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Friday, September 7, 2018

Will Elon Musk's bullet train to O'Hare go up in smoke?

Posted By on 09.07.18 at 06:54 PM

Elon Musk says his Boring Company is a "hobby company" that started as a joke.
  • Elon Musk says his Boring Company is a "hobby company" that started as a joke.

Is Elon Musk's electric rollerskate tunnel to O'Hare just an elaborate prank on Chicago?

The Tesla and Space X CEO's bizarre, pot smoke-filled performance on Joe Rogan's podcast Thursday night makes it an open question. Near the beginning of the rambling two-and-a-half hour conversation on The Joe Rogan Experience — and before the two shared a joint — Musk described The Boring Company as a "hobby company" that started as a joke.

"And we decided to make it real, and dig a tunnel under L.A.," he said. "And then other people asked us to build tunnels so we said yes in a few cases."

Those "other people" includes the city of Chicago, which in June gave the Boring Company the green light to build a high-speed electric pod-based underground mass transit system in Chicago to O'Hare. Since the announcement, details of the Boring Company's deal with the city of Chicago have remained maddeningly scarce. The Better Government Association sued the city last month for failing to provide public documents relating to the project. 
Musk bragged that the whole project would cost less than a $1 billion and be operational within three years. Mayor Rahm Emanuel praised it as "the fast lane to the city's future" and pooh-poohed critics who said the numbers for the "Tesla-in-a-tunnel" didn't seem to add up.

"Look, there were doubters about putting a man on the moon," Emanuel told CBS News in June while on a mini-media tour with Musk. Even after he announced he wouldn't run for re-election earlier this week, the mayor said he still wants to move forward with the plan.

But one of those doubters now appears to be Musk himself. He casually admitted that his plan to build a high-tech underground transportation network in Los Angeles—one that he described as "like an underground snake"—may not work.

"I'm not asserting that it's going to be successful," Musk told Rogan. " ... I've lived in L.A. for 16 years. And the traffic has always been terrible. I don't see any other ideas for improving the traffic. So in desperation, we're going to dig a tunnel. And maybe that tunnel will be successful, and maybe it won't. I'm not trying to convince you it's going to work."

Rogan seemed dumbfounded by the statement. "This is a project you've started though, right?" he asked.

"We've dug about a mile. It's quite long," Musk said matter-of-factly. "It would take a long time to walk it."

This far, the Boring Company's biggest accomplishment—beyond digging a mile-long hole in the ground in Los Angeles—is convincing the public to buy 50,000 baseball caps bearing the company's logo and 20,000 devices dubbed "not-a-flamethrowers." The flamethrowers, Musk says, were based on a gag from Mel Brooks's Star Wars spoof.

"In Spaceballs the Movie, (the Yoda parody character) Yogurt goes through the merchandising section, and they have a flamethrower in the merchandising section...the kids love that one," Musk said. "And it's like, 'We should do a flamethrower.'"

"Does anyone tell you no?" Rogan wondered. Isn't selling a $500 flamethrower online a dumb idea?

"Yeah, it's a terrible idea. Terrible, you shouldn't buy one. I said don't buy this flamethrower. Don't buy it. Still, people bought it," Musk replied. "To be totally frank it's just a roofing torch with an air-rifle cover. It's not a real flamethrower. We were very clear, this is not actually a flamethrower."

In other words, Musk duped a bunch of suckers into buying his fake flamethrowers.

Did he pull off the same feat with several municipalities buying into his unproven underground "electric skates" transit systems? Time will tell.

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Riot Fest finalizes its daily lineups—though the big new acts were announced yesterday

Posted By on 09.07.18 at 04:30 PM

Run the Jewels will close out this year's Riot Fest, coheadlining with Incubus on Sunday night. - CHICAGO SUN-TIMES
  • Chicago Sun-Times
  • Run the Jewels will close out this year's Riot Fest, coheadlining with Incubus on Sunday night.

One week before opening day, Riot Fest has finalized its lineup, though the three big additions went public yesterday. When the festival announced Run the Jewels, Weezer, and Taking Back Sunday (who play the fest almost as frequently as Andrew W.K. and Gwar), they were presented as replacements for previously announced headliners Blink-182, who were forced to cancel several dates because drummer Travis Barker has been struggling with blood clots in his arms since June. With the release of daily lineups today, it's become clear that Weezer will headline Friday, Beck will headline Saturday, and Run the Jewels will coheadline Sunday night with Incubus.

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The World Music Festival and more of the best things to do in Chicago this weekend

Posted By on 09.07.18 at 12:20 PM

Argentine singer-songwriter Juana Molina plays a free show at the Promontory 9/8. - COURTESY THE ARTIST
  • courtesy the artist
  • Argentine singer-songwriter Juana Molina plays a free show at the Promontory 9/8.

There are plenty of shows, films, and concerts happening this week. Here's some of what we recommend:

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A jury expert weighs in on what to expect in the Jason Van Dyke trial

Posted By on 09.07.18 at 06:00 AM

Jason Van Dyke's bail was raised slightly for giving media interviews just days before jury selection was set to begin. Critics accused the defense of trying to bias the jury pool. - ANTONIO PEREZ/CHICAGO TRIBUNE
  • Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune
  • Jason Van Dyke's bail was raised slightly for giving media interviews just days before jury selection was set to begin. Critics accused the defense of trying to bias the jury pool.

Jury selection in the murder trial of former Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke began this week. Nearly four years after he fired 16 shots into 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, and nearly three years after he was indicted for the on-duty shooting, Van Dyke's attorneys and the special prosecutor have commenced the painstaking process of picking the 12 men and women who will evaluate his actions.

According to data released this year by the Cook County State's Attorney's Office, just 1 percent of the some 300,000 felony cases in the county have been decided by a jury since 2009. Typically, a pool of potential jurors is selected randomly from a list of Cook County residents compiled from state driver's license records and voter registration rolls. For each case, the number of jurors in the pool varies, but for the Van Dyke trial an exceptionally large pool of more than 100 people was called for evaluation. On Wednesday selection began with a written questionnaire administered to potential jurors.

Attorney and psychologist Shari Seidman Diamond, an expert on juries and a professor at Northwestern University's Pritzker School of Law, says paper questionnaires are "not atypical of large, publicly notorious kinds of cases." The questionnaire will allow special prosecutor Joseph McMahon, Van Dyke's defense attorney Dan Herbert, and Judge Vincent Gaughan to weed out people who clearly couldn't be impartial before beginning one-on-one interviews with each potential juror (known as voir dire). The questionnaire is also "a good idea on psychological grounds," she adds, because people may feel more at ease disclosing information about themselves in writing than speaking up in front of a packed courtroom.

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