nation's national security.

THOMPSON: That brings in the whole question of the importance of stability in the world. The United States, since the end of World War II, has been a force for stability and democracy.

TIM: Except in those places where stability and democracy are at odds. Which is most places.

*


MATTHEWS: This is one of those 30-second down the line, gentlemen, questions.

TIM: You'll only need 30 seconds to evade it.

MATTHEWS: How do the Republican win back confidence on the economy, Governor Romney?

TIM: I'm gonna strap the economy to the roof of my car!

Mr. Romney: We need to have leadership that'll tell us the truth and actually lead.

TIM: But you can't do both.

ROMNEY: And vis-a-vis meeting with most likely Hillary Clinton, I can't wait to talk about the fact that I spent my life in the economy.

TIM: I just wanted everyone to know I'm not from another planet. That CD-Romney thing is bullshit. I've been in the economy my whole life. Prick me and I bleed.

*

GIULIANI: Hillary Clinton, the governor mentioned, wants to put a lid on us. She wants to put a lid on our growth. We want to give people freedom. I'll give you an example. Hillary, the other day - remember the Hillary bond program? She's going to give out - she's going to give $5,000 to every child born in America, with her picture on it.

I challenged her on it. I challenged her. She has backed off that. She has a new one today. This one is, she's going to give out $1,000 to everybody, to set up a 401(k).

The problem is, this one costs $5 billion more than the last one.

STEVE: And the pundits say she's playing it safe!

*

(CONOCOPHILLIPS COMMERCIAL)

STEVE: Didn't ConocoPhillips bring us the last 10 minutes? Product placement!

TIM: Is this TV station like Google ads? Maybe after Tancredo speaks we'll see commercials for Cancun.

*

BARTIROMO: Senator Thompson, give specific steps to maintain the long-term solvency of Social Security.

Mr. Thompson: Well, you've hit on a major problem that we've got to come to terms with. We're looking at the short-term economic situation now, and I think it's very good news.

But if you go out a little bit, you'll see that we're not going to have Social Security and Medicare as we know it into the future, our children and our grandchildren certainly are not. We are eating our seed corn.

We are spending their money. We're pitting one generation against the next. We're better than that. We've got to do some things better than that, even though the choices are difficult.

Number one, we've got to make sure we have a growing economy . . . BLAH BLAH BLAH.

STEVE: That look on Romney's face is him thinking this guy isn't going to be a problem at all.

TIM: Right now, I am the Red October.

*

TANCREDO: The negotiators for the Bush administration - probably the worst vote I ever cast was the vote to give the president fast track. I mean, you know, talking about the tariffs, CAFTA, here was a bill over a thousand pages long to do what, to reduce tariffs between the six Central American countries and the United States?

That was about a paragraph, right? But it's over a thousand pages.

TIM: Maybe they can have a paragraph-item veto.

*

SEIB: Governor Romney, do you think the Republican Party should take the lead in ending the employer-based health care system we have now and replace it with something else?

ROMNEY: Well, I don't believe in replacing what we have, but I believe in improving it. And the way we improve something is not by putting more government into it - of course, that's what Hillary Clinton wants to do. "Hillary Care" is government gets in and tells people what to do from the federal government's standpoint.

So my plan gets everybody in American insured, takes the burden of free-riders off of our auto companies and everybody else and says, "Let's get everybody in the system."

And to do that, we say: Look, we're going to have states create their own plans - we did it in our state and it's working. We're not going to have the federal government tell them how to do it.

STEVE: Because our state governments are so much more capable of handling complex issues. Look at Springfield.

*

GIULIANI: Unions have made a positive contribution. My grandmother was an early member of the United Ladies Garment Workers Union . . .

TIM: That's why I like wearing ladies garments.

*

BARTIROMO: Senator Thompson, Chrysler is facing a possible walk-out on Wednesday. Should the government step in and help Chrysler and the other auto makers?

THOMPSON: No.

BARTIROMO: Why?

THOMPSON: Well, I think the government has to have a good reason to step in.

TIM: What about breaking the union? Isn't that a good reason? What kind of Republican are you?

THOMPSON: I think it has to be something that drastically affects our economy. It might a little bit later on. You'd have to cross that bridge when you came to it.

TIM: I don't want to deal in hypotheticals. Like if I were president . . .

*

BARTIROMO: Senator Thompson, what are the dangers of a weak dollar?

STEVE: They're too flimsy to get into the vending machine.

*

MATTHEWS: Mr. Mayor, Hillary Clinton says that one of our biggest economic threats right now is how much of our federal debt is owned by foreigners.

TIM: What if Hillary wins the Republican nomination too?

*

ROMNEY: Is London going to replace New York? Of course not.

Should we fix Sarbanes-Oxley and take out Section 404 as it applies to smaller companies? Of course, we should.

Is this country the hope of the world? Absolutely.

And would I support the Republican nominee? Of course.

TIM: It's CD-Romney! I don't need any of you! Should I be president? Yes I should!

*

ROMNEY: I've come to know these people now over these debates. Is this our sixth debate, I think - something like that? And this has a lot - this is a lot like Law & Order, Senator. It has a huge cast, the series seems to go on forever, and Fred Thompson shows up at the end.

STEVE: His advisors wrote a funny.

Mr. Thompson: And to think I thought I was going to be the best actor on the stage.

STEVE: His did too.

*

BARTIROMO: Governor Romney, what is the greatest long-term threat to the U.S. economy?

ROMNEY: Our sense of optimism. America has to be optimistic and recognize that there's nothing we can't overcome. We have to recognize that what we have, as Americans, is the envy of the world. We have technology. We have innovation. We have great schools. We have great families. We have great homes.

TIM: We have great hair.

BARTIROMO: Thank you very much.

*

Beachwood Analysis
Hillary Clinton was the clear winner tonight with front-runners Giuliani and Romney jockeying for position as the best candidate to slay her. Among Republicans, Giuliani showed again why he is in the lead. He projects leadership, strength, reason, and a bit of a street fighter mixed with a hint of professor in those little glasses. He's completely comfortable in his own skin. Of course, this is no judgment on his stands on the issues. But those are irrelevant at this point to Republicans. Giuliani hardly best embodies the party, but he seems to offer the best chance to go toe-to-toe with Hillary.

Romney is too slick and too smarmy; right out of the 1980s. You get the sense that Hillary would wipe the floor with the rest of these guys.

Fred Thompson is a dud, as predicted here at the Beachwood. His best hope is to slip through in Iowa if Giuliani and Romney tear each other apart and alienate voters, but it's a slim reed to hang onto.

Huckabee is looking for the same opening, though he may have more staying power and make for an attractive vice president nominee. But Huckabee failed to capitalize tonight in his momentum going into the debate, coming up flat.

TIM: Did the Republicans just jump the shark? Maybe Fred Thompson is the Cousin Oliver of Republican candidates.

*

P.S.
TIM: I'm gonna pour Red Bull in Andrew's beer glass next time.

-

Catch up on the Mystery Debate Theater collection. You can even take it into the voting booth with you!

Posted by Lou at 07:23 AM | Permalink

Chicagoetry: Depression

DEPRESSION

MOON:

BLISTERED MIRROR-

BLACK DOG-

BLEAK KNAVE-

FICTION OF FAILURE-

FUNERAL DAWN-

AIRLESS GUILD-

LOVELESS COVE-

SKULL OF GOD

TO WHOM

ANIMALS

ONCE PRAYED.

-

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 06:00 AM | Permalink

And Then There's Maude: Episode 8

Our tribute to the 35th anniversary of the debut of Maude continues.

*

Season 1, Episode 8
Episode Title: Flashback

Original airdate: 31 Oct 1972

Plot: Maude and Walter are watching the early presidential returns come in. Maude is hysterical with worry that Nixon will defeat her candidate, George McGovern. This triggers a flashback to the last presidential election, when Maude and Walter were dating. Arguing about Nixon vs. Humphrey and Walter's decision not to vote, Maude realized she loved Walter, which sent the thrice-married Maude into a tailspin.

First she panicked and kicked Walter out. There's no way she'd get married again! But then a conversation with hipster daughter Carol gave Maude the idea that she and Walter could just live together. After all, it was1968! This idea didn't go over well with Walter - who's ready to make a commitment - and they broke up following a blowout argument.

For two weeks, Maude and Walter were miserable. Maude tried to get over Walter with a string of bad dates, including one with a storm window salesman who tried to tempt her with his $100,000 life insurance policy. (Apparently Maude was quite the catch there in Tuckahoe.) Walter got a dating pep-talk from Arthur, which was all the incentive he needed to get back together with Maude. Walter gave Arthur his little black book before heading over to Maude's to move in. In no time, the lovebirds were arguing again and before you could say, "Humphrey loses," Maude and Walter were off to see a justice of the peace.

Hot button social issue: Politics and love make for very loud bedfellows in the Findlay household.

Fashion statement: Maude is wearing another outfit that disguises itself as something else. In episode 3 ("Maude and the Radical") she wore a bathrobe I initially mistook for a dress. A giant ugly dress, but a dress nonetheless. In this episode, she's wearing a powder blue pantsuit with a long jacket that looks like a wool topcoat over matching wide-legged pants. I kept waiting for Maude to take her coat off until I realized that is the outfit. Looks like she should be standing guard somewhere.

Neckerchief count: One-plus-one (Arthur and Maude wear dueling neckerchiefs, again).

Welcome back to 1972 pop culture reference: Walter says he dated a girl who talked incessantly about the Jefferson Airplane. "It took me three hours to figure out she wasn't a stewardess."

Number of times Maude yells: 5

Memorable quote: When Maude asks Walter, how can "an intelligent man like you not vote?" he responds, "Because with Nixon and Humphrey it's strictly Tweedle Dum or Tweedle Dee. And I personally have no favorite Tweedle."

References to the Vietnam War: Arthur claims he was only for the war "if we were going to win."

References to Nixon: Walter also trumpets Nixon's 1968 election promise that his secret plan will end the Vietnam War in six months.

Keep an eye out for: Van Johnson as the horrible date who convinces Maude that she should marry Walter.

-

Previously:
Season 1, Episode 1: Maude's Problem.
Season 1, Episode 2: Doctor, Doctor.
Season 1, Episode 3: Maude Meets Florida.
Season 1, Episode 4: Like Mother, Like Daughter.
Season 1, Episode 5: Maude and the Radical.
Season 1, Episode 6: The Ticket.
Season 1, Episode 7: Love and Marriage.


Posted by Lou at 12:36 AM | Permalink

Lament of The Bleacher Preacher: Part 2

Previously: From my dad's promise in 1945 to Punky Brewster.

And after being interviewed at the Daley Plaza Cubs rally before the playoffs began, I was invited to appear on Channel 2's morning news show once the team returned from Arizona. I asked if it was okay to make the following sign: HELP ME MAKE IT TO THE PROMISE LAND!

I went to bed the night before with the Cubs leading Game 2 2-0 and woke up with them down two games to none. I left my apartment before 4 a.m to make my appearance and decided to take the Red Line after calling to see how often they ran at that time. Every 15 minutes, the CTA said. But after waiting more than a half hour on the platform and seeing three trains go south, I rang up to the attendant and she calmly told me the trains weren't running north. I would probably still be waiting if I didn't ask. So I took a cab. That alone could ruin my reputation!

I brought a few of my signs, including one that I made in 1981: WE HAVE JUST BEGUN TO FIGHT." I had a few minutes and they had video of me taken in 1984 with my life size voodoo doll and Tim Weigel interviewing Carmella and me at an Opener. So here we were again . . .

* * *

There's a line in Bleacher Bums: No one ever got rich betting on the Cubs after July 4th.

The games from Phoenix started at 9 p.m. Chicago time. I watched the games at home with the mute button on most of the time.

* * *

Game 3 at Wrigley on Saturday started at 5 p.m. I packed several recycled signs and a new one, that I made that morning: "There are 86 more days 'til next year!" with the Cubs logo in the word "more." My friend Lee Balterman, 86 years young and a former photographer for Time-Life and Sports Illustrated joined me. We took the 22 Clark Street bus. We arrived at Wrigley three hours before game time. The atmosphere was filled with all kinds of Cubs goodies and signs, and a multitude of media trucks from here,there and everywhere. A short time later, there was a brief afternoon shower . . . the kind that usually is accompanied by a rainbow, but there was none in sight.

I spoke to Channel 5, retelling the story of my dad's promise, and showed off a few of my signs. Lee was having fun snapping shots of the parade of passing fans, and I bumped into quite a few old-timers and exchanged bleacher stories of past years.

Then a Cubs fan with his girlfriend asked me if I was going inside the ballpark. I told him I was priced out. He put his hand in his pocket and pulled out a ticket and said it had my name on it. He said he had taken his picture with me in 1984. I told him his extra ticket was worth big bucks, but he insisted. I thought of the line that ended A Streetcar Named Desire: "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers." I felt bad because I could not find a ticket for Lee, but he understood.

* * *

My seat was in the upper deck, between home and first base, with a slight beam obstruction that blocked the flight of the ball from the pitcher to the catcher for a brief moment. The overall view was great, and I sat in that same area that I sat many times with my dad in the1940's and 50's. Most of the fans wore Cubbie t-shirts and caps except for a couple of Diamondback fans just a few seats over. I had forgotten how green the city was from this vantage point. The scoreboard was freshly painted and looked brand new. The "El" trains in the distance just beyond the centerfield stands looked like toys, as did the many high-rises built on the North Side over the past 50 years. There was no breeze and the flags dropped on the foul line flag poles and scoreboard. It was a short-sleeve crowd and the colors were bright in the afternoon sun. The flawless festivities started with the introducing of the players of both teams, the color guard and the singing of the national anthem. The Cubs fans were whooping it up and I felt at home, even though I was not in the bleachers.

Then the sweetness quickly turned sour.

"Play ball!" was followed by D'backs leadoff man Chris Young depositing the first pitch of the game into the left field bleachers. I tried to stay optimistic, but after a few innings I had the feeling that David Copperfield was the 10th man for the D'backs because every time we got a runner on base, he disappeared before our very eyes. The person sitting right in front of me was keeping a scorecard; he too said he had his picture taken with me many years ago. He was from Iowa. I told him that the last time I kept a scorecard was 60 years ago. My dad had taught me and I made up my mind it was going to be perfect. I was wearing a brand new Sears baseball uniform that he bought for $6.95. It came with iron-on letters that spelled "YANKEES" that I cut up and reshaped to read CUBS. It was a game between the Pirates and the Cubs, and I got the autographs of two future Hall of Famers, Hank Greenberg and Ralph Kiner. I was sitting in the lower grandstand, down the left-field line beneath the upper deck. The scorecard was perfect - not an eraser mark on it - when a pigeon scored a direct hit from the overhead rafter. It might as well have been an atomic bomb.

By the fifth Inning, the D'backs had a 3-1 lead. The double-play Mark DeRosa hit into with the bases loaded was a crowd killer. Another D'back round-tripper boosted their lead to 4-1, and that begat the boo-birds. The seventh inning brought out the worst in the Cubs and their fans when Derrek Lee bounced into the fourth Cubs double-play of the game. The season ended with a whimper in the ninth with two Cubs striking out and another hitting a lazy fly ball to end the game. I drew a big red circle over the "86 Days til Next Year" on my sign to make it "O days to Next Year." There was no post-game celebration, or cheers to bring the team back onto the field. Among the empty beer cups and peanut shells was a silent hush.

Rigor mortis set in. I grabbed an "El" home that was packed with Cubs fans, but all you could hear was the sound of the train on the track. .When I got home there was a message to call Lee; he had been beaten up on his way home from the game. Luckily, only his cheek bone was black and blue, and they didn't get his camera. But they did get his wallet.

Kermit the Frog used to say "It ain't easy bein' green." The Bleacher Preacher says it ain't easy being a Cubs fan, either.

Posted by Lou at 12:13 AM | Permalink

October 09, 2007

The [Tuesday] Papers

The fallout from the Chicago Marathon continues along four lines of inquiry.

1. Did race officials screw up?

Yes. It's obvious from the testimony of runners, observers, and volunteer workers that the water and Gatorade supply was inadequate, to say the least, no matter what excecutive race director Carey Pinkowski says.

And Pinkowski isn't doing himself any favors speaking in such cold, mechanical tones, seemingly blaming runners for cooling themselves with the water they did find, and bringing a bottle of water to sip at his press conference on Monday. Hello?

Runner Kristin Stroud of Chicago writes to the Sun-Times this morning that "I don't disagree with calling the race given the conditions. But after all of the training I put into the race, to have it taken away from me because of the organizers' lack of planning was extremely frustrating. I was concerned last week about the availability of water and Gatorade after a severe shortage during the LaSalle Bank Chicago Distance Classic this summer. I was right to be concerned."

More damning is this letter from Anne Wysock of Downers Grove to the Tribune: "For those running in the Chicago Marathon on Sunday, I am deeply sorry for the lack of preparation on part of the organizers of the race. I acted as a medical assistant at the finish line of the race. The runners needed water, desperately, and I was not allowed to pass it out to them at the line.

"When I tried hauling water closer to the finish, I was literally forced to put the water down and not pass it out. I was given no reason for this absurdity, just reprimanded for trying to do my utmost to help. The water and Gatorade station was about a block from the finish line. As heat exhausted runners crossed the finish line and I braced their falls, there was no water. But there were plenty of warming sheets. This race was poorly organized."

2. Was the death of Chad Schieber heat-related?

Yes. The media reported otherwise on Monday based on a statement by the Cook County medical examiner. What the media - including today's Sun-Times - failed to ask was if Chad Schieber's pre-existing heart condition was exacerbated by the heat. In other words, was his heart ready to give out even if he was at home sitting on the couch? Or, was it the act of running a marathon that caused his heart condition to become fatal?

The Tribune addresses this issue this morning, though there is still one missing piece of the puzzle. A couple of experts the paper talked to said the heat must have had something to do with Scheiber's death; his heart condition wasn't something alone that would have been fatal. So . . . was it running a marathon in such hot and humid conditions, or was it that final link of inadequate fluids being available?

Schieber's family isn't blaming race officials for his death. But the facts are not all in yet.

3. Was this the runners' own fault?

No. Oh sure, the Tribune's Mike Downey would like you think so. Buy the ticket, take the ride. But even the worst runners out there entered the race with the reasonable expectation that in exchange for their ($110) entry fee they wouldn't have to drink water from city fountains or duck into 7-11s to find relief.

If a hot and humid day would have felled a few folks anyway, that would have been par for the course. Happens every year. What happened on Sunday was of a different magnitude.

4. Will this affect the city's 2016 Olympic bid?

I'm not an expert on the intelligence levels of International Olympic Committee members, but if a majority of them have half a brain, the answer is no, unless we learn more about an inadequate city response. The apparent shortage of ambulances, for example. But otherwise, the Chicago Marathon is a private event.

The city would be well-advised to review its heat emergency plan - if anything, it's the city's criminal response to the1995 heat wave that should give the IOC pause - but otherwise this seems beyond the bounds of reason.

University of Chicago sports economist Allen Sanderson, whose work I often quote favorably, told the Tribune that the IOC wasn't likely to make the distinction between public and private, but I find it hard to believe they are that dense.

The disintegration of the CTA and the Daley administration's penchant for cost overruns on big projects that don't get finished on time should be of much bigger concern to Olympics boosters.

Running Debate
I'm not sure I agree, but Philip Hersh has an interesting take in the Trib today:

"Many of the slowest [runners] are among those lured by the new mantra of marathon organizers, that the idea is not to run a marathon but simply to cover 26.2 miles, no matter how - or how long it takes.

"I decried that philosophy in a column after the 2001 Chicago race, suggesting qualifying standards were need to 'shrink a field (then 37,500) that seems to be stretching medical and other support services.'"

If it's impractical to enlarge support services instead, Hersh makes a decent point, though instinctually I'm in favor of an open field. But that's based on a general philosophical and cultural feel about what makes the Chicago Marathon special. To race organizers, Hersh suggests, it's about the money.

"[T]he revenue from a $110 entry fee is too tempting (Chicago took in nearly $1 million from 9,000 entrants who did not start). But a smaller field should mean smaller expenses. And, perhaps, smaller runners.

"A marathon is not for everybody. It is well past the time for race organizers and many would-be participants to realize that. Both sides are equally guity of impaired judgment."

Editorial Judgment
* The Sun-Times on its front page and in an editorial demands an apology to the city from race officials. You know, if you produce front page editorials too often, they lose their power. Plus, will the Sun-Times apologize to the city for its organizational failures?

* The Tribune editorial page, as usual, takes a more measured approach and nicely summarizes the whole affair.

-

Film Festival
The Chicago International Film Festival is underway, and as usual, Ferdy on Films has the city's best coverage. While Ferdy proprietor Marilyn Ferdinand took last night off of to shop for more Visine and laminate her ticket stubs, you can still catch up on Ferdy's coverage of this past weekend's offerings, including films about a waitress who lands a rich man (starring Chicago's own Colleen Moore), a missing Israeli who isn't a casualty of war, four occupations that can get you killed, a fat cat and a prickly pear who save the world, and a Sela Ward lookalike who has a stalker problem and employment issues. So get yourself over to Ferdy on Films and see what all the fuss is about.

The Beachwood Tip Line: For all seasons.

Posted by Lou at 08:51 AM | Permalink

The Modern Mommy Track

Lately, I've been hearing a great deal about push presents, mommy makeovers, and hipster babies. I'm always curious about new trends so I thought I'd do a little digging to see what the hubbub is all about. From what I found out, it's apparent that the miracle of birth does not provide enough satisfaction to some parents. Also, since new moms have less than a nanosecond to get back to their pre-baby weight, there are doctors who can help new moms with that "problem." Then, there are the parents who don't want to lose their coolness, so their spawn seem like mini-versions of themselves complete with baby UGG booties and Clash onesies.

Push It Real Good
Leave it to marketing gurus to lessen the value of human life with push presents - gifts fathers give their wives after they've endured long hours of pain, sweat, blood and afterbirth.

Okay, what?

This trend has been around in Indian and English cultures of yore where death during childbirth was a pretty common occurrence. In other words, fathers were so relieved - or guilt-ridden - that mother and baby survived the horror that is childbirth that they came up with rewarding the moms on staying alive. And voila, the push present was born. Leave it to Americans, however, to really capitalize on a fact of life.

It's apparent that a baby isn't a grand enough gift anymore. Fathers are now urged to buy their wives expensive trinkets, baubles or fine fibers. However, nothing shows appreciation for the fruits of her labor like a vacay to a far off land like, say, the Seychelles. If dads don't know what to buy, expectant moms can go through the labor of registering for post-labor gifts. To me, the best gifts would be a year supply of diapers, someone else to change said diapers or, better yet, a wet nurse.

The Invisible Pregnancy
There's a trend in this country to judge a woman's sense of worth on what her dress size is. If she's a size 6, then she's seen as intelligent, funny, attractive and worthy. However, if her size is in the, god forbid, double digits, she's viewed as moronic, slovenly, dull and expendable. She could be the smartest and wittiest gal around, but if her size label reads 12, forget it. Even a pregnant woman is looked at sideways if she gains what society has deemed as too much weight - more than 25 pounds. I know of a few women who were so worried about gaining too much weight during pregnancy that they weren't able to enjoy the hemorrhoids and incontinence that go along with carrying a baby to term.

Nowadays, new moms are expected to dump that baby weight macht schnell. If diet, exercise and breast-feeding don't do the trick, there are surgical options, dammit. Hanging onto post-partum weight is being pathologized. Even stretch marks are seen as a malady. Thankfully, there's a doctor for everything now and these woes can be taken care of with a scalpel and about $10,000 to start.

Hipster Parenting
My 'hood is overrun with hipster parents. You know the type because they're all over every major metropolitan area in this country. You can't miss 'em. The parents may sport a few tats and some odd piercings, big-ass sunglasses and wear Threadless tees. Their tots may sport the same but minus the tats and piercings. Their parental role models are folks like Brangelina, Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams and the David Beckhams. Their children are named Chloe, Eli, Brooklyn, Maddy and Cosmo.

Within a two-block radius of my place, I've counted about 10 of these couples with kids. Now, the kids are very cute and the parents seem to really love them, but I get the feeling that some of these parents are clinging to the last vestiges of their so-called hipness by dressing their kids in wee-sized AC/DC t-shirts and styling their tiny locks in that hair-don't, the faux-hawk. Oh, I can't forget the puggle or labradoodle attached to a high-tech stroller. Now, I'm all for individuality but at times some of these parents strike me as being more concerned with their preserving their fading hipness than raising a happy, healthy child. I sincerely hope I'm wrong about that. Also, I hope that my neighborhood hipster parents aren't raising future meth addicts since these kids don't appear to have anything pastel in their wardrobes.

Oscar the Grouch and Osh Kosh B'Gosh overalls are good things. It's never a good idea to dismiss the classics for tot-sized Husker-Du t-shirts. Trust me, these parents will see plenty of this look when Junior hits the teen years.

*

Comments? Send them along with a real, full name and we just might publish them!


Posted by Lou at 06:31 AM | Permalink

Lament of The Bleacher Preacher: Part 1

The first of a two-part series from the infamous Bleacher Preacher.

In the summer of 1945, when I was eight-years-old, my dad took me to my first ballgame at beautiful Wrigley Field. A short time later, when the Cubs clinched the National League pennant, I asked my dad to take me to the World Series. He told me I was too young, but he made me a promise: He would take me the next time! Needless to say, I am still waiting.

To be honest, I did not think of post-season play for the Cubs this year until the last few days of the season. I have a Moses complex: I fear I'll never get to the Promised Land. But once the Cubs made the playoffs, I thought this could be the year.

See, a funny thing happened as this season came down to the wire. Many teams went in the wrong direction and, oddly enough, the Cubs were not one of them.

* * *

I must admit that I am not the fan I used to be, looking at the box scores in the papers every morning to see what happened the night before. I can't tell you the names of all the ballparks or the managers anymore, let alone who's who in baseball these days. I have always been looking for some kind of closure for my dad's promise made 62 years ago, but the high cost of going to a Major League Baseball game has kept me away most of the time. It seems that not too long ago, there were fixtures in every ballpark . . . known as Everyday Fans! However, like at so many sports and entertainment venues, the little guys have been priced out of going to the ballpark even at the face value of a ticket.

During the Great Depression, my dad was able to escape the bad times by taking in a movie or a game . . . not anymore! I recall the many times he would come home from work, and say to me to get some of my friends . . . we're going out to the bleachers! Today, a person would have to file for bankruptcy to do the same thing, or at least stop at the ATM machines sprinkled inside and outside all ballparks.

But it was really something that happened in San Francisco back in 1980 that changed my life for the next 27 years. I was watching TV in my Alpine Terrace Street apartment - channel-surfing at the top of an hour - when I stumbled across a production of Bleacher Bums at the Chicago Organic Theater on PBS. The tagline: "NOT A 3-ACT PLAY, BUT A NINE-INNING COMEDY!" The stage set looked familiar because it was the Wrigley Field bleachers. I found myself cheering for the good guys and even stood up during the 7th-inning stretch to sing "Take Me Out To The Ball Game" because the play had no intermission. I honestly felt the play was written just for me!

The following day, as luck would have it, I was reading the want ads in the San Francisco Examiner, as it was one of my pastimes to look for jobs I did not want, when I noticed an ad for actors at the Zephyr Theater for their production of Bleacher Bums. I called the producer and told them I was not an actor, but Cubs junkie and Chicagoan-In-Exile" who would love to get involved.

I was hired to flack. It was a six-week run that ran for more than a year. A baseball strike that year made it the only game in town, and we were selling out the 99-seat theater every night. I was able to get local sportscasters to their shows from our set. We eventually moved to the 350-seat Little Fox Theater.

The Bill Veeck in me came out. I made the lobby into The Friendly Confines West, and had our ushers decked out in Andy Frain uniforms. We sold Chicago-style hot dogs in the lobby and, over time, attracted luminaries such as Willie McCovey and Curt Flood.

But the highlight of the run was the time I talked the Giants into having Bleacher Bum Sunday at Candlestick Park on September 5,1981. At first, they balked. Then I reminded the Giants that whenever the Cubs came to town, there were as many Cubs fans in the stands as Giant fans. It was also the last time that Jack Brickhouse was coming to the Bay Area as the Cubs announcer. I created special Hey! Hey! Awards for him and Giant batting instructor Hank Sauer, a former Cubs slugger.

I was the emcee, the Bleacher Bum cast sang the national anthem, and we all sang "Take Me Out To The Ball Game" from the field during the 7th-inning stretch. That night, many of the Cubs came to the play, including Brickhouse, Lou Boudreau and Mike Krukow. Afterwards, we went to Pizzeria Uno for Chicago pizza.

When the run of the play ended, I continued doing tie-in promotions for Pizzeria Uno whenever the Cubs or Bears were in town.

* * *

In 1984, the Cubs opened up the season at the 'Stick. I was promoting a restaurant on Pier 39 and was able to get four Cubs players to eat there after the game. One of them was a kid named Sandberg. I remember looking at him and saying to myself, "This is a ballplayer?"

When the Cubs got hot that year, I created the "Dallas Green for President" headquarters and persuaded 50 delegates from the Democratic National Convention to wear "Green for President" buttons in Moscone Center. After the convention, the 1984 MLB All-Star game took place and my "HOW DO I SPELL BELIEF? C-U-B-S!" sign became the team's battle cry.

I originally called myself the "Bleacher Creature," but a Detroit fan informed me that there was a whole section with that name at Tiger Stadium. I went back to the kitchen table and renamed myself "The Bleacher Preacher." When the Cubs looked like they might make my dad's promise a reality, I decided to spend the last month of the season in the Friendly Confines' cheap seats.

On my first day back I wound up on the front page of the Chicago Sun-Times and became a media whore. I was interviewed for local and national TV news and featured in a Sports Illustrated article. I even wound up with my "HOW DO YOU SPELL" sign on the Punky Brewster show!

The Cubs made the playoffs that year, of course, and started the post-season with a bang, winning their first two games against the Padres. The Cubs only had to win one of the next three games to make it to the World Series (this was when there were just two divisions in each league and no wild card). I actually had World Series tickets.

We all know what happened next. My tickets went unused. The Cubs lost three straight.

The Cubs would fall in the playoffs to the Giants in 1989, the Braves in 1998, and the Marlins in 2003.

And so, this year, when I found myself at a downtown rally to celebrate the Cubs' return to the playoffs, it was a familiar feeling.

-

Part 2: The Bleacher Preacher returns to Wrigley Field.

Posted by Lou at 12:35 AM | Permalink

October 08, 2007

The [Monday] Papers

Scenes from a tragic Chicago Marathon.

* "Pablo Hernandez, 35, of Chicago, said all along the route he kept hearing officials yell, 'Runner down! Runner down!'" the Sun-Times reports.

* "A fire official at 18th and Ashland said, 'Hundreds of people are dropping all over the city.'"

* "'Stop running, we're all out of ambulances,' Richard Harless, 30, of Washington, D.C., recalled a firefighter telling him at mile 16."

* "Runners described chaotic scenes of racers throwing up, passing out or being carted away on stretchers," the Tribune reports.

"'There were people falling all over the place,' said Rob Smith, 40, of Naperville, who was running his first marathon."

* "'I had no water until Mile 8,' said Blayne Rickles, 57, of Denver."

* "Erin Johnson, 24, of Kansas City, Mo., said the first several water stations 'were out or really low' and that she ran with her wax cup because competition for fluids was so fierce.

"'You're running thinking, Oh my God, I really need this water to get through this,' she said."

From "Death, Havoc and Heat Mar Chicago Race," the front page account in today's New York Times:

* "'I had no faculties whatsoever,' said Dawn Dowell, who was among the injured, having blacked out at Mile 19. Ms. Dowell, 37, of suburban Wheaton, said she could not provide her address or phone numbers in the minutes after she awoke with an emergency medical technician attaching an IV bag to her arm."

* "Police officers announced the end of the race from loudspeakers in their squad cars. Fire department officials announced it from a public address system as they flew over in a helicopter."

* "Dr. Martin Lucenti, an emergency room physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital where some of the patients were taken, said doctors saw runners with core body temperatures as high as 107 degrees. At those temperatures, Dr. Lucenti said, people are stuttering and mumbling, unable to answer simple questions. Brain cells may start to be destroyed when body temperatures are raised too high."

And sadly and most importantly, Chad Schieber was the father of three.

-

Dollar Bill Lipinski
Mark Brown exposed a political fund run by former U.S. Rep. Bill Lipinski that is disguised as a youth program called the All-American Eagles on Sunday.

I wonder what his son, installed by the Lip as his successor, thinks of all this. Might be worth asking.

Meanwhile, Brown reports that "Lipinski could offer no explanation for why more of the money hasn't been spent on those seventh- and eighth-graders" the fund is purportedly for.

Great work by Brown, but I'd like to know just how Lipinski could offer no explanation. Did he stammer? Hang up the phone? Speak gibberish?

The nature of denials is often as important as the denial itself.

Wal-Chicago
"Last fall, Chicago was Wal-Mart's hope for the future," the Tribune reported on Sunday.

"At the time, the retailer was planning to open a handful of stores in the city in one swoop, a blitzkrieg that would have established Chicago as its urban beachhead after failed attempts to blanket major cities as Wal-Mart has done in rural and suburban areas.

"A year later, the world's largest company is still stuck on the shore.

"It's single store on Chicago's West Side is doing 'good but not great.'"

You mean the mayor accused proponents of the big box ordinance of being racist for nothing? All that energy expended . . .

Huggies
Bill Lipinski, Wal-Mart and Cubs fans might need hugs right now, but don't give those to them anywhere near Percy Julian Middle School in Oak Park, where no hugging is allowed.

It's so classic.

"I see what they're doing," Paige Wiser writes. "Young people must be denied something, so that they can acquire enough angst and acne to graduate to full-fledged teenhood. You've got to admire their originality. At my school, they banned makeup (which led to smuggled pearly blue eye shadow). Other institutions banned Judy Blume books (which led to frank knowledge)."

It's a never-ending battle against the soulless killjoys of the world. It's a battle each generation must fight. It's a battle in which we must never retreat, never surrender to the forces of total lameness.

Tower of Evil
Speaking of which, buried near the end of a story on page 88A of the Sunday Sun-Times is this shocking revelation (here from WLS-AM because the Sun-Times story is not online) from former baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth:

"The former commissioner also revealed that he invoked his all-powerful 'best interests of baseball' clause to block the Tribune Co. from demolishing Wrigley Field.

"'The decision had been made internally to . . . take it down and mvoe to a suburb,' he said. 'And I just - the best interests of baseball. I didn't permit it. You cannot do that.'"

Meanwhile, Phil Rogers reports that "[current baseball] Commissioner Bud Selig recently said that Tribune Co. has been dragging its feet on the sale [of the team]."

Every additional day that Tribune Co. owns this team is another day for Cub fans to legitimately worry about what stupid thing they will do next. Nothing is off the table with these guys.

Which is why I find Rogers less than convincing when he says that "what few realized was that the men like Madigan, Cook and FitzSimons really were trying to win."

They were trying to get rich - and then richer. Winning had nothing to do with it.

-

LOOKING FOR OUR CUBS SONG? HERE IT IS . . . "PLEASE STOP BELIEVING!"

-

Always Next Year
* Angry German Cubs Fan, before the season.

* A Cubs Fan's Lament, after the season.

* The view from Green Bay: "An inferior but desperate Chicago Bears team popped the the Green Bay Packers' unbeaten balloon Sunday night."

The Beachwood Tip Line: Fight the tower.

Posted by Lou at 08:54 AM | Permalink

Reviewing the Reviews

Oct. 6 - 7.

Publication: New York Review of Books

Cover: I don't know, I'm reading it online.

Reviews and News of Note: Russell Baker takes on on Robert Novak's The Prince of Darkness. Perhaps most fascinating is Baker's description of Novak's acknowledgement of how TV turned him into a right-wing ideologue out of convenience and professional advancement. Then there is the petty, ethically abhorrent Novak, rewarding and penalizing sources in print according to how well they do or do not cooperate with him. But there is a personal side revealed in the book as well. Baker writes:

"While dispensing rough justice to politicians who have displeased him, Novak does not spare himself from critical examination. His book periodically turns somber while he confesses his vices, none of them notably depraved. We learn about his drinking (once prodigious, now modest), his gambling (heavy betting on sports), his smoking (four packs a day when young, none since), and his failures at parenthood ('so engrossed in my work that I had paid little attention to my children')."

Also: Beer and Poverty.

*

Publication: Tribune

Cover: "Banned. Endangered. Not allowed. Challenged. Forbidden. {The American Library Association is keeping a list, and what's on it might surprise you.}"

Not really. We've kind of seen these lists before. Where is the value added, Tribune?

Other Reviews & News of Note: No.

*

Publication: Sun-Times

Cover: "The Feminine Mistake," Cheryl Reed's critical review of Susan Faludi's The Terror Dream: Fear and Fantasy In Post-9/11 America. Somehow I'll take Faludi's word - and her reporting skills - over Reed's. When Reed - the former Books editor now editing the paper's crappy new editorial page - accuses the usually voluminously researched Faludi of being a cherry-picker of facts and figures, well, that's something I'll have to read elsewhere to believe. When she criticizes the timing of the book's release - three weeks after 9/11 - I wonder if she would have preferred 9/11 itself. Perhaps, as we read shortly into Reed's review, the fact that Faludi criticizes in her book a series Reed wrote about mothers with children who were leaving the workforce, Reed has a personal conflict here. That series was a classic media cliche not unlike those Faludi skewered in her invaluable Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women.

And yet, Reed acknowledges that "What Faludi got right is that the media tends to play up stereotypes. The coverage after 9/11 was no exception. The male rescuer as hero was certainly a myth we all fell for." Well, isn't that basically Faludi's thesis? And did we really all fall for the myth, or just Reed and her mediocre media brethren?

"We look back now a little shame-faced that we didn't question more, that we leapt too quickly to believe what the government was purporting," Reed writes.

Yes. And why was that? Perhaps Faludi has an answer!

Could it be, for example, that the media never learns from work like that of Faludi - that few newspaper editors have probably read Backlash - and that a certain mindset existed then and exists now in a newsroom like, say, that of the Sun-Times?

And yet, Reed criticizes Faludi for arguing "that 9/11 undercut feminism, that the media was somehow preconditioned to present women in more traditional roles," and states that "journalists were looking for trend stories after Sept. 11, 2001, just as they do every day fo the year. That they reported - based on flimsy and anecdotal proof - that women were becoming more feminine, more conventional, because of the terrorists' attacks, and that there was a rise in those seeking to marry, only proves that there are levels of bad journalism in this country."

Um, isn't that the point? The trend stories journalists seek out, after all, come with a predetermined narrative. And that narrative almost always is ultimately about a return to or a superiority of "traditional" values.

Indeed, it is Reed who undercuts her argument - not Faludi - by, first. taking on an assignment in which revenge can easily be assigned as a motive and, second, writing a thin review that does a far better job persuading one that the reviewer is far more wrong than the author she criticizes.

Other Reviews & News of Note: Not really.

*

Publication: New York Times

Cover: "Social Historian," Maureen Dowd's review of Arthur Schlesinger Jr.'s Journals.

Other Reviews & News of Note: "Gary Taubes is a brave and bold science journalist who does not accept conventional wisdom," medical reporter Gina Kolata writes in her review of Taubes' Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease.. But that does not mean Kolata agrees with his conclusions.

"Taubes convincingly shows that much of what is believed about nutrition and health is based on the flimsiest science," Kolata writes.

That includes the idea that a few bites less of a hamburger each day, or walking a mile here and there, can slowly help you lose weight. Or, with more serious repercussions, that there is a connection between, say, cholesterol and heart disease."

Taubes loses Kolata, though, when he argues in favor of a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet, for which she finds equally anemic evidence.

*

CHARTS

1. Alan Greenspan
2. O.J. Simpson
3. Bill Clinton

Jenny McCarthy is 4th; Nikki Sixx is 7th; Mother Teresa is 9th; Tony Dungy is 10th; Alan Alda is 11th; Navy Seal is 12th; Anna Nicole Smith is 13th; George W. Bush is 14th; Pattie Boyd is 16th.


Posted by Lou at 06:57 AM | Permalink

Chicagoetry: Bronze Gilead

BRONZE GILEAD

What sticks, sticks.
What sings,

sings.
Faith is the daughter

of a lilac
dusk,

a breach
of blues

with a bit
of bronze.

O yeah: I found
the mind--

and forgot
my life,

this long, strange
cage rife

with strangers.
Faith: every day

I find
a way,

a great song,
a kind word,

a deliriously
beautiful

face.
Grace, safe space,

this kind
of thing.

I find small,
fine lace

here in this semi-imaginary metropolis
littered with strong, silent post-

modern
extravaganzas, delirium

or terror
just a whisper away.

Each day
I find a new

face. I abhor
waste, I adore

silence.
I found the mind

waiting, wishing, wanting,
hissing. Then it paused

for grace:
my daughter

singing quietly
in the

lilacs.

-

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 06:52 AM | Permalink

RockNotes: Kid Rock Cares

Kid Rock: Not just a "lap-dance soundtrack" anymore?

Supposedly not, according to the Los Angeles Times, which says Kid's new LP, Rock 'n' Roll Jesus, is more of a classic rock 8-track ride, along the lines of Bob Seger and, oh my, Skynyrd, than Kid's usual "lap-dance soundtrack," the rap metal so beloved of strippers and their fans everywhere. You know, I wish that, rather than at some fancy awards show, Kid Rock and Tommy Lee could have run into to each other at, say, Thee Dollhouse in Tampa. Man, then they could have really settled the whole Pam thing for good right then and there - with a dance-off.

kid_pam.jpgI mean, you could take the testosterone from Kid and the Crue and use it to fuel several generations of nuclear reactors. And inside of minds like that, is there really room enough for the chasms of difference between beautiful, lovely, lovely "classic rock" and, um, rap metal? One thing that really sets "classic rock" apart from what passes for music at Thee Dollhouse was a pretty hard-to-miss political awareness of the plight of the powerless - admittedly easier to achieve when every young, white male strip club patron felt vulnerable to a military draft. So I think with that being true, Kid and his generation of fans have generally found it tough to take the focus off themselves long enough to notice there's, oh, a lot of injustice going on. Especially to them.

So, after being convinced by Rick Rubin (now there's a fine judge of reality) that he had the power to make a difference in this ol' world, Kid Rock decided it was time to reach back to the 8-track era, crank up the rock 'n' roll of his trailer-bound Michigan youth, and take its message of protest to The Man. No more will he tolerate fake TV preachers! No longer will he rap idly while children starve and good men die in an unjust war! Nope, Kid's political awareness doesn't just stop at the First Amendment's door anymore. This is real shit. As you can see from the lyrics for his new song, "Amen":

It's another night in hell
Another child won't live to tell
Can you imagine what it's like to starve to death?

And as we sit free and well
Another soldier has to yell
"Tell my wife and children I love them" in his last breath

I can see that Kid Rock really is doing his part, now that he's gone back into his past far enough to remember a time before he did any of the things he's done pretty much ever since. He probably does remember songs where the writers questioned the political equation . . . maybe some liberal-ass social studies teacher played one in class back in Romeo. Yeah, Kid tells the Times:

"(Rubin) basically told me that he had been listening to me my whole career and that he thought I had something more in me, something relevant. I thought: 'I'll show him.' I went to friend's house over in Malibu overlooking a bluff and I sat there and looked at the ocean. And I thought: 'Amen.' What a powerful word."

Seriously, I think it's great that Kid Rock found relevancy in Malibu, and that he did it on a dare. His night on the bluff was so damn powerful it apparently retooled him into someone who actually cares. That's, like, so classic rock. But much as I like to make fun, I have to admit that Kid Rock has a popularity that classic rockers rarely enjoyed. For instance, the making of Rock 'n' Roll Jesus was filmed by VH-1, which will release its DVD free with the purchase of every album at Wal-Mart. Best Buy will offer an exclusive version of the album with two bonus tracks. Yikes, with that kind of marketing, even Kid Rock's dubious version of relevancy could somehow get through to the darkest corners of the bar.

Also, he's hoping for a bit of Green Day's magic to rub off on him - he's got Rob Cavallo, American Idiot's producer, to show him how to belt out an angry liberal lyric. And speaking of Cavallo, doesn't the title Rock 'n' Roll Jesus sound a lot like "Jesus of Suburbia" to you?

Well, whatever. Even so, I say amen to you, Kid Rock. And welcome to the struggle, brother.

*

Catch up on the RockNotes collection.

Posted by Don at 12:26 AM | Permalink

The Cub Factor

I really thought the Cubs were going to win this series with the D-Backs. I really did. And then they not only lose, they get swept. It got me to thinking about my Cub fandom. And it occurs to me: maybe it's like having a teenage son. As you watch the kid grow and make mistakes you just keep hoping he does well. And sometimes you're just happy to spend time with the kid. even if you know he's bad at his core. He doesn't do his fundamental chores correctly - doesn't cut the lawn right, can't be counted on to feed the dog, and his room is a dilapidated mess. But he's still your son.

Well, this year your son was just about to graduate from high school but got his girlfriend pregnant and was expelled for drinking on school grounds. But what are you going to do, turn his back on him? You'd like to, but you can't. So after a cooling off period, you'll make a few phone calls and call in a favor with an old client to get him a job working construction and with a little luck he'll be okay. Until the next time he screws up. And you'll stick with him just the same. That's just what it's like to be a parent - or a fan - of a loser. There's nothing you can do about it but cope. It is what it is.

*

Week in Review: The Cubs just ran out of gas. And then alternator went bad. Which shorted out the battery, which then fried the starter and then it started raining and the window didn't go up and everyone got wet. Really wet. And miserable.

Week in Preview: Go Rockies?

The Second Basemen Report: Mark DeRosa played all three game in the series at second base and sunk the Cubs' season by swinging at ball four, which would of walked in a run. Instead he bounced into an inning-ending double play. Just like Jim Hendry drew it up.

In former second basemen news, Johnny Evers was the last second baseman to win the World Series as a Cub. He is missed.

Zam Bomb: Big Z did not seem very angry about being pulled after only 85 pitches in Game 1. Good thing he was available to able to pitch in Game 4 today. Er, wait . . .

zam_gettingAngry.jpg

Sweet and Sour Lou: 42% sweet, 58% sour. Lou is down 29 points on the Sweet-O-Meter this week due to being quickly ushered out of the playoffs. And like your real crazy drunk uncle, Lou could give a rat's ass if you think it's his fault your trout farm business went belly up. Lou gave you the best advice he could but it's not his fault you hired your selfish brother-in-law to keep the books and your dim-witted cousin to be in charge of inventory. He knew you probably weren't ready for the big time, but he did the best he could. Next time ask Lou to do the hiring and firing from the very start.

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 Stephen Drew is a better value than Alfonso Soriano.

Over/Under: The number of Cub fans that should be happy with a team that made it to the playoffs but lost in the first round: +/- none of them.

Cubs Fans Theme Song: "We warned you."

We warned you in video, too.

The Cubs Answer Men: God's will and the Tribune's bill.

The Cub Factor: Catch up with them all.

Mount Lou: Mount Lou is currently at level Orange as second-guessing anger keeps Lou on edge. Even after a choreographed lava spurt in Game 3, Lou could not suppress inner team pressure. Expect Lou to spit enough magma over the next six months to alter the terrain more to his liking and in time for next volcanic season.

mtlou_green.gif

Posted by Lou at 12:22 AM | Permalink

October 06, 2007

The Weekend Desk Report

LOOKING FOR OUR CUBS SONG? HERE IT IS . . . "PLEASE STOP BELIEVING!"

*

Catch up with the week's Papers.


*

Special Marathon Edition
This weekend, we turn our focus away from the main event in town and concentrate instead on the marathons that really matter. Our always-reliable Weekend Desk predictions will help you plan your upcoming wagers.

A Perv in the Bush . . .
The field for the elite Wall Street Sustained Denial Marathon got a little smaller with the shock retirement of heavy favorite Marion Jones. While most punters will doubtless rush to back fellow steroid denier Barry Bonds, we don't think he has the stamina to hang with the heavy-hitters. This year it's a two-man race between world-class dissemblers Pervez "Free and Fair" Musharraf and George "Head-Slap" Bush. Give an edge to the cowboy in a late sprint.

Wide Stance
If there's one clear-cut lock this week, it's in the Blackwater USA Overstayed Welcome event. There's no reason to believe anyone will challenge favorite Larry Craig. Meanwhile, the title sponsor is itself emerging as a hot bet in the Southwest Airlines Endless PR Nightmare Marathon.

Market Update
Don't worry; it's still bad.

Longer Distance
Finally this weekend, it's time for yet another update on the punishing McCain-Feingold Campaign Double Marathon. There's still too much jockeying for position in the lead pack, although at least one main contender looks to be a good ten years behind. With the end not even in sight yet, we can't predict a winner but we're pretty sure we know a few of the losers.

Posted by Natasha at 12:20 AM | Permalink

October 05, 2007

The [Friday] Papers

LOOKING FOR OUR CUBS SONG? HERE IT IS . . . "PLEASE STOP BELIEVING!"

*

"If you saw just one moment, one play, from this game or this series, the full-count pitch from Ted Lilly to Chris Young in the second inning Thursday night would satisfy outcome and circumstance, pathos and bravado," Nick Piecoro writes in the Arizona Republic.

"It was a snapshot moment in a series that feels decidedly one-sided, particularly after the Diamondbacks' 8-4 triumph against the Chicago Cubs, a victory that gives them a 2-0 lead in this best-of-five National League Division Series.

"Young's three-run home run barely had left his bat, the ball not even on its descent into the left-field bleachers, when Lilly yanked his glove off his right hand and fired it into dirt.

"Triumph and jubilation for the Diamondbacks, failure and frustration for the Cubs. The moment epitomized a series that could come to an abrupt end in Game 3 on Saturday, when the Diamondbacks will hand the ball to their most experienced pitcher, Livan Hernandez, a former World Series MVP."

And here I thought the two games the Cubs would win in this series would be the ones started by Ted Lilly.

The Goat
It'd have to be Alfonso Soriano, the Cubs' $136 million man.

He's 2-for-10, he's left five men on base, and he made a key defensive miscue last night. "Soriano misjudged a catchable ball at the wall later in the inning to give Eric Byrnes an RBI triple, and by the time Lilly got out of the inning, he had already thrown 58 pitches," Paul Sullivan writes in the Tribune.

COMMENT FROM JOEL REESE 1:15 P.M.: You forgot the worst thing about Soriano last night: He was held to a single because he was admiring a sure home run . . . that actually bounced off the wall.

Not that Sweet Lou has had a great series so far, either. Not only did he appear to pull Carlos Zambrano too early on Wednesday night (or fail to pinch-hit for him the inning before he was taken out) and leave Lilly in too long - for a playoff game - last night, but he let his team get dejected.

"As the Cubs took the field in the fifth inning, former Cubs first baseman Mark Grace, now an analyst for the D'backs radio broadcasts, blasted them for having 'bad body language' and for hanging their heads," Sullivan writes.

"'They're looking at their toes instead of being on their toes' Grace told his radio audience."

Sorry Soriano
"Alfonso Soriano has heard over and over that he's not a good fit for the leadoff spot, and that he would be better off down in the order where the Cubs could take more advantage of his power," the Tribune reports.

"'People don't realize that the only at-bat leading off an inning is the first one,' he said."

Yes, but the leadoff man gets more at-bats than anyone else on the team. That means he has more chances than anyone to get on base. It might even mean he's the one you need to get on base to have a chance at the end of a game. So on-base percentage is most important for those at the top of the order. The ability to drive in runners on base, then, becomes important for those in the next section of the order. And that is where, by the way, Derrek Lee has left six men on base and Aramis Ramirez has left eight men on base in this series so far. That's not going to get you to the World Series.

Beachwood Cubs Coverage
* Some Cub fans are upset at the so-called bias of TBS. I say they just can't handle the truth.

* Marty's Game 2 Take: At least there is no second-guessing in a game with on guessing at all. In The Cub Factor.

Flag Folly
Barack Obama's decision to take off his American flag lapel pin after 9/11 hardly deserves the front-page treatment the Sun-Times so cynically gives it. The Tribune put its story on the flap on page 14. Sometimes sobriety is a virtue in newspapering.

But the Sun-Times doesn't stop there. Its new, so-called "progressive, independent conscience" of an editorial page slams Obama with all the logic and reason of . . . the Sun-Times editorial page.

"Obama has worked hard to stake out a centrist position, but his polarizing comments [about the flag pin] make him sound like a hardened leftist," the paper says.

Oh, for Pete's sake!

I only wish Obama would have stated his case with more passion. American flag lapel pins as an affirmation of patriotism are about as genuine and meaningful as Mayor Daley's calls for reform after every scandal he escapes from. What's next, loyalty oaths?

The final irony is that it was the Sun-Times that slapped its own flag lapel on its front page after 9/11 as it exploited patriotic fervor to sell newspapers, and then played America's Cheerleader to this horrible mistake of a war with twisted coverage ordered from on high and abetted by its current editor-in-chief, among others, for which it still has neither explained nor apologized.

A greater show of patriotism would have been to produce honest, quality journalism. That's what serves America and democracy best. And that's Obama's point; it's about your deeds, not your pins.

Bottoms Up
You loved her letter to the Chicago Children's Museum, now see what Cate Plys has to say about all those smiley butt ads plastered over the Internet. In fact, catch up on all her Open Letters. They're really good.

Judging Daley
"Every federal judge in Chicago is learning that it's folly to trust the Pinocchio-nosed lawyers from the City of Chicago," the Tribune editorial page says this morning.

"When attorneys make pledges to federal judges, those attorneys are duty-bound to tell the whole truth.

"Unless, apparently, the attorneys represent Chicago's City Hall."

I appeared on Chicago Tonight last night to talk about this issue in the context of the city's broken pledge to make the list of police officers with excessive force complaints available at least to aldermen. I didn't get a chance, however, to name Georges as the Alberto Gonzales of Chicago; her loyalty to the mayor supercedes her loyalty to the public that pays her salary and is her true client. So I'm doing that now.

Or, as U.S. District Judge Wayne Andersen put it: "Sometimes I think when we get involved in grand plans with each other, loyalty gets to be a virtue that floats towards the top. But any time loyalty or what one thinks is loyalty floats above integrity, one makes a very substantial moral misjudgment."

Kool-Aid Report
What with the Cubs, it's been easy to forget it's Packer Week. Our very own Eric Emery tastes from the Green & Gold Kool-Aid and reports back.

The Beachwood Reporter Tip Line: Stay gold.

Posted by Lou at 09:52 AM | Permalink

The Blue & Orange Kool-Aid Report

Last weekend I traveled to Madison, Wisconsin to experience the Green & Gold Kool-Aid. It's not quite the same as the Blue & Orange. Let's break it down:

*

Fashion Errors
Blue & Orange: The occasional black belt with brown shirt.
Green & Gold: Man with frosted tips. Different man with mullet.
Advantage: Blue & Orange. Fashion errors less ostentatious. Plus, a real Bears fan doesn't look at another fan's belt.

*

High Fives
Blue & Orange: Not usually. We're too busy keeping our hands on our wallets
Green & Gold: Often. Mostly after executing a 3rd-and-short.
Advantage: Blue & Orange. It's good to have money in the wallet.

*

Shit Talk
Blue & Orange: Like voting; early and often.
Green & Gold: Like brushing teeth; no more than three times a day.
Advantage: Blue & Orange. Lower self-esteem results in sharper insults to the opposition.

*

Good Wishes
Blue & Orange: Unless you wear at least two types of Bears gear, expect none.
Green & Gold: Lady wished me "Good luck to the Steelers" as she left.
Advantage: Blue & Orange. Everybody knows there is no well-wishing in football.

*

In-Bar Public Announcements
Blue & Orange: None. Fans are smart enough to watch TVs to track team's (lack of) progress.
Green & Gold: Regular public announcements for each Packers' first down. Maybe this is about a drinking game nobody clued me into.
Advantage: Blue & Orange pending further information about possible drinking game.

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Drink Giveaways
Blue & Orange: None. Watching the Bears is supposed to be your reward.
Green & Gold: After every Packer score. So you need extra incentive to watch your team score?
Advantage: Blue & Orange. Watching your team succeed is intrinsically rewarding. Oh, who am I kidding. Advantage, Green & Gold.

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Loudness
Blue & Orange: Only during exciting plays. Which is to say, on Bears kick returns and blitzes.
Green & Gold: At a constant roar.
Advantage: Push. Who can blame them when they're 4-0?

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Analysis: The Green & Gold Kool-Aid tastes great. The Blue & Orange Kool-Aid is less filling.

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Chicago at Green Bay
"If you drive to Soldier Field, they make you pay a toll
For cripes sake, they only won one lousy Super Bowl"
- "The Bears Still Suck"

Pick: Green Bay Minus 3.5 Points, Over 40.5 Points Scored

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Sugar in the Blue & Orange Kool-Aid: 15%
Recommended sugar in the Blue & Orange Kool-Aid: 7.5%

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For more Emery, see the Kool-Aid archive, and the Over/Under archive. Emery accepts comments from Bears fans reluctantly and everyone else tolerably.

Posted by Lou at 12:55 AM | Permalink

What I Watched Last Night

Apparently a slew of Cub fans are upset with the so-called bias of the TBS broadcast crew. I have one word for them: Waaaaaaaaaah! Stop crying. What you are experiencing is an actual objective call of the game, not the hometown boosterism that hides the ugly truth from your virgin ears. Isn't that what we all used to love about Steve Stone? Not just his prescience, but his truth-telling? And you know what, even he didn't tell you everything he knew because he was employed by the Cubs. Would you like your sportswriters to be employed by the team as well? This is an ethical farce.

I've come to like Len & Bob well enough, but they are doing you a disservice doing the team's bidding. And while Pat Hughes is the consummate pro, let's get over Ronnie Santo. He's not a circus freak or comic prop. If you want to know what's going on in the game, Ron is not your man. I don't find his tangents charming in the least, and his childlike passion for Chicago Cubs Inc. is, well, childish.

So let's keep our minds on the real outrages - pro sports teams hiring their own announcers and the absence of Cubs playoff games on free TV. And don't get me started about late start times. Sports, like all games, should primarily be for the children, no? Way to ignore your future fan base.

But biased TBS announcers? Apparently Cubs fans can't handle the truth.

- Steve Rhodes

No Reservations
Anthony Bourdain: I would follow him anywhere. Even to the scummiest place on earth, the asshole of the world, if you will. He's just so darn charismatic, knowledgeable, funny and ugly-sexy. He looks like he just woke up, which is probably an after-effect of years of hard partying, wenching and heroin abuse. Plus, he loves to eat and is up for any type of gastronomy this world throws at him, which is not surprising seeing as he's the executive chef at Brasserie Les Halles in NYC - as well as a prolific author.

Each week on the Travel Channel's Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, he features a country and its culinary fare and not much else. Bourdain isn't into discussing the local political or economic situation; he's just there to have great meals and see the sights.

This particular episode featured Shanghai, China. There are lots of restaurants in China, which isn't surprising since there are 1.3 billion Chinese who need feeding. Bourdain's first culinary adventure is to the most popular steamed dumpling restaurant in town. The line is out the door and down the block and many of the people come from miles around to chow down on "the best dumplings in China." The stuff looks pretty good actually and from what I can tell, Western table manners are unheard of in China.

After the dumpling adventure, Bourdain hit the streets for some Chinese street food, an adventure in which it sounds like it might be a good idea to have a keg of Imodium in tow. Either that or adult diapers. I wonder if Bourdain has a tapeworm or an iron cast stomach because he eats a lot of weird crap. Even when he was in Tuscany, he ingested weird crap: pigeon. Yes, pigeon. It's the land of pizza and pasta, for cryin' out loud. In South Korea and Malaysia, you guessed it, more weird crap. However, on this street excursion, Bourdain eats noodle soup with some sort of leafy green vegetable and hot sauce - not exactly weird crap - but still not exactly the desired location for dining.

From there, Bourdain shows us the world of using cormorants instead of rods and reels to fish. These birds were born to fish and in order to prevent these birds from eating the fruits of their labor, a small ring is placed on their throat to prevent them from swallowing. Nice. But they enjoy it, according to their owners. Uh huh.

Bourdain had this very expensive tiny crab as a snack. Then, he ventured to Tibet where he dined on Tibetan yak, which tastes like lamb jerky. But then, doesn't everything?

- Julia Gray

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What did you watch last night? Let us know. And check out our WIWLN catalog for the best TV watching anywhere.

Posted by Lou at 12:54 AM | Permalink

Prince: Chaos and Disorder

Buried in the lousy/loud graphic design he'd sadly champion for the next few years, we see a message from the man himself, presented in a splotchy typewriter font on crumpled white paper. Amid the surreal-yet-none-too-subtle images of a hypodermic needle bleeding money onto a recording console (!!!) and a heart being flushed down a toilet, it reads: "Originally intended for private use only, this compilation serves as the last original material recorded by (Prince) 4 Warner Brothers Records."

I like to imagine a more honest rewrite that goes a little something like this: "If U end up not liking Chaos and Disorder, keep in mind that it was never supposed 2 B heard outside of my very large and sparkly living room in the 1st place. But if U love it, that's because it's made out of super-secret UNDERGROUND jams I pulled from my highly sexy Vault. Just so we have that str8. Rave Un2 the Ecstatic Whatever. --P."

prince_chaos.jpgRegardless of label affiliation, Prince's share of the used CD section has always been . . . generous. And the platters are just that much cheaper when they're culled from what I'm calling Prince's "lost years." This would be between Lovesexy (his Blood on the Tracks, i.e., his last unconditionally great album) and the recent Super Bowl-nudged "comeback trilogy" of Musicology, 3121 and Planet Earth. I know there are supposed to be some good albums in there somewhere, notably the one with the symbol on the front and Kirstie Alley in the video. But this era is also responsible for such renowned duds as Graffiti Bridge, New Power Soul and the Batman soundtrack.

A couple years ago, inspired by residual teenage allegiance (along with those irresistible sticker prices), I decided to occasionally liberate one of these albums. Maybe I'd catch a glimmer of diamond in the sea of rough. In almost all cases, it was quite a slog. Far too many wailing backup vocals, layers of synthetic bass, all channeled into "funk" "workouts" that go on twice as long as necessary. To be sure, there are moments of disarming brilliance in just about every Prince release, including the lost ones. Even Batman has "Electric Chair." But of those that I sampled, only 1996's Chaos holds up from beginning to end.

Okay, I'm lying a little bit. "I Rock, Therefore I Am" is exactly the kind of warmed-over jam I was just bitching about, the kind of Prince song where a faceless rapper jumps in to rhyme "party" with "Bacardi." (So fresh!) It's certainly well-padded, but if the longest song on a Prince record is only 6:15, beating the next-longest by more than 60 seconds, you should consider yourself lucky.

Indeed, the economy of Chaos - just 11 songs in under 40 minutes - magnifies its charms by keeping them so close together. Straight out of the gate, the title track is a laundry list of grievances a la Sign 'o' the Times, only with heavy guitars and a breakdown-chorus that recalls Lovesexy's "Dance On." Then in adherence to Rob Gordon's rule of mix tapes, the second song "takes it up a notch." Not only does "I Like It There" sport some ace guitar squallin', it also captures some of the most convincingly agonized screams Prince has laid down since "Darling Nikki."

Song 3 cleans the palette with a slice of AM pop, the kind Our Man From Minneapolis perfected on Around the World in a Day and Parade. Released as a single in the U.K. only, "Dinner with Delores" is dead catchy, and would easily top any nerd's list of The Best Prince Songs You've Never Heard.

After that, the ride is fast and nasty - if not entirely bloat-free. Like on Emancipation, there's a pair of the vaguely spiritual "show-stoppers" that dominate the middle of the album ("The Same December," "Into the Light,") but here, their hooks are memorable and they never outstay their welcome. More interesting is "Right the Wrong's" discernible country flavor, or the spooky-funk of "Dig U Better Dead." Moving on, "Zanalee" sees Prince in Hendrix mode, adding the goofy voice of a Minnesota policeman calling headquarters about the scandalous show he's seeing through the title character's window ("Oh jeez, wouldya look at that," etc.). And just to show he's pulling from absolutely every corner of his career, there's a gooey, Diamonds and Pearls-style slow jam for y'all to grind to ("I Will").

But Prince saves the most startling bit for last. There's no doubt the man has loved 'em and left 'em, but it's creepy to hear such a spiritual dude sounding as cold-blooded as this: "Had U" is a bitter tone-poem that clocks in at under a minute-and-a-half. Over a lilting yet tense string arrangement, Prince metes out the simple story exactly two words at a time - from "called U" to "undressed U," from "hurt U" to that final, scathing "had U." His guitar noodles pensively over the fade-out, leaving us to wonder at the starkness of it all.

"Had U" couldn't have been placed anywhere but at the end of Chaos and Disorder, and its inclusion highlights what's so puzzling about the record as a whole. Namely, that it sounds way more deliberate than any "private use" blurb would lead one to believe. In terms of sequencing, pace and energy, this thing smokes most of the "lost period" stuff he'd put out later, when his work was supposedly unmolested by all those major label suits.

Sure, he was in deep hate with Warner Brothers when he delivered Chaos, but that can only make Prince just so careless. As illustrated by all the marketing schemes he's hatched since, the man is incapable of leaving strategy out of his game altogether, even when he's working on a contractual obligation. In other words, it's not that the major label system stifled Prince too much. In the case of this weird, engaging little album, I'd say it stifled him just enough, and in all the right ways.

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From Tommy Cash to Blue Oyster Cult, Bin Dive reveals rock's secret history through the bargain bins and your old stack of records. Comments - and submissions - welcome. You must include a real name to be considered for publication.

Posted by Don at 12:49 AM | Permalink

October 04, 2007

The [Thursday] Papers

"If the Cubs were expecting an air-conditioned version of their friendly confines Wednesday night, they must have been sorely disappointed," the Arizona Republic reports.

"A rowdy Diamondbacks contingent made up the vast majority of the sellout crowd at Chase Field, and the video board even presented a spoof of a lonely Steve Bartman, the poor soul who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time four years ago at Wrigley Field.

"As it should, home-field advantage belonged squarely to the home team, and the Diamondbacks, exhibiting the same qualities that won them 90 games in the regular season, got great pitching, just enough offense and a thank-you-very-much pitching change to take command of this National League Division Series with a 3-1 win in Game 1 in front of a sellout crowd of 48,864."

Plus: Lou Piniella out-thought himself.

And: Can Cubs Games Trigger Heart Attacks?

Beachwood Cubs Coverage
* Big Z and his package. Our very own Scott Buckner investigates. In What I Watched Last Night.

* What Britney Spears had to do with last night's game. Our very own Marty Gangler explains. In The Cub Factor.

* The Cubs and Radiohead. Our very own Joel Boehm expounds at Agony & Ivy.

NEW! 10:36 A.M: Joel Boehm has a new post at Agony & Ivy. Says Boehm: "Baseball is a game of rhythms, and last night, the Cubs stepped out of the rhythm of the game, I thought, a risk that wasn't worth taking, and they paid the price."

American Psycho
"When the Justice Department publicly declared torture abhorrent' in a legal opinion in December 2004, the Bush administration appeared to have abandoned its assertion of nearly unlimited presidential authority to order brutal interrogations," the New York Times reports this morning.

"But soon after Alberto R. Gonzales's arrival as attorney general in February 2005, the Justice Department issued another opinion, this one in secret. It was a very different document, according to officials briefed on it, an expansive endorsement of the harshest interrogation techniques ever used by the Central Intelligence Agency.

"The new opinion, the officials said, for the first time provided explicit authorization to barrage terror suspects with a combination of painful physical and psychological tactics, including head-slapping, simulated drowning and frigid temperatures.

"Mr. Gonzales approved the legal memorandum on 'combined effects' over the objections of James B. Comey, the deputy attorney general, who was leaving his job after bruising clashes with the White House. Disagreeing with what he viewed as the opinion's overreaching legal reasoning, Mr. Comey told colleagues at the department that they would all be 'ashamed' when the world eventually learned of it."

By the way, unless something has changed over the last few years, my understanding is that Comey is pretty much U.S. attorney Patrick Fitzgerald's best friend.

No Joy in Obamaville
"In recent weeks, Barack Obama's chief campaign strategist David Axelrod has met with major contributors at the campaign's Chicago headquarters and in private homes to allay concerns about his candidate's lack of movement in the national polls," the New York Observer reports. "Obama campaign manager David Plouffe has presided over conference calls to calm down jittery bundlers. The candidate himself has even gotten on the phone with groups of big donors to assure them that the campaign is on the right track."

Says one donor: "The patience of some supporters is wearing thin."

Law & Daley's Order
"Mayor Richard Daley backed on Wednesday a controversial decision by the city's top attorney to withhold from aldermen the names of Chicago police officers accused of using excessive force," the Tribune reports.

"Daley said he'll leave it to Corporation Counsel Mara Georges to interpret the legal requirements concerning a list of officers who have had the largest number of complaints lodged against them over the last five years.

"'That would be up to her,' the mayor said. "She is a lawyer. I'm not the lawyer for the city."

See, it's out of Daley's hands.

Budget Books
It's all about the libraries, see.

Walk-A-Thon
"The mayor also defended his decision to double the city's nickel-a-gallon tax on gasoline at a time when Chicago motorists are already paying the highest gas prices in the nation.

"'You want more and more people using public transportation,' he said."

Was the mayor out of town or something when the latest news about the CTA broke?

Todd's World
"Particularly disturbing is the repeated insistence that I have padded the county payroll with friends and family . . . The myth about wholesale patronage hiring is at the heart of most of the loud and libelous criticism heaped on myself, my staff and this administration since I took office."
- Cook County Board President Todd Stroger in a letter to the Tribune yesterday

"Cook County Board President Todd Stroger this week hired the girlfriend of his powerful ally, Commissioner William Beavers, for a coveted county job. But after the Chicago Sun-Times began inquiring Wednesday about the hiring of Patty Young, she was taken off the payroll. Both Young and Beavers initially denied she was a county employee, but other employees confirmed she had been working there. Young later said she decided not to accept the job in the county Purchasing Department - where she would have reported to the wife of Stroger's best friend - because it didn't pay enough."
- "Hired Monday, Gone Wednesday" in the Sun-Times today

Burke's Law
If Ald. Ed Burke is only going to answer questions about his myriad conflicts of interest - this time involving Tony Rezko - through written statements, why not just say he refused to answer and leave it at that. Pretty soon Lou Piniella will only be answering questions through written statements. Sheesh, didn't you guys learn this stuff in journalism school? You don't let news subjects dictate the rules of the game to avoid being questioned by reporters.

Like A Virus
Likewise, subjects of news stories who refuse to talk with reporters ought not be allowed to then get their viewpoints published unquestioned in letters to the editor, as the Sun-Times allowed with the mayor's nephew, Robert Vanecko (and which doesn't seem to exist online). Step up to the plate, Mr. Vanecko, and be a man. Otherwise don't get involved in the public's business.

Thank You Big Media
Rick Kaempfer's "Dear FCC" is now a video.

The Beachwood Tip Line: A dry heat.

Posted by Lou at 08:43 AM | Permalink

Over/Under

Still getting over the severe beating you took in your office pool last week? Guess what, the pro sports bettors are too. A staggering nine of 14 underdogs won. You now need help explaining your gambling losses to your loved ones. As a public service, here are some ideas about how to cope when underdogs rule.

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What To Say: You didn't lose money this week betting; rather you had to sell your gold Rolex watch to the Goldman family.
Will It Work? Only if you make up the money stealing back your memorabilia to fund efforts to find your ex-wife's killer.

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What To Say: I'll make the money up like Ozzie - I'll stink at work to get a fat contract extension.
Will It Work? Only if your boss is Kenny Williams.

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What To Say: I'm sorry, honey, I didn't expect the president to be so cold-hearted that he would veto health insurance for our children. I had already cancelled our policies thinking we'd have more money to buy groceries.
Will It Work? Yes. Take a hard line on your kids' Socialist leanings.

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What To Say: The Cubs needed five more second basemen for the playoffs, so I pitched in a few bucks.
Will It Work? Only if your wife isn't a White Sox fan.

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What To Say: A friend of mine needed to borrow some money.
Will It Work? Only if your friend signs a book deal in a hurry.

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What To Say: Don't think of it as a loss, think of it as a non-deductible tax donation to my bookie.
Will It work? No, but a screaming spouse is more pleasant than a visit from Moose and Rocco.

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What To Say: I've always been a fan of Michael Vick, so I thought I'd help him cover the $16 million the Falcons are seeking from him.
Will It Work? Only if you don't have pets.

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OverHyped Game of the Week: Cowboys at Bills

The storyline: The Cowboys featuring Tony Romo and Terrell Owens meet Buffalo featuring . . . um . . . did we mention the Cowboys are 4-0?

Reality: The Old West motif wears thin early in the second quarter. The Cowboys roll.

Pick: Dallas Minus 10 Points, Over 45 Points Scored.

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UnderHyped Game of the Week: Chargers at Broncos

The storyline: Has one of the AFC favorites imploded?

Reality: Brothers Ron and Norv Turner coach on 1-3 football teams. Unfortunately, neither possesses a winning system, good looks, or a magnetic personality. Both need a win. Unlike his brother Ron, Norv has an advantage. LaDainian Tomlinson.

Pick: San Diego Plus 1.5 Points, Under 41.5 Points Scored.

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Results
Last week: 2-4 (1-2 Against the Spread, 1-2 Over/Under)
Season: 12-12 (5-7 Against the Spread, 7-5 Over/Under)

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For more Emery, see the Kool-Aid archive, and the Over/Under archive. Emery accepts comments from Bears fans reluctantly and everyone else tolerably.


Posted by Lou at 06:24 AM | Permalink

What I Watched Last Night

Typically, my love of televised sports doesn't go much further than rooting for the underdog on ESPN's The Ocho if it had an Ocho ("Yo! Last call for the "World's Strongest Man" competition! Ten-to-one and a free bag of chips on the Eastern European with the least amount of consonants in his last name!"). However, like any other city native with an employer fairly tolerant of employees working on 45 minutes of sleep as long as they're not in charge of heavy machinery beyond pressing an elevator button, I watched the Cubs get outclassed by the Arizona Diamondbacks last night because all in all, it was just the right thing to do.

Far be it from me to comment on the performance of the players on either side. That's a job for "real" sportswriters who get paid real money. Instead, I'll share a few casual TV observations made during the game.

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Overall, I was encouraged by the general physical appearance of Cubs manager Lou Piniella. By and large, he looked clean-shaven and unwrinkled last night, in stark contrast to his after-game news conferences over the past month or so where he looked like he just staggered out of a big cardboard appliance box on Lower Wacker.

If the Cubs actually do win the National League championship and take The Series, my money's on Lou showing up on at least two Nutrisystem commercials before Christmas.

*

That was not Cubs pitcher Carlos Marmol throwing the game away in the seventh inning. Astute observers would have recognized a young, time traveling Barack Obama on the mound looking for one more way to bulk up his life story to support his 2008 presidential campaign.

It's pretty amazing what you can accomplish with a few bazillion dollars raised by celebrities who really don't know any better, isn't it?

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Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano really isn't who the Cubs say he says he is, either.

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Carlos Marmol's appearance in the seventh proves that whoever might - or might not - be in charge of the music to annoy the opposing team at Chase Field is asleep at the switch. If Marmol was a Diamondback player, he'd get assaulted with "Baby Got Back" any time he showed up at Wrigley.

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Christmas will be here before we know it. Anyone thinking of gifting Carlos Zambrano might consider a custom-fitted cup and some kerosene to kill that pesky case of the crabs that's been ailing him all season.

The man hasn't been able to throw a single pitch without having to openly adjust his package in some fashion afterward, so feel free to give 'til it hurts before the poor guy starts bringing a belt sander to the mound for some serious relief.

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From the "Good Work If You Can Get It" Department: Astute observers recognized Richard Edson as the personification of Risk in the commercial for Traveler's Insurance that aired up a time or two between innings.

Anyone familiar with the 1986 film Ferris Bueller's Day Off would instantly recognize Edson as the parking garage attendant who takes the (replica) Ferrari 250 California Spyder belonging to Cameron's dad for a joyride bordering on a wet dream.

I'm not sure whether to blame poor eyesight or alcohol consumption, but if you caught the commercial out of the corner of your eye, you might have sworn the "Risk" tattoo on Edson's fingers actually said "Piss" in the segment where Edson floods the restroom. Just sayin'.

Edson Trivia: According to Wikipedia, from 1981 to 1982 Edson was the earliest drummer for Sonic Youth.

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I give any non-sportswriter anywhere in the country looking to cash in on the Cubs-Arizona series less than 24 hours to come up with some sort of analogy for the team colors of the Cubs (blue) and Arizona (red) related to anything that has to do with the Civil War, the War In Iraq, the War On Terrorism, President Bush, Congress, the last presidential election, the presidential election before that, or the upcoming presidential election.

In the meantime, rabid sport-fan horticulturists in Chicago and Phoenix are engrossed in their own rabid cockfight between the Arizona cactus and the Chicago milkweed plant, but I'm not going there.

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If I feel any sense of sympathy for anyone, it would be the Chicago transplants living in Mesa, where the Cubs spring training stimulates the economy every spring like the original Outlet Mall stimulated Kenosha, Wisconsin during the 1980s. Imagine the transplants' consternation over who to root for in addition to whether to call their team (which calls itself D-backs on their uniforms) "The Diamondbacks" or "Da Backs."

Baseball fever. Scratch your head and catch it.

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In other TV business, I have the biggest brain worm ever. After two days, I still haven't been able to get a segment of Monday night's Tonight Show with Jay Leno out of my head.

That's when longtime piano-bench molester and recent dye-job mishap victim Tori Amos performed "Bouncing Off Clouds" to illustrate what would happen if Phoebe Buffay dropped acid and came up with a tune sung almost completely in Swedish Canadian.

A Tori performance very similar to Monday night's can be found here, with the translation here for the Swedish Canadian impaired.

It's crazy, man. Crazy.

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See what else Scott Buckner and the TV Affairs Desk have been watching.

Posted by Lou at 05:50 AM | Permalink

Open Letter

Who knew there could be anything more annoying in this benighted world than the classic 70s yellow smiley face? Yet that phenomenon does exist: your ads for the Washlet.

As anyone who has looked at any website in the past few months knows, Washlet ads feature physically fit, mostly female butts with a smiley face drawn on them. They look like pages out of a very staid porno magazine that's been found by some kids with magic markers. One keeps hoping to see a beard, glasses or big nose scrawled on these posteriors as well, but no - it's always the irritating smiley faces and your vaguely menacing motto, "Clean is happy." Are you sure you didn't get that out of Animal Farm?

You are a Japanese company - "Toto" is your true name - so you can be excused for not understanding that here, smiley faces are the visual equivalent of a bullet in the kneecap. This is due to the smiley face's former ubiquity, but also its unholy resurrection by Wal-Mart. The American advertising company that came up with this campaign really should know better.

The ad campaign raises two issues: the taste of the ads, and the implications of the product itself, a toilet seat which turns any commode into a high-tech bidet, ranging from about $545 to $1,400 on factoryoutlet.com. For a toilet with "integrated" Washlet, you're talking $2,400 to $3,900.

First, let's describe the Washlet. A command panel, often mounted on a wall, allows users to control a stream of "aerated water" toward various sections of their bottoms. As the website puts it, you can choose from "pulsating, self-cleanse and oscillate modes." The Washlet will also dry you off with warm air, heat the seat, filter the toilet atmosphere, and even create noise to cover the sound of urination or defecation. You're supposed to use it, always, instead of toilet paper. The website declares that toilet paper merely "distributes" the problem.

When the Washlet's water is switched on, a small wand emerges from the back of the seat and sprays. The advancing wand looks rather ominous - it puts me in mind of the alien technology on The X-Files that drills teeth or extracts eggs from ovaries of humans abducted onto spaceships. I don't think I'd want to turn my back on something like that, much less my backside. On The X-Files, people have to be strapped down to get that kind of treatment.

Of course, your ads don't show the Washlet; toilet seats are significantly less photogenic than women's asses. One can divine the true nature of a Washlet only by clicking on the website link. For months, I refused to do that, out of irritated principle. Last week I finally relented, and now I realize the ad campaign is extraordinarily expensive - because the website actors must get paid well enough to move and establish new identities in a kind of capitalist witness protection program.

See, the homepage features a line of six butts. They change rapidly like a slot machine before settling into hindquarters that match the faces which finally replace them - white male butts for the two white guys, dark-skinned female butt for the lone dark-skinned woman, and a fringe of black hair waving above the butt that belongs to a long-haired Asian woman.

Yes, I realize you probably used butt doubles, like in the movies, and they're all in perfect shape with nary a hint of cellulite or sagging muscle. Still. The actors do a tremendous job of exuding complete confidence while kneeling next to the Washlet, sitting on it, and even reclining luxuriously on it with one arm draped over the toilet tank. But how do you go home or to the local grocery store after taping something like that?

As for the ads, some people find them offensive, but apparently not very many. Earlier this summer, the Rev. Neil Rhodes filed suit to prevent a two-story banner featuring numerous grinning rear ends from being hung on the building housing his Times Square Church in Manhattan. The reverend was accommodated by a large white stripe across the middle of the ad, covering the most objectionable portion of the bottoms, and that was that. An Ad Age columnist complained about Times Square becoming so prudish.

Personally, I'm not offended, per se. We see nearly as much of the backsides of a lamentable percentage of the population these days on a daily basis. It's enough to make you wish punk was back in, or even Frank Sinatra. I'd much rather see lots of colorful Mohawks or fedoras on the streets than people's bums.

But I'm still disgusted. Face it, Toto: You are using women's naked butts in the most audacious manner possible to sell your product. Objectification is a given when you crop a photo down to just a tush and draw a face on it. Don't bother insisting that your ads and website include men's rear ends too. The vast majority of the cans are female, and the occasional male sample is clearly used for the deniability factor, and perhaps secondarily to reach the gay male market segment.

As for the Washlet itself, it seems to me the epitome of the modern obsession with hygiene. It's hard for me to picture a circumstance other than a nearly fatal case of food poisoning which would require the use of a Washlet. If one is reasonably healthy, toilet paper seems sufficient, because there really shouldn't be a whole lot left on your rump to "distribute," as the Washlet people like to say. As for urination, let's be real: men don't even bother with toilet paper after this bodily function. A couple of jiggles and they figure they're good to go. And, of course, here in the U.S. we shower daily.

In fact, hygiene obsession is usually associated with the West, and primarily with Americans. Americans snicker at Europeans for their lax shower habits and return from the East with terrifying tales of squat toilets. Yet Toto is a Japanese company, and various sources claim Washlets now adorn half or over 60 percent of Japanese homes. The saturated market there (no double entendre intended, but now that I notice it, why not?) explains the current attempted expansion in the U.S. So it would seem that America is now importing not just everything we used to manufacture here, but also our own stupid hang-ups.

Look, you have to be a bit prudish to believe a lower body shower is necessary after every bathroom visit, much less think an expensive electronic device is required to cover the sound of peeing. Time magazine reporter Hannah Beech in Tokyo noted that the sound function is an ecological boon in Japan, where many Japanese used to "camouflage the sound of their ablutions by flushing, thereby wasting tons of water." We Americans might call that "anal."

Yet it is Americans who are scorned for our alleged Puritanism, when we're not being criticized for our sex-crazed pop culture defiling the rest of the globe. And a friend's brother who has lived in Japan for years - who owns and loves a Washlet - tells me the smiley butt ads are a purely American phenomenon, not used in Japan. While Japanese advertising can be "reasonably risque," he says, he can think of no outright nudity.

Unfortunately, Washlet company, this is a battle that I fear you are sure to win. My friend's brother says you "super rule," and if he moved back here, he doesn't think he could live without one. When I tossed out the whole Washlet concept to some friends at lunch the other day, I think I got you some new customers.

You should warn Washlet wannabes, however. They can be dangerous. When my friend visited her brother in Japan last year, she had this run-in with a Washlet: "I used it and then zipped up, but then somehow I turned on the bidet fountain and it sprayed me in the crotch of my jeans until I could get my hands in front of the spray, leaving only my foot to try to figure out which was the 'off' button."

Clean and Happy Enough,

Cate Plys

*

Comments? Open Letter is open to letters. Please include a real name to be considered for publication.

*

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


Posted by Lou at 05:11 AM | Permalink

October 03, 2007

The [Wednesday] Papers

Mara Georges is at it again.

Georges is the city's corporation counsel and a favorite of Mayor Daley's. And it's no wonder why.

"The City of Chicago's top lawyer has denied at least one alderman's written request to see a list of Chicago police officers who have the most excessive force complaints during the last five years, a move that critics say contradicts what the lawyer told federal judges this summer," the Tribune reports this morning.

"Corporation Counsel Mara Georges recently sent a letter to Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th), denying her Aug. 23 request for an unredacted list of Office of Professional Standards complaints.

"In July, when the city was arguing in federal court to keep the documents secret, Georges assured the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals that aldermen would have access to the confidential records.

"'We have agreed to make the confidential documents available to any City Council member who requests them,' Georges declared in the city's July 13 emergency motion seeking a stay of U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow's order to unseal the records and make them available to the general public."

Now, Georges is arguing that the very stay that was granted when she made that promise prevents her from . . . keeping her promise.

"It is disappointing, but not surprising," Preckwinkle said. "It is sort of consistent with bad behavior by the corporation counsel all the way along."

Just last week, for example, John Conroy reminded us in the Reader of Georges' blatant disingenuousness.

"Georges received stunningly bad reviews for her testimony in last year's trial of Robert Sorich, the mayor's longtime patronage chief," Conroy wrote. "Georges testified that she was unaware of political influence in hiring. Jury foreman Jay Olshansky, a professor of public health at the University of Illinois at Chicago, told the Tribune she was the prosecution's least credible witness, and federal judge David Coar, who presided over the trial, said, 'I found the Mara Georges position in all of this incredible.'

"But Mayor Daley likes her. After Sorich was convicted he was quoted in the Tribune saying Georges has been a 'very, very good corporation counsel . . . full of integrity, honesty, dedication.'"

Secret Police
Why does the mayor - through Georges, who doesn't make a move without him - want to keep the list of excessive force complaints secret?

Perhaps because it would blow the lid off off his rogue pet police unit. The Special Operations Section - the mayor's answer to embarrassingly high murder rates in the early 2000s - is under a burgeoning federal investigation that has already seen seven officers charged with robbery and kidnapping, as well as one, Jerome Finnigan, accused of plotting the murder of an ex-colleague. And that, insiders think, is just the tip of the iceberg.

"Although we do not yet know the full dimensions of the SOS scandal, it is clear that the monetary and institutional costs to the City will be vast," writes Jamie Kalven, whose lawsuit against the city put the secret list of wayward officers in play. "Against this background, what might we learn from the list of officers who have amassed the most civilian complaints over a five year period?

"The names of officers were blacked out on the list Ms. George [initially[ provided aldermen, but their unit numbers were included. It is thus possible, as was widely reported at the time, to determine that the top four officers on the list, each of whom have 50 or more complaints, are all members of SOS. The top ten SOS officers on the list, all of whom have 30 or more complaints, account for a total of 408 complaints over five years. Of these complaints, only three were sustained by CPD investigators. Two resulted in reprimands (among the mildest forms of discipline) and one resulted in a 15-day suspension. What would be revealed about the CPD's systems of supervision, monitoring, and discipline, if we definitively knew that Finnigan and his co-defendants are at or near the top of the list?

"There is, of course, reason to strongly suspect they are, but in the absence of the unredacted document this remains speculation."

Mayor Apples
The mayor, as always, says SOS has merely been infected by a few bad apples. He's used this defense so many times over the years about so many parts of his administration that, were he in the Mob, his nickname would be Apples.

At stake, though, is something deadly serious: His mismanagment of the CPD, which is not unlike his mismanagement of the CTA. In this regard, the Tribune let the mayor off easy the other day, aiding and abetting his lame defense of SOS by writing that they are needed apart from the rank-and-file because "On the street, patrol officers assigned to districts are constantly responding to radio commands from their supervisors and dispatchers."

That's what community policing - which doesn't really exist in Chicago, despite what you've been told - is supposed to ameliorate. The prime directive of community policing is to get officers out of their patrol cars - and out of responding to crime instead of preventing it - and onto their feet, walking beats.

I don't know about you, but that doesn't exist in my neighborhood.

Either way, it has nothing to do with special operation sections. The department still has gang units, for example.

The Tribune also wrote with a straight face that "In 2003, the department's efforts paid off in big numbers as the murder rate dropped by 25 percent, largely because of enhanced police intelligence that pinpointed neighborhoods that they then flooded with SOS and tactical teams."

The Tribune states this as fact, but I wonder how they back up that assertion. The crime rate began dropping nationally around that time, and experts are still trying to figure out why. Those are some units if they can prevent murders in Tulsa and Portland as well as Englewood and Austin.

Besides that, it's questionable whether flooding neighborhoods with tactical officers can prevent murders. It can break up drug markets - temporarily - and maybe stave off retaliatory shootings after a murder has occurred, but eventually gangs will get their revenge.

In any case, the facts do not square - big surprise - with the mayor's assertions. "In July, the Tribune reported that SOS officers accounted for a disproportionately large number of excessive force and misconduct complaints filed with the police Office of Professional Standards during the last five years."

That's not just the result of a few bad apples. Did I hear someone say, "It's Daley Time!"?

Crime Pays
"The state's attorney's office has dropped more than a hundred pending felony cases, because they were contaminated by one or another of the defendants," Kalven writes. "A large number of civil cases will inevitably be brought against the City."

And guess who will pay the settlements?

That's right, the same pigeons the mayor is already plucking even as we speak.

Reality TV
"[T]he 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?"
- Beachwood Reporter, July 19

"One of his co-defendants, Officer Thomas Sherry, boasted on his MySpace site that he was a fan of Vic Mackey, the fictional crooked cop in the TV show, The Shield."
- Sun-Times, September 30

What I Watched Last Night
* Cavemen started out pretty weak, but got better as it went along, and if the network lets it develop, I think it could be something. But they gotta get over the caveman jokes. The real twist is to simply put the cavemen into mundane daily situations and expose us humans for the failed creatures that we are.

* Carpoolers was better. In fact, it was pretty damn good. Recommended.

* If you haven't yet read our three-part fall TV preview, do it now. I'll put it up against any in the nation.

Playoff Status
According to the Zam Bomb, Big Z is Getting Angry. According to the Mount Lou Alert System, our skipper has reverted to his non-eruptive state. Not that we expect that to last long. In The Cub Factor.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Not yet rated.

Posted by Lou at 08:17 AM | Permalink

The Making of Aviation Music

The following press release introducing a new genre of music based on Aviation, may be of interest to your audience. Any editorial comment or mention that you may give this press release would be greatly appreciated.

- - -

THE MAKING OF AVIATION MUSIC

Dateline: October 3, 2007 . . . Wavre, Belgium
Contact: Bruno Misonne
E-mail: info@brunomisonne.com
Web Address: www.brunomisonne.com

WAVRE, BELGIUM - October 3, 2007 - You need to strap yourself in. This is no ordinary flight. This flight will soar above and beyond the limits of known musical genres. Our pilot for this trip is none other than Belgium's remarkable composer, Bruno Misonne. Bruno is the creator of an entirely new genre of music based on Aviation.

Misonne transcends the limitations of Orchestra and composition with the release of his new CD, Aviation Music. There is no "ceiling" in this flight.

It's no irony that Bruno Misonne calls the city of Wavre home. It's only ten miles from a large airport where he "parks" his instruments. You See, Bruno Misonne has made the airplane a new instrument in Aviation Music. The vocals are sound bites of air traffic control communications, blended seamlessly with
synthesizers and computer sound banks, to take the listener on a journey.

Indeed, just listening to any of the tracks on his first release will take you soaring into the air, just close your eyes, Bruno will be at the controls, and he is masterful at it. He composes at night when everything is quiet, except his mind. Misonne's mind is always at work composing, or preparing to compose. The true gift is that his best work is produced while working on other tasks. " . . . I can walk around the garden while I'm building a full imaginary orchestra in my head," says Bruno. In fact, one of the tracks on his latest release, "Early Morning Landing at Heathrow" was created while he was working in his garden.

Bruno has chosen the perfect instrument for his new genre because the airplane is the best way to go global after all. This new genre is now boarding at a gate near you, and it's time for some "frequent flier" miles, so check out with Aviation Music.

Posted by Lou at 06:18 AM | Permalink

Reviewing the Reviews

Sept. 28 - 29.

Publication: New York Times

Cover: "Stanley, I Presume?"

Other Reviews & News of Note: I was struck by reading the first passage shortly after reading the second.

1. "The Shock Doctrine is [Naomi] Klein's ambitious look at the economic history of the last 50 years and the rise of free-market fundamentalism around the world. 'Disaster capitalism,' as she calls it, is a violent system that sometimes requires terror to do its job."

2. "In the evenings, unexpected sights appear in this city, which less than two years ago seemed beyond saving and repair.

"Women stroll on sidewalks that did not exist last year. Teenagers cluster under newly installed street lights, chatting on cellphones. At a street corner, young men gather to race cars on a freshly paved road - a scene, considering that this is the capital of Chechnya, that feels out of place and from another time.

"Throughout the city, local officials, most of them former rebels who waged a nationalist Islamic insurgency against Russia, lounge in cafes, assault rifles idled beside them.

"Three years after a wave of guerrilla and terrorist attacks caused many analysts to say that Russia's war against Chechen separatists could not be won, the republic has fallen almost fully under the control of the Kremlin and its indigenous proxies, led by Ramzan A. Kadyrov, the Chechen president.

"Mr. Kadyrov's human rights record is chilling, and allegations of his government's patterns of brutality and impunity are widespread. Yet even his most severe critics say he has developed significant popular support, in part because of the clear changes that have accompanied his firm and fearsome rule.

"Fighting has been sporadic and small in scale for a second year. A large rebel offensive did not materialize this summer, as the separatists had predicted. Buoyed by a sustained lull in fighting and flush with cash, Mr. Kadyrov's government has rebuilt most of its capital and outlying areas.

"Like Stalingrad after World War II, Grozny, the Chechen capital, has reappeared from the rubble. It has done so more swiftly than European cities revived by the Marshall Plan."

Also: "Some critics will no doubt dismiss How Starbucks Saved My Life: A Son of Privilege Learns to Live Like Everyone Else as promotional pap masquerading as a memoir," Neil Genzlinger writes. "This critic, though, views it as one of the most scathing indictments of the advertising business to appear in a long time."

Why?

"[Michael Gates] Gill, with the grating babe-in-the-woods persona he adopts in this book, would have us believe that top advertising executives like him have no idea that there are black people in the world and that some of them run small businesses; that every weekday thousands of people gather at places like Grand Central Terminal for a ritual known as rush hour; that an overwhelming majority of lives are lived in the service of train schedules and bill collectors."

It gets worse.

"Gill staring in wonder as commuters commute or a co-worker shows him how to fill a mop bucket; Gill abjectly apologizing for ignoring the poor, the working class, his children, his own racism and classicism for all those years; Gill praising Starbucks, the world's greatest company (it offers health insurance!); Gill dropping famous names from his past. None of it rings true; all of it feels manipulative. Could it be that Gill, having coasted on his family name for years, looked around for another set of coattails and saw one with a Starbucks logo?"

My guess is he decided to take a job at Starbucks in order to write a book.

"If so, the strategy seems to have worked. Tom Hanks, apparently like Gill not realizing that Starbucks is more punch line than hot brand these days, has already grabbed the movie rights."

As Keith Olbermann would say, Michael Gates Gill, you are today's Worst Person in the World.

*

Publication: Sun-Times

Cover: "Femme Fatales"

Other Reviews & News of Note: Books editor Teresa Budasi also takes on Gill's Starbucks book, noting that the author still works for the coffee company with no plans to quit despite the movie deal. Maybe so, but he'll be taking a really, really, really, really, really, really long leave.

*

Publication: Tribune

Cover: "The Forgotten War." Is the Trib the last book review in the country getting to this?

Other Reviews & News of Note: No.

*

CHARTS

1. Laura Ingraham
2. Bill Clinton
3. O.J. Simpson

Tony Dungy is 4th; Mother Teresa is 5th; Navy Seal is 6th; Alan Alda is 8th; Anna Nicole Smith is 9th; George W. Bush is 10th; Pattie Boyd is 12th; Alan Jackson's wife is 13th; Jack Cafferty is 14th; the un-great God is 16th.


Posted by Lou at 12:08 AM | Permalink

October 02, 2007

The [Tuesday] Papers

"If you want to know why there are so many Cubs fans living in the Valley, all you need to do is go to Luke's of Chicago on 16th Street and Indian School Road," the Arizona Republic reports today.

"It's a place that sells Italian beef and Polish sausages so good you can practically hear the El rumbling over your head when you take a bite.

"And business is brisk because for decades people have been leaving Chicago and moving to Arizona for good weather and economic opportunity.

"Many of those transplants will be cheering for the visiting team when the Diamondbacks host the Cubs this week.

"'I'm a Cubs fan till the day I die. It doesn't matter where I live,' Philip Manno, 33, said as he waited for his order.

"When you combine hometown loyalty with spring training and countless games televised on Chicago station WGN, there is a good chance that Chase Field will sound a lot like Wrigley West this week."

Numbers Racket
John Mallul, supervisor of the FBI's organized crime unit in Chicago, estimates the Outfit has about 30 "made" members and a little more than 100 associates, the Tribune reported on Sunday.

Hiring Racket
In the same wrap-up of the Family Secrets trial, Chicago Crime Commission head Jim Wagner told the Tribune that "This trial showed how many of these guys had jobs where they worked for the city or McCormick Place. When you look at the number that have been connected to the Department of Streets and Sanitation, the Water Department, it's hard to explain without the idea of clout being a factor."

Let's connect some dots.

"More than 1,400 people have staked claim to the $12 million fund created to compensate victims of City Hall's rigged hiring system, a federal monitor said Monday," the Sun-Times reports.

"'It tells me what everyone has known all along: Political patronage continued to run rampant' in spite of the Shakman decree, said Ald. Joe Moore (49th).

"Attorney Michael Shakman's landmark lawsuit was supposed to end political hiring and firing, but didn't.

"Shakman suspects the number of victims is greater than 1,443. But some people are afraid of retribution, some chose to file their own lawsuits and others were unaware the reason they didn't get the job was the interviews were rigged, he said.

"Referring to the 2006 trial that ended in the conviction of Mayor Daley's former patronage chief, Shakman said, 'We know from the [Robert] Sorich trial that it was a wholesale process of rigged interviews and illegal hiring.'"

And who pays for all that illegal hiring?

"Mayor Daley on Monday served up a pick-your-poison menu of tax increases - including the largest property tax hike in Chicago history - and asked aldermen to choose enough of them to fill a $193 million budget gap," the Sun-Times reports.

Dot Dot Dot
The county, run by Todd Stroger (D-Daley), is also going to raise your taxes.

I mean, someone has to pick up Earlean Collins's slack.

Betting Man
"Daley is betting Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon that the Chicago Cubs will beat the Diamondbacks in the National League Division Series that starts Wednesday," Sports Illustrated says.

"Daley's bet includes goodies from nine Chicago businesses, including hot dogs from Best's Kosher, pizza from Connie's, and root beer from Windy City Soda."

The mayor is also trying to throw Inspector General David Hoffman and federal monitor Noelle Brennan into the deal in exchange for any retired mobsters in the Phoenix area.

Mayor Cub
Daley, a diehard White Sox fan, put on a Cubs cap during Monday's downtown rally.

I bet he wouldn't be caught dead wearing a CTA hat, though.

*

Do you think the mayor engineered a Cubs playoff spot to distract us from the Children's Museum fiasco, which he engineered to distract us from the CTA fiasco?

I've been living here too long.

Resurge Regurge
The big story on the cover of the Tribune's Perspective section on Sunday was about "The Resurgence of Anti-Semitism."

How can it resurge when it never seems to recede? This is one of those stories the papers run every year, as if it's on some sort of checklist next to "Why don't college students protest like they did in the Sixties" and "Whatever happened to manners."

Or "How 'bout those wacky Roller Girls, with their tattoos and dreadlocks."

Man You Should Know
"One time Robbie Fulks, who sometimes calls on Ligon when one of his regular band members can't make a gig, spotted him in the audience during a show at FitzGerald's, beckoned him onstage, and made him rotate from instrument to instrument every few seconds for an entire song," Anne Ford writes in the Reader's cover story last week about local musician Scott Ligon.

"'Everybody wants to make music with him,' [Kelly] Hogan says. 'It's like having five guys in one. He can do everything.'

"A few years ago, he started doing a party trick called the Hypnotic Wheel at the country calendar shows. The bit consists of [his brother] Chris 'mesmerizing' Scott by spinning a cardboard wheel painted with a red-and-white spiral, then shouting something along the lines of, 'You are Buck Owens! You are the Lovin' Spoonful!' while Ligon jumps from one musical imitation to the next."

Ode to Steve Bartman
Ya gotta feel for the guy.

But still.

From our very own Tom Latourette.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Goat-free.

Posted by Lou at 09:05 AM | Permalink

Chicagoetry: Allen Ginsberg Festival of Life

ALLEN GINSBERG FESTIVAL OF LIFE

Just east of Balbo
and Michigan,

Uncle Allen began
his Buddhist

chant. The Festival
of Life

took over
Grant

Park one
weekend the

summer of
'68. Buddha

is at every protest
rally, of

course. Buddha
knows batons

and bullets.
Buddah

feels, he kneels,
he braces . . .

-

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 07:03 AM | Permalink

The Lost Art of the TV Theme Song

Time was when TV theme songs were musically competent enough to actually serve the narrative of show and even make it onto the radio. "Welcome Back, Kotter" anyone? But what are the best known theme songs of this generation? The Friends song? How annoying was that? Or the Seinfeld theme - effective, but so about nothing there weren't any words? Maybe it's because reality shows have taken over and reality shows don't really have theme songs, they just kind of have melodramatic musical set pieces like CNN uses when a Russian president dies or something. Although we do have the Simpsons song - but again no words. The Family Guy song kind of rules - but ironically, it's an homage to the theme from All in the Family and really all songs from sitcoms yore.

When I was in film school studying television, we were told that it was absolutely necessary for a TV show to have a catchy opening theme that grabs the viewer from the start and doesn't let go until the final credits roll. That's what the following themes did and what some TV shows of today don't quite get.

*

"And Then There's Maude." By Marilyn & Alan Bergman and Dave Grusin. Performed by the late, great Donny Hathaway.

Any song that references Lady Godiva, bra-burning and sewing is alright. A classic from the first airing. Too bad Donny Hathaway isn't around to enjoy the theme's resurgence in popularity.

*

"Those Were the Days." By Lee Adams and Charles Strouse. Performed by Carroll O'Connor and Jean Stapleton.

When the show first aired, I was quite young so I didn't watch it. My parents didn't watch it either because they were more into Carol Burnett and Flip Wilson. Sure, All In The Family was groundbreaking TV, but really what's funnier than the "Church of What's Happenin' Now" and Mrs. Wiggins' skits? What's truly amusing and or scary about the song is when I sing it, I sound just like Jean Stapleton.

*

Good Times. By Alan Bergman and Dave Grusin. Performed by Ja'net Dubois who also starred as the sassy neighbor, Willona Woods.

A gospel-influenced R&B tune with fun lyrics that were, years later, part of the infamous Dave Chappelle skit "I Know Black People." The song sets up the premise of of the show perfectly.

*

Movin' On Up. By Ja'net Dubois and Jeff Barry. Performed by Ja'net Dubois.

A similar style musically to "Good Times" and "And Then There's Maude." It's not "deluxe apartment" but "dee-luxe apartment in the sky-eye-eye." I've often wondered how one grills beans and no one, but no one has been able to replicate George Jefferson's funky strut into the building.

*

Suicide Is Painless. By Mike Altman and Johnny Mandel.

Altman is the son of the film's director, the late-Robert Altman. M*A*S*H was one of the few great films to make the transition to a hit television show. The TV theme was instrumental whereas the movie theme had lyrics. I wouldn't be surprised if the reason the network execs deep-sixed the original film version for the TV show was because the chorus goes something like this:

That suicide is painless,
It brings on many changes
And I can take or leave it if I please

Not exactly lyrics for prime time, family TV time. And, it's probably not something the TV dinner crowd wants to hear while wolfing down their Swanson's Salisbury steak meal.

*

Believe It Or Not. By Mike Post and Stephen Geyer and sung by Joey Scarbury.

I never watched The Greatest American Hero. I chose this because George Costanza used his own, homespun version for his outgoing answering machine message and it was perfect in The 40-Year Old Virgin. So it resonates.

*

The Muppet Show Theme Song. By Jim Henson and Sam Pottle and performed by Kermit and the cast of Muppet characters.

These are simple lyrics supported by silly images: The muppets gathering on stage, Gonzo blowing the horn and the two old curmudgeons in the balcony. The Muppet Show and chicken potpies were standard fare for Saturday nights at the Gray household.

*

The Love Boat. By Charles Fox and Paul Williams (yes, that Paul Williams-the wee one) and performed by silver fox crooner, Jack Jones.

The final season the theme was sung by Dionne Warwick. For the longest time, thanks to this show, I thought all women had to wear nude pantyhose and high-heels with their jewel-toned, high-legged bathing suits. Imagine my surprise during a family trip to the tropics one spring when I realized that nude hose and heels with swimwear are just a bad, bad idea. One has to be on the Lido Deck, sipping a fruity drink in order to get away with that look. I spent many dateless Saturday nights (shut up) watching this show followed by another Aaron Spelling tour de force, Fantasy Island. Each time the over-the-top theme song started, I was filled with hope that someone would find true love without all of the miscommunication hijinks that happened every week. It also made me realize that the ship was run by a bunch of Pervy McPervertsons. I mean really, the only cool one was Isaac the Bartender. Who would ever in her right mind find Bernie Koppel attractive?

*

Come and Knock On My Door. By Joe Raposo and Don Nicholl. Sung by The Other Ray Charles and Julie Rinker.

What is so funny about this song is the overuse of the wa-wa peddle with the guitar at the beginning followed by the Stuckey's-on-the-interstate level singing talent. So cheesy it is completely irresistible. My favorite line is:

"Where the kisses are hers and hers and his, three's company too!"

Bernie Taupin eat your heart out.

-

Comments? Send them our way. Use a full, real name to be considered for publication.

-

Catch up with the Beachwood Fall TV Preview! Best Preview Ever. Anywhere. It really is.

Posted by Lou at 12:38 AM | Permalink

October 01, 2007

The [Monday] Papers

1. Now we know why Rex Grossman was our quarterback.

2. Maybe Kyle Orton is our quarterback.

3. Can Devin Hester play quarterback? He's got the turnover part down. Still, we could run the option with him.

4. Devin Hester is ridiculous.

5. Lou Piniella is ridiculous, too. He's easily the Cubs' MVP. He took a typically ill-fitting roster, held an extended spring training into June in which he nearly lost the team, overcame the managing rustiness that had him running out of players whenever the team went into extra innings, and brought the team back from the brink by using the whole of the organization on a daily basis - treating the organization's minor league players as an extension of the major league roster. His bluntness also allowed him to banish underperforming players like Jacque Jones and Scott Eyre to the bench only to bring them back in the fold when their turn came around again. Finally, it wasn't his staged explosion against umpire Mark Wegner on June 2nd (watch the hat-kick 14 seconds in) and Carlos Zambrano pounding the hell out of Michael Barrett in the locker room that sparked this team's turnaround (though it was nice to see Derrek Lee later that month later taking a few swings at Chris Young to signify they were done taking shit ("The Fighting Cubs!" I yelled at the TV) as much as an organizational meeting around that time when Lou wrested control of the team from Jim Hendry and figured out how he was going to piece together his crappy spare parts.

I was one of those who preferred Joe Girardi to Lou Piniella, and wasn't fond of Jim Hendry's free agent binge; in a way, though, Piniella did it Girardi's way, using players such as Ryan Theriot and Mike Fontenot to spark the team. Their contributions have been far more important than those of veterans Lee and, say, Aramis Ramirez. Geovany Soto, Carlos Marmol, and, shockingly, Jacque Jones and Ted Lilly have also been key. Soriano is still being overpaid.

It's a tough team to figure out, but a team I think I'll like better next year and the year after if Lou sticks around and continues to shape the roster.

Diamondbacks in five.

6. New Cubs Video! Our popular Cub fan theme song "Please Stop Believin'" is now on video and updated for the playoffs.

7. And don't forget The Cub Factor, the country's best Cubs column.

8. Richard Roeper and Rick Morrissey want you to believe that Steve Bartman was not to blame for the Cubs collapse in Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS against the Marlins. They are among that ilk who like to blame everything that happened after the Bartman incident - Mark Prior's meltdown (a walk, a wild pitch, a single), Alex Gonzalez's error on a double-play ball (not Alex Rodriguez as Roeper writes today, but there for the grace of God . . . ), and even Kerry Wood's choke in Game 7.

I'm sorry, and I don't want to be mean, and I can't imagine what it is like to be Steve Bartman, but everything changed after he got in Moises Alou's way trying to catch that ball. To blame everything that happened after that is to blame the effects but not the cause. In the bar where I was watching the game - the Beachwood, natch - an instant foreboding filled what had been a celebratory air. Even before the next pitch we were screaming "The Curse! The Curse!"

It wasn't much different at the ballpark. A gloom descended; the Heavens shifted. I'm not sure if dark clouds suddenly appeared overhead, but they may as well have. The fans felt it and, more importantly, the players felt it. Hence Prior's sudden wildness - and Gonzalez's need to rush a double-play attempt instead of just having to get one.

It was Bartman.

We don't like to face that fact because it seems so lacking in compassion. But that doesn't make it less true.

9. "Over the years, [Bartman] has turned down all interview requests," Morrissey writes. "Good for him."

So if Bartman called up Morrissey today and said he wanted to talk, Morrissey would decline?

10. "Foul-Up In '03 Is History" - except in this headline atop the front page of the Sunday Tribune, where it clearly lives on.

11. "Cubs' collapse in Game 6 of NLCS, many of its faces, just distant memories" - except in this subhead on the front page of the Sunday Tribune, where it's like it just happened yesterday.

12. "A Headache of a History Lesson." The headline atop the Sunday Tribune sports section, just in case you hadn't gotten the message that nobody is thinking about Bartman anymore.

13. "In hiring Lou Piniella, we made a loud statement," Cubs President John McDonough told the Sun-Times. "We said, 'We're serious about this.'"

I thought the Cubs told us that hiring Dusty Baker and Don Baylor before him made that statement too.

14. "[Piniella] is hard-nosed; he's all business," McDonough says. "Nothing else matters. There's nothing else on his agenda. He doesn't play favorites."

Calling Dusty Baker!

15. "Until you have a manager who has the guts to put [young players] in, you just don't know," says Oneri Fleita, director of player development. "People have no idea what that does for an organization. We carry the Cubs games on TV in every clubhouse in the minor leagues. The players would look up and see a guy who was with them the day before on the field playing for the Cubs. They knew [Piniella] was going to put them in the game . . . you can't describe the feeling it gives the players."

16. "What has made this season different? A combination of factors. McDonough's determination early on, for instance, that Hendry's job was too big for one man. Enter Randy Bush, who was promoted to assistant general manager from the special assistant to the general manager."

17. "You know and I know the Cubs will be the death of us all."
- Rick Telander, "It's Time To Worry"

The Beachwood Tip Line: Don't be scared.

Posted by Lou at 09:36 AM | Permalink

The Pueblo 10

Top ten highlights from the Fall 2007 Consumer Information Catalog from Pueblo, Colorado. Order yours now from the federal government for free.

* How to Maintain Your Tires. Get the best mileage and the most use out of your tires with these tips on inflating, rotating, and evaluating them properly.

* Get Net Safe. Offers some easy ways to help keep you, your computer, and your family safer when you go online.

* How to Get a Job in the Federal Government. Here's a step-by-step plan to find and apply for federal jobs, with detailed information on finding openings, understanding vacancy announcements, developing your resume, and more.

* Ask, Listen, Learn - What You Don't "No" Can Hurt You. This kid-oriented guide features interactive games, trivia cards explaining the facts about alcohol, tip son how to avoid peer pressure, and more.

* Diabetes Recipes. Five tasty and easy-to-follow recipes for people with diabetes.

* Cell Phones. Addresses health concerns about cellular phones and radio frequency (RF) levels.

* How to Prunes. Illustrated guide shows what to do, what not to do, tools to use, and when to trim to pruduce healthy, strong trees.

* Selecting a New Water Heater. Explains how different types of water heaters work and important features to consider when buying a water heater.

* Let's Talk Turkey. How to safely defrost and roast a turkey, as well as store and reheat leftovers.

* The Civil War at a Glance. This full-color map illustrates and briefly describes major Civil War battles. ($2)

Posted by Lou at 06:44 AM | Permalink

Connie's Corner: Nabokov's Pale Fire

The experience of reading Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov is not what you would call a "cozy" read - not comfort food for the mind.

The 1962 novel is, on one hand, a challenge to one's ability to solve puzzles and, on the other hand, one of the first postmodern novels that ask the reader to do all the work himself with the smokiest of hints from the author. It seems to use the elements of an old-fashioned term paper, including a forward, a commentary and an index which encircle a long poem called "Pale Fire." From this, Nabokov creates a novel that doesn't seem to have coherent plot - a story that contains a do-it-yourself kit.

pale_fire.jpgHere's the deal. In the preface we meet Charles Kinbote, a professor of Russian studies at a small college called Wordsmith in a small town in New York called New Wye. Right away this sounds suspiciously like Nabokov himself who taught a similar discipline at Cornell for many years. Kinbote rented a house on New Wye next door to a famous poet named John Shade who also taught at Wordsmith. Kinbote becomes Shade's friend and becomes the holder of the poet's last work after he is murdered. He thought he had permission from Shade's widow Sybil to edit the work for publication, but she informs him she has entrusted this task to other, more well-known literary critics. Kinbote launches on his own commentary, and voila, we have the book.

The poem in itself is worth the read. Nabokov was also quite an accomplished poet, so we can credit him with the ability to write pretty good stuff. Pale Fire is an examination of one man's struggle to deal with his own mortality. He tells Shade's story with tenderness: His love of his wife, his grief at the suicide of his only daughter and his quest to find a means of obtaining some kind of immortality. He seems to hope that eternal quality resides in his art and in the never-ending fecundity of nature.

Then comes Kinbote - and a more insufferable person you will never meet. He is obsessed with the country he emigrated from, "Zembla," a veritable twin to Nabokov's native Russia. He describes himself becoming Shade's stalker, always looking for ways to cozy up to him. These attempts are mostly frustrated by Sybil, towards whom he directs the snidest insults he can conjure up.

We also find out, through hideously coy asides by Kinbote, that he is actually the exiled King Charles II of Zembia, surnamed the Beloved. He keeps trying to tell Shade his story and imagines that Shade's poem is actually about his heroic escape from Zembla and his wretched life as an outcast. He also tells us of the assassin, Gradus, who is on his way to the U.S. to kill him.

The rest of the story must be read to be believed, but keep in mind that Nabokov belonged to the Russian nobility and barely escaped the Bolsheviks as a teenager in 1917, spending the next 20 years or so among Russian emigres in Berlin. He led a hand-to-mouth existence there as a translator, journalist, tennis instructor, chess player and even actor. He did not gain much of a living even as a professor at Wellesley and Cornell after he and his wife came to the U.S. The bestselling income from Lolita finally enabled him to quit teaching and become a full-time writer. He wrote Pale Fire from his retirement home in Switzerland.

So what are the ideas in this book? I believe that Shade and Kinbote are both Nabokov himself; there has been much disagreement about this among critics, so take this as only an opinion. Kinbote's commentary is very funny in parts, such as when Nabokov is nailing certain personages in Russian history, for instance, when he calls Charles the Beloved's grandfather Turgid the Third, probably referring to Alexander III. He also skewers the academic world in all its stuffiness and self-absorbency. Kinbote himself is laughable in his inability to see how transparent he is in his self-deceptions. But you can hear the author's voice behind that of the narrator's. So is this just a tirade of a very egotistical Russian intellectual? Not just, but the tirades are not lovable.

What else? The title of the poem is from Shakespeare's Timon of Athens, and the pale fire is that of the moon who steals her light from the sun. Nabokov himself often felt overlooked by the Nobel Prize committee, who honored many of his fellow countrymen. He was stymied in an ongoing attempt to become a full professor of Russian at Harvard. I think Shade is the person Nabokov would like to think he is most of the time, but Kinbote's unlovely characteristics are also his. Nabokov, like Shade, would like a form of immortality: He wants the art he will leave behind at his death to speak for his real self, which he can only hope is that of true nobility.

-

Previously in Connie's Corner:
* "Heavier Than Air." Nona Caspers creates a tapestry of small towns and chronicles the lives of people living there who have a hard time coming down to earth.

Posted by Don at 04:43 AM | Permalink

Chicago In Song: The O'Hare Blues

In this edition of Chicago In Song, we have no trouble finding songwriters who say they'd rather be somewhere else but are stuck here, more or less against their will. Some cope by getting drunk and eating donuts while in Lakeview, others by complaining about O'Hare. Some even take midnight swims in el lago.

Anything, I guess, that helps you work out the scars you inevitably get from your Chicago experience.

Chely Wright/One Night In Las Vegas
Songs about how cold Chicago is are a dime-a-dozen. They're all over the place - you'd think it was the Yukon. C'mon, it's not so bad. You could be from Minnesota, like me. Then you'd know what cold really is. So really, the "cold" stuff doesn't impress me too much - I always have to break out an ironic smile when I hear the endless complaints about that "cold Chicago wind," or those "cold and gray Chicago 'morns."

However, when these "Chicago complaint" songs are about flying to or through Chicago, boy, do those seem real. While I've never given the city many props for being cold, I will forever doff my hat to its ultimate supremacy in the field of crappy airline experiences. That's the world tapped for emotional baggage by Chely Wright on this song, from her 2001 album Never Love You Enough, written for her by "new traditional" country star Brad Paisley.

Right off, I have to say I'm not a fan of Chely's kind of bland Nashville pablum. It's squarely in that same cookie-cutter mold as 'pert near everything you can hear 24/7 on US 99.5. Like it all came out of the same corporate boardroom. Anyway, all that aside, "One Night In Las Vegas'" best feature is that with a few words it really nails the O'Hare experience, mainly because it captures the uniquely awful details.

airport.jpgOverall, it's kind of a sappy, sentimental lament about the stress of modern life taking a big toll on the struggling love lives of the singer and her man. Not only are they hassled at the airport, but they deal with family tragedies, endure personality conflicts and, worst of all, have to deal with a separation when he gets transferred to Denver. (What, did he screw up at work?) But at the end of the day, all they need is just a few stolen moments together in Vegas, or "the mountains," which are so, so sweet that, though few, they make up for all the Chicago nastiness.

Flight 709 pulled up to the gate
An hour and 45 minutes late
And of course our connection was already in the air
Spent a day of our vacation in Chicago O'Hare

Like I said, this is so accurate because not only does it lament the ubiquity of delays at O'Hare, it notes that the 105-minute delay caused them to miss their connection at the worst possible time . . . which is when you're on your own vacation. So friggin' true. That always seems to happen, making O'Hare an especially appalling place. Why not when you're going somewhere you really don't want to be, like say, the Scranton office? No, always smooth as glass then.

But how accurate is the 105-minute delay assertion? Well, funny you should ask, because the according to the city of Chicago, which just got its hands on a cool $1.29 billion in passenger fees to conduct the biggest airport expansion in the history of the known universe, the average delay at O'Hare is 22 minutes. And, thanks to that billion dollars in passenger shakedowns, the city says the result will be to reduce that wait to a mere a 16 minutes. That works out to about, oh, $208 million per minute. So yes, while I feel Chely's pain, on average, she's taking some artistic license with the delays.

But that's not all. Not only has their vacation been screwed up, it's gotten worse:

And like musical chairs at the baggage belt
We were the last ones standin' there when nothin' came out
Looking back now on our string of bad luck
That just wasn't our day but you know what?

That one night in Las Vegas
Lyin' there with you
Was well worth everything that you and I went through

Ah, the whole lost baggage thing. Again, so true, and always at the worst time. I couldn't find anything specifically about how often luggage is mishandled at O'Hare, but the U.S. Department of Transportation reports that in July, airlines across the country reported 7.9 lost baggage incidents for every 1,000 passengers, up substantially from the 6.5 of last summer. I'm pretty sure that number for vacationers and pining lovers alone is about 465.5 per 1,000. O'Hare is not good for those folks.

Telegraph/Carry On
Telegraph was a '90s ska/power pop band from Detroit that put out some records on Chicago's Jump Up label. They supposedly had a great live reputation, and were formerly known as the Skolars. I was able to find a few of their promotional MP3s, and can say that from listening to them, they seemed extra bouncy. Their website no longer exists, and it seems their last record came out in 2000.

This song, "Carry On," was on their 1998 LP Quit Your Band, and I think shows the boys got to know the broke-and-hurtin' side of slinging a guitar in the mid-'90s Windy City. As I seem to recall from mixing with those who were there living it, there was much time spent drinking and riding the El to the Belmont station, where you would lurch down the stairs with your friends to try to find Ann Sather's. For some reason you wanted Swedish meatballs and coffee. Except that they closed hours ago.

Mmmm, meatballs. Oh! Uh, sorry. Yes, I think Telegraph might have skanked their way through this kind of thing, perhaps when they were in town to cut records at Jump Up with DJ Chuck Wren - who, by the way, is still spinning up the ska sounds regularly at Delilah's.

Bent shyly, hundreds of miles away
My bed is warm it waits for me
Lost in Chicago, no money in my pocket
And the rain on my face.

And carry on, they say to me.
And carry on, they saaayyyyyy

Again, as we've seen time and again here at Chicago In Song, the city is portrayed as the bad place you'd rather not be, but have to be, probably for some reason that has to do with working. Or going to jail. That's a big one, too. But it does have its perks, like, as I mentioned earlier, Belmont Avenue. It's just a cool place to be if you're young, talented and alcoholic. Don't know why, for sure, but Telegraph confirms it:

Drunk on Belmont, she laughs at something
In a doughnut shop, well I like her smile, yeah
Coffee sounds good, but that kiss has me
Changing my mind.

The Dunkin' Donuts at Belmont & Clark? Very well could be, I'm thinking. It's got its share of drunks, that is for sure. Is it someplace where you'd make out over coffee, under harsh fluorescent light at 3 a.m.? Probably depends on the number of Lakeview bars stopped at beforehand.

Damn! I wish Ann Sather's was open.

The Nadas/California
In this song, the Nadas, the Des Moines-based rootsy college rock outfit, use Chicago to represent a life left behind, yet still wistfully wished-for and, perhaps, one that can be returned to with just a little determination.

lake_michigan.jpgSongwriters Jason Walsmith and Mike Butterworth included "California" as the final track on the Nadas' 2003 album, Coming Home. Its placement there probably is meant to sum up the album's title theme, since it name-checks several places that could be, once were, or perhaps should be "home." In that way, it somewhat stereotypically associates California and Chicago with the elements they're best known for - sun and water, respectively.

How's the sun in California?
It's warm out there with you
I can feel me pullin' toward ya
I hope to see you real soon

How are things there in Chicago?
I'll be there in a week or two
To see your place down by
el lago
Midnight swimming here with you

Cause I miss you
I miss you

"California," like many songs before it, uses Chicago as a kind of metaphor for things left behind, which is what I think the middle of the country has become for several generations of Americans. While the period between World War I and the 1970's saw a great wave of migration into the Midwest, the years since have seen the opposite: millions of people leaving the Midwest for places like, well, California. And the Southwest, the Southeast, pretty much anyplace it doesn't snow (and maybe where there's jobs). My feeling is that this phenomenon has turned the region - and by extension, Chicago - into a one huge, misty-eyed, Norman Rockwellian, fuzzy-memoried nostalgia receptacle. You always remember cold places more fondly once you've got an overpriced bungalow and a gig at the defense plant in Orange County. Yeah. Now that's the life.

Just as the Nadas' California reference is about the sun, their Chicago lyric is specifically about Lake Michigan, or, as they call it, "el lago," which, while it was probably written that way because it conveniently rhymes with "Chicago," also is the first Spanish-language rock song lyric about the city that I have come across. It kind of makes you realize the subordinate position Chicago's burgeoning Hispanic culture has in the nation's consciousness compared to the city's Black heritage. It probably won't stay that way forever, though, because while everyone else has been moving out of here since the '70s, Hispanic immigrants are the ones who are putting down new roots in the city.

Maybe this century's most famous lyric about the city will be something like, Dulce hogar, Chicago.

*

For more, see the Chicago In Song collection.

Posted by Don at 01:43 AM | Permalink

Cubs Video: Please Stop Believing

You've heard the song, now see the video! Updated for the playoffs.

Also at YouTube for your embedding needs.

*

NEW! Now posted on our YouTube page: "Go Blame It On Bartman."

*

Don't forget this week's Cub Factor - and the season collection.

*

Also from Beachwood A/V:

- "Oklouhoma" and "Ozzie Cabana"
- "Dusty Must Get Fired"
- "I Had a Crush On Obama"
- "Tap Three Times: The Larry Craig Song."
- "I'm the Tribune/I'm the Sun-Times"

Posted by Lou at 12:52 AM | Permalink

Reality Bites TV: The Biggest Loser In The Bar

Reality TV as conceived by our writer. First in an occasional series.

The Concept
Losers and Bartenders compete against each other in a last-man-standing contest to Get Laid and win $1 million to be split between the winning hook-up couple. Contestants on both sides of The Bar try to sabotage-- while trying to appeal to - each other in a challenge larger than even the creators of Survivor could possibly dream up because real life is even more disappointing than this.

Airing Network
In the end, Fox will be the clear winner, although CBS and FX will duke it out with them early during project development. FX will be the early favorite for being the only network least likely to bleep out all the offensive language and back-room sex caught on the video cameras bolted to the ceiling of each room in The Bar, but the network will drop out when their suits point out the liability of having plenty-enough drunks already with ongoing Denis Leary and Minnie Driver projects. Fox will ultimately endure after it makes CSI's William Petersen an offer he can't refuse sweetened with a 10-year agreement to intermittently air reruns of Murder, She Wrote in place of Cops on Saturday nights just to fuck with everyone.

The Teams
Four teams of four contestants each, meaning an overwhelming number of divide-and-conquer possibilities. This provides higher-than-usual suspense possibilities that could easily be milked to carry this series well past Armageddon.

The Home Team (The Tenders)
On the back side of The Bar is The Tenders, a team of ordinary-looking but at the same time incredibly hot local female bartenders dressed simply in jeans and a sponsoring-bar T-shirt that calls attention to their assets. The object is to get hit on the most by The Customers while raking in the most tips for service. drink mixing and, um, presentation.

The Visiting Team (The Customers)
You'd think the producers wouldn't even have to have national tryouts for this team, but still. Despite their outward demeanors, each Customer making the show has his dark side or natural charm that could actually make a Tender actually want to take him home. Their personalities just get in the way of that.

The possibilities would be endless: Virgin College Guy, Stupid Drunk Budweiser-Drinking Motherfucker Who Wants To Kick Everyone's Ass Whether They Deserve It Or Not Guy, Quiet Guy, Attractive Silver Fox Guy Who Still Loves His Dead Wife, Friendly But Short-Fused Biker Guy, Miserable Married Guy, Maybe Gay Guy, Obviously Gay Guy, Loud Jagoff Guy, and Just Plain Crazy Motherfucker Guy Nobody Wants To Fuck With Anyway.

Pick your favorite and stick with him; Lord knows there's a reason their real-life wives and girlfriends do.

Unlike other reality shows, The Customers are not stuck in a house together because, quite frankly, they'd just fucking kill each other within two minutes, even sober.

Surprise Contestant Bonuses
Coke residue off the top of the toilet tank in the stall, dropped $20 bills on the floor, unlimited free Super Search Internet jukebox access, a bottomless supply of Slim Jims and pork rinds, an electronic cash register with no accounting system, and the occasional skank imported from the nearest strip joint are among the strategically-placed surprise extras sprung onto all contestants by the show's producers.

The Quaint Parting Line
"Out you pixies go" would be way too easy, even for unoriginal TV programmers, so contestants voted off the show by The Tenders are told, "Thanks baby; see you later" after being tipped. On the surface, this might seem to be a rather innocuous bartender statement, but if you've ever forked over $30 in tips because you think the bartender has been flirting with you all night, it can be one of the more cruelly-effective lines ever spoken.

The Venue
Forget glitz and glamour. This show calls for some genuinely gnarly, ill-lit (but still well-patronized by the locals who actually have decent jobs) but somewhat upscale neighborhood shot-and-beer joint. Forget sets constructed by the same designer who brought this season's version of The Contender to life by transforming the back of some dank, smelly boxing gym into an artificially-livable space that looks better than it actually is with buckets of curly bamboo sticks, painted temporary wood panels with hanging art from Target, and a pool table. No, this has to be a clean working man's bar scouted straight out of the Rust Belt or the Corn Belt, except without guys like Mr. Gower walking in like the joint was Nick's Place to get zapped in the face with a big shot from the seltzer bottle.

The cleanliness of the men's room, however, is completely hit or miss.

The Network Upside
Producers of the program defray costs and buy dinner and drinks for themselves by going halfsies with the local cops on DUI-charge bail and bribe cash put up by Losers snagged weaving out of The Bar parking lot. It's a major win-win for everyone except The Losers because, well, they're losers.

Why It's Better Than The Biggest Loser
Let Kirstie Alley worry about the overweight. This is reality TV at its best, because every breathing adult outside the Amish community who has walked into a bar thinking they might get lucky has been witness to exactly the sort of crash-and-burn this program would promise. Or woken up next to one. Sometimes repeatedly.

The Concession Speech
Ryan Seacrest hangs out in the parking lot to interview Loser Contestants on the way to their cars.

Corporate Ad Sponsorship
Drunk.com (Motto: "By drunks, for drunks"), Divorce Net, Trojan, The Mellow Drunk Band, and a whole slew of local attorneys wanting to help uninsured drivers get an SR-22.

Prediction For Success In A Reality TV Bites World
A far longer run than Cheaters, a show still pretty popular among folks who love watching a good crash-and-burn.

Posted by Lou at 12:08 AM | Permalink

The Cub Factor

Playoff Update

GAME 2 REVIEW: At least there is no second-guessing in a game with on guessing at all. You don't have to guess at the Cubs chances, which are not good. Someone needs to tell Diamondbacks that they can't hit. I suggest telling them soon. Someone should also tell Soriano that he's being used in the commercials for this series, and that means he's supposed to get a big hit.

GAME 3 PREVIEW: It all comes down to Rich Hill. Who'd have thunk? Next year is awfully close to being here. When do pitchers and catchers report?

*

GAME 1 REVIEW: The Cubs didn't execute when they had runners in scoring position and it cost them the game. And say what you like about taking Big Z out early, but last time I checked you need to score more than one run to win almost all the time. Asking your pitching staff to shut out the other team, even if it is the woeful D-Backs, is like asking Britney Spears to babysit - both are a recipe for disaster.

Still, has there ever been a playoff game with two bigger second guessing moments? Not bunting with Big Z and pulling him at only 85 pitches. Thank God there is another game today so these questions can only be batted around for a few more hours. I already want to throw up.

GAME 2 PREVIEW: Ted Lilly has stepped up all year and should not disappoint tonight. Ted Lilly fixes things, like losing streaks. Ted Lilly is The Wolf from Pulp Fiction. Ted Lilly is a guy you'd want to babysit your kids. Ted Lilly approved these sentences.

* * *

The Cub Factor
Wait, what is that I hear? Is that the unmistakable sound of Champagne corks popping and cans of Coors light being cracked open or is it the sound of a large construction vehicle backing up making a beeping sound? Maybe it's a little of both. Sure the Cubs kinda backed up into the playoffs but who the hell cares? Sure they spent way more money than any other team in the NL Central to buy a championship, but who cares? Sure there is no way Alfonso Soriano's whale of a contract will be worth it in its last four years when he's hurt and out of baseball, but who cares!? And sure this team should of played much better during the entire season and the roster was a complete mess and Jim Hendry is an idiot and they are too cheap to redo the playing surface and the Brewers choked and Mike Fontenot can't hit a curve ball and I still hate Jacque Jones and here come the fair weather fans BUT WHO CARES!! The Cubs are 2007 National League Central division champions. So, with this in mind, we here at The Cub Factor would like to help you out. I know, we've been helping you out all season long with weekly witty Cub breakdowns and analogies but now it's the playoffs. And the biggest question to ask yourself during the playoffs is . . .

Where do I watch the games?

Okay, maybe you think this isn't that big a deal, but buddy, it is. You need to figure out how much of a fan you are, who you want to surround yourself with, and how much distraction and idiotness you can handle. Here are some options:

1. Go to the game.

Only a viable option for the chosen few. Let's move on.

2. Go to your local non-sports bar.

Pros: People not into sports too much will be impressed with your knowledge of baseball and the Cub roster.

Cons: You can't really watch the game because of the time you will be explaining things to people like why baseball managers wear a full uniform when they aren't going to play. You will be surrounded by uninformed idiots who have no idea what they are talking about. You will hear countless people say things like, "it's the Cubs, they'll never win." You will be miserable.

3. Go to a sports bar.

Pros: Huge TV screens everywhere. If the Cubs do well and score the place will go ape-shit-nuts and you'll high-five complete strangers and have a great time.

Cons: It will be filled to the brim with complete strangers who want to high-five you. You can't really watch the game because you will spend a lot of time explaining things to people like why Ryan Dempster is still the closer and why Soriano is not a leadoff man. You will be surrounded by uninformed idiots who have no idea what they are talking about. You will hear countless people say things like, "It's the Cubs, they'll never win." You will be miserable.

4. Watch the game at home with some friends.

Pros: Food, drink, and facilities are plentiful and easy to get to. It's your TV so you should get the best seat in the house. You are in charge of the guest list.

Cons: Your buddy's wife is going to be there and she's from Argentina and you'll spend a lot of the time explaining to her why runners can overrun first base but not the others. There will be a few uninformed idiots who have no idea what they are talking about. You will hear a couple people say things like, "It's the Cubs, they'll never win." You will be miserable.

5. Watch the game at home by yourself.

Pros: No line for the bathroom, fridge, or microwave. No distractions, no one asking any questions at all. No contact with other humans.

Cons: You have to high-five yourself.

*

I'll be watching by myself, thank you. Mmm, no contact with other humans . . .

*

Week in Review: The Cubs got swept by the Florida Marlins and then won the fist game in Cincinnati, which add up to the Magic Number we needed to clinch the division. The last two games I didn't even watch. I'm not sure if they were even played. I had to begin Playoff Prep. It's a mental process as much as stocking up on beer, nachos and Oxycontin.

Week in Preview: The Cubs open the playoffs - the playoffs! - in Arizona on Wednesday and Thursday against the D-Backs. Fun in the desert! Cubs mania, just try to ignore it!

The Second Basemen Report: Over the 162 game schedule, the Cubs only played five different players at second base - and Soriano only played one game there. This was down from 2006 and 2005, when seven guys shared second, and 2004 and 2003 when six players got starts there. Progress! Expect DeRosa to start every game at second in the playoffs. That is the way Jim Hendry drew it up.

In former second baseman news, the whereabouts of Jason Maxwell are unknown, but he is missed.

Zam Bomb:The Zam Bomb was defused this week after a great outing but he remains highly flammable. And he is still Getting Angry.

zam_gettingAngry.jpg

Sweet and Sour Lou: 81% sweet, 19% sour. Lou is up six points on the Sweet-O-Meter this week due to winning the division, duh. And like your real crazy drunk uncle, Lou knows that it was his guidance that made quit your lousy job draining septic tanks and got you on your way to success selling vacuum cleaners, but he's not going to rub your nose in it. Let's just say that Lou's lawn chair has rarely felt more comfortable and the Falstaffs haven't been colder or sweeter.

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 it was silly in the first place for that guy to try to bring a goat to a baseball game.

Over/Under: The amount of Cubs coverage the next week: +/- way too much.

Cubs Fans Theme Song: "Please Stop Believin'"

NEW! "Please Stop Believing" Video!

The Cubs Answer Men: God's will and the Tribune's bill.

The Cub Factor: Catch up with them all.

Mount Lou: Lou goes all the way down to green after an eruption of Champagne and Coors light soothed cracking due to internal tectonic plate shifting. The happy lava flow made it's way from Cincinnati all the way to Clark and Addison, where it was soaked up with sponges and consumed. Expect Mount Lou to reload come Wednesday and then who knows what's going to happen.

mtlou_green.gif


Posted by Lou at 12:02 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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