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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Birth control and birthday cake

Posted By on 02.21.12 at 12:46 PM

  • spec-ta-cles
Ross Douthat’s weekend column in the Times is about the differing views on abortion held by “cultural liberals” and “social conservatives.” There’s some funny language in this piece. It’s not clear, for instance, why Douthat considers abortion a “cultural” issue—a divertissement on par with, say, a night at the opera—for east-coast communist gay elites, and a “social” issue for others. And I have to confess being brought up short by Douthat’s use of the phrase “artificial birth control,” by which he means “birth control,” only modified with a meaningless adjective. “Natural” birth control—that is, abstinence—would appear to be, in the context of the two modifiers being opposites, equally without meaning. For instance! My boss will be pleased to learn that I am, right now, practicing natural birth control. At my desk! And Ross Douthat will be pleased to learn that I find natural birth control quite easy to consummate. “Birth control” is only a cogent concept if you're actually talking about sex, in other words. In which case, “natural” styles of birth control range from the withdrawal method to various nonpenetrative tactics, but I’m pretty sure this isn’t what Douthat’s social conservatives have in mind.

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Sunday, August 7, 2011

How to . . . appear intelligent

Posted By on 08.07.11 at 02:02 PM

You never know when you’ll need to seem smarter than you really are—at a cocktail party, calculating a tip, participating in a casual political debate. But there’s no reason to spend valuable time educating yourself when you can easily fake it by following these useful tips.

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Friday, July 29, 2011

How does it feel

Posted By on 07.29.11 at 04:37 PM

One topic in my mental pile of rejects for our weekly How To feature is this: how to endlessly amuse yourself by seeing how Google automatically fills out your search phrases—sure bets include "what does it feel like to," for instance, and similarly open-ended queries. (A friend once tried to use this mechanism to remember the key word in the phrase "Opinions are like . . .," a query for which four current suggestions are testicles, kittens, belly buttons, and rap careers. At least two of those make sense.) This one's a reject, of course, because everybody knows about it, and also because the process is pretty much self-explanatory. Still, considered as a reflection of what—some other people?—are thinking about, it's entertaining and occasionally illuminating, as Nishant Batsha points out today in an essay on "existential Googling."

There's a lot of Internet out there, writes Batsha. And people search for some pretty heady shit! "It should come as no surprise then that, with this amount of data sitting on our desktops, nestled away in our pockets, we channel our existential angst through the search box, believing that somewhere in that tangle of information must be stored some crucial piece of advice." Well . . . maybe. Still, it's an interesting read.

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How to . . . excel at crosswords

Posted By on 07.29.11 at 09:10 AM

  • Lori L. Stalteri
The best and most befuddling crossword puzzles feature sly puns, internal jokes, and tricky clues. The least befuddling rely on synonyms and crossword cliches that regular solvers will see again and again. As a public service, we present a selection:

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

How to . . . prank your coworker

Posted By on 07.21.11 at 10:00 AM

  • robin_24
When one of your colleagues jets off to some enviable locale, it’s only logical to welcome him back with a hidden “surprise”—some subtle irritant that will worsen over time, confuse (and eventually anger) him, and totally crack up the rest of the staff. Here’s one way to go about it:

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Sunday, July 17, 2011

How to . . . call a dove

Posted By on 07.17.11 at 01:04 PM

  • Ingrid Taylar
Louder than most whistles, this clarinet-like call is supposedly how hunters lure quail and doves into their sights. Now, I’ve never actually tried attracting quail, but I have developed a knack for waking up neighbors at 5 AM, playing the theme from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, and getting dogs to inquisitively cock their heads, which is really its own special pleasure.

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Thursday, July 7, 2011

How to ... avoid eye contact

Posted By on 07.07.11 at 03:00 PM


You're walking down the street minding your own business when you spot that guy from the gym who always talks forever. Ugh. There has to be a way to avoid him without being rude, but no one believes that tired cell phone routine anymore. Here's what to do:

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Friday, July 1, 2011

How to ... smoke food on a charcoal grill

Posted By on 07.01.11 at 12:00 PM

  • Flickr/breenzanemom

It wasn't until I read a recent article on Texas barbecue that I considered how easily traversable is the logistical distance that separates that elevated form from simple, pedestrian grilling. (This is not to address the bald philosophical disparities, though; in writer Joel Stein's words, "Barbecuing is cooking with smoke. Grilling is what you do to your children's hamburgers.") Herewith an attempt to bridge the gap, with tips courtesy of

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

How to ... bike to work

Posted By on 06.15.11 at 03:00 PM


There are only a couple days left of Chicago's Bike to Work Week, but plenty of people commute this way year-round. Here's how to get started:

1. Get a bike that fits you. Not too nice, not too crappy. If it's expensive and you can't keep it inside while you're at work, it very well could get stolen. But if it's not in good condition, it'll be such a pain to ride that you're likely to give up right away.

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Thursday, June 9, 2011

How to ... support your friend's shitty band

Posted By on 06.09.11 at 03:00 PM


It's Saturday night, and there's no place you'd rather be than with your best pal. But what if his idea of fun is having you trek to some hole-in-the-wall dive to check out his 311 cover band, Jackolantern's Weather? Don't fret. Follow these steps to becoming a "loyal" fan.

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