Bleader | Chicago Reader

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Quiz show scandal recalled

Posted By on 07.30.08 at 07:06 PM

The New Yorker magazine recently carried a memoir by Charles Van Doren recalling his involvement in the rigged 1950s TV game show, Twenty-One. Robert Redford’s 1994 film Quiz Show chronicles the scandal, but theater fans might recall that the tale was also dramatized in a play produced in 1993 at the now-defunct National Jewish Theater in Skokie. Called The Wizards of Quiz, Steve Feffer's drama starred  Christopher Howe (a former Chicago Reader site manager) as Van Doren. Herb Stempel, Van Doren's on-air rival, was played by Eddie Jemison, perhaps best known for playing computer wiz Livingston Dell in the Ocean's Eleven remake and its sequels. Here's the Reader's review

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Exit Naomi: Joe Carducci reads from an LA eulogy

Posted By on 07.30.08 at 07:00 PM

Author Joe Carducci, who's built a career out of eloquent curmudgeonhood and the sort of I-was-there vehemence usually associated with Vietnam vets, has written a book I'm finding to be an even bigger challenge than Rock and the Pop Narcotic. Last year's Enter Naomi: SST, L.A. and All That . . . is in some respects a biography of and tribute to Naomi Petersen (pictured), a photographer whose images of Black Flag, the Meat Puppets, the Minutemen, Saint Vitus, and countless others capture the vibrancy and scary energy of the 80s LA scene. But Petersen died alone in 2003 of liver failure at age 38, and Carducci didn't hear until two years later.

The book clearly reflects his anger with himself about that, but Carducci also displays an apparent inability to truly focus on Petersen, his nominal subject. She hovers around the edges of the book, a deliberately mysterious figure among the more lionized male artists who often find it to their advantage--or just a lot easier--to remain self-absorbed and oblivious. The author deserves props for the unusual candor of his self-examination, but speaking as a female reader, let me just say that Petersen's loneliness--as Carducci describes it, anyway--doesn't seem odd or surprising in the least. It's a frustrating, moving, and mostly honest book.

Carducci will read from his new one and discuss his work in general at Quimby's, 1854 W. North, at 7 PM on Saturday--his first appearance there since 1995. It's free.

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Local rapper shoots cops (with a camera)

Posted By on 07.30.08 at 06:20 PM


Kidz in the Hall seem like pretty chill dudes, so the news that MC Naledge was arrested in Tempe, Arizona, "on suspicion of interfering with a police investigation" took me by surprise. A Phoenix-area newspaper gives a fairly sketchy account of an incident in a Tempe nightclub involving "a melee . . . between [Kidz in the Hall producer and DJ] Double-0 and bouncers at the club, and Naledge was reportedly arrested on suspicion of photographing the incident." has a couple more details, including eyewitness reports that Naledge was taken in for snapping pictures of Double-0 being handcuffed by police. Apparently Tempe cops are a little camera shy?

I'm waiting for an official statement from the Kidz' management about the incident, but considering Naledge's brains and the big-ass grin he's wearing in his mug shot (above) I'm guessing he feels confident he's in the clear.

(via Fake Shore Drive)

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Spreading the thunder

Posted By on 07.30.08 at 05:48 PM


Wine maven, personal branding expert, and T-shirt enthusiast Gary Vaynerchuk of Wine Library TV will sign his new book, 101 Wines Guaranteed to Inspire, Delight, and Bring Thunder to Your World, tonight from 7 to 9 at Threadless Chicago, 3011 N. Broadway. Vaynerchuk hooked up with Threadless entrepreneurs Jason Fried and Jake Nickell at the Web-forward Seed Conference last month--subject of a recent Reader column by Deanna Isaacs. Pastoral provides the wine and snacks. 

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The Mezuzah File

Posted By on 07.30.08 at 05:34 PM

As headlines often do, the one on the front page of the latest Chicago Jewish News puts the matter a little too simply: "FEDERAL CASE, The U.S. Court of Appeals Says a Chicago Woman Has No Right to Put a Mezuzah on Her Front Door." 

That would be no right under federal law -- as distinct from state law and Chicago ordinance, which, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals observes, do defend plaintiff Lynne Bloch's mezuzah. And as do the rejiggered rules of the Shoreline Towers Condominium Association, which for a time kept removing Ms. Bloch's mezuzah from her front door. 

If you have no interest in examining legal disputes, stop reading now. I think they can be fascinating, and I think the Jewish News account by managing editor Pauline Dubkin Yearwood does a good job of threading its way through this one, the grabber headline notwithstanding. The central facts are these: Bloch went to federal court in 2006 seeking damages from the Shoreline Towers Condominium Association for the way it treated her mezuzah, and the Seventh Circuit just tossed out her suit. 

These facts are not in dispute: Bloch herself led the committee that in 2001 promulgated what was called the Hallway Rule. The pivotal rule one said this: "Mats, boots, shoes, carts or objects of any sort are prohibited outside Unit entrance doors." Following a 2004 renovation at Shoreline Towers, 6301 N. Sheridan Road, rule one was reinterpreted by the condo board to include things on the door. Which, among other things, meant all mezuzahs.

Because both the state of Illinois and Chicago subsequently acted, and the condo board, under fire, relaxed its rules, the Bloch mezuzah is back on her doorjamb. But Bloch has been after damages, and unless the three-judge Seventh Circuit panel is overruled by the full circuit or the Supreme Court, no jury will ever get to decide if she deserves them.

Judges don't always disagree with each other for fancy philosophical reasons. The Bloch suit strikes me as a case in which judges disagree because one thinks harder about a matter than the other. Here's the Seventh Circuit opinion of July 10, written by Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook, with Senior Judge William Bauer concurring. It's a brisk six pages long and leans heavily on a Seventh Circuit ruling four years ago in a similar case, Halprin v. Prairie Single Family Homes of Dearborn Park Association. Halprin, Easterbrook explains, held that the federal Fair Housing Act "forbids discrimination in the 'terms, conditions, or privileges of sale or rental of a dwelling' but does not address discrimination after ownership has changed hands." And although the act might come into play if religious discrimination were so intolerable it amounted to "constructive eviction," [Bloch contended she was bound by Jewish law to display a mezuzah, and if she could not she would have to move] in this case that was not a consideration. 

Because -- "The hallway rule, as adopted in 2001 and as enforced in 2004, is neutral with respect to religion . . ." says Easterbrook. "The association removed secular photos and posters as well as Christmas ornaments, crucifixes, and mezuzot. Generally applicable rules that do not refer to religion differ from discrimination."

Judge Diane Wood's dissent is 17 pages long. She takes the idea of constructive eviction a lot more seriously than Easterbrook does. She disagrees with him about what can be found, or at least teased out of federal law, and about what the Seventh Circuit actually said in Halprin. She keeps in mind that the court isn't being called on to decide whether Bloch should win or lose her suit, but simply whether a jury should be allowed to hear it. And she pauses to examine and regret, in a case in which anti-Semitism is at issue, the assertion in a defense brief that "throughout this matter, Plaintiffs have been trying to get their 'pound of flesh' from Defendants." 

A second Shoreline Towers resident to sue the condo association over the mezuzah ban is Debra Gassman, who's since moved to Israel. Here's a May 15 Hot Type in which I touch on her suit.

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The honor system

Posted By on 07.30.08 at 04:57 PM


State rep Annazette Collins, a Democrat from Chicago’s west side, agreed earlier this week to pay a $20,000 fine and issue an apology for filing inaccurate campaign finance reports with the state board of elections. From 2005 to 2007 Collins claimed she didn’t raise or spend a penny. Turns out both sides of the ledger were off by more than $100,000.

Collins has some company. A couple weeks ago I wrote about how 12th Ward alderman George Cardenas said he’d eschewed fund-raising, instead asking supporters to donate to charity in his honor—a maneuver that some campaign finance experts don’t think is legal. A couple of his colleagues, the 11th Ward’s James Balcer and the 35th Ward’s Rey Colon, also reported raising zilch in the first six months of 2008, while other politicians say they've brought in next to nothing: county commissioner Bill Beavers reported getting a meager $350, 17th Ward alderman Latasha Thomas just $600. And that's just what I found after a quick search.

Maybe there's a sudden movement afoot to ask potential donors to save their money for a worthy cause.

Probably not. It's more likely sloppy record keeping or some dubious scheme. “If they’re an incumbent claiming zero contributions, it’s a red flag,” says Tony Morgando of the state board of elections’ campaign finance division. “In the city of Chicago, especially, there’s money out there.”

And the board isn’t going to catch everybody who fails to comply with reporting requirements. Every six months each of the 3,600 active political committees in Illinois is supposed to submit itemized campaign finance records; active campaigns have to file additional reports in the weeks before the election. In other words, in election years like this one the board will receive a total of about 10,000 finance reports. It has 15 people on staff to go through them all.

Morgando says they conduct a “cursory review” of each report—for example, if a committee says it transferred money to another candidate, the staff will check that candidate's records to see if the numbers square. But that’s typically after the reports have become available for public viewing, since most are filed electronically and show up online almost immediately. And by law “deep audits” only happen when someone presents evidence of a problem.

“We operate this on an honor system, and anyone who knows anything about Illinois politics knows that probably can’t work here,” says Jim Bray, a spokesman for the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, whose complaint against Collins resulted in the penalties. 

Of course, some politicians are on the opposite end of the disclosure spectrum. House speaker Michael Madigan recently reported making “contributions” to five of his legislative allies that totaled $1.29; the cash was apparently spent on highway tolls. And former state rep candidate Phillip Jackson meticulously listed the series of loans he’d received from his nonprofit education organization, for $2.16, $2.95, and $3.05.

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Cabaret Professionals launches downtown series

Posted By on 07.30.08 at 02:18 PM

Chicago Cabaret Professionals, an organization of cabaret and music theater performers, is launching two new series aimed at downtown audiences.

The first, Broadway on Randolph (a collaboration with the city's Department of Cultural Affairs), kicks off this weekend with a pair of programs saluting leading tunesmiths of the American musical. The Sweetest Sounds--The Music of Richard Rodgers (a revue of the composer's collaborations with such lyricists as Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein II) plays Fri 8/1, 7:30 PM, and Sat 8/2, 2 PM. Music to Do--The Magic of Stephen Schwartz (featuring songs from such shows as Wicked, Godspell, and Pippin) plays Sat 8/2, 7:30 PM, and Sun 8/3, 2 PM. Performances at the Storefront Theater, 66 E. Randolph, 312-742-8497, $15.

CCP also presents the Musical Mondays series at Drury Lane Theatre Water Tower Place. Next performance: Get Happy! Women of the MGM Musicals. Sat 8/18, 7:30 PM, Drury Lane Theatre Water Tower Place, 175 E. Chestnut, 312-642-2000, $25.

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Kick the can of worms

Posted By on 07.30.08 at 02:03 PM

In a surprise and unprecedented move, Mayor Daley today postponed the city’s preliminary 2009 budget until Sept. 30 — and cut spending by $6 million more — to work to solve Chicago’s worst budget crisis in a generation.

I'd say this delaying tactic would hurt us with the IOC, but, well, um.

Now's a good time to read all about TIF districts!  

Also: the housing market isn't going to get better for awhile; Ben Joravsky's most recent TIF news.

Update: "And yet, we still have people calling for a bottom in financial shares. Folks -- this ain't over by a long shot." Trickledown: it works both ways.

Related: The post in which I explain the credit crisis.

Nothing for money

Posted By on 07.30.08 at 01:00 PM

I've been trying to catch up on the Blago-Jones-Madigan (or, specifically, aide sent in Madigan's place) street fight down in Springfield, and I still can't figure exactly why Madigan objects to casino expansion. I know that broadly speaking some people have moral objections, which I get--on one hand, it's clearly a regressive tax on stupidity and addiction, on the other, there are an infinite number of dumb ways to spend money entertaining yourself, like Death Race or TGI Friday's, and they'll never give you money back. But it's worth noting that, even with slots getting tighter, casino gambling is still a better deal than lotteries.

7/31 -- Blue Moon and art

Posted By on 07.30.08 at 12:59 PM

The Blue Moon Brewing Company is hosting a group exhibition of works inspired by its beer Thursday night at the Museum of Contemporary Art (220 E. Chicago). Free draft Belgian White and bottles of Honey Moon Summer Ale will be served throughout the reception, which runs from 7 to 10 PM. Click here for more info.

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