Wednesday, April 30, 2008

You Shoot: In God We Trust

Posted By on 04.30.08 at 09:23 PM

Rolando Cervantes Gómez


Gloomy at the Global Food & Style Expo

Posted By on 04.30.08 at 06:28 PM


Recently I've been salting my reserve of existential dread by reading Paul Roberts' forthcoming The End of Food, a dense, cheerless forecast about the fragility of the global food supply (it's spring!). So yesterday I felt particularly gloomy wandering around this year's Fancy Food Show at McCormick Place. With news reports of Costco rice rationing, Japanese butter shortages, and Haitian food riots echoing through my head, it's hard to get behind the hordes of showgoers lining up for samples of pate and Epoisses, buffalo sausage, single origin chocolate, and water whose chief marketing attribute seems to be the overdesigned plastic art deco style bottle it's poured into.  

There are probably a number of reason this year's trade show--titled the Global Food & Style Expo, which encompasses FFF, the All Things Organic Show and the U.S. Food Export Showcase--seemed more subdued and contracted than last year's, and not all of them have to do with my crappy mood. The U.S. imports end of the floor was forlorn and unattended, and the Fancy Food Show slightly less so. But on the other hand the organic component was booming: by my rough guess it was nearly the same size of the other two shows combined. It's not news that organics have become big business, but the difference between this and last year seemed startling. The New York Times even had a tout there selling subscriptions. Of course that meant a larger share of silliness on display, from organic frozen breaded shrimp, yogurt for dogs, many varieties of unidentifiable bark bars advertised not so much for what they're made from but for what they're not, and all sorts of highly processed foods that are permitted to wear the attractive label of "organic." The absurdity of a lot of this stuff was put sharply into focus at the display for a French Canadian spice company that thought the best way to market its blends was to employ a couple of robotic arms to sprinkle the stuff over uncooked pasta and a platter of weathered-looking salmon (pictured).

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Cab rides from Navy Pier

Posted By on 04.30.08 at 06:11 PM

Nintendo's "Mario" will be at Navy Pier tomorrow from 11 AM-1 PM and 6-8 PM offering the first 100 people free cab rides (up to $10 fares or $10 toward higher fares) to promote the release of the new Mario Kart Wii game. Just go to the taxi stand and look for a guy dressed like this. No word on how Luigi fits into all this.

The sonic wizardry of Fantastic Merlins

Posted By on 04.30.08 at 06:05 PM

I've only had a chance to listen to it a couple of times, but Look Around (Innova) by the Minneapolis-New York combo Fantastic Merlins immediately worked it way into my head. The superb production by tenor saxophonist Nathan Hanson shows how electronics can brilliantly enhance the sound of an acoustic group--they give the music a huge wallop from the bottom and a pleasing plumpness all the way around.

The album finds a wonderful halfway point between jazz and chamber music, reveling in a thick, elegant atmosphere with slow-moving tunes and carefully intersecting and overlapping lines. Hanson, cellist Jacqueline Ferrier-Ultan, and bassist Brian Roessler are a tight unit, often playing either monolithic unison lines or intricate contrapuntal constructions where the pieces lock together like parts of a puzzle. Italian drummer Federico Ughi alternately caresses and throttles the dense frontline activity.

I'm not sure how this big sound will translate in a live setting--a few live tracks on the record lose some of the atmospheric beauty--but the record is so strong I have to imagine that there's more than enough substance to easily survive the transition. The group plays tomorrow night at Elastic. The superb trio AAT--bassist Josh Abrams, vibist Jason Adasciewicz, and drummer Nori Tanaka—share the bill.

Today's playlist:

Andrew Bishop, Hank Williams Project (Envoi)
Tubby Hayes and the All-Stars, Return Visit (Fontana)
Bobb Trimble,  Iron Curtain Innocence (Secretly Canadian)
Arthur Russell, Springfield (Audika)
The Cats and the Fiddle, We Cats Will Swing for You, Vol. 2 (Fabulous)

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"Never neglect the little things of life. Go to hell! Enough!"

Posted By on 04.30.08 at 05:13 PM

"Here's a game: take one randomly selected line from The Breakfast Club and then join it to a randomly selected line from Waiting for Godot. Or vice versa. It's always great."

Heads Up: This week and beyond

Posted By on 04.30.08 at 04:54 PM


Thursday from 7 to 10 PM at Toast of the Town, Wine Enthusiast’s annual extravaganza at the Field Museum, more than 500 wines and spirits will be paired with food from 30 restaurants, including Carlos’, Mambo Grill, Le Lan, and Vermilion. $95 ($185 with VIP tasting at 6 PM).

Zocalo celebrates Cinco de Mayo early this year, with margaritas, wine, beer, and hors d'ouevres Thursday from 6 to 8 PM. $40. 

The Oak Park Conservatory’s annual Herb Sale Saturday from 8 AM to 3 PM features plants for the "urban potager," including vegetables, herbs, and edible flowers, all chosen for their ability to thrive in Chicago’s climate as well as for their flavor.

Saturday at 6:30 PM, Pastoral's downtown location is hosting a class on how to create infused artisan vodka, using Death's Door vodka and ingredients like peanuts, bacon, lavender, cucumber, basil, and horseradish. Cherry lavender fizz cocktails (with lavender gin) and horseradish egg sours (with horseradish-infused vodka) will be served during the class, and each participant will take home a jar of their own infused vodka. $50, reservations required.

The Cuisine of Afghanistan, the latest dinner and class in the Oriental Institute’s series on food from the Near East, will highlight traditional specialties such as mantu (meat dumplings), ashak (scallion dumplings), and quabili palau (lamb stew served over seasoned rice) at Kabul House Sunday at 7 PM. Owner Abdul Qazi will explain the preparation and history of each dish he serves and share some of his favorite recipes. $45 (includes tax, tip, and wine).

Tuesday from noon to 2 PM is the reopening of Hull-House Kitchen, a program to honor the legacy of Jane Addams and the original soup kitchen at her Hull House, the first of its kind in Chicago. Every Tuesday at lunchtime in the Residents' Dining Hall, Hull-House Museum staffers will serve free organic soup and bread during a discussion of topics related to sustainability, health, food supply, community, and the environment.

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Big Jim's magical plan

Posted By on 04.30.08 at 03:39 PM

Today's Tribune offered former governor Jim Thompson's promise of a solution to one of most baffling mysteries of our time: How the state can buy and fix up Wrigley Field without spending any public money.

Thompson, now head of the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority, claimed to have solved what the article termed this "seemingly intractable puzzle."

Unfortunately, Thompson offered few specifics, nor did he give up much of anything to the Sun-Times. In essence, his message amounted to "Trust me, you'll see, there are ways . . ."

Thompson's original plan was to pay for the buyout and fix-up scheme with a TIF on sales-taxes, a variation on the property-tax TIF schemes we're already overridden with. Specifically, the plan called for setting aside sales taxes generated in and around Wrigley and using those monies to buy and redo Wrigley Field.

But then someone other than me -- in this case the Sun-Times editorial board -- pointed out the obvious: that this would amount to using public taxes for a private deal. Thompson was left with two choices. He could try to convince the public that the Sun-Times is wrong and that somehow or other spending sales taxes on Wrigley wasn't really, you know, spending sales taxes on Wrigley. Or he could concoct a magical alternative to using public money.

Apparently Thompson and his allies have settled on Plan B.

But in the absence of any concrete details, allow me to offer a few fund-raising suggestions. A bake sale, maybe? How about a Cubs car wash? Or officials could kill two birds with one stone by getting the Latin School to pick up the cost.

True, if Latin School soccer moved from Lincoln Park to Wrigley Field, the Cubs would have to schedule more night games--Latin would undoubtedly want the field from 3 PM to 7 PM every weekday and from 9 AM to 4 PM on weekends. And the Cubs would have to go on an extended road trip in July, when Latin would claim Wrigley for its summer camp. But hey, the pope gave the Yankees the boot from Yankee Stadium.  

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The Britney Spears of polar bears

Posted By on 04.30.08 at 03:39 PM

Andre Schuele, a veterinarian at the Berlin Zoo, dismissed concerns about Knut's health, physical or mental. "I am very, very pleased about his development," Schuele said. Knut is a healthy polar bear, but as a natural result of aging, "the cuteness factor is falling," Schuele said.

The hard fall from Web-meme fame. I hope the "Chocolate Rain" guy is handling things better. 

Wright to be hostile

Posted By on 04.30.08 at 02:02 PM

I'm only partway into Roland Martin's long appearance on the Tom Joyner show this morning, but so far it's been near unanimous, among the hosts and callers, that Jeremiah Wright needs to go away for awhile and enjoy his retirement (Martin sums up his opinion here). As far as cold strategy, I'm not sure I agree--Rev. Wright's inflamatory appearance at the National Press Club (video) gives Obama a pure out to repudiate him, which might help in the long term. Might--just speculating here.

Anyway--Eugene Robinson thinks Rev. Wright's ego is running away with him, and that his attempt to represent the black church is presumptuous. Pam Spaulding called his "playing the dozens" at the NPC "a public unraveling of the id." Bob Herbert called it "a narcissist's dream."

I'm trying to figure out how all this fits into the "established liberal media script."  

That's all strategy, though; you have to look far and wide to find anyone addressing Rev. Wright's infamous sermons and speeches on their merits. For that, you can look to James Forbes Jr. (Senior Minister Emeritus at New York's Riverside Church) and Gustav Niebuhr (grand-nephew of Reinhold). They're good correctives to, say, Neil Steinberg, who totally misrepresents Rev. Wright's "chickens coming home to roost" comments--Wright never said that 9/11 was divine retribution. You can listen to it here; Wright was talking geopolitics, as inspired by a former ambassador.

Whatever--Steinberg has a shtick just as strong as Wright's and similar reasons to stick to it, although I have to admit that calling his words "near-treason" is pretty appalling even by Steinberg standards. Right or wrong--and there are Christian arguments for and against the "war on terror"--I fail to see the treason, or even the lack of patriotism. Some of us patriots are right sick of the idiocy and immorality done in the name of an uncritical belief in national greatness and innocence.

Wright does need to be called out on his suggestions that HIV was created by the government (background here), and Niebuhr and Forbes ignore that, to their discredit. Wright's critics bring it up, but mostly in passing, which is unfortunate--he's way, way wrong in extremely damaging ways. It's not just that it's untrue; it's not just that the origins of HIV are well-known. It's that discovering the origins of the disease, and its spread, has been one of the most remarkable achievements in the history of science. People have spent their lives tracing its history (which is fascinating), and Wright's blithe rumor-mongering denigrates their service to humanity, not to mention science generally, which is in a bad way in this country. That's offensive. That's a terrible disservice to America, and it needs to be echoed.

Update: More on Rev. Wright's bad science. I wouldn't say he's defending "underclass behavior" in his NAACP speech, whatever that means, but his ideas on "miseducation" (the whole speech is here) are weird and regressive; that seems to have mostly gone under the radar.

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Hello, I must be going

Posted By on 04.30.08 at 12:41 PM


This Sunday at 3 PM Facets Cinematheque will host a Cinechat with Jonathan Rosenbaum on the occasion of his departure from the Reader. Too late—he's back! The new issue, posted online Thursday, features Jonathan's four-star review of Alain Resnais' Last Year at Marienbad. On Saturday he'll speak about the film at Music Box between the 2:45 and 5 PM screenings. And if you hustle you can still make it to his 6 PM lecture at Film Center on Jacques Tati's Playtime; it concludes his course "The Great Transition: World Cinema in the 1960s."

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