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Monday, April 30, 2007

Wining and dining

Posted By on 04.30.07 at 09:39 PM


Made a return trip to Scylla last night and I'm still smitten--though I couldn't help noticing that the portions appeared to have been scaled back since Stephanie Izard first rolled out her revamped menu this winter. There's still nothing stingy about them; just now rather than a heaping trough of baby octopuses (or so it seemed at the time) you get a more reasonable, proportionate serving  (tossed with shocking green favas, pancetta, and, cause it's spring, spicy little ramps). My crew of four shared two appetizers (the octopus and grilled calamari, stuffed with rich wild boar sausage) and three entrees: gnocchi with clams in a heavenly poblano-truffle broth, seared diver scallops, and rare, tender slices of lamb sirloin served with, among other things, strawberry compote. Weird! And delish.

But the real surprise was the wine. I gravitated toward this Black Chook shiraz-viognier blend because I've had good luck with the brand (a friend who was party to my experiments with sparkling shiraz gave me a bottle of their interpretation for my birthday) and also because at $38 it was anchoring the low end of the list. It was tart and peppery at the first sip but within five minutes it had opened up into a velvety smooth but still lively wine. In fact--and I always cringe when wineheads start running on like this but I'm going there anyway--it was downright sexy. The shiraz dominates, keeping the spice and ripe fruitiness front and center, but the 5 percent viognier rounds it out in ways I usually associate with stuff that I can't afford. Check it out.

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Burned out

Posted By on 04.30.07 at 09:18 PM

Nothing can wreck the mellow vibe of wasting your Sunday afternoon in a dive bar shooting pool and listening to the Misfits like news that your property may at the moment be on fire. I learned that lesson yesterday when I got a couple of calls from people asking whether my band still practiced at CPE Sound (MySpace page here) on Hoyne and Carroll, as the building it's in had been burning for part of the day. At this point details are pretty sketchy. The police and fire departments haven't let anyone into the building, party for safety reasons, partly because of its current status as a police scene, probably to investigate whether arson was involved. The fire department told one of the space's managers that our floor didn't take much fire damage, but that it looks like there was a lot of water in there. How much equipment will be salvageable remains to be seen, but I know that we had a lot of stuff with pretty heavy sentimental value--an vintage Yamaha organ that the Make-Up used to use, a heavily-modded Gibson Melody Maker that I inherited from the old Kalamazoo hardcore band Jihad--that can't be replaced, and I'm sure everyone else in there could say the same.

For anyone practicing at CPE, I'll try to post more info as I get it.

For everyone else, I just have to say: renters insurance is really important. A boring lesson, perhaps, but true.


Around the web: A Chicago teacher heads to Africa on the NYT's dime, Maxwell St. Market moves again, and more

Posted By on 04.30.07 at 12:04 PM

* One of the two winners of the second annual Win a Trip with Nick Kristof contest, in which students and teachers from around the country vie for an all-expenses-paid reporting assignment in Africa with the New York Times columnist, is a teacher from Westside Alternative High School, Will Okum.

* Saint Stanislaus finds inspiration in the Kennedy Expressway.

* Chicago Journal reports that the Maxwell Street market is on the move again and profiles new 32nd Ward alderman Scott Waguespack.

* The new issue of the Chicago Reporter is a moving look into the world of the children of criminals, like the son of a gang leader and a 14-year-old boy whose mother killed her estranged boyfriend. The cover story to which these profiles are tied finds social support for such kids greatly lacking.

* WFMT critic-at-large and Sun-Times contributor Andrew Patner has recorded a tribute to his late mentor, David Halberstam. Of interest: Halberstam also mentored Alex Kotlowitz and forced Patner and Kotlowitz to be friends.

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Blown away

Posted By on 04.30.07 at 12:02 PM

This is where I apologize to Brightblack Morning Light. It's not that I don't like your deep burbly waterbed music--I do. The reason I left the Empty Bottle such a short distance into your set had nothing to do with you, and everything to do with Daniel Arcus Incus Ululat Belteshazzar-Higgs, who laid down a set of such glorious existential terror that any palate cleansing would feel like denial. He brings a snake-handling sense of hellfire to his lyrics of joyous dissolution in the Absolute (like Jalal al-Din Rumi on the brown acid), and I just had to go lie down for a little while. As I told Bill Meyer, I'd like to see an apocalyptic necromancy cage match between Higgs, William Elliott Whitmore, and David Tibet. Winner gets Raptured. Bill thinks Higgs would win. I'm not sure even the Almighty could withstand that solo mouth harp record without having to rethink a few things.

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Press release of the day

Posted By on 04.30.07 at 10:32 AM


Like to play with your food? MorningStar Farms, the division of Kellogg responsible for frozen treats like Eggs Florentine Veggie Bites, announces a Veggie Creations contest. Grand prize is a trip to the festival of La Tomatina in Bunol, Spain.

As a bonus the site's animated "Veggisodes" offer reinforcement of everyone's favorite sex-role stereotypes. In case you forgot: women = long-suffering and good in the kitchen, men = cheating pigs who snore.

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This is the city life

Posted By on 04.30.07 at 09:23 AM

Don't let anyone tell you that Chicago's colorful days went out with Capone and Dillinger:

"Rezko, a native of Syria, came to Chicago in the late 1970s to study engineering at the Illinois Institute of Technology. He joined an engineering company, designing nuclear power plants. He left to design roads for the state Transportation Department, making $21,590 in his one year there.

"In 1984, Rezko went to work for Crucial Concessions Inc., owned by Herbert Muhammad, whose father, Elijah Muhammad, founded the Nation of Islam. Herbert Muhammad also was the longtime manager of boxing great Muhammad Ali. Crucial had a contract with the Chicago Park District to sell food on the beaches and in many South Side parks."

Thus begins the rich public life of political player and Obama albatross Tony Rezko.

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Green Building 101

Posted By on 04.30.07 at 06:55 AM

Gristmill has a list of some two dozen green building techniques arranged in a quick-read table with approximate energy and greenhouse-gas savings and more technical references for each. It's an educational list, not a substitute for the systematic thinking that goes into standards like that of the U.S. Green Building Council, nor a for seeing a bunch of ideas together in action like the Sullivans' Rogers Park rehab.

There are not only some materials and practices listed here I've never heard of (geopolymeric cement, anyone?), but some good thoughts -- be cautious about savings on building that end up requiring more energy in operations, because building operations keep on using energy and money for a loooong time.  Top of the list: rehabbing over building new. Reminder: no significant savings to be made on items that are a small part of the structure, such as wiring.

There are also reminders that in this enterprise as in all others, not all good things go together. There are tradeoffs. From a building standpoint, for instance, skyscrapers are very energy-intensive and so need to have operational efficiencies. But from a broader point of view, the alternative to skyscrapers is acres of low-rise sprawl, which consumes energy in transit and other ways.

As the comments suggest, some of these innovations will become more palatable if energy is priced according to its true costs -- but people have to know about them first!

Meanwhile, ENN reports on the American Institute of Architects' list of the ten greenest buildings in the U.S., and the midwest was entirely shut out.

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Sunday, April 29, 2007

At least he's not around to read this

Posted By on 04.29.07 at 10:55 AM

From the Tribune's tribute to Mike Royko on the tenth anniversary of his passing:

There are many people who viewed Mike Royko as a hardened piece of steel, like something you would find in a very good, sharp knife.

Like the knife part of the knife?

It is unlikely that any columnist will ever again have the perspective—and the survival skills—to conclude that God had tipped the nation on its side, "and all the fruits and nuts rolled west."

And then there's this:

In this era in which the blogosphere spends so much time emphasizing its own value, who other than Royko would conclude that the Internet is actually "an electronic asylum filled with babbling loonies."

Well, there's David Brooks. And David Broder. And George H.W. Bush. David Pogue. Richard Cohen. Jim Brady. Deborah Howell.

Our loss.

Well, OK, that's a good point.

Personal to anyone who might wish to be my literary executor or otherwise memorialize me in the future: please pick my funny jokes and the criticisms that made me look forward-thinking. Also, you're welcome to put my best work on the Internet--for free!--as a bulwark against babbling loonies.

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Golden links

Posted By on 04.29.07 at 09:48 AM


As more and more buried treasures have been brought to light on the Internet, half a dozen recent finds seem especially worthy of notice:

 1. We still don't have access to the original version of John Cassavetes' Shadows after critic Ray Carney tracked down the only existing print and showed a video of it twice at the Rotterdam Film Festival in early 2004. I was lucky enough to see it at the time, and even though I regard it more as a fascinating and historically important curiosity than as a lost masterpiece, I agree with Carney, and disagree with Cassavetes' widow, Gena Rowlands, that it should be available to the general public. In the meantime, however, Carney has posted three clips of this version on his website (scroll down a bit). What he's made available is only a little over four and a half minutes from the film, and Carney's name and URL are stamped on every frame, but it's still enough to give one a taste of Charlie Mingus's eccentric original score (especially during the credit sequence)--and enough to support Carney's thesis that this is a finished film, flaws and all, and not a mere work print.

2. On the same site, higher up, one can find links to an invaluable Danish web site with links to a good many interviews with filmmakers and critical pieces (including, I've just discovered, a couple of my own, on Alexander Dovzhenko and Jean-Luc Godard's Histoire(s) du cinema). There are also several filmed interviews on the same site and, even better, trailers by Godard for eight of his own features.

3. The treasures to be found at YouTube appear to be endless: Alain Resnais' first major short, Les Statues meurent aussi (1953, see photo), written by Chris Marker—admittedly without subtitles (though I've never seen a subtitled print);

4. Orson Welles's unreleased nine-minute trailer for F for Fake, starring his late cinematographer Gary Graver;

5. And three videos of the great jazz pianist Lennie Tristano playing at the Half Note in Manhattan, 1964, in a quintet with his two most gifted pupils, Warne Marsh (tenor sax) and Lee Konitz (alto sax). The visual quality of the videos may be atrocious, but I'm still grateful for these precious mementos, having caught this amazing group around the same time at what may have been the same gig.

6. Finally, as Dave Kehr recently reminded me on his own web site, you can access most of Orson Welles's major radio shows between 1937 and early 1940  for free at another excellent site.


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Saturday, April 28, 2007

RIP Slava

Posted By on 04.28.07 at 10:32 AM


John von Rhein has a nice obituary of Mstislav Rostropovich, the great cellist who passed away Friday. His 1995 recording of Bach's cello suites got me interested in classical music, and I can't imagine a better gateway into the genre.*  Here's a video (embedding is unfortunately disabled) of the prelude to Suite No. 1, which appears to be taken from the recording sessions. You might recognize it from TV ads run by one of the local hospitals.

* Well, perhaps the reasonably priced 3-disc set of Glenn Gould's 1955 and 1981 recordings of the Goldberg Variations, A State of Wonder. Don't be turned off by the corny name and packaging, it's actually great.

Update: WFMT 98.7 is preempting some of its weekend programming to play Rostropovich recordings (as a cellist and conductor). Peter Whorf's blog has videos of him performing and audio interviews. (h/t Benjamin)

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