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Friday, March 30, 2007

Change rules

Posted By on 03.30.07 at 07:07 AM

It's not easy being a traditionalist conservative. First, you assert that your views about gays and women are timeless truths. Then, you change them.

According to the Pew Research Center's March 22 survey on trends in political values and core attitudes, 1987-2007, the average Republican is now more tolerant of gays and of women in what the pollsters call "non-traditional" roles than the average Democrat was in 1987. This trend is particularly amusing when it comes to religious edicts. "In 1987, 73% of white evangelical Protestants agreed that school boards should have the right to fire homosexual teachers. Today, just 42% do so. And in 1987, 60% of white evangelicals believed that AIDS might be a punishment for immoral sexual behavior; today just 38% believe this."

Of course, popular opinion isn't self-executing, especially when the true believers are better organized.

Full report (PDF). (Naturally, the MSM are more interested in short-term party identification, but there's plenty of wonky goodness to go around.)

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Music makes the bourgeoise want to rebel

Posted By on 03.29.07 at 03:10 PM

"Quito,"   The Mountain Goats

Two different worlds

Posted By on 03.29.07 at 02:44 PM

This might sound unbearably quaint -- breakfast, a breakfast table, and a stack of actual newspapers in all their glorious but obsolete pulpiness. (Yes, English muffins were involved.) I read Wednesday's Sun-Times first because it all but jumped off the table and grabbed me by the nose. "'Sickened and embarrassed'" screamed the headline. "After pair of videotaped beatings, top cop cracks down on thug officers -- and those who protect them."

Another front-page headline, again quoting police superintendent Phil Cline: "'He's tarnished our image worse than anybody else in the history of the department.'" That about Anthony Abbate, next to a still from the video that has him allegedly knocking a bartender at Jesse's Short Stop Inn to the floor and beating her. And across the bottom of page one: "Carol Marin: What city needs to do to clean up this mess." Everything on page one of the Sun-Times referred to Chicago's rotten cops. Even the weather word was "solemn."

Annie Sweeney's cop story stretched across pages two and three of the Sun-Times, over an item about a German deli closing in Lincoln Square--not exactly the second most important thing to happen in the world, or in Chicago, in the last 24 hours but of interest to me because I once bought some sausages there.

In the commentary section, part-timer Marin deepened my impression of her as one smart, tough cookie by refusing to be placated by Cline's indignation. "Cline declared that Abbate's beating of the barmaid 'tarnished our image worse than anybody else in the history of the department,'" she wrote. "He's dead wrong. If Jon Burge or Joe Miedzianowski [the first a police commander and torturer, the second a gang-crimes officer convicted of drug running] had ever been caught on tape, Chicago might have qualified for the International Court at the Hague by now."

And on to the Tribune. Page one was the usual rummage sale: a piece on the Brown's Chicken trial, another on a testing dodge in Illinois schools, a big picture of attorney general Alberto Gonzales (in Chicago) shutting down a press conference -- and the story that impressed me, a report by Maurice Possley on the mysterious disappearance of honeybee colonies across the country. It might have been the most significant story in the paper--Possley put the value of honeybee pollination to American agriculture at about $14 billion a year--but who leads a front page with the headline "Bees Missing"? 

The following pages offered a mix of national and international stories chosen to flatter the reader who thinks of himself as a serious sojourner in a serious world. A headline: "Pullout deadline survives." Another headline: "Egypt's democrats feeling betrayed" -- about the government-sponsored referendum rolling back that country's civil rights. I'd finished section one of the Tribune when I remembered the cop story. Had the Tribune missed it? Was it a Sun-Times exclusive?

No. The Tribune account turned up at the bottom of the first page of the Tribune's Metro section. In some editions. Metro sections differ from zone to zone, and the Northwest edition of the Tribune a colleague brought to work didn't carry the story at all. I bet lots of Tribune readers out in McHenry County saw the Jesse's Short Stop Inn video, but they didn't get to read what Chicago's top cop had to say about it. Too bad for them it didn't happen in Egypt.

Then today the Tribune's lead editorial commented on Cline's statement, thereby offering thousands of readers the paper's views on a story their editions of the Tribune hadn't covered.

(The Sun-Times's front page today? "The verdict is in: / TRIB GUILTY / Convicted of Crimes Against Cubdom.")

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Hot Doug faces the music

Posted By on 03.29.07 at 12:41 PM

Today Doug Sohn faces a city hearing officer who will levy a fine for violating the anti-foie gras ordinance. But anyone expecting a Doug vs. Goliath-type showdown will be disappointed. 

"I'm not gonna be there," Sohn told me yesterday. "It's a glorified traffic court. My attorney's instructions are to go in, pay the fine, say thank you, and leave." No chance of a media circus, he says. "If I was dealing with the anti-foie gras people yeah, fine, I'll take that argument on all day. [But] this is now dealing with the city. It got dumped on the health department.  They're not happy about it. So when I sort of poke and prod they're not happy with with me, and my argument's not with the health department or the city of Chicago. . . . To me it's not a big enough deal to warrant the interruption of business. It's just a duck."

Sohn says foie gras will return to Hot Doug's when the ban is overturned. 

UPDATE: The Trib was on the scene. The city handed Sohn the minumum fine--$250 



Rule, Goose Island

Posted By on 03.29.07 at 12:36 PM

Writing in the UK Guardian, beer-pert Roger Protz takes an international look at pale ales and pilsners and nominates Goose Island IPA as the best beer in the world.


New Yorker! True gastronomic story

Posted By on 03.29.07 at 12:25 PM


Bill Buford serves up another Big Gulp of a bio (9,000+ words) in this week's issue of the New Yorker, a seriously juicy, all-access-pass profile of chef Gordon Ramsay. Buford tells readers what was going on behind the scenes after Ramsay's New York restaurant opened, during the long "silence" up until the Bruni review in the New York Times, and after. (There's also a major revelation in the middle about Ramsay's longtime feud with former mentor Marco Pierre White, a story that broke in England earlier this week based on Buford's interview--no links here to preserve the surprise.) I like that Buford takes on the nature of Ramsay's cooking, and the way in which critics are unable to reconcile his fomenting crazed yelling in the kitchen with his seemingly mild food. There is a lot of fomenting crazed yelling in the story.

The Jillian Edelstein photo accompanying the article shows Ramsay qua Dr. Evil, holding a little lamb in his arms--the Jean-Baptiste of the story, presumably, or a prop. It seems kind of sweet at first, but it is soon made clear that this lamb is literally headed for the slaughter. (Plus lamb is so English. Plus...who's the lamb, really? Clever.)

I was trying to figure out how exactly to categorize Buford's role in the culinary world these days--he's carving out quite a niche as a sort of...A.E. Hotchner? Geo. Plimpton?...participatory biographer to the bigtime chefs. It seems like there are comparisons for this out there, or terms to describe it. My mother's suggestion? Jock-sniffer (as in the jock-sniffer school of sports journalism). Oh mom.

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Reader people, live and in person

Posted By on 03.29.07 at 11:48 AM

* In celebration of our March 30 issue, which is all about Uptown, the Reader is hosting a One Night Stand tonight at Crew Bar & Grill, 4804 N. Broadway. We'll be giving away Cubs and theater tickets, gift certificates, and Reader t-shirts. And there are drink specials: $2.50 bottles of Berghoff and $13.50 pitchers of Stella.

* Reader staff writer John Conroy, who's been investigating Chicago police torture for almost two decades, participates in a panel discussion, "The Ecology of Torture," on Friday as part of Northwestern's Conference on Human Rights. The panel starts at 10 AM at the McCormick Tribune Center, 1870 Campus Dr. in Evanston; see for more details. 

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This weekend

Posted By on 03.29.07 at 11:26 AM


There's a wine and chocolate tasting tonight at Kafka Wine Co., 3325 N. Halsted (beware annoying flash site) benefiting ChildServ. It's $50 at the door or call 773-867-7360.

The not for-profit, pro-sustainability farmland preservation organization The Land Connection is holding it's third annual RampFest benefit Friday night at Prairie Production, 1314 W. Randolph. There's a silent auction hosted by local organic farmer Larry Wettstein, and a menu featuring dishes made with Illinois' native wild leek by Timo's John Bubala, Mike Sheerin of Blackbird, Jason Hammel and Lea Tschilds of Lula, and more. It's $65 and starts at 6 6 PM. Call 847-570-0701.

Steven L. Katz gives a talk at the Chicago Foodways Roundtable based on his January 10 Trib article "Chicago's Big Apple" about the apple pancake served at Wilmette's Walker Brothers Original Pancake House and elsewhere, complete with recipes and, yes, pancakes. It's Saturday at 10 AM at Kendall College, 900 N. Branch, and it's $2. Call 847-432-8255.

Sunday, April 1 is, (no-foolin'), Brillat-Savarin's 251st birthday, which has been celebrated worldwide for the last eight years through the International Edible Book Festival. Columbia College Library, 624 S. Michigan, is hosting an Edible Book & Tea from 1 to 3 PM (via Gapers). It's $10; free if you contribute a book. Call 312-344-7369 or email for more info.

Also, Red Light chef Jackie Shen is leading a shopping trip to Chinatown (via Dish) followed by a cooking class, on Sunday morning at 9:30. It's $80. Call 312-733-8880.

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Contemplate the apocalypse with Oprah

Posted By on 03.29.07 at 10:31 AM

I just got an e-mail from the Oprah Book Club (I was in a freelancing period; it was an idea) revealing her new book club pick: Cormac McCarthy's The Road. I have not read it yet--perhaps this is an opportunity--in part because it seemed an awful lot like the Border Trilogy only without the humor, or the horses, or anything but an indescribably bleak portrait of post-apocalyptic America. I'll let William Kennedy describe it:

McCarthy has said that death is the major issue in the world and that writers who don't address it are not serious. Death reaches very near totality in this novel. Billions of people have died, all animal and plant life, the birds of the air and the fishes of the sea are dead: ''At the tide line a woven mat of weeds and the ribs of fishes in their millions stretching along the shore as far as eye could see like an isocline of death.''


An isocline of death. That is one hell of a line.

I appreciated Oprah's book club when it revealed Jonathan Franzen as the insufferable snot The Corrections suggested he was, though I had a beef with the choice. I pretty much gave up on it when she chose A Million Little Pieces, an overrated book that benefited from an ingenious marketing campaign centering on the author's big-man boasts, and was terrible enough on its own merits without the benefit of being a tissue of lies. And her recent love for The Secret was indefensible, although it intrigued some folks.

But following Faulkner with Poitier and now one of the most dismal books of recent years: my hat is off. Say what you will, but I respect her recent patternless eclecticism. And she's bringing the reclusive McCarthy to the television screen, something for which I am duly appreciative, even if the prospect makes me, as something of a recluse, nervous to watch. But I'll be watching, and perhaps reading as well. I'm a member of the Oprah Book Club, after all, if a quiet one.

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The last thing by David Brooks you will ever have to read

Posted By on 03.29.07 at 09:24 AM


This is from last year, but I only just discovered it, and it's too good not to share. To really get the joke, it's helpful to know Brooks started out as a reporter in Chicago.

"One of the things I’ve found in life is that politicians are a lot more sincere than us journalists, and we are more sincere than the people who read and watch us. The public is much more cynical, and that cynicism is stupid. It’s pseudo-intellectual, the belief that they’re all on to it. They’re not all crooks. Most of the people in public life are pretty honest."

I always wondered why people don't trust journalists or politicians. The answer: apparently the public is too cynical to understand them. Here's a handy guide to sincerity, in case you were wondering:

Dick Cheney > David Brooks > You

I can't figure out how long Brooks worked a beat here, but it clearly wasn't long enough. 

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