Bleader | Chicago Reader

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Nearing the witching hour...

Posted By on 10.31.07 at 11:42 PM


Happy Halloween.

Seriously, it's actually creepy. Scroll down.

Clown’s Brain, a colored pencil, ink, and gouache work by Barbara Kendrick, whose show of drawings “intending to show nerve pain” opens Fri 11/2, 5-8 PM, at the International Museum of Surgical Science, 1524 N. Lake Shore Dr., 312-642-6502.

See more art on our Galleries and Museums page.

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Daily You Shoot: Spy on the Room of Love

Posted By on 10.31.07 at 11:35 PM


Win the battle, lose the war?

Posted By on 10.31.07 at 10:42 PM


Angry demonstrators clogged the common space just outside City Council chambers Wednesday morning, protesting, among other things, the Daley administration's proposed tax increases on beer, wine, and spirits. "What's the most expensive ingredient in beer?" one sign said. "Taxes!" 

Protests or press conferences of some kind happen before nearly every full City Council meeting, but this one attracted some recent converts to civil disobedience, such as aldermen Eugene Schulter and Patrick Levar. Both are reliable Daley votes in the council, but this time both ripped the idea of taxing alcoholic beverages, saying that would only succeed in driving "mom-and-pop stores and taverns" out of the city.

It's obvious that the mayor's 2008 budget plan is going to have to change. Daley has even said so, announcing that he's willing to slash some of the nearly $300 million in proposed new taxes, including more than $100 million in property levies, and at least delay some spending, such as for additional cops and recycling services. The mayor is a skilled enough politician that he can present this as a thoughtful, generous compromise. In fact, he'd hardly  be the first public official to anger everyone with the specter of a gargantuan tax hike, then show apparent benevolence by implementing a slightly smaller one.

On the other hand, the mayor doesn't have a choice this time.

While some aldermen have moaned about the booze taxes, others have blasted the tax on bottled water or the jacked-up fines for parking violations, and just about everyone has run from the massive property tax increase.

Leading the property tax bitch-fest--it doesn't rise to the level of a "revolt" or even "coffee-cup rebellion"--are the northwest- and southwest-side white and Latino guys who are usually the mayor's closest allies. "The property tax stuff is no good," said 38th Ward alderman Tom Allen, who then asked this reporter for ideas to generate more revenue.

That's the problem right now: just about everybody agrees that the new taxes stink, but they don't know what else to do. Some aldermen have proposed things like scaling back a couple of the TIFs downtown, selling off city-owned plots of land, or fining people who hang signs without a permit, but these ideas don't have widespread support or won't generate enough to replace existing proposals. A few aldermen have groused that budget talks have so far focused on which ways to raise money rather than where fat can be trimmed. 

Most, though, have accepted Daley's argument that any significant cuts will keep Chicago from "moving forward," as his ongoing campaign slogan proclaims. "It's to the point where what used to take a day to get done is going to take a week," said 30th Ward alderman Ariel Reboyras.

But the mayor has to make some choices. He knows his budget doesn't have close to a council majority. Black and "independent" aldermen appear to be more open to many of the tax ideas than the mayor's usual friends, but they're only going to support them if Daley gives them a few gifts in return--such as additional funding for the Inspector General's office or an agreement to settle the police torture lawsuits. 

Daley's not going to make those deals. So instead he's got to appease the aldermen who represent the bungalow belt. "In this environment, there's not a lot the mayor can promise you--or threaten you with, which he never did openly, but it happened," said Brian Doherty, alderman of the conservative 41st Ward on the far northwest side. "The old patronage-type government is gone, there are new aldermen in the council, and people are against this property tax increase. It makes for an interesting time."

Doherty's prediction: "They'll keep lowering the property tax until they get 26 votes."

That's what other mayoral allies, such as council budget committee chair Carrie Austin, are already talking about.

But don't expect many more spending reductions. These aldermen are now hoping manna will drop from the sky. On the off chance that doesn't happen, they're wondering how high they can raise vehicle stickers and other fees, how fast parking meters can be leased to a private company, and what the odds are that the state will deliver Chicago a casino.

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The classic sound of Egypt

Posted By on 10.31.07 at 07:38 PM

Tomorrow night the 17-member Umm Kulthum Egyptian National Orchestra makes its Chicago debut with a performance at Mandel Hall on the campus of the University of Chicago at 8 PM. I haven't heard them, but as you can probably tell from the name, they play Arabic classical music, the elegant, stately form made famous by the orchestra's namesake. They've performed all around the world in the last 40 years (Egypt’s Ministry of Culture started the orchestra back in 1967), but only under this name since Kulthum's death in 1975. Her vast repertoire makes up a significant chunk of their music.The concert is a benefit for the Arab American Action Network, which partly explains why tickets prices are so steep ($60 and $100 unless you’re a student, in which case they’re $30). Still, we don’t get many opportunities to hear this stuff in the flesh.

Today’s playlist:

Various Artists, Ethiopiques 18—Asguebba! (Buda)
Woody Herman, Keeper of the Flame (Capitol Jazz)
Rolando Alphonso, Something Special: Ska Hot Shots (Heartbeat)
Christoph Gallio/Urs Voerkel/Peter K. Frey, Tiegel (Unheard Music Series)
Eddie Palmieri, La Perfecta (Alegre/Fania)

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Who signed the list? Who didn't?

Posted By on 10.31.07 at 03:26 PM

Have you wondered if your aldermen was one of the 28 who have gone to court to try to get corporation counsel Mara Georges to turn over an unexpurgated list of the names of police officers who have repeatedly been accused of excessive force? They're no secret -- they're listed on court documents. But those documents aren't exactly at everyone's fingertips.

The names are, however, thanks to Chicagoist. Given that the aldermen are only asking for a document a federal judge has told them they're entitled to see, a more pertinent list might be the one of aldermen who didn't sign the petition. What's their problem?

Here are the 22 nonconfrontationalists:

John Pope
James Balcer
George Cardenas
Frank Olivo
Ed Burke
Virginia Rugai
Michael Zalewski
Daniel Solis
Ike Carothers
Ariel Reboyras
Ray Suarez
Richard Mell
William Banks
Thomas Allen
Margaret Laurino
Patrick O’Connor
Brian Doherty
Vi Daley
Patrick Levar
Gene Schulter
Mary Ann Smith
Bernard Stone

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Soy un aggregator: I'm a newser, baby

Posted By on 10.31.07 at 03:14 PM


My time is like a piece of wax, falling on a termite, that's choking on the splinters. --Beck, "Loser"

The latest Chicago Web startup is Newser, a new innovation in vaporware that combines the cost of old media with the tail-devouring metaness of new media. The Sun-Times article about it sums up as well as anything why journalism is probably doomed:

Over the last five years, information aggregators including Google News and MyYahoo have introduced a new formula for news delivery that caters to our ever diminishing attention spans. Relying on mathematical algorithms that "spider" links from countless sources, these services efficiently deliver news based on search terms, locality and other individual preferences we provide. What they lack, however, is a human voice that puts everything into context.

Now, I use the Web a lot, and one thing that's never occurred to me is "blog posts are too substantial, but RSS summaries are too skimpy. What we really need is something in between." I'm also a little perplexed as to why you'd hire a team of farmers to milk your cows when you can convince people milking cows for free is fun.

But this may be why I'm not a millionaire a many-thousandaire technically solvent. The one lesson we've all learned from RedEye is that the last frontier in media is attention spans, which can be targeted with ever-increasing specificity; if Zeno is right, the market is infinite.

Newser's one grand innovation, however, is a qualitative content slider, which is totally genius and lamentable only in its lack of ambition.

I await the day when reading the news is like editing images in Photoshop. I'll sit down in front of my personal news aggregator, adjust the sliders for analysis vs. reporting, tragic vs. funny, foibles of rich people vs. struggles of the underclass, afflicting the comfortable vs. comforting the afflicted, and I'll get The Perfect News Story For Me:

Golden Retriever Nurses Stray Kitten

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Headline of the day

Posted By on 10.31.07 at 01:40 PM


I think I speak for the rest of us when I say that I'm willing to wait until y'all have figured it out for sure. 

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Spotted: all over Lincoln Square

Posted By on 10.31.07 at 10:36 AM

I have mixed feelings about the explosion of restaurants in Lincoln Square over the last few years, which has resulted in decent and varied options, but probably many more mediocre or just plain lousy ones--to say nothing of all the utter failures. Just taking an amble down Montrose Avenue, marking the continuing rash of restaurant and bar buildouts, is to imagine the neighborhood as a weird magnetic attractor for reckless gamblers. 

I've been wondering what's been going on in the large space at 2434-2436 W. Montrose for months. It's been throughly retrofitted with a forest's worth of dark stained flooring, bars, and fixtures, but work progressed in fits and starts over the summer. Finally, two weeks ago, someone posted a liquor license application for the endeavor, dubbed O'splaines (O'Hare + Desplaines?). The place is beautiful inside, but I hear tell it's going to be a sports bar, raising the already inflated number of flat-screen TVs in the neighborhood to environmentally dangerous levels.

Continuing east to the cursed intersection of Lincoln, Leavitt, and Montrose, the Tiny Lounge, which was chased out of its space under the Brown Line Addison stop, has found a new home where Charlie's on Leavitt tanked. According to the flier in the window, the liquor license was applied for in early August.

Just across the street, where Block 44 died (after Aqualina crashed), a violent exorcism is under way. It's going to be a new Julius Meinl.  

Finally, at 2030 W. Montrose, Mythos Greek Taverna, a new BYOB, is announcing its impending arrival and advertising for unspecified part-time help between 3 and 6 PM, Monday through Saturday, perhaps for chief assistant saganaki prep.

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[Golf clap]

Posted By on 10.31.07 at 10:26 AM

The fine (and mostly local) gentlemen of Free Darko, one of the finest sports blogs in the land, have a book deal. Here's a preview.

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Our Precious Essence

Posted By on 10.31.07 at 10:11 AM

The southwest is having trouble making the desert bloom with strip malls and industrial monoculture, something that's back in the news after New Mexico governor Bill Richardson mouthed off to the Las Vegas Sun about how Wisconsin has way more water than it actually needs. Mike Miner covered the issue last year, and noticed something that the Tribune either missed or is too terrified to mention now that Mayor Daley is trying to sell, lease, or tax anything he can:

The big question, says [Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation attorney Jim] Olson, is who pays? He thinks that since Chicago has rights over Great Lakes water no other state or city has, in giving them up it would be acting more clearly in the basin's interests than in its own. So it should be rewarded. "The rest of the basin would have to negotiate with Chicago to help pay for this," he says.

Translation: if you're going to decorate your post-capitalist hellscape with our water, be prepared to deal with the city that's too corrupt for casinos.

The people Miner talked to seemed to think that piping water two-thirds of the way across America would be more expensive than desalinization. Westerners are also encouraged to recycle their water (not that Chicago can really talk about recycling stuff).

But if we can't make money off it, we can at least be dicks about it.

"You can move to Chicago or Milwaukee or Detroit or any one of many lovely communities that are up here in the midwest and actually have the benefit of having water for their populations." [Todd Ambs, water division administrator of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources]

We ripped a hole in the Great Lakes and we don't even care! How do you like them apples? 

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