Update II: Ben Eason wins.
Update: No word yet, but this is interesting, from former CL Atlanta editor Ken Edelstein: "Bankruptcy attorneys I’ve spoken to say it’s unusual for a 'debtor-operator' (such as CLI’s current management) to lose control at this relatively early stage in the game."
On the day that the Sun-Times files for bankruptcy, the Reader finds out whether the creditors of its bankrupt parent company, Creative Loafing, get to take over the company. I'm just going to drink a bunch of coffee to get in the right frame of mind, and at 1 PM just start listening to the following at ear-splitting volumes.
Or perhaps the loud Wallflowers cover version:
A new memo from editor Gerould Kern to the Tribune staff:
Dear fellow owners:
We told you last week about The Guide (TV listings) moving from Sundays to Saturdays. Today I want to let you know about more changes in store for the Saturday paper. One of our 10 key initiatives for 2009 is to increase day-to-day profitability. Toward that goal, we are creating a new approach to the Saturday news experience for readers. Beginning April 4, the Saturday edition will be reconfigured with a new, tighter section lineup that right-sizes the edition to match consumer and advertiser needs.
Here’s what it will look like:
Ø Section 1. News from Chicagoland, the nation, world and business. These content areas will not be in separate chapters, but instead will compete for space in the front pages based on news value and relevance to readers. The Talk, including the celebrity column FaceTime, will appear on Page 3. Live!, books, editorials and op-ed will follow the news.
Ø Section 2. Sports will start on the cover, followed by obituaries, paid death notices, comics and puzzles. Weather will be on the back page.
Ø Section 3. The Guide will fall here.
Ø Section 4. Auto classifieds.
These changes will make the Saturday Chicago Tribune a quicker news update between the Friday edition and the Sunday bulldog that appears on the newsstands on Saturday. This fits what readers tell us about their Saturday habits and helps us respond to the current economic climate.
So an already small paper gets smaller and Books, not long ago a stand-alone section on Sunday, gets even less significant. And imagine, having local, national, and world news compete for space on the basis of news value -- it sounds like an old-fashioned newspaper!
Times are tough, but must the language of bad news be Orwellian? Shrinking is right-sizing. It's matching consumer and advertiser needs. And of course the staffers still clinging to jobs at the Tribune are Kern's dear fellow owners.
That goal of increasing day-to-day profitability sounds ominous, as though nothing's off the table -- and I'm sure nothing is. One possible way to increase the profitability of, say, the Monday paper is to stop publishing it. That's the new Detroit model.
A while ago I was chatting with a friend on Facebook about the phenomenon of street-style blogs and sites like the Sartorialist and Face Hunter. After checking out the links I sent him, he sent back a remark that annoyed me: "These are staged."
Fashion has a lot to do with artifice. The appeal of street-style photos is that they are based in real life and so can be more exhilarating than even the most gorgeous, perfectly produced photo shoot. They emphasize that fashion can be as much a part of reality as we choose to make it.
I can see why he would think that though. Scott Schuman, the photographer behind the Sartorialist, worked in fashion before he started his blog, so naturally he gravitates toward people whose look reflects a perfectly pulled together aesthetic. Yvan Rodic, the guy behind Face Hunter, tends to snap people with more personal and vintage-inspired style. (In fact, he moved from Paris to London because "the young [Parisians] have lost their heritage and aren't experimental enough to replace it.") Both photographers are great at getting people to pose without looking awkward or self-conscious. Trust me, it's harder than it looks.
Other bloggers shoot their own ensembles, so I suppose you could argue that they're "staged," but only in the sense that they're trying to make an attractive record of what they're actually wearing. The teenage blogger of Karla's Closet certainly looks like she could be a model or an actress, but that doesn't make her choices any less valid. Same for the people profiled in Show Me Your Wardrobe. A pixielike preteen in Oak Park named Tavi Gevinson caused a stir in the street-style blogosphere last summer when her online recording of her pretty amazing wardrobe experiments was featured in the New York Times's T magazine. I don't think she's using a stylist.
I suppose we need to make a distinction between "street style"--which implies the images are spontaneous--and personal style. The photos for the Reader's What Are You Wearing feature were definitely styled and staged, but often the subjects were strangers to us, found on the street or approached at parties. The photos were intended to heighten and highlight their distinctive styles. You could get into an argument about how the presence of a camera alters the subject, but don't most of us make more of an effort with our clothes when we know we're going to be looked at?
Last fall Mayor Daley pushed a budget plan through the City Council that included fee and tax hikes as well as hundreds of layoffs. It was painful, he said, but necessary to “keep Chicago moving forward.”
Now, as administration officials are talking about another soaring deficit, it’s increasingly clear that the vast majority of the last round of cuts left city government with fewer people at the front line of delivering services. Among the reductions were dozens of police officers.
Meanwhile, many of the city’s top paid officials have received raises.
I'm not saying the government didn't need to cut some fat before, or that it doesn't still. But when I took a close look at the city payroll from last August, before the layoffs, and one from this month, a few things jumped out:
· The total number of employees on the payroll fell by 1,517, from 38,702 to 37,185.
· The number of deputy and assistant superintendents, middle managers, supervisors, program directors, and assistant program directors dropped, by my count, by 134.
· Front-line workers and support staff accounted for the rest of the pink slips. Among the biggest losses are people who would normally be picking up trash, helping fix potholes, and trying to prevent car accidents: traffic control aides (249 jobs); hand laborers (146); cement mixers (91); asphalt helpers (56); sanitation laborers (51); crossing guards (40); tree trimmers (27).
· It’s generally considered a political no-no to cut the budget for public safety, but the administration did it anyway. While city officials have said most of the losses were civilian positions, not all of them were. The force is now working with 52 fewer field training officers, which the police union considers essential for turning rookies into good cops. It’s also down 76 police officers, 30 sergeants, and 23 lieutenants.
· Ironically, or perhaps not, the highest-paid city employee is police superintendent Jody Weis, who makes about $310,000 annually. He’s followed by Mayor Daley, who receives $216,210. Both make the same now as they did last year.
· But many other top city officials have received a raise.
o Fire chief Raymond Orozco went from $185,652 to $189,660 when Daley put him in charge of the Office of Emergency Management Communications. But the guy who lost the job running OEMC--that is, Weis--didn’t have his pay cut.
o Orozco’s top deputy, John Brooks, got a raise from $172,452 to $185,652 when he assumed day-to-day management of the fire department.
o Daley’s press secretary, Jackie Heard, went from $172,065 to $177,216.
o Public health commissioner Terry Mason received a pay hike, from $171,996 to $177,156, even as he’s announced the closing of mental health clinics that serve the indigent.
o Corporation counsel Mara Georges is now making $173,664, up from $168,600, while Chicago is a national leader in lawsuit payouts.
o Former CTA head Frank Kruesi, now Daley’s chief lobbyist in Washington, had his salary boosted from $167,808 to $172,848.
Idolator is reporting that Billy Corgan will be auditioning drummers next week:
"Auditions will be held Friday, April 10 in Los Angeles for drummers who are looking to play with THE SMASHING PUMPKINS. They should send their background info, photos and performance web links via e-mail only to pumpkinsdrummerATgmailDOTcom."
I'm trying to figure out a way to turn this into a drummer joke, but I just can't seem to make it happen. Dammit.
Barack Obama skipped the Gridiron Club dinner, and no president had done that since Grover Cleveland.
But Sam Zell skipped it too. If he'd wanted it, Zell had a place at the head table next to the president -- if the president showed up.
The seat belonged to Zell as CEO of the Tribune Company because the president of the Gridiron Club is Dick Cooper -- formerly of the Los Angeles Times but now, technically, of the Tribune Company's combined Washington bureau. Since Zell wasn't going to the March 21 dinner, his seat was passed down to Tony Hunter, publisher of the Chicago Tribune. Hunter came up through circulation, and as someone at the Tribune Company puts it, he's in his element speaking to truck drivers. The head table at the Gridiron Club dinner alongside the president might not have been a comfortable milieu.
Hunter possibly thought so. A few days before the dinner he gave his seat to Gerould Kern, editor of the Tribune.
This choice might have miffed Cooper, who I'm told wasn't asked which company bigwig he wanted at the head table with him. And it might have miffed Russ Stanton, editor of the LA Times, who probably would have been Cooper's choice. And I'm pretty sure it miffed Gridiron Club purists who felt Kern -- who found himself (in Obama's absence) between Vice President Biden and the governor of Michigan, while his wife was between Arnold Schwarzenegger and the secretary of the treasury -- had been seated beyond his station.
But I hear a "whatever..." outlook predominated. Did Kern's presence at the head table dis the Gridiron Club? Not nearly as much, I suppose, as Obama's absence did.
We should mourn the chit-chat that wasn't.
Obama: What's up at the Tribune?
Kern: Soon as I get back to Chicago I'm canning our foreign correspondents. RedEye doesn't have any.
Obama: Geez. Is that something else Blagojevich demanded?
By my count, there were some 20 people at the Gridiron Club dinner on the Tribune Company's dime -- which in this case came to $300 a head. Add hotels and air fare and whatnot and it all comes to a significant piece of change dished out by a company in bankruptcy. Actually, against the company's $13 billion in debts, what it comes to isn't significant at all. But think about the cost in terms of keeping Kim Barker in place to cover Afghanistan and Pakistan a few weeks longer and the money chafes.
But let's give the company credit. In better times it would have sent a delegation twice the size to the Gridiron Club dinner. Not only that... It's traditional for the company the club president works for to throw a party the night before the dinner. An orchestra, entertainment, a couple hundred guests. Figure a cost of about $50 a person.
The Tribune Company didn't do that. It didn't throw any party at all.
Company spokesman Gary Weitman (he was there), gave me a statement. "We committed to sponsor the Gridiron long before we filed for Chapter 11," he said. "Event contribution is part of the group's membership agreement."
Weitman went on, "The media industry sees Gridiron as a valuable business investment. It's an event that builds relationships by providing 5-6 hours of close access to top politicians -- access reporters would find difficult if not impossible to get. Finally, Tribune cut the expected, standard, traditional commitment expected of the President's company by more than half for this year's event, in recognition of the industry's and company's revenue declines."
Chicago audiences get our first chance for a big screen glimpse of local Mumblecore poster boy (and 2009 readers' choice for best filmmaker) Joe Swanberg's latest film Tuesday, when Alexander the Last plays in a special screening from the Chicago International Film Festival. Swanberg, whose first four films follow the amorous highjinks of young singles, switches here to the amorous highjinks of young marrieds.
Jess Weixler (Teeth) stars as a young New York theatre actress, recently married to a musician (Justin Rice of Mutual Appreciation ) and tempted by her onstage love interest (Barlow Jacobs of Shotgun Stories). Squid and the Whale director Noah Baumbach is a producer on the film. It premiered earlier this month at the South by Southwest Film Festival, where Swanberg, 27, has premiered each of his features. In its ongoing experiment with release windows, IFC opened Alexander on VOD at the same time as its SXSW premiere, bypassing a traditional theatrical run.
Alexander the Last plays Tuesday at 7:30 PM at Landmark's Century Centre Cinema, 2828 N. Clark St. $15 includes after party. Interestingly, Rice's band Bishop Allen performs at Subterranean, 2011 W. North Ave., also Tuesday at 7:30.
Here's the trailer:
I don't always, or even often, agree with Jim DeRogatis, but I have to say that I agree 100 percent with the way he called out Wayne Coyne for the decision to have the Flaming Lips play a regular set to close out this year's Pitchfork fest, rather than doing a "Write the Night" set as was previously announced.
The acts participating in "Write the Night"--Tortoise, the Jesus Lizard, Built to Spill, and Yo La Tengo--will be playing songs selected by Internet voters, a process likely to result in the resuscitation of fan favorites that've dropped out of the bands' regular sets for one reason or another.
Says DeRo: "You guys have been playing more or less the same set for almost a decade now; a few new songs get added, one older song gets dropped in per night, and maybe a cover, but mostly we get a lot of eye candy, with very few if any real musical surprises." A little further on he asks if Coyne's "afraid to deviate from the standard set list, stretch out as in the old days, and either succeed brilliantly or fail nobly?"
And that's exactly my beef with this situation, and with the band in general. The Flaming Lips used to be a bizarre and fearless band that wasn't afraid to fail nobly, or in any other fashion. Even their breakthrough album, The Soft Bulletin, was a ballsy experiment, despite its unaggressive vibe--Coyne and his group were ditching a significant amount of the formula that had brought them what success they'd had. It's a move I respected them for, even though I hated the record and have hated everything they've released since.
Now it seems they're nothing but formula. I appreciate the fact that it's a formula that brings a good number of people joy, but if their set at Pitchfork is going to be the same shtick they've been pumping out basically unchanged for the past few years, I think I might have a good reason to knock off early on Sunday. It's likely I won't be the only one.
Hideout co-owner Tim Tuten is headed to our nation's capital next month to work for Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Among his responsibilities will be coordinating events and school visits for Duncan.
Tuten, who's worked for the Chicago Public Schools for almost 23 years--he began teaching high school in 1986 and joined the administrative staff in 2005--says there's a saying at his bar: "Nobody ever quits at the Hideout, they just go on tour." Though he'll be looking for an apartment in D.C., his wife, Katie, will remain in Chicago, and he says he'll be back often. So never fear: there's still a chance you'll be subject to, or the subject of, one of his endless band introductions in the near future.
Ingrid Laubrock with Liam Noble & Tom Rainey, Sleep Thief (Intakt)
Shugo Tokumaru, Exit (Ag/Star Time)
Kris Davis, Rye Eclipse (Fresh Sound New Talent)
Heartless Bastards, The Mountain (Fat Possum)
Lucía Pulido, Luna Menguante (Adventure Music)
D.O.C. Wine Bar (2603 N. Clark) is celebrating four years of business Tuesday from 5-7 PM with free appetizers and a complimentary flute of champagne for guests. Wine director Greg Sorrell will be selling $4 glasses of pinot noir, cabernet, meritage, pinot grigio, chardonnay, and Vouvray.