Thursday, May 29, 2008

Instant Replay, the Dark Side

Posted By on 05.29.08 at 06:19 PM

When does the lively debate over introducing instant replay to baseball come to grips with the game's contingencies?

If a double off the top of the center field wall turns out on review to be a home run instead, no harm done. But what if a homer turns out to be a double? What happens to the runners who ambled around the bases when a home run was signaled? A triple down the line that slo-mo reveals landed a hair outside the chalk is easily voided, but what do you do about the foul that actually landed fair? And the runner halfway to third when the center fielder makes a sensational catch and easily doubled up back at first is given what base when the catch turns out to be a trap? 

Imagine this one. Runners at first and second. One out. A shot up the middle. The second baseman gloves the ball, stabs at second with one foot, and throws to third. Out at second. Out at third on a bang-bang play. Certain the runner heading to third beat the throw, his manager appeals. And what does the replay show? It shows that although the third baseman was standing on the bag, he missed the tag. So the runner is safe at third. But it also shows that the second baseman didn't actually touch second. So the runner at second is safe -- which turns the play at third into a force play. And that means the third baseman didn't have to tag the runner, so that runner's out after all. 

Readers are invited to submit their own scenarios.

Instant replay? Does baseball really want to go there? 


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More spring food books

Posted By on 05.29.08 at 03:46 PM

This week in Omnivorous I ran down a half dozen of my favorite new food books. Here are some more new releases of note:

THE SPLENDID TABLE'S HOW TO EAT SUPPER, Lynne Rosetto-Kasper and Sally Sweet (Clarkson Potter, $35) The Guffawing Grandmarm of NPR's syndicated food show, along with her producer, present a companion cookbook for beginners who want someone a little more sophisticated than Rachael Ray as a sensei. Regular listeners will recognize much of the background information but may be put off by the admitted "hand holding."

THE RIVER COTTAGE COOKBOOK, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (Ten Speed Press, $35) The British food writer, TV personality, and back-to-the-lander has become a cottage industry for DIY food production. Here are clear, precise instructions for everything from gardening to sausage making to choosing a cow to cleaning cuttlefish in the loo.

THE END OF FOOD, Paul Roberts (Houghton Mifflin, $26) Grim, sobering analysis of the widening fissures in the global food system: "Ironically, the problems with the modern food system begin with its very success." This is something you should probably read, but won't have fun doing it.

EVERYDAY DRINKING: THE DISTILLED KINGSLEY AMIS, Kingsley Amis (Bloomsbury, $19.99) Compilation of the late, great English satirist's two volumes on the "drinking arts." Here he is on one of the basic jobs of British vodka: ". . . to replace gin in established gin drinks for the benefit of those rather second-rate persons who don't like the taste of gin, or indeed that of drink in general." The introduction is by another eloquent British lush, Christopher Hitchens.

BEYOND THE GREAT WALL: RECIPES AND TRAVEL IN THE OTHER CHINA, Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid (Artisan, $40) Beautiful coffeetable cookbook and travelogue on China's underexposed outlying regions and minority populations. Recipes are as varied and intriguing as Kazakh noodles, Uighur pastries with pea tendrils, and Tibetan bone broth.

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Mudhoney at 20

Posted By on 05.29.08 at 02:38 PM

It's hard to believe it was 20 years ago that Mudhoney released Superfuzz Bigmuff. Grunge was already a going concern by then, as a genre if not a marketing term, and that record lit a fire under it. Sub Pop Records, also celebrating its 20th anniversary, recently gave the six-song EP the deluxe reissue treatment, enhancing it with a bunch of singles and compilation tracks from the same era--including the band's classic debut, "Touch Me I'm Sick"--as well as a disc of live material taped in Berlin and Santa Barbara in the fall of '88.

To my ears it holds up pretty well, especially ferocious tracks like "In 'n' Out of Grace" and the cover of the Dicks' "Hate the Police." But Mudhoney would never again equal the quality of that initial outpouring.

That said, the band's new studio album, The Lucky Ones, is the best one they've made in more than 15 years. Cut in just under four days, it's simple and direct, playing to Mudhoney's strengths (though it's not like they ever got too elaborate). Mark Arm put down his axe for these sessions, leaving Steve Turner as the only guitarist, which doesn't make much sense to me--it's not like he really needs to forgo slamming away at a guitar in order to get the most out of his nasty sneer of a voice. But the tempos are brisk, the band's massive stomp satisfyingly primal. Mudhoney's debt to the Stooges has never been clearer, both in Arm's wordless grunts and howls and the pounding one-note piano part on the opening track, "I'm Now." Sometimes the band wades into more cosmic territory, like on "And the Shimmering Lights," but never for too long. Mudhoney kick off their U.S. tour on Friday with a gig at Reggie's Rock Club.

Today's playlist:

David Rosenboom, Future Travel (New World)
Loud Family, Attractive Nuisance (Alias)
George Flynn, American Rest (Southport)
Dillinger, CB2000/Bionic Dread (Hip-O Select/Island)
Jacques Berrocal, Dominique Coster & Roger Ferlet, Musiq Musik (Fractal/Futura)

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But you don't want champagne

Posted By on 05.29.08 at 01:02 PM

It's not like there's a particular rivalry between Northwestern and the U. of C., but I still thought this was funny in a malicious sort of way. Kudos to the Trib reporters (Jodi Cohen and Brian Cox) for giving the NU class of 2008 just enough rope to hang themselves.

"If your goal in the speaker selection process was to make graduating seniors happy about leaving this university, then mission accomplished," Matthew Braslow of Vernon Hills wrote on Tuesday to Northwestern President Henry Bienen. Braslow also said he will not attend.

"Matthew, grow up," Bienen wrote back Wednesday morning. Bienen's e-mail added: "You also sound like a very unhappy person. I am sorry for that. Hopefully things will improve for you over the years."

But other seniors also seem to be taking the choice as a personal slight, calling the decision to honor Daley everything from "lame" to "a letdown" in interviews with the Tribune and in some of nearly 200 messages posted on The Daily Northwestern student newspaper's Web site.


"I thought we'd have someone with a much higher profile, especially after President Bienen hyped it so much," said senior Simon Lu. "I thought it would be someone with a national or international profile . . . I was hoping someone more famous would show up."

If I were Henry Bienen I'd make them listen to Todd Stroger too, just to be a dick about it. I dunno about you but I'm learning a lot about Chicago this week. Posting will be light/non-existent today and/or tomorrow, so just let it sink in a bit.

Update: I should probably make the subtext clear. In an increasingly urbanized country, big-city mayors matter. If you live in Chicago or plan to after graduation, Mayor Daley is as or more important to your day-to-day life--the taxes you pay, the businesses you might work for, the neighborhood you live in--than Barack Obama, not to mention Tony F***ing Blair. There are legitimate reasons to question the choice, in particular the decision to give Daley yet another soapbox, but the idea that Daley isn't important or famous enough to grace NU's graduation isn't just hopelessly pretentious, it's actually a real conceptual problem.

The Art of the Comic Strip

Posted By on 05.29.08 at 11:45 AM


Local comics artist and graphic novelist extraordinaire (and Reader contributor) Ivan Brunetti (Schizo et al) talks about the art of the comic strip tonight at 5:30 PM, at the University of Chicago's Rosenwald Hall (1115 E. 58th, 773-834-8524).

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Heads Up

Posted By on 05.29.08 at 11:45 AM

Pastoral's Lakeview location offers free samples of La-Dee-Dahs, caramel and nougat swirls dipped in chocolate from the new Chicago company Whimsical Candy, tonight from 5:30 to 7:30 PM. Owner Chris Kadow-Dougherty will be on hand to answer questions; there'll also be wine pairings.

Friday from 7 to 9 PM, Treasure Island Foods (2121 N. Clybourn) hosts a Belgian beer tasting class with Johnny Fincioen of the Global Beer Network and Anthony Norkus of Louis Glunz Beer. They'll lead a sampling of ten beers, including Wittekerke White, Piraat Triple, and Petrus Blonde Ale. $20, reservations required (773-880-8880).

Great Chefs, the annual fund-raiser for the United Cerebral Palsy Association of Chicago, is Friday from 5 to 9 PM at the Sheraton Chicago. There'll be dishes like mango-lobster mousse and mushroom bruschetta from Carnivale, Chalkboard, La Madia, and others, plus cocktails, wine, and a silent auction. $100.

Saturday from 6:30-8:30 PM, Taste Food and Wine hosts a free tasting of Partida Tequila, with margaritas as well as samples of the blanco, reposado, and anejo tequilas.

Also Saturday from 6:30-8:30 PM, Pastoral's Loop location offers a free tasting of their picks for summer picnic wines. 

777 Wine Week starts Monday at David Burke’s Primehouse, which means that through Friday diners can taste seven wines with lunch (11:30 AM-3 PM) for a $7 donation to Common Threads, a nonprofit (cofounded by Oprah chef Art Smith) devoted to kids’ nutrition. There’s a different theme each day, starting with chardonnay and continuing with cabernet sauvignon, summer wine, “new” old-world wine, and South American wine. Chef Rick Gresh will prepare daily specials that pair well with the featured wines.

Geja's Cafe's Winemaker Dinner, Monday from 6:30-9:30 PM, pairs wines from Hahn Estate with cheese, meat, and chocolate fondues. $50 (includes tax and tip). 

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

First look: Park 52

Posted By on 05.28.08 at 06:49 PM

Populist Jerry Kleiner's long-awaited answer to the void in Hyde Park's mid-range dining options is admirable—the crowd on my Saturday-night visit to this manifestation of his lurid red-velvet vision of urbanity was integrated to a degree I'm not sure exists anywhere else in town. But while the "classic American" dishes may seem attractive, larded with enough trendy ingredients and nods toward seasonality to set the casual diner's mind at ease, in execution many of those I tasted were middling: crayfish ragout failed to ignite glazed salmon, overroasted roasted halibut filet fused prosaically with its pureed cauliflower, a Spanish chorizo stuffing emphasized the dryness of a roasted chicken. These dull dishes set a tone that now makes it difficult to recall the better things I tried—lamb brochettes with black quinoa were an appealing curiosity, and a superfresh fried calamari salad was simple and well done. Our waiter steered us toward a perfectly good and affordable malbec. He'd had nearly a year to get intimate with the wine list, broken into “sexy reds” and “sexy whites"--whatever that means. That's about how long it took for the liquor license to come through, he said, though the private upper perch, which requires a separate license, was still closed. Is the otherwise swift and efficient bureaucratic process haunted by the ghosts of E2?

All that aside, there's not much here to distinguish Park 52 from the rest in the pack of numerically named restaurants. You can almost hear the ambivalence inside dozens of cars inching down the south-bound Kennedy: "Hyde Park? I thought our reservation was at Table Fifty-Two. Oh, forget it—let's go to Zed 451."    

Park 52, 5201 South Harper, 773-241-5200

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Free screening of "At the Death House Door"

Posted By on 05.28.08 at 04:14 PM

At the Death House Door, the latest documentary by Kartemquin Films (Hoop Dreams), screens tonight at 7 PM at Thorne Auditorium, Northwestern University School of Law (375 E. Chicago). The film centers around the experiences of Reverend Carroll Pickett, the longtime death-house chaplain at "Walls" prison in Huntsville, Texas, and his relationship with Carlos De Luna (pictured), who is now widely believed to have been wrongly convicted and executed due to evidence uncovered by Trib reporters Steve Mills and Maurice Posley.

After the screening there will be a Chicago-exclusive panel discussion with Reverend Pickett; Steve Mills; Edwin C. Yohnka, director of communications and public policy for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois; and Peter Gilbert and Steve James, codirectors and coproducers of the film. Rob Warden, a legal affairs journalist and executive director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions, will moderate.

The event is free and open to the public, but reservations are required; e-mail or call 312-422-5580.


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In labor: a discussion with the SEIU's Tom Balanoff

Posted By on 05.28.08 at 03:49 PM

Since local SEIU leaders began mobilizing in 2006 to elect a City Council friendlier to “working families,” they’ve described their political work in Chicago as a potential model for labor across the country. And they came away from last year’s elections with something to show for it: nine new aldermen, most elected with the help of volunteers and cash from the union. (Not to mention a handful of incumbents grateful for SEIU's support.)

One year on, the impact of SEIU's efforts is open to debate [pdf]. The union, though, is getting ready to take the Chicago strategy nationwide: after this fall’s elections, members of Congress who fail to work for extended health care benefits and labor organizing rights may end up as targets of SEIU’s “Justice for All” accountability campaign--and the $150 million union leaders are willing to spend on it. (Of course, all of this is contingent on the plans winning approval at SEIU’s international convention June 2 to 4 in Puerto Rico, which isn’t a given, since dissension and discontent has stirred the ranks.)

I recently spoke to Tom Balanoff, president of the union’s Illinois state council, about the congressional campaign, Chicago’s rookie aldermen, and the union’s relationship with the always looming figure of Richard M. Daley.

MD: So you essentially want to take the 2007 Chicago model and apply it to Congress?

TB: We absolutely do. The alderman’s races were really an effort on SEIU and labor’s part to say "How do we establish an independent political base?" I think a lot of good things have already started happening in terms of creating an independent bloc there in the City Council, and I think a lot of good things came out of that for labor.

But it is really a question of specific issues—we want to establish some political power to get real results for working families on things like health care, the war, and the labor movement. I think the Democrats understand, especially Barack Obama, that we have to work to raise income. My father was a steelworker who managed to put four kids through college and buy a house. Now that’s a lot tougher to do.  I think we have real opportunities this fall, not just by electing Barack Obama but I also think we’re going to win [the races] down the ballot. And by "we" I mean primarily Democratic candidates who are backing issues for working families.

To be frank, though, organized labor is basically a special interest for Democrats.

We actually have a lot of Republican support, and we need it. We have to have real health care reform, and to do that we need Republicans on board.

You’re solidly behind Barack Obama, but his health care plan has been criticized for not being universal.

This whole question of mandates verses no mandates is a real issue, and we have to figure it out. We have to get a system together. But if we could get a system [like his] where we could get five million more people health care, I’d be willing to take it and start working out the kinks. To get where we need to get, there’s going to have to be some compromises. But we’ve got to do something. I mean, how long has it been? Sixty years since Harry Truman started talking about this?

Are you focused on any races right now in our area?

Here in Illinois, we’ll be focusing very heavily on three or four congressional seats we think we can turn Democratic--Jerry Weller’s seat, Mark Kirk’s seat, and Ray LaHood’s seat. We also here in Illinois are going to focus a lot on our neighboring states--Indiana especially. We’ll also be in Wisconsin and Iowa, working on voter registration. And we’ll be in Missouri.

You say you need Republican help to do something about health care, but you’re going after Mark Kirk, who’s widely considered a moderate.

I know Mark Kirk--he’s my congressman. And he’s moderate only in the context of how far the whole political spectrum has gone to the right. He gives lip service to a lot of stuff but he’s supported President Bush on a whole range of issues.

What lessons did you learn from the 2007 City Council races?

What we demonstrated is that we can put our members in motion--we can get our members to contribute, and we can get them out there to work. We demonstrated we had money, people, and time, and that’s pretty powerful.

There are shifting politics here in the city and the state. And I think it’s important from SEIU’s standpoint, from labor’s standpoint, that we did establish a bigger voice. Now you know Chicago--I could have elected every one of my cousins as a judge by now if I wanted that. But we’re trying to figure out how we move public policy to our issues.

There is now a group of aldermen in the City Council who are working a little bit more in concert on key issues. I do think it’s made the mayor a little more sensitive to issues that in the past he hasn’t been as sensitive to.

Still, at least some of the aldermen you supported last year have turned out to be regular votes for Mayor Daley.

I think there’s an understanding starting to evolve with labor that we need to build political power for ourselves and not for candidates, and the way we do that is to make sure we’re working on particular issues. The only permanent friends we have are those politicians who stick with our issues.

I’ve heard from several sources that the mayor has sought you out and offered an olive branch so he can have peace while he tries to win the Olympics bid.

The mayor and I have talked since the elections. We talked about broader public policy issues, the Olympics being one of them. And from our standpoint, and I said it even during the elections, that this isn’t about going after Mayor Daley. And there is a way we can have a more progressive impact by working together.

So you’re behind the Olympics bid?

We support the idea of the Olympics. We obviously have very specific concerns that there be labor agreements so that all communities, all workers, benefit from the building. And we hope that if we do get the Olympics, we hope that all of Chicago can benefit from it. I’m hoping that the Olympics will be an engine to help take care of some of our problems, like the CTA.

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Mushroom jazz

Posted By on 05.28.08 at 03:30 PM

There are certain tasks that require such a vast amount of meticulous work that the average human mind can't comprehend them. I'm thinking of things like painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel or making an entire suit of chain mail by hand. Or laying out a series of customized no-player-input Super Mario World levels so that they "play" the rhythm track for an 11-minute medley of anime theme songs.

Way to go, whoever looked at a Super Mario level editor and decided to invent a new way of creating music. You are an insane genius and you've pretty much ruined my mind for the week.

(via BoingBoing)

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