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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Farewell, bitter winter

Posted By on 01.29.14 at 10:15 AM

Waiting for a bus will soon be so much easier.
During a long, painful wait on an el platform this morning, I was comforted by the thought that the worst is over. We have made it through the really brutal weather, and things will now be improving. The turning point, in fact, is today.

The temperature has already crawled from one degree at six this morning to four degrees at eight, to six degrees at 9 AM. By 2 PM it should be 20 degrees. Tomorrow's predicted high is 32. Over the next ten days, the forecast highs are mostly in the 20s, with no subzero lows.

And today is January 29, which is practically February. Succinct February is always gone before we know it. So it's a hop, skip, and a jump to spring, with summer close behind.

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Saturday, September 21, 2013

Jim Holyoak: A portrait of the artist as an ink-stained bat

Posted By on 09.21.13 at 09:00 AM

A bat, an ant, and Jim Holyoak
One of the oddest, by which I mean awesomest, artists showing work at Expo Chicago is Jim Holyoak. Holyoak, who is represented by Galerie Donald Browne out of Montreal, can be found in the very back corner of Festival Hall. His booth is the one with two and a half quarts of black ink dripped down the wall. The effect is like being in the middle of a dense forest.

This is entirely appropriate. Holyoak's medium is ink, and his inspiration is the rainy forests of British Columbia where he lives. His largest and most striking pieces are portraits of the animals who live in the forest, rendered in ink applied with a brush and with parts of his body. A lot of the time, he uses his hands. Once, though, to produce a snake, he used his tongue.

"The ink tastes really bad," he says, "but it's not poisonous."

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Chicago moves to ban plastic shopping bags—if Rahm's willing

Posted By on 06.12.13 at 01:14 PM

Welcome to the beach--and enjoy the plastic bags floating in the breeze. On the upside, they could be banned in Chicago soon.
  • Mick Dumke
  • Welcome to the beach—and enjoy the plastic bags floating in the breeze. On the upside, they could be banned in Chicago soon.
Chicago would become the largest U.S. city to ban plastic shopping bags from supermarkets if a group of aldermen get their way.

But that's the catch, because aldermen don't get their way in Chicago unless the mayor lets them. And it's not clear if Mayor Rahm Emanuel will allow the bag ban to come up for a vote when a City Council committee considers it next Tuesday.

The chief sponsor of the proposal, First Ward alderman Proco "Joe" Moreno, says the measure has wide support and should easily pass the health and environment committee. "I have not spoken to one alderman on the committee who's said no."

Emanuel's position is less clear. Press aides won't say whether he backs the ban, which is strongly opposed by the Illinois Retail Merchants Association and other business groups friendly with the mayor.

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Monday, September 24, 2012

All week long, revisiting old Bleader writing

Posted By on 09.24.12 at 06:47 AM

This week's Variations on a Theme is recycling, as inspired by Sam Worley's feature story, "The floating forest," about the changing world of wastepaper. While a large part of Sam's story is about China's steady takeover of the wastepaper business, another part was personal—namely, that he grew up in Manistique, Michigan, where the wastepaper plant Manistique Papers was a major industry in the town. While the story is one about changing tides in business, it's also a journey through the past, to when newspaper was printed in bulk and factories were thriving.

So we thought it would be a good idea to do a week where we take our own trip down memory lane, remembering/"recycling" some of our favorite Bleader pieces from over the past few years. With all the posting we do on the blog—and the pace at which we publish it—sometimes superb writing gets lost in the deluge.

The piece I'm choosing to include is Kevin Warwick's "Death by smartphone: the Pitchfork edition," which he wrote for Work Versus Life Week, one of my favorite editions of Variations on a Theme. Kevin opened his piece by publicly calling me out for an e-mail I wrote describing how we would cover the Pitchfork Music Festival. At the time, the piece made me angry. A lot of the coverage that Kevin bemoaned was the kind that I also disagreed with, but was necessary for us to do. I felt unfairly vilified for opinions that, at heart, I felt exactly the same way as Kevin did. But in hindsight, I think it's one of the pieces I'm most proud of publishing. Skepticism about Twitter, live "coverage," and social media in general risks making you look like a Luddite or a fogy unable to "get with the times." But it's also important to step back sometimes and think about just what is the most useful and smartest way to engage with these mediums. And Kevin doesn't just outright castigate technology or social media; he acknowledges that it's complicated, just like people are.

I want to make it clear that I don't hate the wi-fi world. If I did, I would've extricated myself from it years ago and found a nice one-bedroom shanty in the middle of the Montana wilderness to make crafts. Instead, I try to navigate it well enough to hashtag a decent, albeit sometimes hurried, critique, or shoot a beautiful, Brannan-filtered photo while still enjoying a set as a live-music fan. (Believe it or not, not everyone who writes about music is a bitter and withdrawn naysayer. We do occasionally like to watch, without interruption, our favorite bands play their instruments.) But how much does the responsibility to inflict my thoughts on a world that may not want them interfere with my casual enjoyment of watching a live performance by an absorbing band like Godspeed You! Black Emperor? The tweeting and Instagramming can wait, I'll often think to myself, right before I pull my phone out of my back pocket.

Read the rest of Kevin's piece here.

Oh, and check out Tattoo Week, last week's Variations on a Theme.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Letter to the editor: Carnivorous Anthropocentrism!

Posted By on 08.21.12 at 06:48 AM

  • Yummy
We knew it was coming. It was inevitable.

Every time Reader food writer Mike Sula ventures deep into the realm of carnivorousness, we're going to hear from Brien Comerford. Here's his latest salvo, in response to Sula's feature story "Chicken of the trees."

To: letters
Sent: Thu, Aug 16, 2012 10:49 pm
Subject: Carnivorous Anthropocentrism!

Reading the August 16 Headline article was tantamount to concurrently having both mortifying hallucinations and horrific realizations that carnivorous anthropocentrism is exacerbating and perpetuating mankind's descent into perdition. The columnist's grandeur for the omnipotent intelligence of man and irreverent lack of respect for the earthly value for animals is palpably laden with vainglory. Instead of sanely promoting the virtues of veganism he spirals out of control and condones the hunting, butchering and unpalatable consumption of squirrels. The latter are wretchedly demonized as veritable vermin and so are raccoons, opossums and deer. The columnist's bogus empathy for the plight of cows and chickens in factory farms and slaughterhouses is farcical. I'm finally convinced that the only people on this planet that have any sanity and serenity are the Jains of India. They adhere to the creed of ahimsa that mandates believers not to cause any pain or suffering to any innocent beings. Under no circumstances will they eat the dead flesh of our fellow creatures. Carnivorous anthropocentrism is anathema to them and the enlightened animal lovers, Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, Muslims and Jews who eschew flesh-foods. The moral illuminati know that killing animals for food is a spiritual crime and smoking pot is not. Holy cow, they're right!

Brien Comerford

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Monday, July 16, 2012

Everybody talks about climate change but the candidates

Posted By on 07.16.12 at 02:25 PM

Colorado forest fires
  • David Shub
  • Colorado forest fires
The weather is miserable this summer all across America, but what's to be said or done? The first casual in the New Yorker's Talk of the Town this week is headlined "The Big Heat," and to increase the odds that readers will choose to think about what they're suffering, author Elizabeth Kolbert begins with a tease:

"Corn sex is complicated."

Kolbert has a lot more on her mind than carnal corn. "Along with the heat and the drought and the super derecho [devastating thunderstorms]," she writes, "the country this summer is also enduring a Presidential campaign. So far the words 'climate change' have barely been uttered. This is not an oversight. Both President Obama and Mitt Romney have chosen to remain silent on the issue, presumably because they see it as just too big a bummer."

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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

New Chicago Beer Company moves out of the Plant

Posted By on 04.17.12 at 04:45 PM

The New Chicago Beer Company space last summer
  • Julia Thiel
  • The New Chicago Beer Company space last summer
Samuel and Jesse Edwin Evans, the brothers behind the nascent New Chicago Beer Company, are moving out of the Back of the Yards eco-compound known as the Plant, where they’d been planning since early last year to start their brewery.

The Evans brothers and their plans were the subject of a story I wrote last summer; they said at the time that they expected to open in March 2012 and anticipated producing 12,000 barrels of beer in their brewery's first year. They also said their brew would eventually be available in a 2,500-square-foot tasting room that they were planning.

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Friday, March 2, 2012

Earth Day was the worst day, now we drink champagne when we thirst-ay

Posted By on 03.02.12 at 07:00 PM

Ted Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, probably happy to be dead right now
  • Ted Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, probably happy to be dead right now
I had trouble moderating my contempt for The Lorax in the review I wrote for this week’s paper (but thank goodness for editors; my first draft was even angrier), as the film triggered an adolescent spite for hypocrisy that I still haven’t outgrown. The movie is a slick piece of corporate engineering that suggests nothing less than a 90-minute commercial, its makers apparently having overlooked the blatant anticommercialism that informs the Dr. Seuss classic they adapted. Who would have thought that hundreds of nominal adults could misinterpret a book written for grade-school children?

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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A bedbug horror story

Posted By on 01.31.12 at 08:00 AM

Back in 2005, I was living in an awesome two-level apartment in Roscoe Village—the setup was pretty luxurious for a 20-year-old college student. Back then, Roscoe Village was still a little grimy (and a lot more affordable)—a far cry from the puppy and stroller haven it is today. The apartment I lived in is no longer there, having been demolished several years ago to make way for a million-dollar condo.

Three of us lived on the top floor throughout the lease. I remember being told that the girl who had just moved into the first-floor bedroom discovered she might have bedbugs. I didn't even know bedbugs were real—I thought "sleep tight, don't let the bedbugs bite" was a cute nursery rhyme. And I ignorantly believed that, being on the top floor, I was immune to bedbug bites. I was wrong.

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

In this week's Reader: veggie mania

Posted By on 11.17.11 at 08:00 AM

  • Lilli Carre

Kevin Warwick has put together a guide to vegetarian and vegan Chicago, drawing on the expertise of dieticians, chefs, vegetarians and vegans, farmers, and entepreneurs in Q & A's on health, restaurants and cooking, and local resources for vegetarian living. We take peeks into the refrigerators of locals including Dan Staackmann, founder of the seitan company Upton's Naturals—the subject of a brief profile—and Hugh Amano, chef and founder of the blog Food on the Dole, who'll serve as host of a vegetarian salon coming up on December 1. There's also a profile of Mickey Hornick, founder of the Chicago Diner ("Meat free since '83"), which is offering its 29th vegan Thanksgiving this year. As an added bonus, vegan Paul McGee, head bartender at the Whistler, contributes an anti-Turkey Day recipe for a booze-heavy Cardinal Punch.

We've got you covered on vegetarian dining, including locals' five favorite vegetarian dishes at nonvegetarian restaurants. In the restaurant listings are spots for deprivation-free vegetarian meals; links are after the jump.

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