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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Pollyanna States Network

Posted By on 10.31.07 at 05:55 AM

Really, if you want to govern halfway decently, all you have to do is ask yourself, "What would George W. Bush do?" and then do the opposite. So I can't beef too much about the Progressive States Network. Except when they're simplistic and Pollyannaish.

Simplistic, as when they tout state or regional "cap and trade" systems for controlling carbon dioxide emissions, without acknowledging why such programs need to be national and, probably, international -- namely, that it may be cheaper for CO2 emitters to move their emissions than to curtail them. (I should add that this willful blindness to Econ 101 when trying to "do something" is not unique to PSN.)

Pollyannaish, as when they do a drive-by on Illinois' trainwreck of a legislative session using the hilariously inappropriate headline, "Progress Amidst Conflict." Their summary gives equal space to a new law forbidding state pension funds from investing in companies associated with Sudan and to the transit situation (which account I quote in its entirety): "The legislature also failed to pass any fiscal relief for the ailing Chicago Transit Authority, causing likely fare hikes, layoffs, and service cuts." Progressives are better served by Oregon US Rep. Peter DeFazio's harsh words, front-paged by the Chicago Tribune: "The state and the governor are walking away from a minimal responsibility to maintain an existing system."


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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Daily You Shoot: Somewhere a Child Weeps...

Posted By on 10.30.07 at 07:54 PM


The Torments of Kurt Eichenwald

Posted By on 10.30.07 at 03:53 PM

Kurt Eichenwald may be the most baffling figure in American journalism. While an award-winning business reporter for the New York Times, he paid at least $2,000 to a teenage Internet porn purveyor he eventually wrote about at length in the Times in 2005. Eichenwald says he was trying to lead the boy out of the life and gave him money to help earn his trust, but the payment violated Times policy and Eichenwald didn't mention it to his editors. When they finally found out, long after Eichenwald had left the paper, it was obliged to publish a long, embarrassing acknowledgment. What was left unexplained was what had really been going on?

I blogged at length about Eichenwald last March and mentioned him in July, both times presenting him in the context of his most expert and hostile critic. That's Debbie Nathan, a former Reader reporter whom Eichenwald has threatened to sue for $10 million. Now New York magazine has published a long, sympathetic, but unsparing portrait of Eichenwald. Here's a sample:

"The fight he’s found himself in has wreaked havoc on his life. He’s teary, volatile, largely unable to work. He left the Times, then walked away from a large contract at Portfolio. His career is in tatters. For this, he blames a campaign by the convicts he’s exposed, other child molesters he doesn’t even know, random anonymous bloggers, and journalists, specifically the advocacy journalist Debbie Nathan, who has written several long pieces questioning his reporting methods and whom he calls 'the high priestess of pedophilia.' He believes they are acting in concert to destroy him, professionally and emotionally."

For what it's worth, there's not a lick of evidence in the article that Nathan is the high priestess of anything. The quote appears because of what it says about his state of mind, not hers.

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Mannequin Men get ripped off

Posted By on 10.30.07 at 03:37 PM

Local princes of rock music the Mannequin Men should still be riding high on their successful showing at the CMJ festival, but alas that's not the case. Last night most of their gear was stolen from their van while it was parked in Logan Square. Here's the list:

-Gibson SG Special, faded brown color, two open coil Seymour Duncan pick-ups, sticker of Wimpy from Popeye on back

-Epiphone Les Paul Jr., single P-90 pickup, faded yellow, busted input jack sticker of Olive Oyl and Popeye

-Fender DeVille 4X10 combo amp with grey grillcloth 10db input is busted.

-Ampeg combo bass amp

-cymbal bag (with one Zildjian crash and Paiste hi-hats) and hardware bag 

Anyone spotting the gear in the wild is encouraged to hit the band up on MySpace.

Seems to be a trend this week. 

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Around the Web: the American way of shopping and flight scheduling, the French way of fighting MRSA, and more

Posted By on 10.30.07 at 01:53 PM

* There's a new book about Harry Gordon Selfridge, the Marshall Field's-trained Chicagoan who taught Europeans--for better or worse--the American way of shopping.

* The latest TIF beneficiary? United Airlines.

* Beefs about O'Hare: it sucks, its revitalization plan doesn't include enough black contractors, and the taxi drivers' bathrooms are too small to sit down in.

* Incidentally, if you're wondering why your plane is so likely to be delayed at O'Hare, the clearest explanation I've read comes from air transportation columnist Patrick Smith, author of the wonderful column "Ask the Pilot," at the Freakonomics blog (scroll down). American carriers think that having as many flights as possible is really convenient; having way overshot the convenience angle, Smith thinks that they'll reverse course.

* Is Boys Town less gay, more gentrified? Blame tolerance. Boys Town doesn't actually come up in the article, so maybe it's an exception.

* MRSA news is spreading as hospitals crack down. Could ancient French volcano ash help?

* Broadway-bound August: Osage County dominated last night's Jeff awards.

* Did You Know? The average age of the RedEye reader is 35. It's set to become the largest-circulation (on weekdays, at least) newspaper in Chicago.

* Jesse Jackson Jr. poured bottled water into the Chicago River to protest the city's new tax on the product. News of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch makes me a little more sympathetic to the ban, but not much.

* Hate Daley? Maybe this will make you feel better. At least our mayor only destroys luxury airports.


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The Blue Cart rollout continues

Posted By on 10.30.07 at 12:43 PM

City officials have distributed a map to aldermen showing that they're planning to expand the Blue Cart recycling program to most of the north side and a good chunk of the south side between this December and the end of 2008.

If the plan is approved when the City Council votes on the 2008 budget ordinance Wednesday, the city's source-separated recycling program, in which residents served by city garbage crews place all of their recyclables into blue containers in the alley, will be extended to an 131,000 additional households on top of the 81,000 already included. That would mean that about 30 percent of the 700,000 residences with city garbage service--all Chicago dwellings with four or fewer units, known as low-density residences--will be covered by the program.

City officials say they want to organize this expansion around convenience and geography rather than ward boundaries. Previously the city has rolled the program out ward by ward; currently, all low-density residences in the 1st, 5th, 8th, 19th, 37th, 46th, and 47th Wards have the source-separated recycling service. Under the new plan ward boundaries would be ignored. All the low-density residences from Cicero Avenue east to the lake, and from Diversey north to the city limits, would be included. The service would also be offered to all the low-density homes between 55th and about 103rd, from State Street east to the lake. An area west of State from 55th to 75th would also be included, as would one south to 115th Street between State and Stony Island.

This would mean that all low-density dwellings in the 7th, 20th, 39th, 40th, 48th, 49th, and 50th wards would have blue cart service, along with portions of the 6th, 9th, 10th, 16th, 17th, 30th, 31st, 32nd, 35th, 44th, and 45th Wards. 

Since the new recycling program uses its own trucks and personnel, city officials say, it doesn't have to run in tandem with garbage pickup, which is coordinated by Streets and Sanitation ward superintendents. Besides offering more efficiency, the new organization plan may satisfy--at least temporarily--a greater number of aldermen, many of whom have been getting the business from constituents demanding better recycling services. 

The Chicago Recycling Coalition and other advocates have praised the Blue Cart pilot for yielding far higher resident participation and keeping about twice as much trash out of landfills as the city's Blue Bag program. But they've also been critical of the slow rollout pace, saying it's clear that source-separated recycling is far more effective than any other method. Some analysts believe the city is spending too much money and confusing residents by offering different recycling programs in different areas.

But city officials say they're limited by the up-front investment costs needed to take blue carts citywide. The proposed 2008 budget would set funds to purchase more than 20 new trucks to collect recyclables, at more than $150,000 apiece, and $7.9 million to cover 111 recycling-related jobs. 

None of this will directly help the thousands of people who live in large apartment buildings and condos--unless they're planning to sneak over to drop their recyclables into a neighbor's blue cart [scroll down to read PK's comment at the bottom].

Not that this is legal.

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Crazy for El Cubanito

Posted By on 10.30.07 at 10:30 AM


Everyone -- aka LTH Forum -- is abuzz this month with news of El Cubanito, a tiny (no, seriously, TINY) Cuban sandwich shack at 2555 N. Pulaski. But the reported out-the-door lines were nowhere in evidence last Thursday when a friend and I checked it out. Which was, you know, great for us but did leave me wondering again about the echo chamber tendencies of the Internet.

Or maybe we just missed the lunch rush.

In any case, the sandwich itself was terrific: a perfectly balanced blend of tender pork, briny ham, and Swiss cheese on classically chalky Cuban bread. My only quibble was with the stingy application of pickle, of which I was hard pressed to find more than a slice and which, per LTHF, appears to be a common problem. The can of Ironbeer I washed it down with was equally revelatory: a sort of dilute, fruity Dr. Pepperish brew known in Cuba as "champagne cola" and packaged with some punchy Soviet-propaganda-style graphics. I hope to make it back to try the elusive ropa vieja sometime soon.

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Presidential thoughts

Posted By on 10.30.07 at 07:11 AM

Cato on the Republicans: "The fact is, with the exception of Rep. Ron Paul who trails badly in the polls, none of the GOP candidates has a consistent record of standing for small-government. Sooner or later someone needs to point out that being a conservative means more than being anti-abortion or tough on terrorists."

Sam Smith on the Democrats' front-runner: In a recent poll, "Democrats favored Hillary Clinton to deal with health care by a two to one margin over Obama and Edwards combined -- an absurd judgment given her previous health care legislation that was laughably incompetent and confusing as she attempted to conceal its gifts to the insurance industry.... By 52% to 39% Clinton beats both Obama and Edwards as the one best able to deal with Iraq, even though she is clearly the one with the worst record of doing so this far. By the same margin, she is the one who Democrats think best represent the core values of the party. This may be tragically true in contemporary terms, but before her husband took office the party had dramatically different --and better -- values.... This is a party that doesn't need a candidate; it desperately needs a therapist."

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Monday, October 29, 2007

Howling at the Hunter's Moon

Posted By on 10.29.07 at 05:07 PM


Some concerts are so palate-cleansing I need to live in their dazed glow for a while, and Diamanda Galas's show at the MCA on Thursday (the first of two last weekend, both sold out) is definitely one of them. I've been a fan of hers for years, yet never managed to catch her live before. She's always had a way of playing a city just weeks before I moved there or weeks after I moved away, and she hasn't been seen in Chicago for more than a decade. Her circulating repertoires of "Songs of Exile" (the program I saw) and "Guilty, Guilty, Guilty" (the one on Saturday) don't have the overwhelming operatic cohesion of her AIDS-related "Masque of the Red Death" albums and performances of the late 80s and early 90s, or of 2004's Asia Minor genocide requiem Defixiones: Will and Testament. At the MCA she played up her dark cabaret diva side as the equal of her avenging-demon, professional-mourner side, and the two facets strike an uneasy balance. But it's like Halloween is the cute party holiday and Samhain is the night when the spirits of the dead return. You see the difference? It's like night and . . . night.

On Thursday Galas got started nearly half an hour late, like the diva she is, and I don't think anyone really begrudged it. Not when her version of the legendary suicide song "Gloomy Sunday" (now there's a party track for you) unscrewed the top of our skulls and filled it with a scent of bitter almonds. She closed "25 Minutes to Go" with a slam of cold darkness like a coffin lid (the smoky lights having already cast dimly colored veils around her reportedly stage-fright-afflicted self) and she turned "O Death" into a form-changing keen meant to set all the dogs to howling the next holler over, because they hear the banshees first. The one that got me, though, was her "Keigome Keigome" (I'm burning, I'm burning), a rembetiko song by Nikos Gatsos and Stavros Xarhakos. (There's a YouTube video of her performing this song in London, though the stage is even darker than she usually likes it, the sound quality is terrible, and it cuts off before the best part. But you can get an idea.) It haunts me. I heard it in my sleep. I heard it when I woke up. It was all about the tomblike echoing spaces in her piano and the way she lets that voice growl and roar before erupting into shrieking high-end ululations that sound like a flock of carnivorous birds beating themselves to death against a vaulted ceiling. To call it beautiful is like calling a mushroom cloud beautiful. I mean, of course it is, but to say so is kind of trivializing.

What I want to know, though, is who was Mr. Fuckyouman up in the back row early on? What was his deal? Please, if you can, dish here.

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Red light fever

Posted By on 10.29.07 at 04:45 PM

It's been a while since the Fake Fictions sent me demos for their upcoming second album, Krakatoa, which they probably would've finished by now if they hadn't lost a bunch of gear in a practice space fire. They're regrouped and regeared now, and have just started tracking in their new space with an old eight-track recorder (a Tascam 488 mk I, to be specific). Though the band—specifically front man Nick Ammerman—steadfastly refuse to record on a computer, they're not averse to documenting the process on one. Their making-of-Krakatoa blog is live in all its spunky DIY glory. The FFs generally function less on actual technical prowess and infrastructure and more on pure enthusiasm, and that includes their recording methods, resulting in some entertaining reading. Ammerman, for instance, recently discovered that there are a number of reasons why you shouldn't use a drum as a mike stand.

Bonus material: Here's the band ripping jams in Rirkrit Tiravanija’s Untitled 1996 (Rehearsal Studio No. 6 Silent Version) at the MCA's "Sympathy for the Devil" exhibit.

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