Friday, May 30, 2008

The Gay Utopia

Posted By on 05.30.08 at 05:26 PM

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Saturday at 7 PM, Quimby's (1854 W. North) hosts a reading of excerpts from the Gay Utopia, Reader contributor Noah Berlatsky's online forum for writers, critics, and artists who envision a future free of sex- and gender-based boundaries. Among the topics covered: slash fan fiction, how to create art from ejaculate, and a dirty "children's book." DON'T bring the kids.

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Nate Silver is a GENIUS

Posted By on 05.30.08 at 03:52 PM

So it turns out the guy behind the outstanding political poll aggregation Web site fivethirtyeight.com is none other than one of my local heroes, Chicago's own Nate Silver, one of the head honchos at Baseball Prospectus and the most recent winner of Michael Miner's prestigious Golden BAT award (along with the other BP folks).

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Memo From the Man

Posted By on 05.30.08 at 02:24 PM

To: Ministerial Acolytes

From: Mayor Daley

It has come to my attention that you are losing your minds in regards to Senator Barack Obama's presidential campaign.

First, Reverend Wright gives a couple of speeches, imitating how white people clap, and talking about the differences between white and black brains.

And now Father Pfleger is doing his Rich Little routine, imitating Hillary Clinton crying.

My advisers tell me you're subconsciously trying to destroy Obama's campaign because you're envious of the national attention he's been getting.

I understand the impulse. I've undercut the campaigns of many underlings I thought were getting too big for their britches (see Paul Vallas).

But you're missing the point. Just because I do something, doesn't mean you get to do it.

So one more time, here's how things work around here. I give you the city contracts and zoning changes you need to run your church fiefdoms. And in return you look the other way while I sweep police torture under the carpet, take money from the public schools and give it to the well-connected, keep public school students running in the hallways, and sell the west and south sides to the highest or at least best-connected bidders. Also, you do what I tell you (by they way, Father Pfleger, good job on the Children's Museum).

The problem is that you are scaring white people and, thus, hurting Senator Obama's chances to get elected president. So I'm ordering you: no more wacky speeches and, more important, stop imitating white people! You know how upset we get when black people mock us.

It's very important for me to have Senator Obama elected president. That gets him out of town so he can't be tempted to run against me for mayor. (By the way, I will, of course, need your continued help in marginalizing Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr.)

So stop the goofiness until the presidential election's over or I decide it's really in my best interests to see Obama lose. Remember, I'm the only one who gets to backstab Chicago's favorite son.

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Pehr Bolling's viking ship

Posted By on 05.30.08 at 02:15 PM

A while back I posted on the passing of Pehr Bolling, a Swedish immigrant and local resident who (among many remarkable things) after retiring built a functional replica of a viking ship. The obit is unfortunately deep in the Trib archives now, but the family was kind enough to send me a video of the ship's launch. It's particularly moving to me since my own grandfather has been building and restoring boats as a serious hobby/part-time job for most of his adult life*, mostly gorgeous mid-century power boats but also James River bateau, an old, distinctively Virginia shallow-water boat that was used for shipping on the James River.

*Couldn't find any boat pictures (they look like this), but here's some furniture made by either him or his father (scroll down to where it says Moser; not to be confused with Thos. Moser furniture). It was weird growing up in a totally standard middle class house with normal middle class furniture mixed in with incredibly beautiful handcrafted Southern furniture. This is why I'm amazed by craftsmen like Bolling, although I didn't inherit any craft skills of my own, which are in abundance on both sides of my family (my other grandfather was a diesel mechanic and newspaper press operator/mechanic/jack-of-all-trades), or at least I was dissuaded by family-dinner stories of epic power tool injuries. So I learned Photoshop and Quark, which are way less engaging but won't take off any fingers.

PS: The Craftsman, a new book by Richard Sennett, looks awfully interesting. Haven't read it yet but it's on my list. Here's a good rundown, and a review. Sennett, FYI, is a Chicago native and U. of C. grad.

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Tamms reforms on the way?

Posted By on 05.30.08 at 02:04 PM

Momentum appears to be building for a reexamination of policies at the most restrictive prison in Illinois. 

In April Jeffrey Felshman wrote about Reginald Berry, a former inmate at the Tamms supermax prison. No one is supposed to stay longer than a year at Tamms, where prisoners are kept in permanent solitary confinement, yet dozens have been there since it opened in 1998. While corrections officials stress that only "the worst of the worst" criminals are sent to Tamms, a group of advocates known as Tamms Year Ten has called for reforms, saying treatment of prisoners there is cruel, illegal, and counterproductive. According to Felshman, "Advocates say the prison has been used not only to punish bad behavior but to retaliate for a range of other activities. A pending suit . . . alleges that some of the plaintiffs had organized or participated in hunger strikes or filed legal complaints about their treatment in the system."

The group and Felshman's story caught the attention of state representative Julie Hamos, an Evanston Democrat who sits on the house's new prison reform committee. She was easily persuaded that policies at Tamms go well beyond being tough on crime. "When we explain its prisoners are in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day, when we explain it's not just a supermax prison but a home of psychological torture, people start to get it," she said during a break in state budget negotiations Thursday. "At this point I think the burden is on the department [of corrections] to prove that it's necessary."

On April 28 members of the prison reform committee gathered at the Thompson Center to hear testimony about Tamms from attorneys, ex-prisoners, prisoners' family members, and others; on May 22, Hamos introduced HB 6651, which would clarify rules for transferring prisoners to Tamms and require hearings for anyone held at the facility longer than a year. The bill quickly picked up 13 additional sponsors, mostly members of the prison reform committee and Democrats from Chicago. Last weekend Hamos held a press conference to push the legislation, which she hopes will be discussed seriously this summer so something can come up for a vote by fall.

First, though, she wants the Department of Corrections to provide the committee with its current policies spelled out in writing.

Hamos said she doesn't expect Tamms to help her get re-elected from her North Shore district. "I'm not sure anybody from Winnetka is in the supermax prison," she said. "But I think this is a very serious problem and we have to deal with it."

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The art of the Chinese tea ceremony

Posted By on 05.30.08 at 01:49 PM

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As part of the Chicago Public Library's celebration of Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month, Bert Tsu-te Tan of the Chinese American Culture Foundation presents a program Saturday afternoon on the history, preparation, and service of tea at the McKinley Park branch library auditorium (1915 W. 35th, 312-747-6082). The presentation starts at 2 PM and will be followed with tea and snacks.

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We Knew That Already

Posted By on 05.30.08 at 01:37 PM

Judging from first reports, former White House press secretary Scott McClellan has little to say about the president that most of us didn't already know. That doesn't speak well of somebody, but I'm not sure whom. Maybe McClellan, for a so-called insider's account that reads as if it was written from news clips. Maybe George W. Bush, for being a man of so little complexity that what you see up close is pretty much what you can see from a mile away.

Or maybe the blame lies with the journalists who wrote those first reports on McClellan's memoir, What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception. It might take a closer reading than they had time for to tease out what's actually new and important in it (if anything is).  A reporter on deadline would have skimmed the book for the seemingly good stuff, the passages that preach to the choir of Bush loathers who are McClellan's likely readers. 

At any rate, according to Mike Allen at politico.com, to Elisabeth Bumiller of the New York Times, and to Ken Herman of Cox News Service, whose story appeared in the Chicago Tribune, here's what McClellan asserts:

That some of his own press briefings were "badly misguided" and that the media were "complicit enablers" as Bush primed the nation for war in Iraq. That the Bush administration used "innuendo and implication" to sell the nation on the idea that the U.S. needed to invade because Saddam Hussein had stockpiled weapons of mass destruction, when the real reason for the invasion was Bush's desire to transform the Middle East. The result was a war that "was not necessary" and a "serious strategic blunder."

That Bush suffered from a "lack of inquisitiveness" and a "resistance to reflection," and made decisions "based on his gut and his most deeply held convictions," not to mention "self-deception." That when Bush wanted to do something, "contradictory intelligence was largely ignored or simply disregarded" by the White House, which Bush had stocked with yes-men who made little attempt to get him "to pause long enough to fully consider the consequences before moving forward."

That when Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, the White House "spent most of the first week in a state of denial."

Not exactly inside baseball, is it? The game McClellan got to watch from the dugout is the same one the rest of us saw from the bleachers.

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Commonplace links

Posted By on 05.30.08 at 12:40 PM

Flexing Your Buying Power - Dress for Less and Less - NYTimes.com

"Clothing is one of the few categories in the federal Consumer Price Index in which overall prices have declined — about 10 percent — since 1998 (the cost of communication is another)."

May 26, 1908: Mideast Oil Discovered -- There Will Be Blood

The site was so remote that it took five days before D'Arcy got word by telegram in England. "If this is true," he replied, "all our troubles are over."

BBC NEWS | UK | Magazine | Does this picture make you angry?

"There has been a conspicuous trend in the last five years towards the production of negatively-valued women in the public sphere."

BLDGBLOG: The Other Night Sky

"We are now partially building ourselves a new night sky – and this surrogate astronomy is being put there so we can make international phone calls."

Contractors Are Kept Busy Maintaining Abandoned Homes - NYTimes.com

"Ms. Lang of Integrated Mortgage Solutions has started a nonprofit group, No Paws Left Behind, to find homes for abandoned pets and to offer help with pets to homeowners in foreclosure."

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Tequila and wine tastings

Posted By on 05.30.08 at 12:24 PM

Saturday from 6:30-8:30 PM, Taste Food and Wine in Rogers Park hosts a free tasting of Partida Tequila, with margaritas as well as samples of the blanco, reposado, and anejo tequilas.
 
At the same time in the Loop, Pastoral offers a free tasting of their picks for summer picnic wines.
 

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Featured classified indeed

Posted By on 05.29.08 at 08:41 PM

"Selling one pair of PowerRiser advanced jumping stilts . . . . They are a lot of fun just don't have the time to use them."

I had no idea such a thing existed. But they're obviously way more entertaining than rollerblades, especially for the rest of us.

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